Joel Kallman

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Turning customers into rockstars, with the Oracle Database, PL/SQL and Oracle Application Express.Joel R. Kallmanhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/01915290758512999160noreply@blogger.comBlogger194125
Updated: 4 hours 23 min ago

How long will Oracle APEX remain an included feature of the Oracle Database?

Thu, 2017-06-08 14:44
Another great question today from an internal employee.  Tom, a Managed Cloud Services Delivery Director, asked:
"I am the OMCS Client Manager for <redacted>.  They are currently a large Discoverer customer who would like to convert to Oracle APEX.  To that goal, they have asked me to find out how long Oracle APEX will continue to be a no-cost feature of the Oracle Database (could be an unanswerable question, I realize)."Great question!  And my response to Tom:

  1. Oracle Application Express has been an included feature of the Oracle Database since 2004.  It remains an included feature of the Oracle Database in 12cR2 and in the foreseeable future.
  2. There are no plans to charge separately for Oracle Application Express.  It has *never* been discussed.
  3. Application Express is a feature of every Oracle Database Cloud Service (Database Schema Cloud Service, Database Cloud Service, Exadata Express, Exadata Service)
  4. In my 21 year career at Oracle, I have never seen a situation where Oracle has included something as part of the database license and then decided later to charge separately for it.  It might have happened, but I'm not aware of it.  I have seen the reverse (where we used to charge a separate license fee, and then eventually included it with the Oracle Database - Oracle Text is a good example).

People often classify APEX as "free".  I call it "an included feature of the Oracle Database." If you're licensed and supported for the Oracle Database, you're licensed and supported for Oracle Application Express.  APEX runs wherever the Oracle Database runs - on premises, your cloud, Oracle Cloud.  We have customers running APEX on a laptop on the free version of the Oracle Database Express Edition (XE), we have customers running APEX on 28-node Oracle RAC clusters, and everything in-between.

If you're interested in learning more about APEX, see A Simple Guide to Oracle Application Express (APEX).

Is there a mailing list for APEX release announcements?

Wed, 2017-06-07 09:49
There was an interesting question today from Oracle Support, on behalf of a customer.  They asked:
"The customer would like to know if there is any mailing list or other type of subscription to be notified whenever there is a new or upgrade release of APEX."
And I answered with:

As far as mailing lists, they could always sign up for the Oracle Database Insider Newsletter.  Announcements about Oracle Application Express, SQL Developer, Oracle REST Data Services and many other database-related technologies are typically included in this newsletter.

I can also suggest that your customer:
  1. Follow Oracle Application Express on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/orclapex/
  2. Join the LinkedIn group:  https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8263065
  3. Follow @oracleapexnews on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/oracleapexnews
  4. Visit the Web site:  https://otn.oracle.com/apex
The APEX releases and patch sets are always announced through these social media channels.

And let's not forget https://apex.world, which is the clearinghouse of information for everything APEX.

excel2collection functionality of ORDS will not work with APEX 5.1 or later

Tue, 2017-06-06 11:43
If you're using the functionality of Oracle REST Data Services (ORDS) with Oracle Application Express to parse a Microsoft Excel file and store the parsed results in an APEX collection, I have good news and bad news.

Bad News:  This functionality will no longer work in Application Express 5.1 or later.  Due to architectural changes in the way that pages are submitted in APEX 5.1, this functionality was unfortunately (but necessarily) broken with no practical way to restore it.  And due to other necessary architectural changes, the bundled library which does the Excel parsing in ORDS is being removed in a future version of ORDS.

Good News:  Some customers have reported that they have successfully replaced this functionality using Anton Scheffer's EXCEL2COLLECTIONS plug-in.

We take very seriously our desire to always preserve existing functionality for customers, and to try to always avoid any change in user interface or functionality upon upgrade.  But in this case, it was simply not practical.

Thanks to Denes Kubicek for prominently raising this issue on the OTN discussion forum.

APEX and ORDS up and running in....2 steps!

Thu, 2017-05-04 13:36
In January 2017, I had a meeting with external customer Sriram from Hyderabad.  He got my attention when he said he would love to start a 1000-person APEX Meetup group in Hyderabad (gotta love aggressive goals!).  However, he spent much of December and January just trying to figure out how to get APEX installed, configured and running.  He won't profess to be an expert, but he's exactly the type of person we want to enable.  He was correct in saying that if a potential customer struggles to get APEX installed, we've already lost.

Recently, Gerald asked for some assistance in creating a Docker image for APEX.  His goal was to create an APEX Docker image on top of the base Oracle Database Docker image.  He knows a lot about Docker, but he won't profess to be an expert in APEX.  He wanted something that is scriptable and can result in APEX being installed, configured and up and running, along with ORDS, in as few steps as possible.  A "silent install", if you please. This was the final bit of motivation I needed for this blog post and video.

While the installation documentation is complete and detailed, it's also lengthy and sometimes confusing - especially for the new person.  Thus, I wanted to provide the simplest set of instructions with as few steps as possible to get APEX installed, configured and up and running, along with ORDS configured and up and running.  It can be done in two steps.  That's right, two.  While I explain the individual steps executed from SQL*Plus in detail below, you can combine all of these SQL commands into a single SQL script.  I prefer the name "hookmeup.sql".



