Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Aberdeen Soup Kitchen Hailed As Success

Steve Bothwell and Daniel Roberts Try To Help Aberdeen's Homeless

There have been some harrowing stories in Scotland of late, especially related to the weather. Most people would have heard that recently almost 100 residents in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, were evacuated from their homes when the River Carron burst its banks and the water worryingly rose to waist-height in places.

Workers at a Soup Kitchen in Aberdeen
That's why it's good to hear some positive news for a change and this story from the Evening Express definitely falls into that category.

The owner of an Aberdeen restaurant today hailed the success of a soup kitchen. Steve Bothwell, who runs Café 52, student Daniel Roberts, who was homeless as a teenager, and friend Eilidh White helped run the successful event.

You can read more about this story here at the Evening Express.

Workflows and Dialogs

The Difference Between Workflows and Dialogs in CRM

The end of the calendar year is almost upon us, and quality posts are not suprisingly thin on the ground in this winter season. Thankfully Intellicore has an interesting post over at their blog highlighting the difference between workflows and dialogs.

They reveal that there are 5 distinct differences between workflows and dialogs.

If you're interested in reading more, click here.

Logo Change: Out With The Old In With The New

A Much Needed Design Makeover For This Website

Just a quick note, I recently received a less than salubrious comment about the old header here at Softwareaberdeen.co.uk from a Website visitor.

The header hadn't been resized correctly, and frankly on some browsers looked like a piece of clip art that had randomly been tacked onto the header section of the site.

Frankly I threw it together back in april using the Photofiltre software program, at the time I was quite please with my amateurish effort, but now on reflection the new logo in the top right part of the site looks much better.

I hope you like it! It may be in a few months I decide to update it again, but in the meantime out with the old and in with the new as the old cliche goes.

I'm also hoping to get a fresh new Website design with the folks listed here, their prices start at £500 which I think is pretty reasonable these days.

What do you think, is Wordpress a better option than Blogger in your opinion?

Thursday, 13 December 2012

80s Gaming - Defender of the Crown and Manic Miner

 5 Trailblazing Software Companies of the '80s That Faded or Fizzled

Software Companies That Are No Longer Popular

Frankly I miss the 80s. Certainly not the mullets and fluorescent socks, but in my opinion the 80s games were hard to beat. Sure they had lo-res graphics and dirt cheap sound effects, however they often attempted to counterbalance this by offering fantastic playability. Vintage games such as Manic Miner on the Sinclair Spectrum, Defender of the Crown on the Atari ST and Space Invaders also from good old Atari, sold truck loads of copies worldwide.


Manic Miner on the Sinclair Spectrum
Manic Miner on the Spectrum 48k Computer

These days it seems that software is playing second fiddle to data, and companies that thrived on providing games, programming and content for computers and other electronic devices in the '80s and beyond are being ousted by those that are able to manage their online empires through innovations in the arena of data and associated support platforms. While software often requires the use of a physical delivery system (cartridges, discs, and the like) more and more consumers want their data handed to them without delay, and further, they don't want to have to store it anymore.

 So companies that offer the flexibility of streaming data as well as cloud storage options are picking up the business that once belonged to software companies. And the result has been a put up or shut up situation that has elevated some software companies to data pushers while other simply get pushed out. Here are just a few big names from the '80s that are no longer the household names they once were.

1. Atari.

Pong is often cited as the first real video game, and indeed it was one of the earliest arcade (and home) games to become popular with consumers. Space Invaders, Pitfall and Pac Man where all massive sellers for the Atari brand in the '80s. Atari also created their own hardware, including the popular 2600 and 5200 home gaming consoles (ostensibly the first dedicated home gaming systems). Indeed I was the proud owner of an Atari-2600 console with black waggly joystick back in 1983 and also enjoyed playing more advanced games such as "Defender of the crown" on the Atari ST in the 90s.

