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Scott's Column
Oracle Open World

December 1, 1998
By Scott Lewis

I have decided to concentrate this month's column on Oracle’s Open World conference. But I would like to talk a little about standard stuff. So a couple of paragraphs on regular stuff then on to the conference.

New Web Site

I have moved again. I finally got my own ISP account. Now I will be hosting my own pages. My ISP account comes with 50 MB of space for web pages. This means that I can stop borrowing space from my friend. You may be reading this on the new site. I am planning on doing my best to make the move sometime during December. Subscribe to my newsletter below and you will know exactly when I move, and get the right address.

Palm III

Actually this is part of the conference. Oracle and 3Com had a deal that let you borrow a Palm III loaded with the conference schedule, vendors contact information, and some other information. At the end of the conference you could turn in the Palm III (or IBM WorkPad), or purchase it for $199. Normal pricing is $369. I have heard of it mail order for as little as $309. Clearly it was a hell of a deal.

I kept mine, and got one for my manager. He is supposed to try and get our company to pay for them. I hope so, I don't want to eat the cost myself. I like it a lot, and will have more on it next month. I am planning on creating pages for my column specifically for PalmPilot users running AvantGo, a product that lets you read web pages offline on Palm computers. I am also looking into programming it, and will let you know what I find out. Stay Tuned

Usual Stuff

I finally finished my client application. Only a little late, but I was given a lot of latitude due to a lack of requirements. I will tell you how it goes over next month. I will be working heavily on our Intranet solution with Oracle Web Agent next month. I'll let you know about that too.

My laptop developed a lazy delete key. Actually, the little rubber piece beneath the key broke. So it sits low, and doesn't have any spring. It gets used very carefully now. I don’t know if I will get it fixed. Our lease is up in March, and it will be replaced. I think my company has switched to Dell for Laptops. I was told (rumor) that we get 266 or 300 MHz Pentium II laptops with 128 MB of RAM. I know that my company is switching to Windows NT for laptops, and that should be in effect by March. I'll keep you posted.

The Conference

Oracle Open World was held in San Francisco from Nov. 8 to Nov. 12. Next year it will be held in Los Angeles. I haven’t been to San Fran in ten years, so I was looking forward to visiting the Fisherman’s Warf area. I know it is a big tourist area, but that is what I was, then and now.

Sunday 7:45 PM

Arrived at the hotel. Not enough time go to the conference center to register before 8:00 PM. My travel companion, also my manager and for the purposes of this story shall be called McGuire (private joke, not his real name), and I walked to a highly recommended Italian restaurant near the hotel. There was an hour wait, and McGuire couldn’t handle it. We walked around the area for a few minutes and stopped at a steak place. I went for the fettuccini alfredo (I still had Italian food on the brain).

After that I retired to my hotel room, unpacked, and setup my laptop. I had prepared for the trip by backing up my laptop and clearing enough space to install Starcraft and over 500 MB of music in MP3 format. With external speakers hooked up I had a cool stereo. When travelling and using headphones, the laptop made a great Walkman. I played one game of Starcraft then hit the pillow.

Monday 7:00 AM

Took the first bus to the conference center. Wanted to get there early because I had heard that Monday registration would be hell. It was not. I guess not enough early birds. We were registered in less than 10 minutes. Crowded around the continental breakfast bar (read: bagels and croissants). Not fun eating standing up in a crowd of thousands, but I made due.

Monday 8:30 AM

Listened to the keynote speeches from Ray Lane of Oracle, and Scott McNeally of Sun Microsystems. Ray was excellent. He spoke very well, and had my attention for over half an hour before I realized how little what he was saying applied to my work. Scott McNeally was a different matter. He was wearing 2 microphones. One he claimed was for 60 Minutes. Supposedly, 60 Minutes was taping his speech because of his Microsoft bashing. At first he took a couple of shot at Microsoft, and I thought he was doing a good job. But McNeally couldn’t contain himself. His speech grew into a full Bill bashing. I got bored, and finally walked out a little early. I would like to see the 60 Minutes report on McNeally.

Monday 10:30 AM

Attended my first session. I was impressed at how technical it was. It was on data sparsity in Express databases. I was unqualified to make use of this information, but hoped to bring back the info for my partner. It was too technical for me to even bring back worthwhile information. Fortunately, a consultant we have hired to aid in our conversion to Express Server 6.2 was in the session. I left it to him to get the straight dope.

I was left with high hopes for the rest of the conference. But alas I found that most of the sessions were lame. Of the 13 technical sessions I attended only 3 were truly worthwhile. Two of those sessions covered products that would not be available until 2Q99. I learned that 2Q99 means the end of 2Q99 in Oracle’s mind. So I was left with one really good session to inspire me when I return to San Antonio.

