If you're into the "Interactive entertainment industry" be sure to check out Rajesh Nair's new blog Virtual Worlds, MMOGs, Serious data - Informix Technology for Persistent Worlds.
I am somewhat ignorant when it comes to virtual worlds and massive multi-player online gaming (unless you count Webkinz, where I play a mean game of Quizzy's Word Challenge), but it is clear there is vast potential for data management in this segment.
I am hoping Rajesh will teach me more about this area when I next bump into him at a conference. In the mean time his blog is a good start, especially the white paper it links to Informix Dynamic Server - Fun and Games: The Data Server for Interactive Entertainment. Another link that caught my eye was a press release from February: Icarus Studios switches from mySQL to Informix - that highlights some of the strengths and potential Informix has in this market.[Read More]
Administrating and Developing with Informix
I've been putting IDS 11.50.xC2 though its paces this week and it has been a pleasure to see a few long standing usability issues addressed, particularly on Windows. For everyone who uses IDS on Windows I strongly recommend upgrading to 11.50.xC2. In this post I'll mention a few of the new features in xC2 that make it worthwhile. To see the full list of changes in xC2 take a look at the Release notes for UNIX and Release notes for Windows. Update 9/13/08: See also Fernando's Blog.
Multiple Installations of IDS on the Same Windows machine
When the IDS installer switched to using Installshield as its framework in version 11.10 this implementation caused a slight problem. Only one copy of each major version of IDS could be installed, so you couldn't for example have a separate development and production installation of 11.10 on your machine. At least you could still create multiple instances via the Instance Manager.
In IDS 11.50.xC1 support for multiple installations was reintroduced via an undocumented "-multiple" command line argument to the setup.exe program. Every time you ran "setup.exe -multiple" a new installation would be created in the path of your choice.
In IDS 11.50.xC2 the multiple installation support is once again the default behavior. Any time you run setup.exe, if there is an existing installation of IDS on the machine, you will be prompted to create a new instance. If you want to run setup.exe to maintain an existing installation, you can use the new -path or -instnum arguments to identify a specific installation.
Note for backward compatibility the "-multiple" argument is still supported, though no longer required.
The ISM GUI Program is back
If you're very old you might remember earlier versions of IDS 7.x included a graphical interface for the Informix Storage Manager called ISM.exe that allowed you to create and view storage devices, monitor storage manager operations and other tasks. In some ways it provided equivalent functionality to the UNIX ism_watch program. For obscure reasons, shrouded in mystery, the ISM GUI was dropped from the distribution some time in 7.3x and never seen again. Until 11.50.xC2 when it has been resurrected and rebuilt by popular demand.
The Configuration Wizard is improved
The configuration wizard was a new install feature introduced in IDS 11.50.xC1 thanks in part to input we received from usability sessions. For the first time you could have the install program detect your hardware configuration (CPU settings, disk size and speed), ask you some questions about the expected number of decision support and OLTP users and create an optimized onconfig file for you. Internal TPCC benchmarks showed that performance from a Config Wizard versus a manually tuned configuration file was very close and significantly better than the default configuration based on onconfig.std (incidently onconfig.std was also improved in 11.50 - with better inline documentation for parameters and more realistic values).
One usability issue with the Config Wizard on Windows in xC1 was that the onconfig file it would generate would have some UNIX specific values for parameters such as for Java stored procedures (JVPJAVAVM etc) which would mean extra work configuring those features on Windows. In xC2 the config wizard was redesigned to layer its onconfig enhancements on top of the onconfig.std file for each platform, resulting in an optimized onconfig file tailored to the platform it was installed on.
Banishing DLL Hell with SHMNOACCESS
Anyone who likes to use large shared memory configurations on 32-bit Windows has to think about where DLL's are loaded in memory by processes such as oninit.exe, onmode.exe, onstat.exe and onbar.exe. Any process that attaches to a shared memory segment needs a matching contiguous range of address space, and any DLL loaded by that process potentially fragments the address space. I have ranted about the DLL hell issue on previous occasions (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4).
