September 2003 Archives


Some questions and concerns on service oriented architecture...

select count(*) is not slow

a recent post I saw on ....

From: Billy Verreynne

> Can someone tell me what's fast way to get total of records in a table
> except using "select count(*)" statement? Can I get the information from a
> system table?

Fast? You mean something like this:

SQL> set timing on
SQL> select count(*) from tjs_batch.prod_sapcallusage200304;


Elapsed: 00:00:06.49

This is a straight cut-and-paste from a telnet session. The 6 seconds
will go down to 4 or even 2 seconds when run again as the applicable
bitmap index used will be cached.

So what's your reason for not wanting to use SELECT COUNT(*) or
thinking its slow?

One thing that really makes me reach for my lead pipe, is Oracle urban
legends Andy. Like thinking a SELECT COUNT(*) is slow, that standard
Oracle database's uptime is much less than that of the server it runs
on, that Oracle requires constant administration and a host more or
other silly tales.



The Register has a good editorial on the cybersecurity paper that got Dan Geer fired from @Stake.

I thought this was the highlight of the piece, it seems to grasp the root of the argument:

"To summarise, monoculture itself is not of necessity bad for security, nor in theory is Microsoft monoculture, provided Microsoft is prepared and able to reform itself. If however it is not, then the Microsoft monoculture is a clear and present danger to global IT security, and it must be reformed via external means.

That is the document's argument, and it's a perfectly sustainable one, albeit not entirely susceptible to being boiled down into a headline soundbite."

You know, for all the controversy surrounding this paper, a couple of things come to my attention. Firstly, Bruce Schneier is a co-author - a rather respected security expert. Secondly, the idea of software diversity to increase the reliability of a distributed system is not a new one.

Security is in many ways a sub-section of general reliability. Gray and Reuter's bible on Transaction Processing has a section on N-Version programming as an approach to software fault tolerance: the idea is that "Heisenbugs" (non-deterministic, non-repeatable bugs vs. deterministic, repeatable "Bohr-bugs") can be thwarted by different pieces of software doing the same job at once.

oracle power struggles

Interview with Larry Ellison about the new book Softwar. I'm looking forward to this one, Oracle's culture is fascinating to me (as is Larry).

on monopolies

I've written some thoughts (in the comments section) on monopoly ethics and on IP law critics on Randy Halloway's entry over the recent @stake/microsoft security flap.

On architecture

Someone recently asked me what architectural approach I liked... a few names were thrown out: Rechtin, Fowler/Cockburn, and Malvaeu/Mowbray (Software Architect Bootcamp).

I respect most of these authors. But there are a lot of problems with "architectural schools of thought". Many assume that "THEY" have the answer. Building big software systems is a lot more complex than that, and it's hard to have a cookbook approach. I find it's hard to come up with a step-by-step model, or "design by checklist".

Therefore I tend to like the "framework" approach to architecture -- one that doesn't dictate steps and realizes that situations differ.

.NET mysticism and Java productivity

Saw Ole's blog entry on how many of the new .NET technologies are being presented as cool, or even mystical as part of the hype gearing up for the PDC.

Don Box alluded to this idea before as well - controlling surface area requires a significant shift in attitude for people who thrive on complexity.

This resonates with me. I've always viewed the Microsoft technology culture as one that thrives on complexity. (i.e. COM put the COM in COMPLEX). .NET seems to have changed attitude quite a bit, at least perceptually. I hope it sticks, its why I'm interested in .NET after generally avoiding Microsoft technologies. I taught several of those 2-day Microsoft seminars on .NET in 2002 while I worked for Infusion, and I quite enjoyed talking to the developers I met about their concerns and excitement surrounding the framework.

On the other hand, I think Java's initial enormous popularity had a lot to do with its fall-over simplicity. Parts of J2EE seemed to really lose that. I think it's because distributed / parallel / concurrent development actually is quite naturally complex, and no one yet (save for perhaps David Gelertner's Linda) has come up with an elegant general solution to it. To me, elegance is Einstein's paradoxical statement - be as simple as possible, but no simpler.

On another note, before people start rampantly quoting Greenspun's theory that Java/JSP costs 5x more than a project in Perl as fact, remember this wasn't based on any facts, studies, or experiments - it was a number pulled out of the air for rhetorical purposes. I've made comments on this before on Slashdot, but in a nutshell, I think Java certainly CAN be as productive as Perl, the question really becomes whether the horde of consultants and "experts" actually encourage this or not, and whether the myriad of framework choices help or hinder this.

The problem to me seems to be the J2EE community got run over by the "design patterns" idea, where many inexperienced developers-turned-consultants decided that every project needed design patterns to make their systems more maintainable. They lost sight that usually less code == more expressivess == more maintainable. This as opposed to "pretty UML bubbles and lines" == more code == $$.

This is why the .NET PetShop was such an embarassment, in my opinion. It was faster, smaller, and my observation: it wasn't that you COULDN'T write something that small & fast in J2EE (as much as some may like to imply) - it was that no one wanted to! "BUT BUT - stored procedures are hard to maintain and proprietary! Proprietary bad!" That's knee-jerk dogmatism, that's not objective thinking about software design!

If a beginner was pointed in the right directions with truly productive modes of working in Java, I think there's a good comparative story. It's what I try to do when I teach, I move away from the Sun-standard J2EE marketing stuff and look at what real people do to get productivity.

It's a sad and ironic tale: a community so prided on simplicity has so lost its way, and it's taken Microsoft to point this out.

