Oracle Forms won’t run on Java 9 – now what?

Many of my customers are still running venerable Oracle Forms applications that they have no intention of retiring or replacing. So when Oracle announced in support note 2310266.1 that “Oracle has no current plans to certify or support Java 9 with any version of Oracle Forms,” they were understandably worried.

From Oracle’s standpoint, it makes sense not to spend resources certifying an end-of-life product like Oracle Forms with every Java version. Especially since Java 9 will run under the new release model with a new version every six months.

This should not be a problem for Forms customers. Oracle does promise to continue to make Java 8 updates available to customers with support contracts for Forms or products depending on Forms (like E-Business Suite). Our Forms applications will anyway have to be updated to Forms 12c now that browser support for Java applets is running out, and that allows us to run the Forms applet through Java Web Start. We should then be able to use the tag in our JNLP file to point to the right Java, even if the workstation also has Java 9.

Long term, I expect either that  Forms will be supported on the first Java 9 Long Term Support release in September 2018, or that the Forms applet will become a complete executable using the Java 9 jlink feature.

So don’t worry, you can still run Oracle Forms even if the rest of the world moves to Java 9.

 

This post originally appeared in the Oracle Tool Watch newsletter. If you sign up this week, you will receive a free copy of my whitepaper “What Oracle is Doing Wrong (and Right) in the Cloud” as well as more interesting tips to keep you up to date with what’s happening in the Oracle community.

Oracle a Top-Three Cloud Provider

In cloud vendor rankings, Oracle is often found somewhere in the pack of “other cloud providers,” way behind Amazon, Microsoft and Google. But on their home turf, the database, Oracle is moving towards its natural leadership position. In the latest Forrester Wave™ for Database-As-A-Service, Oracle is right behind AWS and Microsoft in the Leaders section.

Forrester WaveTM Database-as-a-Service 2Q17

Source: The Forrester Wave™Database-As-A-Service Q2 ’17

Looking at Forrester’s evaluation criteria, it is possible to argue that the position should have been even higher. It is not obvious why Oracle should get a lowly 1.6 score for Architecture, nor why they should only be rated 4.2 again AWS’ perfect 5.0 for security.

Licensing is always part of the decision when discussing Oracle software, and there is a big difference between running Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

  • With PaaS, the database license is included. This means you don’t buy an expensive database license up front, and can simply terminate your PaaS contract if you don’t need the database anymore.
  • With IaaS,  whether from Oracle or one of the other two approved vendors  (Amazon and Microsoft), you will have to bring your own Oracle license.

For new development using an Oracle database, the flexible licensing means you should use Oracle PaaS if at all possible.

For existing Oracle installations, it might make sense to move from your existing on-premise hardware into the cloud if you are faced with buying new hardware. Note that some features are only available on Oracle’s IaaS cloud – for example, you can’t run Oracle RAC on Amazon or Microsoft.

 

 

Why working at night doesn’t work

Lots of programmers insist on working late. That’s a bad idea. For every one time a programmer reaches “flow” state and effortlessly produce reams of brilliant code late at night, there are a hundred inefficient programming sessions with low productivity and high error rates.

In most organizations, it is a near certainty that you will be spending most of your day doing something other than what you had planned. Most solutions involve company culture, managers, scrum masters, and colleagues. But there is one solution that is completely within your control: Show up early and complete one important task.

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.
Mark Twain

If you are a night owl like me, that might be a significant change to your life. But it pays off handsomely in more happiness and less stress. Stress is caused by a feeling that you are not in control of your situation; starting early and actually getting a task of your own choosing done each day defeats this feeling.

Try starting work two hours earlier than everybody else for two weeks and see how much more you get done.

Why Outsourcing Doesn’t Work

40 years ago, Fred Brooks told us in his book The Mythical Man-Month why full outsourcing couldn’t work. Since outsourcing was rare and difficult back then, nobody took note. Today, advances in communications and technology make outsourcing much easier. That doesn’t mean it will work.

The reason is that IT work is not uniform. There are some easy tasks (rapidly getting automated) and some hard tasks that take expertise and judgment. And most organizations are outsourcing their work to regions where IT professionals haven’t had the time yet to develop expertise and judgment.

Cost vs CompetencyIn a mature IT market, a wide range of skills exists, from basic to very advanced. As you need more advanced skills, the cost goes up, because there are fewer IT professionals with the requisite number of years of learning and experience.

In a new IT market, you can get basic competency cheaper. But because most IT professionals in these markets are relatively inexperienced, advanced skills are very rare, very expensive, and might not even exist.

The outsourcing fallacy is to think that you can move an entire, complex IT operation offshore. You can save money on moving simple tasks to regions with lots of competent but inexperienced IT people. But advanced skills won’t be available. So unless you can very cleanly separate simple tasks from advanced tasks, the communication overhead necessary to ensure that the right people get the right task will eat up any saving.

Think you can save money by outsourcing? Maybe you can. But many IT organizations have found they couldn’t. Get in touch if you need help figuring out the right level of outsourcing for your tasks and your organization.

Oracle Cloud Strategy Fail

Oracle rose to database dominance by making their software freely available. Anybody can download a $100K+ enterprise edition database and use it for personal learning as long as he likes.

