Prototyping applications with Airtable

Gotta say: using spreadsheet as poor-man’s database makes me feel poor every time. Google Sheets is so convenient that everybody starts a new sheet to hold some information in a table. The problem is, sheets are so convenient that some sheets keep on starting again, and again. Soon the company has 20 sheets holding bad information. It’s the tragedy of the corporate wikis all over again.

Instead I’m one of the few who used to love Microsoft Access: I know, it’s bad as a database but to rapidly prototyping small applications it was awesome. As a poor-mans database, Access was at least credit-worthy compared to spreadsheets.

Unfortunately Google doesn’t have something similar to MS Access so when I discovered Airtable, I got really happy. I’ve prototyped a small application to keep track of conferences and call for papers. Finally I don’t have to keep entering the same data every year in a new sheet and I can keep tables in fairly normalized form. Nice stuff. I wish Google Apps buys it … and the cynical in me says: “so we can have dozens of similar databases instead of hundreds of similar spreadsheets (the same tragedy, at a smaller scale).”

Datamining apache logs with NeoOffice

As Funambol community manager, one of my duties is to know such community. It sounds simple, but since lots of software is involved to gather this knowledge things get less simple. I need to dive into apache logs and I decided to use my good old friend Postgresql. If I could, I would put everything in a database 🙂 The problem is that I also need to rapidly prototype reports to transform data into information for the board. To start navigating the data, I first followed this nice tutorial to load apache logs in PostgreSQL. Connecting the database to NeoOffice was more difficult, mainly because there is no native PostgreSQL driver in NeoOffice and PSQL JDBC page is confusing. Anyway, after trial and error, I found out that on Leopard OS X 10.5 you need JDBC3 for your PSQL version 8.3 (I used the dmg packages). To install the driver I followed the instructions provided here. Now I can start diving in the logs and prepare some reports. The board will be happy soon and I’m glad I’m on my way to better knowledge of this community too.