Advantages and Disadvantages of Biometric Time and Attendance Software

First of all let me ask you what you understand by time and attendance software? Have you ever been asked to log in as soon as you enter office and the main gate of the office has a Biometric machine that takes in your finger prints and allows you to enter the office premise? Yes, these are the time and attendance software being installed in a company.

Biometrics consists of methods for uniquely identifying a person (human being) by his/her physical or behavioral traits. There are many biometric software available in market for such purpose and their use is widely known. One such use is Biometric time and attendance management software.

Those days are gone when we had to punch in cards or sign into a register to tell the other person that we are present. Just as paper checking has been changed from manual to computerized, identifying a person and letting him in your office has been changed from manual to biometrics.

There are many benefits of having such methodology in your office. Such as:

• Accurate timing: When a person looks at his watch and enters the time there is a slight chance that he may see the wrong timing and write. Whereas with biometric time and attendance software there is no possibility of such mistake. The user does not need to see or check the time, it automatically gets logged in.

• Less error: There is no scope of human error here.

• Profit to company: If it’s accurate and correct the company will definitely gain from it.

As everything has a good and bad side this too has its disadvantages, such as:

• Extra cost to company: Biometric software and machine cost a lot more, so installing such software need a good investment money wise.

• Extra management: Remember when every employee is logging his own timing when he comes or leaves; there is no extra management here. But, if you are putting a machine there has to be taken some care of it.

Biometrics time and management software is really helpful when creating payrolls for employees. Once a definite timing has been registered you don’t need to think twice before creating the employees pay.

Many homes are also using such kind of software to have a safe and secure home. Biometric software is really helpful when you need security in your home as well as in office. There are many companies all over the world providing such biometric time and attendance software. You just need to keep an eye on the technologies and websites that are providing you these.

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Texas Two Step Strategy – Everything You Need to Know

The Texas Two Step lottery is a great example of a game that is both strategic and fun. The state lottery is an excellent arena for you to shell out your extra dollars while learning about alternative lotto mechanics. In the state of Texas, the Texas Two Step is considered to be the most popular form of lottery. The game beings when an individual is asked to pick four number from and in between 1 to 35. Like most lotto types, this also has a bonus ball number, which can increase your chances of winning. The grand price for this unique game does not go below two hundred thousand dollars so long as you make five matches. If you are also quite hesitant to pick your own number, the quick pick system also applies to the Texas Two Step lottery. A multi-draw feature also allows you to bet for ten advance drawings at once by simply making a distinguishable mark in the designated ticket boxes. Single plays cost only US$1 each and can reflect winnings up to a hundred thousand dollars.

Most lottery systems base on luck as foundation for winning. Unfortunately, even with the convenience of quick picks and other strategies, chances of winning are still small. One effective way to increase the chances of gaining back positive results from your chosen number is by adhering to the Wheeling Systems. Generally, wheeling systems do not guarantee an automatic win after placing your number picks in the Texas Two Step. However, the mechanism gives you more chances of bringing home multiple tier prizes as opposed to you simply randomly selecting the number, or relying on quick picks. The odds of winning the Texas Two Step prize are statistically ranging from 1 to 32. The overall ratio of victory can be quite unsatisfactory if played with mere dependence on luck. Although you can win $5 for simply matching the bonus ball number, naturally, anyone would still want to vie for the grand prize.

There are also a handful of lotto software that provide good combination numbers for players. Most people confirm the effectiveness of most online programs in tracking the best numeral combinations for lottery. You may program these to suit your needs and according to the type of lottery that you participate in. For Texas Two Step, it is much easier to use a software to calculate possible combinations as it has lesser selections or numbers compared to most lotto games.

For serious lotto players, individuals simply log onto the website and place their bets randomly. Sites also offer a few tips and strategies on how to best employ their gaming techniques. You may be able to view advices on when is the best time to place your bets and how to purchase your tickets quickly. Other websites also present lottery news, which is also an effective way to keep track of your bets. Bear in mind that in order for a player to achieve positive results while playing lotto, the correct strategy and technique must put in place so as to lead you to triumph and victory.

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Recommended Software for Arena Management

When there is a little over a month left to enter the data for a thousand plus cattle penning teams into a fickle spread sheet software program that was built by good intentioned volunteers; the last thing anyone should be doing is looking for replacement software. However, as any event/entry secretary or producer knows this is sometimes the lifeline that is needed to get the job done.

The preparation of all of the necessary data combined with balancing a three-quarter of a million dollar show in the six weeks prior to its start should have been enough to do. Throwing in a new piece of software to learn and master would be considered ludicrous to say the least. The producers deemed it to be a necessity in view of the history of inconsistencies in the program currently in use.

With a three-year old recommendation in hand and very little back ground checking, Arena Management Software became the chosen lifeline. The software was purchased, loaded onto the computers, played with for a day or so and then our team went to work. The KCI support group was there, day and night, to help with the learning curve and any snags that presented themselves. Our team quickly realized that the new user-friendly software program we had taken a chance on was going to be our ongoing choice for future events. The show was a success. The producers and contestants were happy. All was good in our world!

