A small hint for working with Integers in MySQL

Integer types in MySQL

A small hint that is not obvious when working with Integers in MySQL. All Integer types in MySQL have a fixed size. This size determines the lower and upper bound of the integer the field can store. You can have signed and unsigned integers, which make this range larger (unsigned) or smaller, because you can also store negative Integers (signed). In either case, the number M in the definition var INT(M) does not limit the actual stored or storable length at all. It is only for display and to indicate developers what kind of length one would expect. It is not a technical constraint. Only the type is (tiniyint, smallint, bigint, etc).

An example using INT(1)

All integer types have a defined range, you can find it in the official documentation. The maximum value for signed integers is 2147483647 and for TINYINT it is 127. If we define an INT(1) the number in the brackets only show how many digits will be displayed when padded with 0.

DROP TABLE my_numbers;
CREATE TABLE my_numbers (
    integerNumber INT(1),
    tinyIntegerNumber TINYINT(1)

# Max value for integers is 2147483647 and for TINYINT it is 127
INSERT INTO my_numbers(integerNumber, tinyIntegerNumber) VALUES (2147483647, 127);
SELECT * FROM my_numbers;
# Query OK, 1 row affected (0.005 sec)
# root@local> SELECT * FROM my_numbers;
# +---------------+-------------------+
# | integerNumber | tinyIntegerNumber |
# +---------------+-------------------+
# |    2147483647 |               127 |
# +---------------+-------------------+
# 1 row in set (0.000 sec)

As you can see the table stored both max values although we used INT(1). This exists only because if the database knows how long a number typically is, it can padd it with zeros (if it is told to do so).

Padding with zeros

In the following example, we will padd integers with zero values from the left. Then the setting does have an effect in some clients. The official and the MariaDB command line clients display the leading zeros. Other clients like IntelliJ do not display them.

DROP TABLE IF EXISTS  my_padded_numbers;
CREATE TABLE my_padded_numbers (
    integerNumber INT(64) ZEROFILL,
    tinyIntegerNumber TINYINT(8) ZEROFILL
# Max value for integers is 2147483647 and for TINYINT it is 127
INSERT INTO my_padded_numbers(integerNumber, tinyIntegerNumber) VALUES (123, 42);
SELECT * FROM my_padded_numbers;
# root@local> INSERT INTO my_padded_numbers(integerNumber, tinyIntegerNumber) VALUES (123, 42);
# Query OK, 1 row affected (0.004 sec)
# root@local> SELECT * FROM my_padded_numbers;
# +------------------------------------------------------------------+-------------------+
# | integerNumber                                                    | tinyIntegerNumber |
# +------------------------------------------------------------------+-------------------+
# | 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000123 |          00000042 |
# +------------------------------------------------------------------+-------------------+
# 1 row in set (0.001 sec)


The M value for declaring integers has nothing to do with the length. This is different when working with VARCHAR for instance, where the number in the brackets indeed defines the maximum capacity.

Deploying MySQL in a Local Development Environment

Installing MySQL via apt-get is a simple task, but the migration between different MySQL versions requires planning and testing. Thus installing one central instance of the database system might not be suitable, when the version of MySQL or project specific settings should be switched quickly without interfering with other applications. Using one central instance can quickly become cumbersome. In this article, I will describe how any number of MySQL instances can be stored and executed from within a user’s home directory.

Adapting MySQL Data an Log File Locations

Some scenarios might require to run several MySQL instances at once, other scenarios cover sensitive data, where we do not want MySQL to write any data on non-encrypted partitions. This is especially true for devices which can get easily stolen, for instance laptops. If you use a laptop for developing your applications from time to time, chances are good that you need to store sensitive data in a database, but need to make sure that the data is encrypted when at rest. The data stored in a database needs to be protected when at rest.

This can be solved with full disk encryption, but this technique has several disadvantages. First of all, full disk encryption only utilises one password. This entails, that several users who utilise a device need to share one password, which reduces the reliability of this approach. Also when the system needs to be rebooted, full disk encryption can become an obstacle, which increases the complexity further.

Way easier to use is the transparent home directory encryption, which can be selected during many modern Linux setup procedures out of the box. We will use this encryption type for this article, as it is reasonable secure and easy to setup. Our goal is to store all MySQL related data in the home directory and run MySQL with normal user privileges.

Creating the Directory Structure

The first step is creating a directory structure for storing the data. In this example, the user name is stefan, please adapt to your needs.