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Aggregates in relational calculus

Quote from johnwcowan on August 28, 2019, 1:04 pm
Quote from Dave Voorhis on August 28, 2019, 9:22 am

 

For that sort of thing MS Access is conceptually ideal, particularly if you're a Microsoft-heavy shop. Unfortunately, in practice Access typically turns out to be too technical (compared to Excel, at least) for users and too lightweight (and fragile and quirky) for programmers.

That was the concept behind Lotus Agenda.  A modernized open-source cross-platform Agenda (perhaps with a SQLite backing store, which would permit reasonable interchange with corporate data) would be a great boon to the world.  Several attempts have been made, but they have all foundered on the second-system effect as far as I know (Chandler) or been abandoned before they were useful (beeswax).

There's really not that much to it.  There's a category hierarchy; a tiny bit of AI for extracting categories, dates, and other properties from unstructured text; an ultra-simplistic definition of views (which categories and properties to project, which categories to select); simple condition/action pairs to add new categories to an item based on its existing categories, delete an older item, or what have you.  It isn't even necessary to distinguish between AND and OR; a category can be marked "children are mutually exclusive", in which case those children are ORed when they appear together; everything else is ANDed.

My (rather dim) memory of Lotus Agenda was that it was very disappointing; perhaps it promised more than it delivered. But maybe I'm confusing it with something else, like Lotus Notes.

Aside: I had a client that chose Lotus Notes for email (I guess it did other things, but their goal was email) after I specifically recommended against it (I think at the time I recommended either MS Exchange Server or a Linux-based email stack); but that was during a period where they thought all my suggestions were bogus -- I'd made some clearly bad recommendations, like suggesting using the Internet to distribute documents between offices when they knew it would never catch on; I'd recommended using a SQL DBMS for something but that was clearly a fad, etc. -- so Lotus Notes was what they bought. I recall it being irredeemably, unremittingly, mind-bogglingly awful.

I think my datasheet will make a nice alternative to MS Access, but I'm aiming it squarely at developers and programming-capable power users, not non-technical or even semi-technical end users.

I'm the forum administrator and lead developer of Rel. Email me at dave@armchair.mb.ca with the Subject 'TTM Forum'. Download Rel from https://reldb.org
Quote from dandl on August 28, 2019, 12:44 am

But consider the toll road with electronic tolling. In a given period of time the business system might record just a few vehicles passing tolling points, the traffic flow sensors record some thousands of vehicle movements while the video systems used for monitoring and licence plate recognition record terabytes of raw data.

Yes, exactly.  The videos are written often, updated never (we hope), and retrieved rarely.  This is the situation with backup and with things like records of retail transactions: aggregates may be wanted, but the raw data is hardly ever useful.

In India right up to the early 20C it was common to have separate "religious" and "commercial" scripts used for the same languages in different contexts.  Religious documents are written rarely and with great precautions against transmission errors, but are read quite often; they need a script optimized for reading.  Retail commercial transactions, then as now, were written constantly but rarely referred to, and they used a script optimized for writing quickly by hand, even if it required considerable effort and context to decipher later.  The higher prestige of the religious scripts made them the official scripts, but the commercial scripts like Kaithi, Takri, and Mahajani have now made their way into Unicode.

Quote from Dave Voorhis on August 28, 2019, 1:19 pm

 

My (rather dim) memory of Lotus Agenda was that it was very disappointing; perhaps it promised more than it delivered. But maybe I'm confusing it with something else, like Lotus Notes.

I think that's likely the case.  Agenda was a strictly DOS program; it obviously picked up some things from Lotus 1-2-3 like ring menus and passed some things along to Notes, like the whole idea of documents with structured, user-controlled metadata, but was independent of either.

Aside: I had a client that chose Lotus Notes for email (I guess it did other things, but their goal was email) after I specifically recommended against it

As email it was awful, but as a document store with form-filling and background replication, it was state of the art, especially in a time when internetworking even inside a company was slow and often impossible, kind of a commercial Usenet.  Only the latest iteration of Google Office really beats it for those purposes.

I never used Lotus Agenda, although I knew Mitch Kapor was working on it. I was a bit sad 1-2-3 never really made it to Windows, but arguably Word and Excel are good enough for the purposes they serve, but Access is way too dev-oriented. The intro to the article you linked to (on beeswax) hits the nail on the head, at least for the first few paras, and then IMO goes wildly off the mark. Clearly the team thought a glorified todo list was going to be a world beater, and it wasn't. The screenshot here brings back every PIM/outliner I ever tried and quickly abandoned. If the need is so great, surely there is a modern replacement? Trello?

