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We are a bunch of historians who have recently been working on classified archives from Cold war. In order to analyze propaganda and intelligence discourse productions, we intend to create and share a database containing data like networks (propaganda network, union network, press network, etc.) and actors (secret agents, journalists, dissidents, etc.) .

We need to retrieve very specific information from the database. For instance, what is the language of the conferences Chinese journalists, who were former secret agents, attended in Switzerland from 1949 to 1953.

I have been asked to find a solution and put it in production. So far, I found those softwares: glom, Kexi, Airtable, Elasticsearch and DBMS like PostgreSQL, MariaDB with Vfront or LibreOffice Base frontend.

  1. Must be cross-platform. We use Linux, Windows and OS X.
  2. The database must be stored on our own server and shared through the Internet in a secure way because of sensitive nature of data. So it seems we can't use a tool like Airtable.
  3. Up to now, some members of the research team have worked with Filemaker. The new solution should be as user-friendly as possible, because my colleagues aren't IT savvy.
  4. Should not need more than one week to set up, knowing I have a degree in computer sciences, but I haven't worked in this field for 15 years. So, I don't have time to code a web page front-end for Elasticsearch or DBMS like postgresql and mariadb.
  5. Ideally the tool should be free (as in freedom) and free like no budget.
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You search a database front-end.

Wiki

I guess a Wiki software should solve your needs.

This way you can share and cross-reference your knowledge and the results of your investigations

Compared to a relational database this is very fuzzy, but creating a DB schema for your data types is hard work and would take too much time if you are new to databases.

Most wiki implementations allow you to create tags. You could create "is-network" and "is-actor" tags and tag those pages.

Fixed DB Schema

If you want to aggregate your data and detailed searches on attributes (not just full-text search like in a wiki), then you need to define your domain model.

I like the django ORM (Object-Relational Mapping) with PostgreSQL as database backend.

You define your models in Python code. It is easy to create a simple admin interface to insert, update, delete instances of your models.

NonSQL DB

I have not real world experience NonSQL databases. I personally prefer the fixed schema you get with SQL. Maybe someone else has an answer for this topic.

Securely sharing

I think https an password authentication should be enough. Most systems use this.

Conclusion

I would go the "Fixed DB Schema" way only if you have someone who has database and programming knowledge, or someone who has time and is really willing to learn.

I guess there are database front-ends which give you a GUI for editing the schema. This looks easier then editing models in python code at first sight. But I guess that you will hit the limit very soon.

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  • Thank you, but we need to retrieve very specific information from the database. For instance, what is the language of the conferences Chinese journalists, who were former secret agents, attended in Switzerland from 1949 to 1953. In this case, I'm not sure Wiki software is the right solution. – James Mar 2 '16 at 23:45
  • @James I updated the question and added two chapters. – guettli Mar 3 '16 at 6:20
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It sounds like you want to achieve a lot but are not willing to spend much time or resources on it.

To solve the technology part, simply install a LAMP setup (Linux, Apache web server, MySQL database, PHP); all of this is free. See lamphowto.com for further instructions.

By using freely available database tools (like phpMyAdmin), you can create the necessary database tables, and you can use PHP to interact with them on a web front end.

Get a static IP address for your server, and SSL certificate. You can create a back end for the system which can simplify the input of data, and a front end for entering search queries. You will need knowledge of PHP and MySQL and HTML/CSS. Otherwise, continue with filemaker; it's easy to use but incredibly inefficient.

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  • This does not meet the requirement Should not need more than one week to set up – user416 May 20 '16 at 12:10

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