mrc Addresses Confusing Data Conversions
Published: March 8, 2011
by Alex Woodie
Everybody wants data in a familiar format. Those in the United States read today's date as 3/8/2011, while to many people in the rest of the world, that date corresponds with August 3, 2011. Development tool maker mrc recently unveiled an enhancement in its m-Power tool designed to eliminate even more perplexing data conversion problems when an application reads from, or writes to, a database.
The example above pales in comparison with some of the obscure date formats programmed into databases. For example, many computer systems (including the IBM i) often use the Julian calendar, which uses the Century-Year-Day (C-YY-DDD) format. Using the Julian system, today's date is 111067. (Mean anything to you? It corresponds with the 67th day of the 11th year in the first century of the millennium.)
Here's another one: some databases store numeric values without decimal points. The Chicago-based tool vendor says an amount like $123.45 will commonly be stored in the database as 12345. Further, some societies use commas instead of periods to denote decimals. (Some of these same societies also drive on the wrong [i.e. the left] side of the road, another example of the exception making the rule.)
When faced with database fields that aren't readily readable by humans, developers are forced to write custom routines that convert the bizarre format into a more recognizable format. When users are allowed to write back to the database, the developer must be sure that human input is also translated back into the bizarre format. The only other option, says mrc, is to force people to learn to live with the unusual format (which doesn't seem like much of an option at all really).
The folks at mrc say they have solved this programming dilemma with a new feature in m-Power, its high-level development tool that's used to create Java-based Web apps, mobile programs, and business intelligence dashboards that run on IBM i and other platforms that support Java.
Mrc's solution is a new Field Conversion utility that automatically translates data into the appropriate format. The functionality is delivered as a Java class within the m-Power application. According to the vendor, the new feature will translate data coming out of the database, as well as data being written back into the database. Developers no longer must fuss with custom logic in their application, as the m-Power tool handles all conversions for them.
"This data conversion problem has been a thorn in developers' sides for years now," says Brian Crowley, mrc's director of development, in a press release. "I'm thrilled to say that with this new Field Conversion enhancement, we've eliminated the problem for m-Power users."
For more information, see the company's website at www.mrc-productivity.com .
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