08 October 2011

Problems with Links to Oracle Documentation

We have recently spent a fair amount of time linking up questions to the appropriate content in the Oracle documentation set.

Now it looks like Oracle has changed the URLs of every single book in the 11.2 documentation set. Which means that virtually every single one of our links are broken.

We are investigating what happened and if there is any chance these links can be restored. In the meantime, our apology for the broken links.

07 October 2011

Practice Makes Expert: New Feature Ready for Testing!

We are implementing the next set of features for the PL/SQL Challenge and are now ready to invite you to try out the first major enhancement: Practice Makes Expert. Currently, you can take a quiz when it is first offered as part of a competition (daily quiz, weekly quiz, etc.). But we haven't given you any way to take the quiz if you missed its original appearance or if you want to take it again to see if your understanding of the feature has improved.

You can now do that with Practice Makes Expert. To try out the Quiz Practices feature, visit test.plsqlchallenge.com, log in using the same email and password you would use on the production site, and then click on "Practice Makes Expert" button in our "Help Us Test" section:


You will then be taken to a page that explains this feature and gives you an idea of the way it will be implemented on the site. We suggest you read through this page, but after that, you can just click on the Practice menu button to go directly to the Practice Makes Expert Home page, shown below:
You can take the practice quiz on the practice home page or from the Play a Quiz table, by clicking on the new Practice tab:

Rather than explain further about how it this feature works, I'd like to let the website "speak for itself." If you have trouble figuring out what to do, let us know so we can clean up the workflow and/or explanations.

Note: Practice Makes Expert is also the first of a set of upcoming members-only features. We plan to institute an annual membership fee for those who want to support the PL/SQL Challenge project and get even more out of the site. One of the benefits of membership is unlimited practices, and in particular the Autotune practice feature, which automatically sets up practices for you based on criteria you specify.

Other changes at test.plsqlchallenge.com:
  1. Menu Changes: We've moved the links to Feedback, FAQ and Blog off the menu and up to the top right corner as hyperlinks. This frees up space on our menu bar for things like Practice. 
  2. Submit Quiz Changes: on the current site, to submit quiz you have to fill out a very long page of fields and sometimes what you enter is lost due to a variety of issues. Now you can use a wizard to submit a quiz. You can enter and submit the minimal amount of information in just a minute or two. You can then continue on to other pages or come back later to finish up your quiz.
We very much want to know what you think of these new features and changes. Feel free to post your feedback here or by clicking on the Feedback link.

Many thanks in advance for your help!
Steven Feuerstein

05 October 2011

Participants in Q3 2011 Championship Playoff

30 September ended the third quarter of 2011, which means....it's time to hold a championship playoff!

Participants come in three "flavors":
  1. Top 25: You ranked in the top 25 for the quarter.
  2. Correctness: Randomly selected from all players whose % correct is at least as high as the lowest % correct of the top 25 and who played at least 45 quizzes in the quarter.
  3. Wildcard: Randomly selected from all players who played at least 30 quizzes in the quarter and whose 30 highest weighted scores meets or exceeds those of the top 25 players.
Visit the FAQ for more details on playoff participant selection.

Below you will find the Q3 2011 participants. Every person on this list devoted a substantial amount of time and brain cells to make it this far. Now they will compete head to head in a time-limited, five-quiz competition to determine the sharpest, most knowledge PL/SQL developers this quarter.

The number in parentheses after their name indicates the number of playoffs in which these players have participated. Congratulations to Jeff Kemp, who has competed in every quarterly playoff since the PL/SQL Challenge started. And kudos to the many other players who are competing for their 3rd, 4th and 5th times!

We will announce the date for the playoff soon. 

Name Rank Qualification Country
Frank Schrader (5)1Top 25Germany
Syed Ariful Bari (1)2Top 25Bangladesh
Dennis Klemme (5)3Top 25Germany
Dmitry Pushkashu (1)4Top 25Moldova
mentzel.iudith (4)5Top 25Israel
Viacheslav Stepanov (3)6Top 25Russia
Joaquin Gonzalez (3)7Top 25Spain
Justin Cave (4)8Top 25United States
Randy Gettman (4)9Top 25United States
_Nikotin (3)10Top 25Russia
Michal Cvan (4)11Top 25Slovakia
Rajesh Venkataramani (2)12Top 25India
Janis Baiza (3)13Top 25Latvia
Siim Kask (4)14Top 25Estonia
John Hall (3)15Top 25United States
Niels Hecker (5)16Top 25Germany
Jerry Bull (2)17Top 25United States
Spoon (2)18Top 25Singapore
kowido (3)19Top 25No Country Set
Jeff Kemp (6)20Top 25Australia
Thierry Poels (2)21Top 25Belgium
Ludovic Szewczyk (2)22Top 25Belgium
Chad Lee (2)23Top 25United States
james su (3)24Top 25Canada
Ninoslav ńĆerkez (1)25Top 25Croatia
Anton Scheffer (2)30CorrectnessNetherlands
Anna Onishchuk (3)31CorrectnessIreland
Yuan Tschang (1)36CorrectnessUnited States
ZoltanKekes (1)40CorrectnessUnited States
Dejan Topalovic (1)43WildcardAustria
Carlos Eduardo Mayorga Rodriguez (1)44WildcardColombia
sbramhe (2)65WildcardNo Country Set
Alain Boulianne (1)66WildcardFrench Republic
Jack Callaham (1)67CorrectnessUnited States
macabre (2)70CorrectnessRussia
Kevan Gelling (3)132CorrectnessIsle of Man
Michael S. (1)169CorrectnessGermany
dobloman (1)192CorrectnessNetherlands
Ashvin Dadhania (1)302CorrectnessUnited States

04 October 2011

Different parameters for UTL_FILE.FCOPY in 10g and 11g? (7982)

The 3 October quiz focused on ways to use UTL_FILE package to copy the contents of one file to another file.
Two players wrote with a concern about a possible conflict between the stated minimum version of this quiz (10.2)  and the parameter list in the calls to UTL_FILE.FCOPY. Here's one of the comments:

There is an issue with today's quiz on fcopy. The minimum version stated is 10.2, however the formal parameters referred to for utl_file.fcopy are those in 11 - which have changed since. The first four formal parameters have been renamed.

Both of the players indicated that they had ignored what they saw as a problem, and answered it "based on what I think the intention was."

Good move, players! Because in fact there is no difference between the parameter lists of FCOPY in 10.2 and 11.2. The only difference is in the documentation.

In the 10.2 doc, FCOPY is described as:
UTL_FILE.FCOPY (
   location   IN VARCHAR2,
   filename   IN VARCHAR2,
   dest_dir   IN VARCHAR2,
   dest_file  IN VARCHAR2,
   start_line IN PLS_INTEGER DEFAULT 1,
   end_line   IN PLS_INTEGER DEFAULT NULL);
While in the 11.2 doc, FCOPY is documented as having the following parameter list:
UTL_FILE.FCOPY (
   src_location    IN VARCHAR2,
   src_filename    IN VARCHAR2,
   dest_location   IN VARCHAR2,
   dest_filename   IN VARCHAR2,
   start_line      IN BINARY_INTEGER DEFAULT 1,
   end_line        IN BINARY_INTEGER DEFAULT NULL);
But if you actually look at the UTL_FILE package specification in a 10.2 installation (which you can find in the ORACLE_HOME/Rdbms/Admin/utlfile.sql file), you will see that in fact even "way" back in 10.2, the parameter names matched those in 11.2.

Which just proves once again that you are always better off actually checking the code compiled into the database than relying on the (any) documentation!