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  1. [FMP Tip-n-Trick] FileMaker Developer Busts Through Stalemate to Create Chess Engine FileMaker Database App Reigns in Gaming Platform by Joe Cellino, eXcelisys FileMaker Developer There are two things that bring me joy in this world — chess and FileMaker. I never thought that these two passions would cross paths in my lifetime, but now, that day has come. Having spent the past several years immersed in the tech industry, I’ve seen how rapidly machine learning has progressed. From autonomous self-driving vehicles to Google Assistant, which carries on conversations eerily similar to those held by humans, America’s technological landscape is constantly evolving. Machine learning took a giant leap with AlphaGo, a computer program that learned to play the strategy game Go (pictured above). Then came AlphaGo Zero, which defeated the renowned chess engine Stockfish and inspired eXcelisys developer Joe Cellino to create a chess engine in FileMaker. While all of this technology is impressive, my favorite “deep learning” champ has to be AlphaGo Zero. AlphaGo is a machine learning program. Give AlphaGo a set of rules for a game and it will play itself repetitively until it masters the game. In other words, AlphaGo learns by playing itself, improving with each game. In late 2017, AlphaGo was given four hours to “self-train” and learn the game of chess. AlphaGo then played the world’s best chess engine, Stockfish. Stockfish has dominated the chess world for years, consistently winning the World’s Chess Engine Championship. But in this matchup, Stockfish performed like a fish out of water. Of the 100 games played, AlphaGo won a triumphant 28 and played to a draw on the rest (find match details here). Inspired by AlphaGo Zero, I wondered if it would be possible to create a chess engine on the FileMaker Platform. In the five years I’ve been developing with FileMaker, I had never considered using the platform to design games. I developed a plan of attack: Create the data structure Set up a board and get the pieces to move Develop piece movement logic Add more rules like castling, en passant and check Add checkmate and stalemate The start of a game. The FileMaker Go Zero chess app utilizes button bars, container calculations and custom scripts and functions to process each move. The data structure was easy. Each game can have many moves. Done. Setting up the board was a little more difficult. Initially, I thought I could utilize the drag-and-drop feature of container fields to move pieces and control the game through script triggers. For example, when clicking into a container the OnObjectEnter script trigger would determine what square had been selected. When the image was drag-dropped into another container, the OnObjectModify script trigger would process the move. This seemed to cause more problems than it was worth because the script triggers wouldn’t always run and when they didn’t, the entire game was ruined. To fix this problem, I decided to use button bars instead due to their stability in running scripts. I also made a decision to store each piece image in a “pieces table” instead of storing each one directly on the board. This made it possible to display a piece’s image using container calculations that were driven by text fields that stored a carriage-return list of the squares occupied by each piece. After the board was set up and the pieces had the ability to move, the next step involved developing the logic for each piece’s movement. I was able to create each piece’s movement logic using scripts and custom functions to determine if squares were occupied and/or available. The scripting works as follows: The player selects a square. Based on the image in the square, determine the square, piece and color. If a piece is selected and it is that color’s turn, then determine all of the legal squares that type of piece can move to. If the player selects one of the legal squares, then move the piece by modifying the appropriate text field that stores the piece’s placement. If the player selects a different square, run steps 2 thru 4 again. White puts black in check. Notice that the app catalogs each move as it is made. Castling and en passant were easily handled with additional scripting and logic, but dealing with kings in check proved more complicated. I began by creating a script that calculates all of the squares the opposing color’s pieces are attacking (i.e. protected squares). This script runs after each move. I set it up so the king could not legally be moved to a protected square and if your king is in a protected square at the start of your turn, you are in check. At first, I thought this was enough but soon realized that you can move other pieces besides the king to end up in check. I therefore had to “check for check” when determining legal moves for every piece. It is important that you determine check after any piece is moved because a piece can be shielding your king from an opponent’s piece and, if moved, will place you in check. This requires a lot more processing power because checking for check requires determining the protected squares after the piece is hypothetically moved. Checkmate and stalemate require looking one move ahead. If it is your turn and you are in check and you have no legal moves, then it is checkmate. If you remove check from the first scenario, then it is stalemate. Both of these seem to go hand in hand with creating an AI that can make intelligent legal moves, so I decided to leave these features out of this version. Get a piece of the action. Download the FileMaker Go Zero chess engine today. In the future my goal is to add computer AI that would be able to determine its legal moves and make an intelligent choice aimed at winning the game. It seems as if I have the right scripting structure to be able to determine legal moves. I would theoretically have to link moves through a child / parent relationship and build a tree data structure in order to see moves ahead and determine if the future positions are good or bad. Then maybe one day my engine could compete against AlphaGo in the computer world chess championships. Stay tuned for my next version. If you’re stuck in a database checkmate and need a FileMaker developer to attack the problem, contact eXcelisys today for a complimentary consultation. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ **This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services. About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com)is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235. eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this website/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. The post Developer Busts Through Stalemate to Create Chess Engine Using FileMaker Pro appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  2. I Got Quicker at Debugging and So Can You Eradicate those Annoying Little Code Demons with these Tools and a Few Lines of Custom Code I Developed by Michael Suhrbier, eXcelisys Web App Developer You’ve probably heard of these PHP / MySQL debugging techniques: Xdebug — Great if you can get it working. BackTrace(), print_r(), var_dump(), etc. — Very useful but usually very ugly and not easy for humans to read and understand. PHP / MySQL logs — Fine for the average user, but let’s explore some methods for putting these guys on steroids. Xdebug is great when you can get it to work. However, I’ve spent days getting it to behave correctly. With multiple clients to tend, setting this up for each one is not the best use of my time. I won’t even go into the details. Instead, I will focus on easy-to-install, use and understand tools. Can’t Find the Issue? Try Kint My favorite tool of all times is a little-known library called Kint. I could not develop custom websites as efficiently as I do without it. This is one of those rare tools that actually makes you go WOW, where have you been all my PHP career? I don’t even start a project until I have it “installed,” by which I mean, use the 1-line include: include($_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT']."/kint.php"); That’s all you need, but what does it do? Have you ever wondered what is in a variable, a class, an array, or just about anything? Just throw it in Kint and you will know! d($variable, $class_name, $string, $GLOBALS, $_REQUEST); The output is beautiful, full of details and easy to understand. You are even given copy-and-paste code to get at the value you want! Have you ever banged your head trying to figure out what eXactly is in a form post? Just hand it to Kint! How about, What the hell is in that class and how do I use it? Again, copy and paste the property or method you are after. Seriously, that’s cool! Kint has many modifiers that are great for AJAX and plain text as well. I’ve used Kint in many situations, but where I use it most often is for API responses. I don’t have to format the API response at all initially so KINT tells me eXactly what the structure of the response looks like and how I can best get at the parts of the response that I need. Hustle that Code with PimpMyLogs So what’s wrong with error_reporting(E_ALL) or just scanning the logs manually? Again, nothing really, if you like digging for gold in them thar hills. Here’s one approach. Using ini_set('display_errors', 1); (show errors on front end) is great in development but not so much for production. So, I just read the logs … again, great, if you can find the logs and you don’t mind eXamining line-by-line for that gold. Take a shot if you grep the snot out a console window and think I’m lazy! Now for the easy way! A super, simple-to-install tool that does just what it says. Install via GIT: git clone https://github.com/potsky/PimpMyLog.git Install via Composer: composer require "potsky/pimp-my-log" Or the ole fashioned way (via archive): https://github.com/potsky/PimpMyLog/zipball/master Now that you have it installed, just open it in your browser and use the browser-based configuration tools. http://server_ip/PimpMyLog/ I’ve installed it at least a dozen times already and each time it was able to find the log files automatically, but you may need to find your log paths and enter them manually. Now you have some pimped logs! PimpMyLogs is browser-based so you are not jumping through hoops every time you need to see what’s going on with your custom web app. Plus, it can automatically refresh. PimpMyLogs is great for debugging AJAX calls that might be hidden or otherwise hard to see. Having the desktop notifications turned on also helps because I can simply run my app or site until I see an error pop up in my taskbar without having to switch back and forth. MySQL Debugging OK, this might be misleading. I’m not talking about debugging SQL syntax, but how many times have you seen this in your logs? FastCGI sent in stderr: "version for the right syntax to use near '2,0,117442)' at line 1 Not real helpful is it? I once watched a co-worker at a major healthcare provider struggle for weeks tracking down an SQL error that was flooding the logs. I sat at lunch thinking, There has to be a better way than guessing and doing code searches on huge code bases. So I came back and wrote this simple — yet powerful — function that leverages the ease of PHP built-in logging and MySQL error reporting. I added this code to our sql.lib.php and had the problem code within seconds. /*** Begin Michael Code LoJack ***/ if(!$res){ $client_details = '['.date('D Y-m-d h:i:s A').'] [client '.$_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR'].']' . PHP_EOL; $actual_link = (isset($_SERVER['HTTPS']) && $_SERVER['HTTPS'] === 'on' ? "https" : "http") . "://$_SERVER[HTTP_HOST]$_SERVER[REQUEST_URI]"; $actual_link = "[Link: $actual_link]" . PHP_EOL; $back_trace = "[Back Trace:" . (new Exception)->getTraceAsString()."]" . PHP_EOL; $query_ran = "[Query: $query]" . PHP_EOL; $query_error = "[Query Error: " . mysqli_error($con_link). "]" . PHP_EOL; error_log("$client_details $actual_link $back_trace $query_ran $query_error", 3, '/home/sites/dev.artbrokerage.com/captain6/PimpMyLog/dev.michael_lojack.log'); } /*** End Michael Code LoJack ***/ Place this where your queries are happening or directly after what you suspect is your problem area. I simply place it in the SQL library/class (/libs/sql.lib.php) for the app like so: function query($query, $usewritelink = false) { $this->queries[] = $query; $this->querycount++; $tsparts = explode(" ", microtime()); $qstartts = $tsparts[1] + $tsparts[0]; $this->lastquery = $query; if (preg_match("/^select /i", $query) && !$usewritelink){ $res = mysqli_query($this->readlink,$query); $con_link = $this->readlink; } else { $res = mysqli_query($this->writelink, $query); $con_link = $this->writelink; } $tsparts = explode(" ", microtime()); $qendts = $tsparts[1] + $tsparts[0]; $querytime = $qendts - $qstartts; $this->sqltime += $querytime; /*** Begin Michael Code LoJack ***/ if(!$res){ $client_details = '['.date('D Y-m-d h:i:s A').'] [client '.$_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR'].']' . PHP_EOL; $actual_link = (isset($_SERVER['HTTPS']) && $_SERVER['HTTPS'] === 'on' ? "https" : "http") . "://$_SERVER[HTTP_HOST]$_SERVER[REQUEST_URI]"; $actual_link = "[Link: $actual_link]" . PHP_EOL; $back_trace = "[Back Trace:" . (new Exception)->getTraceAsString()."]" . PHP_EOL; $query_ran = "[Query: $query]" . PHP_EOL; $query_error = "[Query Error: " . mysqli_error($con_link). "]" . PHP_EOL; error_log("$client_details $actual_link $back_trace $query_ran $query_error", 3, '/home/sites/site/dev.michael_lojack.log'); } /*** End Michael Code LoJack ***/ return $res; } You only need to adjust 2 things. $con_link (which is just your connection string) '/home/sites/site/dev.michael_lojack.log' (where do you want to write your custom log file?) This code is by no means perfect and probably could be optimized, but I only use it when I have a tough-to-track SQL query, so I’m not terribly concerned about the performance. You are probably wondering why I didn’t just head for the MySQL error log. I’ve never actually worked on a site that had it enabled, so apparently, this is not a common thing. But why a custom log? Well, PHP logs by default truncate error messages. I have tried every command I could possibly find to avoid truncation. This is the best solution I have found so far, plus I can add a bunch more useful information like the backtrace and URL that triggered the error. Here’s what the result looks like: [Thu 2018-10-18 03:12:28 AM] [client] [Link: https://explorethemagic.com/booking] [Back Trace:#0 /home/sites/explorethemagic.com/lib/booking_requests.lib.php(50): Database->query('select purchase...') #1 /home/sites/explorethemagic.com/includes/booking_index.inc.php(22): BookingRequests->getBookingID('97539', 'paid') #2 /home/sites/explorethemagic.com/controller.php(4020): include('/home/sites/etm...') #3 {main}] [Query: select booking_requests.* from booking_requests left join booking_requests_msg on booking_requests_msg.request_id=booking_requests.id where (booking.resort_id='97539') and (booking_requests_msg.to_id='97539' OR booking_requests_msg.from_id='97539') group by booking_requests.id order by booking_requests.date desc limit paid, 25] [Query Error: Undeclared variable: paid] Now, I have a copy-and-paste SQL string to test. In this case, the problem was obvious. My function call was missing a variable; therefore, it was dropping the word “paid” in where a query limiter should have been. I use this trick all the time because it makes me more efficient when providing web application services for clients. Go Forth and Debug with Confidence Using These Cool Debugging Tips I hope the title of this post didn’t mislead you into thinking I had discovered some magic silver bullet that would help you find errors and problematic code. Of course, there isn’t a quick magical remedy, but these debugging tips and tools used together will greatly increase your ability to find problems. I also suspect that many of you are probably saying, “Just use Xdebug” or one of the other real-time debuggers, but that isn’t always possible. Plus, each of these tools will be useful at some point on its own. Part of what I’m often tasked with here at eXcelisys is to put on my software detective hat and find that pesky bug that only appears occasionally. These tools help take the guesswork out of the process and save my clients time and money. So now for a shameless plug. Do you have an app or site that is misbehaving? Talk to one of our Solution Consultants about our website repair services and request that I take a look at your issues. It doesn’t matter if it’s PHP debugging, MySQL debugging, whatever. I’d love to take a swat at it! I love a good challenge, but what I like even more is a happy client telling me that I found the needle in the haystack that so many other developers just couldn’t find. ~ Michael Suhrbier To read more web tips and tricks from our web app developers, check out eX-Cetera, our blog where we offer WordPress Tips and Tricks and other general Web Tips and Tricks. **This article is provided for free and as-is; use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ website maintenance and support services. About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing and integrating database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for websites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235. The post I Got Quicker at Debugging and So Can You appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  3. To Be … Or Not to Be – A FileMaker Certified Developer Should You Hire Only FileMaker Certified Developers? How Do Developers Earn Certification and What Does it Mean? When you search for a root-canal doc, board certification is no crock. But what about your developer? Can an uncertified developer needle their way through your software project without inflicting any pain? Must you hire