I’m still planning to write some additional articles on Japan, specifically on Akihabara. Since pictures are always good, I’ve started to look through my backlog of trip photos. Unfortunately, organizing family pics have taken precedence. In the mean time I’m contemplating my first private programming project in a while.
I have a lot of comic books… when I stopped counting years ago I must’ve had around 3,000 by estimate. With many short boxes added in the last few years, the count should be over 3,500, maybe even 4,000. Since I’ve long stopped remembering comics by issue number or cover, I’ve turned to databases over the years to keep everything organized.
My first database was a card filing application call Atari Home Filing Manager on my Atari 800. It used a 3″x5″ index card metaphor and I entered a series on each line with issues numbers following. When my mom took me to comic conventions, I printed out the files and took a hard copy with me.
When I was in junior high, I got more serious and used Timeworks’ Data Manager on my Atari ST. I could dedicate whole records to a comic and set up the basic fields for information like title, publisher, issues owned, notable mission issues and so forth. As a side note, I really liked all of Timeworks software and used their Word Writer word processor into high school until I made the jump to Windows 3.0. The New York Times has an old article on Atari computers which mentions Timeworks.
My longest lasting database choice has been FileMaker Pro, starting with FileMaker Pro v2. I made a couple of updates over the years before settling on FileMaker Pro v6. One benefit of using FileMaker has been the availability of a Palm OS client, which I’ve used on various Palm compatible devices the last few years. My standard operating procedure has been to sync up my active comic list with my CLIE UX50 before attending a convention, make updates as new comics are added and then sync back. It works pretty well… except that it usually doesn’t remember who the FileMaker user name is requiring a reset before synchronizing. Since I’ve waited so long, upgrading pricing isn’t available but moving to a new version is a requirement if I were to get a more modern Palm. Since I’m undecided (or maybe slightly decided against) getting a new Palm, Treo or Centro, I’ve been looking at alternatives that would work with other devices.
There is comic book management software for the Mac OS. Many like xidiar Comics is issue oriented and not series oriented. This means I have to individually enter in each issue. If I was so inclined it’s actually a really nice piece of software with fields for every detail one needs on an issue. It’s also got a nice Mac-feeling UI. But there doesn’t seem to be any way to import / export the data. Others like Books are more flexible but also single issues / book oriented. And apps like Collectorz Comic Collector sound like they’d work but don’t have a Mac OS version. Gah!
Now I’m thinking just to write my own using MySQL with a PHP frontend. I’ve done some “hello world” PHP applications and there’s no shortage of PHP and MySQL how-to’s available. My database needs are simple. I can start with a flat table and expand to add a per issue table later on, which is how my FileMaker database is. One problem with most of the other solutions is that there’s no easy way to host on my provider, just import and export of data. With MySQL, it’s easy enough to create the tables on my hosting provider’s server and have them run there. With my database publicly available, I don’t need to sync with a handheld device. Of course… my next handheld device would need a readily available network connection to be useful. And, I’d have to figure out a solution if I wanted to have multiple copies of the database available, one on my laptop when I’m on the go and unconnected and one on the web where I can access it. Those discussions are for another time.