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MIS Systems Thread, School MIS Systems in Technical; Originally Posted by matt40k I guess I could hacksaw the roof off... would that count? Do i need to download ...
  1. #91

    vikpaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by matt40k View Post
    I guess I could hacksaw the roof off... would that count?
    Do i need to download a patch to licence it after...?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    Some interesting suggestions ... and for a number of areas seems like a good move. However, I am a bit unsure of the support / development of it though. What happens when exam boards change things around? What happens when the Govt change which data needs collecting? What happens when, on those lovely Wednesday mornings in the summer when exam results are pulled down and *IT JUST DOESN'T WORK* and someone has to fix it ...

    .....
    seriously, what if there is a freeze on changes...? BECTA reports on School MIS and value for money 2010

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    Quote Originally Posted by scholarpack View Post
    Mike, doesn't the software you are developing exist because of problems with existing MIS suppliers? Schools have a need for it because their MIS doesn't do it. In an ideal solution, there would be no 'other sources' because all data would be in a central place and reportable exactly as you like.
    What we have been working on for nearly nine years evolved from work that we used to do as school improvement advisers and from Ofsted inspection work. It wasn't developed because of any perceived difficiencies in the operation of school information management systems, it is just that that is where the data we need is held.

    Theoretically, a set of data, once it is coupled with other data, can then be used in numerous ways. Our niche is using data for school evaluation and improvement. Having opened this particular door we can see many more possibilities for new features to help school leaders in their work. School users are suggesting ideas constantly and we already have a list to keep us busy through next year. It doesn't feel terribly logical to suggest that all this new functionality would or could appear under an existing licence for an MIS product, which is why I keep being surprised to see this view expressed in what is a lively, sensible and informative thread.

    As to an OSS MIS I wish developers well with this model. I hope too that you will ensure full data integration with what already exisits so that people can mix and match the best of what is available.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikpaw View Post
    seriously, what if there is a freeze on changes...? BECTA reports on School MIS and value for money 2010
    Since when has a change freeze stopped the exam boards messing things up?

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    Since when has a change freeze stopped the exam boards messing things up?
    Sounds like the Israeli government!

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    Quote Originally Posted by scholarpack View Post

    We are serious about providing an MIS to challenge the major players and I know it's going to take time but this isn't a sideline project, we've been in development for several years and have a small team working full time, as well as private investors. Funding isn't the problem, it's getting things right before we go all out on marketing to schools. Training programmes, manuals etc - we realise these are important. Release early, release often doesn't apply here!
    I think it's brilliant that you are having a go at an OS MIS and I really hope you do well with it. We are also working towards that end, though with an open access solution rather than an OS one. People probably think we're just tilting at windmills and that we've no chance against the big players; but, hey, nothing ventured ...




    Quote Originally Posted by scholarpack View Post
    Umm, what is a 'web based database'?
    Sorry, sloppy terminology. I meant the db is not held in school, it out there 'in the cloud'

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    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    Excuse my ignorance - but is that not the easy part? SQL is quiet a powerful API and designing RDB's is not exactly rocket science.
    Designing an RDB may not be rocket science, designing one that accommodates all the requirements of a full MIS comes pretty close.

    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    Indeed from what I can tell SIMS RDB is quiet well structured.
    It isn't
    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    If you understand the table relationships and field naming conventions then you're pretty much there.
    If only it were that simple!

    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    The GUI, IMHO, is the hard part and I'm willing to bet that 99.9% of the complaints with SIMS/Serco/etc is with the GUI and what features it exposes and not the underlying database? "Simply Recode the Frontend" is quite frankly waiting I'm paying Capita for at the moment.
    no, you misunderstand the model. The front end is relatively simple stuff. The hard bit, as you point out, is getting that to read and write to and from the db. What you need for that is a tricksy little API which does all the communication for you. There is no direct connection between the GUI and the SQL db.
    Last edited by EdWhittaker; 1st November 2010 at 05:38 PM. Reason: additional content

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdWhittaker View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35
    Indeed from what I can tell SIMS RDB is quiet well structured.
    It isn't
    Could you add some meat to this statement? I'm interested in how you think they, a large software company who's being doing it for a number of years, could have done it better.

    Am I correct in thinking your on about releasing a opensource database, which would only be hosted, for a fee, which people\companies could build apps that link into it (for free)?

    Sorry, having problems understanding as I keep thinking your re-inventing the wheel. Be interesting to see what you've created and how it compares.

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    an open access solution
    There are APIs and there are APIs. For instance, would it be implemented as a dotNet library or something more arcane/geeky?

    There is no direct connection between the GUI and the SQL db.
    Mmm.. my off-the-cuff multi-tier architecture I didn't bother posting several eons ago in this thread wouldn't do that either.

