Looking for an easy to use database interface
October 6, 2006 9:34 AM   Subscribe

I need to collect a list of names and addresses at a trade show on a Windows XP Home Laptop. It needs to be setup in such a fashion that attendees walking past our booth can input thier information themselves. How can I do this?

I was originally planning on running PHP and MySQL on the laptop and building a form that would run in a full screen web browser, but because of a lack of support for IIS with XP Home and some other issues, this option is no longer feasible. What other programs or methods can I use to accomplish this?
posted by trbrts to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Are you restricted to using XP for some reason other than that's what's on the computer at the moment? If you aren't, a Kiosk Linux Livecd will work nicely, perhaps with a little tweaking.

If you're stuck with XP for other reasons, I'd still go with the PHP/MySQL idea and just run Apache. The Apache Windows installer is pretty painless.

Definitely the last choice is an MS Access app. You'll have nothing but trouble with it and getting the data out is likely to be a pain but it will probably work.
posted by Skorgu at 9:38 AM on October 6, 2006

I second Skorgu's Apache recommendation -- XAMPP (here) is a pretty painless installation of Apache, PHP, PHPMyAdmin and MySQL for Windows.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 9:57 AM on October 6, 2006

Install a new OS on a laptop to get kiosk linux, then put MySQL, then PHP, then config Apache, then start building forms in PHP...

Or spend 15 minutes hacking up an Access form?

This is not a hard question. Don't even think about building a web app. Wrong tool for the job.
posted by mrbugsentry at 9:59 AM on October 6, 2006

posted by Jairus at 10:00 AM on October 6, 2006

Excel? Access? Yes, even notepad?
posted by Merdryn at 10:13 AM on October 6, 2006

Excel spreadsheet could be the easiest to accomplish. Remove the grid on the first sheet in the book, add a few text boxes with labels next to them, and a submit button. You can write a small script for the button to copy all the data to specific columns in another spreadsheet, then clear all the textboxes for the next visitor. Then you have a very neat and tidy spreadsheet that should be easier to manipulate than anything you can get out of Access.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:24 AM on October 6, 2006

mrbugsentry I did specify livecd for that exact reason; no installation, just reboot and you're good to go.

I can't really agree that Access is the right tool for the job. Having had to debug some Access stuff recently, I can't really say honestly that I think Access is the right tool for any job.

Three reasons I'd go with the PHP/MySQL idea.

1) SQL is nice and standardized. At work we like to call Access the Data Roach Motel, getting stuff out can easily be problematic.

2) PHP/SQL is cross-platform, your app will run anything that can run XAMPP, whereas Access is XP-only. This may not be useful to the poster, but it's good to know.

3) Access is designed to trust the user. It has all the mechenisms to read and write data right in it. It's probably possible to lock that down, but I wouldn't want to try. Web apps are good here because they implicitly don't trust the client and only allow what access has been programmed in.
posted by Skorgu at 10:30 AM on October 6, 2006

If you do the page template, I'll do the database integration for free (because my database toolkit is that good). Email in profile.
posted by Doctor Barnett at 10:59 AM on October 6, 2006


You are way off base here,

1) I just haven't experienced any data out problems on small datasets in twelve years working with the product.

2) So what if PHP is cross platform? This isn't a cross platform problem.

3) You *can* trust the user since they are supervised here. The poster will be standing on the other side of the booth.
3a)Even in untrusted scenarios, to suggest that locking down db access is only *possible* displays some serious ignorance of the product.

I think your priorities are wacky here. But the Linux Jihad must go on. After all, a man with a hammer...
posted by mrbugsentry at 11:08 AM on October 6, 2006

This to me sounds like what you are looking for.
CardScan Inc Executive 700
Right from the start, CardScan saves you hours by capturing business cards directly into your computer. Without typing, you build a database of your vital contacts, either in CardScan’s address book, in Outlook, or in any other popular contact manager. Simply put, it’s the world’s fastest and most accurate business card reader.
posted by mrbob at 12:49 PM on October 6, 2006

mrbugsentry without derailing further, clearly you have more Access experience than I do. That said, all of my experiences with it have been singularly unpleasant.

1) I have. That may not carry much weight, but there it is. If the poster does not have your level of experience with Access, I suggest that he may run into similar problems that you would not.

2) This isn't but if the poster wants to use the collected data outside of Access cross-platform and portability are surely concerns.

3) I can't disagree more strongly. You can never trust a user that can only be identified as "some guy at a trade show." I may be more paranoid than is needed in this application, only the poster knows for sure, but I would worry about an enterprising visitor dumping the entire contact list while the supervision is distracted.

3a) Mea culpa. You'll pardon me if I'm not brimming with confidence in the security of an application that isn't designed to operate in a hostile environment.
posted by Skorgu at 1:20 PM on October 6, 2006

Continuing on the PHP line, there are several toolkits that simplify this kind of CRUD (create, retreive, update, delete), Cake and Symfony that you may want to look into. I have more experience with cake and while it's not anywhere near perfect it's pretty well documented and geared towards the novice user (which you may or may not be).

I'll happily elaborate here or at the gmail in my profile.
posted by Skorgu at 1:26 PM on October 6, 2006

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