Advantages to Android Game Development

The industry of mobile game development has introduced a very important aspect to the market – the ability to conceptualize, develop, and release video games on devices with far more success and ease than ever before. And with the Android app marketplace only requiring a one-time fee for submitting an application, the cost becomes almost negligible to put the product out for millions of customers to find. Even the submission process is drastically shorter than on most other smartphones, as the app regulation is far more lenient for the Android OS.

Another drawing point for developing games on Android devices is the programming language featured- Java. Java has long been one of the most popular programming languages ​​for video game developers, and that makes it extremely easy for the average programmer to pick up Android development for the first time. Compared to most other mobile platforms, which usually sport modified or newly invented languages, the learning curve is decreed to nearly nothing, so a new developer can complete a game in a fraction of the time.

Another unique aspect to Android game development is the lack of standardization in the droid phone family. As the Android OS is not licensed to a single mobile phone making company, the phones themselves can vary to an extreme degree in terms of features and hardware specifications. While one device may have a fully functional A-GPS and HDMI video compatibility, another may have a QWERTY keyboard and no GPS at all. While this is certainly appealing to some developers, as they are likely to find a phone that will meet their hardware needs reasonably, it will also restrict the potential audience, as some phones will not be able to support the more complex applications.

When the game development process has finally reached the point where it can be released to the public, the developer is presented with yet another choice- which market would the game be most visible in? Unlike the iOS, there are numerous marketplaces and app stores for Android phones, each one with it's own advantages and disadvantages. From the basic Android marketplace, built to only display the apps compatible with the phone currently being used, to the Amazon app store, which offers a different free app every day, the myriad of marketing strategies can be almost daunting, which makes it all the More useful that an application can almost always be entered into multiple marketplaces without issue. However, whenever it makes sense to spread attention across several different fields is another question entirely.

The Android game development process overall really gives the most variety on the smartphone market. From start to finish, strategies can be hand-tailored to the developer's desires, making the game as close to the original concept as currently possible. While the audience may not be as large as that of iPhone users, the Android presents itself as a strong contender, purely through its accessibility. And with the largest variety of smartphones on the current market, the possibilities for development are inexhaustible, and continued releases can only add to the capabilities the platform has to offer.

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Schedule Slippage – Root Causes

“The single most important task of a project: setting realistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations based on inaccurate estimates are the single largest cause of software failure.”- Futrell, Shafer

Introduction

With global and competitive market, it is very important to launch a product or service in the market on time, ahead of competitors. Definitely, timely launch depends on on-time-completion of the product development projects. Project planning has lots of challenges to overcome in order to finish the project on time – right from schedule predictability, envisioning future/possible risks and coming up with mitigation plans.

This article talks about some of the challenges, often faced in the Software Product Development industry that causes the schedule slippage.

Schedule slippage: Delay in the project completion from its initial estimated date of completion.

Each project plan will have a planned completion date (NRA, RA), and a bounding box or upper limit in schedule. Nowadays, it is a common practice to have three dates associated with any project plan:

  • Non-Risk Adjusted (NRA) date: Project completion date assuming no hurdles – Ideal conditions.
  • Risk Adjusted (RA) date: Project completion date assuming some risks will come on the way and will need extra time to attend to them.
  • Bounding Box (BB) or upper limit: The upper limit on the project plan before which the project has to be finished under any circumstances – Generally decided by the top management based on product/services roadmap and launch in the market.

Under ideal circumstances, any project is scheduled to complete by NRA date. Considering some risks that may come on the way and would eat some time off the schedule, the project should be over by RA date. If the risks were not envisioned and hence not planned well, then project may get delayed and would complete after RA date. Project completion crossing the RA or upper limit is neither good nor expected out of a well-planned project.

Root Causes

As we always plan for a project to get over before RA date, seldom is the case it happens as expected. There are multiples reasons for schedule slippage, right from improper planning, lack of resources to unplanned requirements and rework that eat away vital time off the planned schedule.

A typical project development process – Each project will have a team (development, testing and other functions) that will work through a process (requirement analysis, schedule estimation, design, implementation and testing) to deliver a product to the customer/end user. Each entity that participate in the project – directly or indirectly affect the schedule.

From the development process, we can identify the items that can cause delay in the execution of the project – for example, misinterpreted or unclear requirement adds up to completion time, unavailability of development tools or resources can prolong the project duration. Various processes like schedule estimation, detailed design and product development if not executed skillfully, may significantly blow up the project cycle.