The Oracle Cloud offerings, on the other hand, are strictly limited. You need to provide both a mobile phone number and a credit card number in order to get a miserly 30-day trial. Once you’ve spent your 30 days, you’ve used the one chance you get in this lifetime to learn Oracle’s 50+ cloud offerings.

reality_distortion

Contrast this with the approach taken by Amazon: A free tier without time limitation, and a generous 12-month trial for many of the other services. They took a page from Oracle’s playbook, offered free access and became dominant in the cloud space.

Oracle defends their stinginess by saying that it’s too expensive for them to offer free trials. And apparently, they believe they don’t need to offer good trials because their cloud is faster and cheaper.

Unfortunately, the ability of Larry Ellison to distort reality is limited. Oracle has a negligible market share in IaaS and PaaS and since they won’t invest a smidgen of their $60 billion cash hoard in better trials, they are likely to remain a bit player in this space.

I’ve used my own phone number and credit card, and my wife’s phone number and credit card, so I’m now out of options for learning more about the Oracle cloud. But I’m learning AWS.

 

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Cash is King

Medicins Sans Frontieres have an annual collection here in Denmark, and I was one of the volunteers going house-to-house to collect donations.

IMG_5599

I experienced quite a few people who didn’t have cash but still wanted to contribute. This is in alignment with recent surveys who show 21 percent of Europeans rarely use cash.

However, the belief that the cashless society will be a boon is utter techno-arrogance. It takes the average user approx 5 seconds to drop a few coins into my collection jar, and 10 seconds to fold a bank note and insert it. But nobody managed to complete an SMS transfer or mobile payment in less than 30 seconds.

It might be in the interest of shops, banks, and the tax collector to get rid of cash. But does it justify wasting 4,000 years of time globally every day? Consider the total cost to everyone in money, time and effort before you add technology to a process.

 

Don’t Let Developers Ruin Your Reputation

Developers hate it when pesky users raise bug reports against their wonderful creations. I’m a developer myself and have sometimes found myself mystified why a specific piece of code didn’t work in a specific case.

But don’t ever let developers tell the users that the code works fine, and the problem must be with the user.

I communicate with a lot of people and have been using Contactually to keep a central record of all my contacts. One nice feature of this tool is that it can use IMAP to connect to my mailbox to include the emails I’ve sent in the overview. For some reason, this IMAP functionality stopped working, and after some back-and-forth with support, I was told that the problem was with my password.

This is a rather disingenuous excuse, as the software already gives me an error if I enter an invalid password. It reminds me of the Beavis and Butthead episode called “Customers Suck“, where the two idiots don’t want to serve customers and can’t even be bothered to come up with a good excuse.

However, the poor customer service employee had no choice but to pass this lame attempt at blame-shifting to me. I had to cancel the service.

Make sure you are not allowing your developers to shrink their responsibilities and ruin your reputation with customers internal and external.

Why I Now Hate Apple (Hint: Chatbots)

In a famous Monty Python sketch, John Cleese tries to return a dead parrot to the shopkeeper where he bought it. However, the shopkeeper is impervious to reason and claims the clearly dead parrot is still alive.

Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch

I just had a “dead parrot” moment with iTunes support. Their support used to be excellent, but the humans have now been replaced by imbecilic chatbots. This is a serious miscalculation.

What really annoys customers is when they are not listened to, and not listening is the one core competency of today’s chatbots. Being served platitudes about “we understand you are unhappy” doesn’t make me happier…

If you are considering chatbots for some aspect of your operation, make sure to offer an option for the customer to give feedback. Apple doesn’t, and Tim Cook probably thinks their support is brilliant. It isn’t.

Oracle Critical Patch Update

Oracle has released the latest quarterly critical patch update (CPU). The database gets off lightly this time with two moderate severity vulnerabilities in SQL*Plus and the Oracle JVM. On the other hand, Oracle Secure Backup is not very secure with a bug that can be remotely exploited without authentication. Bad.

The Fusion Middleware stack gets 31 fixes, of which 20 are in the bad group of remotely exploitable without authentication. There is a lot of WebCenter stuff as well as some WebLogic and little Oracle Service Bus. Read the notes and update your environments.

Almost all of the Oracle applications (E-Business Suite, Siebel, J.D. Edwards) are also vulnerable, many through the critical Apache Struts 2 vulnerability (CVE-2017-5638). Oracle has fixed everything related to this Struts 2 bug in this CPU, but if you are running anything else based on Struts 2, make sure you update to a non-vulnerable version.

Do You Need to Learn a New Technology?

TL;DR: Yes.

Developers often ask me which language or tool they should use or learn. I have definite opinions on good and bad tools for various tasks, but the most important tip is to continue learning new technologies. This gives you joy in your life, prevents burnout, and provides a platform when the time comes to move on from your current technology.

For your day job, you want a language that is stable or increasing. It doesn’t matter if it is outside the top ten in rankings like the TIOBE index. For example, Oracle’s proprietary PL/SQL database language has been hovering around place number 20 for many years, and PL/SQL programmers are not likely to be out of a job anytime soon.

But you still need to continually add to your skill set. People who keep doing the same thing lose the joy and wonder of making something work, which is often what got them started in IT in the first place. To prevent burnout, carve out time to work on something new every week.

Don’t expect your employer to give you this time. In some organizations, you might be able to use allocated training time to learn something on your own, but even Google’s famous “20% time” for side projects is 20% on top of the 100% you already work.

You should be grateful you have the privilege to work in IT. To keep that privilege, you should invest time in yourself and your life.

This is an excerpt from the monthly Spiritual Programmer newsletter. Don’t miss the next issue, sign up here