    I'm interested in how you think they, a large software company who's being doing it for a number of years, could have done it better.
    I guess you have to have been in s/w dev to appreciate this: Smart people who work in s/w can always point at truckloads of stuff that could be done better.. a lot of software has evolved organically, slowly over time which is punctuated by rushed deadlines... you end up with code containing naff compromises, legacy support, new bits patched on that don't really suit the underlying architecture.
    Last edited by PiqueABoo; 1st November 2010 at 08:57 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdWhittaker View Post
    no, you misunderstand the model.
    I think you are certainly correct there

    The front end is relatively simple stuff. The hard bit, as you point out, is getting that to read and write to and from the db. What you need for that is a tricksy little API which does all the communication for you. There is no direct connection between the GUI and the SQL db.
    Again, pleading ignorance, but is SQL (the language) not a perfectly usable database API? Will another API setting above that really help? If the DB is well structured and documented what more do you need to produce your own GUI on to of that?

    (note I stopped doing software development a long time ago, my nieve questions above probably highlight way )

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdWhittaker View Post
    It isn't
    Quote Originally Posted by matt40k View Post
    Could you add some meat to this statement? I'm interested in how you think they, a large software company who's being doing it for a number of years, could have done it better.
    Lack of normalisation for one. Lack of sensible naming conventions. Lack of strong data typing in many areas (phone numbers, for example). Masses of legacy structures existing. Some data is spread across seemingly unrelated tables. etc... etc...

    There is a great deal wrong with the SIMS DB schema. However, a lot of it is completely understandable as it exists as a progressing product, with massive amounts of legacy support requirements. Think of it like OS X Leopard. There is all sorts of legacy support in that OS, such as Rosetta for PPC apps. What Capita needs to be able to do at some time is what Apple did with OS X Snow Leopard, cutting out a good amount of the legacy stuff, and tidying up the system.

  11. 2 Thanks to localzuk:

    EdWhittaker (2nd November 2010), matt40k (2nd November 2010)

  12. #101

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    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    Again, pleading ignorance, but is SQL (the language) not a perfectly usable database API? Will another API setting above that really help? If the DB is well structured and documented what more do you need to produce your own GUI on to of that?

    (note I stopped doing software development a long time ago, my nieve questions above probably highlight way )
    Interacting directly with a database which will change structure over time is a Bad Idea TM. It leads to a situation where the client could end up accessing incorrect data due to the structure having changed. Doing it via a intermediary API system means that the API can stay the same, but the underlying SQL commands may change within the API layer.

    This is why, personally, I do all data access with applications via web services of one form of another in my own software now. It means I can change the DB, and the underlying database access code to my hearts content without affecting the applications using it.

  13. 3 Thanks to localzuk:

    EdWhittaker (2nd November 2010), matt40k (2nd November 2010), tmcd35 (2nd November 2010)

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    @matt40k and tmcd35

    I think your points have been addressed quite well in the above posts (thanks, localzuc).

    At the end of the day, like Scholarpack, we're just trying to make a difference. The market needs opening out and there needs to be some innovation and competition. Somebody needs to start putting the requirements of schools before those of shareholders. If people don't like what we come up with then I'm sure they won't use it - which is fair enough.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jinnantonnix View Post
    (addresses and contact details - same addresses stored multiples times, anyone?)
    Oh god yes!

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    The idea of whether some sort of layer between the DB and the GUI - an Object Relational Mapper (ORM) is best for these types of applications is a debate that has gone on for years.

    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    Again, pleading ignorance, but is SQL (the language) not a perfectly usable database API? Will another API setting above that really help? If the DB is well structured and documented what more do you need to produce your own GUI on to of that?
    I think it's perfectly usable in this situation and any sort of extra layer on top of that is

    a) complicating matters more than they need to be
    b) gonna slow things down in an application which already lugs large amounts of data about

    I can't help thinking abstracting yourself from the db level is only going to end up in pain somewhere down the line...

    Quite a detailed article here.

  18. Thanks to scholarpack from:

    tmcd35 (2nd November 2010)

  19. #105

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    Quote Originally Posted by scholarpack View Post
    The idea of whether some sort of layer between the DB and the GUI - an Object Relational Mapper (ORM) is best for these types of applications is a debate that has gone on for years.



    I think it's perfectly usable in this situation and any sort of extra layer on top of that is

    a) complicating matters more than they need to be
    b) gonna slow things down in an application which already lugs large amounts of data about

    I can't help thinking abstracting yourself from the db level is only going to end up in pain somewhere down the line...

    Quite a detailed article here.
    What happens when you decide that you no longer like MySQL for example, and want to switch to postgreSQL? Or when you decide to use No-SQL instead? Or whatever new technology comes out?

    Every single client application will have to rewrite their database interaction code. With ORM, you have a buffer - and as a provider you're able to change the database as much as you wish without affecting the clients.

    Imagine if twitter required all its clients to change the way they work fundamentally every time they made any changes? Or facebook? It just wouldn't work. ORM isn't a choice, it is a necessity plain and simple if you want to allow more than 1 client application to connect.

  20. 3 Thanks to localzuk:

    Ethain (3rd November 2010), matt40k (2nd November 2010), PhilNeal (2nd November 2010)

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