Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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 Alpha Five, V6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Club Express

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Site 59

 

 

eBay Global

October 2004, Week 2-- Keeping Track
 

   We're going to start out by looking at two databases that can be posted to the web, one aimed at business, the other at social clubs.

   The first thing you might ponder is why anyone would want to post a database to the web. We're glad you asked that question. It's like this:

   If you have a business and the customer database were posted to the web, then the customers could enter changes in their address and phone information themselves, and you wouldn't go nuts trying to figure out where and when they moved. The customers could also view their own invoices, so they don't have the excuse of telling you they lost the invoice, or it never arrived.

   If it were a database designed for your own employees, they could log onto the web and find out how much ready inventory you have in any of your products; they could also find out the current status of any project underway. These are just a couple of examples that spring to mind; there could be a hundred others.

   Now we know what you're thinking, that anyone could go in there and type in any changes they want and mess up the whole database. Well they would have to the proper password, you see. And some people would have passwords that provided access to just some parts of the database and a few people would be able to access any part. And the next thing you're thinking is what a lot of work it would be to set up all these database categories and forms and access codes. Well it wouldn't be, because Alpha Five has ready-made templates for doing those things.

   Ah, Alpha Five. Over the years this has been our favorite database program. Not the biggest, not the smallest, but just right. Version 6 just came out and it can now be posted to the web and let's you do all the things we mentioned above. This thing is a hummer: Type in a zip code and it automatically fills out the town and state. Type a company or personal name and it automatically capitalizes the first letters. It can calculate sums and percentages, etc. It has several dozen other features as well, but we don't have room for everything.

   This is the easiest large database we have ever used. Unlike nearly all others, no programming is required. The user selects a number of choices from menus and the program then creates a database that contains those elements. You can go right down to selecting the color of the data fields. Security features let you keep credit card, medical and other sensitive information unavailable except to those with the proper passwords. Then it creates your web site and you can post the whole thing.

   A single user version of Alpha Five, version 6, lists for $349; the server version is $699. You need both if you're going to post your database on the web. It is compact enough to run on an older Windows computer that doesn't have the latest operating system or lots of memory. In fact that can act as a server and still be used to run other programs. There's lots more information and a free trial at www.alphafive.com.

    If you have a club or church or special interest group, you might want to leave the driving to someone else. A guy in Chicago who belongs to a Morgan car club (by golly, we used to have a Morgan too) has designed a web database for groups. Members can change their personal information to keep it up to date and view upcoming events, meetings, etc., for a fairly nominal fee.

   There is an initial cost of $150 to set up the database on a web site and then 40 cents per member per month. That works out to $4.80 a year, which is okay for a small group, but the Woman's Club that Joy belongs to has over 400 members and that would come to $160 a month, almost $2,000 a year; the club wouldn't stand for that. So you and your own group has to decide whether this is worth it or not. A free 60-day trial is available at the database web site: www.clubexpress.com.

Internuts

-- www.obit.com Around 300 obituaries here, covering an eclectic collection of people of note. Some are fairly recent, like Forrest Mars, owner of America's largest candy company. Others are a ways back, like Jane Austen. We're a fan of obituaries, and if you are too, there's a great collection from the New York Times in "The Obituary Book." Check out the one for Philadelphia's "Father Divine."
-- www.bootdisk.com Let's you make a bootable CD for Windows, DOS or Linux computers. This is a nice thing to have since many new computers no longer have a drive for floppy disks.
-- www.yourdiseaserisk.harvard.edu Click on a risk: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, etc. The site will then provide a series of questions designed to estimate your risk and makes suggestions to lower that risk. Hypochondriacs are welcome here.
-- www.site59.com Last-minute travel packages offered at deep discounts. If you're willing to go with the flow, on short notice, they're got a deal for you. Unlike other travel sites, you don't have to select where or when you want to go before looking at the deals.

Books

   "eBay Global, the Smart Way," by Sinclair and Ubels; $20, Amacon Books www.amacombooks.com.

  How to increase your sales and profits when selling to an international market through eBay. Approximately one-third of eBay transactions occur outside the United States, so this is worth considering.

NOTE: Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com and Joy Schwabach at joydee@oncomp.com.