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Entry 151, on 2005-04-01 at 15:05:44 (Rating 1, Computers)

I'm continuing to work on updates and new features for my real estate database system I mentioned in my previous blog entry. Because the whole system is web based, its easy to make changes from another town. By connecting to the server through SSH (remote terminal for the Unix command line and the MySQL command line utility), Apple file sharing (for file transfer) and http (for web based testing) I can do anything I could do if I was there. Unfortunately the ports to enable VNC aren't currently open, but I can administer the server so I might test that later.

Being able to change the database while the client is using it is also pretty cool. I can talk to the user on the phone and make changes instantly. They are quite impressed when I say "is that better" and the problem is already fixed.

There are some disadvantages as well. I designed the database to work with Apple's Safari web browser so that is a fairly controlled environment - although I already found one difference between the current version they use and a pre-release of the next version that I use! The public web part of the system though has to work with all browsers, and I've found a compatibility issue with Microsoft Internet Explorer which has an interesting interpretation of vertical line shift in cascading style sheets!

The combination of Unix, Apache, MySQL, and PHP is a very powerful one though. Using six scripting and markup languages: HTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, and shell scripts allows me to do almost anything. The only problem is remembering the different syntaxes of the languages. For example PHP and JavaScript have a lot of similarities, but that can be a problem, because its too easy to start writing PHP half way through a JavaScript script!

I used many database development environments in the past: FileMaker, Helix, Omnis, 4D, Panorama, and many others I can't even think of now, but the combination I'm using now is definitely my preferred environment for future development. Its fast, reliable, efficient, and free!


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