For better understanding all these possible causes that may result in schedule slippage are categorized .

Let’s have a detailed look at the root causes of schedule slippage category wise.

1) Schedule Estimation: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey

For a project to be executed on time, it is very important to have it planned very well. Any mistake in project schedule estimation reflects as delay in the project completion from its deadline. There are several factors that contribute to improper schedule estimation:

· Underestimation of technical complexities: At the start of the project, many of the team members may not have thorough knowledge of technical complexities and hence their estimation would be incorrect. Sometimes it may so happen that the person giving estimates for a particular task is having no idea about the technical challenges involved in carrying out that particular task. You might hear, towards the mid/end of the project life cycle when the task is not finished on time – “Oh, I didn’t know that this feature also requires 5 more tasks to be done!” or “I was thinking this task to be so simple, but I under estimated it!”. · Lack of Design/Big picture: It is important to have a bigger picture / overview of the complete project to understand how a particular module/feature would fit in to complete project. Product or system level design helps in understanding the interfaces among other modules and the required coordination for product assembly and hence, a better insight into the work involved. Often, estimates without focus on detailed design tend to deviate more from the actual time taken for finishing the job. · Integration Testing: While making a project plan, testing also needs to be accommodated in the schedule. At times, the unit testing or testing done by individual contributors on their module is taken into account but not the system level testing. Toward the release, when all the individually tested modules are brought together, a system level or integration testing is a must. Having the time for integration testing not accounted in the overall project schedule will cause delay in the project completion.

· Unplanned dependencies: Project planning is not only about breaking the project into minute tasks and managing them. A well-planned project schedule also needs to consider certain unplanned dependencies. Some of these are:

o People: Optimum utilization of human resources calls for same set of people working in multiple projects. A person may not be available to work for currently planned/assigned project due to extended/unplanned work in another parallel project. Another issue related to people could be unplanned/unexpected attrition that will affect the project plan. Time is also lost in mentoring of new member by a senior (more experienced) person which goes unaccounted if not planned.

o Tools & Equipments: Project can be delayed if team is waiting for release of upgrade or procurement of any vital tool (hardware or software being used in the project) or if the equipments required for development and testing are not available. “We had a 3-months project for validating our existing solution on new product platform using customer DUT (device under test). We had to wait for the DUT for nearly 1.5 months as it got stuck in customs. After getting the DUT, we realized that it’s been damaged partially during transportation. As a result we had to ask for another DUT and whole project took more than 5 months to get finished.” – I am sure that such cases will be quite familiar to many organizations. Other reason for timely unavailability of tools / equipments is that they are shared among various projects to reduce the operating cost. Any unplanned dependency on their usage or wrong assumption about availability of these shared resources would cause delay in the program. Team members might have to work on shifts to optimize the usage of shared resources which can cause reduced work hours and/or productivity loss and results to schedule slippage.

“I was waiting for Matlab license to be released by another person in the team but he left the office without doing so and I lost 3 hours figuring out what to do?” – is it something you faced before?

o Other programs: If multiple programs have deliverable dependencies, then delay in one project will have cascaded effect on other projects, which directly or indirectly depend on its deliverable. “We got delayed because we had to wait for a critical UI component from the framework project team” or “We didn’t plan for bug fixes for a component which was supposed to be delivered defect free for our usage” are the common scenarios for delays in program which are dependent on other program deliverables. Parallel programs may affect the schedule of your program in a different way as well – Sometimes, management changes the priority of the programs running in parallel. If your project is considered as a low priority one then there might be lack of resources assigned to your project that may result in schedule slippage.

· Beta releases: How many times we seek feedback on our product during development? And how often we allocate time for it? It’s important to plan beta releases if we desire to have our product validated by expert users or lighthouse customers during development. Getting feedback from beta customers becomes important especially when their requirements echo that of a mass customer base. Process of giving workable releases to customers, collecting their experience, having their feedback analyzed, and then incorporating in the final product version takes significant time.

· Risk mitigation and plan B: Every project will have some or the other risks. These risks can be of varying severity and probabilities. While making project plan, it is important to treat the risk individually based on their severity and probability of occurrence. If high probable risks with higher severity are not planned with their mitigation plan (or plan B), they will have huge impact on schedule deviation from planned one. As in one of the previous examples quoted, getting a DUT on time for validation was a risk. Had there been a mitigate plan (plan B) like – Validate with other DUT or if DUT is not available here, let one developer travel to customer’s place and finish the validation on time, the schedule slippage would have been avoided.

