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Mobile Ad-hoc Query Tool

May 19, 2015

Would you like to be able to create, save and run queries against a database from a mobile device?  I might have the answer for you.  InfinaDyne has a product called DB Freedom which is designed for the iPad which does this.

How do we get to run queries against a live database from a mobile device?  Well, it involves some tricky networking and security.  First off, it is your database that you want to access, so you need to run an access tool on your PC to get to it.  This access tool usually can run as a service in the background, so you will not even know it is there.  Even if your company has a firewall in place to prevent such things, DB Freedom’s PC component will likely be able to be used – the iPad does not connect directly to your PC.

The iPad app will function with current iOS versions and is pretty simple to use.  It allows quite a bit of flexibility in terms of selecting and formatting output and uses a strongly guided approach towards building queries.  Of course, there are limitations to what the query builder can do and what sorts of things can be done with the whole system but overall I think you will find that it is possible to do a huge amount within the limits that are there.

Mostly, this app is self-explanatory.  You pick a database and it shows the tables that are contained within it.  From there you can choose multiple tables and specify the relationships between the tables (which is remembered) and then choose from the list of columns that are then exposed.  You can then specify formatting for the columns, change the column order and decide to prompt for one or more items to control the selection.

This means that you can define a query to prompt for a part of a name and it will do so whenever that query is invoked.  It is all pretty simple to use and makes getting the information you are interested in quick and easy.  From the results that are displayed you can copy the contents and paste it into other apps or messages.

Because this is all done from a live database and not a cached snapshot there is no requirement for synchronizing or limits based on the amount of storage available on the iPad.  Large results sets can take up memory on the iPad which may require you to terminate other running apps if you are going to try to do something that returns 500 or 1000 results.  Also, because this is all happening over the network doing this with an older iPad that doesn’t have a 4G cell modem may be somewhat slow.  Certainly if you are going to retrieve large results sets you want to be on a Wi-Fi connection.

The data that moves between your database and the iPad is encrypted for security.  This allows you to use this on open Wi-Fi networks without concern for other users “eavesdropping” on your connection.

The iPad app is free… sort of.  You get five saved queries when you install it and if you want to save more than that you need to purchase additional save “slots”.  This app has been tested on iPad models 2, 3, Air and Air 2 and performs well on all of them.

What kinds of things can you do with this?  Well, one of the things that I have set up is a query to show recent sales recorded in our customer database.  It shows a list of recent purchases and tapping on one of them will then show the details of a sale.  This sort of list-detail navigation is built into the structure of DB Freedom.

Today DB Freedom is available for the iPad only, but if there is substantial interest in this adding Android tablet support is certainly something that will be coming along.  You will find mention of an “Enterprise Edition” and this is something that is also planned for the future.  Right now, one PC running the connector application is required for each iPad being used.

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