Even with all Microsoft and IBM fixes, it was still possible to get into a situation where the oninit process creates a shared memory segment that overlaps with where another process that needs to attach to that segment has loaded a DLL, resulting in a "Unable to attach to shared memory" error. Enter the SHMNOACCESS onconfig parameter. You can use this to exclude any regions of address space where you do not want oninit to create a shared memory segment. As of 11.50.xC2 it works on all types of segment (resident, virtual etc). This was the final tool needed to avoid 32-bit DLL problems in large memory configurations. As an anonymous tech support engineer (Tim Steele) said, "the Windows witch is dead!".
Debug libraries are included on Windows
This is one of those features most customers do not need to care about, but makes tech support and development engineers who need to debug optimized code very happy. The .PDB debug libraries for the IDS executable processes are now included in the install media (but not installed). Using these it is possible to see a valid stack if you attach a debugger to an oninit process or analyze a crash dump. This can dramatically reduce the time to find the root cause of a problem.
Better Windows Server 2008 Support
In most cases IDS 11.50 works fine on Windows Server 2008, but in FC1 (64-bit) there was one class of Intel CPU (Intel64) that the installer wouldn't recognize. This and a few other Win2K8 issues have been fixed in xC2. One fix is still to come - getting the finderr utility working again without needing to download Winhelp. There are plans in place to fix this soon.
Why IDS on Windows anyway?
I talk about IDS on Windows a lot. Being the Windows architect might be a factor, but there are reasons why the Windows port of IDS is important. Windows is one of our top 5 production platforms along with Linux, Solaris, HP and AIX (in no particular order). Windows is also often the platform people see IDS on for the first time, simply because the Developer Edition is freely downloadable on the web and a lot of people are using Windows when they download it. We also provide it on the IDS Discovery DVD we give away at conferences. That's why I'm very happy to see a release of IDS that has significant improvements for Windows.
If you deploy IDS on non-Windows platforms, there's a reasonable chance you have a laptop running Windows. IDS has a small footprint so you can have the Developer Edition running for free on your laptop without much overhead. There it's good for learning/training, development and demonstrations. As well as IDS on my XP OS, I also have it running via VMWare on Ubuntu, SLES, XP (again) and Windows Server 2003 all on the same machine. Running multiple instances of IDS on multiple operating systems at the same time does not put much strain on the machine.
Mac OS X Installer improvements
11.50.FC1 saw our first Mac OS X port, and with FC2 the installer has been improved. Now it can automatically make any required adjustments to kernel parameters, and it creates a terminal icon for easier access to the demo instance. A lot of development work is going into to making further installer improvements for Mac OS.
Update 9/9/08: Check this developerWorks article: Demystifying the Informix Database bundle (IDS and CSDK) installation on Mac OS X for more detail.
IDS Developer Edition is now upgraded every fixpack
For IDS 11.10 there was only one version of the free Developer Edition provided, 11.10.xC1. I had issues with this, because any defects found in xC1 were not going to get fixed for people developing with and evaluating IDS for the first time. Now with IDS 11.50 the Developer Edition is upgraded every fixpack so you get the latest and greatest. Get your free 11.50.xC2 IDS Developer Edition for the platform of your choice here.
Enterprise Replication Hardening (all platforms)
One other area I'll talk about is ER. There has been a big focus on improving the resilience of ER, making it more efficient with memory and better able to handle low memory situations, and generally work better in an embedded environment. Among improvements in xC2 are:
There are various other new features, such as improvements to OAT and SQL enhancements, as well as numerous defect fixes. 11.50.xC2 is one of those releases where you really want to take a look at the release notes to see what you are getting and what you can make use of.[Read More]
Here is some pre-conference training and certification information for anyone thinking about attending the IOD conference in Las Vegas (Mandalay Bay, Oct 26-31). For the training, four of tech support's finest join forces to offer a troubleshooting course which promises a high factor of usefulicity..
Free Certification Testing at IOD
CERTIFICATION TESTING LAB
Take advantage of free professional certification testing for Information Management, WebSphere, SOA, XML, Tivoli, and Rational software while at the conference. The first three tests are free, additional exams are offered at a discounted price of $75.00 each.