There have been a lot of years pass by since those short six weeks when our group became acquainted with the Arena Management Software. The program still provides a user-friendly format that has the talent to produce minimal data to realms of reports. From rodeo to cattle penning events the product continues to amaze our team with its ability to perform in and out of the arena.

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Choosing the Right SDLC For Your Project

Choosing the right SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle) methodology for your project is as important to the success of the project as the implementation of any project management best practices. Choose the wrong software methodology and you will add time to the development cycle. Adding extra time to the development cycle will increase your budget and very likely prevent you from delivering the project on time.

Choosing the wrong methodology can also hamper your effective management of the project and may also interfere with the delivery of some of the project’s goals and objectives. Software development methodologies are another tool in the development shop’s tool inventory, much like your project management best practices are tools in your project manager’s tool kit. You wouldn’t choose a chainsaw to finish the edges on your kitchen cabinet doors because you know you wouldn’t get the results you want. Choose your software methodology carefully to avoid spoiling your project results.

I realize that not every project manager can choose the software methodology they will use on every project. Your organization may have invested heavily in the software methodology and supporting tools used to develop their software. There’s not much you can do in this case. Your organization won’t look favorably on a request to cast aside a methodology and tools they’ve spent thousands of dollars on because you recommend a different methodology for your project. We’ll give you some tips on how to tailor some of the methodologies to better fit with your project requirements later in this article. In the meantime, before your organization invests in software development methodologies you, or your PMO, ought to be consulted so that at least a majority of projects are benefited from a good fit.

This article won’t cover every SDLC out there but we will attempt to cover the most popular ones.

Scrum

Scrum is a name rather than an acronym (which is why I haven’t capitalized the letters), although some users have created acronyms, and is commonly used together with agile software development. Scrum is typically chosen because of its iterative nature and its ability to deliver working software quickly. It is chosen to develop new products for those reasons. There is typically no role for a project manager in this methodology, the 3 key roles are: the scrum master (replacing the project manager), the product owner, and the team who design and build the system. There is only one role that you would be asked to play if your organization is committed to using this methodology, scrum master. If you should determine that this would actually be the best methodology for your project, you’ll have to re-examine your role as project manager. You can either identify a suitable scrum master and return to the bench, or fill the role of scrum master.

Scrum suits software development projects where its important for the project to deliver working software quickly. Scrum is an iterative methodology and uses cycles called sprints, to build a working system. Requirements are captured in a “backlog” and a set of requirements is chosen with the help of the product manager. Requirements are chosen based on 2 criteria: the requirement takes priority over others left in the backlog and the set of requirements chosen will build a functioning system.

During the sprint, which can last from 2 to 4 weeks maximum, no changes can be made to the requirements in the sprint. This is one of the reasons that a project manager isn’t necessary for this methodology. There is no need for requirements management because no changes are allowed to the requirements under development. All changes must occur in the requirements set in the backlog.

Scrum will be suitable for software development projects where the product is a new software product. By new I mean that it is new to the organization undertaking the project, not in general. The methodology was developed to address a need for a method to build software when its necessary to learn on the fly, not all requirements are known to the organization and the focus is on delivering a working prototype quickly to demonstrate capabilities. You need to be careful when choosing requirements to deliver in each sprint to ensure that the set developed builds a software system that is capable of demonstrating the feature set supporting the requirements included.

You also need to ensure that these requirements are well known and understood as no changes are allowed once the sprint starts. This means that any changes to the requirements must come through a new set of requirements in the backlog making changes to these requirements very expensive.

This methodology divides stakeholders into 2 groups: pigs and chickens. The inventors of this methodology chose this analogy based on the story of the pig and the chicken – it goes something like this. A pig and a chicken were walking down the road one morning and happened to notice some poor children who looked like they hadn’t eaten for days. The compassionate chicken said to the pig: “Why don’t we make those children a breakfast of ham and eggs?” The pig said: “I’m not happy with your suggestion. You’re just involved in making the breakfast, I’m totally committed!” The point to this is the product owner, scrum master, and team are all in the “pig” group. All others are in the “chicken” group. You will be in the “chicken” group if you choose the Scrum methodology as a project manager.

Waterfall

Waterfall methodology calls for each phase of the development cycle to be repeated once only. Requirements will be gathered and translated into functional specifications once, functional specifications will be translated to design once, designs will be built into software components once and the components will be tested once. The advantage of this methodology is its focus. You can concentrate the effort of all your analysts on producing functional specifications during one period rather than have the effort dispersed throughout the entire project. Focusing your resources in this way also reduces the window during which resources will be required. Programmers will not be engaged until all the functional specifications have been written and approved.

The disadvantage of this approach is its inability to teach the project team anything during the project. A key difference between the waterfall approach and an iterative methodology, such as Scrum or RUP, is the opportunity to learn lessons from the current iteration which will improve the team’s effectiveness with the next iteration. The waterfall methodology is an ideal methodology to use when the project team has built software systems very similar to the one your project is to deliver and has nothing to learn from development that would improve their performance. A good example of a project which would benefit from the waterfall methodology is a project to add functionality to a system the project team built in the not too distant past. Another example of an environment that is well suited to the waterfall methodology is a program to maintain a software system where a project is scheduled for specific periods to enhance the system. For example, an order and configuration software system which is enhanced every 4 months.

