Kevin Kempf's Blog

May 17, 2011

A few updates from Oracle

Filed under: Oracle, Support — kkempf @ 12:33 pm

Remember the good old days?

Wasn’t it nice when you had to pull 15 patches, and you could quickly pull them to the server you were going to install them on, from a command prompt?  Nowadays, pulling 15 patches is a half-day endeavor, and hundreds of mouse clicks and annoying flash pages later you have a bunch of .zip files on your local machine which you now have to send off to the staging location.  Well it looks like there’s hope.  I’ve always known that Oracle had offered up wget as an alternative, but it just seemed so annoying to me I never pursued it.  Perhaps they finally plan to polish that process a bit, you can read about it here.  Basically, it’s an option to check off a bunch of patches on My Oracle Support and instead of download them, opt for a wget script to be written which you can drop on the command line of your staging server.

Some good news

Steven Chan’s blog is back online, after a slight appearance tweak, which is great to see!  If you’re running E-Business suite and you’re not subscribed to his blog, you should click over there right now and check it out.

Some really bad spam

I received this from Oracle today, regarding mobile MOS.  Anyone who reads more than a few of my blog entries knows there’s no love lost between me and MOS, but this one actually had me laughing:

My Oracle Support Mobile is happening!

Do you regularly use smartphones (e.g. iPhone, Android, netbook)?
Oracle wants your FEEDBACK on ideas for providing My Oracle Support on mobile devices.

Steps:
1. Try out a prototype for My Oracle Support on mobile
 iPhone version: http://www.demoright.com/d/80094605/
Blackberry version: http://www.demoright.com/d/91445899/

Really, when did a netbook become a smartphone?  How do you use iPhone, Android and Netbook as your examples of smartphones, and go on to link iPhones and Blackberry versions?  I guess iPhone was consistent.

Regardless, you don’t have to worry about being caught in front of me in my haste to go download it.  The survey was actually pretty good that went along with this, asking what features might be good for mobile MOS.  But really, I can’t imagine how I’d ever care about an SR after hours unless it was a SEV1.  And if it were a SEV1, you can bet the analyst would have my office/home/mobile phone number.

Every night, I put my Blackberry on the night stand and make sure it’s set to “annoying loud” to wake me up if OEM detects a problem on one of my systems.  I had to write a filter to stop any email from *.oracle.com from getting to my Blackberry,  because I’d get so many “Your SR has been updated” emails in the middle of the night (which is usually when Indian and European Oracle analysts update tickets).

Off the top of my head, I can’t imagine anything more annoying at 3am, than my Blackberry going off to tell me that Oracle had updated my SEV4 ticket giving me the password to a password-protected patch (don’t get me started on that issue!).   It would be a sad, stressful and scary day indeed if my enterprise were so dependent upon an update from Oracle support that I had to have it on my mobile.

If you’re interested, you can give input on this endeavor, by clicking on this link 

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May 16, 2011

A DBA’s take on MSCA (Mobile supply chain applications)

Filed under: 11i, Oracle — kkempf @ 3:23 pm

What is MSCA?

MSCA is Oracle’s take on mobile ERP.  In manufacturing, having Oracle on a PC is sometimes inconvenient.  Being able to process certain transactions where they actually happen is a huge win.  So is being able to scan a barcode at this location, instead of typing in a long item number or purchase order number.  Some common examples may be going out to the warehouse and counting inventory, transferring or issuing inventory, or even shipping and receiving.  We use the LXE MX-7 as our mobile device; it’s basically a Windows CE device connected to our network via WiFi:

Architecture

Basically, MSCA is a telnet server running on the front end of 11i (possibly several servers load balanced by dispatchers), and either telnet or a little java GUI (on top of telnet) on the client side.  As far as I can tell, it’s about as secure as an open barn door and in about the same technological era as the barn itself. In other words, it’s in dire need of a facelift, and a technology upgrade, but at least it works.

References

Oracle® Mobile Supply Chain Applications
Implementation Guide
Release 11i
Part No. B10938-02

Oracle® Mobile Supply Chain Applications
User’s Guide
Release 11i
Part No. A86726-06

Oracle® Mobile Application Server for Industrial Applications
Installation Guide
Release 1.0.8.2
May 2002

Oracle Mobile Applications
Graphical User Interface Client
An Oracle White Paper
February 2005

Starting/Stopping the Telnet Server

Of course, this assumes everything is configured reasonably well; in my case, autoconfig had already done all that work in $MWA_TOP as far as config files (with all the defaults).  Where I have admin_user it means someone with the canned responsibility MWA Server Manager.

  • Start
    • cd $MWA_TOP
    • ./mwactl.sh start
  • Stop
    • cd $MWA_TOP
    • ./mwactl.sh -login admin_user/password stop_force

Logging In

The quickest way to do it is via telnet.  Yep.  From a command line in Windows, type telnet host port where host is where you just started the service from $MWA_TOP and port is one of the 3 ports it cranked up a telnet listener on.  These ports are displayed when the mwactl.sh start command completes, and are in a config file called mwa.cfg in $MWA_TOP/secure.