What is missing here from my perspective is the ability to track and manage large amounts of data, mostly created by other people or programs, not by me typing it in. Nothing I know does that well.

Andl - A New Database Language - andl.org
Quote from dandl on September 1, 2019, 12:53 am

The screenshot here brings back every PIM/outliner I ever tried and quickly abandoned.

I feel the same way, but Agenda didn't look anything like that.  Use Google Images to find out what it did look like.

What is missing here from my perspective is the ability to track and manage large amounts of data, mostly created by other people or programs, not by me typing it in. Nothing I know does that well.

Agenda was somewhat lacking on the import/export front, definitely.

Quote from dandl on September 1, 2019, 12:53 am

I never used Lotus Agenda, although I knew Mitch Kapor was working on it. I was a bit sad 1-2-3 never really made it to Windows, but arguably Word and Excel are good enough for the purposes they serve, but Access is way too dev-oriented. The intro to the article you linked to (on beeswax) hits the nail on the head, at least for the first few paras, and then IMO goes wildly off the mark. Clearly the team thought a glorified todo list was going to be a world beater, and it wasn't. The screenshot here brings back every PIM/outliner I ever tried and quickly abandoned. If the need is so great, surely there is a modern replacement? Trello?

What is missing here from my perspective is the ability to track and manage large amounts of data, mostly created by other people or programs, not by me typing it in. Nothing I know does that well.

I do that with Rel and I find it very usable, to the point that I use it almost exclusively for day-to-day data crunching and now almost never use Access and rarely use Excel.

Its main limitations are a lack of agility since it wasn't designed to be agile from the beginning, and sometimes wanting to escape Tutorial D and easily use Java code. You can use Java code in Rel, but it takes some effort. Again, not agile enough.

My datasheet is an attempt to address these issues, with Java in place of Tutorial D. I've got bits and pieces working and creating tables of data is quite slick; as easy as using a spreadsheet to do the same thing. There's still much work to be done, though.

I'm the forum administrator and lead developer of Rel. Email me at dave@armchair.mb.ca with the Subject 'TTM Forum'. Download Rel from https://reldb.org

I've used Rel a bit recently. It's faster to start and no obvious bugs so far. Most of it I've been able to figure out, but it's quite challenging. Top of mind:

  • What is 'design' really about?
  • What's going on with the little boxes in Query?
  • Is 'Rename' ever available?
  • Why does executing a script always select all the text, thus losing my place?

I don't use Access (too much coding!) and it's hard to see how I could replace Excel. For example, the last few things I did were:

  • Create a form to be used for making expense claims for an association, including totals and GST calculation
  • Copy and paste a transaction summary from a bank account web site, reformat, add account details and totals, and send as a report to someone who needed to know
  • Calculate the optimum viewing distance for TVs of various sizes, including converting from stupid inches to metric.

Is that the kind of thing you have in mind?

Andl - A New Database Language - andl.org
Quote from dandl on September 2, 2019, 5:10 am

I've used Rel a bit recently. It's faster to start and no obvious bugs so far. Most of it I've been able to figure out, but it's quite challenging. Top of mind:

  • What is 'design' really about?
  • What's going on with the little boxes in Query?
  • Is 'Rename' ever available?
  • Why does executing a script always select all the text, thus losing my place?

I don't use Access (too much coding!) and it's hard to see how I could replace Excel. For example, the last few things I did were:

  • Create a form to be used for making expense claims for an association, including totals and GST calculation
  • Copy and paste a transaction summary from a bank account web site, reformat, add account details and totals, and send as a report to someone who needed to know
  • Calculate the optimum viewing distance for TVs of various sizes, including converting from stupid inches to metric.

Is that the kind of thing you have in mind?

Answers to the first four questions:

  • "Design" lets you change the definition of a thing. E.g., for relvars it lets you specify attribute names and types, and keys.
  • "Query" is a graphical programming language with an icons-on-strings metaphor, sometimes called a "node-based visual programming language", for creating Tutorial D queries.
  • "Rename" is available for scripts. The intent is to make it available for everything, but that requires reworking how broken code is handled, because renaming things often breaks dependencies.
  • Executing a script selects all text because in the command-line, after executing some text you typically want to replace it with a different text.

The three things you did in Excel are exactly the sort of things I do in Rel, would have done in Access, and look forward to doing in my datasheet.

Excel is good for modelling systems where formulae vary row by row in addition to column by column. When formulae are purely column based, Access or Rel are more ergonomic. If you need forms and reports, Access nicely auto-generates these.

I'm the forum administrator and lead developer of Rel. Email me at dave@armchair.mb.ca with the Subject 'TTM Forum'. Download Rel from https://reldb.org