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Command Line or GUI – Which is Best? February 18, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in performance.
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At present I am suffering ever so slightly from “split personality disorder”* in respect of my liking for Command Line and GUI interfaces.

On the one hand, much to my colleagues mild reproach, I use SQL*PLus and not PL/SQL Developer for my day-to-day work. Even worse, I got sick of using notepad to hack around scripts {I am working in a windows client environment and you simply can’t use MS Word with SQL files!} so I have retrograded recently and downloaded a windows-complient ‘vi’ interface and it is soooooo nice to be able to use powerful ‘vi’ commands on my files once more. “:.,$s/^ /,/”. Ahhh, it is so much easier. I can do stuff in 3 seconds in ‘vi’ that would take me 10 minutes in Notepad in a large, complex file. That and, I’m sorry, but notepad seems to be unable to manage a 100MB file, despite me having 2GB of real memory and a decent machine, but ‘vi’ has no problem with it at all.
Even more retrograde, I have direct telnet access to my linux servers and I am getting back to that as it makes me so much more productive. “ls -alrt ^d” for all directories anyone? “df -k .” to see how many data files I can add? Yep, it’s all arcane and means so little to many modern IT “Java/Struts/CDE” people but boy it is direct and fast. I might even dig out that book on SED and AWK.

On the other hand, I have finally (after much very painful discussions back and forth) got agreement that my site probably has access to AWR, ASH and all that good performance repository stuff. So I am hacking around with the OEM screens that focus on performance and snapshots and stuff. Now, I am traditionally not a big fan of GUI DBA tools. Partly it is because I am a bit old and stuck in my ways and partly it is because GUIs are really just “menus of options”. You are limited to what options are available in your DBA GUI tool and you have a harder time learning all the options available or what is really going on “under the covers”.

But with AWR and all those graphs, links and utilities, you can drill down into real problems real time or in the past so effectively that, well, once they start using this tool properly they will not need me at all. It is a fantastic boon to performance management and problem resolution, as well as proactive performance management.

So there you are, I am with Doug Burns on this one, in that I have Learned to Love Pictures. When the Pictures are well thought out and well connected and simple enough to help make sense of a complex system {and Oh Boy Oracle performance has become sooo Complex!!!!}

So right now, I spend half my day in vi/linux/command line world and half of it in pretty picture/GUI world. I think what really makes me happy is to leave behind the half-way-house of text-like Windows World {Windows SQL*Plus, Notepad}.

Just to finish, you can’t mention AWR without someone raising the ugly issue of licence cost and how Evil Oracle Corp were to charge for it. Well, I think it has been established that the guys and gals who developed AWR/ASH did not expect it to become a cost option but it did. And I suspect that what kept it a cost option was the community’s OutRage at it being a cost option. Anything that popular, hey, a commercial company is going to charge for. I still reckon Oracle Corp ballsed up as making it free and helping people use it a bit would have made 90% of customers’ lives easier and would have translated into user happiness and a certain % of sales for training courses to learn more, but heck my day job is to make things work, not maintain sales percentages, so my opinion counts for nowt. *sigh*

(*apologies to real sufferers of Dissociative Identity Disorder, I am using the term in the loose, non-scientific, “common usage” term of “not sure of my opinion” rather than having truly disparate personalities and memories.** And note, I certainly do not mean schizophrenia which, despite the on-going public-opinion misunderstanding, is rarely anything to do with multiple personality disorders or “spit minds” AT ALL, and is more to do with a difficulty in determining between reality and hallucination. ).


1. Doug Burns - February 18, 2010

Well, I see those pretty pictures on more and more monitors round here these days 😉

mwidlake - February 18, 2010

And I am desperate to get them on the monitors of where I am working right now. If it was not for Oracle’s unhelpful stance on AWR/ASH it would be in place already. Grrrrr

2. Doug Burns - February 18, 2010

… and, for the record, I *still* think it was a bad move on Oracle’s part to charge extra.

mwidlake - February 18, 2010

“Leave it Doug, they ain’t wurf it!” 🙂

3. dombrooks - February 18, 2010

That’s the first topic for the practice maillist which Chen has started::

It’s good to know that I’m not alone with the old vi emulator.

mwidlake - February 18, 2010

Hi Dom,

Thanks for those links. Chen’s idea is a very good one (taking time to learn those “core” DBA skills he is weak at). It’s a never ending task…



4. Laurent Schneider - February 18, 2010

those windows vi are quite cool, you can even edit long lines (what you cannot do in Unix)

perl -e ‘print “.” x 5000 . “\n”‘>x; vi x

anyway, long line will no be good for sqlplus scripts

5. rnm1978 - February 19, 2010

Nice post. May I be so bold as to paraphrase … “Horses for courses”. 🙂

mwidlake - February 19, 2010

I don’t know, I spend all that time writing the post, spell checking it, tweaking the text and you replace it with three words. 🙂
Nice one Robin.

