Strategies for keeping up to date with Oracle forms…

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Posted by Hafed | Posted in oracle | Posted on 28-11-2008

 

One of my students recently asked me a question relating to how he can make himself valuable compared to other job applicants.

While I could have answered him with one of those pre-packaged all-purpose answer, I really thought about how I myself manage to keep my knowledge up to date.

I do not pretend to be superman but I think that I have the ability to get involved in interesting projects and most important provide the best (working at least) solutions.

Thinking about it, I do not believe that it is due solely to my own personal abilities but more because of the interactions I have with others on a daily basis.

So, I outline in the following the steps I follow in a typical workday. Please bear in mind that the info that follows is geared more toward Oracle Forms but is quite relevant if you work with different platforms, languages, environments, etc…

  • Know who the major and important contributors in your field are and where to find them. In my case, Oracle OTN is the place to be and I make sure to check the Oracle Forms and Reports Forums first thing in the morning. I glance at the current topics and see who posted the topics. While there are a number of experts, those to watch out are Francois Degrelle, Steve Cosner, Tony Garabedian, RajeshAlex and Andreas Weiden.

As a side note, I am quite amazed to see that current practicing forms developers do not even know about the OTN forum. On another level, I also found some quite interesting solutions on ORAFAQ.

  • Check the Forms and Reports OTN pages at least once a week. There might be some news of interest there.
  • Download JCreator LE and start experimenting with PJCs and Javabeans. If you migrate to Oracle 10g, javabeans will provide you with new ways to extend Forms functionalities. You will be amazed what you can do with javabeans.

As a side note, don’t take anything for granted. While Oracle Forms is still here and is very productive, nothing forbids you from learning JAVA or .NET. I myself choose JAVA for some reasons and is quite happy with it. That’s just one more thing in my bag.

  • Try to take time to understand the new Forms architecture. You will save yourself some valuable time when working with Forms 10g if you understand how Forms calls are processed.
  • Do Google for Oracle forms keywords from time to time. You might come up with interesting results.
  • Last but not least, be interested in other platforms, languages and environments. Almost every week, I check www.dzone.com for the latest in development trends and there are quite interesting stuff over there to check. For example, I have done quite some work with WordPress, PHP, mysql and ruby on rails based on the tutorials I found from links posted on dzone.
    While I won’t consider myself a PHP or RoR developer , I can say that I know how to get around with them.

Timers and their usefulness, what has changed in Oracle forms 10g ?

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Posted by Hafed | Posted in Forms, oracle | Posted on 28-11-2008

Timers were used quite heavily in C/S environments (Oracle forms 6i). Of the many uses, the one that is the most typical is to create a timer when validating an item and then perform an action when the timer expires.

For example, suppose that we need to sort records in a block according to a given criterion. Whenever a new value or a change occurs in a column (record within the  block) we reorder the block. This implies an execute_query built-in. Another one deals with a go_item whenever we validate a given item. In this case, the error related to restricted built-ins will be raised.

By including a timer, we will shift the action from the WHEN-VALIDATE-ITEM to the WHEN-TIMER-EXPIRED.

However, in Oracle forms 10g, the same strategy will raise a whole new issue. Since 10g implies a web environment with a middle-tier hosting the application server, managing timers implies prohibitive server-side management especially with a large user base.

In this case, another solution might be available by using PJC’s/Javabeans. Oracle has already provided a client-side Timer bean. For the time being, I have not tried this bean since it can be set at a minimum to 1 min. I will have to modify the bean code in order to allow much lower interval (in the milliseconds range).

J-2 before the new Oracle forms 10g application move to Production

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Posted by Hafed | Posted in oracle | Posted on 27-11-2008

Everything is now in place for the move to production. This is scheduled for this coming Saturday Nov 29, 2008.  There were several hurdles along the way and adjusting the printing functionality we had in the C/S version to the new 10g web version were not that easy.

In fact, I had some sleepless nights the last two weeks. I can say that I mastered the way reports server works on UNIX (AIX).

I wrote the following paper which explains what you need to do in order to implement some printing requirements such as duplex printing, tray selection etc.

I used a scenario that might be of interest to a number of implementers. Please note that the solutions I outlined work at the present time and are specific to the platform we use, namely report server on AIX. You might have to make some adjustments if you are on a different UNIX platform.

If you do use this info, please leave a comment or suggestions so that I can improve the document for others to use.

Download: UNIX printing reports server

Forms migration on UNIX- almost the end!

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Posted by Hafed | Posted in Forms, oracle | Posted on 11-11-2008

We are almost at the end of our Forms migration to  10g on IBM AIX. I received some emails regarding the points to watch out for. As you can imagine by reading the previous posts, the migration as the forms module are concerned should not take that long especially if you use JDAPI. Somme annoyances here are mostly with WEBUTIL functionnalities that you need to implement (replacing host, file transfer, image treatment etc.)

However, before even starting the project, you need to do a THOROUGH assessment of your current application and how it is being used. Please be as thourough as you can get in this phase. Otherwise you might have big surprises later on. We have had some really nasty surprises during our journey and that was mainly due to printing on AIX among other things.

First thing to consider is the application server and the platform you selected for hosting it. If it is Windows, then no major hurdles here. If you move to a LINUX/UNIX/AIX platform, then you will be dealing with the PRINTING problem. Direct printing is no longer available in 10g and the alternatives are not worth looking at (direct print PJC and orarrpt). I am talking here about mission-critical applications.

Second problem is the font problem. Expect major headaches here since your developers will be working on Windows machines and your reports are deployed on a LINUX/UNIX/AIX machine. Fonts are not the same and you will have to work on getting the same fonts on LINUX/UNIX/AIX. Not an easy task.

If you have some special printing requirements like we do and I mention here specifically printing on special papers, special paper sizes, automatic printing on designated printers and duplex printing, then you are in for a surprise and a big one I might add. Those are not possible straight out of the box and you will have to do some really nast setups on your report server.

I have spent about 3 days trying to find solutions on those simple requirements. I am still puzzled that there are almost no mentions about those issues on the OTN forums or anywhere else. Either people are not using IAS on LINUX/UNIX/AIX or I am missing something here. At any rate, I thoroughly searched Metalink for answers and came up almost empty handed.

I managed to work out solutions for those problems but it has been tough. I will document the solutions we implemented in an upcoming post.

Finally, the other major problem deals with all the tweaking you have to perform on the forms and reports server. There are so many small things to watch out for and which will take hours to fix. Now, if you get a firewall in the loop and most likely you will have one, then expect some further tweaking to get everything working.

Anyway, a lot of fun if you move to a LINUX/UNIX/AIX platform.

Based on all of the hassles we went through, I am tempted to say that LINUX/UNIX/AIX is not really a good option if you have some real printing to do through your application. Better to stick with windows 2003 or 2008. At least Microsoft has put in place a platform that works.

Where to get help: OTN, Metalink and double check whenever you suspect that litlle looking parameter in that configuration file ….

P.S: Did I mention that all our reports are in French and that characters with accents are replaced with greek characters when printing using Postscript straight to the printer. What a waste of time just to get that one line somewhere stating that you can’t get those accents unless you convert your postscript output to PDF and then print it using the PDFPrint plugin.