a FileMaker Inc. certified developer to get your app built right? We asked a bunch of developers about the certification process and its impact on their work. As a consumer, you want to know what you’re paying for when you hire a developer with the FileMaker Inc. seal of approval. How do developers get certified — and what, eXactly, does it mean? Truth be told, the uncertified outnumber the certified. Among the 378 partners listed on the FileMaker Business Alliance, only 217 have certified developers. Does it matter? “I do think the certificate process is important,” said Lancaster, NY, developer Joe Cellino. “The test doesn’t necessarily help in the day-to-day, but rather is a tool to display your competence in the industry. Having the certificate shows you are serious about FileMaker and that you have a moderate understanding of the platform.” Duane Weller doesn’t think certification is essential, but he does it because his employer provides incentives. “It’s not that critical for me,” said Weller, a developer from Grand Rapids, MI. “FileMaker is not the only database platform I work with. Sometimes it represents only a portion of the work I do. Even on many of my FileMaker projects, the work I do is outside the scope of what the certification exam covers.” Certification ~ FileMaker Developers Dissect the Practice Does certification help you with your job? YES. “The study process is invaluable,” said Ontario, Canada-based developer Paul Spafford who earned FileMaker17 certification in November 2018. To prep for the test, Spafford studied FileMaker’s Help topics and technical specifications. He also tooled through the FileMaker Inc. Knowledge Base. Studying for the test put the new product features, limitations and installation requirements “at the tip of my tongue,” said Spafford. “If nothing more, this leaves the clients I talk to realizing that I’m as much of an eXpert as I tell them I am. It’s always easy enough to find this information when needed, but having it right there at the front of your brain tells the client, ‘this guy knows his stuff’ — and it’s true.” NO. “The only good reason to take the test is marketing,” said Doug West, a certified software developer from upstate New York. “Developers hate it and rarely learn anything useful from it.” Can you give an eXample of a skill or technique learned through the certification process that directly impacted a client? MAYBE. “For me, studying for the test is nearly identical to looking up how to do something,” said developer Ken Moorhead of Richmond, KY, who is certified in FileMaker versions 14-17. “So, the test in and of itself doesn’t teach anything … I’d look it up anyway. It just depends on which happens first — the need to know, or the need to take the test.” NO. “Not that I’m aware of. I learn more from doing development and researching on my own,” said Weller, who is certified in FileMaker versions 9–11 and 13–17. Did you study for the eXam? YES. “It was fun,” said Cellino, who earned FileMaker17 certification in August 2018. “I checked in the FileMaker community and found links to PDFs and documentations online. I read everything I could find … and from that study, I learned so much about how the system works…. I learned about stuff I’ve not done yet. There’s always some development aspect you haven’t tackled and it’s nice to know the material beforehand and have some background knowledge…. Studying helped me with multiple projects … and helped me trouble-shoot a lot of problems.” NOT REALLY. “I have passed the test without studying,” said West, “but before walking into the test center I typically review the latest technical specifications for the pure memorization facts that could easily be looked up during day-to-day development.” How Do Developers Get Certified? Developers have 110 minutes to tackle the 65-question FileMaker Inc. certification test, which is offered only in the controlled and supervised environment of a Pearson VUE test center. There’s a random pool of multiple-choice questions, so not every test-taker receives the eXact same questions, although each developer is grilled over the same topics, including technical specifications, layouts, working with calculations, writing scripts, security, data integration and data movement, FileMaker Server, FileMaker WebDirect, FileMaker Go and much, much more. Some multiple-choice questions require more than one answer, requiring the developer to have more than just surface-level knowledge to get them right. The test measures a developer’s proficiency with the FileMaker Platform, said FileMaker Inc. Global Partner Manager Julie Sigfrinius. FileMaker Inc. first offered certification in 2004 with the release of FileMaker Pro 7.0. Since then, FileMaker has offered certification with every new version. To pass the test and become a certified software developer, a developer must demonstrate that they possess the foundational skills necessary to develop and deploy custom apps using the FileMaker Platform. The latest version — FileMaker Pro 17 — was released in May 2018; therefore, developers with the “FileMaker 17 Certified Developer” credential are certified on the most recent version. Sigfrinius said that the test offers customers a metric to anchor onto as they vet potential developers. “While there are many things that go into making a developer of high quality — certification certainly does not necessarily a developer make — it is one measure — a measure of authority on their use of the proficiency of the program.” Hiring the Certified vs. Uncertified Developer Because a developer has passed FileMaker Inc.’s certification eXam, does that mean they will be able to build you a better mousetrap (metaphorically speaking)? Maybe … maybe not. 👍 PRO: Choosing a certified software developer eliminates the need to screen potential software partners on their technical skills. Clients can rest easy, knowing that a certified developer understands the FileMaker Platform well and won’t be spending their development dollars learning the product as they go. 👎 CON: By turning away all uncertified developers, you may lose out on a real gem. Most top-level developers are active in the FileMaker community — whether they are certified or not. They attend FileMaker Inc. meetings and development conferences. They review white papers and study FileMaker Inc. technique forums to stay educated on best practices. In other words, the uncertified but dedicated FileMaker disciple may have just as much technical prowess as their certified peer. 👍 PRO: The certification test includes questions about new features. With each new rollout, FileMaker Inc. adds new features to the FileMaker Platform. To pass the test, a developer must have a grasp of the new features. 👎 CON: Certification tests cover technical skills and not creative eXpression. “There’s one thing that certifications can’t quantify and that’s creativity,” said Weller. “I believe that the best FileMaker developers are creative people.” Performance Matters ️ Development consultant Laura Vie of Columbia, MO, says that checking a developer’s FileMaker certification status is a good first step in vetting a developer. However, Vie warned that knowing the bits and bytes of FileMaker Pro doesn’t necessarily correlate into savvy app-building. “Just because you know techniques, that doesn’t mean you know how to apply them or how to fashion an integrated working solution for a client. It doesn’t translate to can you interview the client well enough to elicit the information you need in order to build a system.” Vie suggested that quality assurance in a developer would be best scrutinized by talking to the developer’s former clients and getting the user’s perspective on the developer’s skill. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ “Look at certifications but be careful about weighting it. I’d rather see more solutions and satisfied customers than certifications on the wall.” ~ Laura Vie, Development Consultant To learn more about eXcelisys’ FileMaker17 certified developers and the services they offer, click here. The post To Be … Or Not to Be – A FileMaker Certified Developer appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  4. Out with the Old & In with the New, Updating PHP is Essential for You! Why PHP & WordPress Updates Should Top Your New Year’s “To Do” List By Michael Suhrbier, eXcelisys Web App Developer What is PHP? Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) is an amazing and popular server-side programming language used in web development. How prominent is it? Well, it’s powerful enough to run the biggest blogging system on the web (WordPress) and the largest social network platform in the world (Facebook)! More than 80% of all websites are powered by PHP on the backend, so chances are, you’re running PHP on your web server whether you know it or not. What you may not know is that your PHP may be outdated. If you use WordPress, you may need to update that as well. It All Changed on January 1, 2019 At the start of the new year, PHP 5.6 reached “End of Life,” meaning this PHP version is no longer receiving security patches or bug fixes. Yikes! If you continue to run PHP 5.6 you will be vulnerable to breakdowns and hackers. Usage statistics suggest that almost 60% of sites worldwide operate on the PHP 5 base, making it a prime, hacker-friendly target. What better thing to eXploit than PHP code vulnerabilities that no one will be fixing! Messages like these should not be ignored: 3 Reasons You Should Care about Updating PHP Website Security. If you want to ensure your website, web application, e-commerce store or blog stays secure, you should update. Leaving your site(s) running an outdated PHP base could potentially eXpose your users’ private information and leaves the door open for ransomware attacks. Cost. Fixing a hacked site could come with a large price tag. For e-commerce sites that go down, the financial cost is even more draining due to a loss of business. Reputation. If the attack involves a breach of private customer information, you may lose customers over your negligence in updating your site. Check Which Version You Are Running There are several ways: Upload a file with: <?php echo ‘PHP version is: ‘ . phpversion(); echo ‘PHP version is: ‘ . PHP_VERSION; ?> Next, access the file with your browser: http://yoursite.com/yourfile.php Log in to your cPanel, click general information, and your PHO information will be listed. Most CMS’s will also offer a “Server Information” tab that will show the PHP version it is running on. There are several plugins for WordPress such as “Display PHP Version” that will show you the PHP version from your dashboard. What Should You Do? Update! PHP 7.2 is Fast! Security is not the only reason to update. PHP 7.2 (the most recent stable version) introduces core enhancements, offering improved speed and processing. Let’s face it: Google likes fast sites! Site speed affects search rankings more than you realize. To give you some idea of how much performance has improved from PHP 5.6 to PHP 7.2, I did some benchmarking with a Windows LAMP stack and a base install of WordPress 5.0 with no caching, no optimizations and no additional plugins, just a raw install. PHP 5.6 handled roughly 25 requests per second, while PHP 7.2 handled nearly 63 requests per second. This is a huge gain in performance for any PHP-based site owner! Still Not Convinced? More Reasons to Update PHP A Hacked Site Could Have Long-term Issues. Even after your site has been “restored” and seems back to normal, there could be other problems lurking deep in the code base. What if the hacker installed a backdoor for later use? I liken this to the analogy about a wrecked car never being the same again despite being repaired. PHP Updates Become Harder the More Outmoded They Are. You don’t want to get too far behind because the time and cost associated with migrating to the newest version becomes more costly and time consuming the farther behind you get. The chart below will give you an idea of where the current cycle is heading: Speaking of Updates … What About WordPress 5.0? WordPress 5.0 just came out! The most noticeable change is the Gutenberg block-based editor, which you will probably fall in love with after a few minutes of use. But don’t worry. If you don’t like it, a Classic editor is just a click away. WordPress 5.0 has already had one security patch update and will likely get another soon. Security is likely to be continuously improved in the 5.0 release, thereby offering improved safekeeping of your data and that of your users. Some WordPress 5.0 considerations Updating to WordPress 5.0 is irreversible. Make a backup first! WordPress 5.0 may break themes and plugins. WordPress 5.0 will change the way themes and plugins are used. WordPress 5.0 blocks will replace everything (even widgets). Scope of work that needs to be performed (in most cases): Set up a development environment on your server. Pull a full site backup into the development environment. Upgrade to PHP 7.2. Upgrade to WordPress 5.0. Debug and adjust code to work with the new updates. Update all plugins, modules and extensions. Final testing. Deploy to your production environment. Updates Feel Costly and Time-Consuming, but Unpatched Vulnerabilities Put You At Risk The reasons to keep your software up-to-date aren’t always obvious, but security patches are at the top of the list — in my opinion. Often, site operators delay updates because of the cost or fear of the unknown. This is understandable; however, waking up to a hacked site is considerably worse. The choice to become less hackable through proper updates is an ounce of prevention with a side of “peace of mind.” You wouldn’t leave your front door unlocked at night, so why would you leave your website unsecured? At eXcelisys, we have eXperience with WordPress support and website maintenance, including upgrading sites in a painless and cost-effective manner. I’ve recently updated four websites to PHP 7.2 / WordPress 5.0.1, all rather large in scale and complexity. We’ve got the process down. ————————— If all you want for the New Year is to ensure your website is unhackable and up-to-date, contact us today for a no-charge website consultation analysis and estimate. **This article is provided for free and as-is: use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ WordPress Support Services. About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for websites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235. eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this website/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with WordPress. The post Out with the Old, In with the New — Updating PHP is Essential for You! appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  5. Holiday Light Maker Finds Peace on Earth with Sales Quoting & Fulfillment App FileMaker Platform Brings Bright Sparkle to Global Operations at Christmas Northeast / Nicolas Holiday Just as Santa relies on the elves to keep his North Pole toy shop churning, holiday light manufacturer Christmas Northeast / Nicolas Holiday depends on the FileMaker Platform to manage sales and distribution of its bulbous bling. As the sole manufacturer of all GE-branded holiday lighting products, the company has a ton of items to track. Like toys that come in every variety, shape and size, so do holiday lights. There are energy efficient StayBright® LED lights, random sparkle string sets, color-changing snowflake LEDs and pre-lit Christmas trees. The list goes on and on. “We have 5,000 product SKUs,” said George Krize of Christmas Northeast / Nicolas Holiday. A few years back, Krize got the jolly idea to upgrade his business management system. For Christmas Northeast / Nicolas Holiday, business management is a big deal because the company sells its merchandise to big box stores like Lowe’s, Costco, Home Depot, Meijer, Michaels Stores and Walmart. It’s a high-volume business where “units” sell in the tens of thousands and accuracy is essential because the company manufactures only what is ordered and must ship an entire season’s worth of product between the end of May and the second week of October. To manage the business, Krize had cobbled together multiple Microsoft Access databases and Excel spreadsheets. “We were looking for ways to consolidate into one program and have cross-platform compatibility for use with Macs and PCs,” said Krize. He decided the FileMaker Platform was the way to go and hired eXcelisys. Doug West, eXcelisys VP for product development, took the reins for the project and turned Krize’s business management wish list into a reality. “This is one of the last places you’d eXpect to find a FileMaker database — in big box retail with high-volume product management,” said West. “This is a big business with a big brand. The next time you go to the store and see GE holiday lights, think of FileMaker.” The new system went live in 2017. We’re still fine-tuning it with different things, but it does everything I want it to do and more,” said Krize. “It’s a work in progress. It’s far from vanilla. It’s so chocolate chip it’s incredible.” StayBright® Color Choice® LEDs are one of the many products managed by the new FileMaker app (image courtesy of Christmas Northeast / Nicolas Holiday). Key Customizations Keep Operations Merry & Bright The new business system takes care of basic business operations like order entry, generating quote sheets, managing purchase order inventory, generating UPC codes and spitting out custom reports. But where it really eXcels is with customizations that have Christmas Northeast / Nicolas Holiday singing the Hallelujah Chorus. eXcel autofill: When businesses move to the FileMaker Platform, they typically leave eXcel behind. But Christmas Northeast / Nicolas Holiday could not because big box stores require vendors to follow eXplicit guidelines for quote submissions via Excel. “You can’t just give them a PDF,” said