  1. Download and unzip APEX http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/developer-tools/apex/downloads/index.html
  2. cd to apex directory
  3. Start SQL*Plus and ensure you are connecting to your PDB and not to the "root" of the container database (APEX should not be installed at all):
    sqlplus sys/your_password@localhost/your_pdb as sysdba @apexins sysaux sysaux temp /i/
  4. Unlock the APEX_PUBLIC_USER account and set the password:
    alter user apex_public_user identified by oracle account unlock;
  5. Create the APEX Instance Administration user and set the password:
    begin
    apex_util.set_security_group_id( 10 );
    apex_util.create_user(
    p_user_name => 'ADMIN',
    p_email_address => 'your@emailaddress.com',
    p_web_password => 'oracle',
    p_developer_privs => 'ADMIN' );
    apex_util.set_security_group_id( null );
    commit;
    end;
    /
  6. Run APEX REST configuration, and set the passwords of APEX_REST_PUBLIC_USER and APEX_LISTENER:
    @apex_rest_config_core.sql oracle oracle
  7. Create a network ACE for APEX (this is used when consuming Web services or sending outbound mail):
    declare
    l_acl_path varchar2(4000);
    l_apex_schema varchar2(100);
    begin
    for c1 in (select schema
    from sys.dba_registry
    where comp_id = 'APEX') loop
    l_apex_schema := c1.schema;
    end loop;
    sys.dbms_network_acl_admin.append_host_ace(
    host => '*',
    ace => xs$ace_type(privilege_list => xs$name_list('connect'),
    principal_name => l_apex_schema,
    principal_type => xs_acl.ptype_db));
    commit;
    end;
    /
  8. Exit SQL*Plus.  Download and unzip ORDS http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/developer-tools/rest-data-services/downloads/index.html
  9. cd to the directory where you unzipped ORDS (ensure that ords.war is in your current directory)
  10. Copy the following into the file params/ords_params.properties and replace the contents with the text below (Note:  this is the file ords_params.properties in the "params" subdirectory - a subdirectory of your current working directory):
    db.hostname=localhost
    db.port=1521
    # CUSTOMIZE db.servicename
    db.servicename=your_pdb
    db.username=APEX_PUBLIC_USER
    db.password=oracle
    migrate.apex.rest=false
    plsql.gateway.add=true
    rest.services.apex.add=true
    rest.services.ords.add=true
    schema.tablespace.default=SYSAUX
    schema.tablespace.temp=TEMP
    standalone.mode=TRUE
    standalone.http.port=8080
    standalone.use.https=false
    # CUSTOMIZE standalone.static.images to point to the directory
    # containing the images directory of your APEX distribution
    standalone.static.images=/home/oracle/apex/images
    user.apex.listener.password=oracle
    user.apex.restpublic.password=oracle
    user.public.password=oracle
    user.tablespace.default=SYSAUX
    user.tablespace.temp=TEMP
  11. Configure and start ORDS in stand-alone mode.  You'll be prompted for the SYS username and SYS password:
    java -Dconfig.dir=/your_ords_configuration_directory -jar ords.war install simple --preserveParamFile

That's it!!  You should now be able to go to http://localhost:8080/ords/, and login with:

Workspace: internal
Username:  admin
Password:  oracle





IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ:

By no means is this a recommended or secure installation.  These are minimal instructions to get someone from zero to up and running easily and quickly.  In a production instance, I would create different tablespaces for APEX and ORDS, I would use far more complex and distinct passwords, I would use HTTPS and not HTTP, I would deploy ORDS on a physically distinct server, and more.

The above steps were tested with Oracle Application Express 5.1.1.00.08, Oracle REST Data Services 3.0.9, and Oracle Database 12.2.0.1 running on Oracle Linux.


End users still on IE8? Upgrade them before upgrading to Application Express 5.1 or later

Wed, 2017-05-03 07:30
If you have end users of your Application Express (APEX) applications still using Internet Explorer 8, you should upgrade their browsers before upgrading to Oracle Application Express 5.1 or later.

The documented general browser compatibility for Oracle Application Express is N-1, where N is the latest production version of a browser, and N-1 is the major production version prior to that.  At the time of release of Application Express 5.1, Microsoft Edge was the current Microsoft browser and Internet Explorer 11 was the prior major version.

The Oracle Cloud Database Schema Service was recently upgraded to APEX 5.1.1, and a customer contacted me directly, saying that some of his end users who were still on IE8 couldn't even login to the application.  "We" (Anthony and John) reviewed these issues, but concluded that there really wasn't any practical way for us to resolve this for the customer.  We'll move heaven and earth to not impact a customer and avoid unplanned cost and work for them, but in this case, there simply wasn't anything we could do.

If you need a compelling reason to have your end users upgrade to a modern version of Internet Explorer, remember that Microsoft no longer supports or provides security patches for the older IE versions.

Developing a training course or university curriculum for Oracle Application Express (APEX)? Start here!

Thu, 2017-04-20 13:37
While education in Oracle Application Express (APEX) is offered as a part of many university and secondary school courses around the globe, in most cases, the educators took it upon themselves to develop their own custom curriculum.  To lessen the burden on educators, we have developed and made available for public download a full course curriculum for Oracle Application Express.

