Lego Mindstorm NXT

I got a new toy this weekend and started playing with it. It was interesting because two of my kids wanted to play with it as well. The new toy is the Lego Mindstorm. It is a simple robot that allows you to program how it moves and interacts with its surroundings. It is interesting to me because I have taken a variety of programming classes as well as artificial intelligence classes. It is interesting to my oldest son because he is in college now and is getting significant exposure to simulations and building things through his engineering classes. My youngest son loves it because it is a toy that can move around and chase things.

I’m looking forward to doing more with this. The program interface looks relatively simple enough for the youngest to use and complex enough for the oldest to play with as well. I am going to look at loading a java virtual machine onto the system and see if I can get an AI engine on the robot. I was intrigued to find out that the system is pre-wired for bluetooth so that I can talk to it with a headset or control it with my cell phone. This looks to be an interesting project and something that should be fun to play with.

more as I learn more….

Oracle University and playing

So I spent all of last week in a grid class. It was my first exposure to Oracle University. The class was interesting. I was one of three Oracle employees in the class, everyone else forked over major bucks for the class. A few of them were local but the majority of the people were from out of town. After the first day I realized that this could be an interesting class or this could be a total waste of time. The instructor started by trashing the course material and going on and on about how this is his second career and he would not be teaching this class if he didn’t need the health insurance.

Is this what things have come to? People who are over the hill or not motivated enough are assigned to teach important topics? I already think at all teachers should make twice what they currently make and be give the summer off with education credits to continue training during the summer. I got certified to teach at University of Phoenix and have taught a total of one workshops. I’m not allowed to call them classrooms because classrooms are for learning and instruction. Workshops are where students get together and teach each other. My official title is a facilitator, not a professor, not an instructor, not a teacher, a facilitator.

I was openly dissapointed with the grid class that I took because it did not teach us how to install, configure, or troubleshoot the product. It gave us the basics and showed us the options on what to select and look at from screen to screen. There was very little programming or customization that was done as part of this class.

The reasoning for the weak class was twofold. First, the hardware used to teach the class is substandard. It seems like 12 people at $3K a classroom would warrant some better hardware. The instructors probably only got paid $5K for the week so what does the other $31K go to? In my opinion the class should be hands on and have adequate resources to teach everything about the subject. I should know how to make the product perform backflips and do things that the designers would question and ask why do I want it to do this function? What I got out of the class was how to be an operator of the software.

The second reason the class was weak was that there was no hands on labs. The labs were simplistic and did not expand my knowledge of the product beyond the manuals. The class should teach how to customize and configure the product. We were not allowed to install the software because it required a database and an application server. The instructor was very literate and informative about the database. When a question came up about the application server, he pleaded the fifth and sounded like Seargent Shultz from Hogans Heros…. “I know nothing, I see nothing”. In my opinion, this class should have been taught by two different instructors. The first two days database focus, the second two days, application server focus.

The instructor was second rate. The documents that he handed out to us were whitepapers that have been on the web for a few months. The summary sheets that he gave looked like his notes that he took when he sat through the class the first time. I feel bad for those that paid for the class. Fortunately, Oracle has a 100% guarantee so everyone who took this class qualifies for a second one of their choice for free.

The root cause of this problem? Money. More money for labs, more money for teachers/instructors, and better labs that take you from start to finished production quality deployment. I would perfer something inside a VMWare instance so that it could be written to DVDs and taken home. Something like this would really be of value and provide a preconfigured playground for someone who is rolling this out in production.

Ok, I’ve ranted enough. Fortunately, I was able to get supplemental reading material and make the best use of my time. The biggest benefit for me was time to research and play. I made time for that as well as time to see some of the nicer places in Chicago. If you haven’t gone there, I recommend spending some time inside the loop or near the Navy Pier unless of course it is winter time……

travel and info mgmt

travel has changed over the years. some things are faster and some are slower. it takes longer to get through security but it takes less time for ticketing. you can print boarding passes the night before saving the airlines money on printing and papssengers time in line. the airlines have optimized plane capacity to an art. imagine doing the same thing for computing. if we had a jumbo jet and a fleet of prop planes how would we schedule passengers. the same would be true for a 4 way multiprocessor with 8 gb of ram and a bunch of desktops. forunately we can pool resources and make the prop planed fly to the same city and share seats as if it were one plane. this is the corrilary that i can make for rac and grid features from Oracle. instead of buying expensive multiprocessors you buy smaller processors fully loaded with memoey. the database manager colates these machines to look like one big computer. the same is true for a web server farm and vmware.


so today I attended a vmware virtualization seminar. It is amazing how quickly technology changes. The key savings that they tout is power and cooling savings. The example that they gave was TXU going from 100 servers to 20. The TCO study showed went from 20 servers down to two and the first year cost went from 200K to 50K. Most of there cost savings were based on fewer dual cpu boxes but a major percent was cooling and power savings.

