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Newsletters – January / February / March 2009

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Newsletter – January 2009

Editorial – The Year of living dangerously?

So the year begins and the skies darken.  It seems that economists are predicting an even deeper recession in the North than was expected and that the bail-outs are not going to work out well.  The worst weather in the northern hemisphere has caused areas to be cut off – floods in Washington State and sub-zero temperatures in Europe.  Meanwhile, KZN has been hit by two devastating storms and there are more on the way. Economists in South Africa are not exactly full of cheer either.

On the bright side, we have COPE versus the ANC; a strong statement by Minister Mtethwa on combating crime and the Confederations Cup to bring us lots of tourists!

Without doubt, this is going to be a challenging year, which will test our resolve and prove our strengths.  It is the environment in which new ideas will grow and new ways of doing things find a root.  We may well live dangerously, given the way we drive on our roads alone!

Even so, I wish everyone health and prosperity for the year ahead and look forward to working with you all!

Green Tip

We have an opportunity to re-evaluate how we do things.  This is a pressing one, as we are under pressure to change or suffer the consequences of not doing so.  These consequences could mean the end of life as we know it.  Instead of asking Eskom to develop more power stations, coal or nuclear, why don't we start to pressurise our local government structures to insist that all new homes are equipped with solar power.  This micro development would significantly reduce the need for increased electricity generation.  We also need to put pressure on Eskom or the government to directly assist households in existing buildings to convert electric geysers to solar.  The current subsidy situation falls woefully short of being useful.

Labbie News

You may well be aware of Labbie, our program for Civil Engineering Laboratories.  Labbie handles all the data aspects of concrete cube crushing, all the way from receiving the cubes and e-mailing the results to exporting an invoice to Pastel.  We now have the go-ahead from Roadlab, with whom we are developing Labbie, to extend it to cover the most popular soils tests too: For example grading curves, Atterberg Limits, MOD, CBR, and classification of soils per AASHTO, COLTO, TRH14.  For the less popular tests we are providing a generic data storage facility.  Contact Rick to get a trial license for Labbie at your Lab!

Organise your Microsoft Outlook

Do you have an Inbox containing 500+ items, many of them unread?  (Including this newsletter?)  Here's a way to start getting organised for 2009.  The principle is to group things together in folders, using the same structure as you would use with a physical filing system.  You move items to these folders (leaving them unread or re-marking as unread) and deal with them at the appropriate time.

You might create a folder named "Customers" containing sub-folders for your regular customers, and use the "Customers" folder for and customers that don't have sub-folders.  I have Inbox sub-folders for Company matters, Business enquiries, Microsoft, etc.

To create a new folder, right-click on any folder in the tree view on the left of Outlook.  From the pop-up menu choose "New folder".  Type the name; check below that the new folder will be in the right place (if you right-clicked on the parent folder it will already be correct).  Click OK.

Next time we will see how to use Rules to automatically move inbound items to the correct folders.

Excel Tip #61 – Matrix Functions:  MMULT

Following on from last time, we press on with Matrix mathematics in Excel.  In previous issues we looked at:
MDETERM: Returns the matrix determinant of an array (a number)
MINVERSE: Returns the matrix inverse of an array (an array)

Now we will consider MMULT, which returns the matrix product of two arrays (an array).  Next time we will start looking at a practical application –using MINVERSE and MMULT to solve a series of simultaneous linear equations.

In matrix multiplication (unlike regular multiplication) the order of the items is important.  If A and B are matrices, A.B ≠ B.A.

Example: Consider two matrices, A (3 rows x 3 columns, shown below in the range A1:C3) and B (3 rows x 1 column, shown below in the range E1:E3).  To demonstrate MMULT, type in matrices A and B.

