Friday, November 28, 2008

When MySQL splashes back too much

Splashing Atlantic Bottlenose
Sometimes MySQL is too helpful. Recently I was helping a very large man working on a very small laptop that had an overly sensitive mouse. Trying to scroll back and forth to examine the system variables with the mysql command-line client was very painful. It reminded me of the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin named Kai at the Texas State Aquarium pictured here that was too helpful when I tried to get him to splash 'just a little' for a picture. In this case the server was returning too much to see and the very large man in frustration handed his computer to me.

mysql> pager more
PAGER set to 'more'

I returned the laptop and the very large man could now control the scrolling. After a few moments we found what we were looking for.

'So how do I turn this pager off?'

mysql> nopager
PAGER set to stdout

You can set the pager to a file or a program on any system but Windows (no popen() function). And it is one of those little things you need to pass on to MySQL novices to keep them from trying to 'drink from a fire hose'.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting free tools for your next certification exam

One of the problems with living in times as they are now is the lack of funds for what I like to call non-directed autodidactic exploration. Some of you would call this 'investigating new tools' but most would call it getting 'toys'. How do you know if D-trace, the MySQL Query Analyzer, or the next new announcement is that new tool that you can not live without if you do not get a chance to live with it? In the past I was able to rig an old laptop, my new laptop and an old development system to play, er, experiment with MySQL Cluster before taking my Cluster DBA exam.

Cisco CCIE candidates end up with an expensive pile of routers, hubs, switches, and cables in preperation for their lab exam. I wanted to get back up to speed on Solaris and went hunting used hardware for Sparc system so I could learn all the new items added since the 2.5.1/2.6 days (and boy did they add stuff). In the back of my mind is using some holiday time to work on a Solaris 10 Certification.

I also wanted hardware to let me investigate OpenSolaris, Glassfish, and the latest BSD-based releases. Plus there is that experiment I want to do with the Proxy Server and sharding. The list of wants was a lot longer than the funds on hand. And the idea of adding a pyramid of box past their prime did not appeal to me nor did the prospect of a higher electrical bill.

Virtual Box is a virtualization software that is freely available under a GPL license. Very quickly I was able to install Virtual box on my Mac and configure Ubuntu and OpenSolaris clients.

Nothing is really free. Each client takes a dozen or so GB of disk space. Running both clients, NeoOffice and Thunderbird at the same time makes my MacBook work hard. The good news is that is easy to remove the clients so that old opportunity cost is relatively low.

Now I have Glassfish and OpenSolaris on one virtual machine and can use my Mac and the virtual Ubuntu as clients. I can then query a MySQL 5.1 instance on the Ubuntu system and watch the Proxy Server re-route the request. Plus I was able to load the latest Zend Framework without having to disturb an older version on my main development system. Total cost out of pocket $0. Disk space cost about 25 GB. Time spent? Well that took about an hour for the first virtual server and twenty minutes for the second.

But now I have systems that I can use to explore all those new tools without having to crack open the wallet. And I have all these new toys, er, tools to learn. Times are good.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sun's CEC MySQL Certification

Sun's Customer Engineer Conference is now history and over forty new Certified MySQL Associates are on the street. Track 15 aka MySQL was a new session for Sun and CEC was new for George and yours truely.

George Trujillo did a wonderful job, as he always does, in getting a large room full of people with various skills up to speed with MySQL. Three sessions a day most for three days after a long Monday were tough but the folks in Track 15 hung in there. A few had Oracle or other database experience but most were new to the subject. By Thursday night they were replicating databases. Zero to replication in eight sessions. That is very impressive.

This morning was my turn and the candidates listened intently to my brief review and then tore into the test. As they finished, I made a point to try to ask each of them how they did on the test and if they thought the class has been worth the time. All agreed that the class was a great. George and I had concerns before the track started about providing a quality experience and worked hard to provide guest speakers, relevant labs, along with the outstanding materials used in MySQL Training Classes.

Now Las Vegas awaits and I am off to see more than just the conference hotel.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Every Techie under 35 has has used MySQL in one way or another

Sun's 2008 Customer Engineering Conference (CEC) is an opportunity for Sun engineers to get in depth training. So over 2,000 Sun engineers are kept indoors at Paris Las Vegas from eight in the morning to eight or ten at night to get up to speed on new subjects.  This year MySQL is one of tracks and over eighty engineers are being trained by George Trujillo.  This is also a record class size for a MySQL training class.  And at the end of the week they will take a MySQL Certification exam.

Rather than a standard DBA class, George has opened up some time to other to teach.  Cliff Conklin brought up valuable insights on storage engines.  Anders "Make ZFS GPL" Karlsson provided the students a view into how MySQL is integrated into organizations, clustering and database performance.  We even had the SVP Marten Mickos take some time out of his heavy schedule to discuss a high level view of where MySQL came from and where it is going.  Later in the week there are other speakers scheduled.

The quote I am using to title this entry 'Every techie under 35 has used  MySQL in one way or another' caught me by surprise.  Marten made this statement and I noticed that very few people in the room jumped when they heard that.  The engineers in attendance are working hard to understand how to best fit MySQL to support their customers.  A good number of them have DBA level experience with other DBMSes. Many have confessed they have been getting queries from customers about MySQL since the January purchase.  George is providing the heavy technical training and the cameo appearances are filling the other gaps. And the attendees are really soaking up the material.

Many are cramming with the MySQL 5.0 Certification Study Guide for the certification exam on Friday.  That is a lot of dedication considering the many available 'distractions' in Las Vegas.  And it gives a good feeling for the customers of these engineers after seeing their dedication.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Changes in the certification world

The Information Technology Certification Council is a new organization you are going to hear a lot about in the next year. The membership list is a who's who of the computer certification world and their main focus is increasing the value of computer certifications.

Their most visible project to the public will be marketing materials on certifications. The general public does not know a CCIE from a MSCE or CMDBA. Why is this education valuable?

Several years ago I was employed by an on-line recruiting firm and hiring managers asked why they could not find programmers with twenty plus years of Java programming experience. Java was under ten years old at the time and even James Gosling did not have twenty years of Java experience. Twenty plus years of programming experience with a recent emphasis on Java was not what they wanted. They knew exactly what they wanted and would not accept a substitute. Even if what they wanted did not exist.

Only a tiny fraction of the world's population know what someone with a CCIE, LPIC-2, or CMCDBA have had to accomplish to get that jumble of letters. They may know that a PhD, MBA or a MFA have spent a good deal of time in school. Most people have no concept of what law school or medical school entails apart from what they have seen in films or on television. So how does one value these funny computer 'geeks' who show up for an interview with these funny little tree and four letter designations on their resume? What does SCJD or MSCE really mean? Why would you want to hire one?

I was told earlier in the week that an analyst told the ITCC core, "Certifications are as important as college degrees were 10 years ago." That is quite a castigation on the educational system and a big 'heads up' to the certification world that certification programs need to make sure our product clearly delineate those who have the skills from those who do not.

The second ITCC project that will have great impact will the the Certification Clearinghouse. All your certs will be listed on one centralized server under one access code. A hiring manager or human resources clerk doing due diligence on a job candidate will not have to chase a dozen websites with various codes to check certifications. They can go to one site and verify the certifications from a trusted website.

And the ITCC will be working hard to improve test security. The general public will probably not see any of this activity but it will make life difficult for those who wish to cheat or facilitate cheating on certification exams.