Seth Miller

Technical ramblings of an IT guy

OpenWorld 2012 Presentation

My presentation for Oracle OpenWorld was titled “Efficient DBA: Save Time by Reducing Command Line Keystrokes”. Here is the slide deck that accompanied that presentation. The scripts that were included are in the notes portion of the slide deck. I have many additional scripts that I will include in the project called the “DBA Toolkit”. Since these scripts are updated often, I will keep them in a Git repository along with most of the files I post to the site. Feel free to provide feedback and changes/improvements.

Efficient DBA: Save Time by Reducing Command Line Keystrokes

Debugging PL/SQL

I recently wrote a stored procedure that wasn’t working so I decided to spend a little time putting in proper debugging. I know there are better ways of doing it including utilizing the IDE capabilities but I just wanted something simple that would be portable with the code.

Oracle OpenWorld 2012 Survey Feedback

OpenWorld exceeded my expectations for both of the last two years that I attended. I have already started planning for 2013 and can’t wait to see what OpenWorld has in store. I have a number of suggestions for improvement, a number of complaints that the planners of the event probably have no control over and both of these are heavily outweighed by my appreciation and praise for the return of value I receive for the price that I and my employer pay for OpenWorld.

2011 was my first attendance of OpenWorld. I planned very poorly for both the event and logistics. The closest decently priced hotel I could find that wouldn’t require me to share a bathroom was in Sausalito. This was, of course, completely my fault and I planned much better this year. I booked my hotel and flight eight months before the event and stayed in Union Square. However, I have a couple of colleagues that ran into the same problem this year that I did the previous and were forced to stay across the bay. I’m sure there is little or nothing to be done about this issue since it is increasingly difficult to fit tens of thousands of people in a relatively small area. But it is worth noting the issue.

The tent over Howard Street is nothing short of incredible. I wish I would have attended OpenWorld before the tent existed to get a real feel for the contrast but I can appreciate it just the same. The extra room the tent provides and advantage to the attendees to be able to walk between the two locations makes it almost necessary and I can’t imagine the landscape without it.

San Francisco is known for its leniency and some would say encouragement of homelessness on its streets. As well behaved as they appear to be, no one (especially 50,000+ people that dedicate themselves to their career) likes to see filthy people sleeping on the sidewalk. No one likes to be approached for money every 50 feet. No one likes to see people rummaging through garbage cans or dumpsters. As much money as OpenWorld (and other large conventions like VMworld) bring into the city, it would seem that the city could at least temporarily help with this problem and make the attendees that bring in so much money feel more comfortable.

Most attendees come for the sessions. These are the meat of the event and should be treated as such. There is no doubt from the quality of the speakers that Oracle and the user groups are very careful about who is selected to speak. The setup of each room including a stage, large screen displays, microphones and sound and technicians in each one makes for an ideal environment for learning and absorbing information.

However, distractions in the sessions are a problem, for me at least. Perhaps I am spoiled by Toastmasters but it is explicitly requested at the start of every Toastmasters meeting that electronic devices be silenced out of respect for the speaker and the audience. I heard this request only once this year at OpenWorld and it was all but ignored. The speakers go through a lot of preparation and hard work on their presentations and I believe this is something they should be afforded. This would also include the constant clicking and beeping of cameras, smart phones and tablets taking pictures of the screen. This practice continues to baffle me. I don’t understand why audience members would take a grainy picture of every slide when the entire presentation is made available in high quality shortly after the event. The only conclusion I can come to is that people are not aware that the presentation will be available.

The refillable water bottles and the ubiquitous refill stations are another fantastic idea. Not only does it do a tremendous amount to reduce trash imposed by plastic cups and bottles, it also allows people to carry water with them, encouraging them to drink more of it. The HCL sponsored glass bottles last year were perfect for the reasons that they could hold a good amount of water and were sealable so they could be put into one’s bag and transported. This year there were more water refill stations available which made it even easier to refill our cups. However, the cups that were included with the materials were a gigantic let-down. They were not sealable making screw-top plastic water bottles a much better alternative to transport water. They were made of plastic instead of glass, increasing the environmental impact and they were cheap and mine ended up leaking after the second day of use.

