How Car Mechanics Use Technology

Do you know why it’s important to find a good mechanic or a good repair shop to repair your car? The reason: it could save you hundreds of dollars in parts and labor! When we say a “good mechanic” or a “good repair shop”, we’re referring to mechanics who are equipped with the latest technology. You don’t want to entrust your car to a shop with outdated machinery and equipment because it will take longer to arrive at a diagnosis. And the longer a mechanic takes to make a diagnosis, the larger your bill for labor!

Remember that car mechanics charge by the hour.

Car repairs can cover any one or a combination of the following (note that this is not a complete repair list).

• Air conditioning checks

• Air bag checks

• Electrical wiring

• Cables

• Clutch service and repair

• Transmission repair

• Wheel Alignment

• Suspension

• Brakes

• Heating system

• Oil and lubrication

• Battery

• Power windows

Much of the troubleshooting that mechanics use to diagnose a problem is facilitated by car repair technology.

Ever noticed how some lights on your panel come on when something’s wrong? In most cases, an experienced mechanic will know immediately what the problem is, but there are instances where it will take sophisticated technology to lead to an accurate diagnosis.

Sophisticated technology comes in many forms and one popular one is troubleshooting software. Companies like Auto Tech have a software program that car owners can use to find out what is ailing their vehicle.

Most car owners who were cynical about software programs before should seriously consider purchasing a reliable car troubleshooting software program. For instance, some programs start out by asking you to input your car make and model number, the year of the car and what kinds of equipment it has. The software features a large database of information about all cars in the market and a car owner simply follows the steps when prompted. It employs what the industry calls a “tree diagnosis” where logical steps take you through the entire diagnosis process.

After you’ve keyed in your car’s profile, you use the drop down menu to choose the symptoms that your car is exhibiting. For instance, if you choose “squealing brakes”, the program mimics the squealing of brakes and if that’s the sound you hear, you confirm it and the program recommends a series of steps.

You may not really want to use a troubleshooting software, but imagine how much time and money you could save if you spoke to the mechanic intelligently, letting him know that you’re in the know.

Students who are studying towards certification buy certain tools of the trade. A couple of examples are Snap On and Mac Tools. These two are the most popular in the United States and Canada.

Mechanics now have a wide range of technology tools to help them understand car problems better: digital multimeters (electronic measuring), boroscopes (testing heat exchangers), fuel diagnostic testers (testing and balancing fuel injectors) and other such new technologies.

New car mechanic technologies help shorten the learning curve and speed up diagnosis so that the car owner isn’t saddled with too many labor hours.

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Medical Coding History – From Paper to Medial Coding Software

If we define medical coding as the assignment of alphanumerical characters to diagnoses, diseases, and treatments, then medical coding has been traced back to the 1600s in England with the London Bills of Mortality. A more standardized system of coding was developed for classifying death at the tail end of the 19th century. In 1893, Jacque Bertillon, a statistician, created the Bertillon Classification of Causes of Death, a system which was eventually adopted by 26 countries at the beginning of the 20th century. Shortly after the Bertillon Classification system was implemented, people began discussing the possibility of expanding the system beyond mortality as a way of tracking diseases.

By the middle of the 20th century, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a goal of a single global classification system for disease and mortality, entitled the International Classification of Diseases, Injuries, and Causes of Death (ICD). This classification system is updated every 10 years. The latest revision, ICD-10, is scheduled for adoption in the United States in 2013.

What started out as a small set of medical codes has evolved into a complex system that was initially standardized by the American Medical Association back in 1966 with current procedure codes (CPT) codes that are updated annually.

In the late 1970s, the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) was developed based on CPT. HCPCS has three levels of codes: Level One is the original CPT system. Level Two codes are alphanumeric and include non-physician services such as ambulances and other transportation as well as patient devices such as prosthetic devices. Level Three codes were developed as local codes, and were discontinued in 2003 in order to keep all codes relevant worldwide.

Recently, medical coding systems have been expanded to include other medical specialties. For example, there are coding systems related to disabilities, the dental field, prescription drugs, and mental health.

As the coding systems have become more complex and diverse, the need for training of medical coders has grown exponentially. Private training schools and public colleges throughout the country have developed certification programs. In order to be awarded a certificate, students must obtain a two-year degree from an accredited medical coding school and pass an exam given by the AHIMA.

Over the past 20 years, many coding processes have shifted from a paper-based system to a computer-based system using medical coding software and medical billing software. Many companies sell complete medical software-based coding solutions and myriad of products for specific medical disciplines, such as products that are specifically tailored to skilled nursing facilities, physicians, hospitals, surgery, cardiology, and more.

