Tag Archives: database

Introducing AmpUp, a Cloud-Based Enterprise Platform

AmpUp logo

We have developed a web-centric database tool called “AmpUp” used for rapid development of enterprise systems. Born out of necessity for supporting our customers, AmpUp has successfully demonstrated that it reduces implementation efforts and budgets by more than 50%.

Conceptually, the AmpUp tool is a wrapper between an organization’s data and its website. By providing a number of  high-level enterprise system functions for database access, user security and web page generation, developers are now able to concentrate the bulk of their time on their customers’ unique requirements.

AmpUp follows the cloud paradigm of Platform as a Service (PaaS). This is where AmpUp’s functions are available to a public or private cloud and can be shared across several systems. For customers with more sensitive applications, AmpUp is available for installation on their private Intranet as well.

While there is more technical information about AmpUp on the DataPlex website, in this article we would like to focus on these four features:

  • Automatically taps into existing databases
  • Provides instantaneous web forms and reports
  • Enables static and dynamic field dropdown selection
  • Easily adds data record navigation controls

iPhone Development

DataPlex plans to offer some if its classic products for the Apple iPhone and iTouch. Over the past twenty years, DataPlex has provided a number of useful applications for mobile computing including Time Tracker, Mileage Logger, To Do List, Query Tool, and Easy Data Manager. While DataPlex’s exact offerings are still under wraps, long-time users of DataPlex DataKeepers (a custom handheld device built by DataPlex in the 1980′s and 1990′s) can expect the same high level of useful features and reliability.

Free Internet Node, Introduction – How to Set Up a Free Internet Node & Web Server

Hello and Welcome! My name is “The Tarnz,” administrator and blogger ordinaire for DataPlex.com, so please bear with me as I get things bootstrapped and organized. Feel free to make comments and I will respond when appropriate. (Thank you!)

Over the past couple of years, I have set up a node on the Internet equipped with a bunch of free services and technologies including:

  • web server
  • ftp server
  • email server
  • database engine
  • forum engine
  • blog publishing engine
  • PERL, PHP and other languages
  • a bunch of utility software tools

As you may imagine, I have been through a lot dealing with the hardware and so many software packages, so I thought I would share the experience and occasional challenges in case anyone else is geeky enough to set up their own free Internet Node.

Okay, maybe the node wasn’t completely free for the value of own efforts, the cost of any new domain name registrations, and the cost of a low-end Windows XP Home Desktop PC and, optional but highly recommended, a reliable Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS). But it sure beats paying $200 to $2,000 a year to an ISP for what can often be very bad hosting. Any problems and enhancements are solely my own.

Today the node has a fully functional multiple-domain web server, email server, ftp server, database and blogging engines along with many fully-implemented technologies such as Perl, PHP, AJAX, SQL and more.

Whoa, wait a minute! A half-dozen, fully-implemented Internet services, for free, on an eMachines running XP Home? Surely, you jest, Tarnz ol’ boy! That’s the domain of IBM blade servers and other vertical niches rack mount hardware costing thousands of dollars!

Not necessarily. In the past few years, several new technological developments have made it possible. Severe cost-costing competition has led eMachines (owned now by Gateway) to release surprisingly high quality PC boxes for only a few hundred bucks. The release of Apache 2 for Windows (yes, free) turns an XP Home PC into a screaming top notch web server.

But that’s just the beginning. I still had to set up the email and ftp servers, deal with security and spam, develop a backup and restore plan, and handle the everyday maintenance issues that come up. Even though it has been some work, I find myself being rewarded in a number of ways – for example, understanding better the Internet, setting up the servers exactly the way I want, paying much less for domain names, website and email support. I will get into those particulars that too.

Disclaimer: This project is educational and is direct towards amateurs wanting to set up their own Internet node and learn the details about web and email servers and the like. Of course, we cannot be responsible for any problems you encounter, although if you post comments, we will do our best to help. If you are really concerned about reliability, uptime, providing services to clients, security and all that, you should have your service hosted by a mission critical ISP.

Setting up your own Internet server, or Internet Node as I call it since in actuality the node’s PC has running on it several different types of servers, is not for everyone. High volume and mission critical applications should be run in professional 24 x 7 installations. But if you are a consultant like me, then hosting your own Internet Node is less expensive, educational, and not necessarily any less reliable than what I have been encountering with several ISPs.

Anyway, if you stick with me, you will come to understand what I went through, and maybe my experience with embolden you to set up your own node as well. Or, maybe it will make you run to your nearest ISP?! If you do set up your own node, you might then share with me your deviations, enhancements and clever insights to make me smarter about all this too.

Next Up: Free Internet Node, Part 1 – Equipment and Location Evaluation

Implementing State-of-the-Art Audience Response Systems

Volume 3, Number 4

“This game is simple,” says Bob Sagat on NBC’s 1 vs. 100 television game show. In this NBC show that airs in prime time on Friday nights in the United States, multiple choice questions are asked, and people are eliminated as they answer incorrectly.

In a “1 vs. 100″ game, a contestant is pitted against one hundred other people, known collective as the “mob,” and collects money for each mob member who gets eliminated. The contestant attempts to increase the pot and take home a sizable amount of money, either the accumulated total of the pot or a million dollars if all members of the mob are eliminated. If the contestant answers incorrectly, the remaining mob members who answered the last question correctly split the pot up to that point.