  A B C D E F G
1 2.5 -0.5 -1.5   4   1
2 -1.5 0.5 1   15   2.5
3 1.5 -0.5 -0.5   1   -2

Now select cells G1:G3 shown in cyan above (our result will be a matrix with 3 rows x 1 column).  Type =MMULT(A1:C3,E1:E3) and press, NOT just Enter, but Ctrl+Shift+Enter  together for an array function.  You will see the result in the cells.

Maximizer 10.5 Released

Maximizer 10.5 focuses strongly on mobility and the web. It is the most impressive release to date and interfaces with Blackberries as well as Windows Mobile and Palm.  For more information, go to http://www.max.co.uk/mobile-crm/mobile-crm.html and see what this means.  Then, please phone Judith to obtain more details or e-mail her on judith@softwareafrica.co.za.  Khanya can set up an appointment with Judith so ring her on (011) 802-2685

Maximizer Tip
Can I access Entrepreneur remotely?

I was asked this question recently, having set up a remote access solution some months before.  The answer is "Yes" if you can dial into your server and access Maximizer that way.  Ask your IT support person to set this up and away you go!  It means that you and all your staff can be mobile and your server can be kept in a secure room behind a locked door marked "Beware of the Leopard" (to quote "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy").

In addition, Maximizer has a powerful link to QuickBooks® accounting.  For a young business, this gives a complete solution to growing soundly even in tough times.

A New-Year's Gift for You

We make amends for not reminding you at the end of last year!  There are seven free spreadsheets you can order from our website: Bank Account Reconciliation, Fuel Consumption, Rainfall Spreadsheet with Statistics, Water Meter Readings, Electricity Meter Readings, Quotation System with Bill of Materials, and even a Mattress Turning Schedule.  All come with detailed instructions.  Click here to go to Software Africa's Free Spreadsheets page.

Remember:  We can make your business run better by:―

  • Automating your in-house processes with a custom program or database.
  • Solving your Maximizer, Access, Excel, Word, Visual Basic, and even Lotus 123 problems.
  • Training your company on Maximizer, Excel, Word, Access and Windows (all levels from beginners to Programming).
  • Supplying software: We re-sell and support various CRM, timesheet, scheduling, and productivity programs.
  • Promoting your corporate image with a set of templates on Word or Excel, linked to your address list.

All the Best from the team!
Judith and Rick

Directors, Communication in Action CC t/a Software Africa
PO Box 987, Gallo Manor, 2052 South Africa.
Tel: 011 802-2685.  Fax: 011 802-4576 and 086-635-7902/3.  Cell: 082 389-3481/2. E-mail: info@softwareafrica.co.za

This entire newsletter is Copyright© 2008 Communication in ActionPlease share it with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged, and includes this notice.  To Subscribe to the newsletter, Click here and SEND the resulting e-mail. Your data will not be provided to a third party without your permission.

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Newsletter – February 2009

Editorial

After all the rain, it is pleasant to see the sun again!  However our lives have been brightened up recently by a 100 basis points drop in interest rate and a potential personal tax downgrade for everyone.  Seems like these are things that we needed to have sooner rather than later.

With growth estimated at 1.2% for this year, we are not totally unharmed by the global situation, so perhaps it is time to look specifically at supporting our home grown products.  This will have the effect of boosting business and creating jobs.  There is also an expectation of many emigrants returning home as their jobs in their new countries disappear.  This may result in a skills influx.

What I would like to canvas for strongly is the return of the apprentice system.  It should replace the SETAs which have only been a drain on the economy and fallen far short of providing people with the skills they require.  Companies, providing on the job training of this nature, should then be rewarded with incentives to encourage them to continue.

Green Tip

This is aimed at anyone thinking of buying in a new complex!  You may have seen the pictures of the destruction being caused by the recent heavy rains in Craigavon on the Radio 702 website.  If not, go to www.702.co.za and click on David O'Sullivan to find them.  This destruction is caused by paving over the open ground in complexes and leaving nowhere for the water to go.  Lack of storm water reticulation is causes walls to be sodden and suffer from rising damp which weakens their structure as well.  Roads become flooded and dangerous to drive on.  Vast potholes develop and destroy tyres and axles.