The waterfall methodology does not lend itself particularly well to projects where the requirements are not clearly understood at the outset. Iterative approaches allow the product owners or user community to examine the result of building a sub-set of requirements. Exercising the sub-set of requirements in the iteration’s build may cause the product owners or user community to re-examine those requirements or requirements to be built. You won’t have that opportunity with the waterfall method so you need to be certain of your requirements before you begin the build phase. Interpreting requirements into functionality is not the only aspect of development that can benefit from an iterative approach. Designing the system and building it can also benefit from doing these activities iteratively. You should use the waterfall method when your team is familiar with the system being developed and the tools used to develop it. You should avoid using it when developing a system for the first time or using a completely new set of tools to develop the system.

RUP

The Rational Unified Process, or RUP, combines an iterative approach with use cases to govern system development. RUP is a methodology supported by IBM and IBM provides tools (e.g. Rational Rose) that support the methodology. RUP divides the project into 4 phases:

1. Inception phase – produces requirements, business case, and high level use cases

2.Elaboration phase – produces refined use cases, architecture, a refined risk list, a refined business case, and a project plan

3. Construction phase – produces the system

4. Transition phase – transitions the system from development to production

RUP also defines 9 disciplines: 6 engineering disciplines, and 3 supporting disciplines: Configuration and Change Management, Project Management, and environment so is intended to work hand in hand with project management best practices.

Iteration is not limited to a specific project phase – it may even be used to govern the inception phase, but is most applicable to the construction phase. The project manager is responsible for an overall project plan which defines the deliverables for each phase, and a detailed iteration plan which manages the deliverables and tasks belonging to each phase. The purpose of the iterations is to better identify risks and mitigate them.

RUP is essentially a cross between Scrum and waterfall in that it only applies an iterative approach to project phases where the most benefit can be derived from it. RUP also emphasizes the architecture of the system being built. The strengths of RUP are its adaptability to different types of projects. You could simulate some of the aspects of a Scrum method by making all 4 phases iterative, or you could simulate the waterfall method by choosing to avoid iterations altogether. RUP will be especially useful to you when you have some familiarity with the technology but need the help of Use Cases to help clarify your requirements. Use Cases can be combined with storyboarding when you are developing a software system with a user interface to simulate the interaction between the user and the system. Avoid using RUP where your team is very familiar with the technology and the system being developed and your product owners and users don’t need use cases to help clarify their requirements.

RUP is one of those methodologies that your organization is very likely to have invested heavily in. If that’s your situation, you probably don’t have the authority to select another methodology but you can tailor RUP to suit your project. Use iterations to eliminate risks and unknowns that stem from your team’s unfamiliarity with the technology or the system, or eliminate iterations where you would otherwise use the waterfall method.

JAD

Joint Application Development, or JAD, is another methodology developed by IBM. It’s main focus is on the capture and interpretation of requirements but can be used to manage that phase in other methodologies such as waterfall. JAD gathers participants in a room to articulate and clarify requirements for the system. The project manager is required for the workshop to provide background information on the project’s goals, objectives, and system requirements. The workshop also requires a facilitator, a scribe to capture requirements, participants who contribute requirements, and members of the development team whose purpose is to observe.

JAD can be used to quickly clarify and refine requirements because all the players are gathered in one room. Your developers can avert misunderstandings or ambiguities in requirements by questioning the participants. This method can be used with just about any software methodology. Avoid using it where the organization’s needs are not clearly understood or on large, complex projects.

RAD

RAD is an acronym for Rapid Application Development uses an iterative approach and prototyping to speed application development. Prototyping begins by building the data models and business process models that will define the software application. The prototypes are used to verify and refine the business and data models in an iterative cycle until a data model and software design are refined enough to begin construction.

The purpose of RAD is to enable development teams to create and deploy software systems in a relatively short period of time. It does this in part by replacing the traditional methods of requirements gathering, analysis, and design with prototyping and modeling, the prototyping and modeling allow the team to prove the application components faster than traditional methods such as waterfall. The advantage of this method is it facilitates rapid development by eliminating design overhead. It’s disadvantage is that in eliminating design overhead it also eliminates much of the safety net which prevents requirements from being improperly interpreted or missed altogether.

RAD is suitable for projects where the requirements are fairly well known in advance and the data is either an industry or business standard, or already in existence in the organization. It is also suitable for a small development team, or a project where the system can be broken down into individual applications that require small teams. RAD is not suitable for large, complex projects or projects where the requirements are not well understood.

LSD

Lean Software Development, or LSD, applies the principles of waste reduction from the manufacturing world to the business of developing software. The goal of LSD is to produce software in 1/3 the time, on 1/3 the budget, and with 1/3 the defects of comparable methods. Lean does this by applying 7 principles to the endeavor of software development:

1. Eliminate waste

2. Amplify Learning (both technical and business)

3. Decide on requirements as late as possible

4. Deliver as fast as possible

5. Empower the team

6. Build integrity

7. See the whole

Although Lean Manufacturing has been around for some time, its application to the process of developing software is relatively new so I wouldn’t call it a mature process.

