OO Base has serious critical issues...

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emarkay emarkay
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OO Base has serious critical issues...

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I don't have a lot of time to rehash all the details in these old issues, but recently, I gave up again trying to use it.

Since about 2006, I have tried to get Base to work as a database - simple as that - in Linux. The last time, I had to get some Java programs to get the basic HQSL to function, but then I had another layer of issues about "non-nullables", and I gave up again.  All I really wanted was to put my address book into a database!

As anyone can see by the many posts on the OO messageboard (listed below), there are some serious flaws in the usability and documentation of this program, and it still can not (for me at least) even replace 1987's dBaseII for DOS! For reference, the other links are what limited references I gathered to try to make sense of Base - to no avail.

http://www.oooforum.org/forum/viewtopic.phtml?p=396523#396523
http://www.oooforum.org/forum/viewtopic.phtml?t=25060
http://inpics.net/tutorials/base2/basics63.html
http://sheepdogguides.com/fdb/fdb1main.htm
http://www.pitonyak.org/database/
http://inpics.net/base.html
http://www.kaaredyret.dk/openoffice_links.html
http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Base

Let's get the database part of LO correct, this time, finally, so it can be a "drop-in" for, at least, an old Ashton-Tate product, and maybe, just maybe, for a current Microsoft one, too?

Thank you!
MRK
LO version as updated via PPA - Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (& Windows XP-SP3) - (1) 2.8 G/2G RAM/ATI HD2600,512VRAM/SIS AC97 OB Audio (2) 2.9 G/3G RAM/NVIDIA 9500GT,1024VRAM/SB AudigySE Audio (3) 2.3 G/2G RAM/NVIDIA FX1500M,256VRAM/Sigmatel HD Audio
Alex Thurgood Alex Thurgood
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Re: OO Base has serious critical issues...

Le 06/02/11 05:04, emarkay a écrit :


Hi,

> Let's get the database part of LO correct, this time, finally, so it can be
> a "drop-in" for, at least, an old Ashton-Tate product, and maybe, just
> maybe, for a current Microsoft one, too?
>


I fear that unless a greater number of db specialised programmers come
on board, then your wish is not going to be fulfilled. :-/ It was hard
enough within Sun/Oracle, with the small team that was there -
considering their lack of resources they did a pretty good job !


Alex


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Andreas Säger Andreas Säger
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Re: OO Base has serious critical issues...

In reply to this post by emarkay
A warm welcome to all frustrated Base users,

IMHO, LibreOffice should cut off embedded HSQLDB, together with the idea
of a "database document" and all the useless wizards.
- After 6 years the embedded database is badly known as data eraser.
- The table wizard does not help to build a database. It may save a few
clicks when building dysfunctional nonsense.
- After 6 years of development the table designer still lacks dynamic
defaults and constraints that are available on the "command line"
(menu:Tools>SQL).
- The query wizard and its parser supports baby SQL only. As soon as
field functions come into play it becomes counter productive. Sometimes
it turns valid SQL into invalid or dysfunctional SQL.
- The form wizard can not map relations to forms and controls. It never
creates any list box, which is the key element to access foreign keys.
- Each new version, even bug fix release, raises new issues and
regressions. I had to skip 3.2 and 3.2.1 and update from 3.1.1 to 3.3
because 3.2 and 3.2.1 had issues which rendered some of my input forms
useless.
- Whenever some minor Java problem occurs, it most likely affects the
Base wizards and HSQLDB. Nevertheless, we can turn off Java and see that
we still have everything at hand to connect with non-Java databases,
build forms and pull data into documents.

What LibreOffice could do to make the whole thing work for really
advanced users and professionals while improving the current
functionality for most other users:
1. Go back to the database connectivity of version 1 where database
configuration was written into the office configuration. Basically this
means getting rid of database documents which cause so much anger and
confusion among office users who can not understand why they should
"convert" their spreadsheets to databases before they can do a mail
merge. Users really hate this "conversion" which actually is a about
linking. The mail merge wizard can hide that annoying "database
document" but the file manager won't. As soon as there is a problem or
demand for tweaking the data source you are confronted with that obscure
"database document" that does not keep any data (well, it's a
configuration file isn't it?).

