What's the best approach to building a lightweight database app?
December 20, 2006 3:13 PM   Subscribe

I have been asked to write a database application that will be running in a storefront situation and will allow the user to enter data on what is sold (in this case, bicycles and bicycle accessories and parts) and generate basic bookkeeping reports (i.e. end-of-day sales, quarterly sales, that sort of thing.)

The application will have to run on an old (~P2 266 mhz) Windows 98 box. I've considered a few different approaches, such as a PHP/SQLite/Apache deal (with which I have no experience, but I feel I can pick up) or a Java app with a Swing GUI wrapped in an .exe, probably using Hibernate to handle the backend. I do have Java experience, so that would be a plus for the second approach; however, because of the machine's slowness, I'm not so sure Java is a good idea. I do my development in OS X, so anything requiring proprietary Windows tools may be problematic. Also, no remote access or any kind of network considerations are required, so the web interface may not be necessary (but could be desirable to avoid GUI development hassles.)

As this is a relatively simple project, I'd like something lightweight without a lot of installation hassle. Any web developers out there have any thoughts? Thanks.
posted by evisceratordeath to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
I'd very, very strongly advise against the java approach. I have a similarly underpowered machine running Azureus inside a VNC instance and it regularly brings the machine to its knees.

The micro-webserver implementation could be done very simply either in PHP or any other web framework (Rails is great for rapid development, Django is good too, camping if you want a brainfsck in the process). I'd recommend skipping firefox as the browser-end and looking at something like Gaelon or whatever they're calling it today, much lighter weight.

I'm sort of assuming that you're doing this on either a pro-bono basis or as a favor, because otherwise the labor costs would dwarf what even the cheapeste Dell would cost. If this isn't the case, it's probably cheaper and certainly easier to just go with a Dell and QuickBooks or similar.
posted by Skorgu at 3:19 PM on December 20, 2006

Response by poster: Skorgu: yeah, you got it. It's for a non-profit dealing in donated and recovered bikes, and an old friend of mine is the manager there.

Gaelon's not giving me anything on Google...what are you referring to exactly?
posted by evisceratordeath at 3:29 PM on December 20, 2006

Relatively recent versions of Apache, MySQL, and PHP will run on Windows 98, although most vendors are now deprecating support for that OS. IIRC, Microsoft already has.

If you decide to use the WAMP (Windows, Apache, MySQL, PHP) approach, then you should definitely ensure that the machine isn't accessible from any kind of public network. From a security perspective, older versions of Apache, MySQL, and PHP will combine to form something that resembles swiss cheese.

You should definitely look into ADOdb and Smarty, as many PHP developers consider them to be invaluable tools.

Aside from the egregious support options, however, I can't help but wonder why the owner of the store hasn't just considered picking up an older version of Peachtree or QuickBooks.

Best of luck with your endeavor!
posted by scoria at 3:34 PM on December 20, 2006

Since it's a non-profit, are you near any non-profit computer recycling centres that give out refurbished computers, like these places? A newer computer, at least, would get you a little more breathing room.
posted by cmonkey at 4:36 PM on December 20, 2006

If you want to skip the old PC entirely, you could use Dreamhost to host that app, which is now free forever for non-profits.

That way you'd already have up-to-date, properly configured database, languages, and apache.
posted by Invoke at 4:39 PM on December 20, 2006

I think Skorgu was talking about Galeon.
posted by deansfurniture5 at 7:21 PM on December 20, 2006

Why not run a copy of Filemaker Pro? Cheap, fast and runs on Windows 98. Easy to develop and manage by an OS X dev.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:37 AM on December 21, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. Going to have a sit-down with the manager soon and I will take these things under advisement. That's great about Dreamhost, I hadn't heard that...
posted by evisceratordeath at 10:16 AM on December 21, 2006

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