This courseware, developed by our product manager Chaitanya Koratamaddi over the past year, includes 16 distinct lessons, complete with PowerPoint presentations, hands-on-labs, and all necessary SQL scripts and application export files.  You can use all or a portion of these materials in your own curriculum.

This same courseware was provided to the Oracle Academy team, who now also offer an Oracle Application Express course.  The Oracle Academy course is offered in a hosted interactive form, complete with quizzes, and it also includes both educator and student curriculum.  There are many other benefits to joining Oracle Academy.  For more information about Oracle Academy, go here.

To access the publicly available Oracle Application Express curriculum, go to:

https://apex.oracle.com/education

Oracle Application Express 5.1.1 now available

Tue, 2017-03-28 16:18
Just in time for APEX World 2017, Oracle Application Express 5.1.1 is now released and available for download.  If you wish to download the full release of Oracle Application Express 5.1.1, you can get it from the Downloads page on OTN.  If you have Oracle Application Express 5.1 already installed, then you need to download the APEX 5.1.1 patch set from My Oracle Support.  Look up patch number 25341386.

As is stated in the Patch Set Note that accompanies the Oracle Application Express 5.1.1 patch set:
  • If you have Oracle Application Express release 5.1 installed, download the Oracle Application Express 5.1.1 patch set from My Oracle Support and apply it.  Remember - patch number 25341386.
  • If you have Oracle Application Express release 5.0.4 or earlier installed, download and install the entire Oracle Application Express 5.1.1 release from the Oracle Technology Network (OTN).
  • If you do not have Oracle Application Express installed, download and install the entire Oracle Application Express 5.1.1 release from the Oracle Technology Network (OTN).

As usual, there are a large number of issues corrected in the Application Express 5.1.1 patch set (over 106!).  You can see the full list in the 5.1.1 Patch Set Notes.

    Oracle technologies used to analyze the Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States

    Sun, 2017-01-22 22:42


    The Oracle Database ships with a wonderful technology called Oracle Text.  Most people associate Oracle Text with the mere ability to index documents or data, perform text or phrase queries and get the results back.  But Oracle Text can do so much more.  One of the more interesting features of Oracle Text is the ability to analyze a document and generate a list of themes for the document along with a weight associated with that theme.

    Back in 2004, in the era of Oracle HTML DB, Jason Straub on the Application Express development team wrote a demonstration application named Presidential Inaugural Addresses, which used both Oracle HTML DB and Oracle Text.  This application actually shipped with Oracle HTML DB for a time.  This was a fascinating application, which enabled you to view all of the Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, identify the top themes associated with those addresses, and even identify which past presidents delivered addresses that had similar dominant themes.

    This demonstration application stopped shipping with Oracle Application Express in 2006.  But I thought it might be interesting to dust off this application and improve the UI using Oracle Application Express 5.1.  So that's how I spent this past weekend (let the good times roll).  Using the existing data structures, I was able to create a new Universal-theme based application which turned out pretty elegant.

    Please understand - this application and everything associated with it is not a political statement.  Given the relevance of this data at the time of this writing, I simply thought it would be a fascinating way to demonstrate insights into this information, using the Oracle Database, Oracle Application Express, Oracle Text and Oracle JET!

    You can run this application HERE.

    Details about this incident are available via debug id....

    Thu, 2017-01-19 08:07


    In Oracle Application Express, unexpected exceptions can occasionally occur.  Instead of communicating the technical details to an end user who is running the application, an error message will be issued of the form:

    Contact your administrator. Details about this incident are available via debug id "NN".

    But what actually happened?  Who is "your administrator"?  And what exactly are you supposed to do with this information?

    What happened?An internal exception occurred - it either wasn't properly handled by the application's error handler (or there was no handler in place), or an unforeseen exception occurred in the Application Express engine itself, which wasn't properly caught by the error handler of APEX.  If you're logged into the development environment as a developer and running the application, you should be able to see the full error stack and more details of what actually occurred.  But if you're a mere end-user of the application, you are shielded from those details - not only would the details be mystifying to an end user, but it could also be viewed as a security risk, to show the details.


    Who is "your administrator"?
    • A developer of this application, who has access to SQL Commands in the APEX workspace?
    • A developer who can connect directly to the database where this error occurred, connecting as the database user associated with the workspace (commonly referred as the "workspace schema").
    • A database user who has been granted the APEX_ADMINISTRATOR_ROLE (or, beginning in APEX 5.1, also the APEX_ADMINISTRATOR_READ_ROLE).
    • Someone who can connect as SYS or SYSTEM to your database.

    What can you do with this information?The full details of the incident and the error stack at the time of the exception are written to the Debug Messages tables in the Application Express schema.  To view these details, you simply need to query the view APEX_DEBUG_MESSAGES:

    select *
    from apex_debug_messages
    where page_view_id = NN
    order by message_timestamp asc;

    This information is also accessible from the development environment of Application Express.
    • A developer can select their application in App Builder, and then navigate to Utilities -> Debug Messages.
    • A workspace administrator can navigate to Workspace Administration -> Monitor Activity -> Page Views By View.  You can then filter the output by the Debug ID column.