My reaction to the bag that was handed out with the materials is exactly the opposite of the cup. The bag this year is easily superior to that of last year in style and functionality. I did not use the bag I received last year because it just didn’t have enough functionality to make it worth using. Whereas the bag I received this year has exactly what I need in a daily work bag and I will start using it as soon as I return to work.

There were a lot of bloggers covering OpenWorld. I searched several times for news from the people covering the event. It was easy to find the Oracle blog posts through the Oracle website but surprisingly there is no link for the independent blogs anywhere on the OpenWorld website. I also didn’t find any collection of these bloggers anywhere on OTN, IOUG or other sites I thought would be a good place for them

The “mobile app” that was used this year was useful at best. I quote “mobile app” because a website is not an app. It became unresponsive several times of each day. It was painfully slow when transitioning between screens and didn’t offer enough information. It was also difficult to find. I looked for an “app” for several hours before I realized that the “app” was a website. I know that I was not the only that had issues with it. I met several people that just took screenshots of their schedules instead of using the app because of the issues. On the other hand, the app from last year was incredibly useful and fast. I still had it loaded on my phone and kept making futile checks to see if it was updated.

The social networking locations are awesome. My second goal this year was to network with as many people as possible and being able to sit across from someone in any building and on any floor made that goal very achievable. I also love that there are so many outlets available in those locations for charging electronic devices that are so ubiquitous in this industry. I rarely see an empty seat in these locations and they are always filled with conversation.

I utilized the speaker lounges as well as the certification lounge liberally. I very much appreciate that the attendees that choose to devote so much to their career by becoming certified and speaking at this conference get a little bit of a special treatment. It is nice that when I have to skip meals and need a hot coffee and a snack that it is always available in one of these locations.

The design of the ID pouches is great in many ways. The extra pocket that holds the lunch ticket and information packet is very useful and the information that the booklet provides is also valuable. The name tag is easily readable and really helps to identify people especially when you recognize someone but can’t immediately remember their name. The adhesive tags that attach to the pouch are right up there on my list of most inspirational ideas at OpenWorld. They are useful and effective for so many obvious reasons and I hope they continue to become more heavily utilized. The one correction I would make is to find a way to either keep the name tags facing out at all times or to make them show identification regardless of the direction they are in.

I filled out every survey that was requested. I found them to be simple enough that most people would take the time to fill them out honestly, yet have enough substance to give the speaker valid criticism and praise. I do think it would be valid however to have a freehand field much like this one to offer further feedback.

The evening events are superbly planned and executed. The talent, food, activities and locations leave nothing to be desired. I can’t think of anything that would make events any better.

I am a huge fan of ebooks. In fact, I rarely buy paper books anymore. Especially technical books since they are often large and heavy. I was shopping at the book store in Moscone West and was ready to buy a couple of books but was told that they were not selling ebooks. I wonder how many more would have been sold, had the same offer of 20%/25% off would have been offered to digital books as well as paper. I also was fully prepared to purchase a shirt but my size was not available in any of the button-down styles.

The staff I had contact with, whether they were registration staff, security, badge scanners for the presentations, room attendants, janitorial staff or information desk were all friendly and accommodating. I’m not sure how that can be since they are a mixture of different groups with different employers, but it definitely enhances the experience of the convention.

I am proud to be an ambassador for Oracle products. I am grateful to have a career that involves my passion and to have a passion that drives my career. It always blows me away that I get paid to do what I love. When I show up in San Francisco every year, it never ceases to amaze me that I get to be surrounded by people that feel the same way I do. I appreciate the opportunity to give this type of feedback and I will do my best to offer it again if it helps to make a better OpenWorld.

Oracle OpenWorld 2012

I was about to board a plane to return home to Minneapolis from San Francisco but since my flight is delayed for another hour I will share some thoughts about my week. Today concludes day seven of my second attendance of Oracle OpenWorld. It was bigger and better than ever. Oracle and the sponsors spare no expense to make this the largest and best run event of its kind.