LSD would be a suitable method to use where you have a subject matter expert in the method who has some practical experience in applying lean methods to a software development project. “Amplified” learning implies that your development team has a depth of knowledge in the software tools provided, and also a breadth of knowledge that includes an understanding of the business needs of the client. LSD would be suitable for a project where the development team has these attributes.

LSD depends on a quick turnaround and the late finalization of requirements to eliminate the majority of change requests, so will not be suitable for a project where a delayed finalization of requirements will have a poor chance of eliminating change requests, or the size and complexity of the system being developed would prevent a quick turnaround.

Extreme Programming (XP)

Extreme programming places emphasis on an ability to accommodate changes to requirements throughout the development cycle and testing so that the code produced is of a high degree of quality and has a low failure rate in the field. XP requires the developers to write concise, clear, and simple code to solve problems. This code is then thoroughly tested by unit tests to ensure that the code works exactly as the programmer intends and acceptance tests to ensure that the code meets the customer’s needs. These tests are accumulated so that all new code passes through them and the chances for a failure in the field are reduced.

XP requires the development team to listen carefully to the needs and requirements of the customer. Ambiguities will be clarified by asking questions and providing feedback to the customer which clarifies the requirements. This ability implies a certain degree of familiarity with the customer’s business; the team will be less likely to understand the customer’s needs if they don’t understand their business.

The intent of XP is to enhance coding, testing, and listening to the point where there is less dependency on design. At some point it is expected that the system will become sufficiently complex so that it needs a design. The intent of the design is not to ensure that the coding will be tight, but that the various components will fit together and function smoothly.

XP would be a suitable software development method where the development team is knowledgeable about the customers business and have the tools to conduct the level of testing required for this method. Tools would include automated unit testing and reporting tools, issue capture and tracking tools, and multiple test platforms. Developers who are also business analysts and can translate a requirement directly to code are a necessity because design is more architectural than detail. This skill is also required as developers implement changes directly into the software.

XP won’t be suitable where the development team does not possess business analysis experience and where testing is done by a quality assurance team rather than by the development team. The method can work for large complex projects as well as simple smaller ones.

There is no law that states you must choose one or the other of these methodologies for your software project. The list I’ve given you here is not a totally comprehensive list and some methodologies don’t appear on it (e.g. Agile) so if you feel that there is some other methodology that will better suit your project, run with it. You should also look at combining some of the features of each of these methods to custom make a methodology for your project. For example, the desire to eliminate waste from the process of developing software is applicable to any method you choose and there is likely waste that could be eliminated in any development shop.

Be careful to choose a methodology that is a good fit for your team, stakeholders, and customer as well as your project. Bringing in a new development methodology that your team will struggle to learn at the same time they are trying to meet tight deadlines is not a good idea. On the other hand, if you have the latitude you may want to begin learning a new method with your project.

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Different Types of Computer Repair Services

Our dependency towards technology is increasing day by day. Even a minor problem in the operating system disrupts our life and hampers our work. With the development of new technology, there also comes many technical problems such as virus infections, spyware attacks on the operating system, networks issues, and hardware failures. Therefore, fast and efficient troubleshooters are always needed to fix all your technical problems without disabling your work.

With the indispensable use of computers in our daily lives, we can not imagine encountering an issue that will leave us without our personal computers thus; We seek to have the computer service immediately. But due to the busyness of life, it is not possible for us to go to a computer service centers every time and get the system repaired leaving you days without a computer. Seeing today's need, there are many efficient and fast troubleshooters available online that will solve your problem in a fraction of time. Many of us do not understand need for professional computer repair services and try to solve the system related problem by themselves. Before going to any of the computer repair service sites, it is very important to be aware of the various types of services that are offered by the computer repair service centers:

1. IT services like network installation and configuration (LAN / WAN setup).

2. Virus & spyware removal. Installation of anti-virus software for a proactive approach to external attacks.

3. Hardware repair: Laptop / Mac / PC, printer, scanner, motherboard; CD / DVD ROM installation etc.

4. Problems related to Website development and presentation, graphic designing

5. Firewall and email security setup.

6. Windows OS installation and troubleshooting

7. Data backup and recovery

8. Tutorials to employees for solving small problems in-house

So, These are some of the services offered by the service providers. Before hiring any of the online computer repair services, it is very important to check the various types of services offered by them. So that you do not need to switch to different computer repair services sites for different services. It is also very important to check that there is a team of expert technicians for solving computer related problems individually, as this will help in solving the problem fast and efficiently. It is better to switch to such online computer repair services that you avail with the guarantee of fixing the problem fast else money back. As such, promises will pressurize the technicians to work efficiently and fix the problem quickly.

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8 Criteria to Choose the Best Antivirus Program For Your Needs

There is no best antivirus program in general. You can make the best choice of your antivirus software depending on your goals, your needs and your environment. In order to choose your best antivirus software you should look at vendor information, independent antivirus certifying agencies reviews, as well as other sources. Here are the essential criteria for the right choice.

1. Compatibility
Antivirus program has to be compatible with your PC configuration. Your PC must meet hardware and software requirements of antivirus solution.