2) People: Ultimately, projects are executed by people who may not be skilled or talented. Hence, looking for perfection in projects involving human beings may not be a feasible thought. Certain unpredictable and hence unavoidable issues under this category are:

· Poor leadership: Before thinking of project execution, it is project planning that actually would set the platform of success. Execution of the project depends on its team while planning is taken care by the project leader. The project leader is expected to have enough technical know-how to understand the project goals and to the details of the tasks involved. Poor leadership and superficial knowledge of assignments often results in invalid effort estimation and ad hoc task delegation causing stress and possible delay in project execution. People leading the team are also responsible for keeping the team spirit and motivation level upbeat. Poor personal commitment due to lack of motivation results in loss of productivity and may cause schedule to slip. Another reason that adds up to delay in projects is inability of leadership team to track the schedule progress and take the correction action.

· Attrition: If the project duration is large and job market is hot, it may be difficult to retain people in the project till its completion. Attrition may further delay the completion especially if the person leaving the job was in critical path. A person leaving the organization would leave a gap in the project that a new person may not fill immediately, which in turn causes sudden reduction in the task force.

· Learning curve: When ever a new person or team member is included in the project, he or she may require some time to understand the project to keep in pace with other members. Learning curve is needed for new team members, joining the team either due to attrition or due to any specific technical competency requirement. · Context switching: In smaller organization or groups where people work on multiple projects simultaneously, it is important to have some buffer for context switching. A person planned to work in project ‘A’ for two hours after a gap of two weeks, would take more than scheduled time to complete that task. Gap of two weeks and the fact that he or she was involved in other project would require some time for the member to get back to the context of current project. · Global development teams: In an era of globalization and outsourcing, it is common these days to have development team distributed over different geographical regions. Project plan needs to account for different time zones and working culture. You might expect an input for your task on Monday morning your time but it may be Sunday late evening for that person and finally when the input arrives, you might be on your way to home after work.

Sometimes schedule estimation might go completely wrong if you have not understood the work culture of the region your teammate belongs to – “In my previous work, I was given a task to be completed with a heads up that its very critical task and needs immediate attention’. When I asked my project lead how many days/hours I have for it, I had been time for 2 weeks for high priority and ‘immediate-attention’ work.” Definition of ‘urgent’, ‘high priority tasks’ changes with culture and region.

· Communication Issues: People communicate differently. If important issues are not brought to the notice of the team members, or are not escalated on time, the entire project may suffer. Often fear of embarrassment stops team members from reporting issues faced during execution leading to more time being spent on that task that can easily be executed additional help.

3) Customer Involvement: These issues are quite serious if customer or end users of the product are involved in the development phase. Understanding customer’s priorities, defining your expectation from their involvement needs to be clear and in agreement with both the parties.

· Expert user testing: In the beginning of the project, expert user testing cycle needs to be planned. Process of giving builds or releases for testing and collecting their feedback, analyzing and incorporating them in your product takes significant time which, if not planned, can delay your program. · Timely feedback: “I got feedback from customers for features, delivered in development milestone-1, after milestone-5 towards the release. These feedbacks are critical but now I am worried how to incorporate them without affecting the schedule.” It sounds like a common problem. Incorporation of feedback from customers needs to be planned well taking a commitment from the customer. · Product requirement specification review: Having a product requirement review planned and executed will keep you on right track throughout the project. Reviewing the requirement specification will avoid requirement related defects fixing which otherwise would have delayed, the project.

4) Ambiguous Project Requirement: For any project to be initiated, the first thing is to have requirements for it. In the product development life cycle, requirement phase acts like a foundation. Clear requirement or vision for the project navigates the team to success. However, requirements may not be clear at the time of estimation and may result in delay in the project completion. Issues related:

· Evolving specs: If you are making a product based on a standard which is not yet matured or still evolving, you are more prone to have this risk. Frequency changes in the specs will change the requirement for the project during different stages of product development and team will continue to work on something that is not yet evolved. This results in rework that would delay the project if time for dealing with these changes is not accommodated in the schedule. “We developed an algorithm and hence measurement that was based on certain industry standard. Towards the release of the product, the specs changed and our measurement was no more valid. We had to redo the algorithm to reflect the changes in the specs. This caused our product release delayed by 2 months.” · New requirements: Sometimes new requirements are added as the project evolves towards completion. Implementation of new requirements is not planned at the beginning of the project and hence is not accounted in schedule. Adding new feature without revising the schedule may result in delay.