I attended last year as a guest and observer. I made few plans and held no expectations. In fact, I planned so poorly that I had to book a hotel across the San Francisco Bay in Sausalito since all of the hotels in downtown San Francisco were filled to capacity. I took the Larkspur ferry every morning which was a thrill in itself but burned precious time, which is always at a premium during OpenWorld with so much to fit in to each day during such a relatively short trip. My first OpenWorld visit reminded me of my first trip to Las Vegas in that it was such a surreal experience that my excitement level was piqued every minute of every day. By the fifth day, I was completely exhausted.

This year, however, I took a completely different approach. I purchased my conference ticket and booked my hotel nine months in advance of the conference (the day they became available) and booked my flight shortly thereafter. I set up my session schedule as soon as it was made available and filled every time slot with sessions. I decided that my focus for this conference was on my career and everything else would take lower priority.

I’m certainly not implying that I didn’t have a lot of fun while I was there, but I did opt for education and networking over games and trinkets. In fact, I never made it into any of the exhibition halls, attended only one evening event and skipped all of the keynotes (they don’t offer me much value and are recorded so I can watch them later). Some of these decisions were based on my health and I was opting for sleep instead of parties to have enough strength to get through the next day’s sessions.

My health was abysmal this year. It certainly could have been worse considering I had a gallstone attack that put me in the emergency room just a week prior. But I feel like I endured enough to complain a little. I had such a severe sore throat the first three days, starting just hours after I landed at SFO, that I visited the nearest Urgent Care clinic on Monday morning to make sure it was not strep and I wasn’t contagious. The throat pain continued through the rest of the week and developed into a full blown head cold and cough Tuesday night. I fought through it and medicated heavily during the day to take in as much of the event as possible.

The biggest glass-half-full spin I can put on my illness is that I was able to attend both of the sessions in which I was to speak. Thank goodness both of them were on Sunday afternoon (the day after I arrived) and followed one after the other and in the same room. I consider both of them to have been very successful.

The first session was a round table that the International Oracle Users Group (IOUG) asked me to participate in. The other members of the round table were April Sims, Ray Smith and Michael Abbey, all of whom I admin and have been doing this a long time. The audience was small which turned out to be a good thing. We believe the small size encouraged participation and made for a great Q & A that would have gone on for another hour given the opportunity. It was a good mix of experience and personalities for the panel as well as the audience. I really hope I am asked to participate in this type of discussion again. I didn’t know what to expect going in but it turned out to be a great experience.

The second session I was to participate in was my speech entitled, Efficient DBA: Gain Time by Reducing Command Line Keystrokes. The main theme of the presentation is that any command or process that is repeated more than once in a day should be reduced to four keystrokes or less. The presentation showcases the scripts and methods I have developed over the last few years to make Oracle DBAs more efficient by affording them more time spent on the important and less time on repeatable and redundant. I practiced my speech at least a dozen times over the month leading up to the trip, including once in front of my fellow DBAs and manager at my workplace. It went exactly as I had practiced and was well attended. I received a few questions and comments of praise but the survey results will hopefully reveal the overall result of how it was perceived.

Throughout the rest of my sessions over the course of the week, I not only took notes of the presentation and absorbed as much information as possible, but I also took note of things about the speeches that I thought would be useful for my future presentations. These notes included making comments to the audience like asking for silenced mobile devices, making sequence changes like asking for questions before concluding my presentation, style changes like personalizing with more humor and environmental changes like using a lapel microphone and moving around the stage instead of standing at the podium.

I am honored to have participated in the Sunday User Group Forum. I want to especially thank IOUG for asking me to participate in the round table and accepting my own presentation. I am already thinking about next year and taking note of things that could potentially improve my experience during OpenWorld 2013. Of course, I can’t prevent illness but I can plan for those situations. For example, if I stayed at a hotel that was closer to the conference it would be easier to rest and recover during periods of downtime. I could also make plans to have a backup speaker for any presentations I have to at least not let that time slot go to waste.