2. Make connectivity actually *work*. There are far too many problems
related to standard interfaces ODBC and JDBC. Some built-in SDBC drivers
are of bad quality. Using csv in all components could be so much easier
if the text driver would be a little bit more advanced. LDAP crashes
LibO. Forms work with one type of connection but not with another one.
Sometimes an easily accessible configuation file would be more helpful
than a GUI dialog which never reflects all the driver options. I
consider the new driver extensions as a step towards better connectivity.

3. Drop some of the wizards for the above mentioned reasons. Database
design is development work since the result is aimed to a supposed end
user. It makes no sense to create fool proof design tools when - for the
benefit of the end user - the designer must not be a fool. The current
wizards for forms and tables do not help anyone. It may save me a few
clicks when I know how to reorganize the result I had already in mind
before starting the wizard. Many others are lost with bad table design
and dysfunctional queries when they finally are trying to to fix the
spoiled basement by means of incredibly complex forms and Basic code.

4. Instead of database documents, OOo should offer distributable
front-end packages. The current document with embedded HSQLDB behaves
like an extension anyway. It installs a HSQLDB into a temporary
directory every time you open the document and it repackages the
extension when you close the document. It happens far too often that the
whole HSQLDB gets lost when anything goes wrong while (un-)zipping the
database.
A distributable front-end package would merge its configuration with the
user profile, drop forms and reports to the local file system and
register the whole thing in the office (just like OOo 1.x did). The
separate database back-end remains in place offering 100% of its
functionality, performance, safety and security (if connectivity is not
an issue anymore). Forms and reports can be loaded from each other by
means of simple hyperlinks. At some point most of today's Base
developers spend hours to get rid of the Base window one way or the other.

Since version 1.1 I use databases together with spreadsheets and form
letters. Since 2004 our private cash journal is still the same old dBase
file dynamically linked to data pilots and charts. I am capable to use
Base as a fronted to some existing database back-end given that the
back-end follows certain design rules. I'm not picky when working things
are not as fine polished as in other front-ends.
I also managed to worked with a fairly complex embedded HSQLDB. It took
2 weekends of development time and we used it for 18 months with tiny
changes in form design but 20,000 records in 12 interrelated tables.
For me and my wife the Base component turned out to be the most useful
office component as soon as I had learned how to work around bugs,
limitations and bypassing most of the "features" as well. I avoid the
wizards. I avoid the SQL parser and most macros. I use plain SQL
wherever I can in order to get correctly working queries. I use the tool
bars to draw fairly usable rather than "perfect" forms. I use Calc or
the plain old report wizard for clear reports rather than beautiful
ones. I use the report designer extension every now and then when I need
to show off a little.
 From external databases with stand-alone form documents and direct SQL
I get best results and more freedom with less scripting. The Base
related parts of the API are even more seriously broken than anything
else. I won't expand on that.

This is how I see the role of database connectivity in office suites:
OpenOffice.org used to be focussed on the ODF document standard.
Databases can "fill out" parts of documents while input forms are most
useful when they can be bound to some storage rather than being on
round-trip as documents.
The databases by themselves have nothing to with documents. Therefore
Base seems to be technically overstretched because it tries to look like
another document format without being able to hide away the fact that it
is just a (sloppy) container format for documents, data storage and
configuration.
All the Base tools for back-end creation are known to be insufficient.
There are plenty of mature and free database tools tailored to the
different types of databases. LibreOffice is not obliged to do this part
as well. Just like any code editor is better than our Basic editor, most
of the generic SQL editors and composers outperform the infamous query
designer.

Too much development time has been wasted for foolish gimmicks and a
counter productive container format on top of the extremely useful
database connectivity.
Apart from confusion and high risk of total data loss the "database
document" has nothing to offer to the average user while many "power
users" try to leave behind the "database document" when they leave
behind the first drafts of a project. The support forums and lists are
full of solutions which effectively work around Base.