As medical facilities and professionals begin preparing for the conversion to ICD-10 in 2013, the need for more sophisticated medical coding software solutions and qualified medical coders will continue to grow.

CPT is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association.

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3 Main Causes of Kernel Errors

A kernel error is a failure in some code critical to Windows. If you have ever encountered a Blue Screen of Death (BSoD), then you have seen a kernel error. Windows is actually several layers of programs made to work together. You can think of Windows as if it were your body, with many pieces working together to make a whole, and, like your body, some parts of Windows are more important than others.

The kernel is the most important part of Windows. It includes critical programs to handle things like memory management and device drivers for the graphics card. These programs are like a body's heart and brain. If something in the kernel crashes, it will often cause all of Windows to crash.

Software Failures

Because there are a lot of programs in the kernel, there are many opportunities for bugs to appear. Although Microsoft does extensive testing to get rid of bugs, their testing facilities can not run through all the combinations that billions of computers use with Windows when some bugs get through.

However, many of the kernel failures are in device drivers written by companies that make hardware, not by Microsoft. Your graphics card, for example, probably uses a driver created by the video company. These companies often work with Microsoft to test their drivers, but having companies working together adds an additional layer of complexity.

Hardware Failures

A hardware failure can cause a kernel error. If your graphics card fails, it can send bad data to the graphics device driver, which then crashes, creating a kernel error. If your hard disk fails, it can corrupt files used by Windows and cause the programs that use those files to crash.

Registry Failures

Registry failures can cause kernel errors. The registry is a database of information that Windows uses to store information about programs. If the registry gets corrupt, the programs that use it can cause kernel errors.

Registry corruption can come from either software or hardware failures. Software corruption can come from a bug in one of the programs that writes information out to the registry. Or if you turn off your computer without doing a complete shutdown, the registry files may not get completely written to the disk. Hardware corruption can happen when the hard disk fails causing parts of the registry files to be lost. It's a good idea to do some research on kernel errors and other registry issues.

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Understanding the Significance of Computer Hardware

We are living in an age that is highly influenced by technology. Most of the activities we need to do now are automatic or computerized. Of all the technological developments achieved in the recent past, one significant tool that got developed and which will certainly keep influencing our lives is the computer. You would agree that computers play a very basic role in our daily life, just like the television and the cell phone. We are already at a stage where life will be difficult without a computer. That makes it important to understand the way a computer works, and then be informed of what we should do if it stops working. The most important part of any computer is its hardware, in the absence of which it just can not function.

If you are really keen to assess what has gone wrong with your computer when it stops working, you should understand the working and constituents of its hardware. You should especially have solid knowledge about the computer hardware when you want to undertake its troubleshooting on your own. One important part of the hardware is the RAM memory of any computer. For running any program or application, any computer needs a RAM memory. Other than that, if the computer has a RAM with specifications that are not compatible with the programs it is expected to run, its operation will be slowed down and it would almost crawl. When choosing a computer, you need to ensure that its hardware is not outdated, otherwise you'll have to upgrade it in order to be able to use the intended program.

You must take certain basic precautions while handling the hardware of computers. The most essential precaution is to ensure that the power supply to your computer is switched off, else it could cause an electric shock. Then, before you touch any part within the computer, ensure that you are not carrying any electric charge by connecting to a grounded piece of metal or you may procure an anti-static mat or wrist band available in the market. While inspecting the hardware components, you should look for broken or damaged component, as these are most likely the reasons for the computer malfunction. If a component does not fit in the slot, you are probably trying to fit it in the incorrect slot.

Once you know the hardware employed in your computer and the role it plays in the functionality of your computer, you'll be in a position to undertake its troubleshooting when it malfunctions. Each piece of hardware contributes to the successful function of the computer. To a large extent, the working of a computer depends on the quality of its hardware, making it imperative to keep it in good condition.

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Best Windows 7 Optimizer That Can Stabilize and Improve Your Computer Performance

A system optimizer is a software designed to maintain the performance of your computer, fix software related problems and keep your computer stable and secure. The need of a system optimizer software in Microsoft Windows7 operating system is high. This is because Windows 7 itself is unable to maintain all the mentioned aspects without the help of third-party products.

We are going to learn what exactly Windows 7 optimizer software is.

The best Windows 7 optimizer software shall include all the following features:

1. Registry Cleaner to fix the registry related issues

2. System Cleaner to clean unnecessary stuff and free-up the disk space

3. Registry Defragmenter to defrag the system registry

4. Startup Manager to control the programs running when you turn on your computer

5. Backup & Restore feature to restore unfavourable registry changes

“Registry Cleaner” to Fix the Registry Related Issues

Windows Registry is a vital component in Microsoft Windows 7. It contains information stored by your operating system and installed software. For example, the default settings, changes you made to your computer, system information, runtime data, etc. are stored.