West. “You have to fill out a spreadsheet with product details, a summary, photos, etc. They provide an eXcel spreadsheet that asks for specific information with formulas we can’t break. The challenge is we have to feed data into those eXcel workbook files and push it into those cells within the Excel files.” eXcelisys accomplished this feat by mapping the data through a third-party plugin that takes values from FileMaker and writes those into the worksheet cells in Excel. EDI integration: As with most large-scale enterprises, Christmas Northeast / Nicolas Holiday eXchanges business documents (i.e. purchase orders and invoices) with its customers using Electronic Data Interchange, or EDI. As such, the new FileMaker system had to integrate with the EDI platform. eXcelisys accomplished this task by adding a script to deal with flat file imports from EDI. “I never have to type a purchase order,” said Krize. “He can import purchase orders by downloading a data file from the EDI system and clicking a button in FileMaker,” said West. “So it’s not 100% automated but it’s still a serious time-saver.” Product cloning: The cloning feature saves Krize time when adding new (similar) products to the lineup. “A lot of our items come in 10 colors,” said Krize. The clone feature eliminates the need to type out the detailed product description each time similar products are added. Instead, Krize clones the product, gets a new item number and makes the color change. Random sparkle snowflake lights are another product managed by the FileMaker app (image courtesy of Christmas Northeast / Nicolas Holiday). Other Favorite Features ✔ FileMaker WebDirect Christmas Northeast / Nicolas Holiday utilizes multiple overseas factories to manufacture and ship its products. These factories need real-time access to the FileMaker database to look up product specs, shipping requirements, package sizes, etc. By using FileMaker WebDirect, users overseas can open a web browser and connect directly to the FileMaker server located in the company’s Connecticut office. The beauty is that the screen renderings look eXactly the same as they do in FileMaker Pro in the home office and it’s all done with no additional web programming required and with no need to install FileMaker Pro on the overseas workstations. FileMaker WebDirect provides quick, instant access to any user, anywhere in the world. With FileMaker WebDirect, users at the company’s overseas factories can plug into the FileMaker app through a web browser to access records from the FileMaker server in the Connecticut office. Updates made in the web browser save to the server and the server pushes updates to the web browser automatically (image courtesy of Christmas Northeast / Nicolas Holiday). ✔ Content Management with Auditing An audit trail on the home page allows Krize to view a list of every change made to any field anywhere in the system. Users at the factories sometimes correct things like weights or cubic volumes for shipping purposes. If an error is made, the audit trail allows Krize to recover the lost value quickly. “I can see what they touched, what the old value was…. It’s handy if someone makes a mistake. I can see what the previous value was, what it was changed to.” ✔ Package Dimension Calculations For shipping purposes, Christmas Northeast / Nicolas Holiday must figure packing dimensions, weight, container quantities, pallet weight, etc. All of this is automated with the new system. A built-in cube calculator figures the height, width and length for each “case cube” of product. Because the company ships products globally, it needed the flexibility to figure measurements with the metric system and with U.S. customary values. The Weather Outside is Frightful, but FileMaker is So Delightful In the end, Krize is pleased with his new business management system, but he also acknowledges the dark period of development he went through to get there. “It was a long drawn-out process to get it to do what I needed,” Krize said. “We were combining three different programs doing three different things and combining it into one piece. Yes, it was over budget and over time constraints. It was a learning process.” Krize is also happy he chose the FileMaker Platform, but along the way he realized the platform was only a piece of the puzzle. “FileMaker. It’s a great program, but it’s only as good as the developer. I have nothing but accolades for Doug. He knows what he’s doing. He makes himself available and is never one to avoid a phone call. I would recommend FileMaker and eXcelisys just based on Doug West.” If all you want for Christmas is a new innovative business solution on the FileMaker Platform, contact us today for a no-charge FileMaker solution consultation analysis and estimate. The post Holiday Light Maker Finds Peace on Earth with Sales Quoting & Fulfillment App appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  6. Survival Guide (7 of 7): Find, Hire & Work with a Software Developer, Successfully! Bringing Your Vision to Life: Development, Testing & Deployment It should be clear that there is a substantial effort that goes into a successful project before the actual development work even begins. In this final segment of our 7-part series on choosing and working with a custom app developer, we offer tips to take you through the development, testing and deployment stages. Development styles — What to eXpect Broadly speaking, there are three common approaches to development: agile, waterfall and prototyping. All are intended to get to the finished product in an efficient manner, but each takes a different approach. The agile development style practices discovery as development unfolds and requires eXtensive client feedback during development, while the traditional waterfall method is heavy on discovery with the client then stepping back and turning the developer loose to do their thing. Prototyping relies heavily on mock-up designs to verify the functionality before actual development commences. It will help to know the approach your developer will use so you can anticipate when you will be called to action. Agile — An iterative wash, rinse, repeat cycle. The discovery phase is very short and informal. The intent is to understand the overall project goals and learn the details necessary to get there. For most projects, this can be accomplished in one or two interviews, which keeps the time and eXpense of a formal planning stage to a minimum. With enough detail to have a clear idea of the goals, the developer can create an interface and first draft of the primary module to find out if they are headed in the right direction to meet the client’s needs. After that, each cycle takes the client feedback and the remaining list of features to rework the previous section and/or work on new features. Builds are presented to the client as often as every week or two to get feedback before continuing. This process repeats until the project is declared finished by the client. Client feedback is critical to keep development on track and moving forward. The feedback acts as a critique and approval of the work completed and provides guidance for the next step. Using this method, features can be reworked again and again to tweak them and fine-tune the workflow. The agile development style works well with projects that evolve over the development lifespan or when the functionality is not crystal clear at the outset. If you don’t like it, change it. The agile method lends itself well to estimated pricing because much of the discovery happens as development unfolds. (To review pricing models, see Part 3: Quotes, Estimates and Change Orders, Oh My! — Understanding Pricing and Billing Models) Waterfall — A linear step-by-step process in discrete stages from discovery to design to development, then testing and, finally, deployment. Each stage happens in order without revisiting previous stages. The success of the waterfall style is dependent on the accuracy of the discovery and design stages. Everything is outlined in as much detail as possible to produce a very well-defined and generally rigid blueprint. Client involvement is heavily front-loaded in waterfall development and usually requires multiple meetings and back-and-forth communication to nail down the eXact details. Once discovery is complete and the final plan is approved, then the actual development can begin. Development can often be performed relatively quickly because all unknowns should have been discovered and decided. The client may not see a lot of intermediate builds because the blueprint is pretty rigid. This method has somewhat of a “reveal” at the end because not much client feedback is required during development. Waterfall lends itself well to quotes and fixed-bid pricing because the unknowns should be minimized and the specifications are locked in. Prototyping — Mock-ups followed by hard coding. With this development style, the amount of discovery lies somewhere between the waterfall and agile methods. The client outlines the requirements and describes the workflow and then the developer creates mock-ups of what was described. The mock-ups can be tweaked endlessly until they meet client approval. Once approval has been given, the developer can get to work on the actual final product. Like agile development, there is room for tweaking during the mock-up phase, but like waterfall, once the actual development is under way the plan becomes very rigid and doesn’t allow for much modification. This method works well with all pricing models, especially if the mock-up phase is limited to just a few iterations. Keep Knowledge Workers in the Loop The knowledge workers you used to provide initial information about the requirements of the app are probably the same ones you come back to for testing and feedback. They should be users who are currently performing the tasks the app comprises. They can answer questions and give quality feedback because they know how they do their job when things are slow and when things are chaotic. Allowing the end users to have input during development also reduces resistance to a new system and creates buy-in and a feeling of ownership once the app is deployed. The end users who feel their voices have been heard during development will ultimately turn into the cheerleaders and champions of the project. Communication is Key As development unfolds it is important to have clear and constant lines of communication. Communication was important in the pre-planning stages, but it’s even more critical now. You may have an internal vision of what the app should look and feel like. The developer is trying to turn that vision into an operational tool for you and needs detailed information to get there. Make sure you address the developer’s questions with clear answers. Don’t ignore the requests or get ahead of the program. Developers have to build things in a particular order. Help them stay on track by answering what is asked. It can mean the difference between “dead on” and “almost” in what you end up with. The quicker you respond, the faster you’ll see results. There will be times when you are looking for particular features that don’t seem to be in the builds you are asked to review. Ask for clarification to make sure those things aren’t missed, but understand that sometimes the part you want to see will come later in the development process. You’ll have to be patient and let the developer lay the foundation first. Work together as a team to make the work satisfying and successful. Test, Test, Test Testing should be an ongoing activity. Developers are at a disadvantage for testing because they know how all of the features were built to work. They will test it the way they created it. You will test it the way you want it to work. Those are hardly ever the same. The developer’s project manager should review each build and test the newly developed features to make sure they function as the developer intended. This is the most basic level of testing. The more important testing is done by the client, particularly by the end users who know how each feature is supposed to facilitate their workflow. They will quickly be able to determine whether the features are efficient, intuitive or even properly address the task at hand. Always make sure to provide feedback to your developer of what you found. This is a very important piece of your partnership. Deliverables & Deadlines — How You Can Help How long should it take, what will I get, and when will I get it? These are logical questions and by now you just want to see something. Your developer should have a plan for when the stages of work will be completed and delivered for your review. However, things almost always take longer than either of you want. Generally, the timeline is affected by the speed of feedback from the client, so stay on top of it. Deployment Because there is always more to consider and the dream list is ever present, most projects could go on and on. At some point, the client’s point person decides that the solution is deployable and ready for use. Even after your custom solution is deployed, eXpect additional troubleshooting and tweaking as users begin to really work with it in earnest. That is normal and should be eXpected. Full deployment is really the final stage of testing the integrity of a solution. Any issues should be cataloged and reported to the developer so they can be addressed. Make sure you leave enough time in the budget to manage this final stage of development. A well-designed solution will be forward-looking so that as the business grows and evolves, new features and functionality can be added easily. Once your app is deployed and you begin using it, you will quickly come up with improvements or additions you’d like. That’s normal. Keep a list so that you can come back to it when the time is right. Custom software development is an adventure and a process that can teach you a lot about your business. Having a custom solution allows you to run your business the way you want and not have to modify your workflow to accommodate a commercial software package. It gives you a lot of flexibility and the opportunity to grow into areas that might have been unmanageable without it. The development process can be a nightmare if it is seen as a black box of magic that requires little or no involvement from you. However, with appropriate preparation and participation, you can navigate the process smoothly, taking satisfaction that you created something uniquely suited to your business. Enjoy the adventure! If you missed any of the installments in our series, access them here: Part 1: Embracing the Development Mind-Set Part 2: What Should You Consider When Selecting a Development Partner? What Questions Might You Ask a Potential Developer? Part 3: Quotes, Estimates and Change Orders, Oh My! — Understanding Pricing & Billing Models Part 4: Making the Plan for Planning Your Plan of the Project Plan — What Do We Need to Get This Development Party Started! Part 5: Rassling with the R’s — Roles and Responsibilities Part 6: Taking the Final Leap: Define the Scope & Approve the Plan The post Survival Guide (7 of 7): Find, Hire & Work with a Software Developer, Successfully! appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  7. Is your site running an older version of PHP? Chances are … yes. According to W3Tech, 76.6% of websites are running a version of 5X. This December, support ends for versions 5.6 to 7.0, pushing them to end of life. This means no more security updates! What does this mean for you if your site is still running an older version of PHP? It means that if a new security issue is found it will not be fixed going forward. So, if you get hacked there may not be a simple fix. You can always roll back, but you can’t roll back and fix the problem so that it doesn’t happen again. If your website is important to you, give us a call and we can work out a plan to migrate to the latest version of PHP bringing better security, stability and speed along with it. If you are up to date on your PHP, how is your WooCommerce? Please make sure you are running the October update to 3.4.6 so your site doesn’t get compromised by a recently discovered design flaw. The post appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  8. Is your site running an older version of PHP? Chances are … yes. According to W3Tech, 76.6% of websites are running a version of 5X. This December, support ends for versions 5.6 to 7.0, pushing them to end of life. This means no more security updates! What does this mean for you if your site is still running an older version of PHP? It means that if a new security issue is found it will not be fixed going forward. So, if you get hacked there may not be a simple fix. You can always roll back, but you can’t roll back and fix the problem so that it doesn’t happen again. If your website is important to you, give us a call and we can work out a plan to migrate to the latest version of PHP bringing better security, stability and speed along with it. If you are up to date on your PHP, how is your WooCommerce? Please make sure you are running the October update to 3.4.6 so your site doesn’t get compromised by a recently discovered design flaw. The post PHP Support ending in December – Woo Commerce patched appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  9. WordPress Website Redesign Boosts Placement Firm’s Candidate & Recruiter Traffic Responsive Design & Custom Plugins Optimize Century Group’s eXternal & Internal User eXperiences When businesses in Southern California, the Bay Area or Denver need a new CFO, controller, accountant or payroll coordinator, they turn to Century Group for help in recruiting the right candidate. Likewise, job-seeking finance and accounting professionals rely on Century Group when they’re on the hunt for new career opportunities. Headquartered in El Segundo, California, Century Group specializes in direct hire and temporary staffing services in the areas of accounting and finance. In February 2017, Century Group hired eXcelisys as their WordPress consultant to solve speed issues and provide general support and maintenance for its eXisting WordPress website. Later, Century Group decided to redesign and rebuild the website and kept eXcelisys on board for the project. The new, revitalized, optimized and modernized Century Group WordPress website went live in March. So far, the results are encouraging. “We’ve seen an uptick in visitors per month.” ~ Sabrina Maharaj, Century Group Senior Marketing Manager This is the home page for Century Group’s old website. Compare this to the image far above, which depicts Century Group’s revised, new home page. Project Focus for Century Group Website Redesign Polishing the Look and Feel To modernize the look of Century Group’s dated WordPress site, eXcelisys Web App Developer Fred Morgan and Project Manager Kurt Knippel proposed using the WordPress theme Lambda because it is flexible, mobile responsive and lends itself to custom CSS styling. “We tackled it one page at a time,” said Maharaj. “We analyzed the content and overall flow and optimized from there. I did the concept on my own, then discussed it with Fred and Kurt and got their input to make it happen on the back end. I had a vision and they made it happen.” Users assess the visual appeal of a website within 50 milliseconds. ~Behaviour and Information Technology (March 2006) Above: New website. Below: Old website. Responsive Design: Creating a website that works on every screen Users eXpect websites to work — and look good — no matter what device they are using. Mobile users hate to pinch-and-zoom their way through site content that’s not built for small-screen layouts. Keeping this in mind, Century Group wanted a responsive website to ensure everyone — from mobile users to tablet lovers to desktop devotees — could search for jobs and submit their applications effortlessly. 