Over the next year, I will continue to network with members of the Oracle community. I have committed myself to have a much higher level of participation in community activities like blogging, participating in forums, presenting whenever possible, fulfilling my role as VP and improving my local Oracle Users Group, volunteering for and supporting IOUG, writing and publishing white papers and articles, becoming an expert in my areas of strength and getting my 11g OCP in preparation for 12c OCM certification. I believe with this experience, I will also be worthy of becoming an Oracle ACE. The next year should prove to be an exciting one. I’m looking forward to it!

CRSSTATM: Fun with Awk

If you are not familiar with “awk” (actually “gawk” in Linux), you are missing out a very powerful and versatile interpretive language. It looks cumbersome at first but once you get a grasp of the basic concepts, it is quite simple. The authors (who very unoriginally used the first letters of their surnames to come up with “awk”; Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger, and Brian Kernighan) intentionally made it that way.

I use “crs_stat” filtered through an awk script to columnize the output quite often but I ran into an issue recently. I have a development RAC farm hosting 40 databases and growing. That means crs_stat has no less than 50 resources to list at any one time and that number is only growing. Needless to say, scrolling to see the output of the script was always necessary and forget about using “watch” since “watch” will only display the first X number of lines that will fit on the screen.

I decided to write my own interpretation of “crs_stat”. I wanted to be able to see at least 60 resources on one screen so I could actively watch the resources using “watch” with my script. The script below is meant to serve two purposes. First I wanted the functionality described here. Secondly, I added a heavy amount of documentation to help those just getting started in “awk” to understand the basic functionality of the language. Feel free to use, modify and provide feedback.

Oracle OSWatcher: Enterprise Wide Install Tips

I recently finished setting up a two node 11gR1 Oracle RAC cluster. One of the last steps was to run RACCHECK to see if anything was missed. A lot of recommendations came up, including setting up OSWatcher. Setting this up has not been a standard practice for us but I have used it for troubleshooting in the past as well as having Oracle Support request the files in support cases. My goal was to set it up in a central location to have access to the logs for all of the servers running OSWatcher in one place.

I unzipped the latest version of the software in a “golden template” location (we’ll call this $GOLDEN_BASE) so I can just copy the whole thing for each different server. Then, I created the central location accessible to all of the servers on which OSWatcher is to be installed. We’ll call this $OSW_BASE. oswatcher was added for clarity.

mkdir -p $OSW_BASE/oswatcher

Since we only have one domain, all of the server names that I install the program on will be unique. The -s flag on the hostname command trims the domain leaving just the hostname. $(hostname -s) can be used literally because it will expand to the hostname it is running on automatically. It is functionally the same as `hostname -s`. Here is the command to create the directory for the server.

mkdir -p $OSW_BASE/oswatcher/$(hostname -s)

Copy the golden image files to the newly created directory.

cp -a $GOLDEN_BASE/OSWatcher/* $OSW_BASE/oswatcher/$(hostname -s)/

Creating the “private.net” file is not necessary but does give additional monitoring for the interconnect between the nodes of a RAC. It is nothing more than a traceroute to each of the other nodes in the cluster through the interconnect. In my case, I am using Oracle Linux 5. I created private.net in the home directory of OSWatcher with the following contents.

echo “zzz ***”`date`
traceroute -r -F usc1-racdev01-priv
######################################################################
# DO NOT DELETE THE FOLLOWING LINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
######################################################################
rm locks/lock.file

The program can be started manually with the script startOSWbb.sh located within the base directory. However, in order to make sure the program is started on boot and restarted if it dies, an entry is added to the crontab of the user that owns the program. In my case, I put the entry in oracle’s crontab.