Registry Cleaner is a software that finds the junk entries in the registry, and repairs them as far as possible. Unfortunately, Windows 7 does not include a built-in registry cleaner. The registry cleaner software included in the best Windows 7 optimizer lets you scan the genuine registry problems and correct them. It thereby helps avoiding many runtime errors and problems, such as, File Not Found, etc.

“System Cleaner” to Clean Unnecessary Stuff and Free-Up the Disk Space

A System Cleaner software lets you find the files and stuff that have unnecessarily occupied the hard disk space.

The tasks, like installing a program, uninstalling, repairing or updating the existing programs, and even just running the installed programs many times create temporary files, log files that need not be kept after the corresponding operation is performed. Sadly, many programs do not itself delete such files and stuff and thus your hard disk space is used for such unproductive stuff. Using a system cleaner software included in best Windows 7 optimizer, you can easily and safely delete such temporary stuff.

“Registry Defragmenter” to Defrag the System Registry

You know the importance of the registry in Windows 7 operating system, as already discussed. The continuous access of a number of programs to the registry results in its fragmentation. It reduces the system performance and freezes your computer.

The best Windows 7 optimizer software includes a registry defragmenter that enables analyzing the registry fragmentation and afterwards defrags it. A reboot is required to perform this process and all other running programs and services must be terminated.

“Startup Manager” to Control the Programs when you Turn on your Computer

Running too many programs at the Windows startup, results in system freezing and slow performance. A Startup Manager, included in best Windows 7 optimizer, lets you monitor and control the programs that run each time your computer is started. It lets you disable or delete the unwanted program entries and enable only those who are necessary.

Backup & Restore Feature to Restore the Unfavourable Registry

While doing all the above steps, care must be taken that you have followed some precautionary measures first, so that any unfavourable registry change can be later restored and unwilling situations can be easily avoided. The best Windows 7 optimizer should include such a feature.

Best Windows 7 Optimizer Recommended by Worldwide Experts

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Mortgage Loan Origination Software – 10 Functions of Mortgage Banking

Regardless of a mortgage lending organizations’ size, mortgage loan software, data security solutions and automation tools and services should be able to assist with mortgage loan automation requirements. In today’s chaotic mortgage lending environment origination and document security systems need to be easily configured to emphasize a company’s special needs and increase efficiencies across all aspects of the loan origination process, allowing lenders to increase quality and productivity.

Technology-driven automation is the key to succeeding in the increasingly complex, deeply scrutinized mortgage industry. Web-based (Software-as-a-Service), Enterprise mortgage software that supports the ten primary functions in mortgage banking will provide lenders with the necessary competitive advantages to succeed in today’s mortgage industry.

Ten Primary Functions in Mortgage Banking

  1. Mortgage Web site design, implementation, and hosting to provide product, service, loan status, and company information to mortgage customers and business partners
  2. Online loan applications for gathering information from borrowers and business partners that issue loan terms, disclosures, and underwriting conditions
  3. Loan origination software for managing loan data, borrower data, property data, general status reporting, and calculations
  4. Interface systems to send and receive data from real estate service providers, such as credit reports, flood determinations, automated underwriting, fraud detection, and closing documents
  5. Internal automated underwriting system that is simple enough for originators and sophisticated enough for underwriting portfolio loan products
  6. Document generation for applications, upfront disclosures, business processes, and closing documents
  7. Integrated imaging that is used from loan origination to investor delivery and for file archiving
  8. Interest rate and fee generation along with program qualification guidelines
  9. Secondary marketing data tools to track loan revenue and investor relationships, including warehouse line management and interim servicing to complete the back-office system
  10. Reporting such as loan delivery, year-end fee reporting, and HMDA reporting for loan application disposition

Web-Based, enterprise mortgage software that supports the ten primary functions of mortgage banking simplifies compliance, maximizes operational efficiencies, and increases profitability.

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Wide Area Network (WAN)

Types and Characteristics of WANs

What is a WAN?

There are two prevailing definitions of a Wide Area Network (WAN). The book definition of a WAN is a network that spans large geographical locations, typically to interconnect multiple Local Area Networks (LANs). The practical definition of a WAN is a network that traverses a public network or commercial carrier, using one of several WAN technologies

What are its Main Components?

The main components for a WAN are routers, switches and modems. These components are described below in the hardware section.