52% of users said that a bad mobile eXperience made them less likely to engage with a company ~ Sterling Research and SmithGeiger (2012) Responsive web design ensures a great user eXperience across many devices and screen sizes because it automatically “responds” to whatever device it is being read on to optimize the content and features for usability. Headers, font sizes and images need readjustment for mobile devices. Optimizing for Blazing Fast Load Times A site performance audit revealed that people were bouncing from some Century Group webpages. eXcelisys web app developer Michael Suhrbier drilled into the problem and found several areas for improvement during the WordPress website redesign. Server: Suhrbier determined that a server upgrade was needed to accommodate Century Group’s web traffic. He recommended a switch to WP Engine — a performance-oriented hosting company for WordPress-powered websites. Content Delivery: Suhrbier recommended that Century Group use Cloudflare’s DNS service to accelerate content delivery. Now, Cloudflareacts as an intermediary between web users and Century Group’s server, so any requests for the Century Group site run through Cloudflare first. Cloudflare stores Century Group’s static web content (like CSS, JavaScript and images) on its own servers. When someone requests access to the Century Group site, it is served up from the Cloudflare server located closest to the site visitor. This cuts page load times. Moving to Cloudflare reduced Century Group’s load times from 7 or 8 seconds to 1.5 seconds, noted Michael Suhrbier, the eXcelisys developer who recommended the service. Images: Suhrbier combed through the site to ensure images were being served up in the correct sizes so they would upload quickly — and correctly. Mobile images were optimized so they wouldn’t eat up a user’s data. eXcelisys also looked at video content. Century Group’s landing page includes a video that plays when the page opens, so eXcelisys paid close attention to structuring it in such a way that it would render properly without taking forever to load. Plugins: During his web optimization detective work, Suhrbier reviewed the plugins from the original developer and determined that the site had an unnecessary plugin for HTTPS redirection. This plugin was increasing the site’s load time, so he axed it. “My approach is making sites better by subtraction,” said Suhrbier. “The HTTPS redirect plugin is not needed. The same thing can be done with three lines of code in the .htaccess file.” 40% of people will abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. ~ Econsultancy Custom Plugins for Additional Functionality Internal processes: eXcelisys built a custom plugin to help Century Group with the recruitment process. With the old website, candidates applied for jobs and then sent their resume later as an email attachment. This process meant that Century Group had to sort the documents to match up applications and resumes. Now, the resume is attached directly to the application. Email alerts: The new system sends an email alert to Century Group recruiters each time a new applicant submits. The custom plugin automatically attaches the applicant’s first and last name to the subject line. This means recruiters have only to look at their inbox to see how many jobs “John Smith” has applied for. Previously, they had to scroll through each email to locate the applicant’s name and determine how many positions a person had applied for. Data management: The website is now set up to capture a small amount of applicant data, giving Century Group a database of candidates it can query when seeking placements for outside companies. “We improved the overall workflow of how a resume is posted and how they are able to store the data and query the data,” said Morgan. “Everything was buried in emails before.” User eXperience During the WordPress website redesign: eXcelisys created a custom “post type” for job listings. The custom plugin aggregates the data in a manner that allows users to conduct keyword searches. Previously, job seekers had to scroll through job listings because the site had only rudimentary search functionality. Now, job seekers can filter their search by job (i.e., accountant), location (i.e., Los Angeles) and industry (i.e., healthcare). In addition, an “easy apply” button allows users to apply for a position and upload their resume in one fell swoop. Clicking the “Easy Apply” button (see image at right) brings up the form on the left. Users upload their resume and hit “submit” to complete the process. Pressing Onward Overall, Maharaj is pleased with the outcome of the WordPress website redesign project. Maharaj said that the eXcelisys developers were “friendly and responsive and offered good advice.” She went on to eXplain: “In some cases, I may have had an idea but I didn’t know the pros and cons. They provided both sides so I could make a well-informed decision.” Suhrbier concurred that a website redesign involves much more than writing HTML and CSS code. “Our biggest job is to educate clients and steer them in the right direction.” To read more about how eXcelisys can help you optimize, revitalize, upgrade and protect your WordPress site from hackers, click here. The post WordPress Website Redesign Boosts Placement Firm’s Candidate & Recruiter Traffic appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  10. Pond Care Company Uses FileMaker Pro with Field-Synced iPads to Deliver Photos & Service Records to Office Staff & Clientele; System Eliminates Paperwork & Improves Customer Communications ASAP Aquatics is located in Indianapolis. Lakes and ponds are lovely … when they are lovely. But not so much when frothy slicks of fluorescent algae bloom all over the surface. To fix this problem, the people of Central Indiana rely on ASAP Aquatics. Founded in 1996, ASAP Aquatics offers algae and aquatic weed abatement, lake and pond care, and fountain sales and service. The ASAP “season” lasts a grueling seven months. From April to October, ASAP techs make 45,000 visits (including service calls and inspections) to bodies of water all over Indiana. That’s a lot of record-keeping, but it all goes swimmingly thanks to ASAP’s custom-built FileMaker Go solution. The system allows techs to take iPads on service calls, document their visit (with notes and pictures) and send the information to the office from the road. But the fun doesn’t end there. The system is also linked to ASAP’s website, allowing clients to log in to their account and check the service records and photos themselves. eXcelisys developer Duane Weller says the system syncs through about 70,000 images a season. ASAP founder/owner Brian McVeigh says he is pleased with the way eXcelisys has been able to incorporate and manage all of the syncing that goes on. At any given time, there may be 30 iPad-equipped techs in the field. “We transfer thousands of records a day,” said McVeigh. “If we couldn’t have the iPads talking to servers in the office all day, it would shut us down. The amount of paperwork would be a burden.” McVeigh came to eXcelisys in 2007 when he needed some heavy lifting with his database app. McVeigh built his first FileMaker Pro solution on his own — in version 3.0 — to manage records and contacts. But as his business niche grew, so did his software needs. No out-of-the-box software solution can handle ASAP’s operations, so the company has been working with eXcelisys regularly over the past decade to add new features whenever McVeigh dreams up a new tweak to streamline operations. McVeigh isn’t afraid to tinker around in the app. Sometimes, he adds a new element, then asks eXcelisys to get it working properly. “He calls on us when he doesn’t have time or can’t figure it out,” said Weller. The current solution is a beast of custom web app ingenuity. “It’s the backbone of what we do,” said McVeigh. Tools of the trade: When techs head out in the morning, they take a truck, trailer, boat and iPad. A Day in the Life of ASAP’s Software Solution Step 1: Tech grabs an iPad from the office and opens the app to access the day’s route. By clicking on an account, the tech receives directions to the site, as well as information about the service needed (i.e. treatment for algae, scum or other shoreline invader such as cattails/water primrose; fountain and aeration system maintenance, repair or installation, etc.). ASAP’s custom FileMaker Go app provides techs with property maps indicating the location of each pond they are to service. The red arrows tell the tech where to access the pond (boat launch). Step 2: Tech services the lake, pond, fountain or other aquatic feature on the site and documents the visit using the app. The tech performs the task that has been scheduled. Upon completion, the tech makes job notes on the iPad and adds photos to corroborate the work that has been done. If the tech sees something that needs further attention, the tech can note this on the iPad app and add more photos so the customer can see the problem. Step 3: Tech syncs the device (can use a cellphone) and the data is transmitted to the FileMaker Server in the front office via MirrorSync. This feature means techs don’t have to spend time filing paperwork or uploading files when they return to the office. The data beats them back! However, if the tech has poor cell service, the files can be synced when they get back to the office. Step 4: App sends client a text or email notifying them that ASAP has serviced their property. Client can log in through a web portal to read about the service that has been performed. McVeigh says that giving clients web access to the service records has greatly reduced the number of phone calls to the office. Instead of calling to see when ASAP is going to spray for cattails, the client can log in and find the date the service is scheduled to occur. The client can also view the images taken by the tech and read a full record of the service performed. The customer portal also includes information about the contract agreement so customers know when to renew their service contract. This saves ASAP from having to send out renewal notices. Above: This is the main landing page for users. It lists their properties and the services contracted for each. Some clients — like property managers — have multiple properties with multiple aquatic features. Above: The “treatment” page that is available to clients through the web portal shows the date, images and information on the treatments performed. It can display treatments by date or pond. Below: Clients can read a detailed report of the visit and see images from the day the pond was serviced. Best New Feature: Employee Incentive Program Tracker This summer, eXcelisys added a “tracker” to the FileMaker Pro system so ASAP can track the number of ponds each technician services a week. When the tech hits a “threshold” (as set by McVeigh) they receive an automatic bonus that is incorporated directly into the payroll. McVeigh says the techs are eXcited by the new feature. “They are doing what they’ve always done but now there’s an incentive to hit the bonus threshold and accumulate eXtra pay.” More Benefits Float to the Surface Detailed record-keeping: McVeigh says the app provides a huge benefit to ASAP’s fountain and aeration division because of the comprehensive record-keeping it provides. When ASAP installs a new fountain or aeration system, the specs are documented in the app, along with the serial numbers of each piece of equipment. The “fountain” layout. When a new fountain or aeration system is installed, the tech takes photos to show it has been installed properly and is working. McVeigh says this helps when clients call to say their fountain is off and complain that it “never” worked. “We have a record that it did,” says McVeigh. The images also help the pond service department. Say a client calls to complain about algae and says it has been there all year. Because the app provides ASAP with a photographic, chronologic history of the pond, ASAP can tell eXactly when the algae problem happened. Said McVeigh: “We can look back and say, ‘No, this just happened. The algae bloomed last week.’ ” Improved Client Relations / Communications: As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” McVeigh says having images available to customers through the web portal speeds the repair process when a fountain or aeration system needs fixing. “They can see pictures of what’s broken and get a better understanding of the problem.” It also means customers don’t have to wait at the property to see if the technician shows up to do the work. A custom gallery allows clients to view images in high resolution. To make the images available through the website portal, eXcelisys built an image transferring program in FileMaker Pro that connects to the database to transfer out by FTP. The interface processes and resizes each image for web viewing. A Wellspring of Success McVeigh says he is pleased with the efficiency with which eXcelisys handles each development task. “I’m amazed at how much work eXcelisys can do with the hours we purchase from them.” McVeigh says he finds eXcelisys developer Duane Weller to be eXtremely responsive and thoughtful. “When I have an idea, he says, ‘Sure, I can do that.’ But he’s also aware of the cost.” McVeigh went on to eXplain that when he asks about adding a new feature or function, Weller takes into account the development time the task will take and if it will really advance the end goal. If it’s not a cost-effective feature, Weller recommends not to move forward, even though that means he’s passing up the opportunity to put development dollars in his own pocket. “eXcelisys has really earned my trust,” said McVeigh. ASAP techs pull a fountain system for winter storage and service. Thanks to Brian McVeigh. The post Custom Web App Keeps ASAP Aquatics from Drowning in Paperwork appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  11. Penny Newman Grain Co. CLIENT Penny Newman Grain Co. DATE 2012 TAGS Agriculture, Consulting, Database, Design-Development, FileMaker Go, FileMaker Pro, Mobile Applications, Synchronization About Penny Newman Grain Co. Penny Newman Grain Inc. is a grain/feed supplier to the cattle and livestock industry. Challenge: Penny Newman had an idea to try and convert their dealers from paper-based reporting to an online system to allow their dealers to more accurately calculate grain/feed usage and mix percentages, and to allow automatic reporting from dealer back to Penny Newman corporate for aggregate reporting. The major hurdle was allowing iPads out in the field, with limited bandwidth and connectivity, to synchronize so that dealers’ data could be backed up and retrieved from a central location. Solution: A FileMakerGo sync solution that their dealers use on iPads out in the field to do all of their mix percentages and feed usage calculations, which uses MirrorSync V2 to transmit data back to the main Penny Newman server when a network connection could be established through either wifi or cell. Result: The FileMaker GO sync solution exceeded their expectation much better than anticipated; they were gaining new dealers from competitors just because they offered this iPad solution that tracked their work and did the math for them. Furthermore, corporate offices could monitor how feed was being used and could ensure that dealers were using the product correctly. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation! Contact Us The post Penny Newman Grain Co. appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  12. Perhaps one of the most significant advances in FileMaker™ was the introduction of native tab panels. There are many different ways to use tab panels... good, bad and cool - so let's EXplore some of these tab techniques and uses as I share some tricks I learned along the way! Check out our Blog for the article in its entirety and a link to a PDF force, yes free, no strings or rope attached.
