"The future of Forms is only just beginning!"
A place for us to share with you our thoughts, views, news and information ... Articles by Oliver Tickell unless otherwise stated.
Steady progress3 April 2013
We are keenly aware that many of you are desperate to get your hands on YoForms, YoReports, YoDeveloper. And that we have yet to deliver. So first, an apology. We have not met our targets. But that does not mean we have been idle. On the contrary.
First, it has not been easy for us to pick everything up from where Don left it. As Technical Director, he was the only person who had the complete, over-arching view of the software, how it all fitted together, where it had got to, and what needed to be done. And it has not been quick or easy for Jamie, our new CTO, to develop that same level of understanding of a large and sophisticated software product.
The good news is that after a lot of hard work he has now succeeded. Moreover he has mapped out a path to completion. Some parts of the software are being re-written completely. For example, we are re-writing the transport layer to make it more resilient on slow or unresponsive internet connections, and to allow "server push" of data into an open form.
We are also mindful that while users want the reassurance of seeing their applications looking exactly the same as on Oracle Forms 6i / 10g / 11g, it's also important to re-invigorate them with an up-to-date web-style appearance. So we are creating a competely separate presentation layer which will also allow users to choose our contemporary "Yo" look-and-feel. We will also publish an API to allow users to create their own custom look and feel, for their own applications or to share with others.
We have also developed a formal testing methodology using fully automated test rigs to test, examine and verify every aspect of YoForms function and compare actual and expected outputs. We apply the methodology to every software change, using thousands of real-world forms we have in our archive so that we can be certain that changes made do not have unanticipated effects. This has taken time to set up, but the result is that we can make major software changes - for example, those set out above - with complete confidence that no undesirable results will follow.
All this has taken time - longer than we had hoped. But the progress is there, and the end result will be brilliant!
Our verdict: The delay is unfortunate. Prospective users are desperate to get their hands on the product.
Our prediction: It will be well worth waiting for.
What this means for us: Plenty of hard work ahead. But the end is firmly within view.
We go forward, with tears in our eyes23 October 2012
We deeply regret the recent loss of Don Smith, company founder, technical director and presiding software genius. He will be badly missed for his warmth, kindness, generosity and good humour, not to mention his formidable intelligence and remarkable technical expertise. We are also very grateful to him for leaving the YoServer suite of products very close to completion. We have now recruited Don's good friend and colleague Jamie Lokier as Chief Technology Officer. Jamie takes up his new position with immediate effect and brings with him a fresh determination to conclude the current round of software development, and take our products to market.
Our verdict: This is a heavy blow for us and for all Don's friends and family.
Our prediction: We will move ahead with a renewed sense of purpose.
What this means for us: Things will never be the same again.
Yo/SQL complete!4 October 2012
We are pleased - really pleased - to announce that Yo/SQL is finished. This is the all-important compiler / runtime for executing PL/SQL® code in YoForms and YoReports. It was actually at the end of last week that the development version successfully ran our test suite of PL/SQL code without throwing up a single error, or giving a single wrong answer. Since then we have done a few more checks just to make sure, and it passed them all.
To celebrate the achievement, we have named Yo/SQL as the fourth product making up the YoServer suite. As things stand we are not proposing to offer it as a standalone, but if the demand is there, that's an option for the future.
Our verdict: Hurrah!
Our prediction: It will run faster than Oracle PL/SQL.
What this means for us: We can move onto the next thing - ironing out a few glitches in the YoForms presentation layer.
Zombies stalk the Cloud4 October 2012
Don't get me wrong - the Amazon Cloud is great, and an excellent way to deploy your Forms / Reports applications on YoForms / YoReports quickly and easily. But there is one annoying glitch - zombie instances. Let me explain. During the set-up process I created a total of four EC2 instances - one as a test, two by accident, and one as the 'production instance' to use for our Yoforms demo.
But the unwanted instances refuse to go away. Using the EC2 console I have stopped and terminated them at least twenty times, and they appear to disappear (you know what I mean) ... and then a day or two later, up they pop all over again on my running instances list.
OK, it's more of an irritant than anything else - but it did result in our being charged $7 or so for our resource usage - all those extra instance hours pushed us well over the 750 hours a month allowed in the free tier.
So can anyone tell us how to kill off those zombie instances for good?
Our verdict: Strange that Amazon didn't sort out this bug long ago.
Our prediction: Surely they must get this sorted ... musn't they?
What this means for us: One minor irritation we could do without.
