MIT IAP 2012: Relational Database Management System and Internet application programming

taught by Philip Greenspun and friends

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After taking this course, you will You do not have to be an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science major to take this class. Some programming experience is required, but no database or Web development experience is assumed.

Requirements: a laptop computer with at least 10 GB of free disk space that you can bring to class every day (if not a current Athena account holder, you'll use guest access to the MIT network and we'll give you a virtual machine to run that has all of the required software already loaded)

It would be greatly appreciated if you'd register by emailing


The course is going to be a hands-on project class where you learn by doing and look up textbook and reference information as required to solve problems. No printed materials need be purchased to take this class and no reading need be done in advance. That said, here is a partial list of the materials that we will be using in class and you might wish to get a head start by reading some of the introductory chapters:

Setting up your Laptop

So that the first hour doesn't turn into a nightmare of system administration, as explained in the Day 1 problems, please download VirtualBox 4.0 from and then download a copy of the course virtual machine from one of the following sites: Unzip the archive, open the RDBMS VM folder, and double click on the RDBMS.vbox file to launch the image. This should be easy on Microsoft Windows and Linux systems, but Macintosh OS X systems come with a version of unzip that cannot handle files larger than 4 GB. Unarchiver is one solution for Mac owners. We will have some USB flash drives in the classroom, so if you are having trouble downloading or getting your laptop to work, please try to arrive at 9:30 or so on the first day.


grizzled old veterans of 2011
Philip Greenspun has been developing RDBMS-backed Internet applications since 1994. He started, an online community with more than 5 million monthly visitors, in 1993 while a graduate student in EECS here at MIT. He is a co-author of Software Engineering for Internet Applications and has been a TA or lecturer for various EECS classes at MIT, including 6.001, 6.002, 6.003, 6.041, and 6.171. Greenspun has developed roughly 200 database-backed Web applications.

Michael Stonebraker, one of the developers of the fundamentals shared by all modern RDBMS implementations, will give a short lecture. Although Professor Stonebraker did most of his pioneering work on Ingres and Postgres at the University of California Berkeley, MIT has been fortunate to host Professor Stonebraker since 2001. Stonebraker is an unparalleled source for answering questions on "how do these things work under the hood" and for the past 10 years has been trying to solve the challenge of "what can we do about the fact that these RDBMSes are so darned slow?" and "how do we store and retrieve truly large databases?".

Andrew Grumet, who has 12 years of experience developing RDBMS-backed Internet applications. He received a PhD in EECS from MIT in 1999. Grumet is currently VP Architecture at Mevio.

John Morgan, who has been developing RDBMS-backed web applications for 6 years. He's currently working in the computer security field. Morgan graduated from Olin College in 2009 with a degree in Electrical & Computer Engineering. John has a Commercial pilot certificate for both airplanes and helicopters and flies at East Coast Aero Club.

Shimon Rura, who has 8 years of experience developing RDBMS applications and, due to his consulting background, has a broad range of experience with different toolkits. Rura graduated with a degree in computer science from Williams College in 2003.

new-to-the-course teachers for 2012
David Buser has been a working software developer since 1996. He lives in Washington, D.C. and has graciously agreed to travel to Boston to teach. He is a co-author of a book on Microsoft Active Server Pages. His dark secret is an FAA Private Pilot certificate.

Avni Khatri is a Web Applications Architect at Massachusetts General Hospital in the Lab of Computer Science. She builds database-backed medical applications using OpenACS, an open source web application toolkit. She is also Vice President of Kids on Computers, an organization that sets up computer labs in areas where kids have no other access to technology. Before coming to MGH, she worked at Yahoo! Inc. as a Senior Front-end Engineer on the Flex Force Tiger Team. She was also founder and co-president of the Southern California chapter of Yahoo! Women in Tech. In her spare time she reads New Yorker and plays guitar.

Joshua Levinson is a software developer and consultant for Raybeam, Inc. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2007. Since then, he has designed, developed and maintained web applications and data warehouses for companies such as Google, Expedia, Facebook, and One Kings Lane. In his spare time he plays classical piano, and he holds a Private pilot certificate for single-engine airplanes.

Paddy Mullen was a senior developer at Perpetually, Web a crawler/archiver with up to 1 billion rows in a database. He is experienced with both relational and the fashionable NoSQL database management systems. Currently he is at SeatGeek, a ticket search engine. Paddy has taught at Cooper Union.

Stephen Turner is a local hero in the MIT Information Services and Technology department, having contributed to database-backed Web services starting in 1996. Steve has worked on projects including MIT's Student Information System, a data warehouse, the MIT Events Calendar, and online registration. He has experience with all aspects of the RDBMS including Oracle database administration. His dark history includes a Physics degree.

Thuraiappah Vaseeharan ("Vasee") lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba and has 15 years of system administration experience, mostly with Microsoft tools including SQL Server and IIS/ASP.NET. Coming to Boston in January is his warm-weather escape.

Donald Brenner has developed software for the credit card industry and now digital advertising. He lived in Boston and Cape Cod a thousand years ago and is excited to see it all again.