######################################################################
### Oracle OS Watcher
######################################################################
0,15,30,45 * * * * cd $OSW_BASE/oswatcher/$(hostname -s); ./startOSWbb.sh > $OSW_BASE/oswatcher/$(hostname -s)/tmplog 2>&1

OSWatcher is a good program to have installed and running both from a database and OS support perspective as well as having an even closer eye on what is happening on the database server. This program has little to do with Oracle database and can be run on any Unix system. The documentation is very ambiguous on setup scenarios and the layout I provided here is purely from trial and error. Feel free to share your comments and suggestions.

Invest In Your People

A Guide for Retaining Skilled Professionals

Companies hire new employees every day. The reactions employees have to negative work experiences are unpredictable. Some employees will be thankful to have a job and accept anything that happens while others may immediately decide that this isn’t the right place for them and continue to look for another job. There is a unique opportunity for an employer to structure their new employee’s environment and significantly increase the retention period and return on investment of that employee.

There is always room for improvement for the on-boarding process for new hires. Some solutions are simple and require little effort while others may require extensive coordination and resources. This article written with the information technologist in mind but applies in general to any skilled professional. An employer should consider the following points when looking at their new employee on-boarding process:

  • The first day is uncomfortable and sometimes frightening. Treat the new employee like you would a high profile dinner guest.
  • If your new employee loves what the company does, they will consider themself a part of it. Sell your new employee on the product or service they are helping to produce.
  • Establish familiarity as quickly as possible.
  • New employees are hired because they fill a need. Make them feel needed.
  • Get your employee’s physical environment set up before they start so they don’t waste precious time waiting for basic things like phone and email.
  • Documented processes are repeatable and quick to learn.
  • Every day on the payroll counts. Get your new employee acclimated and connected as soon as possible.

  • There are specific tasks an employer can do to accomplish these points. These tasks by themselves may seem pointless in some cases but in combination can have a profound effect. The current economic climate indicates an employer’s market when it comes to human capital. That may be the case for unskilled labor but for skilled professionals, especially in information technology your most valuable employees have a plethora of employers to choose from. Moreover, these skilled employees are likely looking for more than salary. They are highly motivated and focused on their career. They are looking for an employer that has their interests at heart and are willing to show it.

    The following points focus on specific tasks employers should perform to make sure the highly coveted resources companies are looking for remain a resource for an extended period of time and produce a maximum return on the significant investment it costs to hire skilled employees.

    Act quickly. Employees who are invested in the company they work for and believe in what they are helping to produce are much more effective at their job, have a more positive impact on those around them and will last longer as a resource for the company. Employers should seriously consider what happens in the first sensitive moments of an employee coming on to the company’s payroll. Once the moment passes and an employee becomes indifferent or jaded, the chances of pulling them back from that brink are very low.

    Make your mission your employee’s mission. There was tremendous thought put into your company’s logo, vision statement, mission, etc. and it has significant meaning to many within the company. It should be thoroughly explained what the origin and meaning of these statements are and to understand how they should affect the employee.

    Babysit your employee, at least for the first day. Your company probably has a new employee orientation of some kind. Once the orientation meeting completes, there should be a clear direction on where the employee should go and what they should do. The manager responsible for that employee or a delegate should be waiting to take over where HR leaves off. The actions taken for the new hire following the initial barrage of information regarding benefits, code of conduct and myriad do’s and don’ts is important to instill confidence.

    Take your new employee on a tour. Becoming acclimated to the physical surroundings of a place one will be spending eight or more hours a day is important. The new hire should be taken on a tour of the campus in which they will be working and shown the different division areas, cafeterias, popular meeting rooms, lobbies, restrooms, locker rooms, stairwells and elevators, emergency exits, coffee stations, gyms, relaxation areas and their work area. Printed maps should also be provided, especially for the conference rooms.

    Take your new employee on a virtual tour. Becoming familiar with virtual surroundings is just as important as being familiar with physical surroundings. The websites the new hire needs to be familiar with to function properly are too numerous to cover in one day. A schedule should be set throughout the first two weeks to train the new hire on how to use the intranet, file sharing, ticket tracking, change management, expense reporting, etc. The types of applications the new hire will need to be trained on will need to be catered to their position but the training schedule should be in place before their first day.