    OTN Appreciation Day: Oracle Text

    Tue, 2016-10-11 08:13
    For OTN Appreciation Day, I was told that it wouldn't be appropriate to write about my favorite Oracle feature (APEX, obviously).  So I'll gladly promote my second-favorite Oracle Database feature...Oracle Text!

    I've used Oracle Text for many years - from when it was SQL*TextRetrieval to Oracle ConText Option to Oracle interMedia Text to finally Oracle Text.  This was one of those products that used to be a for-cost option and was merged into the Oracle Database as native, no-cost functionality (how cool is that?).  You can use Oracle Text to index BLOB columns containing Microsoft Word or PDF documents, you can score the query results for relevance, you can perform a proximity search within the contents (find "Oracle" and "APEX" within 10 words of each other), you can search within sections of a document, you can do a fuzzy search, you can create a thesaurus to assist in searching for similar terms, you can create a text result with the matching words highlighted, and on and on.

    The beauty of Oracle Text is that it's all completely accessible in SQL.  Any tool that can "talk" SQL can easily take advantage of this rich functionality in the Oracle Database - Java, .NET, PHP, Node, and of course, APEX!  I authored the PL/SQL functions and text indexes (and text queries) for AskTom back in 2001 - and they're still running as fast as ever today.  One of the most popular applications inside of Oracle, an employee directory (1.5M page views every day from 55,000 distinct users), is an APEX application that we're responsible for - and we are in the process of expanding this to use the fuzzy search capabilities of Oracle Text - what is more commonly misspelled than someone's name?  And it's easy, because this is all running inside the Oracle Database.  Whether your content is a string or BLOB or XML or JSON, once this content is inside the Oracle Database, it's accessible to Oracle Text and SQL, and the application development opportunities on top of this are easy.  I'm a big  fan of Oracle Text, and you should take a look at it too!

    Correlating APEX Sessions to Database Sessions

    Fri, 2016-09-30 08:01
    I received the following question via email today:

    "Had a question from a client yesterday concerning the subject:  I want to know which database session (APEX_PUBLIC_USER)  is servicing which APEX session. Poking around in the V$ tables, I can see that in v$SQL, the module column will reveal the APEX Application and Page, but not the Session ID.  Even if the session ID was in there, I don’t see an obvious way to join back to V$SESSION." 

    It's a bit of a puzzling problem for DBA's and developers - being able to correlate a database session with a specific APEX application and session.  As I wrote about earlier, all database sessions in the database session pool of ORDS are connected as APEX_PUBLIC_USER (or ANONYMOUS, if you're using the embedded PL/SQL Gateway).  If a user is experiencing slowness in their APEX application, how can a DBA look under the hood, identify the database session associated with the request from that user, and also look at the active SQL statement and possibly any wait events with that session?

    This question comes up a lot, and should really be covered in the Oracle Application Express documentation.  But in the meantime, here's the definitive answer:

    APEX populates the following information in GV$SESSION for ACTIVE sessions:

    client_info: Workspace ID:Authenticated username
    module: DB Schema/APEX:APP application id:page id
    client_identifier: Authenticated username:APEX Session ID

    For example, for a recent request I did on apex.oracle.com, I had the following values in the DB session that executed my request:

    client_info: 3574091691765823934:JOEL.KALLMAN@FOOBAR.COM
    module: JOEL_DB/APEX:APP 17251:4
    client_identifier: JOEL.KALLMAN@FOOBAR.COM:12161645673208

    There is no permanent, fixed correlation between an APEX session and a database session.  The assignment of a session in the session pool to service an APEX request is essentially unpredictable and not constant.  That's why this correlation can only be done for active database sessions, which are actively servicing APEX requests.

    There's one caveat.  A developer could overwrite these values using the database-provided PL/SQL API, which I've seen customers do occasionally.  Otherwise, for active database sessions, you'll see these three elements populated in GV$SESSION, and module & client_identifer will also be present in the Active Session History.  Carlos Sierra has an excellent blog post about how to query the Active Session History and identify poor performing APEX applications and their associated SQL.


    Lessons Learned in 20 Years at Oracle

    Wed, 2016-09-14 20:59
    I've known Mark, a technical pre-sales consultant at Oracle, for a number of years.  I was bcc'd on the farewell email message that he sent out today, his last working day at Oracle.  As he said, he's learned a few things over his past 20 years at Oracle and thought he would share them.  They were quite simple and powerful reminders - and important enough that I shared them with our entire development and QA teams.

    OWN IT —  Things sometimes go off track.   Whether it was something on your team that went sideways or it was another team's responsibility, step up, own the problem and deliver a resolution.  LEARN IT —  There are always new technologies, solutions, processes, and procedures.   Set aside time to learn and master what is new so that you are prepared when the time comes.   TEACH IT — When you master something new, find someone else with whom you can share it.  GROW IT — Your team is incredibly valuable.   Take the time to invest in your teammates and equip them with new capabilities. OVERLOOK IT — People can make poor decisions.   Fight the urge to gossip about them.   Look for the best and ignore the rest.  

