Software Africa Newsletter - August 2021

Online Business Tip ~ Autodesk Tip ~ Excel Tip ~ Job Hunting Tip

Rick's Editorial

Welcome.  There's an Excel for Engineers Live Online Training this month, and now, a self-paced version.

In the Business tip, what if you cannot see the filled-In data in a fillable PDF?  See below...

On the Autodesk front, what's the fuss about BIM?

In Excel tip #201 in our series, the rest of our macro.

Will the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act kill email marketing?  Peter has some thoughts.

Finally, words of wisdom –or otherwise– from Computius.

Excel for Engineers and Scientists Online Live Course Starts Friday fortnight, 19 August 2021

Microsoft Excel is (pardon the pun) an excellent engineering tool.  Not only does it have all basic mathematical functions, it has advanced statistical functions, matrix manipulation, charts, and much else.  Are you, as an engineer and scientist, using it to the full?  Are you aware of how much it can do?  Many of us are self-taught and have gaps in our knowledge.  Fill those gaps on the online Excel for Engineers training: two full days of personal attention in a small class.

Next Scheduled Course: Thursday and Friday 19–20 August 2021 (two days, 08:00-17:00 CAT).
Venue: Live Online via Zoom.  65-page PDF manual is supplied, and 14 examples files.
Price until two weeks before the course (Thurs 5 August): Only R4,000 plus VAT per trainee.  Thereafter R4,497 plus VAT each.
Course Creator and Facilitator: Rick Raubenheimer B Sc (Eng) (Wits) (1975).

Run by Software Africa. More information on this web page.  For more information and to book, click here and send the resulting email.

Also... Excel for Engineers and Scientists Online Self-Paced Course Starts Now...

Now, if you find the above live course expensive, or you cannot spare two full days away from work, we have an alternative.

The same course is available on-line as a self-paced course.  The same manual and examples.  The same trainer.. No live support, however.  But done at your own pace at times that suit you.  Take half an hour a day and complete it in a month.  Spend an hour a day and finish it in two weeks.  Or dedicate two days –a weekend, perhaps?– and crack the whole course.

Take our self-paced online course in your own time and venue.  All the value at under a quarter of the price of the live course.  Backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

On-Line Business Tip #52 – Can't Read the Filled-In Data in Fillable PDF Forms?

I sent a filled-in evaluation form to a fellow-Toastmaster, who couldn't read my evaluation.

It was on her phone.  When she downloaded to her computer, she could read it.

It turns out that the PDF readers on Android and Apple smartphones do not cater for Fillable PDF files.

At the moment, the only remedy is to download the file to a PC or laptop.  If that still doesn't work, check your PDF viewer.  You need Adobe Acrobat Reader DC.  Windows 10 defaults to the free give-away "Microsoft Edge" as the PDF Viewer.  Early versions of Edge cannot handle fillible PDFs (nor, by the way, the graphics files produced by dotPLOT).  Or you might have accidentally installed another PDF Viewer.

To Set Adobe Acrobat Reader DC as default: In Windows 10 Explorer, find and right-click any PDF file.  From the pop-up menu, choose Open with > Choose another app > Adobe Acrobat. NB: Tick "Always use this app to open PDF files". Click OK.

In earlier versions of Windows, from the pop-up menu, choose Open with > Choose default program  > Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. Tick "Always use the selected program to open this kind of file". Click OK.

To download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, go here.  Untick the McAfee and Chrome add-ons, and ignore Pro (unless you want to pay).

Still having problems?  See this article.

Time to Talk About BIM

An uninspiring acronym, BIM, is set to transform the construction industry.  Are you about to be left behind?

BIM is Building Information Modeling (presumably pronounced to rhyme with "yodelling") –"Modelling" in English.

It is built around an intelligent 3D computer model.  It gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals insight and tools to plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.

Many people have difficulty visualizing a project in three dimensions when all they have are two-dimensional drawings.  The sponsors of a project, for example, will be a lot happier if they are able to see a photo-realistic picture of the project.  Not merely a static picture, but a movie-like scene that they can walk through.

If that seems like a "nice-to-have", consider more practical benefits: e.g. clash detection.  On 2D technical drawings, it is quite easy to put parts of the air-conditioning system in the same space as the sprinkler system, and have both interfere with the electrical cabling.  A 3D model can easily identify such problems which, if they made it to site, would demand costly work-arounds. Or should it be works-around?

BIM contains intelligent data that can be used throughout the lifecycle of a building or infrastructure project. 

That lifecycle typically has four phases: Plan, Design, Build,  and Operate.

BIM informs project planning by combining reality capture and real-world data to generate context models of the existing built and natural environment.

During the Design phase, conceptual design, analysis, detailing and documentation are performed. The preconstruction process begins using BIM data to inform scheduling and logistics.

Construction begins using BIM specifications. Project construction logistics are shared with trades and contractors to ensure optimum timing and efficiency.