Here’s some screenshots of the telnet version.  I admit, my telnet client isn’t doing the application any favors, but then again, neither is the application.

Straight from 1973...

Yes the login screen CAN look worse

Actually, this may be an improvement from the responsibilities login page

Manufacturing Transactions

The admin menu

Telnet: Closing Thoughts

I don’t know who would choose to use telnet for this, or why, but it’s there, and it works.  You have to use a bunch of crazy key combinations to do things (they’re listed in the user’s guide, like ctrl-Z to exit).

The GUI client

Jumping forward 20 years, we get to the java GUI client.  Of course, Oracle only officially supports this running on Windows.  Basically, you have to pull a patch (4205328) and extract 1 file from it (j4205328.zip) and land it in a directory on your Windows machine.  After that, you install Sun/Oracle JDK and mock up a .cmd file to make the GUI launch.   Fortunately, it also runs from Linux (Warning: You are now leaving the supported zone!) since it’s just a tiny java app sitting in front of the telnet screen and making the screen bearable.

“Installing” the GUI client

  1. Create a folder somewhere on a Windows box called msca (or whatever you want to call it), then create 2 folders in it callled lib and log.
  2. Install the most recent JDK wherever it installs itself.  The docs say install 1.1.8, but I don’t think you’re allowed to download Java from 1999 anymore
  3. Download the patch 4205328.zip; unzip it and extract the file j4205328.zip and put it in msca/lib
  4. Create a command file called runMSCA.cmd and stick it in the msca directory.  Edit it, and add these lines:
  5. set MWA_GUI_TOP=C:\msca
    set JAVA_TOP="c:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.6.0_25"
    %JAVA_TOP%\bin\java -classpath %JAVA_TOP%\lib\classes.zip;%MWA_GUI_TOP%\lib\j4205328.zip oracle.apps.mwa.awt.client.StartGUI

Launching the GUI client

Double click the .cmd file and you get to the login.  These screenshots are from Ubuntu, the Windows appearance is similar.

Pick your device

Login Screen

Responsibilities

Manufacturing Screen

Admin Screen

Warning!

This is not an implementation guide.  It’s just a mid-depth technical introduction to this product.  Functionally, best practices would be to get away from canned responsibilities and pare down transactions by job role.  I do know that the few transactions we tested work fine.  I’ve left out a lot of other things.  There is a whole web-based interface which you can log into via conventional 11i to see who is using the server, whether the server is running or not, etc.  I found it less than useful (and in some of what it reported, flat out wrong) so I didn’t go into detail here, but it exists and looks something like this:

Relevant Canned Responsibilities

If you just turn on telnet and try to log in, you will have 0 responsibilities.  Try giving yourself the following:

  • MWA Administrator
  • MWA Server Manager (needed to stop the telnet server!)
  • Mobile Quality User
  • Materials Management
  • Materials & Mfg
  • MWA WAP
  • Mobile Field Sales User
  • Mobile_Client_User

Shout and Spy Modes

This is one of the best parts about this product.  From the admin menu, there’s 2 cool options which I’ve tested and work great:

  • Telnet Session Monitor – lets you spy on a user (from a list of users logged in) and watch EXACTLY what they’re doing
  • Send Message – broadcast a message to a user (from a list of users logged in) or to all users – it takes over their screen until they acknowledge it.  Something like “System going down in 5 minutes” might be useful…

Using adstrtal.sh and adstpall.sh to start/stop the telnet server

This had the potential to be a disaster, but I was pleasantly surprised to find document 731320.1 which details a patch required and a context file tweak (s_mwastatus and s_other_service_group_status to enabled) which will then automatically start the service with all the other pieces on the front end.

Set Up Concurrent Request

If you’re using manufacturing, you should run the concurrent request Generate Stock Locator Flexfield definitions for Mobile transactions in order to set up your locators.  Hat tip to the guys at Skipjack for that help; if you don’t do this, all your locators are X and nothing you enter is valid.  I’m sure this is in one of the setup documents I mentioned, probably buried in the functional details.  You can run this request as the canned responsibility Inventory.

Running the GUI from Linux

If anyone is interested in the setups required to launch the GUI from Linux, drop a comment.  It’s really not that hard to figure out if you model it on the Windows requirements and adjust as necessary.  In fact, if you have to ask, maybe you should just be running Windows…

May 5, 2011

A mini-deviation from the norm

Filed under: Linux, Windows 7 — kkempf @ 10:47 am

Mini-me

A geeky detour

If you regularly read any of  my ramblings, you’ve probably gleaned that you’re unlikely to catch me running around advocating Microsoft products.  At the office, I run Ubuntu Linux on my Dell Latitude E5510.  It’s awesome.  At home, I run Windows 7 on our primary Desktop and Notebook.  Until recently, I ran Ubuntu on the Dell Mini 10v netbook he own.  One can weigh and argue the merits of a netbook (or a tablet, for that matter), but until you own one, you won’t “get it”.  I’m not going to advocate them any more than that in this post.  But here’s what I want/expect out of a netbook, which I can’t get from a notebook:

