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February 2009
March 2009

2009-02-27 »


Now that I've done a presentation at StartupCampWaterloo, which was recorded (presumably to show up on the Internet sometime), and I've been accepted to do it again at DemoCampGuelph8 next week, I guess the cat's out of the bag.

EQL=Data is a project that we've been working on for a little while. The concept is simple: easy, one-click replication of your Microsoft Access databases between any users who have a copy of the same database file.

Why Microsoft Access? Good question! Because: - it's used by (at least) hundreds of thousands of people; - to this day, it remains the easiest way in the world to create a database-driven app, as far as I know; - it's severely underserved as an application platform. Even Microsoft seems more like they're trying to kill it than support it.

Now, in fact, Microsoft Access already includes a "replication" feature that reputedly works fairly well. However, "fairly well" has quite a lot of stipulations, including the fact that you either have to never, ever move the "replication master" file from one place to another, and you have to sync either on a LAN via Windows file sharing (samba) protocol or by installing a weird server and opening ports on your firewall, and it's slow.

The short version is that almost nobody uses Access replication because it's too complicated.

So with EQL=Data, you can replicate your Access databases all around, with no need for weird firewall settings, no reliance on a central fileserver, and access from anywhere on the Internet. Your copy of the database continues to work (both readable and writable) even if you're offline.

But here's the weird thing:

Nobody really cares about that.

I mean, they all think it's cool, but it doesn't grab anyone's attention. Perhaps because a UI consisting of a single pushbutton isn't really all that exciting.

What people actually seem to care about is that when you sync your data to our servers and back, our server keeps a copy under version control, imports it into a sqlite database, and lets you search/browse it (read only) on the web.

Apparently, people would absolutely love to be able to maintain their data in Access, then publish it automatically (without any programming) to the web. This is a Big Thing. Product lists, price lists, reseller lists, and so on. They change constantly, and you want to edit them in a Windows UI, and you can't afford to hire programmers, but you'd really like to see them on the web.

Okay, we can do that:

In fact, I'd show you an example right now, but we're currently still in beta and the super-cool, AJAXy, searchable, queryable, linkable "embed this dynamic table in a web page" widget isn't quite ready for you yet. It will be pretty soon.

In the meantime, if you think this is remotely interesting, please visit our download/signup page and add yourself to the waiting list. It'll make me feel all squishy. You could also send me an email. Thanks!

Random side note

When you replicate your data to our server, it also gets backed up and revision controlled automatically using git. This was a pretty fun project, since it involved extracting useful stuff out of all-in-one binary database+code blobs and turning it into diffable/mergeable text. Version control of Access databases is also something Microsoft has already done, albeit in a startlingly half-assed way. Packaging git's user interface for the Microsoft Access demographic would be... challenging... so it's unclear how far we'll take the UI for this. Less is more, and all that.

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