· Untold expectation: Requirements from the customers may be of two types – implicit or explicit. It is important to have the requirements well documented. Implicit requirements needs to be better defined and documented to avoid any confusion towards the end of the project. Customers may not describe their requirements related to system performance, memory issues, user interface quality and usability but they are very keen on providing feedback in those aspects once the product is given for expert user testing. If we are not clear about such requirements, out design might not address them. Addressing them towards the end of the project may call for design changes and extra work that would delay the project.

5) Unplanned Tasks / Reworks: Bounding box for the project is set by higher management and often lack buffer for unplanned task(s). Having more of unplanned task that creep up at different phases of project can cause schedule slippage. The unplanned tasks or rework may arise due to:

· Sustaining work: In smaller organizations, some of the project team may also be responsible for sustaining / customer support of existing products. These unplanned tasks, which come on event basis, related to customer support are always of high priority. Excess or prolonged sustaining work may take resource out of the planned project causing a potential threat for schedule slippage. · Defect fixes: Defects are bad as they degrade the product quality and consume extra time/effort to fix them. It is good to have testing of the intermediate releases of the project to find and fix defects sooner in the development life cycle. If the fixing-cycle for such internal-milestone defects is not planned, then either the project is either going to slip or product is going to be of poorer quality. Poor programming skill of the team, not adapting to modern programming practices and having ad hoc development processes may lead to higher number of defects which would take more time to fix then planned and cause slippage.

· Task spillover from previous milestone: Tasks that are not completed in previous milestone, due to whatever reason (inefficiency, vacation of the team member, resource crunch etc), will have to be completed in the next milestone thereby increasing the load on the team. If adequate buffer is not planned, these tasks spilled from previous milestone over to next, can delay the project. · Requirement change / refinement: Requirement changes during the product development will result in rework of what has been previously done with first version of requirement(s). Addressing changes in the requirements needs extra time and effort and may cause schedule slippage. In some cases, the requirement from customer is misunderstood resulting in wrong system design and implementation. Additional, unplanned time is lost in correcting the design/implementation which causes schedule slippage.

Conclusion

On time delivery is the challenge software development companies are facing globally. To have a complete control over estimated schedule, it is very important to identify the elements in the development cycle that cause schedule slippage. This article uncovers and explains the root causes of delay in programs using examples from real world. Having an insight to the root causes will help the program managers to make good decisions to avoid future schedule slippage.

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Automated Real Estate Software – The New Trend in Investing

The value of real estate has appreciated in the last few years. It also shows great potential for growth. Hence, now might be the best time to look at an investment in property. However, if you’ve spoken to someone who already has his knees deep in real estate investing, you will realize that a lot of things are easier said than done.

It requires skill and experience to scour the market for high value properties.

Then comes landing good buyers.

Finally, there’s a humongous amount of paper work to handle.

This is where real estate investing softwares might lend a hand. They automate the entire process of real estate investing. If you would like to know more about such applications, here’s a low down on some of the common features they offer.

Lead generation –

At the click of a single button you are able to find a comprehensive list of buyers and sellers scattered across the country. The information elicited includes names and mail addresses of buyers, owners of properties, the type of property (bank owned, foreclosed, low and high equity, absentee owner etc.) and amount of cash paid.

Website creation –

Every business needs a website, especially if you do not have a physical location from which operate. Not all of us know the technicalities of writing HTML codes and designing a website. The real estate softwares can help you create targeted and user-friendly websites that you can use to showcase your business.

Direct mail generator –

Marketing is the soul of a real estate business. The more you network the more leads you can generate. The direct mail generator feature helps you setup a highly productive and efficient mailing system. You can send out emails, newsletters, posters and flyers.

There are a range of pre-made email templates you can use to send out messages to your leads. Autoresponders make sure you can keep in touch with sellers and buyers even when you are not physically present to answer their queries.

This feature is a highlight feature of most real estate software given that the savings in time and money are large.

Investing tips –

This is a section that most newbies can benefit from. Most applications include a resource library with info on the basic aspects of the trade. An open community of members can also give you an opportunity to interact and build your resource with real-time knowledge about making, building and closing a deal.