Monday 5:00 PM

Caught up with another person from my company that went to the conference. Went to dinner with her. It had to be better than having dinner with McGuire. After dinner she called it quits for the night. I went back to my hotel and had two messages from McGuire. He leaves screaming messages wondering where I was. I check the time the messages were left, and find he has been at the hotel since 4:00 PM. I call him back, and remind him that I came for the conference, not just to goof off. We decide to try and catch a cable car to Fisherman’s Warf. We have dinner (I know, my second), and then walk around the area. We ended up at Lou’s, a Blues club, with a live band. Had a good time. Managed to keep McGuire quiet for most of the evening about his women problems.

Tuesday

No more times for the rest of this report. The conference is boring. I am getting disappointed with the limited information in the sessions this day. Waist my lunch in the Exhibit Hall, and only got one T-shirt. It is amazing what some people will do for a free T-shirt.

Tuesday evening Oracle is having a cocktail party at the Hilton. I wasn’t planning on attending. I figured it would be way too crowded. But I found out it was only promoted at the Express/OLAP sessions, and last years had only around 50 people turn out.

I call McGuire an hour before leaving for the cocktail party. We arrange to meet then I went to the fitness center to get a workout. Just as I am stepping into the shower McGuire calls. He isn’t going to the cocktail party. He claims we don’t have a way to get there. I tell him we are taking a cab. He can’t wait that long to eat. I leave him behind. Decide he is a lousy travel companion.

The cocktail party had really bad finger food. But the booze was free. Hung out for a couple of hours. Mostly a waist of time, but enjoyed the company of my other co-worker. At least until our consultant found us. I found out the hard way that I don’t like him. He is obnoxious and will argue about anything.

I think for a few minutes back at my hotel room… this is the last night I can get a good dinner. Wednesday night Oracle is having its appreciation party at Treasure Island (more later), and I am flying out Thursday night. I go back to the Italian restaurant. I have one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. The waiter was from Queens. I am from Long Island. We talked a bit, and the food was excellent.

Wednesday

The sessions didn’t improve until the afternoon. That is when the best session of the entire conference (for me) was. It was on Web Agent, and they did a fantastic demo on what the product could really do. Since that is what I will be using all during December, I felt a great deal of relief.

I decided to spend lunch at the Exhibit Hall again. I mainly wanted to get in on the drawing for the VW Beetle they were giving away. (I didn’t win, since I haven’t been contacted.) It required you to collect a couple of stickers from vendors. By the time I got the stickers I needed, I racked up 10 free T-shirts. Got in the drawing, and went back to the sessions.

Wednesday Night

Treasure Isla… Uh, Oracle Island. Each year of the conference Oracle throws an appreciation party the second to last day. It was a lot of fun, for a while. The part that was amazing was before the event. Each full attendee gets a wrist band that lets you in. These were going for a lot of money. At the conference they had computers setup running Netscape for messaging and web surfing. I didn't use their messaging (good thing since I learned later, too late for McGuire, that it did not have inbound Internet e-mail active.) However, 90% of all the messages floating through the system were about people try to buy or sell the wrist bands. Since you only get one, you have to find someone that doesn’t want theirs if you want to bring a companion to the event.

I saw prices as high as $100. Most of the sellers wanted $75, and most of the buyers were offering up to $50. I would love to know how many changed hands, and for how much.

Oracle Island (actually Treasure Island connected with Disney) was one great big party. It is a converted Naval base. They converted some hangers to dance halls, and did the same with some circus tents on what I assume was the flight line. Each tent/hanger was decorated in a different theme, with different music.

They had country, 70’s Disco, 80’s, Swing, and Jazz. Each one had a live band. It was rocking. Being 34, I liked the 80’s the best. The first 80’s band was the best of all. The 70’s band was good, and the Swing band was very good. This lasted for a while. All the alcohol was free, and they had more bad finger food. I had quite a few beers and some vodka shots.

After a while all the bands stopped playing. They had music going while the second band for each tent setup. Unfortunately, they were all worse. I guess they figured people would have a hard time telling by then. The 70’s band was K.C. and the Sunshine Band. I assume that’s why the rest of the bands got worse. Bud K.C. wasn’t that good. The tent was wall to wall people, and I could barely move. That would be fine, but after not recognizing three songs in a row, I headed back to the 80’s hanger.

It got a little tiring with the lower quality of the music. I left about 11:30 PM. It was supposed to close at 12:30 AM anyway. When I got back to the hotel I had the munchies, big time. I ordered room service, and rented Lethal Weapon 4 on their video system.

Thursday

I only had two sessions left. Both turned out to be losers. Went back to the hotel to check out. McGuire wanted to rent a car, but didn’t have a credit card. So we ended up taking a long lunch at the Italian place. We headed for the Airport, and off we were.

Conclusion

Overall the conference was mediocre. I got a little good information, but learned, as far as our project is concerned, next year should hold more with Oracle 8i. Apparently 8i has some neat summary and rollup features that should enable us to get away from the multidimensional database. I recommended that team send some to investigate replacing Express with Oracle 8i next year, just not me. I am pushing for Comdex next year.

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