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Oracle lures developers with the promise of a trip into space

Oracle is adding some rocket fuel to its tools promotion strategy with a contest that promises to send one lucky developer into space--literally. Announced at the recent Oracle OpenWorld conference (but upstaged by the PeopleSoft acquisition drama), the Oracle Space Sweepstakes gives participants a chance to take part in a suborbital spaceflight, experience weightlessness, and view the earth from 62 miles up, all courtesy of Arlington, VA-based Space Adventures, Ltd.

Contestants must register at the Oracle Space Sweepstakes Web site (see link at end of this article), and then complete at least one of a series of online quizzes. The quizzes focus on such Java and SOA technologies as Struts, J2EE persistence, Java coding and optimization, Application Development Frameworks, JavaServer Faces, application deployment and manageability, and Web Services and Business Process Execution Language (BPEL).

Each successfully completed quiz is counted as an entry into the drawing (limit one entry per eligible person, per unique tutorial). Contestants may take up to 11 quizzes to increase the chances that their names will be drawn. New topics will be rolled out each month beginning in December and concluding in May 2005.

The basic idea here is to get developers who haven't tried Oracle's tools in a while to give them another go. In fact, participants will have to test Oracle JDeveloper 10g, Oracle Application Server Containers for J2EE (OC4J) 10g, Oracle BPEL Process Manager 10g, and/or Oracle TopLink 10g to successfully complete the quizzes.

'The contest is meant to be an attention grabber,' says Rick Schultz, Oracle's VP of product marketing for the application server and developer tools. 'We wanted to appeal to the developer crowd to come back and try the latest and greatest Oracle App Server and JDeveloper 10g tools. We feel that these technologies have come a long way in the past few years, and that anyone who hasn’t tried them or used them in a while will be pleasantly surprised.”

The inspiration for the contest came from two sources, says Schultz: Java's pivotal role in the Mars Exploration program, and the recently awarded X Prize.

The Mars Rover, Spirit, developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, landed on Mars on in January 2004 with Java on board: a Java-based operating system developed by JPL and Wind River. On the ground, NASA scientists used Java to create a collaborative command and control system called Maestro, which provides 3-D reconstructions of the Mars terrain. And then there's Space Ship One, a privately designed and funded craft that reached an altitude of 367,400 feet twice in two weeks in October. The developers of that craft won the $10 million Ansari X Prize, and were widely seen as the ignition point of a series of other promising space ventures, including the 'Off-planet tourism' promised by companies like Space Adventures.

'Obviously there's a huge interest in space with what's going on with the Mars Rover in the Java space--no pun intended,' Schultz says. 'And there has been a lot of excitement among Oracle's own developers around the X Prize. We think we found a nice mix of science and adventure.'

Space Adventures (www.spaceadventures.com) is the only company to have successfully launched private tourists to the International Space Station. The company offers a variety of programs, including zero-gravity and MiG flights, cosmonaut training, spaceflight-qualification programs, and reservations on future suborbital spacecraft. Astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Kathy Thornton, Robert (Hoot) Gibson, Charles Walker, Norm Thagard, Sam Durrance, Byron Lichtenberg, and Owen Garriott are on the company's board.

Schultz would not offer specifics, but said that response to the Oracle Space Sweepstakes has been 'great so far.' Only North American developers may participate in this contest, but plans are afoot to expand the contest to other regions, Schultz says.

The contest will award only one suborbital flight, but runners up will have a chance at two Mac PowerBooks, five Apple iPods, and 10 Star Wars trilogy DVD sets. Winners will be announced by June 30, 2005. More information is available at: http://space.oracle.com/

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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