So if your complex developer wants wall-to-wall paving, please draw this fact to his attention and stop it happening!

Think of places for water to sink slowly into the ground so that the underground aquifers are replenished, ensuring that we have water into the future.  South Africa cannot afford to waste water and high levels of paving are wasting water!

Organise your Microsoft Outlook with Rules

In the last edition we suggested that you organise your Inbox using sub-folders to mimic your physical filing system.  We talked about how to create these folders.  Now we will set up Rules to automatically move inbound items to the correct folders.

Click Tools > Rules and Alerts.  Click the button New Rule.  The Rules Wizard pops up.  The radio button "start creating a rule from a template" is selected.  In the list below it ("Step 1"), choose either "Move messages from someone to  a folder" or "Move messages with specific words in the subject to a folder". In Step 2 below, click on the underlined blue hyperlinks and fill in the data or select the folder.  Click Next > and make any changes or additions. Click Next > for the actions, and Next > for any exceptions.  Give it a name, set it to run on existing items if you want, and click Finish.  The rule will appear in the list, where you can change the order of processing.  Finally, having set up all the rules you want, click OK to save.

Click "Send/Receive" and watch your Inbox fill up, and then magically empty again as your e-mail is filed according to your system!  Unread items remain unread so you can find them when you are ready.

Outlook can handle about 20 such rules before it starts ignoring them, so you might need to make some of the less-frequent moves manually.

Excel Tip #62 – Using Matrices to Solve Simultaneous Linear Equations

Before we look at using MINVERSE and MMULT, let us discuss simultaneous linear equations and how to solve them using matrices:

Simultaneous linear equations are sets of equations of the form ax + by + cz = d.  They are linear because the variables x, y, z, etc. are always to the power of one.  If there are two variables, then two equations are needed for a solution.  For three variables we need three equations, and so on.  The term "simultaneous" refers to the fact that we need several equations for a solution.

Let us see how inverting and multiplying a matrix can be used to solve a matrix equation.

Given the matrix equation AY = B, we want to find the matrix Y.
If we multiply each side of the equation by A-1 (inverse of A), we get A-1A Y = A-1B
Hence IY = A-1B    ( AA-1 = I, where I is the Identity Matrix)
Thus Y = A-1B  because IY = Y (any matrix multiplied by the Identity Matrix will be unchanged).

So, to solve our simultaneous linear equations, we:

  1. Write the equations in matrix form as AY = B (A is the matrix of coefficients, Y is the matrix of variables, B is the matrix of constants).
  2. Invert A.
  3. Multiply it by B.

We will do an example of this using Excel in the next edition.

(Parts of this article were adapted from www.onlinemathlearning.com, which has a good two-variable example and a video.)

Maximizer Accolade

This from a leading training company:

"Maximizer came to the party and met all of the CRM requirements we had. It was that easy!"

- Emma Smallman, Marketing Manager, FranklinCovey SA.

"Thanks to the Pastel integration it is also possible to track at what stage invoicing and payment processes are with clients," continues Smallman. "This is a powerful sales utilisation of Maximizer which the company did not have before." FranklinCovey now also uses Maximizer to automatically import and update customer data from Pastel Accounting.

"Information is kept up to date between the two applications and our staff are able to view invoicing information and track transactions from within Maximizer and without having to switch applications," says Smallman.

Representatives are also able to connect to Maximizer from anywhere in the world using MaxExchange, saving the company more time as information can be accessed and updated without having to be in the office.

Thanks to Maximizer, FranklinCovey SA is saving time and has a range of new functionality available that has significantly enhanced the company’s processes.