Diverse user base –

Modern-day automated real estate investing software applications cater to a varied group of investors. It includes those who buy, fix and flip properties. If you are a landlord, it can increase the convenience of managing your properties including finding tenants and repairing and renovating properties between subsequent deals. There are also features that rehabbers and builders of new constructions can use.

Contracts and paperwork –

Real estate investment also means a lot of paperwork. Most applications offer tools to generate contracts. Features such as auto-fill enable you to fill personal details into letters, contracts and other property-related documents. You can sign them online, and then email or fax them free of charge.

There is one thing – you need to be realistic. Real estate softwares are tools you can use to streamline your business. You should have a real estate business to start with and some basic know-how on investing.

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Introduction to Silk Test Architecture

Normal use of an application consists of a person manipulating a keyboard and mouse to initiate application operations. The person is said to be interacting with the GUI (Graphical User Interface). During Silk Test testing, Silk Test interacts with the GUI to submit operations to the application automatically.

Thus Silk Test can simulate the actions of a person who is exercising all the capabilities of an application and verifying the results of each operation. The simulated user (Silk test) is said to be driving the application. The application under test reacts to the simulated user exactly as it would react to a human rest. Silk Test consists of two distinct software components that execute in separate processes:

The Silk Test host software

The 4Test Agent software

Silk Test host software

The Silk Test host software is the program you use to develop, edit, compile, run and debug your 4Test scripts and test plans. This manual refers to the system that runs this program as the host machine or the Silk Test machine.

The Agent

The 4Test Agent is the software process that translates the commands in your 4Test scripts into GUI-specific commands. In order words, it is the Agent that actually drives and monitors the application you are testing. One Agent can run locally on the host machine. In a networked environment, any number of Agents can run on remote machines. This manual refers to the systems that run remote Agents as target machines. This manual refers to the systems that run remote Agents as target machines. In a client/server environment, Silk Test drives the client application by means of an Agent process running on each application’s machine. The application then drives the server just as it always does. Silk Test is also capable of driving the GUI belonging to a server or of directly driving a server database by running scripts that submit SQL statements to the database. These methods o directly manipulating the server application are intended to support testing in which the client application drives the server.

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How to Repair DBF Files by Using DBF Recovery Software

As a computer user you must have heard about a DBF file or some of you have used it. DBF is a database file format used by various database software programs, such as: Visual FoxPro, Clipper, dbFast, CodeBase, MultiBase, dbXL, Arago and similar database programs. A database file is a collection of data organized in a tabular form. A DBF file can be easily opened, edited and saved by any of these database programs therefore, this file format is very popular among computer users.

The most common use of a database file is to store a large amount of data and information. The file is widely used in almost every sector, such as: corporate and educational sectors to store the data and information. It has become an essential file format for an individual and an organization.

Where this file format is very useful for users on the other hand, it may create some serious problems as well. Sometimes a DBF file may become inaccessible or invalid due to corruption. DBF is not immune to corruption; in fact, this file format is prone to corruption due to its large size and complex file structure. It might be easily corrupted due to various reasons, such as: virus attacks, malfunction in database application, hard disk drive failure, software collision, unexpected cancellation of DBF, human errors and many more. These are some common reasons which can play an important role in database file corruption.

While opening a corrupt DBF file you may receive some error messages something like these:

  • “File .dbf does not exist”.
  • “The fields in table did not match the entries in the database”.
  • “Access to table disabled due to previous error”.
  • “Database file appears corrupt: Page is of wrong type.
  • “Corrupt table”/ “index header”.
  • “Filename .dbf has become corrupted”.

These are some common errors which frequently take place at the time of corruption. For example: you are working on your DBF file, everything is fine. But all of a sudden your database application (Visual FoxPro or other) starts hanging. You have no other option other than restarting the system. But when you restart your system and open the same DBF file, in which you were working earlier, it does not open or you get an error message saying the file is corrupted or damaged. This must be very frustrating situation for any user since all the hard work will go into the vain. All the data and information stored in the file might be lost forever. You have to re-create the file, which might not be possible in some cases.