2. Range of Protection
Antivirus software should protect your PC from as many threats and on as many viruses as it can: viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, keyloggers, adware, rootkits, password stealers, phishing attacks, spam and others.

3. Effectiveness
Antivirus protection delivery by antivirus program should be effective and efficient. You may find and compare test results released by independent antivirus certifying agencies: Virus Bulletin, AV Comparatives, ISCA Labs, Westcoast Labs and others. If some antivirus solution was scored by these agencies high and consistently near the top, then you really can not go wrong with this top rated antivirus software.

4. Easy Installation
Good antivirus program has a prompt and easy installation. Interface should be clean, easy, and intuitive to use.

5. Easy to Use
Most users want to "install and forget" their antivirus software. So the best antivirus solution should have default configurations acceptable for most users. And at the same time good antivirus program can be easily configured and tweaked by advanced users.

6. Features
The best antivirus programs have the large features set that may include:
– list of compatible versions of Operational systems and platforms,
– amount of used system resources,
– using of proactive protection without false positives and with effective utilizing of system resources,
– availability of laptop battery saving mode,
– bootable rescue disk,
– silent gamer mode, and other available options.

A comprehensive features set adds strength to antivirus solution.

7. Update
The best security solutions have Automatic Update option and automatically perform updates every hour or "as needed updates" to keep virus definitions and program code up to date.

8. Support
The best security programs have a comprehensive online and offline technical support. The program vendor should provide online knowledge base, FAQs, tutorials, user forums. The best sellers provide 24/7 support so you can ask your questions by phone, email or chat at any moment.

The best for your needs antivirus program delivers you the best security and usability with a minimal outlay of your time, money, or your PC system resources.

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Introduction to Silk Test Architecture

Normal use of an application consists of a person manipulating a keyboard and mouse to initiate application operations. The person is said to be interacting with the GUI (Graphical User Interface). During Silk Test testing, Silk Test interacts with the GUI to submit operations to the application automatically.

Thus Silk Test can simulate the actions of a person who is exercising all the capabilities of an application and verifying the results of each operation. The simulated user (Silk test) is said to be driving the application. The application under test reacts to the simulated user exactly as it would react to a human rest. Silk Test consists of two distinct software components that execute in separate processes:

The Silk Test host software

The 4Test Agent software

Silk Test host software

The Silk Test host software is the program you use to develop, edit, compile, run and debug your 4Test scripts and test plans. This manual refers to the system that runs this program as the host machine or the Silk Test machine.

The Agent

The 4Test Agent is the software process that translates the commands in your 4Test scripts into GUI-specific commands. In order words, it is the Agent that actually drives and monitors the application you are testing. One Agent can run locally on the host machine. In a networked environment, any number of Agents can run on remote machines. This manual refers to the systems that run remote Agents as target machines. This manual refers to the systems that run remote Agents as target machines. In a client/server environment, Silk Test drives the client application by means of an Agent process running on each application’s machine. The application then drives the server just as it always does. Silk Test is also capable of driving the GUI belonging to a server or of directly driving a server database by running scripts that submit SQL statements to the database. These methods o directly manipulating the server application are intended to support testing in which the client application drives the server.

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Strengths and Weaknesses of Waterfall Approach for Software Development

One of the most famous and widely used approaches for software development is the waterfall model. Waterfall approach is an old technique that has been in use for quite some time, but in modern times agile approach is gaining prominence.

Waterfall approach, as is evident from the name, refers to a systematic approach where one step comes after the other. It cannot go the other way round. The process works like the waterfall effect that flows in one direction, which is from up to down.

In this process the life cycle of the development process is predetermined. All the steps are defined before the start of the project. The approach is predictive, where the team is well aware of the order of each step and therefore works accordingly. It starts from the requirement analysis, the design phase and then proceeds on to the implementation, testing and the maintenance phases.

The waterfall approach can be quite beneficial for those who are quite clear on their requirements. A planned approach works for them because they want fixed processes and budget. Where fixed processes are beneficial, at the same time they can be inconvenient at times. In cases where the client is not clear on the requirements and finds in the middle of the project that he/she wants to change course, this approach can prove to be quite problematic.

Another point of the waterfall approach is that the requirement analysis and design of architectural structure can consume a lot of time. Extensive research is done initially as the next phases depend completely on the planning strategy. However, the good thing is that everything is thoroughly worked out and each aspect is studied beforehand. The developers in such cases know what is expected of them.

A waterfall approach works in a systematic order, with one step following the other and the testing phase comes in the end. If there are any big problems encountered in the testing phase, it means a long process to make the amends. The process can consume extra time and money.

We cannot conclude that one approach is better than the other, as every method would have its own strengths and weaknesses. The determination of success for each method depends on how it is being used and whether the approach suits the scope of work being undertaken. While one approach may be suitable for a particular project, it might become totally useless under different circumstances. For example, some believe that agile methods are not well suited for offshore development, as they require a closer contact and communication that is not possible in an offshore project.

