Underwater photography by Andy Kirkland

Integrating SDM 2

I’ve not managed this, yet, as I’ve had real problems with SDM 2 ….

Exporting from SDM2

…. Mostly because the Export facility appeared to be really naff (as were early releases of the software).
The options available in the Suunto “Help” are a “Standard” .zxu file (which seems to lack documentation) or export to Excel .csv file – although this only seems to export the profile data – not any of the information about the location etc.
Outside of the documentation, the software allows export to a .zxl file. That doesn’t seem to open up easily either …
The final option is a Suunto Dive Export File (SDE). This also looked pretty inaccessible, until this entry popped up on Scubaboard. I just picked up on it yesterday.
The gist is that this export format is an XML file within a ZIP (compressed) folder, with one file for each dive.
There’s no schema (or DTD) for this format, which may vary from one model to another.

SDM 2 database structure

The underlying database is based on an MS Access platform.
The first release wasn’t password protected, so you could look at the structure. The key table (“Items”) is quite … well … multi-purpose. It holds gear, dives and sites, all mixed up and identifiable only through keys. Later releases are password protected, but – again – you should be able to find the password on the ‘net if you really want to (to some extent, this demonstrates the pointlessness of trying to keep these things secret, but that’s for another rant).
The fields are mostly named generically (e.g. i_custom11 – which can hold the dive sequence no. or t_custom3 – which can hold the dive location), and so have no real context for a SQL query, even with the password access. 2 – 3 queries would be needed to get to the dives, and different queries for each dive computer model.

So the XML exports would seem to be the best way into this data, but it’s gonna be a lot of faffing about – extracting the files, jamming them together, and getting the info out. Profiles should be a bit more accessible, though.
The files themselves seem to have meaningful field names, which is a help, but there’s a project with an XML data model for generic dive log which seems to be more evolved.

Net effect … I may have to upgrade to SDM2 at some stage, but I’m not in any real hurry.

So what would I do with SDM ?

SDM isn’t core to Suunto’s operations. It doesn’t “sell” in its own right, and – given the market – almost certainly never will.
For this reason, it probably isn’t high on Suunto’s list of priorities – but it is expected as part of a dive computer release.
Suunto’s problem is that this software costs money to support – and there’s an increasing number of “legacy” models to support (each with different unique characteristics) – but doesn’t generate any revenue.

I believe that the answer is to “open” much of the software (but then – in case you hadn’t guessed – I’m a believer in Open Source).

I believe that the database structure is unwieldy.
So I’d switch to an XML-based structure. Probably for the data repository, as well as just for export.

By supporting projects such as MacDiveLog and/or JDiveLog then PC Dive management software would not be be limited to the Windows platform.
This fits well with the current trend to separating information and presentation.

Core functionality could be protected – data import, decompression algorithms, dive planning etc. could be secured, but with APIs exposed and published for third party developers.

Aspects such as the user interface and reporting could be opened to community developers – there is a wide body of evidence that this would lead to a more rewarding user experience, and more diverse applications.

Apart from the support savings, I believe that this would offer benefits to Suunto – Dive Manager support wouldn’t be a significant factor in releasing new hardware models. Those are the items that generate revenue.
As things stand, the shortcomings in SDM reflect on the organisation’s development capabilities – and they have a lot of applications far more critical than SDM.
Reading some of the forums (even Suuto’s own) I believe that I’m not alone in this view …

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