Simple PleasuresBy Blair Campbell
On the journey from toy cars to tuning, Linux as a life-changer, and getting back to basics
How did you get started in IT? I was 11 years old when I found an old BASIC programming manual on my mother’s desk and started reading it. I was already interested in electronics and building electric toy cars, but this book showed me a way to build something cool without having to physically assemble anything. I asked to take a BASIC programming course, and after learning BASIC I went on to learn Pascal, dBASE, and C.
Which new features in Oracle Database are you finding most valuable? Being a performance geek, I like Oracle Database 11g’s Real-Time SQL Monitoring feature the most. It allows you to determine, in real time, which part of an execution plan a long-running SQL statement is spending most of its time in.
If you were going to the International Space Station for six months and could take only one Oracle reference book, what would it be? Christian Antognini’s Troubleshooting Oracle Performance [Apress, 2008] is the best Oracle performance-tuning book out there.
What’s your favorite tool or technique on the job? PL/SQL. Even as a DBA, I still find development skills very important. There are many repetitive aspects to my job, and the only way I can make time for fun or challenging tasks is by automating everything that can be automated. PL/SQL is a great tool for this, thanks to its native integration with the database.
What technology has most changed your life? Linux. I actually got my start in IT when I found work as a Linux sysadmin in my university’s computer lab. To me, the fact that students can now get a head start in serious IT technologies like Linux by playing with them right on their home PCs for free is amazing.
You’ve taken Oracle University [OU] classes in the past. What led you to do this? I take training very seriously. Everyone on our six-person DBA team tries to take at least one OU course every year—mostly covering a new technology we’re considering implementing. OU instructors are usually very experienced and offer a lot of value that you can’t get from books alone.
Piet de Visser
Which new features in Oracle Database are you finding most valuable? The Oracle Database 11g improvements in Oracle Partitioning are quite helpful, and I see great potential for Oracle Real Application Testing and Result-Set Caching.
What advice do you have about getting into Web or database development? Get your basic IT education right. Reading the work of Chris Date is a good start. Understand ACID [atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability] and the 12 rules by Ted Codd. Listen and try to understand the needs of your business and your clients; then strive for simplicity and clarity. Finally, avoid hype-of-the-day stuff.
What green practices do you use in your DBA work? I build simple and efficient systems that don’t need ridiculously large machines in order to function properly. A system with no frills requires fewer resources and less maintenance and is therefore “greener” overall. And I rarely print anything, as I find paper too heavy to lug around.