Database and RDBMS

This post and others like it relate back to an introductory post that explains the point. This is an edited variant of something I wrote in 2007, in this case relating my experience/history with database/RDBMS technolgies/software. In no particular order, the list as best I can remember…

PC File
Microsoft SQL Server
Sybase SQL Server
Lotus Approach
Microsoft Query

Some of the above items are there because I have direct and even extensive experience. Others are there because I supported the use of the product or database format programmatically, mainly from Visual Basic, and had some degree of associated training. So, for instance, the presence of Oracle or DB2 on the list does not imply I could jump into a hardcore DBA job with one of those products. I have also left out some of the incidental data sources that can be used programmatically or with Word mail merges, including Word, Excel, and text formats, be they CSV, tab separated, or fixed field width.

I believe my first database experience was with PC File, by shareware pioneer Jim Button’s ButtonWare. It was used circa 1990/1991 on my 286 to administer and print mailing labels from the Arisia database as it existed at the time.

When I worked at Tranti Systems, I got a taste of Paradox, which was a hot skill at the time.

Later I worked with people who supported Microsoft Access, and have used most versions of it myself. Because of the UI limitations of SQL Server 6.5, I used Access with attached SQL tables for administrative ease. I’ve supported and trained clients in using it the same way to query their data in both SQL Server (Winlaw) and bTrieve (Juris Classic). It was, of course, the default/customary database backend for typical VB apps that needed one.

My main server database experience has been with Microsoft SQL Server, from the standpoint of having installed, reinstalled, configured, administered, etc. Besides having accessed, or helped others access, data on it programatically or via other front ends.

MySQL I know manly from blogs, and having gotten into the admin tools to do queries, export data, even do mass cleanups.

MSDE is sort of where Access intersects SQL Server. I used that for distributing at a test site a beta version of a case/document management software, codenamed Prometheus, that was never be completed. I also supported MSDE as used by the newer, Windows versions of Juris until the 2 GB size limit became a factor.

bTrieve used to be an inexplicably popular backend for applications. Besides supporting the use of it with VB, it was used in Juris Classic and a program called FMS (Franchisee Management System) by Property Damage Appraisers, both of which I’ve supported. I believe it was used in some aspect of Tranti Systems 2100. Or something at the company; I clearly remember it being around, if not any specific unpleasant experiences with it.

I worked with people who supported FoxPro, so got a little exposure that way and through VB/Fox interactions calls. More recently, I dealt with Fox in the form of a couple of FoxPro-based applications, one more raw than the other. One was a custom order entry system. I did a little brief support of it, helped migrate the server side from Novell to Windows 2003, and helped make sure it ran after the workstations were upgraded to XP. The other was Wintitle, a program used in real estate closings, in which the Fox aspect was mainly useful in understanding its peculiarities.

In VB support I was never what you would call a “database person.” I got by. Similar to my emphasis on good user interface design, my big thing is proper relational database design. It’s surprising how often you run into poor design, even from people who are supposed to be experts. It’s one of those little things that stick out like a sore thumb to me, bothering me all out of proportion. I’ve never been as clear as could be on the distinctions between different join statements, but if you name your tables and fields funny, if you aren’t clear on your one to many foreign keys, and your many to many linking tables, that sort of thing, I will notice.

Next up, dictation software, odd as that may sound.

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