Once the project is built, BIM data carries over to operations and maintenance. BIM data can be used down the road for cost-effective renovation or efficient demolition too.

Benefits of BIM include better project coordination and collaboration with stakeholders, efficient workflows, 3D visualizations, and resulting improved project outcomes.

What is BIM used for?  In summary, BIM is used to design and document building and infrastructure designs. Every detail of a building is modelled in BIM. The model can be used for analysis to explore design options and to create visualizations that help stakeholders understand what the building will look like before it’s built. The model is then used to generate the design documentation for construction and later use.

Autodesk has the most extensive Building Information Modelling offering in the form of Autodesk AEC Collection – Autodesk Architecture, Engineering & Construction Collection.  Ask us for a quote or more information.

Excel Tip #201 – Basic Coding 14: Building the Code (III)

Our two-hundredth Excel Tip!  Quite a milestone.

We are busy with our macro to process a list of telephone numbers into a uniform format.  In the last issue, we introduced a multi-line If statement.  The rest of the macro is:

  ' Insert spaces after the third and sixth digits
  ' Code should now be 10 digits long (If not, rather ignore):

  If Len(Tel$) = 10 Then
    Tel$ = Left$(Tel$, 6) & " " & Right$(Tel$, 4) ' 2nd space
    Tel$ = Left$(Tel$, 3) & " " & Mid$(Tel$, 4)   ' 1st space
    ActiveCell.Formula = Tel$    ' Replace the value in the current cell
  End If

  ActiveCell.Offset(1, 0).Select    ' Move one cell down

The comments shown in green explain the code.  Go through the code manually and see that you understand how it works.  Feel free to reply to this newsletter with any comments or queries.

In our next instalment we will look at how we test the macro to make sure that it works.

Finish Covid-19 Lockdown with a New Skill!

You can use this time to learn simple Excel macros.  Do repetitive work in a flash, instead of repeating the same boring stuff manually.  Save hours not working late, and spend more time with your family...  The Software Africa Quick 'n Easy Turbo-Start Excel Macros course is now online.  The lockdown, discount has ended, but it is still a bargain.

Is Direct marketing doomed under POPIA?

Small business POPI Act trainer, Peter Carruthers, writes:

Most business advice is not geared towards us small-business owners.

When I started my first (tiny) business in 1984, I read a book about direct marketing. Big companies did not do this kind of marketing back then. A tiny start-up like mine could afford about 15 cents on marketing for every R100,000 a big firm like IBM spent. In my case, IBM was our main opposition. We were trying to steal a tiny slice of their sales.. That tiny slice was worth millions of Rand to us. They were so big they did not notice it.

The author advised we send letters direct to every IBM user we could identify. At first, I typed the letters. I handwrote the envelopes. I signed them by hand with a blue pen to show they were genuine. And then I lugged them to the post office. We started with about 100.

We scanned every computer magazine and newspaper in the country. Whenever IBM, a software house, or a reseller made a sale, the news reported it. We added them to our list. We followed this exact process for eight years.

We soon realised nobody understood the technology. They understood the problem. The problem was that IBM's remote terminal and printer took six months to arrive and cost a hell of a lot of money.

My first letter was about Trans-Hex Diamonds, talking about a problem they faced. That letter outlined how we solved the problem for less than 1/10 of the cost of IBM's solution. We delivered in one week, about 23 weeks faster than IBM could.

A couple of weeks later, we got an enquiry from an IBM user who had an oil rig a few miles offshore. Could we do the same for them? And when we did, I wrote their story as well.

The two stories prompted a few more people to call us, and we wrote about their stories. Every fortnight, I wrote another story about a new problem we had solved. Each story prompted more enquiries.

It wasn't long before we had a solid list of 450 faithful clients. None of this had anything to do with our technical competence. It was those letters.

This mix of letters and installations got us into the local headlines a few times. We were the third-most admired IT supplier in South Africa for two years in a row. All because we wrote those letters every fortnight.

After those letters came faxes. And later, in a different century, those faxes became emails.

Now, 37 years later, I use precisely the same process to grow my business. Regular emails talk about the problems we solve. We illustrate the problem, give examples, and talk about success stories. It's the best marketing you can ever do. And it is almost free.

When POPIA was first unveiled it looked like direct marketing would die. It won’t. We’ll talk about this at Wednesday night’s free POPIA compliance webinar: Click here to register your seat for 8pm Wednesday August 4, TONIGHT (or next Wednesday night) at 8 PM SA Time. Even if you cannot join, you will get the video and notes afterwards. As long as you've registered.

If you cannot make it, sign up for the Complimentary Online POPI Act Training for Small Business Owners. This you can do at any time.

Computius Say:

Does having a spelling checker make one type more carelessly?
Like people wearing seatbelts driving more recklessly?.

Remember:  We can make your business run better by:

All the Best from the team!
Judith, Catherine, and Rick

Communication in Action cc trading as Software Africa

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