    Securing Application Express when using Oracle REST Data Services (ORDS)

    Sun, 2016-07-24 21:54
    If you are using Oracle REST Data Services as the "PL/SQL Gateway" for Oracle Application Express, ensure that your ORDS configuration includes the following line:

    wwv_flow_epg_include_modules.authorize

    It is important that you do this, and let me explain why.

    Fundamentally, the APEX "engine" is really nothing more than a big PL/SQL program running inside the Oracle Database.  When a browser makes a request for a page in an APEX application, that request is mapped to a PL/SQL procedure which is running inside the database.  If you examine an APEX URL in your browser, you may see something like 'f?p=...', and this is invoking a PL/SQL procedure in the database named 'F' with a parameter named 'P'.

    There are a number of procedures in the APEX engine which are intended to be invoked from a URL.  But there may be other procedures in your database, possibly owned by users other than the Application Express user, which are not intended to be called from a URL.  In some cases, these other procedures could leak information or introduce some other class of security issue.  There should be a simple list of procedures which are permitted to be invoked from a URL, and all others should be blocked.  This is known as a "whitelist", and fortunately, there is a native facility in APEX which defines this whitelist.  You just need to tell ORDS about this whitelist.

    When you configure ORDS with the following entry in the configuration file:

    wwv_flow_epg_include_modules.authorize

    You are instructing ORDS to validate the PL/SQL procedure requested in the URL using the PL/SQL function wwv_flow_epg_include_modules.authorize.  This whitelist will contain all of the necessary entry points into the APEX engine, nothing more, nothing less.

    If you rely upon functionality in your application which makes use of PL/SQL procedures not defined in this whitelist, this functionality will break when you specify the security.requestValidationFunction.  I often encounter customers who invoke PL/SQL procedures in their application schema to download files, but there are better (and more secure) ways to do this, which would not break when implementing this whitelist.

    Like any change to infrastructure or configuration, you should thoroughly test your applications with this setting prior to introducing it into a production environment.  But if one or two things break because of this change, don't use that as an excuse to not implement this configuration change.  Identify the issues and correct them.  While there is a method in place to extend the whitelist, in practice, this should be seldom used.

    If you're using ORDS as a mod_plsql replacement for your PL/SQL Web Toolkit application and not using APEX, then please avoid this configuration setting.  APEX typically won't be installed in your database, and the whitelist will be irrelevant for your application.

    The function wwv_flow_epg_include_modules.authorize has been around for more than 10 years (our teammate Scott added it in 2005), and it has been a part of the embedded PL/SQL Gateway and mod_plsql default configuration for a long time.  And while it has been documented for use with ORDS, a reasonable person might ask why this isn't simply part of the default configuration of APEX & ORDS.  I did confirm with the ORDS team that this will be included in the default configuration when using the PL/SQL Gateway of ORDS, beginning in ORDS 3.0.7.

    APEX session isolation across multiple browser tabs - Problem Solved (in APEX 5.1)

    Mon, 2016-07-04 07:32
    Since the genesis of Oracle Application Express, customers have asked for a way to open multiple browser tabs (or windows) of an APEX application and have the session state isolated between the respective tabs.  There is one and only one APEX session associated with a client, and because of this behavior in APEX, customers would find that the session state manipulated in one browser tab would collide with the session state of the other browser tab.

    This has always been a vexing problem to solve for many years.  Back in 2007, I remember Carl Backstrom had spent countless hours researching for some handle or unique identifier to a browser window that we could correlate with a distinct browser session cookie, but he was never able to identify a feasible solution.  Customers have long asked for a solution, but all we were able to propose were rather cumbersome work arounds (ensure all items necessary for session state were posted with the page, or use the multiple DNS aliases "trick" for each tab).

    In October 2015, our friends from BiLog arranged an informal meeting with a couple large enterprise customers from Croatia.  Goran, who was from one of the enterprise customers in the insurance industry, stated that the session management behavior of APEX presented a real problem for them.  Their typical scenario involved a sales representative who would meet with a customer in-person.  Because they wanted to offer insurance quotes or initiate insurance applications on multiple products, the sales representative would open up multiple tabs of their APEX application.  Of course, the session state across all of these tabs would collide and effectively corrupt the quoting process.  As Goran stated at the time, it became more and more difficult to justify the use of APEX because of this troublesome behavior.  I had no immediate answer, but I told him we would redouble our efforts and look at this problem again.

    In February of this year, I had one of those lightbulb moments, and realized that we had been thinking about this problem the wrong way, and we needed to turn it inside out.  In APEX, there is always a single browser session cookie associated with an APEX session.  We were always trying to come up with a way to generate a new and differentiated browser session cookie every time a new tab was opened, and then associate this new browser session cookie with a new APEX session.  But the new approach was to simply keep the one and only one browser session cookie, and have this associated with multiple APEX sessions on the server.  I expressed my idea to the supremely intelligent Christian Neumueller of the APEX development team, and he went about with a masterful design and implementation of this feature.

