Sunday 30 September 2018

More BookingTrack News

I'm still working on BookingTrack - see THIS page for the detailed description. The current focus of the work is to make some key parts of the database available on the local network of computers and devices that the client uses.

So far, I have the Contact Logging part of the program working as a stand-alone module that will allow staff members to log contact with the clients from any machine connected to the network. These devices can be either a PC or an Android-powered mobile phone or tablet device.

If I'm honest, I've never done this type of client/server programming before and I'm finding it all a bit of a challenge to get things working smoothly. I need to write down much more - in terms of notes about rules and data structures - than I've ever had to do before. Still, it is enjoyable and has given me loads of ideas for more projects over the long winter.

Saturday 8 September 2018

Working With RFID Tags

As often happens, I was asked an unusual question by a customer the other day and just had to investigate further. The customer had been looking at quite expensive RFID chip-based cards to use in order to use them as gift vouchers and then as ongoing membership cards.

Well it turns out the cards and readers are really inexpensive if you don't actually need to write data to the cards. I wouldn't write to the cards anyway as that has all sorts of GDPR ramifications that are better avoided.

So, I ordered a card reader from Amazon and while I waited for it to arrive, I started to work out some basic software to manage some cards. As is usually the case with something I'm interested in, progress is fairly quick and after just a couple of days working at it on and off, here's the current state of progress.

So, once you start the program, it will sit and wait for you to scan a tag. If that tag is in the database, then you will be able to display and update the account information for that person as shown below.

As you can see in the top image, I have both cards and key fobs to test with, so the program allows you to register one of each with a given customer. For this customer, the program offers basic account management, to keep track of the balance associated with the account.

I'm going to work on a loyalty card type system next, based on this same framework, but simply counting up the number of times the card is used to offer discounts, bonuses and so on. I've found a source of ready-printed cards (they work out at about £1 each or so in sensible quantities).

As always, watch this space.

Tuesday 28 August 2018

BookingTrack Progress and InvoiceBuilder

Well, development is slowing down a bit - mostly because the primary requirements are mostly written and tested - but that's another 2200 lines of code during the long weekend.

The system now has support for the creation and management of menus for functions - something the client requested at our last progress meeting. Loads of bugs have been squashed and I'm currently adding lots of range checks and input limits to help trap more possible bugs. Find out more by following the link HERE.

On a related front, I'm also working on InvoiceBuilder. This fairly simple program makes it possible to create an invoice or quotation from a database of products or services. It will record the details and create a nice, well-laid-out printable document on demand.

It's totally configurable and "Just Works", ideal for any small business that still prepares their accounts manually or on a spreadsheet and want something more professional and consistent in look and feel. it even allows you to create an Invoice Wizard that guides you step by step through creating a standard invoice or quotation.

The main invoice screen even looks similar to the final invoice to make it easy to follow and easy to use.

Sunday 19 August 2018


Once I get started on a new project, there's just no stopping me until it is complete. After just eight days of development, BookingTrack is almost 4000 lines of code and getting close to being ready for real-world testing.

It will allow the client who has asked for it to keep track of client contacts and manage bookings across their multi-space events and hospitality venue here on the Isle of Man. I'll probably make it available to others later, but much testing needs to be done yet.

Full details of progress and features can be found at this link - BookingTrack

Sunday 1 April 2018

Spring Flowers

Well, I'm trying to keep up with my New-Year's resolution and managing to take a few photos - still only when I feel like it, but that's no bad thing really.

I'm also trying to have a fairly quiet Easter weekend, not doing to much for the couple of days I have off other than catching up on the latest Windows Spring Creators Update on my main PC and laptop. Honestly, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about as little seems to change for such a big and complicated process.

Anyway, here are some of the photos I have taken in the garden today. Spring does seem to be finally arriving - my cherry-plum trees are nearly ready to burst into flower and the rest of the fruit trees will not be far behind. I'll try and revisit the garden when they start to open up and get a few blossom photos, but for now we'll have to make do with primroses and narcissus.

All images taken with the usual Pentax K3 and today's lens of choice, the Sigma 50mm 1:2.8 DG Macro. It's far and away the sharpest lens I have, as well as the one that allows these real close-up macro shots to shine.

Sunday 25 March 2018

Sulby Reservoir

At last some weather good enough to let me get out with the quadcopter. I took a trip up to Sulby Reservoir and flew from the middle of the dam.

Next time I go up there, I'll try and get high enough to see over the summit of Snaefell - I didn't quite manage it this time.

Sunday 18 March 2018

Catching up with Flying Time

I can't believe that the computers4-U website was last updated in 2010. This seems to be the problem with websites of all sizes - they get created (often with quite a lot of effort) and then they get pretty much abandoned and ignored. Of course, I'm not the only one guilty of this, but I do sometimes feel that I could do more to help.

Following on from this fairly successful attempt to use the Blogger platform to create and maintain a site, I suggested to Russell that the shop's site should move to the same platform. This would make it instantly update-able at any time, easier to maintain and a bit more contemporary. It also allows the shop to post news and special offers at any time.

Anyway, the new site is now live at and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out for just a morning's work. Hopefully, I'll move some more of my static sites over to the Blogger platform in the near future.

Sunday 4 March 2018

Making Chains

Every so often, I get the urge to be a bit more creative. To be honest, it's been quite a while since this was last the case. Even taking photos was just too much effort in 2017. I'm working on the photography side this year, but still find it difficult to just go out and take pictures like I once did - age I guess!

So, for the dark days of winter, I've tried to find something that I can do in the warm indoors. To this end, I thought I'd play around with some chain-mail (or chain-maille if we're being posh and /or American) jewellery. It's really simple to get started, just join a few metal rings together and there you go.

Clearly, it isn't as simple as that in practice, as everything is small and fiddly and there are dozens - if not hundreds - of patterns to experiment with. Here are some of my tests so far - nothing serious or very good yet, but I'm getting there. I hope to make some in sterling silver once I get a bit more practice under my belt.