    Introduce them to their new home. The new hire’s cube or office will be their second home for the foreseeable future. Any items to help the new hire to be successful should be neatly stocked before they enter their cube or office for the first time. The items should include but are not limited to; writing utensils, scissors, push/T pins, white board markers and eraser, hangers, keys for lockable cabinets, hanging and manila folders, notepads, trash can, docking station, monitor(s), phone, wireless headset, shelving for books/files and at least one extra power strip or equivalent available outlets.

    Your new employee will be making copies, sending faxes and assembling documents the first day. There will likely need to be additional paperwork in the days and weeks following the hire date. The new hire should have access to and be shown how to use the copy machine, fax machine, etc. They should also be shown where to find the supplies to use those utilities such as; paper, staples, paper clips, rubber bands, etc.

    Safety first. Standard safety procedures should be shown to the new hire within the first week of their hire date. This should include showing the location of the tornado shelter areas, emergency evacuation procedures and first aid kit location and use. If there are regularly scheduled safety meetings or evacuation drills, the employee should immediately be scheduled to attend them.

    Do the heavy lifting when it comes to introductions. Walking into a room full of strangers turns most people off, especially introverts. A special effort should be made both by management and teammates to introduce themselves to the new hire during the first month. Meetings should be scheduled and prioritized with management and team leads for official introductions to the new hire through their manager.

    Introduce your new employee to the “go-to” person. Despite any preparation, the new hire will inevitably need additional supplies, access and questions answered. The new hire should be introduced to the point of contact that handles general requests and access to supplies. In most offices, this would be the office administrator or executive assistant.

    Get your new hire connected. Professionals rarely work exclusively within their own group. There will inevitably be questions about their job that will best be answered by someone in another group. Proper communication channels such as ticketing or change management systems are critical for companies to function efficiently but a short term exception should be in place for new hires. A contact list should be made available with a minimum of one point of contact for each group and a description of the types of issues the group is responsible for. This list should include group leads, divisional contacts and facilities management. These points of contact should be made aware that they should take special care to make themselves available for any questions a new hire may have.

    Caffeine is the fuel that drives Corporate America. New hires should be shown the locations of the coffee/tea stations nearest to their cube/office. They should be instructed on office etiquette for these stations and shown how to refill the coffee pots when they do not contain enough coffee for another full cup. They should also be shown the location and method of refilling the supplies such as coffee grounds, filters, creamer, sweetener, utensils, etc.

    No office environment is complete without ubiquitous meetings. Meetings are a necessary part of a successful company and every employee and contractor will need to participate. Meetings can range from productive to a waste of resources and time depending on the planning, participation and preparation of the attendees. Meeting etiquette should be published and every new hire should be trained or otherwise made aware of it within the first week of their hire date.

    The new employee’s phone should not be a distraction. Other than setting up voicemail, the phone the new hire will be using should be properly configured and fully functioning before their first day. This should include having access to and training on the online applications used to change the functionality of the phone system. If the new hire will have a cell phone and/or pager, these should be fully functional as well. The numbers for each device should be published in the company directories under the new hire’s account. Similarly, all necessary email addresses should be created and fully functional.

    Online conferencing allows us instantaneous access to the rest of the world. Information both for phone and internet conferencing should be set up properly under the new hire’s account. Proper access should be in place prior to the new hire’s first day. If the conference technologies require training, it should be scheduled ahead of the hire date but not within the first two weeks of employment.

    A computer that doesn’t work properly is just a very expensive paperweight. Most new hires will be given a laptop or desktop. Having the new hire configure their computer on their first day is confusing and time consuming. If necessary, the manager or employees within the new hire’s group may need to do additional configuration of their computer once is turned over from the desktop support group. The computer should be set up with all necessary software and permissions at the time the new hire sits at their desk for the first time. Inevitably, additional software will be required or preferred by the new hire. The new hire should be shown how to acquire or download additional software. It should also be made clear what is and is not allowed to be installed according to company, division, group or unwritten policy.

