Today marks two important professional anniversaries for me.  I have been with Venture Mechanical for 5 years today.  That’s a huge deal considering my previous best for two years nine months.  It is almost a given that a person will need to change jobs a few times, especially early in their careers.  As you learn and grow, you get a better understanding of you likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and it is natural to outgrow a position.  It is also one of the best ways to make significant leaps in terms of income.
We have officially been on our new accounting software for one full year.  The entire processes of research, converting and implementing took about a year and was one of the most challenging things I have done.  The first day we flipped the switch was stressful and the first few months of growing pains were difficult.  Constantly trying to reassure everyone that things were not blowing up, the output was accurate and not having that efficient “flow” were just a few of the things I battled.  Now, it is hard to remember what the old system was even like.
So here is to more success in the coming years.

Software switchover…nearing the end

Back in May of last year, I started looking for new enterprise software for my company.  By July, I had narrowed it down to a few contenders.  By November, I had narrowed the field even further and management gave me the final say in who we would go with.  The check was cut and the planning began.

I have been through software changeovers before, but usually at the end or near the go live date.  I knew it would be a challenge, but I have taken a beating.  The endless meetings, deciding what to change or keep the same, finding the software does not do things you thought it did, battling the resistance of people who do not want to change, etc.  It is all coming to a climax.  April was suppose to be our original go live date, but got pushed back because we just were not ready.  May is the new time set and so far it is a still on.  I have busy few  weeks ahead of me as I move info from on system to another.

This whole project has been almost too much.  It has been overwhelming.  I already do much of the work in the accounting dept and had to add on a much greater load with the software changeover.  I am thankful that management has been so supportive and that the team involved has worked so diligently to get through issues.  I look forward to the next post where I get to say how successful the changeover was and thank a bunch of people.

Stupid Netflix

A while back I was able to watch Netflix instantly on my computer with no trouble.  Then they got into bed with the devil (Microsoft) and now everything is done on the Silverlight platform.  Every video is choppy and unwatchable.  I have tried to contact Netflix, but you just get stuck in an endless loop of click-a-button that gets you nowhere.  So in my frustration, they get a nastygram through my rarely read blog.

Netflix, stop fucking with me.  I know you have a monopoly right now, but so did Blockbuster and look where they went after ignoring customers.  Get a better platform.

Software Search, Pt.2

A couple of weeks ago, I went back to my boss and asked to move forward on the software decision.  I had reduced the three choices to:
  1. ComputerEase
  2. Maxwell Systems
  3. Spectrum (Dexter & Chaney)
I thought a round of having each com back and pitch to department heads would be a logical next step.  I was surprised when I was asked just to make the decision and just bring on back.  I chose ComputerEase for its simple design, user security, ease of use and glowing reviews about support.  A demo was given to a couple of key employees and I was also sent to the user conference in Austin to do some last minute research/learning.  This morning I got the ball rolling on negotiations and I have a final proposal to give to Sam.  Once a check is written, it is just a matter of scheduling the set up.  I am looking forward to the many trials, obstacles and long hours to follow knowing the end result is a better system and putting me one step closer to having this department to myself.

Double Twist

I don’t know why this is not the very first line at the top of doubleTwist:

“Important to remember if you want to add a new playlist, or a playlist with altered content to your phone without wiping all the other playlists – or taking the time to resync already happily existing playlists. Remember: drag and drop is cumulative. Syncing is a total do-over.”

So, I have re-synced twice to get all the content on there since I was unaware of this little rule.  On a positive note, doubleTwist is free, easy and seems to covert files to usable media on any device where many other programs fail.  

Unprotect MS Word Document

I received a word document I needed for a project I was doing, but it was protected.  I was connecting it to a spreadsheet to merge in some data so I would not have to time it in twice.  The protection had to go, but the sender either did not have the password, or did not want to give it out.  I did a quick search and found this nice instructable:

I went through the steps an with the hour, I had the sheet all unsecured and fixed for my use.  However today, or more precisely on my drive in, I started thinking there was probably an easier way using OpenOffice.  Sure enough.  I opened the doc with OpenOffice, save back as MSWord format and it gives you a nice little check box.

This was much easier, though it did not make me feel like quite the hacker the other method did.