In such critical state a BKF file will definitely help you. If you have backed up the database file (which is now corrupted), then you can easily restore it from the BKF file. But sometimes the BKF file may not be available or corrupted or invalid. In this situation you can use third-party DBF recovery software. This is one of the most efficient and effective solutions to fix corrupt DBF files. The DBF recovery software is designed to repair an extremely corrupted DBF file and to restore maximum data from it. It is highly capable to resolve or fix all the errors from corrupted DBF files. The software supports all popular database applications, such as: dBase III, dBase IV, dBase V, Visual FoxPro, Clipper, dBFast, CodeBase, MultiBase, dBXL and Arago. The best feature of the software is its self-describing user interface. It requires no technical knowledge or skills to use this software. Any tech savvy and a novice user can easily and comfortably use this software to repair corrupted DBF files. The DBF Recovery software is available with free demo version. Users can download the demo version before buying the full software. This helps users to examine the features and performance.

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History and Components of a Modern Mainframe Computer

Mainframe computers are critical for some of the largest corporations in the world. Each mainframe has more than one modern processor, RAM ranging from a few megabytes to multiple-score gigabytes, and disk space and other storage beyond anything on a microcomputer. A mainframe can control multiple tasks and serve thousands of users every second without downtime.

The chief difference between mainframes and other computing systems is the level of processing that takes place. Mainframes are also different in terms of data bandwidth, organization, reliability, and control. Big organizations-banking, healthcare, insurance, and telecom companies, etc.-use mainframes for processing critical commercial data.

In this article, we discuss the evolution of mainframe computers and their components.

History of mainframe computers

IBM developed a critical part of mainframe computing, the Automatic Sequenced Controlled Calculator (ASCC) for arithmetic operations, in 1944. From the late 1950s through the 1970s, several companies manufactured mainframes: IBM, Burroughs, RCA, NCR, General Electric, and Sperry Rand, for example. Since then, System / 390 by IBM is the only kind of mainframe in use. It evolved from IBM's System / 360 in 1960.

An Early mainframe occupied a huge space. New technologies have drastically reduced the size and cost of the hardware. A current-generation mainframe can fit in a small closet.

Components of a modern mainframe computer

Like a PC, a mainframe has many components for processing data: operating system, motherboard or main board, processor, controllers, storage devices, and channels.

• Motherboard: The motherboard of a mainframe computer consists of a printed circuit that allows CPU, RAM, and other hardware components to function together through a concept called "Bus architecture". The motherboard has device slots for input cards and cable interfaces for various external devices. Where PC motherboards use 32- or 64-bit buses, mainframes use 128-bit buses. General instructions regarding the internal architecture help the motherboard connect to the other devices and retrieve data using binary computation.

• Processor: A CPU acts as the central processing point in mainframe architecture and includes an Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU) for performing arithmetic calculations. It also works as a controller for the bus architecture and handles traffic and data requests. The processing power of mainframes is much higher compared to PCs, so that they can handle huge amounts of data.

• Storage devices: Storage devices are for entering, retrieving, storing, and recording data. Many are external devices, such as hard drives, tape drives, and punch card readers, all connected to terminals of the mainframe and controlled by the CPU. Their capacity for data storage can be hundred or even thousands of times that of a PC.

• Communication controllers: Communication controllers allow remote computers to access a mainframe. With the help of networks, LAN or WAN, communication controllers establish connections with various devices, perform data transmission over communication channels, and keep track of users at terminals.

• Channels: The "channels" are the cables used to connect the CPU and the main storage to other parts of the system and make sure that data is moved in a systematic way without losing its integrity.

Modern mainframes have advanced features such as expanded service management capabilities, cross-platform integration facilities, etc. And so are suitable for critical data center operations. The cost of maintaining modern mainframes is much less compared to older models.

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The Importance Of Excel In The Workplace

Excel is perhaps the most important computer software program used in the workplace today. That’s why so many workers and prospective employees are required to learn Excel in order to enter or remain in the workplace.

From the viewpoint of the employer, particularly those in the field of information systems, the use of Excel as an end-user computing tool is essential. Not only are many business professionals using Excel to perform everyday functional tasks in the workplace, an increasing number of employers rely on Excel for decision support.

In general, Excel dominates the spreadsheet product industry with a market share estimated at 90 percent. Excel 2007 has the capacity for spreadsheets of up to a million rows by 16,000 columns, enabling the user to import and work with massive amounts of data and achieve faster calculation performance than ever before.

Outside the workplace, Excel is in broad use for everyday problem solving.