Screenshot from Defender of the Crown on the Atari ST
Defender of the Crown on the Atari ST

However since their 80s heyday the company has been split apart and bought and sold until little semblance of the original remains. In 2008, Infogrames successfully completed its acquisition of Atari Inc.


2. Commodore International.

Makers of the popular Commodore-64, an 8-bit home computer system, this company was literally a household name throughout the '80s. In fact, despite only four years on the market and a price tag of $600 (which was actually rather low at the time), the Commodore-64 outsold the Apple II, with more than 20 million units sold in its lifetime.

They achieved this feat through integrated production practices that allowed them to lower production costs, passing the savings along to consumers ("computers for the masses, not the classes"), as well as a sound marketing and sales strategy that included selling through retail rather than electronics stores, significantly increasing their exposure to a mass audience of consumers. Like most early hardware developers, they also created their own software. Sadly, they would soon be surpassed by competitors like IBM and declared bankruptcy in 1994.

3. Lotus Development Corporation.

Although this entity technically lives on thanks to its acquisition by IBM, it was probably best known in its heyday for creating the best selling spreadsheet program, Lotus 1-2-3, made specifically for use with IBM's lineup of personal computers.

Their overnight success with this product turned them into a key player in the software industry (second only to Microsoft), netting them over $53 million in their first year of sales (an astonishing number considering they had forecast sales in the $1 million range). In 1995 they would be bought by IBM for $3.5 billion, but throughout the '80s they reigned supreme amongst independent software developers.

4. Ashton-Tate.

This company rounded out the "big three" of software manufacturers (after Microsoft and Lotus) thanks to massive sales of their dBase software for Apple and PC computers. Although they didn't develop the software, they were smart enough to buy it from C. Wayne Ratliff, who reportedly created it in his basement.

They made several iterations of the popular software throughout the '80s, staving off attempts by copycats to poach their patrons. Unfortunately, they would seal their own fate with the release of dBase IV, which was allegedly so buggy that former devotees flocked to the competition in droves.

5. Borland Software Corporation.

Like many software companies, this one had its ups and downs. Throughout the '80s the company produced several of their own popular products (Turbo Pascal, Borland Sidekick, etc.), but their main success came from acquiring other software firms and marketing their products.

Sadly, the beginning of the end came with the purchase of Ashton-Tate in 1991, after which the company became something of a falling star, losing their standing in the software industry (as well as their longtime CEO). They managed to limp along into the 2000s, changing their name a couple of times, but eventually they succumbed to the tactics that had once bolstered their own numbers; they were acquired by Micro Focus in 2009 for $75 million dollars and is now a subsidiary of Micro Focus.

The Welcome Return Of Google Maps

Google Maps Returns To The Iphone

Paddington Station No Longer Invisible
Paddington Station
Ever since it was first launched in 2005, privacy implications aside it seems most people love Google Maps...That is most people except Apple, who controversially replaced Google maps with its own fledgling service for the iPhone 5.

Now the BBC is reporting that after scores of complaints from those using Apple's mapping service, Google has just released a Maps app for the iPhone.

Complaints in the Guardian newspaper about Apple Maps previously included shrinking the Sears Tower in Chicago, transforming Helsinki railway station into a park, and making Paddington train station invisible to some users.

With their focus on quality control, I'm sure Apple will get their own mapping software running smoothly soon, in the meantime Apple users have a tried, tested and trusted alternative available in the APP store.

And if that doesn't work and you are tiring of technology, you can probably pick up a map and compass from Argos for under a tenner :)


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Native's Opinion Of The Granite City

10 Reasons Why Aberdeen in Scotland is Worth a Visit


If you browse through any travel magazine or brochure for Aberdeen, you will undoubtedly find countless attractions, scenic viewpoints and historical landmarks that pique your interest. To get a real feel for what to expect in the granite city of Aberdeen, however, it is best to hear from a biased native like me :)

The city of Aberdeen is one of the largest in Scotland, and it is a cosmopolitan and progressive city thanks to international shipping and a diverse population. If you are thinking about taking a holiday to Aberdeen in the future, read on for my top 10 reasons that this incredible city is worth a visit.

