Templates, Reuse, and the Rule of Three

Posted by Robert Merrill on August 19, 2013 under Projects, Tech Tips | Be the First to Comment

I just read Three Ways to Improve Your PMO (Project Management Office) Today. They are:

  1. Get Leadership Involved
  2. Find Templates
  3. Promote the PMO

By “Templates,” Brad Egeland means “project schedule shells, project planning documents, and test cases,” for example. Reuse is good, right? At least in my business (software), reuse of high-quality materials is the biggest productivity multiplier there is—around 3×.

First, Do No Harm

So why did I cringe a little at “Find Templates?” The dirty little secret of reuse has to do with quality. Read more of this article »

How to Recommend Someone on LinkedIn

Posted by Robert Merrill on January 17, 2013 under Tech Tips | Read the First Comment

LinkedIn recommendations are precious.

But in the past six weeks, I’ve had two people who wanted to recommend me and got stuck!

There are probably other and better help pages, but this one’s just for you. Read more of this article »

Tell me all the techie details about my computer

Posted by Robert Merrill on October 23, 2012 under Tech Tips | Be the First to Comment

Alnisa Allgood, a consulting colleague of mine, just turned me on to Belarc Advisor, a personal-use tool that does a very fast and thorough system audit of Windows machines. Unlike anti-virus/anti-spyware that I’ve used, it also tells me a lot about the system itself, and potential vulnerabilities due to the way legitimate software is configured.

CNET gave it 5 stars, which is unusual.

Adding a LinkedIn profile URL to SugarCRM Contacts

Posted by Robert Merrill on August 27, 2011 under Tech Tips | Be the First to Comment

I’ve done a lot of networking in the last two days, and as I was adding new Accounts and Contacts to SugarCRM, I thought, “There’s a field for the Account (company) web site, but wouldn’’t it be nice to have one for the Contact’s LinkedIn profile?”

I use SugarCRM because it’s open source and I knew that if I needed to I could modify it, but I don’t have time for even a little PHP programming project right now. But, as it turns out, adding a field is ridiculously easy. (I’m running SugarCRM Community 6.2).

Log into Sugar as Administrator.

In the upper right, click Admin.

Screen shot of where to access the Admin tools in Sugar.

Scroll down to the (possibly intimidating) Developer Tools and select Studio, then Contacts.

Screen shot of selecting the Contact module on the Studio panel

Then select Fields. (You have to create the new field first).

Screen shot of selecting the Field editor in Studio, Contacts module

Select Add Field. You should see a little form like this. Here’s mine, already filled out. I stuck a c_ on the beginning of my field name so that I could quickly spot it as custom.  Then save it. Notice on the Field selector page that you now have a new field above the horizontal line. I’m assuming that the horizontal line separates custom fields from built-in ones.

At this point, I thought I was done. So I logged out as admin and back in as just plain old robert and brought up a Contact. No LinkedIn Profile field. Huh.

So, back to Administrator mode, and this time to Admin, Studio, Contacts.

Then select Layouts (here’s where it really gets cool).

There are three Layouts–the List View (search results), the Detail View (of a single Contact), and the Edit View.

I figured, “I need to be able to add and edit, so I’ll start  with Edit View.” Clicking that brings up this editor. At first, I tried just dragging the LinkedIn Profile field over onto the form, between eMail and Description, but it didn’t “stick.” So then I tried dragging a “New Row” over to where I wanted it, and that worked. But it had two “filler” fields. I just want one field spanning the whole panel, but oh well.

Screen shot showing New Row (with two filler fields) added to the Contact between Email and Description.

I dragged LinkedIn Profile over to the left filler and it “took.”

By trial and error, I found that by clicking the little + (plus sign) to the left of LinkedIn profile, it expanded to replace both filler fields!

Save & Deploy, go to the Detail View and List View and repeat the process, and, as the Aussies say, Bob’s your uncle.

List View does require a bit of futzing around with percentage widths. I took user out (since I’m the only one running this instance of Sugar) and put LinkedIn Profile in.

Now, I can add a person’s LinkedIn profile as soon as I put them in Sugar, and when I search for that person later, their LI profile is clickable, right from the search results, and opens in a new tab.

Not bad for 15 minutes of “work.” I took far longer to write this post than it took to add the field.

I hope someone finds this and that it makes SugarCRM more useful for you.

It’s also a great example of how modern HCJ (HTML, CSS, and Javascript) are enabling web apps to take over the world!



Awesome tech support from Dell

Posted by Robert Merrill on March 5, 2011 under Tech Tips | Be the First to Comment

I bought a new XPS laptop back in January 2011. I started installing all my software and it was, well, flaky. Turns out it had a defective hard drive; a chkdsk /r/f detected and repaired a bunch of bad clusters.

So I kept on, and it started getting flaky again. Time to call Dell. Oh joy. So I started documenting everything I’d done and every test I’d done, expecting a fight.