    In Application Express 5.1, we are introducing a new request to the APEX engine named APEX_CLONE_SESSION.  When requested from an existing APEX session, this will generate a new APEX session identifier and associate it with the existing browser session cookie.  Additionally, it will copy all of the session state values from the old session to the new session.  You, the developer, would have to provide a link for your end users to open up new browser tabs, and include APEX_CLONE_SESSION in the request of the URL.  So instead of your end users manually opening up a new tab from your APEX application, you would have to give them a prescribed way to open new tabs - could be a dynamic action or a button or a link.  The URL in the new tab should include APEX_CLONE_SESSION in the "Request" portion of the APEX URL.

    An example URL would be:
    f?p=&APP_ID.:&APP_PAGE_ID.:&APP_SESSION.:APEX_CLONE_SESSION

    Because we were a bit paranoid about this feature until we could thoroughly vet the security of it, by default, this capability is turned off.  You can override this setting for a specific workspace by using the Administration API:

    apex_instance_admin.set_workspace_parameter(
    p_workspace => 'JOELS_WORKSPACE',
    p_parameter => 'CLONE_SESSION_ENABLED',
    p_value => 'Y');

    or you can enable it for the entire instance using:
    apex_instance_admin.set_parameter(
    p_parameter => 'CLONE_SESSION_ENABLED',
    p_value => 'Y');

    This feature is enabled instance-wide on the Application Express 5.1 Early Adopter site at https://apexea.oracle.com.  We would welcome your feedback about this feature.  And if you're reading this blog post after APEX 5.1 is generally available, please feel free to try it in your own APEX 5.1 (or later) instance or on https://apex.oracle.com.

    An Important Change Coming for Oracle Application Express in Oracle Database 12cR2

    Tue, 2016-03-29 21:20
    A minor but important change is happening for Oracle Application Express in the forthcoming Oracle Database 12cR2.  Specifically, Oracle Application Express will not be installed by default in the Oracle Database.  This change was made specifically at our request.  We thought the pros far outweighed the cons, and we thought this was good for our customers and consistent with our recommendations.

    Pros
    1. Provides flexibility for a DBA to run multiple APEX versions in an Oracle Multitenant Container Database.
    2. Customers are always advised to install latest version of APEX.  The version of APEX that is bundled with the Oracle Database is quickly out of date.
    3. Reduces the Oracle Database upgrade time if APEX is not installed.
    4. Will result in less space consumption on disk and in the Database.
    5. Consistent with the deployment of Application Express in the Oracle Database Cloud
    6. Consistent with our recommendations in Oracle documentation and from Mike Dietrich, Product Manager for Oracle Database Upgrade & Migrations.
    7. Reduces the attack surface for Oracle Multitenant Container Databases which do not require APEX.
    Cons
    1. Requires more steps for customers to get up and running with APEX in a new Oracle Database.  (Granted, this would be with the version of APEX that is bundled with the Oracle Database, which as cited earlier, can get out of date rather quickly).

    With all this said, a few things remain unchanged:
    • Oracle Application Express will continue to be a fully supported and included Oracle Database feature
    • Oracle Application Express will continue to ship with the Oracle Database 12cR2, in directory $ORACLE_HOME/apex.
    • It will continue to be supported to install and run Oracle Application Express in the "root" of an Oracle Multitenant Container Database
    • It will continue to be supported to install and run Oracle Application Express locally in a pluggable database in an Oracle Multitenant Container Database
    • Oracle Application Express will be an installable component in the Oracle Database Creation Assistant (DBCA)
    The only thing that's changing is the out-of-the-box configuration of APEX, to not be installed by default.


    Oracle Database 12c Features Now Available on apex.oracle.com

    Sat, 2016-01-30 06:42
    As a lot of people know, apex.oracle.com is the customer evaluation instance of Oracle Application Express (APEX).  It's a place where anyone on the planet can sign up for a workspace and "kick the tires" of APEX.  After a brief signup process, in a matter of minutes you have access to a slice of an Oracle Database, Oracle REST Data Services, and Oracle Application Express, all easily accessed through your Web browser.

    apex.oracle.com has been running Oracle Database 12c for a while now.  But a lot of the 12c-specific developer features weren't available, simply because the database initialization parameter COMPATIBLE wasn't set to 12.0.0.0.0 or higher.  If you've ever tried to use one of these features in SQL on apex.oracle.com, you may have run into the dreaded ORA-00406.  But as of today (January 30, 2016), that's changed.  You can now make full use of the 12c specific features on apex.oracle.com.  Even if you don't care about APEX, you can still sign up on apex.oracle.com and kick the tires of Oracle Database 12c.

    What are some things you can do now on apex.oracle.com? You can use IDENTITY columns.  You can generate a default value from a sequence.  You can specify a default value for explicit NULL columns.  And much more.

    You might wonder what's taken so long, and let's just say that sometimes it takes a while to move a change like this through the machinery that is Oracle.

    P.S.  I've made the request to update MAX_STRING_SIZE to EXTENDED, so you can define column datatypes up to VARCHAR2(32767).  Until this is implemented, you're limited to VARCHAR2(4000).

    Is Oracle Application Express Secure?