What may appear “simple” on screen is the result of the successful operation of a multitude of integrated systems in what has to be one of the most technically advanced game shows ever conceived. Behind the scenes is a major IT effort, controlled by a custom version of DataPlex’s state-of-the-art Audience Response System (ARS).

1 vs. 100 set under construction showing four rows of handsets

A view of two of the eight rows
of voting handsets during
construction of the 1 vs. 100
TV game show set (U.S.)

Mob members are placed into the various “pod” locations and often rearranged at the discretion of the director. Each pod has is own graphics display behind the player, microphone and voting handset. There are groups within the mob — lawyers, cheerleaders, janitors, kid geniuses — that are each tracked statistically. Our ARS system supplied through our client Quick Tally Interactive Systems for 1 vs. 100 has a player registration module that is used to set up the demographics and print badges with barcodes for each potential player. Once the mob members are in place in their pods, portable scanners are used to associate all mob members to their locations whose data is then processed by another one of our ARS modules.

Now, how simple is that?

The director likes to know which pods contain returning mob members (mob members who continue to answer questions correctly are carried forward into another game) and how well have they performed in the past. Often, there is a “reigning mob champion,” someone who has answered a significant number of questions correctly over several games. A sophisticated SQL database platform is used for managing the ARS data from multiple games. In a matter of seconds, the ARS data from previous games is processed along with the player location information of the current game, and a report is generated.

There are other IT processes, for example, if a mob wins, a list of the remaining mob members and their information is generated for the show’s accounting department. Also, post production uses demographic-based reports to show interesting factoids on the bottom of the television screen.

Not Your Father’s Audience Response System

A typical Audience Response System, also known as an ARS, collects votes and can generate a limited amount of graphs — bar charts of answer choice selection percentages, pie charts, and some cross reference displays. More recent systems can export directly or indirectly to Microsoft Office™ products, for example to PowerPoint for presentation purposes and Excel for further off-line number crunching. Reasonable stuff, actually.

DataPlex’s experience with audience studies started when in 1980 its early client ASI Market Research wanted to convert an analog dial system to a digital version.  The digital dial version was a huge success and is still used today for allowing audiences to evaluate movies, television shows and commercials before general release.  The audience feedback often had a significant impact on a show’s editing or whether a commerical was shown or not. In the 1990′s this system was expanded for remote voting outside of theaters and for supporting text-based answers by survey respondents.

In 1988, DataPlex started selling its DataPlex DataKeeper, a handheld mobile computing device that featured a world clock, professional time billing, a mileage logger,  and an easy-to-use database manager.  This database manager was used by several customers to conduct surveys where at the end of the survey period, the survey information from each device would be downloaded to a central PC, consolidated, and summary reports produced.  In the mid 1990′s, the DataKeeper received wireless communication capability where survey information and votes could be monitored and analyzed in real-time.  Around that time, several companies developed wireless ARS system packages specifically to handle surveys and votes in a localized region such as a meeting room or a conference hall.

The demands on ARS continue to grow. No longer are more demanding customers content with single location polling and simple summary bar charts. They want to know what’s behind the summary results. They want to compare ARS results across multiple sessions and locations and also correlate the results with those of their other systems.  They want to delve into the data and statistically pull out significant information that will help them improve their business.

On the high end, ARS are expanding above being merely a localized vote gathering tool. Now, it is asked to number-crunch, produce custom reports, feed other systems in real-time, and perform advanced digital and analog I/O (input/output) control.

Metadox ARS performing additional I/O

DataPlex Metadox ARS
Software driving ten individual
player video monitors for
Reader’s Digest’s Word Power
Challenge Championship

In another Metadox application supplied through DataPlex client Quick Tally Interactive Systems, the Reader’s Digest National Word Power Challenge, the application additionally controls ten video monitors with custom statistics for each of ten contestants. Metadox generates special graphics for each display, including showing each player’s name in large text and a red “X” when a player gets a question wrong. Different methods of revealing which players got what question correct or wrong keep the proceedings lively by preventing monotony.

Implementing a State-of-the-Art ARS

With the older ARS, you install the software from a CD that arrives in the mail or downloads from a website, configure it, and you are good to go. On these systems, as features are added, the configuration can get bogged down, and some of the new features may not work with your particular installation.

A state-of-the-art (SOTA) system has the pertinent features tested and qualified by an engineer as part of the process of delivering an exacting product. This step includes testing any hardware add-ons and writing and testing any custom programming code.

Once delivered, a SOTA ARS will require some additional fine-tuning because the installation is brand new. Fortunately, with technical support only a phone call away, most issues can be dealt with quickly.

In extensive applications that require much more customization than is typical, the ARS purveyors might recommend that a feasibility study be performed as a first step as a way to document the scope and detail a reasonable plan for development, lest the project run amok, which of course, is to no one’s advantage.

We are Engineers who Customize for Specific Applications

DataPlex’s niche is providing engineering and consulting services to meet exacting, custom requirements for existing or brand-new systems. We pride ourselves on providing quality products with appropriate levels of training and support. For more information on audience response and voting systems for your own needs, please visit our clients’ sites below.

For more information, please visit:

DataPlex Implements Web Database for Charitable Organization

DataPlex project managed and implemented a full-scale web database for tracking a charitable organization’s membership and activities. The charity’s executives can securely access the database through standard HTML pages anywhere in the world, and instantly download filtered lists to Microsoft Office products including Word and Excel.The database is implemented using MySQL, the server-based language is PHP, the client-based language is JavaScript, and the HTML pages are sources from templates that are maintained directly by the charity’s staff.