Oracle Express Install
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Book Review: Oracle Express Edition is reputed to have a smooth install
Feature: We see here how much the reputation is deserved

Everybody is getting into the free database business. MySQL is beginning to make an enterprise dent with its popular Web database. With over 60% of servers being LAMP machines, that is a huge lead in the database market on the web being given to MySQL. So IBM started the freebie database with DB2 Express C edition providing the very latest of its XML Viper edition for free not only for development but also for deployment on a variety of platforms. So could Microsoft and Oracle be far behind ? Nope.

Earlier this year, Oracle came out with Oracle Express Edition. I thought this was going to be a watered down version of Oracle Enterprise - the same old, same old just no clustering and advanced database operational features. Well Oracle surprised me. There are obviously less enterprise features in the database; but there is a much improved interface for installing, using, and developing with Oracle. For example, the new Query Builder (see screenshot at bottom) is still a Web application (unlike IBM and MySQL which use Java apps); but its remarkably compact code. Less than 200 lines packed with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I looked for Flash or Java objects - none to be found (but I did not follow all the JS code). Still Very Impressive.

So if this is what Oracle is offering in its Express edition - the ability to build smart, yet spare Web AJAX applications then I want to know more, lots more. So here we take a look at Oracle Express edition, a free download is available on OTN-Oracle Technology Network.
Technology Network. The download is dirt simple, reasonably fast (27 minutes on a DSL line)and cost 165MB of diskspace before expansion on installation. Since I will be working with Latin data almost exclusively (baseball, pesticides, and elements databases) I chose the Western European edition which uses 8bit rather than 16bit Unicode bytes. As you can see it certainly makes a difference in the size of the database 165MB expands out to 217MB. But be careful on this decision, many Asian and African data would require Unicode support. However, the next step, to install Oracle XE, is easy.

Double Click OracleXE.exe
The InstallShield Wizard automatically becomes the Install Wizard. Click Next immediately.

The next 2 steps hardly require any effort either. Yes to License and accept the default install
although the next time I will want to load Oracle into my databases directory and so I will take advantage of the ability to Browse or specify a particular target directory for the install. In DB2 Express since you can partition and cluster the database plus control tablespace, this can become an important step - and is in the full Oracle Enterprise install.

pa Here is the most important step in the Oracle XE install - password provision. Make sure you note the SYS and SYSTEM users (not SYSDBA or TIGER or anything else)that are associated with your supplied password. As you use and develop with Oracle XE these will become essential.

goThe next steps are what I call "Sehen Das Blinkin-Lucht" phase as Oracle XE installer does its thing. Oracle is done and installed in just a bit more time than it took to download - fairly simple and fast. But also it is not small at 1.08GB in size, with 338MB of admin and app development tools and files. Contrast this with MySQL 5.0 August 2006 edition whose database+app files are 154MB in size.

I can hardly believe that Oracle is on my system - so I fire up the login script Oracle Database 10g Express Edition | Getting Started ... ooops, that is the help file for getting started. The command I really want to use is Oracle Database 10g Express Edition | Go to Database Home Page:
Bottomline I was able to get up and running in less time than it took to download. And after getting started I have available a tutorial database with an AJAX-based Query Builder and Application Development tool plus the traditional SQL*Plus Query Tool in command line mode. Not too shabby; however I have still to test the database for data loads and query building with those dtabases.

And look what we login into - a fast, responsive and easy to use, web-based (read AJAX) Query Builder that forms the core of a broader App Development framework.This SQL query
tool is dirt simple to operate for basic queries and will help on putting together more complex sub-query and complex joins. And Oracle has two basic query tools, the old standby SQLPlus running in command line mode is also available.
So this means that old Oracle war-horses will have a familiar environ to work with.


On first trial, Oracle has quite a few things to like in Oracle XE:
1 - Download and install are simple, fast, and hard to trip up on;
2 - The response time is very fast for both Web and command line interfaces;
3 - The Web interface is AJAX agile not Web 1 Client/Server clunky;
4 - The Getting started and Help system is spare but to the point;
5 - The Application Development tools (JDeveloper, ADFaces) are great;
6 - Oracle XE appears to work with all Oracle + 3rd party tools that are 10g ready.

However, as always, there are some concerns with Oracle XE:
1 - the database is pretty big;
2 - the database has a lot of advanced features in mothballs. Users may have to download Oracle Enterprise to work and develop with parallel, clustering, and advanced tablespace features. For example, both DB2 and MySQL allow users to create many database instances each with its own database engines and properties. In contrast, Oracle XE is the only database instance users get to work with. True by creating different users one can create different schemas with unique connections; but they will all be using the same underlying Oracle XE database with most of the key properties set by Oracle.
3 - Unlike in the case of DB2 and MySQL, Oracle is a bit cagey about what and how you can deploy Oracle XE. Perhaps I have not found the right web page. However, see the Getting Started Summary for more details(or read and make out what you can from the Oracle site here). . But in an upcoming review I will try to deploy Oracle XE to one of my LAMP website using a small application - that will be the true test of how serious Oracle is on stopping the MySQL inroads. Remember more than 2/3rds of websites are LAMP, 99% of those have MySQL, and large databases often grow from little ones.

Bottom line is that Oracle XE is too important to ignore. Oracle is such a major database and application development player. Oracle's new Fusion middleware and ERP solution set will likely also draw many users while using its own database tools. So we will follow up with more reviews in the coming weeks on our efforts to load up Oracle XE databases with novel data and then develop supporting applications. Stay tuned.

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