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Build Your Own Tree House – Pros and Cons, Fasteners and Hardware

Tree houses are fun, bonding activities you can do with your friends or family, and can provide a unique and ideal hangout spot surrounded by Mother nature. One of the biggest differences in my opinion, between tree houses and other on-ground add-ons you can build on your property, is the fact that a house up in the trees sways – to varying degrees depending on the height and size of the Tree and branches – and so can add a unique and soothing feel.

There are several prerequisites that must be met before this particular project would be considered feasible for you. The first ones are also the most obvious:

  1. Do you have a suitable tree with your property on which you can construct your tree house? This question may be ambiguous to some, as what kind of tree exactly is considered suitable? Well, this depends largely on the size of the structure in question, as well as the expected load – number of people, furnishings, etc. The larger your tree house is, the larger your tree needs to be.
  2. How are you with heights? Now is not a good time to kid yourself or anyone else if you happen to be abnormally scared of heights! We're all scared of heights to varying degrees, but if you lack the courage or ability to comfortably work at the needed height, this project may not be for you. Granted, it can be built relatively low to the ground as well and still be called a "tree house" – in which case, this may not apply.

Now that we have those out of the way, we can get into the other aspects of building. When compared with a structure on the ground, a tree house may somehow seem like a simpler project due to the fact that some of us have grown up "throwing" little makeshift tree houses up here and there. However, it's important to remember that any halfway decent structure, whether on the ground or up in a tree, requires careful planning and implementation of standard safety code.

Here are some other questions you should ask yourself before concluding the planning stage:

  1. What will I use the tree house for? Depending on your answer, you may want a roof and walls, or you may find it unnecessary. In either case, a rail and / or walls at least a meter high is recommended for safety.
  2. How long do I want it to last? You may think that the answer to this question is obvious, but you should understand that the lifespan of your tree house depends heavily on the materials you use and the quality and number of layers of your protective stain. Tree houses, by virtue of their definition, stand within and under the canopy of the tree in which they are built. Because of this, they are more susceptible to premature rot due to the prolonged shade and humid nature of their environment. The fallen leaves and branches scattered across the deck also serve as decay-accelerators unless they are regularly swept off.

Foundation and Floor-shape

One of the unique beauties of a tree house is the fact that you can simply build around the various branches leaving them exposed within your tree house, enhancing the "natural" atmosphere. As with an on-ground structure, you should start with building your base and floor. You may face complications with the shape of your floor due to the limitations of suitable branches to base off of.

Because of this, there's a possibility you may have to set up for a non-square shape. This may be what you want, or this may be a problem for you. In any case, you should understand that there are some restrictions placed upon you by the particular tree you're working with. All branches used for a foundation should be able to single-handedly carry several hundred pounds, and more if you're expecting higher traffic.

Tree Wood Density and Fastener Quality

Large tree houses that weigh more than the collective weight of their occupants should be carefully designed , as various factors such as the hardness of the tree and fastener quality and design come more into play. Wood will compress where the fasteners connect to the tree to varying degrees based on the hardness of the tree in question, causing a sinking of the tree house.

Professional-grade Tree house Fasteners – Are they Necessary?

There are various tree house fasteners available on the market today specially manufactured for their unique needs. However, the question invariably arises as to how necessary these customized bolts and brackets are in comparison to normal ones found in home centers due to their price. They often cost between one and several hundred dollars each!

The first thing to bear in mind when contemplating the pros and cons of these rather pricey pieces of hardware is that trees are living organizations, and are still growing, moving, and changing shape. Therefore, your tree house and the hardware on which it is mounted must accommodate this movement. Simply bolting the beams into the tree's branches results in a fixed attachment that will force the tree to either pull the screw through the beam or try to grow around the beam.

The first of the two will result in a sudden and dangerous failure , while the second will result in an unhealthy and unnatural growth around the beam, potentially causing disease and decay to set in. Custom bolts and brackets are made with a certain allowance for tree growth, with a section of the bolt that is embedded deep in the tree's heartwood and a large shank that allows axial movement coupled with a female part that is attached to the beam.

So to answer the question of whether these expensive custom parts are necessary, the short answer is yes, and no. Yes, if you lack the know-how to find parts that will accomplish the same purpose as the professional parts do, and no, if you do, and do not require your tree house to last for fifty years. Home centers sell bolts and hardware with large diameters and lengths which can be used, but the entire shank can not be threaded.

The half or so that is embedded into the tree must be threaded, but the reminder that acts as the cushion to compensate for tree-growth must be smooth. You also need a female piece that fits around the smooth shank that has a bracket that can be screwed into your beam. This female bracket then has the freedom to slide along the axis of the smooth bolt shank as the tree grows in girth. All parts should be stainless steel as well – others may corrode to failure.

Obviously, the big tree house building companies would disagree with the above opinion, and the ideal is to buy these parts. I'm just offering an alternative for those who do not have a large budget but still want to construct a safe and environmentally-friendly tree house. There is also a chance you will not be able to find hardware that meets the criteria, leaving you with no other choice.

The professional criterion when it comes to fastening your tree house to your tree seems to be "perch, do not pin". I agree whole-heartedly with this principle and any alternative I save above should not contradict this. But not everyone looking to build a tree house is willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars, so, your budget is a primary factor in determining the quality as well as what kind you would build.