1. Easily Accessible

Although Aberdeen might look remote on the map, and is indeed located more than 70 miles from the nearest town, it is surprisingly accessible from throughout the United Kingdom and even the rest of the world. The local Airport operates flights from all across Europe, or visitors could use the public buses, trains and even boats to get to the city.

2. Impressive Museums

Museums are often one of the top things that people look for in a city holiday destination, and Aberdeen certainly won't disappoint. Some of the best museums in the city include King's Museum, the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, the Tolbooth Museum and the Gordon Highlanders Museum. Many of the museums in Aberdeen are free or very reasonably priced, a big contrast to cities like Edinburgh and London.

3. Nearby Hiking and Outdoor Recreation

Aberdeen is the perfect starting point for outdoor adventures in Scotland. The city is located just next to amazing golf courses, incredible hiking trails and even mountains for skiing and snowboarding. If you are feeling adventurous, head to the Aberdeen beach for some windsurfing in the summer.

4. Growing Business Community

Oil and fishing are not the only thriving industries locally. The construction of a brand new £215 million business park is on the horizon, and local Aberdeen based companies such as Taxi App operation Whapp, Julie Mehta's marketing firm Debutmarketing, and innovative software developer Intellicore, are all blazing a trail in the local community.

5. Thriving Cultural Scene

Since Aberdeen has always been a wealthy city, the culture is vibrant and offers lots of great opportunities for visitors and locals alike. You might choose to see an art house film in the Belmont Picturehouse, listen to some live jazz at the Lemon Tree or laugh through stand-up comedy at the popular Music Hall.

6. Granite Architecture

The architecture in Aberdeen is much admired, primarily because many of the historic structures are built of granite and create a stunning skyline. Some of the most important buildings to view are the Salvation Army Citadel, Marischal College and St. Mark's Church.

7. Excellent Dining Scene

Although an Aberbeen buttery, or rowie bread roll, might be enough to sustain you when walking around town, you will probably want something more substantial for your evening meal. Thankfully, the city boasts a variety of incredible dining options for locals and visitors alike. Whether you are in the mood for Indian, Italian or Thai, you can find it all in granite city.

8. 18 Hour Summer Days

Due to it's location in northern Scotland, Aberdeen is lucky enough to boast long summer days. In fact, 18 hours of sun is not uncommon in July and August. This is wonderful for summer visits, as you can have plenty of time to see the sights around town during the day. But be prepared for plenty of rain in the autumn!

9. Great Shopping Opportunities

People rarely think of Aberdeen as a shopping destination, but the oil industry and the shipping in the area mean there is a lot of money to spend, and the upscale shops reflect that. Visitors can find high street shops on Union Street, malls like the Bon Accord Centre and the Trinity Centre and even markets for fresh produce and local handicrafts.

10. Safety and Security

Believe it or not, Aberdeen is actually one of the safest cities in the United Kingdom. By exercising common sense, you can avoid crimes and feel safe even when walking around at night in the city.

Although it may be clear that I love the city, I am certainly not alone. Plan your next visit to Aberdeen to see why so many travelers from around the world enjoy themselves in this Scottish destination.

Cheers, S.Mcdonald

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

My Favorite Web Browser

7 Reasons Why I Love The Firefox Browser

Mozilla's Firefox Browser

I'm far from being a computer whiz but I know what I like and I love Mozilla's flagship browser. Here are seven reasons why I do.

1 - Free

Possibly the most important reason I use Firefox is its support of free open source code, which means that its designed to be nonprofit and is available for anyone to use at no cost. This helped draw me to Firefox and has kept me with this sterling browser through the years.



2 - Tabbed Browsing

My first love for Firefox came through my discovery of tabbed browsing, made popular and mainstreamed by Mozilla. Like most people, I had been using a different' popular browser, when I discovered Firefox. The tabbed browsing made my searching and browsing so much easier that I was quickly hooked. I was able to effortlessly jump from page to page and topic to topic.