Make Outlook work like Gmail

Here’s how to do it all (at least for Outlook 2003), all documented for you here in one place:
The first thing you need to do is make messages you send get put in the Inbox. An additional thing you need to do is make them get marked as read (otherwise you’ll always have tons of un-read messages from yourself in your inbox).

Outlook Gmail Rules and Filters: This is what my "Rules and Alerts" look after after adding a "CC send messages to inbox" rule and a "Mark messages from self as read" rule.

Outlook Gmail Rules and Filters: This is what my “Rules and Alerts” look after after adding a “CC send messages to inbox” rule and a “Mark messages from self as read” rule. Select Rules and Alerts from the Tools menu.
Click the New Rule button to open the Rules Wizard. (In previous versions of Outlook you’d go straight to the Rules Wizard from the Tools menu.)

Near the bottom click Check messages after sending. Click Next.

Click Next again without checking any condition.

Click Yes to confirm that this rule applies to all messages.

Check the box CC message to *select your email address*.

Click Next and Next again. Name the rule and click Finish.

Then, to get Outlook to BCC, instead of CC so don’t look like a gimp:

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 2009-04-25 15:32.

Just press alt-F11 to bring up VBA, then Project1(VbaProject.OTM)– and copy the following code to your built-in ThisOutlookSession:

Private Sub Application_ItemSend(ByVal Item As Object, _
Cancel As Boolean)
Dim objRecip As Recipient
Dim strMsg As String
Dim res As Integer
Dim strBcc As String
On Error Resume Next

‘ #### USER OPTIONS ####
strBcc = “youremailaddress@blah.dom”

Set objRecip = Item.Recipients.Add(strBcc)
objRecip.Type = olBCC
If Not objRecip.Resolve Then
strMsg = “Could not resolve the Bcc recipient. ” & _
“Do you want still to send the message?”
res = MsgBox(strMsg, vbYesNo + vbDefaultButton1, _
“Could Not Resolve Bcc Recipient”)
If res = vbNo Then
Cancel = True
End If
End If

Set objRecip = Nothing
End Sub

The next thing you need to do is make your e-mails show up in something that somewhat resembles GMails conversations. I set “Group By…” to “Conversation (ascending) and “Sort…” to Conversation (index).

Outlook Gmail Customized View Options: This is what my customized view options look like after grouping by conversation and sorting by conversation index.

Outlook Gmail Customized View Options: This is what my customized view options look like after grouping by conversation and sorting by conversation index.
Now your inbox should look a lot nicer now and finally, click on the column “Newest on top” to have them sorted by date properly and your Inbox should look as shown in the image.
Thanks to David Grant, the anon poster in comments and PC Magazine for all the pieces to make this work.

Software Search

My company has been on the same accounting/project management software for almost the entire time they have been in business.  It is an old DOS based AS400 style that makes Windows 3.1 look futuristic.  I finally convinced my boss that we need to look into updating and so the adventure begins.

I started with  a Google search and turned up a great site for starting.  Software Advice is a search service that aggregates all kinds of software.  You enter some criteria and it narrows your choices.  I started with seven companies: 
  1. Sage Timberline
  2. Microsoft Dynamix SL (Formally Solomon)
  3. COINs
  4. ComputerEase
  5. Maxwell Systems
  6. Spectrum (Dexter & Chaney)
  7. Foundation
I went through demonstrations of each software, spending no less than 2 hours up to 4 hours reviewing and asking questions.  I completed a matrix to help me keep it all straight.  I finally made my decision and presented my findings to management.  1-3 were just too much money for too little usefulness.  They just were not designed for how we do business.  #7 was fine, but I have seen it in action with one of my suppliers and either they don’t know how to use it or it does not work like it did in the sales pitch.  Either way it reflects poorly on the company.  I ended up with 4-6 as my top three with #4 being top on my list.  Admittedly, the salesman is really good, but only because he is so responsive.  Every question is answered quickly and with plenty of detail.  
So, management now wants me to interview users of the top three and come up with more questions we can ask when we do the detailed presentations from the vendors.  At a minimum I will be calling 9 people.  I admit I am impatient, so it is good to have others to throttle me back.  With any luck, I can get this all done in the next week and move forward.