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Using the Driver : Unexpected Characters

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Unexpected Characters

Users are sometimes surprised when they insert a character into a database, only to have a different character displayed when they fetch it from the database. There are many reasons this can happen, but it most often involves code page issues, not driver errors.
Client and server machines in a database system each use code pages, which can be identified by a name or a number, such as Shift_JIS (Japanese) or cp1252 (Windows English). A code page is a mapping that associates a sequence of bits, called a code point, with a specific character. Code pages include the characters and symbols of one or more languages. Regardless of geographical location, a machine can be configured to use a specific code page. Most of the time, a client and database server would use similar, if not identical, code pages. For example, a client and server might use two different Japanese code pages, such as Shift_JIS and EUC_JP, but they would still share many Japanese characters in common. These characters might, however, be represented by different code points in each code page. This introduces the need to convert between code pages to maintain data integrity. In some cases, no one-to-one character correspondence exists between the two code points. This causes a substitution character to be used, which can result in displaying an unexpected character on a fetch.
When the driver on the client machine opens a connection with the database server, the driver determines the code pages being used on the client and the server. This is determined from the Active Code Page on a Windows-based machine. If the client machine is UNIX-based (UNIX/Linux/macOS), the driver checks the IANAAppCodePage option. If it does not find a specific setting for IACP, it defaults to a value of ISO_8859_1.
If the client and server code pages are compatible, the driver transmits data in the code page of the server. Even though the pages are compatible, a one-to-one correspondence for every character may not exist. If the client and server code pages are completely dissimilar, for example, Russian and Japanese, then many substitutions occur because very few, if any, of the characters are mapped between the two code pages.
The following is a specific example of an unexpected character:
*The Windows client machine is running code page cp1252.
*The Oracle server is running code page ISO-8859-P1.
*When you insert a Euro character (€) from the Windows client and then fetch it back, an upside down question mark (¿) is displayed on the client instead of the Euro symbol.
This substitution occurs because the Euro character does not exist within the characters defined by the ISO-8859-P1 character set on the Oracle server. The Oracle server records the code point for its substitution character in the table instead of the code point for the Euro. This code point is an upside down question mark in the Windows cp1252 code page.
This is not a driver error. The code page of the Oracle database could not recognize the Euro code point and used its substitution character in the table. The best way to avoid these problems is to use the same code page on both the client and server machines.
You can check the native code point stored in the Oracle database using SQL*Plus with a SQL statement similar to the following:
SELECT dump(columnname, 1016) FROM yourtable;
Check the returned hexadecimal values to verify whether the data you intended to reside in the table is there. If it appears that Oracle substituted a different code point, then check the Oracle database code page to see if your intended character exists. If your character does not exist in the code page, then no error is involved; Oracle simply does not recognize the original character, and uses its substitution character instead.