3 - Location Aware

Another aspect I love about Firefox is its location-aware browsing. With this feature I am able to find results close to wherever I am. I just type in what I am looking for, Firefox uses my location without sharing or tracking it, and voila – my search for nearby pizza, museums' or directions to Auntie Em's house are displayed before my eyes.

4 - Session Restore
 
Session Restore is a feature that is quite useful for someone like me who wants to continue using my open tabs after accidently closing the browser, or when I need to run a new download or update requiring it first be restarted. With Session Restore I can get everything back with one click. I no longer need to weed through my history to reopen my browser tabs. I love it!

5 - Search and Find

I use the Search and Find feature regularly. As I am doing research I often come across lengthy articles that I know pertain to my subject but I don't have the time, or patience, to read through the entire article. Using Search and Find, every instance of that word or phrase is instantly highlighted on the web page. Firefox has saved me hours of searching to find that one paragraph I needed for my research.

6 - Privacy

Privacy is a great concern for me and Firefox gives me the ability to hide my browsing habits using the Do-not-track option available in the privacy settings. With this option checked I receive far less third party information, such as targeted advertising, related to my shopping cart contents and browsing history. It seems like it's only a slight exaggeration to say that these days anyone can see everything I do online, so anything I can do to keep what privacy I have is important to me and Firefox provides me with this security.


7 - Compatibility

I use Firefox on my mobile phone as well as my home computer and syncing between the two has become a convenience I wouldn't want to be without. With Firefox Sync I am able to carry my home computer in my pocket, so to speak, having my tabs, browsing history and bookmarks on my mobile browser just the way it looked on my home computer. On the other hand, if I find a cool site on my phone while browsing Firefox and I want to look at it later, my phone syncs it back to my home computer just as easily.

Firefox has remained my favorite browser for years. I have tried other browsers but this always wins out in terms of ease of use and its available options and add-ons. After trying others, returning to Firefox just feels like coming home - comfortable. The comfort of Firefox is as important to me as its privacy.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Why Software Development Is Important For The Economy

3 Reasons Software Development is Important For the Economy

 

The invention of the internet and computers has completely revolutionized much of modern society. By computing mathematical problems quickly, computers enable individuals, businesses and governments to deal with difficult problems.

Through the Internet, computers have enabled people to talk at no charge around the world. Perhaps the most transformative aspect of computers, however, is the fact that they can run software. Software can be reproduced at almost no charge, and the only limit to software is the talent level of developers. Software has clearly had a significant impact on the economy. Here are three ways that software development is important for the economy.

1. Software enables businesses to streamline operations

Business primarily deals with handling supply and demand. The logistics of handling supply and demand, however, are notoriously challenging. With the tools provided by software development, companies can automated many of the tasks that used to cost businesses a substantial amount of money. Further, software development is used to create the tools that businesses need to deal with accounting and other financial issues.

Most people think about software in terms of popular software packages and general-purpose programs. In the business world, however, many of the most important programs are made to suit the needs of individual companies. Software also plays in integral role in the stock market, and it is up to developers to craft the programs necessary to handle high levels of trading in a reliable, accurate manner.

2. Software development is a large and growing field

In the middle of the 20th century, there were few software developers. Most worked in academia, and there were a few businesses that hired small numbers of developers. Since that time, however, the software development field has grown at a tremendous rate. What guided this change was the growing use of software in the business world; big companies expanded their use of computers while small companies began to use computers for their day-to-day tasks.

By the end of the 20th century, computers had become an integral part of running businesses of all sizes, and software development grew in proportion to the needs demanded by the business world. Today, software technology is a critical component to the economy, and the money generated from massive companies such as Microsoft or smaller local software companies such as Intellicore is substantial.

3. Regulatory issues

Developing a thriving economy requires a market that is regulated properly. Here, computers have helped tremendously. Detecting fraud was notoriously challenging before government agencies had access to computers, and it is harder to get away with tax fraud today than it ever was in the past.