YoForms on the Amazon Cloud18 September 2012
Following the previous story about getting XE11g and Tomcat6 installed and running on the Amazon cloud - the key final step: to install Yoforms itself. How difficult could it be? Answer: not very. Actually almost all the problems were those of a typical non-DBA Oracle newbie dealing with the intricacies of Oracle database. But to summarize, the key tasks are:
- Get XE and Tomcat installed, configured and running.
- In SQLPLUS create a 'yoforms-user' for your forms application, with the same username and password as given in the FMBs, granting 'all privileges'.
- Login as yoforms-user and run the SQL script to create tables and populate them with sample data.
- Unzip YoForms into /usr/share/tomcat6/webapps/YoServer/ .
- Make sure you have the right version of ojdbcXX.jar in /usr/share/tomcat6/webapps/YoServer/WEB-INF/lib for your Java version. To be found (for XE11g) in $ORACLE_HOME/jdbc/lib/ .
- Copy your application files into /usr/share/tomcat6/webapps/YoServer/WEB-INF/forms.
- Configure your AWS security to allow your IP address to access the Tomcat6 port - by default this is port 8080 but I set 8081 to avoid conflict with Oracle XE which got to port 8080 first.
- Check / edit the configuration in /usr/share/tomcat6/webapps/YoServer/WEB-INF/forms/configuration.xml .
- In your browser type in "<yourdomain>:8081/YoServer/YoFormsServlet".
- Enter your username and password as specified in configuration.xml .
- And you're in!
OK, you are likely to experience one or two little glitches along the way - after all I did. But all in all it is not very difficult. And by the time we put out our beta release we will make sure it's even easier.
Can we give the URL for our demo? Not yet. The version we have running still has a few bugs and we want you to experience it working perfectly. So please be patient. But it won't be long now!
Our verdict: Installing Yoforms and your application is really not very hard.
Our prediction: You will find it much, much easier than installing and configuring Oracle Forms and WebLogic.
What this means for us: You work it out ...
XE 11g on the Amazon Cloud12 September 2012
As YoForms / YoDeveloper moves ever closer to a beta release, I'm preparing the way to create a live demo site for YoForms running Summit Sports or a similar demo app. Our own server runs FreeBSD, a Unix-like OS, not recommended for Oracle database installation - for that you really need Linux, or of course Windows.
Having searched around I settled on Amazon Web Services - it's mature, scaleable, flexible, there's loads of support information out there on the forums, and there's a free tier to get you started so long as you stick within fairly generous resource limits. For this setup I chose the Amazon Linux 64-bit OS.
The main things we need to get the demo working are: an application server; and an Oracle database. It turns out that Apache Tomcat is readily available - see the useful installation guide at Cat in the Cloud: Apache Tomcat in Amazon EC2); and an Oracle database. The only gotcha is the port conflict between Tomcat and Oracle database, which both use port 8080 as default. I got round this by specifying port 8081 for Tomcat in /etc/tomcat6/server.xml and .../tomcat6.conf.
For the database I chose XE11g - it's free, compatible with Forms 10g, and it allows a massive 11GB of user data, way beyond anything our demo app is going to need. Installing it is a not so quick or easy but I found an excellent guide: Installfest: Oracle 11g XE on Amazon Linux Micro Instance - for which many thanks to Norwegian Oracle consultant Håvard Kristiansen.
Not that everything went smoothly - but all in all it was great (see my comments at the foot of the page). After working at it for day or so I now have the server configured, Tomcat and XE 11g up and running - and I even managed to bring up APEX in my browser to prove it.
And in the process a useful discovery: how to do an Oracle download onto a remote server. See below for instructions ...
Our verdict: The Amazon Cloud looks like a great hosting environment for XE, Tomcat and YoForms - so far.
Our prediction: A lot more people will be treading this path.
What this means for us: High end computing power plus sophisticated applications for the masses - and lots of new YoForms users!
Oracle downloads to a remote server12 September 2012
This is something I have tried to do before but always failed - forcing me to download to my local machine, then upload to the remote server, something that takes a long time for a 300MB zip file even on a broadband connection. But I finally succeeded while doing the Oracle XE install on AWS described above. Thanks again to Håvard Kristiansen.
So here's the howto:
- Using Google Chrome, browse to the Oracle download page you're after.
- Open an instance of PuTTY and log into the remote server.
- Navigate to the folder you want to put the download into
- Back to Chrome, go to Tools => Developer Tools => Network tab.
- Start the download - for which you need to enter your Oracle login.
- Click on the URL logo to get the full URL for the download - including the AuthParams you need to make it work.