Thank you for reading,
Andreas Säger


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emarkay emarkay
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Re: OO Base has serious critical issues...

In reply to this post by Alex Thurgood
Wow, well maybe they should just rename this thing to "LibreWrite"...

Seriously, I ask that those  who have some authority consider the following:

Since the concept of an "Office Suite" is just that (and, regardless of the competition) and since some parts of this Suite work better than others, that resources be redistributed fully to concentrate development, design, documentation and diagnostics to the main applications of this Suite that do not function.

While some parts  may get less use, and therefore have less "complaints in the field", someone at the Documentation Foundation needs to instigate a"usability study " to statistically determine what segments of the Suite do not function "out of the box", and even moreso, do not function comparitibely against "the competiton".

As I see it, a temporary halt to (for example) Writer debugging may pay figurative dividends for the entire LibreOffice.
LO version as updated via PPA - Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (& Windows XP-SP3) - (1) 2.8 G/2G RAM/ATI HD2600,512VRAM/SIS AC97 OB Audio (2) 2.9 G/3G RAM/NVIDIA 9500GT,1024VRAM/SB AudigySE Audio (3) 2.3 G/2G RAM/NVIDIA FX1500M,256VRAM/Sigmatel HD Audio
emarkay emarkay
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Re: OO Base has serious critical issues...

In reply to this post by Andreas Säger
Andreas,

Thank you for your time and comments.  The world, and more specifically, The Documentation Foundation needs more people like you who are willing to take the time to constructively elaborate in issues you are both familiar with and are frustrated by.

I have always said to leave the "dog and pony shows" to the circus rings; software should fix all bugs first before adding features and enhancements.  

It's even sadder then, when untested ideas that an Engineer, a CEO, or a Supreme Leader feels some "feature" is "so cool we have to add it to the program", without user declarations of need or user suggestions of implementation.  (Isn't that the goal of true FOSS anyway?).  Or, more close to home, when something gains user acceptance even though it is fundamentally flawed; imagine the wasted time that could have been used for improvements that instead, are just used for jerry-rigged kludges to get useful data; by developers and users!

Thanks again for your comments and I do hope that they are evaluated and, even if not directly implemented, are used as serious thought by those "in charge" to guide in getting Base usable.

MRK

LO version as updated via PPA - Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (& Windows XP-SP3) - (1) 2.8 G/2G RAM/ATI HD2600,512VRAM/SIS AC97 OB Audio (2) 2.9 G/3G RAM/NVIDIA 9500GT,1024VRAM/SB AudigySE Audio (3) 2.3 G/2G RAM/NVIDIA FX1500M,256VRAM/Sigmatel HD Audio
Alex Thurgood Alex Thurgood
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Re: OO Base has serious critical issues...

Le 07/02/11 18:48, emarkay a écrit :

Hi Guys,

As far as I know, and I'm willing to stand corrected, there are
currently no db specific coders / developers involved in the source code
of the project, so unless someone steps up to the plate, very little
will change in the near future.

Alex



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toki toki
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Re: OO Base has serious critical issues...

In reply to this post by Andreas Säger
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On 02/07/2011 04:37 PM, Andreas Säger wrote:

> IMHO, LibreOffice should cut off embedded HSQLDB,

I never understood the rational for using HDSQLdb as the database engine.

> All the Base tools for back-end creation are known to be insufficient.
> There are plenty of mature and free database tools tailored to the
> different types of databases. LibreOffice is not obliged to do this part
> as well. Just like any code editor is better than our Basic editor, most
> of the generic SQL editors and composers outperform the infamous query
> designer.

OOo needed something more substantial than the built in dbase 3 clone
that it included, to compete with MS Access.

So in came HDSQLdb.  And what was promptly forgotten was a front end
that non-database programmers could understand.

And that is still the biggest problem with the database component of
LibO. Database programmers hate it, because it has so many bugs.
Non-database programmers hate it, because nothing is understandable
without learning how to program databases.

