Good morning, and thanks for taking a peek at this post. I wanted to introduce myself, and find out what would be good to get to set myself up a learning environment.

I worked as an Sys Admin (actually an IT department of one) for some years, and am now between jobs. Among the things I would like to do is improve my db development and admin skills. I have worked with Access, and the last employer still runs (to my knowledge, anyhow) the db I set up there, which was largely just to keep track of details regarding the job I was doing. I have always worked with Windows based software, but Linux is another area I was thinking I should learn more about.

I have set up a virtual server environment (SQL 2K server and SciLinux), where I could play around. I also have a candidate application I'd like to develop in mind that keeps track of details from a RPG game my husband and I like to play. I doubt the app would ever see the light of the Internet, but it is a complicated enough example to be worthwhile to illustrate the concepts I'd want to try.

So, I wanted to ask for recommendations on a freeware platform and related tools (they need to be freebies, and preferably not just trial-ware). So far, I got excited about dbDesigner4, but ran into a problem getting it to sync back to the MSSQL it reverse engineered to begin with; it seems to be very bent on MySQL. Anybody got suggestions?