Monthly Archives: October 2005

Oracle Express (XE)

On Friday 28th, Oracle announced the release of their new “free” Oracle Express (XE) product on the Oracle Technical Network.

Oracle Express is targeting the hobbyist, developer and people new to the database world. With that in mind, Oracle have Windows & Linux binaries for it. The release of Oracle XE places it in direct competition to other cut down databases on the market, such as Microsoft’s SQL Server powered MSDE and mySQL. For a long time, Oracle has been targeting enterprise and government environments, and has been doing a fine job of it. It would appear, the cogs have been turning and Oracle have realised the new turf war is below that level.

Oracle XE is powered by the same internals and implements the same API’s that Oracle 10g Standard and above support. The difference between XE and its big brother, are the limitations that Oracle have imposed. For instance, the database is only available for use on single processor machines, limits user data to 4Gb and can only address 1Gb of system memory. If not to throw down the gauntlet, these restrictions fall directly in line with Microsoft’s new SQL Server Express 2005.

It is no surprise that Oracle haven’t released it under the GPL, however the license for it does have certain GPL characteristics. Oracle Express is available for everyone to use and a developer is free to embed it into his own application and distribute it freely.

Competition in the market place is a good thing; I think everyone should be excited about the news.

RaceNutz Driving Simulation

RaceNutz Hyper Driving Simulation, Gold CoastOnce we had finished eating ourselves into oblivion, we moved onto the afternoon activity – a car racing simulation. We could have gone to an arcade to play all sorts of different games but there was something kind of novel, about attempting to race around The Mountain in a V8 Supercar sporting a competitive time!

We had booked in for a 2pm session, which was not really limited in time. Once we got inside, the initial half hour to an hour was a bit of a mess. The simulators weren’t configured for us to just sit down and race, so we had some teething problems getting started. After the initial bump though, it was all engines go.

It took us a little while to get used to driving them, they are designed to handle like a real race car – so doing silly things in them just lands you into a wall. The owner spent considerable time explaining that it isn’t an arcade game to us and any inference or level comparison to a PC type game was frowned upon. While we all appreciated the complexity of his product, I think we all got a bit of a rise out of that – given we all work in IT or are at the very least, very computer literate. That said, the product itself is sold to various drivers in the V8 Supercar series, which is a testament to its seriousness. The tires take a period of time to warm up, you need to pay strict attention to gears, speed and breaking markers or things go pear shaped very quickly. The weight transfer of the car plays a huge role, so do the various surfaces of the track (ie: bitumen, ripple strips, dry and wet surfaces).

The owner was very accommodating, he opened on a Saturday and then allowed us to drink and drive! Overall, the experience was a bunch of fun. I don’t think an average person would get a kick out of it, the learning curve for driving fast is well above that of an average arcade style simulator. However, for his target clientele – it is spot on the money I think.

Ashmore Seafood & Steak

Ashmore Seafood & Steak - A Window Display of SteaksAfter racing go karts all morning, we were hungry and definitely parched – enter Ashmore Seafood & Steak. I had heard from two different people that the food was good and the servings plentiful, so it seemed like an excellent place to pull up a stump and relax for an hour or two.

I had never been to Ashmore Seafood & Steak to dine, I’ve only ever driven past, so I had no idea what to expect. When we arrived, the venue itself was huge – much larger than I had pictured from the road (shot taken outside from doors). When we arrived, the service was prompt and we were seated immediately.

After a few minutes of chatting and getting the first beer down, we all ordered. The food came out in reasonable time, considering there were a bunch of us. What none of us could have expected though, was the size of the meals – they were massive! Most of us ordered some sort of steak and they had to have been knocking on 500gm in weight, maybe more. Andrew placed his spanned hand over the top of his steak and it was bigger in every direction, if that helps to give you an idea of the size. The steaks were nice, though the meat could have been a little more tender; however I think I’m a little spoilt in that department.

We ate, drank beer, chatted and then rolled out to the cars. Below are a bunch of group shots taken by Brendan:

Next stop, RaceNutz!

Radisson Treetops Resort & Spa

Radisson Treetops & Spa, Port DouglasTo relax after the wedding, Claire and I went up to Port Douglas in Tropical North Queensland. For something different, we stayed in a Radisson Resort, aptly named the Radisson Treetops Resort.

On arrival, our checkin was simple and fast. We were directed to our area of the resort. Soon there after, is where things started to get just a little scary. We had booked a Deluxe King room, which weighed in at about $350 per night, not including any breakfasts. When we entered our room, we were shocked it wasn’t bigger. It wasn’t that it was small, however I didn’t think it reflected the price at all. There was dust on the furniture and outside our glass doors there was construction going on; which I guess is where it was coming from. Thankfully, I received an industry rate for our stay – however, even at the discounted price I was a little disappointed.

Moving on from the room, the rest of the resort was very nice. They have two restaurants at the resort, the Outback Bar & Grill and The Wharf. The Outback Bar & Grill is a relaxed environment, overlooking the pool. The breakfasts were quite good, offering a buffet early in the morning and a late breakfast menu until 11.30am. The lunch meals were nice, however at times a little slow to come out – while the dinner meals were excellent. The Wharf was an different environment totally, offering a fine dining experience. The meal we at at the Wharf for dinner was absolutely fantastic, while dessert didn’t disappoint either. They also have a cocktail bar named the Cockatoo Bar (meet BoBo) there too, which has someone on the piano and singing most nights. I didn’t catch the blokes name but he was very good, we really enjoyed relaxing there, listening to some good music.

The staff at the resort were all very nice, offering a generally relaxed style of service. The one problem we had was with breakfasts at the Outback Bar & Grill. Claire is gluten intolerant, which basically means she can’t eat anything with wheat in it or it makes her sick. We repeatedly asked, asked and confirmed, asked checked and confirmed with the waiters that the meal was to have no breads on it. As sure as the sun rising, every single one of them came out with bread on the plate or food sitting on bread. Simple request, very frustrating to have to reiterate yourself over and over again, to the same set of staff each morning – having them stuff it time and time again.

Overall, the I would rate the whole Radisson experience in the ok-good range. There were positives and negatives along the way but we still enjoyed ourselves and had a relaxing time. If we’d have paid full price for the time we stayed there, the rating would have fallen more in the below average-good range I think.

Slashdot CSS Makeover

Slashdot, one of the most widely known technology sites around the world has finally had a CSS makeover. The idea of retooling Slashdot was bantered around back in 2003, however the likelihood of anything happening seemed slim. At the time, there didn’t seem to be any serious enthusiasm to rebuild the backend, slashcode – with the general sentiment being “if you feel like hacking up slashcode, then we’d consider using it”. Slashdot has been running on a similar HTML 3.2 base for some eight years, simply because “it worked” and that was really good enough at the time.

It wasn’t long after the idea was mentioned before someone took it upon themselves to start the ball rolling. One of the first largely publicised steps was done by Daniel M. Frommelt, whose two articles published on A List Apart, Retooling Slashdot with Web Standards and Retooling Slashdot with Web Standards Part II garnered a lot of support. These two articles demonstrated how a huge site like Slashdot can be broken down and reworked into valid, semantic HTML.

The end product for Slashdot is a mostly validate HTML 4.01 document – which is a huge step forward. It would have been awesome if the xHTML utopia was realistic, however as with many sites, the advertisements and user contributed content prohibit it. The single largest point of interest about the retooling is the paradigm shift in authoring the HTML. The existing site was built using tables for structure and inline font tags for styling. This has now been replaced with divs for layout/structure, semantic markup and CSS for the presentation.

Since there has now been serious work done on Slashcode, we might see more frequent updates and features added to it.