    Tue, 2016-01-26 08:47
    Is Oracle Application Express secure?  That's the question I received today, from the customer of a partner.  The customer asked:
    "Do you know if Oracle or a third-party has verified how secure APEX is against threats or vulnerabilities? It would be nice to have something published saying how secure APEX is and how it’s never been compromised."Now I imagine smart people like David Litchfield or Pete Finnigan or Alexander Kornbrust would hope that I say something daft here.  But that's not going to happen.  As I replied to the partner:

    Sorry, but this doesn't make sense, and for a couple reasons:

    1. There have been published security vulnerabilities in Application Express in the Oracle Critical Patch Update, and they have been fixed in subsequent releases of APEX.  It is incorrect to say that there have never been bugs in APEX itself.  Here's an example:  http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/topics/security/cpujul2015-2367936.html
    2. Secondly, even if APEX never had any security bugs in its existence, if someone built an APEX application which is susceptible to SQL Injection or cross site scripting, does that mean that APEX was compromised?
    The request of this customer isn't practical for any piece of software.  If something has never been compromised, does that mean its secure?  If I find no bugs in an application written by your company, does that mean it's bug-free?

    I can offer you the following:

    1. APEX 5.0.3 is the most secure version of APEX in our history.
    2. APEX 5.0.3 has more security features than any release of APEX in our history.
    3. We are never permitted to release any version of APEX with known security vulnerabilities, whether they are internally or externally filed.
    4. We routinely scan APEX itself for security vulnerabilities across a variety of threats, and do this for multiple times in a release cycle
    5. Oracle Database Cloud Schema Service runs APEX, and has endured yet another set of multiple rounds of Cloud Security testing.
    6. The Oracle Store runs APEX.
    7. APEX is used in countless military agencies and classified agencies around the globe.
    8. Even inside of Oracle, IT hosts an instance of APEX used by practically every line of business in the company, and it's cleared for the most strict information classification inside of Oracle.
    9. APEX is even used in the security products from Oracle, including Oracle Audit Vault & Database Firewall, Oracle Key Vault and Oracle Real Application Security.
    There is security of APEX, and then there is security of the application you've written.  You can assess the security of an application via tools.  One of the best tools on the market is ApexSec from Recx Ltd., which we use internally for APEX applications, is used internally by the security assessment teams at Oracle for other APEX applications, and is used by numerous military and other classified agencies.

    If you use Internet Explorer, change is coming for you in Oracle Application Express 5.1

    Thu, 2016-01-21 13:45
    With the ever-changing browser landscape, we needed to make some tough decisions as to which browsers and versions are going to be deemed "supported" for Oracle Application Express.  There isn't enough time and money to support all browsers and all versions, each with different bugs and varying levels of support of standards.

    A position that's been adopted for the Oracle Cloud services and products is to support the current version of a browser and the prior major release.  We are adopting this same standard for Oracle Application Express beginning with Oracle Application Express 5.1.  This will most likely have the greatest impact on those people who use Microsoft Internet Explorer. 

    Beginning with Oracle Application Express 5.1, the planned minimum version of Internet Explorer to both build and deploy applications, will be Internet Explorer 11.  I say "planned", because it's possible (but unlikely) that Microsoft releases a new browser version prior to the release of Oracle Application Express 5.1.

    Granted, even Microsoft themselves has already dropped support for any version of IE before Internet Explorer 11.  And with no security fixes planned for any version of IE prior to Internet Explorer 11, hopefully this will be enough to encourage all users of IE to adopt IE 11 as their minimum version.

    Oracle APEX development and multiple developers/branches

    Thu, 2016-01-21 11:53
    Today, I observed an exchange inside of Oracle about a topic that comes up from time to time.  And it has to do with the development of APEX applications, and how you manage this across releases and a larger number of developers.  This topic tends to vex some teams when they start working with Oracle Application Express on broader development projects, especially when people are not accustomed to a hosted declarative development model.  I thought Koen Lostrie of Oracle Curriculum Development provided a brilliant response, and it was worth sharing with the broader APEX community.

    Alec from Oracle asked:
    "Are there any online resources that discuss how to work with APEX with multiple developers and multiple branches of development for an application?  Our team is using Mercurial to do source control management now. The basic workflow is that there are several developers who are working on mostly independent features.  There are production, staging, development, and personal versions of the application code.  Developers implement bug fixes or new features and those get pushed to the development version.  Certain features from development get approved to go to staging and pushed.  Those features in staging may be rolled back or promoted to go on to production.  Are there resources which talk about implementing such a workflow using APEX?  Or APEX instructors to talk to about this workflow?"
    And to which I thought Koen gave a very clear reply, complete with evidence of how they are successfully managing this today in their Oracle Curriculum Development team.  Koen said:

    "I think a lot of teams struggle with what you are describing because of the nature of APEX source code and Database-based development.  I personally think that the development flow should be adapted to APEX rather than trying to use an existing process and apply that for APEX.

    Let me explain how we do it in our team:

    • We release patches to production every 3 weeks. We have development/build/stage and production and use continuous integration to apply patches on build and stage.
    • We use an Agile-based process. At the start of each cycle we determine what goes in the patch.
    • Source control is done on Oracle Developer Cloud Service (ODCS)  – we use git and source tree. We don’t branch.
    • All developers work directly on development (the master environment) for bugs/small enhancement requests. We use the BUILD OPTION feature of APEX to prevent certain functionality from being exposed in production. This is a great feature which allows developer to create new APEX components in development but the changes are not visible in the other environments.
    • For big changes like prototypes, a developer can work on his own instance but this rarely happens. It is more common for a developer to work on a copy of the app to test something out. Once the change gets approved. it will go into development.