  13. Consider these next several paragraphs a crash course in WordPress basics, one of the most widely-used web tools available today. So the next time you’re at that dinner party, and the IT guy starts blathering on about “post categories” and “child themes”, you’ll be prepared. (You’re welcome.) Okay, we’ll admit it. We love web technology. It’s what we do most of our working day. And one of our favorite web tools is WordPress. Sure, you’ve heard of WordPress (www.wordpress.com), but maybe … just maybe … you’re one of those folks who think, “What the heck is WordPress, and why should I use it?” We’re glad you asked! Ready? Let’s go! What is WordPress? Generally speaking, WordPress is web software. Technically speaking, it’s called a “content management system” (CMS). It’s used by web developers as a framework for building amazing websites – like the one you’re on right now. WordPress was launched in 2003 as a blogging platform, and has become the leading tool for building and managing websites of all kinds. It’s used by global corporations like CNN, Forbes, GM, and UPS, as well as individuals and mom-and-pop online stores. It’s the most popular CMS by far (76 million users), and one-fourth of all websites globally use WordPress. Why is WordPress so popular? WordPress has become the developer’s top choice for several reasons. Unlike traditional HTML sites, WordPress sites don’t require extensive knowledge coding and developing skills. It’s incredible flexible. The design and layout can be changed easier than previous technologies (like strict HTML-only sites) often allowed. It’s super user-friendly, and easy to update. If you can use programs like Microsoft Word, you can learn to use WordPress. Many themes (or site templates) are “responsive”; they automatically adjust to fit mobile screens. So your website can look great and function beautifully, no matter which device is being used. WordPress integrates social media seamlessly. WordPress offers the ultimate in SEO friendliness, and some great SEO plugins are available for even better visibility. It’s packed with amazing options, such as e-commerce, event registration, newsletter forms, animated graphics and more. How much does WordPress cost? The software is free, and has been since its beginnings in 2003. It’s continually being updated, and those updates are free, as well. However, there can be associated costs, such as premium themes, plugins, hosting, imagery/graphics, WordPress consultants, and so on. Don’t all WordPress sites all look the same? Absolutely not. The look, feel, design, layout, color, and so on are determined by a particular WordPress “theme”. There are countless thousands of WordPress themes available. Some are free (like this); other “premium” themes (like this and this) require some cold, hard cash (usually in the $30-$75 range). Most developers agree that a quality premium theme is usually worth the money. The good news? Your WordPress theme can easily be changed, which means virtually unlimited designs for your site! The Web is full of places to find WordPress themes. Some of the more popular ones are ThemeForest, Envato and Mojo Marketplace. Can I edit my own WordPress site? Absolutely! WordPress offers an user-friendly dashboard for making updates. There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but you’ll get the hang of it very soon. Not interested in all that stuff? eXcelisys has a great web team than can handle it for you, or hold your hand and give you guidance. Can I move my existing site to WordPress? It depends. Since WordPress is a dynamic web platform, it works best when starting your site from scratch, as opposed to migrating eXisting pages over. Even then, your static site may not look eXactly the same when powered by WordPress. However, converting your current site to a WordPress site is easier than you might think. We can grab your images, text, and any other content, and integrate them into a new site relatively smoothly. If you want your site to look the same, but function on a WP platform, that’s definitely doable. Want a fresh look? With the thousands of unique themes available, the sky’s the limit when it comes to design. Okay, so that’s the low-down. As a reminder, here are three quick takeaways for that dinner party with the IT guys: WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system. It’s simple, free to use, and infinitely customizable. Your next web project will look great and function beautifully when built with WordPress. Okay, one more shameless plug: at eXcelisys, we’re WordPress experts, so we can tackle any size project, from full-on custom WordPress development, to support and maintenance. Heck, we can even fix some of those issues you may run into from time to time with your current WordPress site. Ready to get started? Just get in touch with one of our web solutions specialists! It’s no charge, so no eXcuses! **This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ consulting & development services. About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about your business software automation needs @ 866-592-9235. eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with The WordPress Foundation, WordCamp, or the WordPress open source project.. The post Sharing Some WordPress Basics, Now You Know! appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  14. DevCon 2016 – eXcelisys Vendor Session: Tantalizing Tips-n-Tricks from the Trenches Attend the eXcelisys vendor session on Wednesday July, 20 2016 from 2:00pm – 3:15pm The eXcelisys vendor session will be lead by our very own Mr. Doug West and assisted by some of the eXceptional eXcelisys FileMaker Pro talent. With a team of developers working on thousands of projects over the last 14+ years, we’ve stood our ground against a variety of challenging customer requirements. eXcelisys, a FileMaker Platinum Partner, will eXplore a few of our eXcellent FileMaker Pro Tips-n-Tricks in depth. A dynamic “class” of how-to and when-to use some of these eXceptional concepts in your solutions! Drag-n-Drop Hierarchical Portals Powerful Progress Bars Stealth Buttons Double-Click Single-Click Trick Audit Trails without Casualties Popover Imprisonment The post DevCon 2016 – eXcelisys Vendor Session: Tantalizing Tips-n-Tricks from the Trenches appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  15. FileMaker Developer Conference Interview with Christo – eXcelisys Always hard to see yourself on video… That being said it was a very casual (tad impromptu) and fun exchange with Don Clark from FileMakerProGurus.com. Thank you Don for the opportunity. I must make note that there was some incorrect information from interpretation by the interviewer in the notes of the video: I was not involved, nor did I work on or for, the movie Jurassic Park – the company I worked for, Dinamation Int’l, benefitted from the release of that motion picture as the interest in the Dinosaurs Alive exhibits became big demand. My job as the digital librarian was with Dinamation for tracking all the assets that Dinamation created. Correction on the new eX-File solution this year is, eValTracker. We also released the updated BizTracker 5, and two other new eX-Files; TruckingTracker and RentalTracker. Hopefully you find some useful tips from the interview. About Excelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com)is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about your business software automation needs @ 866-592-9235. Excelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. The post FileMaker Developer Conference Interview 2016 in Las Vegas with Christo appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  16. Hierarchical Portal Filtering within FileMaker Pro By Andy Persons This is the second of a three-part series on FileMaker Pro hierarchical portal filtering. You can find part one here. This FileMaker Pro hierarchical portal filtering file demonstrates how to provide high-performance sorting of a hierarchical portal by various fields, while maintaining the hierarchy. **Been tested in FileMaker Pro versions 14-16. Download the FileMaker Pro hierarchical portal filtering demo file. Static Approach The most straightforward approach would require creating an index “path” calculation for every field that you might want to sort by. For example, if you wanted to sort by name, you’d have to create a sort_name field that contained “Plants Vegetables Roots Carrots”. Each additional field that you wanted users to be able to sort by would need a similar field. Also, whenever a record was edited, all descendant records would need to have their sort fields updated. Dynamic Approach For very small data sets, you could make the path field an unstored calculation and have each record calculate up the path chain dynamically. However, this would very quickly become so slow as to be unusable. Dynamic Approach with High-Performance This FileMaker Pro hierarchical portal filtering file demonstrates an approach that combines the light footprint of a dynamic approach with performance closer to that of a static approach. Here’s the overview: A dictionary field (sort_dictionary) of record id’s and sort field values is created in the data table. Before sorting, all related values of sort_dictionary are copied into a global variable named $$sort_dictionary using the List() function. A sort key field (sort_key) is calculated on the fly by replacing IDs in the record’s id_path with the corresponding sort value from $$sort_dictionary and padding it with zeros if it’s a number field. For example, an id_path with “000001 000034 000052 000076” would become “Plants Vegetables Roots Carrots” on the fly, using the values from $$sort_dictionary The portal is then set to sort by sort_key. Because the data from both id_path and $$sort_dictionary have already been downloaded to the local machine, sort_key can calculate very quickly. Next Installment: Hierarchy Advanced 2.3 Drag-and-drop arbitrary sorting and reassignment Stay Tuned! **This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services. About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235 | info@excelisys.com eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. The post FileMaker Pro Hierarchical Portal Filtering 2.2 appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  17. : FileMaker Developers Wanted : We’re Looking For a Few Good FileMaker Developers eXcelisys is eXpanding! Demand has grown for our FileMaker Pro development and consulting services. FT, PT, subcontractor positions available. We are seeking motivated self–starters to join our expanding team of professional FileMaker Pro Developers If you like setting your own hours, working from a hammock on the beach, or from a cabin overlooking a snow–capped mountain, or whatever idealistic work–from–home scenario you currently envision, eXcelisys might be the perfect fit for you. In addition to retaining your independence and your right to work in shorts from your living room couch, you will become part of something bigger than yourself: a collective of like–minded, talented programmers, developers, project managers and business process gurus. You’ll find that, despite our autonomy and our unique individual talents, abilities and personality quirks, we share a common goal: to foster long–term technology partnerships with our clientele, and to provide a creative and positive environment for our team members that empowers each with the confidence to thrive and do his or her best. We are looking for talented, experienced, charming, cunning, take–no–prisoners FileMaker Pro application developers and designers who can hit the ground running; who can take a project from concept to deployment; who can please every client with solutions that blow minds, win hearts and exceed expectations. To find out more, check out the FileMaker Developers listing on the opportunities page on our website. The post FileMaker Developers Wanted appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  18. Ready to Play Hide and Seek with a Button in a FileMaker Pro Portal Row? By Rob Poelking I just figured this out and thought it was cool enough to share with you. It’s pretty commonplace to put a button over a FileMaker Pro portal row object to trigger an event related to that particular row. But sometimes you don’t want a button across the entire row. So then we typically put a visual button off to the side like an “edit” button, but the result can be unsightly seeing “edit” repeated a dozen times on the screen. So, what if you could just display the edit button when that row was active. In FileMaker 13, you can with the new hide object feature. So, to set this up, I had to add a field in the related table as an unstored calculation Get ( RecordNumber ). Then, I had to name the portal object. Now using the function to GetLayoutObjectAttribute, I can dynamically show the button only with the portal row is active with this calculation: not ( GetLayoutObjectAttribute ( “portal” ; “hasFocus” ) and (Get ( ActivePortalRowNumber ) = myPortal::RECORDNUMBER ) ) Download the demo file and give it a whirl! This is not the only way to provide this button in a FileMaker Pro portal row functionality. After reviewing, Doug West offered up an idea by simply using a global variable to achieve the same effect. Either method provides an intuitive user interface that allows a user to select an item in a list before taking action on it. This also works well in FileMaker Go where unintentional taps don’t accidentally set off an unintended process. Happy FileMaking 🙂 *This article is provided for free and as-is, use and play at your own risk – but have fun! Excelisys does not provide free support or assistance with any of the above. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining Excelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services. About Excelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, Excelisys (www.excelisys.com) is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. Excelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Go database solutions, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgnitor, PostgreSQL, QuickBooks-FileMaker Pro Integration, Excel and MS Access to FileMaker Pro conversions/migrations, iPhone and iPad business solutions, and other various database frameworks and web technologies that automate your organization’s data solution needs for use on the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact Excelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about your business software automation needs @ 866-592-9235. The post FileMaker Pro Tip-n-Trick: Hide-n-Seek a Button in a FileMaker Pro Portal Row appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  19. FileMaker® Pro / WebDirect: FileMaker Web Subscription Service Keeps Oil Field and Reservoir Data Flowing to Prospectors 24/7 Just because your business involves fossil fuels, the technology you rely on doesn’t need to be a fossil too. A new FileMaker web solution brings new technology to finding an old resource. In the United States, the average person consumes about 2.5 gallons of crude oil per day — or 22 barrels per year. Offshore oil production helps meet this need. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in the past decade, offshore oil production has accounted for about 30 percent of total global oil production. Petroleum powers our lives. We rely on it all day long. Every day — and not just to gas up our cars. Plastic water bottles, bike tires, heat, ink, crayons, bandages, toilet seats, tape, roofing tar, and even propane for the backyard barbecue. All possible, thanks to petroleum. We utilize the fossil fuel endlessly, topping off our tanks and speeding away from the pump without ever stopping to think about the process that brought the gas into our lives. Dr. Steve Cossey thinks about it all the time. As a geologist and founder of Cossey & Associates Geoconsulting (based in Durango, Colorado), Cossey is in the business of helping oil companies locate underwater reservoirs of the slick, black stuff we love so much. So what is Cossey’s fantastical tool for oil exploration? The humble database. For 20 years, prospectors have used Cossey’s comprehensive FileMaker Pro database of oil field and reservoir geology to plan deepwater explorations. The database has been available through DVD subscription. Periodically, Cossey updates the database and mails out new DVDs to subscribers. Since the early 2000s, eXcelisys has helped Cossey with the design and maintenance of his database. Last fall, Cossey decided to take the plunge and revamp his system by adding web functionality to make the database available as an online subscription service. Several factors played into the decision, primarily a drop-off in DVD subscribers following a downturn in the oil industry. To help fuel subscriptions, Cossey decided to place the database on the Internet so it would be available to anyone willing to buy a block of time to access the information. “I thought, ‘What am I going to do to utilize this database and find some other way of getting it out there to people to use in a different mode?’ ” The conversion went live a few weeks ago, making the Cossey Turbidite Field and Reservoir Database available online and putting Cossey’s DVD-burning days behind him. “It’s very slick, very fast,” said Cossey. “I think we’ve covered all the bases.” Drilling into the Data Made Easy What, exactly, is on the Cossey database and how do geoscientists and engineers from oil companies utilize the information? Deepwater reservoirs are expensive to drill, so oil companies need to vet their prospects carefully. This is problematic, says Cossey, because “the deepwater environment is such a lightly known area of the world.” Oceans cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface with 95 percent of the ocean floor remaining unmapped. Given the unknowns, how do oil companies know where to drill? They rely on analogues. Cossey’s database allows prospectors to conduct an analogue study of the area they are considering. “Aristotle used analogues,” said Cossey, noting analogues provide a reliable way to make estimates of the unknown from the known. “Say you’re working in an area like offshore West Africa. You might know certain things — like the depth or age of the prospect, or some other characteristic,” said Cossey. Before drilling, the prospector would want more information. For instance, it’s important to know the porosity of the rock in the prospect because the porosity can be used to determine the volume of oil that can be recovered from an area. This is where Cossey’s database comes in handy. “You pull all examples the same depth, age and thickness as your prospect,” he said. Looking at these examples from actual oil fields and reservoirs all over the world, prospectors can match known traits to determine the unknown traits — such as the porosity. “Very rapidly in my database you can pull up statistics that would take you months of searching to find,” said Cossey. A Rock Solid Foundation Cossey’s database is his magnum opus — it includes more than 20 years of research. He’s eager to see how well the new online platform will be received. Prior to the online conversion, Cossey used an early version of FileMaker Pro that allowed subscribers to view the data via the runtime application. Instead of merely transferring the data during the web-upgrade operation, eXcelisys developers gave the database a complete makeover to freshen the look. “eXcelisys rewrote the new database from the ground up, utilizing FileMaker Pro 15 in the process and upgrading to WebDirect,” said eXcelisys Project Manager Kurt Knippel. “We designed the interface. It’s fairly modern, but still, it’s a FileMaker/WebDirect solution with FileMaker Pro interface conventions. It won’t win any web awards, but our goal was to make this solution easy for his customers to use.” These screen shots display information on the Andromede Marine field. The original database interface is pictured above. Below, the updated, more modern interface can be seen. One of the most appealing new features of the custom FileMaker Pro database designed and developed by eXcelisys is the integration of PayPal. With the old subscription service, Cossey had to spend time sending out invoices and following up with accounting departments to get paid. This was often a laborious process — especially when foreign entities were involved. Now, users enter their credit card numbers directly into the system to buy access. To protect users, the transaction is SSL-encrypted and the site does not store any credit card information. Other advancements with the new system include: Real-time data for users: With the old subscription service, Cossey updated the data in batches and sent out new DVDs every six months. This resulted in a data lag. For example, if Cossey unearthed new data three weeks after sending out a DVD, the new data would not get into the hands of subscribers until the next round of updates. Now, Cossey makes updates from his desktop and it goes live immediately. Robust charting: Bar graphs and scatterplots are integral in helping users visualize data distributions and make sense of data sets. Cossey’s old database used a FileMaker plug-in for charts. The new online system utilizes an API that allows zoom functionality and interactivity. When viewing a scatterplot, users can click on a data point and a small text box pops up to display the data values at the cursor location. Countdown clock: One distinctive feature the new system required was a way to track user time. Many websites offer subscription services. Often, a user buys access for a specific period of time — like 7 days, 30 days or 1 year. Cossey wanted to sell access by the minute. To accommodate this idiosyncrasy, eXcelisys developers added a timer to the website that runs quietly behind the scenes. A readout at the bottom of the screen shows a user how much time is left on the account and prompts the user to buy more time as the minutes tick down toward zero. Users can purchase time in 5, 10 or 20-hour blocks. The website logs a user out after 15 minutes of idle time and allows for subordinate users under one account. Full Steam Ahead Dr. Steve Cossey Cossey, himself, is a unique specimen. He’s definitely not your average rock hound. Sure, he’s published academic papers on carbonate flow deposits and amalgamation in channel complexes, but he’s also self-published books on blurb, including a volume of poetry and another that deals with the intersection of geology and culture as it concerns the Chicontepec Basin of eastern Mexico. Cossey grew up near Cambridge, England, and studied geology at the University of Wales in Swansea (now Swansea University). He attended graduate school at the University of South Carolina and completed field studies in Tunisia, earning his doctorate in 1978. During the 1980s, Cossey spent time in China, Indonesia and Dubai. He worked for ConocoPhillips, Sohio Petroleum, Standard Oil and BP. In 1995, Cossey left the corporate oil world to strike out on his own, and it was at this time that he began compiling his database. While Cossey hopes the online database helps broaden his user base, he has other prospects in the works. In the fall, Cossey will lead a travel tour to Colombia. One highlight of the trip will be a ride aboard a 1921 Baldwin steam locomotive. “I have a passion for steam engines,” said Cossey, who bought the engine a few years ago and can’t wait to take it out. It’s been sitting in a shed in Bogota — idle — and unlike Cossey who is always on the move traveling and hiking and continually gathering new information for his website to provide users with the most comprehensive, up-to-date oil field and oil reservoir data available. Read about other eXcelisys case studies, click here. The post Geologist Fuels Consulting Biz by Drilling Deeper Into FileMaker Web Technology appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  20. eXcelisys

    Got Rentals?

    Got Rentals? Finally, the Ultimate Rental-Tracking Software Solution for the Equipment Rental Industry! Pre-made? Custom? Or SaaS? It’s a never-ending battle of pros and cons when trying to find apps that will make your rental business run smoother while giving you the best bang for the buck. Pre-made? Tempting. It costs less up front but choosing this one-size-fits-all solution may leave you addled with useless features and not enough functionality. Custom? Seems costly but will definitely meet your needs. With SaaS (software-as-a-service), you remain at the mercy of your vendor for feature upgrades, and as fees add up over the years you may find you could have paid for a custom-fit solution instead! Luckily, when it comes to rental business software applications, there’s another way … eXcelisys has released a new eX-File, the eX-RentalTracker — a FileMaker Pro jump-start solution for the equipment rental industry. The app tracks inventory, bookings, returns, customer contacts, invoices and payments and includes an availability calendar. Because the basics are already there, customization is quick and easy. The eX-RentalTracker is the best of both worlds, offering clients a software solution that’s part ready-made and part custom. “After working with multiple customers constructing tailor-made rental tracking solutions for their businesses, we decided to build a jump-start solution for the masses,” said Doug West, eXcelisys VP for product development. “The eX-RentalTracker comes pre-built with many of the standard features our rental business clients have been requesting.” The eX-RentalTracker is for rental businesses who’ve found out-of-the-box software solutions too clunky and custom-built systems too expensive. The eX-RentalTracker can be used on a desktop PC (Mac/Windows) with certain task-based functions available on iPads. See the eX-RentalTracker in Action Today Businesses interested in the eX-RentalTracker can request a FREE demo copyvia the eXcelisys website. After receiving the eX-RentalTracker demo, you can tool around in the app to see how easy and intuitive it is to use. You won’t need a tutorial to figure out how the eX-RentalTracker works because the tabbed interface makes navigation a cinch. Check out the “home” screen, which includes “Quick Tasks” tabs that provide rapid access to the tasks most frequently used in rental app solutions. The eX-RentalTracker simplifies daily processes. Features include: Kitting (allows multiple items to be packaged in a single rental kit) Barcodes/handheld scanners (for quick check-out/check-in) Instant invoicing (no more entering long strings of product numbers) Equipment tracking (prompts users to select the condition of returned items at check-in so broken inventory doesn’t get placed back on the shelf) Availability calendar prevents overbooking. The “Quick Tasks” tabs on the home page offer quick access to many everyday tasks, such as adding a customer, a product, a PO, a vendor or an order. Track the history of each item — know where it’s been and the condition in which it was returned. eX-File FileMaker Pro Templates Save Tons of Time & Money eXcelisys has been designing jump-start FileMaker Pro template solutions since 2004 when the first edition of the FileMaker Pro BizTracker was released. Since then, the BizTracker (for sales-driven businesses) has evolved into a full lineup of eX-File solutions, including the eX-TruckingTracker (which tracks trips, mileage, and expenses) and the eX-EvalTracker (used to archive employee performance). The eX-BizTracker has been a popular and steady jumping-off point for countless eXcelisys customers requesting software development. Ever proactive, eXcelisys developers modified the tried-and-true eX-BizTracker to create the eX-RentalTracker by adding features and functionality common to and frequently requested in the rental industry. Recently, Birnn Chocolates of Vermont contracted with eXcelisys for a biz-tracking solution. After four generations and 101 years in business, Birnn Chocolates was ready to join the 21st century with a software upgrade to smooth daily operations. Owner Mel Fields had been using a hodgepodge of paper record-keeping, Excel spreadsheets and Google documents to keep the truffles flowing. Fields needed an up-to-date system to manage the production process, ensure order fulfillment and track the ingredients and finished goods for FDA compliance. Instead of starting from scratch — like he does with his truffles — Fields started the process using the eX-BizTracker as a foundation for his business solution. During his hands-on experience with the eX-BizTracker demo, Fields discovered that many of the features he needed were already built into the software. “Being able to demo was essential for being able to pull the trigger and make the decision,” said Fields. Utilizing the pre-built mock-up allowed Fields to zero in quickly on modifications needed to make the software fit his unique business needs. Fields is still awaiting his software solution as eXcelisys developers finish tweaking the eX-BizTracker build. Fields is certain he’s getting a great deal. “We spent some hours taking away features, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m quite sure we got a lot more for the money by starting with BizTracker.” Like Birnn Chocolates, Cinema Camera Rentals recently came to eXcelisys seeking a custom inventory management app and used the eXcelisys BizTracker5 as the foundational template. “This approach helped me the most from a time standpoint,” said Cinema Camera rental manager Matt Stemmley. “Instead of dedicating the energy to figure out how I wanted the system to be laid out, I instead hit the ground running on envisioning functionality.” Stemmley advises business owners to take advantage of the eX-RentalTracker. “Future customers of eXcelisys in any sort of rental capacity will ideally be able to start with the eX-RentalTracker base and add features as they see fit.” Stemmley says he “highly recommends” the eX-RentalTracker to anyone considering a rental app based on the FileMaker Pro platform. “In my opinion, it will save them countless hours that could be dedicated to other areas of design and functionality.” Demo the eX-RentalTracker today. Like Birnn Chocolates, discover how pre-built FileMaker Pro templates can sweeten the deal in the search for the right and perfect software solution for your equipment rental business. To request the eX-RentalTracker demo, click here. To read about the Cinema Camera rental-tracking solution, click here. To read about another eXcelisys-built rental-tracking solution, click here.