In addition, regulating the stock market for fraud and other illegal activities demands running sophisticated analyses that are designed to detect patterns of abuse, and computers supply the power necessary to achieve this goal. The programs used to detect these activities are some of the most complicated around, and they rely on sophisticated mathematical concepts to succeed.

While computer hardware becomes more impressive every year, it is what developers are able to do with it that allows society to benefit from computers. A sophisticated development industry is crucial for countries and businesses to succeed, and it is no surprise that much of the world is focusing on creating viable software development industries to fuel their growth.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

3 Scottish Software Startups

 3 Promising Software Companies From Scotland

Not even the most passionate patriot would argue that Scotland is leading the world in the development of 21st century software technology, however the start-up scene is growing and there are a number of interesting companies emerging that are worth watching out for. A few of them are listed below.



1) Aetherstore

This innovative company was founded by 3 enterprising chaps, namely Robert F. MacInnis, Allan P. Boyd and Angus D. Macdonald, who are all recent graduates from the University of St Andrews in Edinburgh.

AetherStore is a data storage solution that creates space from unused space on office computer hard drives. It is meant to be very easy to use, indeed brand new users are able to download and install the software on participating computers, which then creates shared server space that all users can use.

Frankly, they say it better themselves:

".....AetherStore provides the write speed of local storage and the shared storage space of networked storage servers. It uses a distributed storage system to pool together un-used capacity in existing office machines—capacity that would be wasted otherwise—and spreads both the load and the risk of data storage amongst them. A secure, cloud storage service is used for versioning, remote access, and long-term backup. The store provides transparent full file version histories for auditing and compliance purposes and requires no staff, no maintenance, and no new hardware....."

To learn more about Aetherstore visit Aetherstore.com

2) Sensewhere

Another company bubbling forth from the creative cauldron of Edinburgh, Sensewhere’s new software allows precise location information in places where there is exceptionally thin inaccurate GPS satellite data such as indoors in aunty Mabel's pantry or Uncle Bert's allotment shed.

Their services are better described in their recent press release:
".....Sensewhere, the world leader in hyper local and indoor positioning solutions, today announced that its snapp! indoor location app is now available to download from Google Play. snapp!, which blends sensewhere’s world-leading indoor location technology with social mapping, allows users to view their friends’ updates in their geographical context across a variety of social networks, and issue accurate geotagged updates deep indoors....."

With coverage from heavyweights such as Bloomberg, CNBC and Mountain View Patch (Ok, ok I've never heard of them either), this company are definitely popping up on radar screens.

You can learn more about Sensewhere by visiting Sensewhere.com

3) Freeagent

Fresh from winning the Software Vendor of the Year Award in 2011, Freeagent is trying its best to set users free of the tedious task of business accounting. Freelancers love this software as updating your sole trader or limited company accounts yourself can be a hassle and expensive. Using Freeagent makes it easy and usually means you pay your accountant less.

Some have billed Freeagent as a simple app to create invoices, others have hailed it as a virtual accountant.

Rather than get caught up in the hype you can read up on the company by visiting Freeagent.com

And yes they are also from Edinburgh! We'll have more news from companies in Aberdeen soon, I promise!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Dealing With .Rar Files

 An Open and Shut Case? - Introducing .Rar Files



Perhaps you'll agree, we have now entered an era where the vast majority of media is transferred and shared online. An age where music CDs have been replaced by digital files sold online, sometimes without record label support. Independent music artists emerge every day. These independent artists have come to utilize the web as a means of selling and distributing their work to the masses. They aim for means of distribution which are low-cost and make distribution of their music happen in the blink of an eye.

The .rar file (Roshal ARchive file, so named after its developer, Eugene Roshal.) has become the common tool to accomplish this. Also distributed as .rev, .r00, or .r01, these compressed file extensions get the job done. What these files essentially are are libraries of digital files compressed to download in practically no time at all. With this technology, photographers, music artists, and even authors can distribute their work with just one file.