With Maximizer 10.5's strong focus on mobility and the web, your sales team can be even more productive. For more information, go to http://www.max.co.uk/mobile-crm/mobile-crm.html and see what this means.  Then, please phone Judith to obtain more details or e-mail her on judith@softwareafrica.co.za.  Khanya can set up an appointment with Judith so ring her on 011 802-2685

Maximizer Tip
My Maximizer Server got a virus and the laptop only has 35 records?

This happened to a customer who is running an event and they needed help urgently.  The version is Entrepreneur 10 and had not been updated with the service packs, as Auto-update was off.  Since the laptop was up to date, I checked whether they where viewing All companies and individuals.  By clicking on View : All companies and individuals, I was able to check that they had not been, so this vital list was recovered immediately.

That was fortunate, as the server's CD reader was not working and that had to be repaired before the server could be sorted out.  Needless to say, that took a few days!  Both are now up and running again.

Another New-Year's Gift to You: Savings Calculator

We have added to the free Excel spreadsheets on our web site.  In time for the credit crunch, the latest one calculates your savings according to Dr John Demartini's Forced Accelerating Savings Technique ("FAST").  The idea is to decide on an amount to save monthly, and then increase it by a percentage every three months.  The constant increase pushes up your contributions, and therefore your savings, dramatically over time, while getting you used to regular saving.  Our spreadsheet lets you vary the initial contribution, the percentage increase and inflation, and see your results over time. If you'd like this free Excel Savings spreadsheet, click here and SEND the resulting e-mail.  For information on the other spreadsheets, click here to go to Software Africa's Free Spreadsheets page.

The savings spreadsheet is derived from a minor part of an inspiring three-day seminar we went on recently, the "Real Entrepreneur".  It is so refreshing to attend a business workshop that is ethically based and focused on making a difference to society, not just for one's own ends.  Wonderful for anyone running, or thinking of, their own business.  For more information on the 3-day REAL Entrepreneur event, click here and SEND the resulting e-mail.
 

Remember:  We can make your business run better by:―

  • Automating your in-house processes with a custom program or database.
  • Solving your Maximizer, Access, Excel, Word, Visual Basic, and even Lotus 123 problems.
  • Training your company on Maximizer, Excel, Word, Access and Windows (all levels from beginners to Programming).
  • Supplying software: We re-sell and support various CRM, timesheet, scheduling, and productivity programs.
  • Promoting your corporate image with a set of templates on Word or Excel, linked to your address list.

All the Best from the team!
Judith and Rick

Members, Communication in Action (now converted to CC) t/a Software Africa
"Empowering African Business with custom PC programs, databases, and templates using Microsoft technologies."
Reg. 2009/007863/23 ~ VAT No 4500104387 ~ 126 Kelvin Drive, Morningside Manor, Sandton, 2191 South Africa.
Tel: 011 802-2685 ~ Fax: 011 802-4576 and 086-635-7902/3 ~ Cell: 082 389-3481/2 ~ e-mail: info@softwareafrica.co.za

This entire newsletter is Copyright© 2009 Communication in Action.  Please share it with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged, and includes this notice.  To Subscribe to the newsletter, click here and SEND the resulting e-mail. Your data will not be provided to a third party without your permission. To unsubscribe, click here and SEND the resulting e-mail from the address to which this newsletter was sent.

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Newsletter – March 2009

Please note: Telkom has failed to repair some of our lines, making contacting us difficult.  Please try 011 802-6441 if the main number "just rings".

Editorial

March has arrived with more sunshine and less rain.  This gives the potholes time to dry out!  Economists are predicting a 2 basis points drop in interest rates as growth weakens and we all have to tackle a tightening business environment.

I would like to raise some awareness around the Nuclear programme in SA.  If we go nuclear, which is neither clean nor renewable power, there is a very strong possibility that the country could be bankrupted, heavily compromised and polluted.  All the fuel required for the reactors will be transported by road –lots of little bombs travelling long distances on roads that have a low reputation for safety.  The fuel plant is being built at Pelindaba.  This facility has a bad history and is old – built in the 1960s under apartheid.