I called and entered the IVR. Here we go, I thought. Read more of this article »

Moving a Scoutwest Standard Time database off MS Vista

Posted by Robert Merrill on February 11, 2011 under Tech Tips | Be the First to Comment

I couldn’t find a Scoutwest Standard Time forum, and there were no entries for it on Experts Exchange, so that’s why this solution is in this obscure place.

When moving a Standard Time database from Microsoft Vista, it may not be where you think it is. The Scoutwest documentation for, “How do I move an ODBC database to a new place?” says, “1. Copy Standard Time.mdb to the new directory or a new machine.” Simple enough. The File DSN definition says it’s in C:\Program Files\Standard Time, and sure enough, there’s a file there named Standard Time.mdb. But that might not be the one you want.

If you bring that file over to, say Standard Time 7 on Windows 7, you’ll put it in C:\Users\<username>\Documents\Standard Time\Standard Time.mdb. That’s where my fresh install of ST v7 created its empty database, behind a File DSN still called Standard Time mdb (no period) as in v4. But of my four years of client billable hours records—nothing.

At first I attributed it to the upgrade process, going from v4 on the Vista machine to v7 on the 64-bit Windows 7. The very helpful Scoutwest rep didn’t think so, but let me download v5 and v6 to run the upgrade one step at a time. I did that on the Vista machine and it worked flawlessly. Now that I had a v7 database, I thought, “Bob’s my uncle,” as they say.

But still no joy. I made a copy of the database in C:\Program Files\Standard Time on the Vista machine and inspected it with Access 2007 (.mdb is the old Access JET format, but 2007 can still work with them). No upgrade records in the Version table. Huh. Plus, it’s awfully small—827K. But yet I start Standard Time 7 on the old machine and there it all is.

Finally, a full-system search revealed the copy lurking in C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Virtual Store\Program Files\Standard Time—a v7 Standard Time.mdb of over 30 MB, complete with four records in Version. I copied that file to the Windows 7 machine and all was well.

Just to prove my hypothesis, I restored the v4 database to AppData\Virtual Store from backup and copied that to Windows 7. Standard Time v7 did the upgrade in place, and there were the last four years of my business data.

Standard Time’s a great product for anyone who has to keep accurate records of their time. But if you’re running into trouble getting those records off of a Windows Vista machine, maybe this will help you.

Advice on using social media

Posted by Robert Merrill on October 8, 2009 under Tech Tips | Be the First to Comment

Yesterday (6 October 2009), Penelope Trunk, the Brazen Careerist, spoke at the Promega Biotechnology Center.

She’s an engaging and thought-provoking speaker. Though some of her factoids seemed to be just plain made up, she did say some things that ring true about how to use the various social media that I thought might be useful to others. So here’s Penelope’s advice, enhanced (I hope) with my own experiences.

Facebook is for keeping track of friends and family as they scatter. Read more of this article »

Disabling Google Analyticator logging for non-Administrators

Posted by Robert Merrill on June 30, 2009 under Tech Tips | 3 Comments to Read

I use Google Analytics. I don’t get a lot of traffic, so I like to exclude my own visits to my site from the reports. I use the Google Analyticator plug-in. Its Settings allow you to exclude traffic from the wp-admin pages, and also exclude all traffic from anyone logged in as an Administrator.

But I don’t routinely blog and moderate as an Administrator; I use an account with Editor privileges (my security sensibilities showing through I guess). Before moving to WordPress, I had a special page that set a cookie, and a Google Analytics filter to ignore that traffic. I didn’t want to keep using that mechanism, because I don’t like to spread responsibilities around in software if I can help it. Analyticator looks like it wants to handle traffic filtering, so I don’t want to fight it.

Fortunately, as an Administrator you can manage the Settings for each Plug-In. Analyticator’s has a form field that lets you set the “user level” at which Analyticator disables Google Analytics. The default cutoff level is 8, and it also tells you that as an Administrator, you are a 10. This wasn’t as helpful as it first seemed, because as an Editor, I couldn’t see the Analyticator Settings to see my current level, so I couldn’t determine the new cut-off value to set.

But a quick look in the WordPress Codex taught me about Roles, Capabilities, and associated levels (levels being a legacy mechanism).

So, to exclude yourself (and everyone else in a given WordPress role) from your Google Analytics, log in as an Administrator and,

To Exclude Traffic from Set Analyticator Cutoff Level To
Administrator 8 or more
Editor and above 3 or more
Author and above 2 or more
Contributor and above 1 or more

Save your settings and log out. Then log in as your usual blogger/moderator user and tell WordPress to remember you.

Your visits to your own site will no longer inflate your Google Analytics reports.

If you delete all your cookies, you’ll need to log back in as your blogger/moderator user or Analyticator will think you’re an anonymous guest and log your traffic again.