  21. HierarchyLite - FileMaker Pro® 12 Tips and Tricks Demo of a Simplified Approach to Hierarchal Portals! Another FREE FileMaker Pro 12 Tips and Tricks Demo file showing an even more simplified approach to hierarchal portals by Doug West, Product/Project manager of Excelisys.  Doug has now made this advanced technique, originally developed by our own Andy Persons, even easier! "HierarchyLite" is an EXcellent FREE FileMaker Pro 12 Tips and Tricks demo file which outlines how to create those cool hierarchically organized portals in FileMaker Pro 12, similar to the Mac Finder’s list view or Window’s Explorer view. The general idea of this simplified no-frills version is to make this desired effect a tad easier to implement. The hierarchy concept is achieved with fewer fields and featured without the potentially unneeded distractions such as the category field, portal row highlight, and drag-and-drop functionality for moving items between groups. When you open the file there are instructions and explanations on how it all works and how you can incorporate this technique into your own fabulous solutions! So download this free FileMaker Pro 12 Tips and Tricks demo file from Excelisys' FileMaker Tips and Tricks section of our website today and ENJOY!   Download Now!   * FileMaker and FileMaker Pro are registered trademarks and owned by FileMaker, Inc. in the US and other countries. FileMaker Pro 12 Tips and Tricks Demo on creating hierarchy portals.
  22. Oyster Farm Nets Hefty Harvest by Linking FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks FMP/QB Integration Spawns a Sea Change of Efficiency Located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Hama Hama is a fifth-generation timber and oyster farm (photo courtesy of Hama Hama). Just as the soils of Napa Valley bestow the ideal wine-making grapes, the waters of Washington’s glacier-carved Hood Canal are idyllic for oyster farming. Here, the Hama Hama Co. raises its famous beach-cultured Hama Hama oysters and tumble-farmed Blue Pool oysters. These briny bivalve mollusks are enjoyed locally but also find their way to chefs in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Hama Hama also offers doorstep delivery to households across the U.S. To ensure its perishable product moves promptly from harvest to table, Hama Hama relies on FileMaker Pro for inventory and sales tracking. While this app efficiently manages the comings and goings of the oysters, it’s been a hassle on the accounting end. For years, the orders have been entered into FileMaker Pro by the sales team, then re-entered into QuickBooks by the accounting team. Fed up with the process, Hama Hama asked eXcelisys to integrate the two. “We’re a very small company so the duplication of effort is rough on us,” said Hama Hama Finance and Sustainability Director Tiffany Waters. Waters reports that the integration is nearly complete. Hama Hama can now push “invoice data” from FileMaker Pro to QuickBooks, though there’s still some fine-tuning going on. “It’s a lot of work on the front end, but this will save us a ridiculous amount of time. The accounting clerk was spending one to two hours a day, three days a week, entering invoices.” When the integration project reaches completion Waters estimates that invoicing will take only a few minutes each day. Family Business Thrives on Timberlands, Tide Flats Before FileMaker Pro, QuickBooks and website ordering, Hama Hama had a humble beginning. “We’re a fifth-generation timber and oyster farm,” said Waters, noting the business set down roots in the late 1800s, then incorporated as the Hama Hama Logging Company in 1922. In the mid-1950s, the harvest lineup expanded to include oysters and clams from the Hood Canal. Hama Hama is a small, family-owned business run by about 30 people. With such a small staff, it is imperative for Hama Hama to utilize efficiencies both on the oyster farm and in the office. To streamline operations, Hama Hama recently hired eXcelisys to intregrate its FileMaker Pro database with QuickBooks (photo courtesy of Hama Hama).The company takes its name from the Hamma Hamma River, a name derived from the Twana language and rumored to translate roughly to “stinky stinky” (think salmon runs). Rising near Mount Washington, the Hamma Hamma glides down the mossy, eastern slopes of the Olympic Mountains. Reaching the base, the river dumps its gravelly, glacial-fed waters into the Hood Canal, creating a tidal flat that serves as the perfect coldwater incubator for oysters. As for taste, the canal delivers. Like fine wine, oysters are geographic. As filter feeders, they eat by straining food particles from the water around them. Local aquatic conditions — like salinity, tidal flow and phytoplankton species — give oysters their own regional flavor idiosyncrasies. Hama Hama, therefore, works hard to protect its turf. “We are unique as a company in that we have a lot of influence over our local environment,” said Waters, noting Hama Hama strives to strike a balance between its forestry and aquaculture ventures. “Everything we do in the uplands affects downriver. We log in sustainable ways. We don’t want to put in too much sediment and affect water quality because the oysters are actively feeding off the materials in the river.” Waters says the family jokes that their oysters are “fed by firs.” FileMaker Pro / QuickBooks Linkup Delivers Integration Emancipation In addition to focusing on environmental stewardship with its land and water, Hama Hama must also concentrate its efforts indoors on its business management system. To keep the operation flowing, Hama Hama uses QuickBooks — for accounting — and FileMaker Pro — for inventory/sales and to track the chain of custody for its shellfish. To meet regulations, Hama Hama must document data such as the location of origin, the water temperature where the shellfish are harvested, and so forth. But the FileMaker/QuickBooks arrangement required duplicate data entry with order information added to each system separately. Seeking to streamline the process, Hama Hama sought integration eXpertise from eXcelisys. Simply put, Hama Hama needed both systems to talk to each other so the order information could be entered (once!) in FileMaker Pro and pushed to QuickBooks for invoicing. FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks IntegrationeXcelisys Senior FileMaker Developer Ken Moorhead spearheaded the project, which involved laying a pathway for moving data between the two apps. Moorhead said the first task was to build out the customer list. To do this, he needed to synchronize the systems so when an order was entered into FileMaker and sent to QuickBooks, QuickBooks would know which customer FileMaker Pro was talking about. QuickBooks gives each customer its own ID. To complete the process, Moorhead had to find each unique QuickBooks customer ID and link it to that customer in FileMaker Pro. But that was only the start of the process. The integration involved linking up lots of fragile text strings so FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks could communicate. Consider an order for 3 dozen “trucker” sized Hama Hama oysters. The order is entered into the FileMaker Pro database, then pushed to QuickBooks. To build the invoice appropriately, QuickBooks needs to recognize the data from FileMaker Pro — the specific item purchased, the quantity, the size, and so forth. With all of the products, sizes and packing options, there were a lot of text strings (data) to match between the two apps. In addition, Hama Hama rolls shipping prices into the cost per dozen, so QuickBooks needed to find the appropriate price list for each customer based on its location. “It is amazing,” said Waters, “the amount of detail that goes into this in making sure things are accurate — to ensure that when we enter something into the FileMaker Pro database it will get into QuickBooks.” For Moorhead, the hunt-and-peck process seemed routine. “Once you get the data points lined up to the customer’s workflow, it’s actually relatively easy. But integration is never cookie cutter. Every customer — every accountant on the planet — has a slightly different way of doing things. It’s always a slow process; there’s a lot of data to pick through.” ~ eXcelisys developer Ken Moorhead Hidden Pearls Over the course of the integration project, Waters has been pleased with eXcelisys. “Ken [Moorhead] is really great to work with,” said Waters, noting he responds quickly to queries and is always willing to get on the phone to clear up an issue efficiently instead of sending endless emails back and forth to pin down the specifics of a problem. “It’s great to work with a company that recognizes, ‘Hey, we’ve hit our limit with email. Let’s talk.’” While anyone can enjoy Hama Hama oysters through overnight delivery, Waters urges people to visit the Olympic Peninsula and enjoy them freshly shucked at the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon at the company headquarters in Lilliwaup, Washington. “We are two hours from Seattle,” she said, noting the peninsula has plenty of hikes and rivers to explore. “There are a lot of amazing, beautiful things to see out here.” Top: The Hama Hama Oyster Saloon offers an oyster-heavy menu, allowing visitors to enjoy oysters just a few hundred yards from where they are harvested. Above: Hama Hama runs a farm store, which sells fresh oysters and clams and other local products like ice cream, cheese, grass-fed beef and chocolate (photos courtesy of Hama Hama).To read about another eXcelisys solution benefitting food producers, click here. The post Oyster Farm Nets Hefty Harvest by Linking FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  23. Blockbuster Rental-Tracking Inventory App Sharpens Booking Process, Cuts Equipment Retrieval and Check-in Times During Hollywood’s rapid fade-out of 35-millimeter film, camera operator Neal Norton saw an opportunity to make money in the digital retooling of the industry. The year was 2010 and the German-made Arri ALEXA had just hit the market, providing a viable digital alternative to celluloid film. Norton decided to take action. He partnered with cinematographer Alan Degen to found Gulf Camera and the two began stockpiling the groundbreaking ALEXA. “We could see this was the first time there was a digital camera suitable and with high enough quality to use in theatrical motion pictures,” said Norton. “We opened our rental business based on that technology.” The duo couldn’t have written a better script. The ALEXA shot quickly to movie star fame as production companies dove into the digital revolution. Gulf Camera’s ALEXAS were in high demand. Meanwhile, Norton and Degen stayed active in the industry. Norton has worked on more than 40 feature film sets, operating cameras and steadicams for Tim Burton, Philippe Rousellot and Denzel Washington. But working in Hollywood and managing the Florida-based rental business became a struggle. Five years in, Norton knew he needed to reframe how Gulf Camera handled its inventory and invoicing. Gulf’s spreadsheet/word processor/pen-and-paper method was inefficient and inadequate. As Norton panned for options, he came across eXcelisys. In January 2016, Gulf Camera went live with a new rental-tracking system built by eXcelisys. A custom app, barcodes, scanners. These all make life easier for Norton. Some favorite features: Availability calendar: Because Norton and Degen work on bookings concurrently and from off-site locations as they travel for work, they had problems controlling inventory. “It was not unheard of for us to rent the same gear to multiple people,” Norton said. Before the new system was in place, they emailed each other continually to check on item availability. Now, with a centralized app managing the inventory for them, Norton and Degen know instantly if an item is in-house or out and when it will be back. Double-bookings are no longer a problem and the booking process is more efficient. Barcoding for rapid check-in/check-out: The new system uses barcodes — something Gulf Camera had not previously utilized. Before barcodes, Norton had to check out — and check in — large orders by hand. This was time-consuming because some products come with 30 or 40 pieces — all separate from the basic product itself but necessary for the use of the product. For example, when customers rent a camera body, they also need a viewfinder, cables, extension rods, filters, batteries and so forth. With barcoding, Norton scans an item and it goes on the ticket. This system ensures that all items from the “pick list” have been pulled and nothing is missing from the order. Norton finds the barcodes especially helpful at check-in. He no longer has to hand-check each item in every return. “In the heat of production, it’s not uncommon for a piece of equipment to go missing,” said Norton, given the long days, late nights and working conditions the crew may face over the course of a shoot. “One of the keys to making this business work is making sure all the pieces come back,” said Norton. “On check-in you know immediately — instead of weeks later — if something is missing.” Now that Gulf Camera has a slick, centralized, barcode-driven system for rental management, Norton can’t imagine conducting business without it. “It would be torturous to do it a different way,” he said, joking that the FileMaker Pro server is the most important piece of equipment in the whole shop, though it sits next to cameras that cost upwards of $50,000. FileMaker Pro Takes Lead Role in eXclusive Rental-Tracking App Gulf Camera is just one of the many rental businesses eXcelisys has assisted with custom software development in recent years. After creating rental solutions over and over for different clients, eXcelisys developers had a grand idea — why not develop a jump-start FileMaker Pro template solution for the rental business industry? By end of April 2017, eXcelisys rolls out the eX-RentalTracker — a new edition to the eXcelisys eX-Files lineup of jump-start FileMaker Pro templates. Other offerings include: eX-BizTracker5, eX-EvalTracker and eX-Trucking Tracker. “The eX-RentalTracker is designed with the common base features our rental business clients have been requesting,” said Doug West, eXcelisys VP for product development. The eX-RentalTracker is aimed at rental businesses who’ve found out-of-the-box software solutions too clunky, and custom-built systems too expensive. The eX-RentalTracker comes standard with an inventory availability calendar, kitting and barcoding. It tracks inventory, bookings, returns, invoices and payments. Look for the public release announcement of the eX-RentalTracker in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, you can get a sneak preview and try it out for yourself by requesting a FREE demo copy of eX-RentalTracker via the eXcelisys website. The FREE demo will give you a good feel for how the rental solution jump-start will work in action for your needs. Just like Gulf Camera — you, too, can write a happy alternate ending to your rental-tracking tale of woe by contacting eXcelisys today. For more information on the eX-Files, click here. The post Camera Rental Company Zooms In On Inventory Control Using FileMaker Pro appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  24. WordPress Theme Considerations By: Fred Morgan WordPress originally began life as a blogging engine, but over time has matured into not only a great content management system (CMS), but also a full-fledged application development framework. Consequently, WordPress holds the lion’s share of the CMS market and its widespread use has spurred the development of countless WordPress themes and plugins to extend its feature set. However, not all WordPress themes and plugins are created equal. There is so much variation in the way a WordPress theme (and plugin) are developed for WordPress that I am never really sure if I like it or not until I install it and start working with it on the back end. That being said, here are a few things to consider before making your WordPress theme purchase to reduce the risk of ending up with a theme you are not satisfied with. 1. Is the WordPress theme responsive? If not, forget it and move on to the next option. People will be accessing your site from smartphones, tablets, and computers with various size monitors. A responsive WordPress theme will automatically adjust to the screen size of the device that is requesting the page and the menus and other resources will reformat accordingly. In today’s web world, it is absolutely critical that your site is responsive so your audience has a consistent user experience optimized for the device they are using. Responsive themes are developed using CSS and HTML, and the CSS files can get very complex with all of the rules required to address the myriad devices in use today. Some developers choose to write their own CSS for this purpose, which is fine so long as it works, however, my favorite themes are built with Bootstrap. Not only is Bootstrap a complete front end framework containing fully-baked responsive CSS and robust JavaScript elements that are simple to implement, it is also by far the most used framework on the web. Since virtually all professional web developers are familiar with Bootstrap, choosing a theme that is built around this framework will ensure that your developer will be able to customize your theme with minimal effort, which means time and cost savings for you. 2. Is the theme well documented and supported by the author? My favorite themes are generally the ones that are well-documented and well-supported. In a marketplace like Theme Forest, you can determine the latter by the comments and reviews posted by people who have purchased the theme so you can see what kind of issues they have encountered as they have installed and configured it. You should also choose a theme that is updated regularly as new versions of WP and required plugins are released. A theme that is documented and supported well by the author will make the development effort much quicker, and since time = money, it will also be less expensive in the long run. 3. Is the WordPress theme compatible with the current version of WordPress? This probably goes without saying, but any time you purchase a WordPress theme you should make sure it is compatible with the current version of WordPress. WordPress has changed significantly over the years and the later releases implement features and libraries that may not be compatible with older themes. 