So the data I receive to put into the database is in some weird encoding. a colleague said recode was the right tool to try to convert those nasty files.

apt-get install recode

First shock: recode is really complex to handle.

First nice hint from the manual:

recode -lf l1

gives you the latin-1 tables.

Here’s the the recode manual

Addendum: the “file” tool can tell which encoding a file has. This is VERY helpful. My files have Non-ISO extended-ASCII text instead of the ISO-8859 that I need for the ä/ö/ü contained in German language files.