Getting Started with Firebird

Installation

I've successfully installed virtually every version of Firebird from 1.0.0 on up on Linux. I've never tried to install them on any other platform.

There are 2 versions of Firebird: Classic Server (CS) and Super Server (SS). Classic Server only allows a single connection while Super Server allows multiple connections. I recommend using Super Server and this document describes its installation.

Firebird is available on Fedora using yum and may be installed using:

yum install firebird-superserver

It is also available on Ubuntu using apt-get and may be installed using:

apt-get install firebirdversion-super

Where version is replaced with the version you want to install.

Binary and source distributions of Firebird in many different formats (including tar.gz and RPM) for many different platforms are also available at the Firebird web site.

The tar.gz distributions come with an install script. The RPM distributions can be installed using rpm -i.

Firebird distributions from the Firebird web site prior to version 1.5 create a directory called /opt/interbase. Firebird versions 1.5 higher create /opt/firebird.

Some rpm's of Firebird versions 1.5 and higher leave /opt/firebird owned by root, with -r-xr-xr-x permissions. This is wrong and will cause the server not to start. Change the permissions and ownership as follows (as root):

chmod 775 /opt/firebird
chown firebird:firebird /opt/firebird

Many versions of Firebird from the web site require libstdc++.so.5 but most Linux distributions ship with a more recent version. If your system doesn't have /usr/lib/libstdc++.so.5 then you may need to install a compatibility library. On Fedora, you need to install compat-libstdc++-33 as follows (as root):

yum install compat-libstdc++-33

Setting Up Your Environment

At this point, you should set up your environment. The Firebird client is called isql-fb in some distributions, but in others, it is just called isql. Note that unixODBC and Sybase have a client called isql as well which could be installed in /usr/bin, /usr/local/bin, /opt/sybase*/bin or some other path. If you have unixODBC or Sybase installed, you'll have to decide which client you want the isql command to run. If you want isql to run the Firebird client, follow the instructions below. Otherwise, you'll have to run the Firebird isql client by its full pathname.

If you are using Firebird prior to version 1.5, in the configuration script for your shell, add /opt/interbase/bin to your PATH environment variable. If you are using Firebird version 1.5 or higher, add /opt/firebird/bin to your PATH environment variable. You can add the paths as follows.

For Bourne shells:

PATH=$PATH:/opt/firebird/bin
export PATH

or

PATH=$PATH:/opt/interbase/bin
export PATH

For C-shells:

setenv PATH ${PATH}:/opt/firebird/bin

or

setenv PATH ${PATH}:/opt/interbase/bin

Users and Passwords

Use the gsec utility to create a new user named testuser with password testpassword.

There are some quirks though...

Firebird user names are case insensitive and can be up to 31 characters long. Firebird passwords are case sensitive and can be up to 32 characters long, but only the first 8 characters are actually used.

Sometimes the /etc/hosts.equiv file must contain an entry for localhost and possibly localhost.localdomain for the gsec to function at all, so if you're having trouble, try that.

gsec must always be run as root, and sometimes from within the directory containing the security database.

The instructions are slightly different for different versions of Firebird.

For Firebird 2.0 and higher, the installation process creates a security database called security2.fdb containing host and user privileges and an administrative user named SYSDBA with either a randomly generated password or the password masterkey. In the case of a randomly generated password, it is listed in SYSDBA.password.

Run gsec from within the directory containing the file security2.fdb.

Create a user as follows (replacing masterkey with the sysdba password if it isn't masterkey)...

[root@localhost root]# /opt/firebird/bin/gsec -user sysdba -password masterkey
GSEC> add testuser -pw testpassword
Warning - maximum 8 significant bytes of password used
GSEC> quit 

For Firebird 1.5, the installation process creates a security database called security.fdb containing host and user privileges and an administrative user named SYSDBA with a randomly generated password. This password is listed in SYSDBA.password.

Run gsec from within the directory containing the file security.fdb.

Create a user as follows (replacing masterkey with the sysdba password if it isn't masterkey)...

[root@localhost root]# /opt/firebird/bin/gsec -user sysdba -password masterkey
GSEC> add testuser
GSEC> modify testuser -pw testpassword
Warning - maximum 8 significant bytes of password used
GSEC> quit 

For Firebird prior to version 1.5, the installation process creates a security database named isc4.gdb containing host and user privileges and an administrative user named SYSDBA with a password of either changeme or masterkey.

Run gsec from within the directory containing the file isc4.gdb.

Create a user as follows...

[root@localhost interbase]# /opt/interbase/bin/gsec
GSEC> add testuser
GSEC> modify testuser -pw testpassword
Warning - maximum 8 significant bytes of password used
GSEC> quit 

Starting the Database at Boot Time

The package distributions of Firebird either install a script which starts the database at boot time and stops it at shutdown time or use systemd. In this case, make sure to update the init script with the new sysdba password, if necessary.

If you compiled from source, you'll need to install a script like one of the following to start/stop the database at boot/shutdown time.

For Firebird versions 2.5 and up, use the following script:

#!/bin/sh

case "$1" in
  start)
        su -l firebird "/opt/firebird/bin/fbguard -pidfile /tmp/firebird.pid -daemon -forever"
        ;;
  stop)
        su -l firebird "kill `cat /tmp/firebird.pid`"
        ;;
  *)
        echo $"Usage: $0 {start|stop}"
        exit 1
esac

exit 0

For Firebird version 1.5 to 2.1, use the following script:

#!/bin/sh

case "$1" in
  start)
        su -l firebird "/opt/firebird/bin/fbmgr -start -forever"
        ;;
  stop)
        su -l firebird "/opt/firebird/bin/fbmgr -shut -user sysdba -password newpassword"
        ;;
  *)
        echo $"Usage: $0 {start|stop}"
        exit 1
esac

exit 0

For Firebird prior to version 1.5, use the following script:

#!/bin/sh

case "$1" in
  start)
        /opt/interbase/bin/ibmgr -start
        ;;
  stop)
        /opt/interbase/bin/ibmgr -shut -user sysdba -password newpassword
        ;;
  *)
        echo $"Usage: $0 {start|stop}"
        exit 1
esac

exit 0

Install this script and run it with the "start" option to start up the database. Running it with the "stop" option shuts the database down. To access a database, it must be running.

