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Author Topic: Databases
littlefish
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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 03:52      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I've got myself a pretty cool job at the university to pay some bills while I'm writing up my thesis. We have a museum in the chemistry department, but it is in a mess so I have been employed to catalogue everything and set up a database.
There are probably a few thousand items, with some of the choicest picks being a signed copy of Mendeleevs paper on the periodic table, the first sample of strontia, and the first model of the ionic structure of sodium chloride.

Anyway, I want to know what people would recommend as a database for this sort of thing - MS Access has been mentioned, which I have no experience of, but any suggestions are welcomed. Whatever the solution is needs a number of fields, including photos, and it would help if data entry could happen as we go through the cabinets.

Thanks, LF

Posts: 2421 | From: That London | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
drunkennewfiemidget
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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 04:14      Profile for drunkennewfiemidget     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
If all you need is a simple db that will hold your information and nothing more, then I might suggest FileMaker Pro. Quick, simple, and painless.

If you wanna be able to use sql and various other fun stuff, I'd suggest mysql. It's simple, powerful, and very, very free. [Wink]

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Stereo

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 07:29      Profile for Stereo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
DNM is right. I'll add: stay away from Access if you can. Yes, it's easy, but like most of those MS products, they stop just before doing the powerful stuff. It means that you will do fine at first, but just as you want to go a little further than the basics, you'll find roadblocks and anoyances, especially on the performance side.

I haven't used any newer version of FileMaker, but for what I know, it's much more scalable than Access, while still being easy to get a hold of. MySQL follows more closely the standards, but the last time I used it, there were no easy way to create a user interface for it, unless you work in a web-development environment, like ColdFusion or WebObject, which, BTW, could be a good idea. (Ok, last time I used it, it was 4 or 5 years ago, so it could have changed.)

Anyway, congrats on getting the job, good luck in having it done, and if you have problems, you know where to ask!

--------------------
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Allan
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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 08:18      Profile for Allan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Firstly, congrats LF.

I think the important questions you have to ask are as follows;

Who is financing the project and what do they hope to get from it?

Do you have any licenses for DB products already aquired?

Do you have money to spend on software & hardware to make it happen?

How often will the database be updated and have new entries inserted?

What platform(s) do you have available to run the software on?

Who will be responsible for maintaining it?

Who are the target audience?

Can you gain assistance from the University IT department, Server space / hosting / moral support?

The answers to these should point you in the right direction! I don't disagree with Stereo's experience, but on a half way decent box MS Access will be fine for a 'few thousand' records.

Ask if you need more help.

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CommanderShroom
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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 08:32      Profile for CommanderShroom     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Access is what it is. It can be great for small scale operations. And if you take care on how tables are created they can always be exported to larger scale programs at a later date.

MySQL is still my favorite. Lots of power, highly scalable, and very realiable. And there may be an Open Source project that can do exactly what you need. So you may not have to do more than just tweak a couple of fields.

--------------------
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Has one of us confessed?
'Bout the wires circuits and motors
Buried in our chest

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drunkennewfiemidget
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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 10:07      Profile for drunkennewfiemidget     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Stereo:

I haven't used any newer version of FileMaker, but for what I know, it's much more scalable than Access, while still being easy to get a hold of. MySQL follows more closely the standards, but the last time I used it, there were no easy way to create a user interface for it, unless you work in a web-development environment, like ColdFusion or WebObject, which, BTW, could be a good idea. (Ok, last time I used it, it was 4 or 5 years ago, so it could have changed.)

Anyway, congrats on getting the job, good luck in having it done, and if you have problems, you know where to ask!

There's a program released by the people at MySQL now called 'MySQL Query Browser' .. a little buggy, but provides some really helpful functionality for editing and viewing db data.
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-ct-
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Icon 10 posted June 08, 2005 10:07      Profile for -ct-   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
simple database?

M$ Excel!

--------------------
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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 11:38      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by -ct-:
simple database?

M$ Excel!

Excel is /not/ a database.