Let’s say you have a home office. You can use Excel to calculate sales tax on a purchase, calculate the cost of a trip by car, create a temperature converter, calculate the price of pizza per square inch and do analysis of inputted data. You can track your debt, income and assets, determine your debt to income ratio, calculate your net worth, and use this information to prepare for the process of applying for a mortgage on a new house. The personal uses for Excel are almost as endless as the business uses for this software – and an Excel tutorial delves into the practical uses of the program for personal and business use.

The use of spreadsheets on computers is not new. Spreadsheets, in electronic form, have been in existence since before the introduction of the personal computer. Forerunners to Excel and Lotus 1-2-3 were packages such as VisiCalc, developed and modeled on the accountant’s financial ledger. Since 1987, spreadsheet programs have been impacting the business world. Along the way, computerized spreadsheets have become a pervasive and increasingly effective tool for comparative data analysis throughout the world.

Today, end users employ Excel to create and modify spreadsheets as well as to author web pages with links and complex formatting specifications. They create macros and scripts. While some of these programs are small, one-shot calculations, many are much more critical and affect significant financial decisions and business transactions.

Widely used by businesses, service agencies, volunteer groups, private sector organizations, scientists, students, educators, trainers, researchers, journalists, accountants and others, Microsoft Excel has become a staple of end users and business professionals.

The beauty of Excel is that it can be used as a receiver of workplace or business data, or as a calculator, a decision support tool, a data converter or even a display spreadsheet for information interpretation. Excel can create a chart or graph, operate in conjunction with Mail Merge functions, import data from the Internet, create a concept map and sequentially rank information by importance.

Excel offers new data analysis and visualization tools that assist in analyzing information, spotting trends and accessing information more easily than in the past. Using conditional formatting with rich data display schemes, you can evaluate and illustrate important trends and highlight exceptions with colored gradients, data bars and icons.

Indeed, Excel can be customized to perform such a wide variety of functions that many businesses can’t operate without it. Excel training has become mandatory in many workplaces; in fact, computer software training is a must for any workplace trying to keep up with the times.

Let’s say you’re an employer with 97 workers, 17 of whom called in sick today, and you want to know the percentage represented by absentees. Excel can do that. You can learn Excel and use it to determine the ratio of male to female employees, the percentage of minorities on the payroll, and the ranking of each worker by compensation package amount, including the percentages of that package according to pay and benefits. You can use Excel to keep track of production by department, information that may assist you in future development plans. You can create additional spreadsheets to track data on vendors and customers while maintaining an ongoing inventory of product stock.

Let’s say you want to know your business production versus cost. You don’t have to be a math wiz – you just have to learn Excel. Excel allows you to input all of the data, analyze it, sort it according to your customized format, and display the results with color, shading, backgrounds, icons and other gimmicks that offer time-saving assistance in later locating precisely the information desired. If this spreadsheet is for presentation purposes, Excel helps you put it together in such a visually appealing way that the data may seem to pop and sparkle.

The single most important thing an employer may do is learn Excel – it is one of the most essential tools of the workplace.

Excel and Microsoft are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation, registered in the U.S. and other countries. Lotus is a registered trademark of International Business Machines Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries.

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Microsoft Access and Medical Private Practice

For physicians medical office software installation could be nerve-wracking, not because they want to avoid electronic medical records, but because the majority of the software packages are too complicated and very expensive for them.

The good news is, you can make your medical office software system uncomplicated and relatively easily maintained with one of the popular database software packages being used today, the Microsoft Access.

Microsoft Access is a relational database system developed by Microsoft. Microsoft Access is one of the easiest and most flexible database management solutions for the medical office and provides data validation and user-friendly features on data entry screens. It has been the dominant lightweight database system used for the last decade and has continued to grow with additional features. Access is a productive and very customizable solution for small medical practices and comes with MS Office (or standalone). However the next step up in a medical environment would be MS SQL Server but small medical offices usually only has need of a lightweight application and the added functionality with MS SQL Server, comes with a heavy price.

With this relational database system you can be up and running in one hour, which means that it is not necessary for your practice to spend lot of money to purchase, configure, update and maintain an SQL Server solution. Microsoft Access includes without any additional costs, points of integration with popular software packages including: Microsoft Word, Excel & Outlook and provides a free runtime version.

MS Access network setup is very easy. A medical office with 2-8 users is up and running within ten minutes, while installation and application maintenance is extremely simple. Virtually any user with a basic knowledge of Microsoft Access can handle all maintenance procedures without the assistance of IT personnel.

