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Firebird Database Server on Mac OSX

David Pugh

David Pugh, who hails from Christchurch, New Zealand, wrote the original version of this paper during October-December, 2004. For some time, it was available at the Apple Mac open source developer homepages but it disappeared some time around the middle of 2006.

In December, 2006, David contributed the document sources, along with those for a companion document, The Rough Guide to Building Firebird 1.5 on MacOSX, an extract from the document you are reading now.

7 December 2006

Table of Contents

Installing Firebird
Getting Started with Firebird
Advanced Topics
Building Firebird from Source on MacOSX
A. Additional References
B. Document History
C. License Notice


In July 2000, Borland (then Inprise) released the source code of their database product, Interbase, under the Interbase Public License. Firebird is the Open Source direct descendent of that database. For more information about Interbase and Firebird, there is an excellent description of the history of events leading up to the release of Interbase to the Open Source community, and the subsequent development of Firebird.

Why Am I Writing This ?

Until now, my database of choice has been PostgreSQL running on Linux, and more recently on OSX. Our company was commisioned to build a Java application targeted at the Windows platform. Firebird was chosen as the database because of it's wide platform availability (Windows, Linux, BSD etc) . In particular, Firebird is regarded as mature and stable on Windows, the main target market for the application.

To perform my QA tasks for this project, I elected to install Firebird on my Powerbook. While downloading and installing the MacOSX Firebird package was relatively straightforward, I found myself scrabbling around the net looking for information on how to put my installed Firebird to use under MacOSX.

It is my hope that this document will give others a headstart with Firebird on OSX.

Copyright and Caveats

The structure and content of this document is based on the document entitled Firebird Database on Linux prepared by Pascal Chong on March 9 2003 [URL link now lost]. An annotation pertaining to the licensing of that document appears in the Appendix at the end of this one.

Thank you Pascal, for your original document, even though it was targetted at Linux, helped me up and running with Firebird under OSX !!!

Why Should I Use Firebird ?

Open Source databases generally suffer from 2 common deficiencies : either they are large, such as PostgreSQL and MySQL, or they lack features and documentation, such as HypersonicSQL or McKoi.

Firebird has a relatively tiny footprint. At about 10MB for the MacOSX 'packaged' version. If your requirement is for an “embedded database”, bundled with an application server and/or an application, then it is possible to slim down the required files by approx 5Mb. Firebird has all the common features of more mature databases, such as support for transactions, stored procedures, SQL-compliance, etc. If your background is in DB2 and PostgreSQL, the syntax is very similar, and the data types and data handling may seem very familiar, such as the mandatory “single-quotes” for strings.

The design emphasis for Firebird seems to be on small, fast and minimum management. This is ideal for developers who need a database for storage, but do not want to spend too much time on tuning the database for performance. In many situations you may not even need stored procedures, or do complex table joins. In such cases, Firebird is the ideal compromise between size and functionality.

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