In any case, it should be a safe and fun place to accommodate whatever activities you envision. Taking into consideration the damage inflicted on the tree as well as future complications that may arrise such as those mentioned above when planning, is simply the responsible and consider course of action.

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Introduction to Fixed Asset Management

There are obvious benefits from implementing and maintaining a record and control over assets. Savings can be obtained from being able to both see current asset deployment and thenby maximizing their use. Monitoring assets will reduce unauthorized use or misappropriation and insure employees leaving a firm return assets under their control. In some cases a system is mandated by government regulations, terms of lending, public grant terms, insurance terms etc. One person can maintain and manage all fixed assets of a business if they have software to assist them. Computer systems and software available reduce complexity, save time and prevent mistakes. Why use an asset management software program?

While paper and pencil methods can be used, software programs assist in the recording, maintenance and auditing of assets. This saves time and gives a clear picture of assets since sorting and viewing in different ways is quick and easy.

The most basic 'solution' would be using a spreadsheet program such as excel. Even after migrating to software specifically designed for asset management there are times that a spreadsheet program may continue to be useful.

What is an Asset?

What you call an asset often depends upon your business activities. The first thing that comes to mind is fixed assets such as computers, production equipment, office furnishings etc. You might even wish to consider employees as assets or even service and maintenance contracts. A flexible asset management software program can provide a way to track many things most of us would not consider to be assets.

What are my first steps in setting up a system or 'solution'?

1: Decide what assets will be managed.

The more assets the more work in setting up your system. Limiting assets to only those over a certain dollar value is a good idea.

2: Deciding what characteristics of assets it is important to record within the software.

Your choices will not only have an effect upon the amount of work required but also the amount to which you can manipulate and view asset information by sorting on asset information field or combination of fields.

For example if you setup a field for 'location' then you can sort data to see what assets are in each location. If you also have a field for 'type' or 'class' then you could further sort and display to show only certain types of assets such as computers at one or more location.

As in every aspect of life one has to make tough choices between what is ideal and what is feasible. Your choices will have an effect upon data data when new assets arrive as well as collecting information about existing assets. Choices you make will also have a bearing upon your choice of software since some may not handle everything you want. One such a limitation is found within the AssetTrakker Pro software program. TrackitSoftware does not provide a method of tracking depreciation because it was felt this added too much complexity requiring the collecting and maintaining of a lot more data. Additionally, they felt, handling depreciation requires superior knowledge of government rules and regulations beyond the expertise of the very people that stand to benefit most from asset management. Accounting departments already calculate and account for depreciation. * Some software does promote depreciation calculation but only limited functionality that in most cases is not the way regulations demand.

Some help!

Below is a listing of Asset Attributes 'fields' for your consideration. You will not want to use all of them for your own 'solution' and may well have additional ones you need.

Asset #: The key identification reference used to track assets. They can be straight numbers or a number with an alphabet prefix. (0001 or A001). This number is used for audit purposes and for cross-reference.

Make: Manufacturer

Model: Use when arranging service or buying parts. Use as allowed grouping by model type.

Serial #: Specific asset identification. Needed when making warranty or insurance claims.

Cost to Repl .: Estimate the cost of replacing an asset. Useful for planning, risk assessment and insurance.

Cross Ref. #: Reference other asset number or tie together group of assets.

Type: Can be used for general grouping such as furniture, computer, shipping, etc.

Condition: Helpful to see what is likely to require replacement or decide on service needs.

Description: Other detail in addition to make, model, and serial number.

Memo: Additional information about the asset. If a computer you might want to list details of the hardware configuration or even the programs installed on it.

Department: This is helpful for sorting assets by department to assist in auditing.

Location: Good field to have so that a search / sort can give you a clear view of where assets are located.

Used by: Necessary if you have assets in the personal possession of an employee and / or assets off business concessions.

Date Assigned: Useful if assets are moved around or for telling how long an asset has been at its current location.

Expected EOL: The anticipated date when the asset will no longer be useful.

Funded by: Source of funds if provided by Bond Issue, or outside funds (loan) or a grant.

Cost: Total cost of acquiring an asset.

Date Acquired: Helps give some idea when replacement may be required.

Disposed: Indicates an asset has been disposed of.

Disposed Date: Date asset was disposed of.

Business Use%: Used if an asset is not used full time by the business to break down asset use. Not for everyone, but a field that imagination might find an indispensable use for.

OUT: Used for Tool / Equipment Tracking,

Taken By / In From: Used for Tool / Equipment Tracking to indicate who is taking or returning item.

Date Due: Used for Tool / Equipment Tracking to show when an asset is due back.

Recovered Value: Net proceeds of the disposal of an asset.

Disposed Detail: Notes on how and where an asset was treated of.

Warranty: Indicates if asset is covered by a warranty or could be used if covered by a service / maintenance contract.

Warranty Expiry: It is useful to see what expiries are approaching for tracking maintenance or service agreements. Helps prevent paying for service covered by warranty as well as prompting the repair of items before expiration.

Image: Can assist in asset identification or where 'look' is an important feature. Useful if insurance claim ever made.

Value: Could be amount the asset is insured for. Risk exposure control.

