Re: Flame Bait! Windows vs: The Unices
From: John Doherty (jdoherty_at_nowhere.null.not)
Date: Mon, 19 Jan 2004 20:36:38 -0600
In article <400C1F30.4100AEE8@Sonnack.com>, Programmer Dude wrote:
> John Doherty wrote:
>>>> Here's your goal:
>>>> 1. Database server running on a remote machine.
>>>> 2. Application Documents with [...] queries against the DB.
>>>> 3. Application Document linked to the chart from #2.
>>>> 4. A user-friendly, read-only tool that allows users to create
>>>> their own queries against the db.
>>>> By "Application Document" I mean some file one can open in some
>>>> application that supports that file type. The ultimate goal is
>>>> that I can walk into a meeting, plug in my laptop, pull up that
>>>> #3 document and show people "to the instant" production data in
>>>> chart form.
> SIDEBAR: have the unices done anything with linking file types back
> to apps? I do like the Windows idea that I can "run" a *document*.
The operating system itself makes no assumptions about the contents of a
file based on its name, the way that DOS/Windows does, although there are
file managers that do: for example, on this machine, I can open a file
manager window into a directory, click a file with a ".pdf" extension, and
it is automatically opened in xpdf. If I preferred it to be opened in some
other PDF-capable app (say, ghostview), I could arrange for that in much
the same way as I would with Windows.
I have to ask, Chris -- have you actually seen and used any recent free
unix system? I read this group much more than I post to it, and have read
enough of your posts over the past few years to consider you a generally
inquisitive guy who would probably enjoy trying one or more of them out.
I think you'd find that it was interesting and fun.
> The question I'm asking is simply: Can the unices MEET this very
> basic business need? It *appears* (so far) the answer is: No.
I think it's safe to say that a Windows solution to this sort of thing
will be more integrated -- after all, as I mentioned, Microsoft has spent
literally billions of dollars seeing to it that it's as integrated as
they can make it.
> (Although I think you've come fairly close!)
I'm glad that you think so, but of course, what I described is little more
than an overview of a proof of concept. My intent, though, was just to
give you an idea of how it might be possibly be done, so I'm pleased if
you think I succeeded in that.
>> I see there's a python module called py-chart, which makes line,
>> bar, range-fill, and pie charts in EPS, PDF, PNG, and SVG format.
>> I've never used it, but for the sake of argument, let's assume it
> I wonder, too, how easy it is to tweak those charts to get the exact
> effect one wants
I don't know. I don't always find it easy to get the exact results I want
out of Excel's charting tools, either, and usually create charts in Adobe
Illustrator, where I have much better control over the results.
>> With those tools, the "application document" could be nothing more
>> than a shell script that issues a canned query against the
>> database, pipes that output to a python program that produces the
>> chart, and displays the just-produced chart in a graphics viewer.
> So,... I need a special script, python resident (do I recall some
> unices are shipping with python?)
It's not part of the default install on any I'm familiar with, but it's
generally easy to acquire and install. For example, I use FreeBSD most, on
that platform, I can install it from the distribution CD just by typing
> (Also, merely *opening* the PPT file updates the queries.)
In the same way, merely executing the shell script updates the data from
which the chart is generated.
> The setup I've described took me about 15 minutes to do my first
> "proof of concept" (which was fully usable).
Yes, but I think you were only able to do it so easily because you have
years of familiarity with the platform and applications you used to do it,
not because it's inherently easy. I'm a pretty smart guy, for example, and
have a general sense of what needs to be done here, but I have literally
never used PowerPoint in my life and would probably spend more than 15
minutes just figuring out how to use it at all, let alone connect it to a
>> If we did, then we could walk into a meeting, plug in a laptop,
>> and display a chart based on up-to-date data, and as stated,
>> that's the "ultimate goal."
> True, but we'd have a hard time sharing that with others.
Well, that would depend on who they are and what they use, right?. For
example, you'd have a hard time sharing your solution with me, because
believe it or not, I do not have a single machine that even has MS Office
>> But it does seem to me that if the problem above were refactored
>> a little, it could be solved in ways other than the Microsoft Way.
> I would agree, actually, but the solution wouldn't be nearly as
> elegant, flexible or simple.
Perhaps not, although I'll note that a PowerPoint presentation that's
linked to an Excel spreadsheet that executes a query against a SQL Server
or Access database, all glued together with Visual Basic (or however you
go about doing this) isn't exactly the picture of simplicity or elegance
in my mind, and that a five-line shell script could be seen as simpler and
> Or, to be blunt: useful.
Well, usefulness is in the eye of the beholder to an extent. Remember, if
you gave your PowerPoint document to me, I wouldn't be able to do a single
thing with it: it would be totally useless to me.
I'm not going to try to convince you that your company ought to throw out
Windows and replace it with unix: I'm sure Windows works well for the kinds
of things they use it for.
> I've shipped that PowerPoint to all project managers so they can monitor
> production data in real time from their desktops. Further, the PPT file
> alone gives them ZERO writeable access to the data, so there's no way they
> can mess anything up.
In my scheme, the shell script could log into the database as a user with
read-only access if that were desirable, so there's no real advantage
> Most importantly, they get ONE file
In my scheme, if we could assume the underlying tools were installed on
their machines (just as we have to assume that MS Office is installed in
your scheme), all we'd have to distribute is one shell script, so there's
no real big difference there, either.
Again, it's not my intent here to claim that Windows isn't good for this
sort of thing: it obviously is. I just wanted to give a little bit of an
idea of how the problem itself might be approached from a different angle
on a different platform, and that there's nothing inherent in the problem
itself that couldn't be solved in one way or another.