###

Base development should be:
* Scrap HDSQLdb;
* Retain the built in dBase 3 clone;
* Add SQLite;
* Write two front-ends:
# Front end # 1: This is a "simple" front end, that doesn't use SQL.
This front end is for people who need a database, but neither know, nor
care about the difference between a database field, and normalization of
a database;
# Front end # 2: This uses SQL. This front end is designed for power
users of databases;

jonathon
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Steven Shelton Steven Shelton
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Re: OO Base has serious critical issues...

In reply to this post by Andreas Säger
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On 2/7/2011 11:37 AM, Andreas Säger wrote:
> > A warm welcome to all frustrated Base users,
> >
> > IMHO, LibreOffice should cut off embedded HSQLDB, together with
> > the idea of a "database document" and all the useless wizards.

Let me take the opposite side of this to some extent.

I run a law office and have developed a case management database using
the built-in functionality of hsqldb and it works great. I've been
using it for five years now with no major problems (and the problems
that I did have were due to my relative newness to database work). As
a somewhat entry-level database user, I greatly appreciate Base. In
fact, it's one of the main reasons I've used OOo/LibO over other
packages.

Is it limited? It absolutely is. But it's still the easiest DB to use
that I've been able to find without having to spend a ton of time
studying SQL. I've been able to do everything with the forms, with
only minor SQL alterations that I've been able to glean from various
sources (like the OOOforum website).

I haven't encountered any problems that I can recall with data being
erased, or problems with the files becoming corrupted upon being
rezipped. That's not something I've heard much about from other
people, either.

There's no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater; it's my
understanding that advanced users can set up mySQL or PostgreSQL or
virtually any other database they want and connect to them with OOo as
the front end (although the connectivity could be better). Entry-level
users (such as myself) depend on HSQLDB and the forms and wizards to
create solutions that work without spending a ton of time and/or money
to get the job done. I would never have been able to figure out how to
set up a mySQL database, let alone figure out how to transfer the data
from my computer at my office to my computer at home.

And, yes, I also had to skip OOo 3.2 for the reasons you mention (in
fact, I think I was the first one to report that particular bug), but
I believe those issues have been fixed in OOo 3.3 and Libo 3.3.

That's not to say I don't agree with a lot of what you say. I'd like
the table designer to have more options, I'd like to be able to do
mail merges from spreadsheets (I'd like that a LOT, actually), I'd
like it if relationships were easier to define, and so on. Absolutely.
But I spent years looking for a self-contained, portable database like
Base (the old Microsoft Works database was the closest I could find,
and it was horrible), and I've been very happy with OOo/LibO's
integration.


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emarkay emarkay
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Re: OO Base has serious critical issues...

I had no idea that there was anything left of DBII/DBIII - I lived that program!  

Also regarding Base, see:
http://nabble.documentfoundation.org/Frustrated-Base-Users-Errors-in-Base-3-3-OO-3-2-work-beautifully-td2451377.html

Steven, glad you have been able to make it work; you appear, as I have read above and elsewhere, to be either lucky or highly skilled in this endeavor.

Believe me, I have been using PC's since before PC's (Apple II) and every time I decided to "try again" and get a 25 name address list into a database in OO, it failed me.  Yes, I had assistance online, and many (sometimes conflicting, most outdated) references (some posted above)

Personally I care not what's under the hood, because anyone who can read a manual can get under the hood.  But if you can't find the keyhole, and then when you do, you find your key doesn't fit...

Someone needs to get this on the "main agenda" at the DF; either devote immediate resources to make this work "out of the box", to add some sort of enhanced UI or "shell"  or a set of up-to-date, officially created tutorials, or as I noted before, abandon it completely (leave it a blank space or negotiate to acquire an existing database application and rebrand it).
LO version as updated via PPA - Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (& Windows XP-SP3) - (1) 2.8 G/2G RAM/ATI HD2600,512VRAM/SIS AC97 OB Audio (2) 2.9 G/3G RAM/NVIDIA 9500GT,1024VRAM/SB AudigySE Audio (3) 2.3 G/2G RAM/NVIDIA FX1500M,256VRAM/Sigmatel HD Audio