Note that the /etc/hosts.equiv file must contain an entry for localhost and possibly localhost.localdomain for the database to start properly and for the "local" tools such as ibmgr/fbmgr to function.

Creating a Database

Firebird should now be ready to use, but to do any useful work, you'll have to create a database.

Though you can create tables in the isc4.gdb database using the SYSDBA user, it's not a good idea. You should create a new database using a regular user. The following sequence of commands creates a database.

For Firebird version 1.5 or higher, these commands create a database called /opt/firebird/testdb.gdb which is owned by testuser.

[user@localhost user]$ isql -u testuser -p testpassword
Use CONNECT or CREATE DATABASE to specify a database
SQL> create database '/opt/firebird/testdb.gdb';
SQL> quit;

For Firebird prior to version 1.5, these commands create a database called /opt/interbase/testdb.gdb which is owned by testuser.

[user@localhost user]$ isql -u testuser -p testpassword
Use CONNECT or CREATE DATABASE to specify a database
SQL> create database '/opt/interbase/testdb.gdb';
SQL> quit;

Firebird databases are referenced by the pathname of the database file. If you try to create a database using a file name that already exists or if you forget to enclose the file name in single quotes, you'll get a cryptic error indicating that the 'database' token is unknown. So, if you get a message like that, make sure that you enclosed the file name in single quotes and make sure that the database file that you're trying to create doesn't already exist.

Now you can log into the database as testuser.

Use the following command for Firebird 1.5 or higher.

isql -u testuser -p testpassword /opt/firebird/testdb.gdb

Use the following command for Firebird prior to version 1.5.

isql -u testuser -p testpassword /opt/interbase/testdb.gdb

The only users that can drop a database are the user that owns the database and the SYSDBA user. If you want to drop the database, you can do so using isql as follows for Firebird version 1.5 or higher...

[user@localhost user]$ isql -u testuser -p testpassword /opt/firebird/testdb.gdb 
Database:  /opt/firebird/testdb.gdb, User: testuser
SQL> drop database;
SQL> quit;

Or as follows for Firebird prior to version 1.5.

[user@localhost user]$ isql -u testuser -p testpassword /opt/interbase/testdb.gdb 
Database:  /opt/interbase/testdb.gdb, User: testuser
SQL> drop database;
SQL> quit;

To delete a user, use the gsec utility as the root user and delete the appropriate user as follows for Firebird version 1.5 or higher.

[root@localhost root]# cd /opt/firebird
[root@localhost firebird]# ls -l isc4.gdb
-rw-rw-rw-    1 root     root       626688 Feb 18 20:43 isc4.gdb
[root@localhost firebird]# /opt/firebird/bin/gsec
GSEC> delete testuser
GSEC> quit

Or as follows for Firebird prior to version 1.5.

[root@localhost root]# cd /opt/interbase
[root@localhost interbase]# ls -l isc4.gdb
-rw-rw-rw-    1 root     root       626688 Feb 18 20:43 isc4.gdb
[root@localhost interbase]# /opt/interbase/bin/gsec
GSEC> delete testuser
GSEC> quit

This should be enough to get you started. To set up more complex configurations, consult the Firebird documentation.

Accessing a Database

To access a database called /opt/firebird/testdb.gdb on the local machine as the testuser user with password testpassword, use the following command.

isql -u testuser -p testpassword /opt/firebird/testdb.gdb

To connect to a database on a remote machine, prepend the database filename with the remote hostname, followed by a colon. For example, to access a database called /opt/firebird/testdb.gdb on the remote machine testhost as the testuser user with password testpassword, use the following command.

isql -u testuser -p testpassword testhost:/opt/firebird/testdb.gdb

Once you're connected to the database, the isql client prompts you to enter a query. Queries may be split across multiple lines. To run a query, end it with a semicolon. To exit, type quit;.

A sample isql session follows.

[user@localhost user]$ isql -u testuser -p testpass /opt/firebird/testdb.gdb
Database:  /opt/firebird/testdb.gdb, User: testuser
SQL> create table testtable (
CON> col1 char(40),
CON> col2 integer
CON> );
SQL> show table testtable;
COL1                            CHAR(40) Nullable 
COL2                            INTEGER Nullable 
SQL> insert into testtable values ('hello',50);
SQL> insert into testtable values ('hi',60);
SQL> insert into testtable values ('bye',70);
SQL> select * from testtable;

COL1                                             COL2 
======================================== ============ 

hello                                              50 
hi                                                 60 
bye                                                70 

SQL> update testtable set col2=0 where col1='hi';
SQL> select * from testtable;

COL1                                             COL2 
======================================== ============ 

hello                                              50 
hi                                                  0 
bye                                                70 

SQL> delete from testtable where col2=50;
SQL> select * from testtable;

COL1                                             COL2 
======================================== ============ 

hi                                                  0 
bye                                                70 

SQL> commit;
SQL> drop table testtable;
SQL> quit;

Firebird Quirks

In most databases, you can create, alter or drop databse objects such as tables, indices or stored procedures at will. In Firebird, you should create, alter or drop databse objects when you have exclusive access to the databse.

Basically, you should shut down all clients, use isql to create, alter or drop the objects, then start the clients again. If you don't do this, you'll get confusing results.

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