    Where does your employee put and retrieve files? Your company network probably contains a plethora of share drives and file repositories. Understanding the basic functionality and methods of access to the drives relevant to the new hire should be explained or written down. While a new hire should have basic knowledge on how to use email and simple file systems, the corporate folder structure and expectations of the new hire on using certain folders for certain tasks should be explained or included in training. Most groups will have internal documents, scripts, configuration files and check lists. These should be established in a repository or at least in a shared directory and given to the new hire to share in the benefit of their team’s experience.

    Ask your employees to speak up and take their opinions seriously. In order for a new hire to feel like they are a part of the company they work for, they must feel like their opinion is received and fully considered. The company should establish an outlet of communication between employees and decision makers for the company via a forum, idea box, listserv, etc. The personnel monitoring this outlet should consider every opinion and idea and provide feedback to the submitter regardless of the action taken. New hires should immediately be shown how to use this outlet and encouraged to participate in the evolution of the company.

    Seeing one’s name in print is a powerful thing. While it may not seem like much, seeing one’s name in print has an emotional impact and establishes a feeling of ownership and responsibility. The new hire’s cube or office should have their name spelled correctly and in place within the cube placard or on their desk. There should also be a personal welcome letter bearing their name on quality paper, signed in ink and personalized to their position preferably written by their manager.

    Give your new employee a gift to make them feel like an important part of the team. A small but meaningful gift can go a long way to establishing a strong relationship with someone. A thoughtful gift should await the new hire with the intention of immediately establishing a connection with the company while at the same time inculcating an expectation of excellence from them.

    It is in the interest of all parties that the employer invest in their employees, especially in the beginning of the employee’s tenure when simple tasks done can have the greatest impact. Make sure the company’s mission becomes the employee’s mission. Act quickly on the first day and make sure there is clear direction from the start. Show your new employee around both the physical and virtual campus so they become acclimated to their new environment. Even if your new employee is a number cruncher or a button pusher, put them in front of their colleagues and make sure they know who to talk to when they need something. Have phones, computers and websites set up ahead of time so your new resource can get started in their new job right away. Listen to, consider and when appropriate implement your employee’s ideas. Make sure your employee understands the office etiquette when it comes to things like meetings and coffee stations. Finally, go beyond your new employee’s expectations by having their workspace adorned with their name, a welcome letter and a special gift to offer a warm welcome.

    Career professionals, especially at the mid and senior level, are some of the most sought after individuals in the work force. These individuals need to find value beyond a good salary in the company they choose to work for. Establishing a cohesive and value driven relationship immediately between an employee and the company will yield employee loyalty, higher quality and quantity of work and better morale from the employee and reduce the risk of losing a valuable investment. Despite the unemployment rate, high quality professionals are difficult to find and even more difficult to retain. When investing in personnel, an employer should consider how to establish an investment from the new employee in the company and to do it as quickly as possible. When done with effort and sincerity, relatively easy tasks done by an employer to invest in their employees can pay off in dividends for years.

    Basic Backup Still Eludes Most IT Professionals

    I can’t believe this is still prevalent among senior level IT professionals. A colleague of mine was literally sweating when his laptop wouldn’t boot up. He was on the verge of losing no less than a half a decade of data. His response to my inquiry of what type of backup of his data he does is “I have never had time to set that up.”

    It’s really not that hard and for those of you that have “never had time” or “have been meaning to get to it”, I’ll give you a head start. Since most companies use the Windows operating system on their laptops and PCs, I am using Windows commands.

    Chances are, you have your very own cozy little share drive that has been provided you for exactly this type of situation. If it’s already mapped to a drive and persistent across boots…great. Use that drive letter in your script. If the drive is not persistent across boots or not mapped at all, I have that covered too.

