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Require Advice on Approach to Networked Databases - An Unusual Application


giosbob
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I am looking for general advice regarding an unusual use of FileMaker.

 

In my work I use FileMaker to track content for museum exhibition design. This is basic stuff: what does the artifact look like, what are its dimensions, what is the text label, what display case does it go in, and other related data. I have experimented with creating a layout that works as a “digital label” in FileMaker Go or in kiosk mode on a touch screen that uses the data collected in the content management database, indeed, they can be the same file. 

 

FileMaker makes it easy to have a really great label with swipes, pop-ups, images, everything that a museum visitor would want to learn more about what they are looking at, and I have fashioned a second no-nonsense interface for the curators and museum staff to update, edit, add, and delete records (“labels”) as required. (See attached JPG for a sample “label” layout.)

 

Now the problem...

 

A client is interested in this digital label idea, but they want to use it with touchscreens attached to computers rather than on iPads, which means purchasing FileMaker for each display (40 of them!) and, possibly, running FileMaker Server. This project is meant to be an add-on and I’m not sure if using FileMaker Pro rather than FileMaker Go would be a cost effective way to proceed.

 

I’m interested in the community’s evaluation of the following options. (Please note that I am a low-to-mid level FileMaker user and know nothing of PHP, SQL, or stuff like that, except that they exist and can do some of the stuff I want to do. I can get someone else to do the work if leaving FileMaker is the best option.)

 

Option 1: FileMaker Server with 40 copies of FileMaker Pro connected to a database on the server. Staff can update the database from their offices and the changes are reflected in the “digital labels” (FileMaker running in kiosk mode on touchscreens) in the exhibition space .

 

Option 2: FileMaker Pro for staff to edit records and FileMaker Server using custom web publishing (PHP?) with web browsers (or equivalent) acting as digital labels in the exhibition space.

 

Option 3: Use the original FileMaker database as a source for some other content management system that can be accessed with web browsers (or equivalent), in other words, a completely custom solution.

 

I’m not looking for detailed proposals, specs, or anything technical. What I would like are general observations about the strengths or weaknesses of each model, or even a new model, that could be maintained by a small museum with almost no in-house tech staff.

 

And just a side note, it would be great if FileMaker made a simple FileMaker client for desktop systems, similar to FileMaker Go. This would, I think, be one solution to my problem.

 

Thanks,

 

-Robert.

 

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Personally, I would try to convince them about going down the ipad route, simply because Filemaker Go is free and already set in kiosk mode.

And you can lockdown the ipad to run just the FM_Go app via apple configurator and running parental control on it.

Has your client factored in the cost of 40 touchscreen desktops? and the maintenance and network upkeep for 3 years?

Incidentally, the barcode reader app in FM_Go 13 would make an ipad swapout a breeze, as you could supply a barcode for each plinth and upon zapping said barcode, your FM_Go db could present the relevant data for that plinth.

 

Would the plinths/museum artifacts be moved around? [so many additional questions]

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Hi Chris,

 

Yes, I would prefer it if they went the iPad route. As a matter of fact, I even suggested loaning out iPads so that visitors can carry the "labels" with them. (Believe it or not, other museums have told me that the damage and theft rate is very low.) Unfortunately, they already have the touch screens and CPUs in the gallery space from a previous less-than-successful digital label.

 

So, the labels are stationary in front of display cases and the contents of the display cases (artifacts/objects) would be changed occasionally (new acquisitions, conservation reasons, the whim of curators, etc.).

 

Thanks for your interest,

 

-Robert.

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For better or worse, the client already has touch screens and CPUs, so FileMaker Go is not an option, as far as they are concerned. The "mobile label" solution would involve loading complete files onto iPads and not using Server, at least not as a live connection to the iPads. However, thanks for flagging the cost issue, I will keep it in mind in the future.

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