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 Using databases with the Multiuser Server

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Number of posts : 1850
Age : 55
Registration date : 2008-03-08

PostSubject: Using databases with the Multiuser Server   Fri 4 Apr - 16:49

It was at the 1999 UCON that I first began thinking about writing some multiuser articles for DOUG. Not really that long ago, and it's amazing how much changes in that amount of time. In less than twelve months from the initial release of the of the Multiuser Server, (affectionately referred to as Mars) comes Pathfinder: version 2 of the Multiuser Server. This is no small upgrade either. And best of all, the biggest changes fall right into the area this article (it's not a sequel... it's the third in a trilogy) was intended to cover: using databases with the Multiuser Server.

In the previous version of the server, database operations were fairly simple due to the format used. All data files were stored as dBase tables, meaning no data relationships. A user's information had nothing to do with their high scores in different games, what games they liked playing, or anything else. Pathfinder really opens everything up by enabling dot syntax through data objects, and moving to relational FoxPro data files.

With relational tables, everything in the multiuser environment can now be treated as a data object with related properties. A personal confusion on my part has come from the use of the term "attribute" in the documentation instead of "property" for data placed in Pathfinder data objects. Since "attribute" is the term used however, it's the term I'll use here. For the most part though, just think of it as a property. And in the long run, all it really means in truth is "data field."

There are four different types of data objects available in Pathfinder: group, user, application, and player. Group stands somewhat apart from the other objects in nature, as it's only held in RAM. The other three are very closely inter-related though, and have permanent storage on disk.

A group object is created in RAM on the server when at least one user joins the specified group. All groups continue to be named starting with the "@" character, such as "@TeamOne". When the last user leaves an active group, that group is immediately purged from RAM and ceases to exist. Group attributes are pieces of data stored in the group object. The name of the person who created the group might be stored as an attribute, for example. The possibilities are really unlimited. And this is especially so given that an attribute can hold any data that a Director cast member can, including a Flash member, text, integers, lists, and so forth. You want to create a group with a custom Flash logo? It's really simple with Pathfinder. In Figure 1 the variable flashMember is set to a cast member. Sending a message to the server with the variable being one of the passed parameters then sets the group attribute.
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