Sunday, January 6, 2013

Site Update

A new Quote of the Week, by two MIT professors, no less, was posted on the QUOTES page. If you believe the second paragraph, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Read the whole article that puts the hype in perspective for a reality check.

Apropos which, more validation of the deterioration of education:

Don't Let Math Pull the Wool Over Your Eyes

A new To Laugh or Cry? item was posted on the LAUGH/CRY? page. A good example of howone becomes a database professional.

3.Sima Ilic (via email): 
I had the opportunity to play with SIRA_PRISE for the past month or so and it's a fantastic TRDBMS. In my opinion it deserves to be mentioned as a TRDBMS software on DBDebunk.

To begin with, it's a TRDBMS:
- no NULLs
- no column or row ordering
- no nameless columns
- relationally complete language
- clean separation of logical and physical design
- has it's own physical storage mechanism, ie. does not rely on an SQL (R)DBMS

The rest is a matter of taste and I really liked it:

- unique attribute names in the entire database
- prefix notation for operators
- mandatory specification of type for literal value selectors
I'm ashamed to admit that I was unaware of it, but I have an excuse: I was out of the field during 2006-2010, when it was developed. Here's the designer's thoughts on it, but can't resist quoting the conclusion:
From doing this project, I have learned a couple of things that I would like to present as a conclusion to this small chapter :

- Contrary to common and popular belief, the relational model of data is indeed implementable. In full, without perversions, or ugly compromises and without any additions needed to suit users' data management needs.

- This holds in particular for the definition of database constraints of arbitrary complexity, which will allow DBMS users to effectively delegate to the DBMS the enforcement of every single business rule they have, without having to write down one single byte of (imperative) program code to achieve such enforcement.

- Management of temporal data (aka "historical data") is doable, and this without running into the "ugliness" of typical SQL-based systems trying to do exactly that (the most devastating characteristic of such solutions probably being the sheer textual length of the query expressions needed to get something out of the database, as well as of the constraint expressions viz. program code needed to prevent nonsense from getting into the database).

- Vertical decomposition in the logical design of the database is perfectly doable, provided your DBMS offers sufficient options in the area of the physical design of the database to design away (at the physical level, where it belongs) any possible devastating effects on the performance of the system. It should not come as a surprise that the second and third item in this list identify precisely the areas of data management where I believe SIRA_PRISE truly excels, and where the great potential lies for this system, or any other one that resembles it.

[1] If you think I must be quite some arrogant bastard to think I do better than what entire armies of programmers at the best-paying companies have been able to achieve, I can only respond with two observations : (a) those armies started developing more than 30 years ago, and have missed on all the additional knowledge and insight that has surfaced during the last decades (or they were not at freedom to implement new ideas because they were bound by backward compatibility issues and such), and (b) there is some truth too in the dictum that "one man can do in one day what two men can do in two" (and the count doesn't stop there).
Knowing Erwin, I know I can safely recommend that if you want to get a sense of what a TRDBMS looks like, you check it out. But be forwarned: you better be comfortable with  formalisms in general and relational algebra in particular (Erwin provides an introduction).

I have added SIRA_PRISE to the TRDBMS list on the home page.

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