Dataface draws rave reviews

April 05, 2006, volume 35, no. 7
By Barry Shell

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As a boy Steve Hannah used to build castles out of sticks for his little plastic army men. Today his castles are made of software, and the little  men are database entries.

The Simon Fraser University faculty of applied sciences web developer and undergraduate student just released his latest work of art on a website called

Anyone who knows about open source software will be familiar with freshmeat. It's the website where people go to find and publish new applications developed under the free software ethic, the idea that software should be free to use, study, copy, modify and share.

Hannah calls his new creation Dataface. Most modern websites draw information from databases designed to keep everything organized. MySQL is the most popular one because it's both free and powerful. But it's not simple for ordinary computer users to manipulate data stored in SQL (standard query language). Dataface makes it easy after a relatively straightforward installation and setup. Users can safely manage mySQL databases from a web browser.

Hannah is surprised at the response to Dataface. Since it was released on Feb. 28, the package has been downloaded about 600 times. “I have to express my amazement at the power of Every time I release a new version and post it, I get an influx of 300 hits or so, and a large amount of downloads,” writes Hannah on his blog. “It's like my art is finally being recognized,” he says.

People are emailing from around the world. “Dataface is absolutely an exquisite piece of software. You're to be congratulated and thanked for all of your efforts. I can't rave enough,” says a technician at an architectural firm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

At SFU, Hannah uses Dataface to manage a handful of research lab websites in applied sciences. Webmasters in biology and psychology have also expressed interest.

Hannah has only a couple of courses left to finish a combined bachelor of science in mathematics and computer science. Then he will be able to devote himself full time to more web software solutions like Dataface.

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