Keep also in mind that SQL Server is the flagship database system from Microsoft and it is suitable for use in environments with up to thousands of users. Microsoft Access can handle 2- 8 users and it is limited to 2 GB data storage.

We are convinced that the best way for private medical offices around the world to enter the world of electronic medical records is to purchase a professionally designed but inexpensive and affordable Microsoft Access based software solution.

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Examining Computer Hardware Components

1. Checking the Screen or Monitor
The screen of your computer or monitor has pixels. These pixels have three colors: Red, green and blue. Pixels can often be damaged or stop functioning properly displaying only one color or just being black.

There is an online tool to check for bad pixels called "CheckPixels" The test at CheckPixels will display your three main colors mentioned above and if a pixel is dead, it will show as a black spot and if a pixel is glowing a different color ( Malfunctioning) you will see that too.

2. Checking the Keyboard
The keyboard might not seem important as a hardware component, but it is used in almost all tasks and taken for granted. For laptop users, the keyboard is very important. If one has to send the laptop away for repair the entire computer must go with it. There is also an online test tool available to test all your keyboard keys called "KeyboardTester".

3. Checking the Disk Drive (HDD & SSD)
Your HDD / SSD has your operating system and most of your applications and files. Having your HDD / SDD completely healthy is very important. This is most imperative when dealing with a used computer since you have no awareness of the previous history or care of the used computer and its HDD / SDD.

Different tools are available to check the condition and health of the HDD / SDD.

HDSentinel is one you can use for your HDD. The left hand side of the screen will display drives connected the computer. Health is the main parameter to look for. HD Sentinel will explain the meaning of the health percentages and the steps that you should take based on the results. As an example, you should not throw out your HDD just because of a few bad disk sectors and IO errors.

SSDlife is another tool specifically for an SSD. It also shows health in percentages and the expected life of the drive. Similar to hard disks, bad sectors can occur in SSDs.

4. Checking the Processing Units (CPU & GPU)

The main components that do all the processing are the Central Processing Unit (CPU) and the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). These are the components that allow you to run your office applications and your games. These are also essential components to ensure are in perfect working order. So it is necessary that these two components should be in perfect condition. For testing both, we use CPU speed test

For testing your GPU, the tool.Base Mark Web 3.0 works just fine.

5. Checking the Random Access Memory (RAM)

RAM is the one essential component that has the most immediate impact on your computers performance. MemTest from HCI Design is a great tool to check your unused memory for errors. Identifying and fixing errors with your RAM is important. Errors in RAM cause the infamous "blue screen of death". Boot problems can also be attributed to RAM errors.

Conclusion
Besides the hardware component tests above, you should also check your Ethernet ports and connection, wireless connection from the wireless card (internal or external), HDMI, DVI and USB connections using available cabling and devices.

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Microsoft Access and Medical Private Practice

For physicians medical office software installation could be nerve-wracking, not because they want to avoid electronic medical records, but because the majority of the software packages are too complicated and very expensive for them.

The good news is, you can make your medical office software system uncomplicated and relatively easily maintained with one of the popular database software packages being used today, the Microsoft Access.

Microsoft Access is a relational database system developed by Microsoft. Microsoft Access is one of the easiest and most flexible database management solutions for the medical office and provides data validation and user-friendly features on data entry screens. It has been the dominant lightweight database system used for the last decade and has continued to grow with additional features. Access is a productive and very customizable solution for small medical practices and comes with MS Office (or standalone). However the next step up in a medical environment would be MS SQL Server but small medical offices usually only has need of a lightweight application and the added functionality with MS SQL Server, comes with a heavy price.

With this relational database system you can be up and running in one hour, which means that it is not necessary for your practice to spend lot of money to purchase, configure, update and maintain an SQL Server solution. Microsoft Access includes without any additional costs, points of integration with popular software packages including: Microsoft Word, Excel & Outlook and provides a free runtime version.

MS Access network setup is very easy. A medical office with 2-8 users is up and running within ten minutes, while installation and application maintenance is extremely simple. Virtually any user with a basic knowledge of Microsoft Access can handle all maintenance procedures without the assistance of IT personnel.

Keep also in mind that SQL Server is the flagship database system from Microsoft and it is suitable for use in environments with up to thousands of users. Microsoft Access can handle 2- 8 users and it is limited to 2 GB data storage.

We are convinced that the best way for private medical offices around the world to enter the world of electronic medical records is to purchase a professionally designed but inexpensive and affordable Microsoft Access based software solution.

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