Online Tracking Systems

  warren2004g 13:40 07 May 2004

Hi all,

I am creating an online tracking system for parcels with a logistics company. The only thing is that I only know basic HTML as I am a dreamweaver user. What I need to know is what languages/scripting I need to learn. I was thinking of using PHP and MySQL as I have heard that they are quite easy to pick up and as my hosting account has PHP installed as well as 6 MySQL Databases for me to create. Would I need to learn anything else?

  Taran 16:37 07 May 2004

I don't want to rain on your parade but you don't just "pick up" PHP and MySQL to the extent where you are capable of delivering this kind of thing.

PHP is one of the easier languages to pick up, but MySQL is arguably one of the least friendly Database Management Systems to use. Products like phpMyAdmin give it a more user friendly interface, but this is only half the battle.

Database design is critical to the overall success of any project and the larger and/or more complex the project, the more important it is to have a very, very good handle on database design. Get things wrong at this stage and it doesn't matter how clever you become with PHP - the whole thing will fall over.

You seem to be talkng about a software engineering project and if it is of any real size you'd normally expect to be working as part of a small development team. It's very unusual to consider producing something of considerable size on your own, especially if you have no formal software engineering or web programming training.

I could suggest some resources for you to start with but if you've already agreed to take this job on you could find yourself in real trouble. I'm sorry if this sounds doom and gloom but I can think of no easy shortcut to get someone up to speed in any of the web dynamic languages and database design is a serious learning curve all on its own.

If you must learn one of the web languages then PHP is one of the easiest but .NET also has a huge amount to offer. It can interact with some very useful data sources and is probably as easy, or at least, no more difficult to learn than PHP. You would need different hosting though.

I wish you every success but this will be no walk in the park. If you haven't agreed to take it on I stongly suggest that you don't.

Post again if you want some links to get you up and running.

  Forum Editor 18:47 07 May 2004

this project - if it is to function as a 'proper' parcel tracking system - is going to involve some very serious database development indeed, and unless you are highly experienced in this field you will find yourself faced with a daunting array of problems.

I hate to sound negative, but if you "only know basic HTML" it's unwise to contemplate leading a commercial project of this complexity and size - there aren't going to be any off-the-shelf solutions. Are there other people working on the project with you?

  warren2004g 00:26 08 May 2004

Thanks for the response, it does sound doom and gloom but i am not one to shy away from a challenge... I am not saying I am super intellectual, but i have had quite a lot of previous experience with access database design, i am not saying it is gonna be easy for me either but it is good that you let me know what i am letting myself in for. i will proceed with caution. Today i purchased PHP, MySQL and Apache sams teach yourself starters guide with covering cd which should make things a little easier but I would appreciate any guidance offered. There are no other people working with me on this one. I have looked for off the shelf solutions but there seems to be none. I only have to track 2 stages of the warehouse and then finaly use the royal mail consignment tracking system to feed the POD through to a page on my site. In the warehouse i should be abled to track the status somehow by using the barcode scanner, and when scanned in raising a flag then when scanned out raising another flag. The 2 stages. I think I may try and get the barcode software to give me an xml feed for this so i could interface that with the site somehow.

  warren2004g 00:36 08 May 2004

I have been interested in learning PHP for a while but never had any real reason until now.... Nothing like taking the bull by the horns I suppose.

  s3mt3x 01:17 08 May 2004

Can I suggest - more specifically C#. I think this must be one of the easiest server side platforms to learn. I was initally taught Java and JSP is quite confusing but seems (for me at least) to enable you to get things done quicker. If you have had any experience with Java, C# will come very easy.

Having said this, I do agree with the guys above, a parcel tracking system will be fairly complex even in its simplest form. Perhaps you should start with hello world!

  s3mt3x 01:39 08 May 2004

As a throw away comment, once you've got your head around php, it sounds as though web services could be handy i.e:

1. Scan barcode of parcel when it arrives.
2. Wrap this in XML along with the location.
3. Post to server via webservice.
4. Add to DB @ server.
5. Repeat the above for each location.

Given the above, at any time you could then pull off the last location of any parcel from the DB. Have you had any previous experience with XML and SOAP?

  warren2004g 01:52 08 May 2004

Nope not had experience with xml/soap (sounding a bit of a lost cause at the moment). But with my mind, caffeine and hope I will get through this. I'll tell you what I have which every one else has whether they teacher, programmer, lawyer or preacher and that is a brain. At the moment It is a seed that has been planted. Who knows this time next year it may be a full grown tree. Thanks for all the support positive or negative it is all recieved with thanks...

  Forum Editor 08:30 08 May 2004

You'll find there are plenty of ready-made warehouse tracking systems out there, and it might be worth your while to take a look at what's available before you spend a great deal of time on a customised solution - you're not the first person with this requirement, and you may find that you can integrate an existing application with your project.

click here for starters.

  Taran 09:32 08 May 2004

If, as you say, you've "have had quite a lot of previous experience with access database design", might I suggest that you capitalise on that and consider using it as a strength and as a base to work from. I see little reason for you to learn MySQL from scratch if you already have a foot in the door with Access.

If you must go with PHP then you can hook into an Access database with some minor jigger pokery, but I'd repeat what I said in my first post and what s3mt3x has also suggested: why not consider ASP.NET

If you already have a grounding in Access then it is far simpler to take advantage of that via ASP.NET

I'm not going to get into a discussion over whether you might find C# or VB.NET easier. In general it depends entirely on your background: anyone who has played with VB or VBA will naturally gravitate towards VB.NET while those with C or Java experience find C# the easiest route.

PHP with MySQL is an extremely potent and flexible combination but it is not always the best answer to any given problem.

If your needs are fairly simple then, as you say, rising to the challenge may well be an option and you may come up with something workable in a few months or so.

Third party solutions, as Forum Editor suggests, are also an option.

We can help with specific questions but it is beyond the scope of this forum to offer full walk throughs or tutorials on either PHP or MySQL.

I suggest you take a look at these links:

click here

click here

click here

click here

And I also suggest that you get yourself phpMyAdmin, which gives you a web browser interface to build your MySQL databases. You can download it click here and it's a lot easier to use than banging your head off a command prompt window all the time.

Once more, good luck with it.

  warren2004g 17:25 08 May 2004

Thank you all very much for your support and advice. And Taran I knew that I wasnt gonna get a walkthrough but the advice I have recieved from all above was everything that I was looking for and more.... Thanx Again

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