6. Graham - February 22, 2010

Hi Martin,

join the club! I have TOAD, PL/SQL developer and SQL developer all installed, but most of the time I ssh onto the host and run sql plus, vi etc.

As for AWR, ASH etc. that’s the first place I look now for performance issues. Graphs are great…if they’re the RIGHT graphs. My only worry with this is the de-skilling that is undoubtedly going on.

mwidlake - February 22, 2010

As an IT Nomad, wandering from site to site, some places have some tools, some don’t, so I tend to use what I know will be everywhere. SQL*Plus, vi, notepad, MS Office. And my little bundle of useful scripts.

Except when AWR/ASH is available. Then I use that, as it makes my life so much easier. I’d like to say it does not lead to de-skilling as you suggest. But I would be lying :-(. After 6 months on a site using all that good stuff, I started to forget the names of the scripts I wrote!

7. Avinash - November 11, 2010

hi sir, im having a dought..plz help me…
im trying to become a dba with my own (self study)..my question is -on which os environment is better to practise dba i.e on windows(gui)or linux(command line)…i dont know much about linux…this is my problem…..plz give me reply….

Thanks & regards

mwidlake - November 11, 2010

Hello Avinash,

I think you are asking a slightly different question to the original topic? The original topic is about looking after and interacting with a database – use of SQL*Plus or a GUI environment or something inbetween. Whereas you are asking what is the best environment to run your own Oracle database on.

I do not think there is a correct answer to that, it depends on what exactly you are trying to learn and your past experience. If you want to learn how to use an oracle database Avinash, I would stick with Windows. You should be able to instal it and get it working very easily. How you use a database is {99.9% of the tim} the same on windows, unix, linux, whatever.

If you want to learn how to create, administer, backup, recover, construct Oracle databases, ie be an Oracle DBA, I would suggest you do this on linux and learn the basics of linux administration as a result. That would almost certainly be more suitable to real working requirements.

I hope that helps

Avinash - November 12, 2010

Thanku very much for ur reply sir….
Sorry for inconvenience..Actually i should not post my question here…as im new to ask questions like this on blog’s or some thing…forgive me…

About me..Im a graduate(B.tech-I.T stream),completed in 2008..And i have one year experience on database programming(sql and pl/sql) on WINDOWS.And now,i want migrate to do oracle DBA(create, administer, backup, recover, construct ,upgrading and more of Oracle databases,daily tasks made by DBA)…As im entry-level to the DBA,I think i cant get DBA job without Exeperience.So i decided to learn on my own(without going to Institutes).

And I dont know much about LINUX . But i wish to learn about LINUX. My question Is that..if i learn oracle DBA(All the daily tasks)on windows can i get job on it,as many organizations uses LINUX(As rarely on windows).And also i heard that no DBA likes GUI(windows)To do daily tasks…
Or As u answered,can i stick to linux without any option…
Plz Help me Out….

Thanks & regards

mwidlake - November 12, 2010

Hello Avinash,

You are probably better finding an oracle forum for asking questions like yours rather than posting on blogs (and you will almost certainly find people have already asked asked the question you are asking). However, my advice would be to try and learn on Linux as there are far more oracle systems on linux than Windows and, yes, there is a certain dislike for running Oracle on Windows. However, there of plenty of younger DBAs out there who can only do things via the Enterprise Manager GUI. I’d advice you try and be one who can use the GUI and also the command line, so you understand what the GUI is doing for you.

I think you will find that potential employers will see it as a bonus that you have taken the time and effort to teach yourself. I’d advise you read plenty of blogs, join in on forums and try out what you learn. You might be able to find some unpaid work for a charity or get a job doing PL/SQL development within a unix or linux environment and try and get involved in the more DBA-type work. Show interest and willingness and it can sometimes happen.

Finally, and this is nothing about Oracle, but I suggest you try and avoid using “text-speak” when not using a mobile phone. many people, especially us older, bad-tempered people, find people writing “can u plz hlp me…thx” very annoying and much prefer “can you please help me…thankyou”. ie full words. Save the text-speak for your fellow young and phone-addicted friends 🙂

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