Monthly Archives: September 2012

How to convert Access .mdb files to .csv or SQL using Mac OS X

MDBLite on the Mac App Store

A life-changing app for data enthusiasts.

Update Travis Swicegood, of the Texas Tribune, pointed out that mdbtools has a homebrew recipe (brew install mdbtools), which avoids this thorny problem. While waiting for the homebrew recipe to install, though, I found this mdb-sqlite project, which uses the Java library Jackcess, to allow command-line conversion…which is lacking in the solution I originally posted below. Still, it was the most productive $1.99 I’ve spent in a while.

MDBLite, $1.99 in the Mac App Store, allows you to convert Microsoft Access mdb files into SQL, CSV, or SQLite databases.

For the past few years, I’ve kept an old Windows XP laptop around just to open Access databases to convert them to Excel or CSV. I only found out about MDBLite after digging through some obscure discussion groups that mentioned in passing. The entire purpose of this blog post is to inform all other poor souls who use Macs but must still deal with government data. If that is the most important thing my blog provides for the Internet, I’d still be proud.

So far, it works as well as advertised. Which is pretty amazing if you’ve ever had to deal with Access conversions.

Woz and Religion

As interesting as Issacson’s biography of Steve Jobs is, I liked the parts that featured Steve Wozniak the best. So I picked up Woz’s memoir – iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It – and read it at the same I read Jobs’s biography. As expected, Woz’s perspective contains much more detail about the technical underpinnings behind Apple’s early success, partly to clear up any misconception that Jobs invented everything himself.

The detailed technical narratives by Woz are worth the price alone. But his non-technical reflections could also fill a book.

Here’s his take on religion:

So this was a hard social time for me. I remember that at one point I was taking some night classes at San Jose State and this pretty girl comes up to my table in the cafeteria and says, “Oh, hi.” She just starts talking to me, and I’m so nervous all I can think to ask her is what her major is. She says, “Scientology.”

I’d never heard of this, but she assured me it was actually a major and I believed it. She invited me to a Scientology meeting, and of course I went. I ended up in the audience watching this guy make this incredible presentation about how you can basically be in better control of yourself and that you could get really happy from that.

After the meeting, the girl I met sat with me in some little office for an hour, trying to sell me these courses to become a better person. I was going to have to pay money for them. I said to her, “I’ve already got my happiness. I’ve got my keys to happiness. I don’t need anything. I’m not looking for any of this stuff.” And I meant it. The only thing I might’ve wanted was a girlfriend, that’s for sure, but the rest of the stuff I already had.

I had a sense of humor, and I had this attitude about life that let me choose to be happy. I knew that whether to be happy was always going to be my choice, and only my choice.

Wozniak, Steve (2007-10-17). iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon (pp. 83-84). Norton. Kindle Edition.

Even if Woz played a bigger role in the Apple’s post-Macintosh era, you could forgive Jobs’s biographers for not devoting much more space to him: there’s just not much mystery or drama behind what Woz does. He’s just as astounding a mensch as he is an engineer. As predictable as that is, I still find myself going back and re-skimming his memoir for enjoyment and enlightenment.