Working on the web

This month I started exploring Microsoft Azure.

Starting out with Windows 8

So I wanted to start to get to understand Windows 8. So far so good. I needed a blank PC to run the test on as most of my PCs are set up very specifically. So I purchased a Samsung Series 7 tablet PC and installed Windows 8 and I have to say that I am impressed.

As will all major changes there is a learning curve while we try and make it work the way we are expecting it to work. Once you watch the 3 short videos and stop and think it is amazing.

The tablet hand writing recognition is amazing, tie this to Microsoft OneNote and you have an amazing digital notepad that is searchable and easy to organise. I can finally see me actually using OneNote instead of just thinking that its pretty cool but a lot of effort.

The new start screen was great for me because I already use a Windows Phone so I felt at home. I did find it odd launching the full desktop and not having a Start Icon. Once you adjust to it though its a real improvement. For me the penny dropped when I installed MS Office and the shortcuts appear in the Metro screen. I had thought of them as seperate entities but no, it’s all the same and it’s all good.

 

 

Resolving slow row inserts in vb.net

wow who would have thought, adding rows to a datatable with a strongly typed dataset is about 10 times faster than an untyped dataset. It’s definately worth the effort if you are importing large CSVs.

 

I was writing a smal lapp that takes the content from 3 CSV files and loads them into datatables. Then I merge them into a fourth with some business logic thrown in along the way.

Inserting rows without a strongly types dataset was taking ages. I am importing about 50,000 rows and I swear it was taking around 20 mins to run. Of that maybe 3-4 minutes is loading the csv into the datatables. Because we are reading CSV the format is a little unpredictable. I changed that and wrote new exporters so that the formats all match then added a dataset and manually defined the datatable. Now when I read the csv into tables I declare them with the type. The inserts are faster like done from 15 minutes to maybe under a minute.

 

Amazing who would have thought!

 

Very cool idea

What ever you think about the wasted paper this is still a very cool idea and shows that people will still find new and novels ways to use existing tech.

http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/19/receipt-racer-makes-printing-fun-wastes-more-paper-than-you-eve/#disqus_thread

Moved back to WordPress

Found that I just wasn’t getting around to adding content to the Polychrome website. Funny because I have done stuff for paying customers but we all know that if you go to a plumbers the tap will be dripping right?

Anyway, one thing I missed about running the website on WordPress was that I could add content where ever I wanted to and it didn’t need to be a big planned event, I could just grab the iPad and go for it. But I loved having the custom site developed in DreamWeaver because I had fine control over placement.

What to do? well I found a great product from PageLines and their template PlatformPro adds a heck of a lot of extra functionality to WordPress. Enough for me to feel that it was an acceptable compromise. I guess there is always compromise but this was pretty close to what I want – a couple of days effort and here we are.

Moved to new server

Hi there, we finally  moved servers. I think it’s important to practice what you preach, so we are now on the same servers as our customers. To be fair we only stayed on goDaddy for so long because originally I used their hosted Exchange product. Growth has meant that we set up our own server and moved that all in house so the time came for a move.

Talking of growth, I have been so busy that there haven’t been many posts for a while and then with the impending move I was reluctant to blog if I didn’t transfer the content. I shouldnt have worried because WordPress has a great export / import function that made transferring the posts easy as 1,2, 3!

You might see a few gremlins over the new week or two as I am super busy and the blog is always the first to suffer – poor blog.

PRO Scanner

Barcode Scanning Application – delivery checker

OK so been very busy lately and haven’t posted details on any of the exciting projects I have been working on. One such project is a PRO scanner. It has been written for Attache PRO but it can be changed to work with most accounting systems and it could be extended to do more in terms of features. The first version has been written for a food company here in Auckland. They need to record the best before dates on products as they ship them. The system scans a special GS1-128 barcode that has the product expiry date encoded into it.

In fact these GS1 bar codes are great as they have the ability to store business logic by way of what are called application ids. These are a predefined series of business information tags so (01)  means the product unique id ( GTIN) and (15) means expiry date. Similarly there are codes for user values so we use (92) to store the product code but you can store lots of other useful info.