    Create a batch file in a location that is going to get backed up. Feel free to get fancy with variables, loops and myriad echo statements, or just simply:

    xcopy "C:\Users\Dococ\Documents\*" "W:\Documents\" /C /H /E /D /Y

    Here is the meaning of each of the xcopy flags being used:
    /C Continues copying even if errors occur.
    /H Copies hidden and system files also.
    /E Copies directories and subdirectories, including empty ones.
    Same as /S /E. May be used to modify /T.
    /D:m-d-y Copies files changed on or after the specified date.
    If no date is given, copies only those files whose
    source time is newer than the destination time.

    The nice thing about this is it is only going to copy new files and those that have been updated so if you have a lot of files to copy, you don’t have to worry about swamping the network or your PC every time it runs.

    Add another line for each directory you want to back up. Be specific about what you want and add another line to the file every time you add something you want to recover or discover a configuration file you want to keep. Here are a few ideas.

    xcopy "C:\Users\Dococ\Pictures\*" "W:\Pictures\" /C /H /E /D /Y
    xcopy "C:\Users\Dococ\Scripts\*" "W:\Scripts\" /C /H /E /D /Y
    xcopy "C:\Users\Dococ\Putty\*" "W:\Putty\" /C /H /E /D /Y
    xcopy "C:\Users\Dococ\Putty Sessions\*" "W:\Putty Sessions\" /C /H /E /D /Y
    xcopy "C:\Program Files (x86)\Vim\*" "W:\Vim\" /C /H /E /D /Y
    xcopy "C:\Users\Dococ\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates\*" "W:\Outlook Templates\" /C /H /E /D /Y
    xcopy "C:\Users\Dococ\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook\archive.pst" "W:\PSTs\" /C /H /E /D /Y
    xcopy "C:\Users\Dococ\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Libraries\*" "W:\Libraries\" /C /H /E /D /Y
    xcopy "C:\Users\Dococ\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\UProof\*" "W:\UProof\" /C /H /E /D /Y

    If you don’t have a persistent drive mapped to your share include a create and delete statement for it.

    net use w: \\server\Dococ /persistent:no
    net use w: /delete /y

    Add a simple task to execute this script the number of times that satisfies your personal recovery point objective.

    Take a little time for the really important stuff and this is really important. If you would like to share ideas about making this script a little more fancy, please leave them in the comments and I will add them to the post.

    Google 2-Step Verification and Tablets/Phones

    The Google 2-Step verification virtually eliminates account hijacking but can be a pain when trying to sign in from a new computer or device. I highly advise those of you with Google accounts to use the 2-step verification and for Pete’s sake, make your password at least a little complicated. If you are going to continue using your last name followed by the number one, you are explicitly giving everyone affected permission to make fun of you for no less than one year.

    If you aren’t familiar with how this works, here’s a quick run down. When you sign into your Google account (which includes Google+, Gmail, etc.) your only verification by default is your (hopefully complicated) password. The second step which can be easily added to your account then sends you a verification number by SMS, phone call or a number of other techniques that must be entered as well to make sure you are who you say you are.

    I use the cell phone SMS as a source for verification codes since I almost always have my phone on my person. However, the 2-step verification assumes you are using a browser when you are signing into your account and it has the ability to pop up another page asking for the verification code. When this is not a possibility, there is another option.

    Google has created “Application-specific Codes” to allow you to generate a code ahead of time so you are doing both steps of verification at once. Follow the instructions on Google’s help page and enjoy the added security of 2-step verification without sacrificing your devices or your security.

    Find Instances and Listeners in Linux

    I created this script to make it very easy to see which instances and listeners are running on my server. I mostly use it to make sure everything is down when patching in RAC. Stick it in your profile script, or better yet your /etc/bashrc so all users have access to it.

    function pl {
    echo
    echo "Database Instances Running"
    echo "=========================="
    ps -ef | grep pmon | grep -v grep | tr -s ' ' | cut -d ' ' -f 8 | cut -d '_' -f 3 | sort
    echo
    echo "Listeners Running"
    echo "=========================="
    ps -ef | grep tns | grep -v grep | tr -s ' ' | cut -d ' ' -f 9
    echo
    }