  • Very fast wakeup from sleep
  • Very fast boot
  • Immediate access to lightweight, web applications
  • Most applications are browser-centric
  • Get on, get the information I need, get out
  • Don’t nag me every 10 minutes about some stupid update
  • Don’t spin the hard drive incessantly while all I want to do is log in and check my gmail

Unacceptably Slow and Useless

The Mini 10v came with Windows 7 starter.  The only advantage I could figure out was that it had a familiar desktop, and I could install all my familiar programs.  It did a terrible job at everything else a netbook should do.  In fact, there was no compelling advantage to using a netbook with Windows 7 starter versus using a notebook.

Ubuntu Frustrations

Recently, I began to have various problems with the Ubuntu Netbook Remix 10.04 (LTS).  First, Utube videos were all pink (some bug, hack, fix with deleting a cache as I recall).  Then the wireless failed in various ways.  Sometimes it would connect and then drop the connection.   It would never successfully re-establish a connection after I closed the lid and put it in sleep mode, that required a reboot.  Some of this is the fault of the wireless card, I admit.  The Broadcom card Dell puts in there must cost about 12 cents for Dell.  It uses a closed-source driver, meaning that Linux will have a hard time making it work (or at least, that the steps will be somewhat manual).  I know all of this, and yet even with going through the Ubuntu hassles of searching for 3rd party drivers and installing them fresh, it didn’t work most of the time.  So I decided I’d try their 11.04 Ubuntu beta.  Wow this version is a big step back with their new Unity interface.  Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way; it’s easy to find about 50/50 on critics versus advocates of this new GUI (which is basically a crippled version of Ubuntu Netbook Remix’ interface from 10.04 as far as I can tell).  I even tried installing 10.10 to see if I could find a happy medium.  Nope, too complicated for a mini.  I just want a simple OS with good presentation/formatting on a mini.

Something Joli

Finally, a use for the cloud?

So I happened upon a distro which showed some real promise.  It’s 100% Ubuntu behind the scenes, and had a twist: it touted itself as a Cloud desktop.   Basically, here’s the premise:  have a desktop which has all your preferences and applications stored in the cloud.  You log in, either from the Joli OS desktop, or from any browser of a PC not running Joli OS, and you get the same desktop.  If you look at my desktop, you’ll notice that most of the applications aren’t what you would call applications in the traditional sense:  they’re basically website shortcuts.    The exception to that would be something like pidgin (instant messaging) or chromium (open source chrome):

Basically, there’s 2 parts to Joli:

  • The desktop
    • Anyone, including a Windows user, can create an account for and use
    • Displayed in any browser and your applications and preferences are stored in the cloud
    • When used from the web, “installed” applications, such as Chromium and Pidgin, are “greyed out” and unusuable
  • The operating System
    • Ubuntu behind the scenes
    • Lightweight, fast with a simple, attractive GUI
    • Works on most hardware

Why I’m running Joli OS now

Really, what did it take to win, and become my new OS and desktop?  A few tests, which it passed with flying colors.  First, the USB-key creation of the install was a snap.   Second, when I ran the OS from the USB key, it came up fast, immediately saw my home wireless network (WPA-2 secured) and was able to connect without fussing with a bunch of drivers.

Here’s a features comparison grid

Feature Joli Cloud OS Ubuntu Windows 7 Starter
Wireless Works “Out of the Box”  √
Boot Time
Wake Up from Sleep and get on the web
Simple, Functional Desktop
Lightweight
Runs Traditional Windows Apps  √

The short of it is this: If you’re like me, consider for a moment, why you have a mini. If it’s not to run MS Word, Outlook, or Internet Explorer and replace your Desktop/Notebook, but rather to augment it as a quick look up from the living room, or a way to read a recipe in the kitchen, you might at least consider looking at this operating system. If you’re unhappy with Windows 7 starter, especially due to performance, there’s no reason not to create a USB install and take a test drive of this operating system from the USB key (“live key”). It will not affect your Windows 7 install at all, and in fact if you like Joli but still can’t pull the trigger, you can install it as a dual boot configuration side by side with Windows.

May 2, 2011

You can’t make this stuff up

Filed under: Uncategorized — kkempf @ 1:59 pm

Time for some geek humor

Short and sweet.  Some days, you just have to give up.

I was in EM, raising the threshold for some agent which kept alerting me that it was just barely hitting the threshold for memory use.  Seeing as how I couldn’t care in the least about that, I went to update the metric threshold to double what it was and I got this screen:

Beyonnd belief!

Finding the message funny, and being a good netizen, I went to supporthtml.oracle.com (I can’t upload files to support, since they don’t support the linux operating system they sell, just the one Redmond, WA does).  I was going to upload the screenshot above, and tell them about their typo, when I got this screen for opening a SR:

wtf?

I gave up, closed the browser, and found some other work to do.

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