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Issue #621: June 16-22, 2019

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Q: My favorite database program (AskSam 7) cannot be updated. Its developer in Perry, Florida went out of business years ago. I held my breath when installing it from its CD on my new computers (both Windows 10), but it has worked well. I am concerned that a Microsoft Windows 10 update will disable AskSam. If so, how can I find a compatible program? Will a virtual desktop as you recently described (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. Issue #616, May 12-18, 2019) for hardware enable me to continuing using this database?

 – Doug B.
Niceville, Florida

A: Having never used askSam 7, I had to do a little bit of research to bring myself up to speed on it before attempting to answer your question. There is a surprising amount of information floating around out there. At least it seemed so to me, considering I’d never even heard of it before reading your e-mail. There’s even an AskSam entry on Wikipedia, which describes it as “a ‘free form’ database desktop application that competed with a number of other personal information manager applications.” The author made special mention of the software’s ability to aggregate many unrelated types of information together into an easily-searchable format, which could be made into a report, or exported to a spreadsheet on demand. Sounds like a pretty useful program, and one that is a far cry from modern relational database programs that require extensive programming before they can be used to organize anything. I suspect the dawn of devices such as smartphones sounded the death knell for such software. Rather a pity, really. The release of the last version in 2008 would seem to bear-out this theory, as the first iPhone became publically available the prior year.

You’re working on a totally different playing field than reader John H., whose question I answered in Issue #616. The software he asked about was self-written, and was over 30 years old. You, on the other hand, are dealing with a commercial product, that was written not too long before the rise of Windows 7. Although that doesn’t make it thoroughly modern, it does make it a far sight more likely to work on a modern operating system. Nevertheless, I commend you for not merely waiting for a problem to occur.

To directly answer your question, I don’t see any reason why a virtual machine wouldn’t work for your software. In fact, if you were to go this route, you could run a Windows 7 VM, and put your software into an operating system that is far closer to the native environment its developers intended than you could hope for with any current or future version of Windows 10.

It might interest you to know that in applying my Geekodon Blackbelt in the dark art of Google-Fu (i.e. – running a simple Google search) for askSam showed that it is still available for download on popular shareware sites, and even for sale in remote corners of the Internet. So, the product isn’t dead yet, and even still enjoys a following out there, albeit a minor one. There is also another software application named MyInfo that touts itself as “a suitable alternative for the discontinued free-form database tool AskSam.” However, at least one other blogger on Quora.com stated that “the whole layout and interface is different, as are its functions” so it’s not exactly a drop-in replacement. There are also numerous other alternatives to be found, but again, while they might fill a similar role as askSam, they aren’t compatible with its data. That means whatever you choose (other than askSam itself) you’ll need to re-create whatever collections, models, schemas, documents, or whatever you choose to call them. Good luck.

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