Liebermann computers


What do people make of this? Despite the fluffy market babble, it does look like an impressive set of specs. The company seems very new and I can't find any information on them on Google, which is strange.

reading slowly

Scott Rosenberg comments on the latest meme, that psychology email floating around about how we can all raed eiamls taht hvae tiehr ltetres sbrmlaecd (but it gets harder as the words get bigger).

There's one part of his entry that caught my attention, it seems related to some of Dick Gabriel's writings.

    Reading slowly is a dying art. As our world pushes us inevitably towards more speedy skimming of information blasting at us through a dozen different protocols, we scan more than we read. That makes it easy for us to parse near-gibberish, and that capability is a wonderful thing. But reading slowly is a wonderful thing, too. It is an art we still need in a number of areas. Reading poetry requires the ability to read slowly. If you read a poem the way you read your e-mail, you might as well not bother. Oddly enough, working on computer code requires a similar ability: Both because the computer is far more unforgiving of typos, bad punctuation and garbled verbiage than the human eye, and also becaause in good code, like good poetry, every word counts, and you need to be able to notice the patterns the words establish.

java = suv?

Phil Greenspun suggests that Java is the SUV of programming languages. The link is Slashdotted, here's the post at slashdot, and here are my comments.

Developer communities and the PDC

I'm getting pretty excited about my first Microsoft PDC this October. I'm not knee-deep into the Microsoft community so I find their developer culture rather fascinating because I used to be a member of the J2EE community.

Today I find myself not relating to any community (I jump among the OO, distributed systems , relational , J2EE , .NET , and Oracle worlds) ... they're all way too religious. I'm not one to suggest the trite cliche' that "platforms are just tools", because I think emotions and emotional motivations are very important in one's work. I just don't tend to attach the same emotional importance to what these communities hold valuable, at the moment.

That may change: The .NET community has a lot of vibrancy and is very appealing. As for the other communities: The J2EE community, while vibrant, is rancorous, fractured, and extremely political. The Ruby community is wonderful but I'm not sure I'll get a chance to really use it. I'm not sure there is a relational community anymore, and the distributed systems community seems to be either Web Services geeks or researchers that have been grudglingly silent since the web services trend took off. The Oracle community has some of the most experienced IT folks I've seen, but they all seem to have fallen down the path of cynicism (and it's very tempting given the amount of crap passing for "systems architecture" these days in the J2EE world). The open source community (well, the Slashdot community) is very fractured, very political, and doesn't actually get a whole lot accomplished. I still have a soft spot for this community, as I've been a Slashdot member since near the beginning - 1997 (I'm user #1311, and I was the lucky 10 millionth hit.). But these guys remain so politically ineffectual and naive that I feel a constant struggle between my frustration at their (sometimes) childishness and my continued desire to be involved.

Anyway, back to the PDC... things that interest me in this conference: SQL Server Yukon (I want to see where it's going vs. Oracle 10g), the mysterious Indigo, some of the architectural sessions on Service Oriented Architecture, and the latest .NET techniques for Web Services ... I'm not really there for the client stuff, though Longhorn probably has a lot of goodies inside it.

Going to a Microsoft developer conference with a Powerbook is going to raise some eyebrows. I may upgrade my Powerbook to the new 1.33Ghz model if the trade-in price is right... (I have a 1ghz 17-inch right now, with 1 gig ram). I think the new one might give me an extra boost to run VS.NET 2k3 on Virtual PC, though I'm not sure if the lack of L3 cache will cause problems. Its not my primary platform (yet) so I don't mind it too much, but I definitely would want a real PC laptop or desktop to do day-to-day .NET development.

why i wear black

I wore black on Friday. That evening (Tokyo time), I discovered Johnny Cash had died.

We'll miss you, Johnny.

windows media

I've been finding it rather frustrating that most streaming video resources on the web seem to be moving away from Real media to Windows media. Real sucks, but it's cross-platfrom. This media is usually MPEG-4 but Microsoft has managed to take the standard and wrap it in the proprietary ASF or WMV format if you use Microsoft's video tools.

So players like Quicktime can't get at the content. Now to be sure, a lot of downloadable content is Quicktime - but not a lot of streaming content outside of movie trailers. This is weird considering the streaming server is FREE, but I guess it's another one of those IT-dept stigmas against Apple, not to mention I know a lot of Windows users that don't like QT player.

Microsoft's been trying to take over digital media for years, and they may actually to be starting to make some headway, though at the expense of a lawsuit from Burst, the creator of some of WMP9's technology. The is of course some evidence of dirty tricks like email withholding. Microsoft... guys... you're big. I use your software when it's good. So then, why do you have to continue to be a cheat?

Anyway, back to the topic.... Macintosh Windows Media Player 7.1 has been out for some time, but most new content is being ripped with verison 9... And since version 9 was supposed to be about Microsoft's take-over of all digital content I figured it would only be for Windows. AT LAST, RELIEF: Windows Media Player 9 for OS X has been announced as "coming soon!". I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry. I don't want to use it as I'm quite happy with the quality of QuickTime or pure MPEG, but if the content is in it.. do I have a choice? (well yes, i could choose not to view the content. That's not a palatable choice, however.) sigh.

rms classic remix

jono bacon has recorded a death metal remix of the richard stallman classic free software song. From [jwz].

design for performance

I've been most influenced by Tom Kyte to think in this direction. Here's my wiki page.

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