Pick | Check | Ship

The application works like this

The delivery note is printed and sent to despatch

The stock is pulled form shelves onto a packing bench

The packer scans the items and enters the order number – each scan is logged and the best before date and stock code are extracted from the GS1 barcode

The system checks that what was scanned matches the order and highlights any mistakes

Then once the order is correct there is an option to update the best before dates back to the order. This is a requirement for food sales in NZ.

This system goes live in March and I really enjoyed the coding and the learning. Click to learn  more about GS1

Bad Client = Bad Project

When a project goes wrong it can be all to easy to look around for someone to blame.

It is also, very easy to blame yourself and ask what could I have done differently. It is easy to see why you would do this but it is also fair to say that the share of any blame should be evenly spread. That would therefore include the client. It also makes sense as the client has as much input as you if not more. They are also controlling the direction, attitude and the speed of the project.

When a project goes wrong you can almost always bet that the client has a hand in it. If the client doesn’t supply the content, answer your questions and doesn’t help you keep things moving, your project will be late and you will be left looking like you messed up.

So what should you do whe a project goes wrong?

Well this comes down to communication, and planning. The old saying “fail to prepare and you must prepare to fail” is never truer. You need to take control from day one. The client is looking to you for directio so either shit, or get off the pot. You need to have the plan and the project must be kept on track by constantly updating the plan which like all things in life must be adaptable and needs to evolve.

basecamp is a great collaborative project planning solution, as is MS Project. I have used both and they both have their merits. But you don’t need to pay money to get good results, a good checklist is often quicker and easier. In my experience anything that is easy is much more likely to be used, and that is the real key to project management. If you have a list of what needs to be done (some call this a functional decomposition – ie a list of functions) then you cross them off you know how much is left to do. When you find a new task that was never on your list (and yuo almost certainly will) add it to the list and make sure everyone involved in the project can see that new tasks have come to light. They will be much more forgiving if your deadline slips if they are away of any challenges than if you try to be a hero.

Please give me your feedbackI’d love to hear about your failed projects, and your successes but please only where the client made the difference…

SEO For a non SEO Client

What do you do when a client doesn’t want SEO?

Seriously that’s a question and I welcome your feedback.I have a few clients that work in a closed market. One sells spare parts for lawn mowers. There a limited number of mower companies in the country. He reckons he has over 98% of them as clients, so why bother looking for more on the internet? He knows who they are and there are a variety of reasons why he isn’t already selling to them. So what to do?

Well I guess not everyone actually needs SEO, and you can’t win them all.

As for the rest of the world, good SEO means free visitors to your web site and we all want that. But I want to remake a point I have made before, we don’t all need 1000 new visitors to our site every day. Surely what we really want is a 1000 new customers to our site.  This month I am launching two web stores, one is already live selling stationery products. They are both private stores so only existing clients can see the prices. I’ll write more about this soon. But back to my point… we need customers not visitors and that isn’t always done via SEO.

What we need is effective marketing for our business.

SEO and our website for that matter is only one part of that. Relying purely on one way to find customers is just plain crazy. There’s heaps you can do, here’s a few ideas

  • regular newsletters
  • cold calling
  • referrals
  • networking
  • local business association netwroking sessions

So my next question is – what have you done this month?

If you haven’t done at least one of the above then stop reading right now and go do something pro-active to grow your business.

Please post some feedback, tell me what you have done this year and what you are going to do…

More soon

Attache PRO online store

Over the past 2 months I have developed a online store interface for Attache PRO. The store is the Interspire shopping cart system which currently runs over 8000 online stores including many household names. The interface transfers customers and stock each night and fetches new orders as they are received.

Most online stores rely on a simple email to the store administrators, but if you have a large number of orders this isn’t practical.

Just some of the additional benefits from the interface are

  • Images are transferred and thumb nails are automatically generated. When you have 1000’s of products this is a real life saver.
  • Categories are automatically generated allowing browse store by category.
  • Brands can be maintained within Attache and then transferred automatically, allowing browse store by brand
  • Orders are automatically transferred and imported into Attache preventing errors from rekeying of orders.
  • Can be configured as a private store, online customers with a valid login can see prices.

If you have Attache PRO and would like to trade online I can help you get your products online quick, easy and without breaking the bank.