J-Bird is a database system for recording observations of birds. Observations might be life ticks or ticks made on a day-to-day basis. The database is structured around the idea of a daily trip or excursion. Trip data include date, locality, key words or phrases, notes and a region in which the trip occurred. Regions are defined by users. Once trip information has been entered, species can be ticked using either scientific names or common names. Notes may accompany each species observed. J-Bird supports multiple observers.
J-Bird is a work in progress, and it is still quite young. It's alpha software that is not ready for average users. J-Bird is difficult to install. It lacks features that you might expect. Users should consider themselves to be software testers and be prepared for bugs as well as for changes in database structure that could make it difficult to upgrade to newer versions. J-Bird Version 0.5.2
The master list of species in J-Bird includes family, genus, species and common name. At the moment, J-Bird can use:
J-Bird includes pop-up gratifiers. A gold check mark over the Earth comes up for life ticks, and a silver check mark over an island archipelago comes up for region ticks. Ticks are celebrated using sounds, too. These features can be turned off by serious people.
The database will eventually accommodate multiple sets of common names to facilitate use of common names in a variety of languages or coded names such as those used by bird-banding agencies. Common names will also be importable and exportable so that they can be shared with other users.
J-Bird was written in Java to make it easily internationalized and so that it runs on several computer platforms. It should run on any system on which Java version 1.4 or better is available. It has been run successfully on Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris, Windows 98 and Windows XP. It will never run on Mac OS < 10 because Apple does provide newer versions of Java on its older operating systems.
The cost of having a program that runs on most computer platforms is speed. J-Bird will run more slowly than other software because it is written in the Java programming language. The extent to which the slowdown is acceptable or even noticeable depends on the type of computer that you have and your expectations. The slowdown will be more noticeable on slow machines and on machines with little memory than it will be on fast machines and on machines with large amounts of memory. J-Bird will probably be unacceptably slow on machines that are slower than 300 megahertz. Some data are appropriate. The most taxing tasks that J-Bird has done is to start up with common names in the species chooser and switching from scientific names to common names because J-Bird must prepare 9,702 names for display. The following table gives startup times using common names on several machines. (Startup times for scientific names are considerably less.)
|CPU||Speed||Memory||Operating System||Startup time|
|Intel Pentium||133 MHz||48 MB||Linux||158 sec|
|Intel Celeron||333 MHz||64 MB||Linux||51 sec|
|Intel Celeron||333 MHz||64 MB||Win 98||57 sec|
|Intel Pentium||450 MHz||128 MB||Linux||23 sec|
|AMD Athlon||750 MHz||256 MB||Linux||14 sec|
|AMD Athlon||750 MHz||256 MB||Win 98||13 sec|
|Intel P4||3 GHz||1 GB||Linux||5 sec|
|Intel P4||dual 3-GHz Xeon||1 GB||Win XP||5 sec|
J-Bird uses a third-party database engine to store data. At present, J-Bird is distributed with Mckoi SQL Database, a database engine that is free and freely distributable under the GNU General Public License.
J-Bird is free opensource software Copyright under the GNU General Public license by Dick Repasky. Details of the license are provided with the software and can also be found at http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html
It is hoped that J-Bird will become a community project in which programmers and birders participate. Programmers can contribute to the organization of the database, features of the program and to the code base. Birders can provide feedback on usability and more importantly data. Birders can also contribute or provide on their own home pages translations of J-Bird's menus and messages in their own languages, translations of common names into their own languages, as well as regional checklists.
It is also intended that support for J-Bird users will be provided by the community of users and developers. This may seem unstable and somewhat scary to good conservative birders who pay hard-earned money for their software and expect someone to be at the other end of the phone to answer questions. But, it works quite well in the opensource community. Indeed, the birding community already supports birders through the birdchat mailing list, the usenet news group rec.birds, and other venues. Forums are available to ask questions about J-Bird and to report bugs. These include public forums and e-mail lists at J-Bird's SourceForge page.
J-Bird was inspired by a database system that friends of mine set up using Microsoft Access and that was difficult to distribute because Microsoft Access is proprietary.
Status and Future of J-Bird Features
J-Bird User's Guide
Release notes for J-Bird 0.5.2
Changelog - gritty description of what's new
SourceForge J-Bird Project page: downloads, forums, mail lists
Getting Started with J-Bird source code for CVS Users (README.CVS)
Hacking J-Bird - doing unconventional things with J-Bird, or at least things that require a bit of work
Page last updated 4 April 2007