- Copy the URL into clipboard.
- Go back to PuTTY - leaving the download to your browser active.
- Enter "wget" followed by a space and your pasted download URL.
- A new download will begin, direct to the server, at lightning speed. My 300MB XE 11g download was over in approx 10 seconds.
- Once that's finished you can safely cancel the download in your browser.
Neat or what?
Our verdict: A neat trick that can save you a lot of time!
Our prediction: Soon we will all be doing it.
What this means for us: One aggravation down, but still a few more to go ...
Sustainable IT?28 August 2012
So just how high up is sustainability on your top ten checklist of concerns? Somewhere down the bottom? Not on the list at all? Well, maybe it ought to be a bit higher up. After all it's not just melting ice caps we have to worry about. It's also mundane concerns like energy bills. And these can cost a lot of money.
Take the new £5.2 million Scottish Government data centre, Saughton House in Edinburgh. It turns out (see Energy efficiency rating of new Scots datacentre 'outrageous' that it has a "power usage effectiveness" (PUE) rating of 2.7, equating to a 37% efficiency rating. But another new Edinburgh data centre recently opened by Onyx has a PUE of 1.2 (83% efficiency), and the very best have achieved a PUE as low as 1.07 (93% efficient). This means that Scottish taxpayers will have to face an extra £7 million or so in electricity costs for Saughton House over the first five years alone - more than the facility's entire capital cost!
So how timely is this: A practical guide to sustainable IT? Written by Paul Mobbs for the Association for Progressive Communication (APC) as part of its GreeningIT programme, this is the definitive guide to keeping your IT operation sustainable and efficient. It's even available as a free download - so no old fashioned (and inefficient) paper and postage to bother with.
Now what does all this mean for us? Well, it turns out that lots of organisations are running old versions (and very old versions) of Forms / Reports on some rather antiquated hardware. And not only is this hardware hard to maintain but it also uses up huge amounts of energy for the work it does. We intend to help: initially YoForms will only support Forms versions 6i and up, but we plan to extend that support back to Forms 5, 4.5, 3, 2.3 and 2. And with that you will be able to put those legacy applications on a nice new server and turn those old steam engines off for good!
Our verdict: Sustainability matters - and so do your energy bills.
Our prediction: This issue can only become more pressing.
What this means for us: We can help you switch off those crumbling old machines!
Keeping life simple3 July 2012
Something caught my eye the other day in a UKOUG bulletin - a notice reading:
URGENT NOTICE: Disable Java JRE Auto-Update for All E-Business Suite End-Users Immediately
So what was all that about?
All desktop administrators must IMMEDIATELY disable the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) Auto-Update option for all Windows end-user desktops connecting to Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i, 12.0, and 12.1.
So here's how it looks:
- E-Business Suite is largely a Forms application, and Forms (whether 6i or 9-11g) needs Java on the local machine.
- But it has to be the right Java release. Upgrade from JRE 6 to JRE 7 and the various Java programs that execute on the local machine under Forms will mess up. Like JInitiator, JACOB, or in the case of 6i (are parts of EBS still in 6i?) the Forms client itself.
- But of course your Windows machine wants to move to the latest, most secure versions of everything including Java and auto-update will make sure it does just that.
- So DO NOT REPEAT NOT allow this if you are running EBS!
- Instead you have to keep your system less secure. And that also affects other programs that would be more secure on the latest Java version.
Not that this kind of thing is strictly new ... you probably don't want your Internet Explorer auto-updating either - just in case Forms 10g doesn't run quite right on the latest release. And if that means running an insecure Explorer version, well ... you got your firewall, right?
But this does illustrate another benefit of YoForms. It doesn't need Java on the local machine. And it runs on any reasonably up-to-date browser. So you can just let your Windows machine auto-update away, knowing that your Forms app will keep running just the same as before.
Which all helps to keep life simple.
Our verdict: Having to disable auto-update on Windows machines means that end users of Oracle Forms, EBS etc are well advised to have dedicated machines that run nothing but Oracle applications.
Our prediction: This kind of problem isn't going to stop any time soon.
What this means for us: All the more reason to keep life simple with YoForms!
Forms is the future!21 May 2012
A great event here hosted by Amis with over 75 attendees and presenters ... and one that left me feeling that Forms really is the future! How so? Well despite Oracle's advice not to use Forms to create new systems, it seems that many people are doing just that. Why? Because they have Forms / PL/SQL developers in house, and no Java / ADF developers; because new Forms applications can easily link in with their existing ones; and because Forms + PL/SQL is such a great system for building sophisticated applications, fast!
