Magic Enterprises Edition 8.3 for Linux
Manufacturer: Magic Software Enterprises LTD.
Price: Development Kit, $299 US for single user
Reviewer: Jon Valesh
So, your company has a web page and a corporate inventory/product/sales database, and you are the one who makes it go. You're the wizard, the head web-technology guru, the person everyone turns to when something has to work. And your boss just came into your office asking why on-line orders from your web site are being e-mailed to salespeople for manual processing rather than interfacing directly to your existing sales database. And, why you've got customers ordering products that your inventory system says you don't have; why customers can't search for products on your web page; why you've got customers calling customer support to find order status information that is easily available from, you guessed it, the database. And on top of all that, your manager wonders why a web designer is manually building web pages for each new product that goes on the web page, even though (you guessed it) the database has all the information the web page needs.
Or maybe you are the boss, and you are doing the asking. Either way, money is being spent to duplicate information from your database on your web page, and jobs you've got software to handle are being done manually. The result is subpar service and a subpar web page, at extra cost.
Worse, potential customers see your web page every day. If it isn't the slickest page around, and if your prices aren't the lowest, those customers will go elsewhere to spend their money. Slick and cheap wins in the e-commerce world. If you can't get your costs down and your service up, now, your customer base will go elsewhere. You don't have time to wait for a C programmer to develop a custom database module for your web page—you need a solution that works today.
Or maybe you are really starting from zero, and you don't have a database system at all. You don't know what your inventory is until you look, or what an order's status is until you find the paperwork on someone's desk.
That is where data access middleware and on-line application development systems come in. Simply put, data access middleware provides a bridge between your user-level applications and your database. On-line application development systems allow you to rapidly develop web or client/server front-ends for your existing database, or custom databases to match your front-end needs.
Magic Software Enterprises, or Magic, for short, has been developing multi-platform data access middleware and on-line application development tools for UNIX, AS/400, OpenVMS and Windows users for years. Now, Magic's software, Magic Enterprise 8.3 and Magic Toolkit 8.3, are available for Linux, recognizing Linux's growing impact in the e-business and e-commerce market. Magic Enterprise 8.3 provides the back end, and Magic Tool Kit 8.3 provides the rapid development environment for e-commerce and other database-intensive applications. Between the two, you'll have everything you need to make your boss happy, at least about your database/web site integration.
Installing Magic Enterprise v8.3 and Magic Toolkit on my Red Hat 6.1 test system started out easy. There isn't much to it. Magic supports Red Hat 6.0, 6.1, and SuSE 6.2 systems, distributing their software in RPM package format. To install, you run rpm with a few options, like the package file name, and most of the work is done for you.
Not all of it, though. After the installation, you must expand the user files into your user directory, and manually start the server d<\#230>mons that make everything go. The instructions detail the process well, but lack troubleshooting information. If anything goes wrong, you are stuck with either figuring it out yourself, contacting customer service or going to Magic's on-line forum and asking other users.
Though the software is supplied as RPMs, it installs into the /usr/local directory on your system as though it were manually installed. That is a little odd, but causes no problems when using the software.
The folks at Magic are seriously into the idea of making money from their software. There is nothing wrong with that, but preventing unauthorized use on the Internet is a trick. Magic's solution to unlicensed users is a license server installed along with their software to keep people honest, or at least harass them if they aren't. It works; the license server gave me nothing but trouble—a testament to its honesty-detection algorithm, but rather frustrating if you are me.
The trouble continued until I gave up and started to e-mail Magic's technical support people. Then, in a perfect example of computer perversity, I ran the troublesome software one final time to copy the exact error message into my e-mail, and it worked! I have no idea what made it work, and I have no idea if it will work for anyone else, but I was happy. (Being serious, if your system host name has any periods in it, e.g., is a fully qualified domain name, the license server will fail with a totally unhelpful error message.)
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One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
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