Leased: Helps keep track of Leased vs Owned assets.

Lease End: Used to warn when assets have to be replaced or the lease has to be renewed according to the terms of the lease.

Lease Start: Commencement date of lease on leased equipment.

Lease Co: The name of the company from which an asset is leased.

Audit Date: This column records the date the batch scans of assets were made for audit purposes.

Auditor: Record the name of the person who performed the audit.

What next?

By now you have a good idea of ​​what asset information you want to track. Before looking at the various software packages available you should consider how many people will be entering data and how many will be accessing the data. For a smaller organization it is likely that just one person will be involved but in larger firms despite a number will wish to participate. Your situation could require purchasing more than one software license and the software must support multiple users.

Use a Barcode Scanner?

A barcode scanner can be used to speed data entry and auditing. This will add to the cost and most lower priced software packages offer limited support for barcode scanners. If properly incorporated into software a scanner can provide excellent value and save a lot of time, particularly for annual audit purposes.

Below are outlined the types of barcode scanners used with asset management software.

A 'dumb' tethered ccd scanner is cheapest and purchased for around $ 70. This can only be used when plugged into the computer and acts just to a keyboard in that you scan a barcode and it is put into whatever cell or space you are in.

A 'laser' tethered scanner is more money but will be able to scan smaller barcodes and sometimes have a defect field of view (easier to scan a barcode quickly).

A ccd or laser scanner which has built in memory so scans can be made and then the scanner can be brought back and plugged into a computer, and those scans uploaded. This is extremely useful for audit purposes. For maximum utility your software should be optimized to take advantage of this 'batch' memory capability. A capable unit can be obtained for around $ 150.

A laser scanner with internal memory, as well as an input screen and keys, means that after scanning a barcode you can add additional information. These are more expensive and again their use has to be integrated into your management software. While prices are coming down you are looking at units in the pocket pc price range plus scanner cost. It is usual for software utilizing these units to also, for some reason, be priced higher.

Asset Management Software

The range of prices for asset management software is $ 200 to $ 10,000 and all require you to do the entry of existing asset data as well as some setting up for your requirements. Some offer telephone advice at additional cost but hands on assistance only comes with expensive packages (this level of software requires expensive sales force and marketing expense so possibly their price, for the features provided, may seem high).

Purchasing Criteria a lot of people seem to use. You may have more.

1: Price 2: Ease of implementation of system 3: Ease of use 4: Ability to fit the business 5: Functionality 6: Potential to handle growth

What you can obtain for a reasonable price

A program with full relational database, such as MS SQL Server Express, or open source database. Today there is no reason to set for less power or quality. Microsoft provides their SQL 2005 'Express' DB version at no cost.

A program that allows you to attach images of assets. While not necessary for everyone it is something that someday you might want to use.

A program that integrates the use of inexpensive 'batch' memory barcode scanners because, if not now, at some point in the future such an accessory will save time and money. Used in auditing it assures an asset was actually seen as barcode had to be scanned.

A program that will permit the management of 10,000+ assets. With decent memory in your computer and a fast full relational database engine there is not much of a limitation anymore and while certain functions may slow down a bit even a low cost program should handle over 10,000 assets.

A program that is flexible so you can take advantage of features later instead of having to implement everything at once.

* If more than one person is to be given access to the database then you should ensure that different levels of access can be set for different users to prevent unauthorized changes to data.

What you can get but not cheaply.

A program that integrates directly into your current accounting system.

A program that has full professional depreciation calculations.

A program that runs directly off your company server (lower cost software runs off workstations and while a central database can be located on your server and accessed by individual workstations this is not the same as complete software being server based with applets on workstations.

Hand holding and in house training to get your system up and running. There are firms that will sit down with you and ask you all the right questions, set up your software, audit and list all your assets and then train your staff how to operate and maintain your 'solution'. Most, to my knowledge, will recommend a mid to high priced software because it is easier to sell (commission higher as well) and easier for them to install due to their familiarity with it.

Nuts and Bolts

Gathering your Asset Information How you perform this step depends upon your situation. In our discussion below we assume you do not have existing asset information, in an existing excel spreadsheet or other format. If you do then you would save work by exporting / importing that data into your asset management software.

Starting your Asset Listing and Numbering from Scratch

This is an advantage because you are not limited by inherited constraints. Of course it is more work, as you can not just load in existing asset information but have to collect everything yourself.

Collecting asset information is time consuming. Getting this information accurately, with as little work as possible is important. Thinking about how to do the job and planning will help make this big job easier.

The following is how I suggest doing this but you may have your own, sometimes better plan.

Create data entry sheets that you will have people write in information about assets under their control. Your asset management software may create these or you could make up an excel spreadsheet to obtain them.

Try and obtain some 'buy in' from the department or location manager with control over assets. The closer to the asset you can allocate some responsibility the better that asset will be controlled. 'It's my department's asset' is more powerful an incentive than 'it's IT Dept's asset'.

Final steps

After entering data, that your co-operative managers helped you obtain, it is time to work with that data within your asset management software. It should not take long to become familiar with how it can present information to you on screen and in reports.

Now sit back and enjoy how easy it is to manage your assets.

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