OK, so all those Forms applications will probably have to be converted to something else, eventually. But by then it will be someone else's problem. Meanwhile, to solve today's problems, this side of Christmas, within the budget available, Forms is the way to do it.
A few interesting facts gleaned from the event: probably 80% of all the applications originally written in Forms are still in ... Forms. The overall volume of Forms applications, including extensions, is going up, not down. And many early adopters of ADF are feeling stung by the 9i to 10g upgrade which proved to be no cake-walk. They may decide to let ADF stabilise for a nice long time before moving any more Forms applications across.
That's why we say: "The future of Forms is only just beginning!"
Our verdict: Great work, Amis, putting this brilliant day event together!
Our prediction: The best is yet to come.
What this means for us: Hold your hats!
The Oracle speaks ... 21 May 2012
Sadly Grant Ronald, who manages the Forms product for Oracle, was unable to attend the Amis event in person - but Skype came to the rescue and Grant shared some of his wisdom with us all. Here's a few comments I managed to write down:
"If you are happy with Forms and it meets all your requirements, then stay with Forms!"
Makes good sense to us.
"When it comes to updating or migrating Forms applications, don't do it for its own sake - go back to what the business requires! Be guided by what the business needs, not the fashion of the day."
Who can argue with that?
"No, we have no plans for a 'Forms light' ... We are trying to marry up Forms and Weblogic more closely together, rather than tease them apart."
That was in answer to a question from Stephan van Hoof, of Fixion: "Have you any plans for a Forms light product that would run on Tomcat?"
Our verdict: Some sound good sense here. But not all customers are as keen on weblogic as Oracle.
Our prediction: A sizeable proportion of Forms users will be wanting a 'Forms light' product that does not depend on Weblogic ...
What this means for us: Oracle is not about to compete against YoForms in the 'Forms light' market. Phew!
Amis Forms seminar27 April 2012
We're gearing up now for the Amis Forms seminar in Utrecht on 15 May where Don and I will present YoForms / YoDeveloper complete with a live and interactive demo - so delegates can actually use YoForms on their laptop or mobile phone via a wifi connection. So far it's looking good - anyone would struggle to tell the difference in appearance between YoForms and Forms 6i / 10g. Our current focus is on the presentation layer in the browser itself so our application doesn't just look right, it also acts right. That means implementing difficult stuff like dragging and dropping windows, tiling, stacking, iconising, stretching and shrinking, scroll bars popping up and disappearing on cue - and all without flicker, jumps, and other oddities. Because this is way beyond anything that browsers were ever actually designed for, none of it is easy. And then stuff that works beautifully on Chrome and Firefox can throw up odd bugs on Explorer. We have found ways around all the problems - so far. Will we have it all rock-steady in 2 weeks time? You bet we will!
Our verdict: The first serious test of YoForms, unleashed on a critical audience likely to give the system a serious hammering.
Our prediction: Delegates will be amazed.
What this means for us: If YoForms can get through this test unscathed, word will quickly spread across the Oracle / Forms that here is some very serious software, and it's coming soon!
Too good to miss!20 March 2012
Now guess who said this:
"Can you imagine buying a car from the IT industry? You'd get a muffler dropped off in your driveway. Someone else would drop off a set of seats. Another person would bring the pistons. Then you'd hire a systems integrator to come put it all together. At some point you'd have a car in your driveway, but then they'd say, 'Well, you can't really drive it on the weekends because we've got a batch upload that happens then.' In the IT industry, someone sells you a server, someone else sells you a storage array, we give you some software, and you get other software from someone else. Then you have to put it all together and make it work. And by the way, when something is broken, you figure it out."
Answer: Oracle President Mark Hurd, interviewed by Aaron Lazenby in Oracle Magazine, March / April 2012.
Our verdict: So true.
Our prediction: It's not going to improve any time soon, despite Oracle's best efforts.
What this means for us: Small, well-designed IT systems are usually superior to huge general purpose systems that solve the problems in existing software by adding layers upon layers of new code, creating bloat, complexity and widespread dependencies. That's why YoForms, YoReports and YoDeveloper are designed to be easy to install and configure, to run on any J2EE application server, and are engineered to do their specific job very efficiently with a small resource footprint.
NoSQL - what next? 16 March 2012
At first we were thrown by Oracle's new 'NoSQL' database. If you don't talk to your database in SQL, then what language do you use? But here's the first thing to know about NoSQL: the 'No' means 'not only'.