Uranium mining itself is one of the most dangerous activities to undertake as radiation is released immediately in the process.  Worldwide, miners have been badly affected by radiation poisoning, water courses have been polluted and land rendered unusable.  Is this really what we want for South Africa?

We have plentiful sunlight, roaring seas and wind: All these resources are renewable and clean sources of power.  They are also less costly to our health and our environment.  Please consider whether you want a future for yourself and your descendants.

Green Tip

Possibly more than a green tip!  By keeping to the speed limits and obeying the traffic rules, you will not only save petrol but you will also avoid the new heavy traffic penalties.  You'll also save a lot of money.

Note than Metro Police are really enforcing the new regulations – no number plates and you go straight to court via a cold police cell.

Tip: The Microsoft Outlook Out-of-Office Assistant

We continue to look at ways that Outlook 2003 can help you be more organised...

Holidays are coming up.  When you are going to be out of the office for a day or more, you can have Outlook automatically respond to e-mails you receive.  Just before you leave, click Tools > Out-of-Office Assistant.  Click the radio button "I am currently Out of the Office".  In the text box underneath it, type or paste a message: When you will be back and whom to contact in the meanwhile.  If you want someone else to receive your e-mails you can have them forwarded: Click Add Rule. This is similar to the Rules Wizard we discussed in an earlier newsletter.  When you are done, click OK.

Outlook is clever enough to warn you the next time you start it up, if you have the Out-of-Office Assistant on, so that you can turn it off.

Labbie Progress

Labbie, our program for the Civil Engineering Laboratory, has been successfully processing concrete test cubes for well over a year at two major Gauteng laboratories.  We have now released the Beta version of the additional features for the most popular soils tests including: Sieve Analysis to TMH1 Method A1, Mechanical analysis to TMH1 Method A5, Hydrometer Analysis to ASTM standard D422, Atterberg Limits to TMH1 Methods A2, A3, A4 (Liquid Limit, Plasticity Index, Linear Shrinkage), and others.  There is also a facility for "Generic" tests, where you describe the results for any test, and the program then stores and prints these (it does no calculations on Generic tests).

If you would like to try out the new, improved, Labbie, click here and SEND the resulting e-mail.

QuickBooks

A friendly view on running the financial side of business

The wonderful thing about QuickBooks is that it understands the minds of business owners!  It has a strong tutorial which runs the way you and I, not your accountant, think.  This makes it easy to set up and get into.  Its second benefit is it uses graphs to report on sales and expenses, as well as the formal facts and figures reports.  Recently a customer upgraded from a really old version to 2008 (the latest) and was so happy she did, saying that the new functionality would make running her business easier.

There are three versions: Simple Start for a very new business; Pro for multi-users - up to 5 at present; and Premium which also goes to 5 users currently.  "Premium" gives users remote access to their data.  It also allows for orders and stock and can be used for manufacturing process management.

Meet your needs?  Then please contact Khanya on 011 802-2685 to set up an appointment for you with Judith to discuss the way forward or e-mail khanya@softwareafrica.co.za

Excel Tip #63 – Using MINVERSE and MMULT to Solve Simultaneous Equations

The last two tips have laid the groundwork for this one.  We have introduced the array functions MINVERSE and MMULT, and discussed how to solve simultaneous linear equations using matrices.  To recap, we must

  1. Write the equations in matrix form as AY = B (A is the matrix of coefficients, Y is the matrix of variables, B is the matrix of constants).
  2. Invert A.
  3. Multiply it by B.

Example:

Consider three simultaneous linear equations written in the form ax + by + cz = d
x + 2y + z = 44
3x + 4y –z = 15
2y + 2z = 1

Step 1: Write the equations in matrix form as AY = B:

In the sample spreadsheet below, matrix A occupies range B3:D5 (light yellow).  Row 3 contains the coefficients of the first equation, row 4 the second, and row 5 the third.  Column B contains the coefficients of x (a), column C of y (b), column D those of z (c). B, the matrix of constants, appears in cells F3:F5 in cyan.

