Friday, August 31, 2007

How to get help with Oracle - Part 3

A lot of people are intimidated by Oracle's vast documentation. Since it is the source of a lot of knowledge about the Oracle products, they need to 'get over it' or there is a good chance they will never use Oracle products effectively.

There are 141 books in the Oracle Database 11g book set. And there are 183 in the Oracle Application Server 10g Release 2 (10.1.2.x) boot set. These include Javadoc. How should one approach the documentation?

The key is to use them as a resource set, not as a book that must be read. Get familiar with the concept of the contents and then you can generally find the information when it relevant. Here is the way I do it

1) Chose your Portal
  • > Documentation (same as previous link)
Some people swear by Tahiti because it has an excellent search facility.

I use Docs directly, and have most of the product and version portals bookmarked. Currently Tahiti is missing the documentation set for the Enterprise Manager, but I'm convinced Oracle will change that!

2) Print out the master book list

The titles themselves are pretty meaningful so it's worth while getting familiar with them. For a few weeks after a new release, I've got a copy of each posted above my computer monitor, which I skim for 2-3 minutes a few times a day. That's all it takes to get get the idea of what is available.

3) Start with the basics.

Whether you are a developer or a user, you need to understand the Concepts. But you really do not need all of them to start. The

a) Read Chapter 1 of the Concepts manual
b) Read, or skim, the Licensing manual (for database it's only 2 chapters)
c) Read Chapter 1 of the manual in the stream you need

Database Developer
8i, 9i, 10g: Database Application Developer's Guide - Fundamentals
11g: Advanced Application Developer's Guide
Database Administrator
all: Database Administrator's manual
Application Server Developer and Admnistrator
all: Application Server Administrator's Guide

I now print the table of contents for the Concepts manual and the manual just mentioned. Same approach and same reasoning as with the book list.

And then, after all this, I look at / study / print the table of contents of the SQL Reference manual. It has a lot of information, including some that ends up being relevant to app server administrators.

4) Specialize your knowledge

Now we have the introduction to the concepts, an introduction of the stream and the list of books. So we can decide what is next on the list.

In general Oracle seems to use the following titles

- Licensing Manual answers the daily 'is it included' question;
- Installation Guide is a 'How To' for installation;
- Administrator's Guide is a post-install 'How To' manual;
- User's Guide or Developer's Gude is a mini-Concepts, often with examples;
- Reference Manual drills into syntax and permitted parameters;

There are a few variations on the theme, but after a week or two, they actually become obvious.

So from this point on, and regardless of what we need to understand, I find it's always the same approach:

- look in the Table of Contents of the Concepts manual
- get an overview of the topic in the Concepts manual
- identify several keywords from the overview
- see whether the Concepts has a more in-depth chapter or
- use the Book List to find the User Guide relevant to the topic
- use the table of contents to get feel for the book
- dig into detail in that book
- use the Book List to find the Reference manual

5) Keep up to date

With each release, Oracle provides a "New Features" document to give a high level overview of the new areas, and a "What's New since the last release" section at the beginning of each manual.

I make a point of reading the New Features manual end-to-end for a new release. The Concepts gets a pretty thorough work-over, after which I use the same process as described before to hit the "What's New" sections on-demand.

But WHY?????

I constantly hear that Oracle is expensive. I totally disagree - I honestly believe that Oracle is NOT expensive. It's lack of understanding in the product, the features, the capabilities that makes an Oracle project appear expensive. I think that lack of knowledge is expensive.

Ignorance, with a deep pocket book, is bliss. Ignorance, without an unlimited budget, is simply painful.

So I dedicate at least 1 hour a day to reading Oracle manuals simply to help my customers get the best bang for their buck.


prof.math said...

Great series
"How to get help with Oracle"

Many people will read and get benefit from this guides like me

please continue your posts in your blog.

here is much more accesible then oracle forums for reading your posts.

i think you are giving valuable advices


Aman Sharma said...

Hi sir,
Good series!Keep up the nice posts like this coming.