The next thing to know is that NoSQL databases have been around since 1998 when Carlo Strozzi coined the term. Major websites with vast amounts of data to handle are already based on NoSQL databases: among them Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and Linked-in. So what's the advantage? Basically, NoSQL architectures support 'big data':
- high volumes of data capture from multiple data input points, with low processing overhead;
- highly scalable, highly distributed 'horizontal' data storage over multiple servers in a variety of locations;
- rapid response times for simple database queries and appends;
- heavy read / write workloads.
But most NoSQL implementations come with some big no-no's:
- no table joins, hence no complex queries;
- no support for ACID transactions - that is, no guarantee that transactions are 'atomic, consistent, isolated, complete' before they are committed to the database;
- non-relational architecture, based on key-value pairs.
So what's different about Oracle NoSQL? It sets out to:
- capture the general advantage set of NoSQL databases;
- provide general purpose NoSQL capabilities;
- maintain key database capabilities, in particular support for ACID transactions.
More information from Oracle at: oracle.com/us/products/database/nosql/
Our verdict: A bold move by Oracle, and a necessary one given the increasing need for databases that can acquire, transact and query big data.
Our prediction: Oracle will become a dominant player in the NoSQL market.
What this means for us: right now, not much - most Forms applications are strongly bound to Oracle database, using complex multi-table joins that are not supported in a NoSQL architecture, and PL/SQL to drive core business functions. But we should consider supporting Oracle NoSQL in future YoForms / YoReports releases to enable the development of big data applications.
Oracle Public Cloud - we want it!10 February 2012
Oracle is looking very excited about its Public Cloud offering. Put simply, it's a way for Oracle to deliver its software on demand over the Internet. So customers no longer need their own hardware, data centers, IT operations staff, etc, but just do it all remotely with Oracle.
Great idea - and an excellent way for Forms users to get their applications deployed using YoForms: as far as the Cloud is concerned, Yoforms + Forms app should just be another Java / Database application. So we're keen to get our account set up and find out how it all works ... but it looks like we will have to wait, as the signup screen warns:
"When you submit this form, your information will be placed into a queue for access to controlled availability services. We will be provisioning Java and Database services in batches over the next several months. Our Fusion Application services will be made available shortly after that. You will be notified by email when your instance is ready."
Our verdict: Well worth waiting for.
Our prediction: They will get it sorted out. For a lot of small and medium sized organizations, this could be the ideal solution to IT provisioning.
What this means for us: YoForms / YoReports / YoDeveloper running on Oracle Public Cloud could be the perfect environment to deploy Oracle applications to the Internet - fast, secure, resilient and scaleable.
Oracle Database XE 11g - wow! 7 January 2012
Oracle's latest version of it's free database allows a massive 11GB of user data! Now that is a lot, and a huge increase on the 4GB maximum under XE 10g. More information from Oracle.
So what's behind the move? Oracle is already in the 'free database' market now that it owns MySQL, and as MySQL users want to move to a more serious - but still free - database, it wants them to stay in the Oracle family. XE 11g makes that choice even more attractive. It also gives small businesses a good reason to choose Oracle database rather than start paying for, say, MS SQL Server.
Oracle is also calculating that few if any Enterprise Database users are going to risk downgrading to XE: all it takes is for one small but important feature not to work and the whole exercise is futile.
And once users lock into XE, they are sure to stay with Oracle for the long haul.
Our verdict: Smart move, Oracle!
Our prediction: Expect XE release 12 to provide 12 GB - or more.
What this means for us: All the more reason to develop Forms applications running on Oracle XE, for true internet deployment under YoForms, our lightweight, enterprise class Forms environment.
And the future of Forms is ... Forms!10 December 2011
A welcome shift in the mood music at the UKOUG Conference 2011. The future of Forms is no longer SOA, ADF or APEX, but Forms. Deep sighs of relief from Forms users. At last Oracle has accepted that Forms is a permanent feature of the Oracle landscape - most Forms users have no wish (or budget) to rewrite their tried and tested Forms applications to other technologies.
Not that Oracle has any plans to improve or extend Forms itself, nor Reports. Oracle does point out that with Forms running on WebLogic, users will get all the benefits that go with that. Fair enough - but most Forms users want more, and better. True internet deployment to mobiles / cellphones would be a good start!
Our verdict: A welcome recognition of reality.
Our prediction: Forms will still be with us for a long time to come. It's just too good, and too widely used, to dump. No matter how much Oracle would like to.
What this means for us: All the more reason for Forms users to stick with their tried and tested Forms applications for now - and look to re-deploy under YoForms Release 1 in 2012!