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

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Sxeptomaniac

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 11:57      Profile for Sxeptomaniac   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I definitely agree with those suggesting Filemaker Pro. It's got a much easier learning curve if you haven't dealt with databases before.

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Cap'n Vic

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 11:58      Profile for Cap'n Vic     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by dragonman97:
quote:
Originally posted by -ct-:
simple database?

M$ Excel!

Excel is /not/ a database.
Thank you!

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(!) (T) = 8-D

Posts: 5471 | From: One of the drones from sector 7G | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
csk

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 15:52      Profile for csk     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by dragonman97:
quote:
Originally posted by -ct-:
simple database?

M$ Excel!

Excel is /not/ a database.
Neither is MySQL, not a real one, anyway [Wink]

PostgreSQL is a much better option

--------------------
6 weeks to go!

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Rhonwyyn

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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 17:20      Profile for Rhonwyyn   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm not a big fan of M$, but I must say that when I used Access at Schreyer Honors College, it was rather user-friendly and did what I wanted it to do. Plus, it didn't take forever for me to learn how to make it work.

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Chesty
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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 18:34      Profile for Chesty         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well we use Visual Basic with access and make it do a whole lot reallly easy. I am not a MS fan and use openoffice for most officey stuff, but VB has a lot of tools and makes it easy to use.


And while Excel is not a database, it (or office spreadsheet, quatro or whatever spreadsheet program)can be very useful in catalogging data and doing queries.

Whenever i need to find something quickly I can open a DB Query in excel and filter and sort a bazillion ways quickly without having to write statements.

All in all you have to know what you wantto do before you start and then find the tool for it.

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Eric
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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 20:40      Profile for Eric     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by dragonman97:
quote:
Originally posted by -ct-:
simple database?

M$ Excel!

Excel is /not/ a database.
I assume you mean Excel is not a relational database, since a flat file is a database, strictly speaking.

quote:

A flat file database is described by a very simple database model, where all the information is stored in a plain text file, one database record per line.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_file_database

So without starting a flame war, I agree that Excel could be a viable solution, depending on your situation. Not good if you want to store photos.
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Allan
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Icon 1 posted June 08, 2005 23:53      Profile for Allan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
S'ok those of us in the know know that Excel isn't suitable for LF's task. Several thousand rows with photos? Word would be so much better [Big Grin]
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drunkennewfiemidget
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Icon 1 posted June 09, 2005 05:38      Profile for drunkennewfiemidget     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by csk:
quote:
Originally posted by dragonman97:
quote:
Originally posted by -ct-:
simple database?

M$ Excel!

Excel is /not/ a database.
Neither is MySQL, not a real one, anyway [Wink]

PostgreSQL is a much better option

There once was a time when that was true. I don't think it is anymore.

The new MySQL can do everything PostgreSQL can do and more imnsho.

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wharton
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Icon 6 posted June 09, 2005 09:29      Profile for wharton         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
If there are any plans to put the info on the web, I'd prepare now by using MySQL. It's a standard Internet tool that's scalable. You'd also make it easier for whomever follows you.

--------------------
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where tourists die

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Orpheus
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Icon 1 posted June 09, 2005 15:40      Profile for Orpheus     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I did something similar to what you're talking about in college. I developed a database for digitizing the library's collection of art history slides. This was probably around 1999 or 2000. I used Access to do it and even made a few interfaces for people who needed to enter/edit data, profs that wanted to define a set of slides for a given section/quiz, and for students that needed to review slides or take quizzes. Come to think of it i was severely underpaid for that job ;p. Anyway it was a pretty good system for that just be mindful of the maximum size. Back then I think it was 4GB and we ran into the problem that all the image data was sucking up all the space. So its probably best to just save image filenames instead of images in your database and load them later in your UI.
If I had it to do again I'd probably use MySQL/PHP to make it more easily accessible for others. phpMyAdmin is an excellent free web-based interface to MySQL. If you just need an archive of pictures there's lots of free software MySQL/PHP based solutions already out there.

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my cats make me crazy

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