Business continuity and disaster recovery are key reasons to buy vmware. When I worked at Rice we had a lot of independent servers. It looks like NAS or iSCSI ar critical technologies to make this work.

calendar and Motorola Q

The Motorola Q is one of the latest phone/pda combinations that runs Windows Mobile 5.0. Unfortunately it currently isn’t supported through the Oracle Collab Suite
so I can’t sync up email, calendar, and contacts. Fortunately, there is
a sync package that works for calendar, contacts, and tasks available
from Synthesis AG that appears to work.

The setting that I had to use are

 – Settings

    Contacts – Sync Mode: normal

    Events – Sync Mode: normal

    Events: Only Between – unchecked

    Tasks – Sync Mode: normal

    SyncML Server –

    User name: my email address

    Password: my SSO email password

    Contacts: DB Path: ./Contacts

    Events: DB Path: ./Calendar/Events

    Tasks: DB Path: ./Calendar/Tasks

– Connection

    Preferred Connection when mobile: Internet

    Preferred Connection when in cradle: Internet

The version of the software is the SyncML Engine V2.5.0.64 for SmartPhone2003

Once I had this configured everything worked. The biggest complaints
that I have about this solution is that it does not auto connect and
sync everything. The sync connection requires that I manually sync the
data and pull new tasks, events, and contacts from the server. When I
was at Rice Unviersity we used the calendar server to schedule meetings
and everything was done with a push. If someone wanted a meeting, it
went into your calendar inbox and you either accepted or rejected the
meeting. My group at Oracle dosen’t appear to use this feature very
much but uses cell phones and email as the primary communication
mechanism for scheduling. Other groups in the office use collab suite
more the way that I have used it in the past.

oracle certification

Certification has been a big issue for a long time. When companies
like Microsoft started with the admin certification and Sun followed
with Solaris certification, the credentials meant real dollars for
someone who went through the certification process. Some
certifications, like the security certification suite, require
substantial industry experience and thousands of dollars of courseware
before you can take the exam. Most people that I know who obtain
certification are consultants or work for resellers. Most software
companies require that their resellers have a minimum of one certified
engineer to support the sales staff. Not a bad idea but it dosen’t
always work that way. I worked for years for Sun Microsystems and was
the Solaris area specialist as well as author for the company facing
web pages used by sales and marketing. My exposure to customer issues,
experience in administering the office computers, and desire to read
everything published on Solaris gave me the credibility and knowledge
required to talk about the operating system. I didn’t really learn much
of my administration skills through the courseware prep books or the
online documentation. What really helped me learn the internals and
knobs to tweak was benchmarking systems. It dosen’t take a rocket
scientist to configure a printer on a system and create a spool that
can be used by Windows clients. It is a little more difficult if you
are trying to run the SPECWeb benchmark and get 5% more performance
from the disk sub-system so that you can be the lowest bidder on a
government contract that could mean millions in sales.

what are the key reasons to be certified? Looking at the comments the key reasons are:

1) advantage over co-workers, you can prove that you are smarter than they are

 2) increase employability, headhunters are looking for keywords to match someone with a potential employer

 3) certification broadens knowledge, yes. these tests to delve into
the fringe stuff that no one ever really does in real life. At times,
these fringe topics are relevant but in my opinion, not very often.

 4) helps develop language to talk with DBA. I totally agree with
this one. Learning the language is key to working in the industry.

In the next few weeks I am going to walk through the admin workshops
(parts one and two) and take the certification exams. I will summarize
in the next few weeks what I gathered from this training. My goal is to
understand the lingo required to talk to a DBA and the management team
involved in database selection. My objective will be to obtain the
certified associate and certified professional. I would like to get the
master ranking but I think that it requires 3-4 years working as a DBA
which I don’t have.

Oracle Certification

Insiders guide to Oracle Certification

Certification Information (from outside of Oracle)

securing data

Security is an interesting issue these days. I’ve taken many classes on
securing a computer, securing a network, and securing web applications.
It never occurred to me that you might want to secure data inside a
database. Oracle introduced a new product a few months ago that makes
sense. If you store your HR information, military secrets, or financial
data in a database and oursource your DBA responsibilities, you have
given away the keys to the kingdom. Many companies are starting to
outsource specific functions like database administration because
having a full time, fully qualified DBA on staff is expensive and hard
to keep busy. The Database Vault product from Oracle addresses this
issue. I personally like the viewlets that can be seen at Database
page. They helped me understand how to use the product
as well as its value.