4. What assets are included with the WordPress theme? Many WordPress themes do not include the assets (images) shown in the demo. This often leaves you with a lot of graphic placeholders that need to be replaced with your own images. This is fine for a general purpose theme, but can be a real pain to rebuild like the demo that the you or your client fell in love with if you purchase a WordPress theme for a particular vertical market (e.g., a hair salon or restaurant) it looks . 5. Does the WordPress theme come with an XML import file for demo content? If the WordPress theme includes an XML import file, it will make your life much easier. An XML import makes it very easy to set up the theme just like the demo. Importing the XML file will typically create the menus and sample pages as well as download the image assets into the media library. This allows you to start with the theme set up just like the demo and begin making your modifications from that point, rather than having to build all of the pages, menus, etc. from scratch. It is always easier to edit pages and menus that have already been created than to build it all from the ground up. 6. What plugins are required by the WordPress theme and are they well supported? WordPress themes can have required plugins so it is a good idea to take a look at those WordPress plugins to make sure they are also well documented, supported, and regularly updated. WordPress is frequently updated and can be set to do so automatically. This is a convenient feature because many of the updates are security-related. However, it is possible that a WordPress core update could cause one or more of your plugins to not function properly. There are literally thousands of plugins available for WordPress, so be careful when selecting plugins that will be an integral component of the design or functionality of your site. Just because it looks pretty now doesn’t mean you won’t have issues with it later when a security vulnerability is discovered and the plugin has to be disabled until it is patched. 7. Is the WordPress theme specifically designed for (or at least compatible with) the plugins you intend to use? If you intend to use a plugin like WooCommerce (a very popular e-commerce plugin) or BuddyPress to provide core functionality for your site, it is important to choose a theme that is either specifically designed for, or at least compatible with, that plugin. 8. How important is page load speed to you? Page load speed is always something to consider with WordPress. Because your site’s content is housed in a MySQL database, each page load requires the web server to interact with the database server and wait for responses. This can often cause some lag with the page load speed, especially in shared hosting environments. WordPress themes range from clean and minimalist to heavily designed, and which is best is really a matter of preference. However, themes and plugins load libraries and resources (e.g., css and javascript files), and some of them can contribute to slow page load speeds. This can be true for even a minimalist theme. For instance, BuddyPress is a very popular community building plugin, but it is also a rather large application in and of itself with quite a bit of overhead. Complex plugins like this (or ecommerce plugins) can cause even a minimalist theme to become bloated and ultimately lag. Consequently, if page load speed is important to you, doing a page load speed analysis is a good idea. Google provides a free tool for this purpose at: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/. Running the test on the demo site for the theme may not provide the most accurate results since demos are typically embedded within the marketplace site. This may make page load speeds appear longer than they would if the theme were installed on your site. However, running tests on various themes within the same marketplace should help you see how they compare to each other in terms of speed. Performance testing should be repeated once the theme is installed in its base configuration within your own hosting configuration, after activating all of the plugins you intend to use. Scrapping a theme and choosing a different one at this point is much less expensive than waiting until significant development effort has been expended and finding out then that the theme or plugins have some inherent issues affecting page load speed. 9. Is the WordPress theme highly rated by other users? As mentioned in the first point of this article, a WordPress theme can look good on the front end but be a disaster on the back end and there is no way of knowing for sure until you install it and begin working with it. This is where purchasing your theme from an online marketplace can be advantageous compared to purchasing directly from the developer. A theme marketplace like Envato Market will typically offer reviews from other users who have purchased the theme in the past. The review system allows users to rate the theme and post comments regarding what they found challenging/serendipitous to work with, the quality of support offered by the theme developer, etc. These reviews can help sort out the good from the bad before spending your hard earned cash on a theme purchase. Of course, there are other things you may want to consider depending on your particular needs, but this list should get you headed in the right direction. **This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ WordPress consulting & development services. About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235. ** eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with The WordPress Foundation, WordCamp, or the WordPress open source project. The post Basics Before You Purchase a WordPress Theme appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  25. Custom FileMaker Go iPad App Helps FMS Health & Safety Identify Dysfunctional Movement to Reduce Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Costs Mike Contreras would like to teach the world to move. Fluidly. Adeptly. With no hitches. No pain. “Our research — and the research out there — shows that if you can improve how somebody moves, you can improve everything about the quality of their life.” Thanks to a custom FileMaker Go iPad App built by eXcelisys, Contreras’s data now moves fluidly and adeptly too. To create a culture of movement that helps people move better, reduces the potential of injury, and enables businesses to realize the full potential of their workforce ~ FMS Health & Safety Mission Statement A Battalion Chief with the Orange County Fire Authority and founder of FMS Health & Safety, Contreras began exploring the intersection of health and movement in 2006 when he took charge of the Fire Authority’s wellness and fitness program. As Contreras worked with Fire Academy recruits and their workers’ compensation claims, he wondered if there was a way to predict — and thus prevent — future injury. Contreras’ investigation led him to the Functional Movement Screen. Developed by physical therapist Gray Cook and athletic trainer Lee Burton, the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is a popular assessment tool used by trainers to identify risk factors for injury. FMS first took off as a screening tool for athletes. It’s used at the NFL and NHL combines, said Contreras. “The thought was, before we take them out full steam ahead, let’s see if there are limitations and fix them. Then we can go play hard.” FMS utilizes seven movement screens that test the biomechanics of the hips, core, shoulders, spine, knees and ankles. Using the tests, a screener can identify dysfunctional movement patterns, weaknesses and asymmetries so corrective exercises can be prescribed to restore functional movement, thus decreasing the risk of musculoskeletal injury. After Contreras instituted FMS at the firehouse, injury rates dipped and workers’ compensation claims decreased. The success of the FMS program put a fire in his belly and in December 2015, Contreras founded FMS Health & Safety to bring functional movement to the masses. Law and Order Initially, FMS Health & Safety targeted tactical athletes (like firefighters, police and the military) as well as other industries (like manufacturers and utility companies) who sought to minimize work-related injuries to reduce workers’ compensation costs. Later, FMS Health & Safety took on corporate clients interested in employee wellness. “Our program is for anybody who wants to improve the movement and, ultimately, the capabilities and capacity of their workers,” said Contreras. In the early days, FMS Health & Safety screeners used paper scorecards to collect test data. Afterward, they keyed the results into Excel. “As we took on more clients, this got to be problematic,” said Contreras. “A spreadsheet is great for one client, but one client with 3,000 employees in 70 locations, it starts to be a challenge.” Contreras also began to worry that the paper data was not secure and could be lost in transit before it was collated in Excel. Contreras also ran into problems with accessibility and usability. “Data is only good if you can control it and use it,” said Contreras, noting he needs efficient data analysis capabilities to put together appropriate post-screen training and education programs for clients. In addition, the paperwork piled up. Literally. Because FMS Health & Safety holds client records for five years, Contreras had to rent a storage locker to house the paper overflow. As the drawbacks to this paper-driven, spreadsheet system mounted, Contreras decided to pursue other options. Pain Relieved with an eXercise FMS Health & Safety decided to explore the idea of a custom database application and attended an Idea to iPad seminar hosted by Apple and FileMaker, Inc. Contreras was hooked up with a FileMaker Pro developer and started down the path for a custom database solution. “I was sold on the concept,” said Contreras. Unfortunately Contreras became frustrated with the project and shelved it for nine months. But the business kept growing and other business opportunities arose, such as licensing his screening system. “I realized, I can’t license a pencil and a piece of paper, so I circled back around.” Contreras contacted FileMaker, Inc., again and asked for a referral for another FileMaker Pro developer. Soon after, FileMaker connected Contreras with eXcelisys and eXcelisys’ VP/Project Manager Doug West took over. “Doug is phenomenal,” said Contreras. “He took the time to understand the complete FileMaker Go iPad App — the A to Z of my plan and my needs and how this database was going to fit into my whole operation. I wouldn’t be using FileMaker Pro if it wasn’t for Doug.” The FMS Health & Safety database is hosted in the FileMaker Cloud. iPads connect and sync to get the latest information. This also shares the data with those people who have been screened. Using a desktop computer, they can access their data, along with reminders about the corrective exercises assigned to them. To be useful, the data had to go both directions. The iPads in the field needed to be able to pull down data from the hosted file, as well as send information back to it. Doug developed a custom synchronization routine to keep the data up-to-date between the FileMaker Cloud database and the offline copies used for data collection in FileMaker Go on the iPads. “It’s a fully automated, one-click process for exchanging data with the server,” said Doug. This was a good option for Contreras because his company doesn’t have an IT department to maintain a local server so a hands-off, cloud-based hosting option was ideal. In addition, the FileMaker Go database solution lacked branding, so Doug added the FMS Health & Safety corporate colors and logo and stylized the FileMaker Go iPad App interface so it was more consistent with the company’s corporate image. Contreras likes the simplicity and ease with which the database can be utilized. “We don’t build rockets here. It’s pretty simple and the interface makes it simple.” FMS Health & Safety uses the mobility screening data it collects to identify where employees have limitations in their movement so corrective exercises can be implemented. Doug also saw an opportunity to add back-office capabilities and turned the solution into more than a data collection tool. The FileMaker Go iPad App system now handles invoicing. Previously, clients used a sign-in sheet at the screening site and Contreras had to reconcile the names one by one. Functional for the Future Contreras is pleased with the final outcome of his custom FileMaker Go/Pro database solution and the efficiency the iPads add to the screening process. He says the iPads have cut data-entry man hours by 98 percent and he’s relieved to know the data is safe and secure. “It allows us to focus on the things we need to focus on instead of punching endless numbers into a spreadsheet.” And what Contreras wants to focus on is helping people. Contreras sees FMS Health & Safety as an extension of his firefighter duty to help people in distress. While many clients hire FMS Health & Safety hoping to reduce lost days and workers’ compensation claims, Contreras remains committed to the employees. “We’re doing it for the workers,” he said. “I could retire tomorrow with a pension and be fine, but truly, I really look at, ‘Do you know how many lives we could change if we could teach people how to care for themselves?’ ” For Contreras, caring for oneself involves maintaining functional mobility. “I’ve seen it before — where the inability to squat or go to the bathroom becomes a death sentence. You fall, go to a care home, get an infection and die. Maybe that doesn’t have to be the outcome.” To read about another eXcelisys solution that benefits the healthcare industry, click here. The post FileMaker Go iPad App: A Notion for Motion Devotion appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
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