  A B C D E F

1

Equation

Matrix of Coefficients: A

 

Constants: B

2   a b c   d
3 1 1 2 1   4
4 2 3 4 -1   15
5 3 0 2 2   1

Step 2: Invert A. Select cells B8:D10.  Type =MINVERSE(B3:D5) and press, NOT just Enter, but Ctrl+Shift+Enter  together for an array function (shown in pink below).

  A B C D E F

7

 

Matrix A Inverted: A-1

 

Answers: A-1B

8   2.5 -0.5 -1.5 x = 1
9   -1.5 0.5 1 y = 2.5
10   1.5 -0.5 -0.5 z = -2

Step 3: Multiply A-1 by B. Select cells F8:F10 (shown in green above).  Type =MMULT(B8:D10,F3:F5) and press Ctrl+Shift+Enter together.  The answers for x, y, and z appear in the range.

To check your answers, plug x, y, and z into the original equations and check that you get the same values as matrix B in cells F3:F5 (in cyan).

Maximizer Accolade

Perhaps we can get the LOC to use it as a UK Rugby club has the following to say:

"The increase in both attendance and season ticket sales prove how valuable a marketing solution Maximizer CRM has been for us. Its affordability, scope of growth and ease of use made the program a natural choice." - James Elston, Marketing and Community Director, Wakefield Wildcats

If you are a Blackberry user, then you can maximize your use of this communication tool as it works best with Maximizer 10.5!  Then, please phone Judith to obtain more details or e-mail her on judith@softwareafrica.co.za.  Khanya can set up an appointment with Judith so ring her on 011 802-2685 or 011 802-6440/1.

Maximizer Tip

Keeping all your ducks in a row!  Using the link between Maximizer and QuickBooks, you can create all your financial documents whilst you stay in Maximizer.  The evidence is then reported on in the Accounting window of that customer or supplier.  Sales staff can be alerted to a customer being over their credit limits as well.

In addition, they can easily create quotations and set follow-ups, without ever leaving the place they do business in - Maximizer

Engineering Humour (Part 1)

Rick, as you may know, trained as a Civil Engineer and now marries it with Computer Software Engineering.  He presents this piece to help understand Engineers:

Two engineering students met on campus.  One said, "Where did you get such a great bike?"

The second replied, "Well, I was walking along yesterday minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, flung off all her clothes and said, "Take what you want!"

The first engineer nodded approvingly, "Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn't have fit."
 

Remember:  We can make your business run better by:―

  • Automating your in-house processes with a custom program or database..
  • Solving your Maximizer, Access, Excel, Word, Visual Basic, and even Lotus 123 problems.
  • Training your company on Maximizer, Excel, Word, Access and Windows (all levels from beginners to Programming).
  • Supplying software: We re-sell and support various CRM, timesheet, scheduling, and productivity programs.
  • Promoting your corporate image with a set of templates on Word or Excel, linked to your address list.

All the Best from the team!
Judith and Rick

Members, Communication in Action CC t/a Software Africa
"Empowering African Business with custom PC programs, databases, and templates using Microsoft technologies"
Reg. 2009/007863/23 ~ VAT No 4500104387
126 Kelvin Drive, Morningside Manor, Sandton, 2191 South Africa.
Tel: 011 802-2685 / 011 802-6440/1 ~ Fax: 011 802-4576 and 086-635-7902/3 ~ Cell: 082 389-3481/2 ~ e-mail: info@softwareafrica.co.za

This entire newsletter is Copyright© 2009 Communication in Action.  Please share it with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged, and includes this notice.  To Subscribe to the newsletter, Click here and SEND the resulting e-mail. Your data will not be provided to a third party without your permission.


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