Archive | May 2007

SQL Standardisation


What is ANSI?
ANSI is the American National Standards Institute and is a non-profit organisation which oversees the development of standards for products, services, processes, systems and personnel in the US. ANSI also coordinates US standards with international standards bodies, so that US products can be used worldwide.

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Internet Database Technologies


Since the mid 1980s databases have had to learn how to work in a networked environment. This evolution continues with respect to the Internet. We discuss the technologies used by Internet capable databases in this paper. Read More…

Flash-Be-Gone


I was a little upset last week when I tried to install flash on Ubuntu, only to find that my AMD64 CPU isn’t supported (yet).

Since then, I have to say that using the web has become a pleasure again, now that all those annoying, flashing and moving adverts are no longer present.

So much so, that I’m considering adding flash to my list of “software not worth it”. That list currently includes RealPlayer and Lotus Notes, i.e. software that’s so annoying, or unusable that the benefit gained by it’s use is more than offset by it’s ability to annoy you.

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History of SQL



What is the history of Structured English Query Language and what is its relationship to SQL?

In 1970 Dr. E. F. Codd published his paper,“A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks”. This became the foundation for the relational database system. This paper described a new way to structure data within a database, and led to the relational database systems we use today.

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Hackety Hack


All I can say is it’s about time! I was made aware of Hackety Hack today, which is an adaptation of Ruby to make the introduction of programming to children easier.

It’s come up a few times, over lunch or coffee, we reminisce about programming basic on our computers as kids. I started on a Sinclair ZX84, before graduating to the ATARI 800XL. Transitioning wasn’t all that hard, BASIC was similar on both systems.

Thinking back on it, I had mastered quite alot. I had input and output to the screen, branching, looping and arrays mastered. I hadn’t quite got file I/O for procedures.

When we got our first PC, I remember being rather upset, that basic was no longer available to me. By the time I had found qBasic, I had lost interest, i.e. was going through the moody teenage years.

By the time I got to college I realised what I had learned stood me in good stead. Term one of my Computer Engineering degree had us learning Pascal. Suddenly branching, looping and arrays were back, but this time with proper functions and procedures.

Since then I’ve gone on to be a fully fledged Software Engineer. I can’t help but think that, that early exposure to BASIC were the first steps on the journey that brought me here.

I kudos to why, and his effort to make programming easy and fun for kids. We need more people in IT, and this is as good a place to start as any.

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Mashups


ZDNet’s Dion Hinchcliffe asserts that mashups represent “The Next Major Software Development Model”. I’m not sure I agree that they represent a software development model.

While I agree that they are popular, I think they fall into two categories. I guess I’ll call them ‘data aggregation’ and ‘data representation’.

The ‘data aggregation’ category represents those mashups made by users who, rather than visit ten news sites to see the headlines, aggregate the feeds from those sites into one page.

The second sort of mashup is more interesting. For example a manager may request a report of yearly sales, getting the result in a spreadsheet. While this represents the data requested, it’s in a rather dry and unengaging format. What if the sales results could be overlaid on a map, so that zooming into the map showed the sales results by country, region, city, store, etc. Suddenly you have a mashup which adds interaction and value to the data you’re representing.

If we can learn anything from mashups is that the current state of software user interfaces isn’t meeting the needs of users. The best user interfaces are those which represent data in a meaningful and increasingly interactive way to the user. Perhaps soon we’ll see the death of the grid control for tables, the list box and the combo, in favour of these more interesting interfaces.

So with regard to the new software development model, I don’t thing mashups are going to replace good software engineering, though they may force software developers to think outside the dialog.

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