    From what I see in the process you describe, the challenge in your process is that new changes get pulled back after they have made it to stage. This is a very expensive step. The developers need to roll back their changes to an earlier state which is a very time consuming process. And… very frustrating for the individual developer.  Is this really necessary ? Can the changes not be reviewed when in development ? Because that is what is proposed in the Agile methodology: the developer talks directly to the person/team that requests the new feature and they review as early as on development.  In our case stage is only for testing changes. We fix bugs when the app is in stage, but we  don’t roll back features once they are in stage – worst case we can delay the patch entirely but that happens very rarely.

    There is a good paper available by Rob Van Wijk. He describes how each developer works on his own instance but keeps his environment in sync with the master. In his case too, they’re working on a central master environment. The setup of such an environment is quite complex. You can find the paper here: http://rwijk.blogspot.com/2013/03/paper-professional-software-development.html"

    If you're new to the APEX community, here are some tips to get engaged

    Thu, 2016-01-07 20:29
    Last night (January 6, 2016) we had our first-in-2016 APEX Meetup meeting in Columbus, Ohio, USA.  For being on short notice, we had a nice turnout, and I was able to distribute the new apex.world stickers.  I was most impressed that a gentleman (by the name of Shannon) drove down from Cleveland, Ohio - almost 2 hours drive each way.  He's been using APEX for all of two weeks, was using it with PowerSchool, and wanted to see what this APEX was all about.

    Today, I wrote on our Oracle APEX Columbus Meetup board a short summary of the information we reviewed last night.  For those people who've been doing APEX for years, none of this is going to be new.  But the information I posted may be especially helpful to those who are very new to APEX, or even curious about APEX.  I decided to simply share it again here, in the hopes that someone else just as new as Shannon will find this useful.

    --

    We discussed a few things last night and I wished to summarize them here:

    1)  There are ways to remain connected to the APEX community via Social media:

    Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/orclapex
    LinkedIn:  http://linkedin.com/groups/8263065
    Twitter:  The hashtag for Oracle Application Express is #orclapex.  Most everyone who attended last night is on Twitter.  You can follow many of us.  I’m at @joelkallman.  The APEX news is at @oracleapexnews.  If you don't know anyone on twitter, just do a Twitter search for #orclapex.

    I’ll be honest - almost everyone in the APEX community is heavily engaged on Twitter, a lot less on LinkedIn, and almost never on Facebook.

    2)  You should get registered on https://apex.world

    It’s the APEX Community site, written by others in the APEX community (outside of Oracle).  There are jobs, plug-ins, open source, twitter feeds, news, and more.  You should also get registered on Slack, because apex.world is also integrated with Slack.  Follow the instructions on apex.world to get a Slack invitation.  It’s worth it.

    3)  I spoke of some upcoming conferences

    There is an upcoming conference in May in Cleveland, the Great Lakes Oracle Conference.  Not only will Jason Straub and I be there, doing a couple sessions (about what’s coming in APEX 5.1), but we’re also doing a pre-conference workshop.  There will be other non-Oracle people there presenting on APEX.  You should think about presenting at this conference, and you can submit your abstracts until February.  As I tried to convey to attendees last night, don’t think that you have to submit the most exotic, obtuse topic possible.  How you’re using APEX, the challenges you’ve encountered and how you worked around them, may be a very useful topic.  The conference committee wants to expand their APEX offerings, and I think those of us in Ohio should help them. https://www.neooug.org/gloc/

    b)  In June, in Chicago, is the Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG) annual Kscope conference.   This is the place to be on the planet if you do any APEX whatsoever.  Just in the APEX track alone, there will be 46 sessions over 5 days.  On the Sunday before the conference starts, there will be the Sunday Symposium, which will be exclusively from the Oracle APEX product development team.  From a global perspective, this is the place to be for APEX.  It’s highly technical, and attendees and speakers from around the world assemble here.  http://kscope16.com

    4)  How to get started, especially for someone who is new.  I offered a couple suggestions:

    a)  Go to https://apex.oracle.com, and scroll down to the "Learn More" section, where there are links to documentation, tutorials, videos, hands-on-labs, etc.
    b)  An Oracle employee mentioned that he took the APEX training class on Udemy, and for 7 hours of training, he thought it was pretty good.  I can't vouch for the training, and this isn't an official recommendation, but he thought it was worth his time and money.  He also said that while it's priced at $25, they often run specials for as low as $10.  https://www.udemy.com/create-web-apps-with-apex-5/

    5)  Lastly, I showed Oracle’s community site for APEX, https://apex.oracle.com/community

    I showed the numerous customer quotes we’ve received, and I put another plea out to attendees that, if you’re using APEX, please consider going through your management chain to get approvals for a quote.  At least ask.   There is no huge legal process involved, approvals can all be done via email.  The hard part is taking time out of your day job and pursuing this at your employer (or customer).  It will be a huge benefit to the entire APEX community.

    P.S. I never showed it last night, but ODTUG also has a nice community site for APEX, at http://odtug.com/apex

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