CERTIFICATION “MEMBERS ONLY” LOUNGE
All IBM Information Management Certified Professionals will be entitled to visit the ‘Members Only’ Certification Lounge. This café-style lounge is designed for the ultimate in relaxation. Comfortable seating, quiet study areas, chair massages and unique refreshments are just a few of the amenities. > More
Pre-Conference Education Classes
Get an early start to building your skills at the Information On Demand Global Conference by attending one of our full day education classes. These classes will be offered on Sunday only, October 26th, 2008 from 8:30 am to 4:30pm at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Take advantage of preferred attendee pricing of US $399.00 and get a full day of education, delivered by professional IBM instructors. Registration is now open, sign up early as seats will be limited.
Speakers: Hyun-Ju Vega, Suma Vinod, Mark Jamison, Ron Privett
Learn more about troubleshooting from the experts – the IBM Informix advanced support team. Attendees will learn Informix diagnostic methods and tools, how to troubleshoot and diagnose performance problems, connectivity and network issues, memory problems, ER/HDR problems, and Windows specific issues.
SKILLS HUB @ IOD -- NEW IN 2008!
Network at the Information Management Skills Hub! Come to the Skills Hub to learn more about IBM Training, Services, and Support in one convenient location. Talk to experts from Data Management, InfoSphere, Cognos, and Enterprise Content Management. Learn about IBM Professional Certification, Training, Software Services, Premium Support, developerWorks and Redbooks. Network with your peers and enjoy exclusive giveaways and offers. Complete a short survey and get a cool 2.0 USB Hub -- helping you connect everything you need to your computer! > More [Read More]
Consulting IT Specialist and general bon vivant Spokey Wheeler somehow managed to evade the rigorous background checks and start his own developerWorks blog: Random Informix Ramblings.
As elucidated in his first post he hopes to "encourage various luminaries in the Informix developer and partner community who do not already have Informix blogs to use this as a place to share their knowledge, wisdom and talent with everyone".
Adam Hattrell from UK Database Support has taken the challenge and written a post on Using regular expressions to parse regular expressions where he makes use of the Java regex library in a UDR as part of a project to enable XWiki to work with IDS. More articles by Adam are promised.[Read More]
If you're thinking of installing IDS 11.50.FC2 on Mac OS X make sure you read the excellent developerWorks article: Demystifying the Informix Database bundle (IDS and CSDK) installation on Mac OS X by PJ To and Ranjani Bettadahalli. It's a very accessible article that tells you what you need to know about the installation mechanism, and takes you through step by step with screen shots.
The Mac OS X installer improved in FC2 and this article makes a great reference to understand the changes.[Read More]
While putting a few Informix related links together to have as browser bookmarks in an IDS appliance we are working on, it occurred to me I might as well share them here. If nothing else I know where to look when I need them again. If you can think of any glaring omissions please add a comment and I'll update this post (last updated 11/9/08). Oh and I should mention IBM has a place for links related to IDS, the IDS Information Roadmap...
Blogs (like anyone reads blogs)
IBM Database Magazine Informix Blog - Various contributors
IDS Experts - Team blog, Informix Support and Development
Informix and Computing - Jacques Roy
Informix Application Development - this
Informix Dynamic Server (Korean) - Kibok Kim
Informix Online (Russian) - Alex Ivanov aka Andron
Informix Technology - Fernando Nunes
Informix Zone Blog - Eric Herber and other contributors
PlanetIDS.com - great new blog aggregation site and more
Random Informix Ramblings - Spokey Wheeler
Replication Roundtable - Madison Pruet
Unofficial Oninit Blog (Japanese) - Tatsuo Maki
Virtual Worlds, MMOGs, Serious data - Informix Technology for Persistent Worlds - Rajesh Nair
IBM IDS Informix Dynamic Server Forum
IDS Developer and User Forum
Unleash the new Java, .NET, PHP and Ruby client and Developer solutions for IDS 11
PHP Forum: Developing PHP applications with IBM Information Management products (DB2, IDS)
Developer Solutions for IBM DB2 and Informix Dynamic Server (IDS)
Multimedia / Demo's
Wikis and Spaces
Customizing the Informix Dynamic Server for Your Environment
Security and Compliance Solutions for IBM Informix Dynamic Server
Informix Dynamic Server 11: Extending Availability and Replication
Informix Dynamic Server V10 . . . Extended Functionality for Modern Business