Sunday, January 23, 2011

Everybody needs a spare database


I've gotten a little preachy in this blog lately, so I thought this time I'd give you something useful. Have you ever wished you had a quicky little set of database tables so you could do some generally wacky stuff that would likely get you fired if you did it on your production database? I thought so. In the past, the only way to do something like this was to build another database somewhere. Of course, where to put it? Some of us weirdos have machines at home where we build databases, do virtual machines or stuff like that. Guilty. But not everyone wants to tie up their home machine with the multi-gigabyte behemoth that Oracle 11g has become. Well, have I got a deal for you.

Oracle provides a nifty little free service to show off their Oracle Application Express product (APEX), which I'm not sure has been as popular as they'd like it to be. You can register at their site and get your own little workspace that will allow you to play around with Oracle a little.

Here's how it works.

  • Go to http://apex.oracle.com and click the link to "Sign Up"
  • Click through the "next" buttons, giving Oracle your name and email address. Give them a real one since they'll send the verification link to it.
  • Provide a name for your workspace and a schema name for your database objects
  • Next you have to give a reason for requesting an account. Now, I don't know if anyone actually reads these or not, but you'd probably be better off if you didn't put something like "That dork from alt.oracle said it would be cool." Try "Evaluation purposes" instead.
  • Next, you type in your little verification thing with the goofy letters and click "Submit Request"
  • After a bit, you'll hopefully get an email back saying "click this link to verify, etc".
  • Lastly, you'll get another email with your login.

Then you can login and poke around. Truthfully, you can do a lot of stuff on your new personal Apex. I'm not super familiar with it yet, but it looks like you can...

  • Create your own tables, indexes, constraints, sequences, etc
  • Run SQL statements and scripts
  • Build PL/SQL objects
  • Build your own webby-type applications with the GUI "Application Builder"

I'm not sure yet if you can build web apps that you and others could access from a browser without going through the whole Apex frontend, but if so, that would be uber-cool. One word of warning however. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, DON'T PUT ANY REAL DATA IN THIS CRAZY THING! I have no idea as to how secure it is – it's only for evaluation purposes, so DON'T DO IT.

You can't do a lot of administration-type stuff with your own personal Apex. If you're looking to mess with parameter files and flash recovery areas, it's time to bust out a virtual machine. But it is nice to have a place where you could try some SQL stuff without fear of a pink-slip visit from HR. So go get your account and do some crazy, webby SQL stuff. And, finally, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, DON'T PUT ANY REAL DATA IN THIS CRAZY THING!

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