Let's say that your favorite independent music artist has released a new album and wishes to distribute it digitally. They would simply compress  the music file of each song into a .rar file, compromising very little music quality in comparison to other formats of compressed files. You would pay them for this file and download it.

There's just one problem: Our computers can't just open these files all on their own. They need to be decoded by separate program in order to be viewable.

There are a variety of free software tools that can be used to do this. A favorite amongst Windows users is WinZip. The image above is one of Winzip's logos.

7-Zip is also incredibly useful. As the computer I use for my day-to-day tasks runs Mac OS X, my personal favorite is UnRarX.

Most of these programs take up virtually no space on your hard drive, depending on how many other file extensions they can read. For example, WinZip not only does .rar files, but can also do .zip files and other file extensions. This may mean that WinZip would take slightly more room on your hard drive, though for the extra file extensions, which you may encounter on the web, the space sacrifice may be well worth it.

Once you open your decoding software, you will have to browse through your computer to find the .rar file(s) you wish to read. The software will then create a folder in the same directory as the .rar file and read every music file. It will then unpack it into the folder it created. Voila! You now have your favorite music artist's new album. You can then easily import it into the music player of your choice. However, the usefulness of .rar files doesn't stop there.

Suppose you just went on a family vacation to Venice. Your mum, who lives miles away in Aberdeen, wants to see pictures of your trip. You hit a snag: You have hundreds, maybe thousands, of pictures and you can't possibly send mom every single picture. The solution is pretty simple. You can download a program to create a .rar file and compress every image so that mum gets every picture in a heartbeat. She would just need a reading software described earlier in the article.

However, the options of software you can download for creating these files becomes limited. The majority require payment, as they must be licensed by Roshal's brother, Alexander.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

3 Essential Software Programs


3 Essential Software Programs for Your Laptop or PC


Many of us use our laptops and our PCs for a wide variety of purposes including work, entertainment and communication. While you can use a computer for a whole range of tasks, it mostly depends on which programs you use. Many of us do not use our computers in a particularly efficient manner, partly due to the fact that we can never decide which programs we should have installed. Here are three completely free programs which almost any computer would benefit from.

1 – Skype

Many people are familiar with Skype and those who aren’t are probably missing out on something which could be very useful to them. Skype is one of the most popular free communications programs. User-friendly and easy to install, Skype allows you to communicate by way of instant messaging, computer-to-computer phone calls, computer-to-phone calls and video chatting or conferencing.

While Skype itself is completely free, it also offers some paid services which are very competitively priced compared to the other options. These are particularly useful if you regularly send SMS messages or make calls abroad. Using Skype to send SMSs or call mobile or landline numbers abroad is often the cheapest option, being far more affordable than phoning from a regular landline or mobile phone. The prices depend only on where you are calling and not on where you are calling from. Skype.com provides detailed information on costs of messages and calls to almost every country and territory in the world.


2 – WinRAR

Windows Millennium and all later versions natively provide the ability to read ZIP and .rar files, the most popular compression format around today. However, you cannot create your own compressed archives or work with other formats without a third-party program. WinRAR is one of the most popular solutions, since it supports all of the major formats. Other options include WinZip and 7zip which all do much the same thing.

If you download anything from the Internet or you have people regularly sending you compressed archives by email, WinRAR or another file compression utility is a must-have. It allows you to make files or entire folders full of files into a single compressed file, making it suitable for sending over the Internet or distributing in any other way.


3 – WordWeb

Having a full dictionary, thesaurus and mini-encyclopaedia at your disposal at all times is very convenient for most of us. If you need to look up a quick-fact online or offline or you need to check a spelling, WordWeb is ideal. WordWeb is a very small application which can be configured to run unobtrusively at system start-up so that you can easily access its features whenever you want. You can look up anything in WordWeb simply by pressing CTRL and right-clicking your mouse at any time. When you do this, the entry will appear right in front of you. A paid “Pro” version is also available, which provides the ability to add additional custom dictionaries to the program.