CPE – Devices on the subscriber contracts are called customer premises equipment (CPE).
The subscriber owns the CPE or leases the CPE from the service provider. A copper or fiber cable connects the CPE to the service provider's nearest exchange or central office. This cabling is often called the local loop, or "last-mile".

DTE / DCE – Devices that put data on the local loop are called data circuit-terminating equipment, or data communications equipment (DCE). The customer devices that pass the data to the DCE are called data terminal equipment (DTE). The DCE primarily provides an interface for the DTE into the communication link on the WAN cloud.

Hardware

In a WAN you will need various types of hardware components for it to function. The typical items of hardware that you will need in a WAN are:

Router – An electronic device that connects a local area network (LAN) to a wide area network (WAN) and handles the task of routing messages between the two networks. Operates at layer 3, and makes decisions using IP addresses.

Switch – A switch is a network device that selects a path or circuit for sending a unit of data to its next destination. Operates at layer 2, and uses MAC addresses to send data to correct destination.

Modem – Short for modulator / demodulator, a modem that enables a computer to communicate with other computers over telephone lines. Operates at layer 1, where signals are converted from digital to analogue and vice versa for transmission and receiving.

Wan Standards

WANs operate within the OSI model using layer 1 and layer 2 levels. The data link layer and the physical layer. The physical layer protocols describe how to provide electrical, mechanical and functional connections to the services provided by the ISP. The data link layer defines how data is encapsulated for transmission to remote sites.

Encapsulation

Encapsulation is the wrapping of data in a particular protocol header. Remember that WANs operate at the physical layer and the data link layer of the osi model and that higher layer protocols such as IP are encapsulated when sent across the WAN link. Serial interfaces support a wide range of WAN encapsulation types, which must be manually specified. These types include SDLC, PPP, Frame delay etc. Regardless of WAN encapsulation used it must be identical on both sides of the point to point link.

Packet and Circuit Switching

Circuit switching and packet switching are both used in high-capacity networks.
The majority of switched networks today get data across the network
Through packet switching.

Circuit-switching is more reliable than packet-switching. Circuit switching is old and expensive, packet switching is more modern.

General Routing Issues

What is a Routing Protocol?

A routing protocol is a protocol that specifies how routers communicate and exchange information on a network. Each router has prior knowledge of its immediate neighbors and knows the structure of the network topology. The routers know this because the routing protocol shares this information.

Protocol

RIP (Routing Information Protocol) was one of the most commonly used protocols on internal networks. Routers use RIP to dynamically adapt changes to the network connections and communicate information about which networks routers can reach and the distance between them. RIP is sometimes said to stand for Rest in Pieces in reference to the reputation that RIP has for breaking unexpectedly and rendering a network unable to function.

Routing Algorithms

Distance Vector

This type of routing protocol requires that each router simply inform its neighbors of its routing table. The distance vector protocol is also known as the bellman-ford algorithm.

Link State

This type of routing protocol requires that each router maintain a partial map of the network. The link state algorithm is also know as Dijkstra's algorithm.

IGRP

IGRP is a type of distance vector routing protocol invented by cisco used to exchange routing data in a autonomous system. Distance vector protocols measure distances and compare routes. Routers that use distance vector must send all or a portion of their routing table in a routing update message at regular intervals to each neighbor router.

Addressing and Routing

What does routing mean?

Routing is the process of deciding how to move packets from one network to another.
The directions also known as routes can be learned by a router using a routing protocol then the information is passed from router to router along the route of the destination.

IP Address's

Every machine connected to the internet is assigned an IP address. An example of an IP address would be 192.168.0.1. IP addresses are displayed in decimal format to make it easier for humans to understand but computers communicate in binary form. The four numbers that separate an IP address are called Octets. Each position consists of eight bits. When added to together you get 32 ​​bit address. The purpose of each octet in an IP address is to create classes of IP addresses that can be assigned within a network. There are three main classes that we deal with Class A, B and C. The octets of an IP address are split into two parts Network and Host. In a class A address the first octet is the network portion, this determinates which network the computer belongs to, the last octets of the address are the hosts that belong to the network.

Sub netting

Sub netting allows you to create multiple networks within a class A, B or C address. The subnet address is the address used by your LAN. In a Class C network address you would have a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0. A subnet mask identifies which portion is network and which is host. For example 192.168.6.15 the first octet three octets are the Network address and the last octet being the host (Workstation). It is important to subnet a network because gateways need to forward packets to other LANS. By giving each NIC on the gateway an IP address and a Subnet mask it allows the gateways to route packets from LAN to LAN. Once the packet arrives at its destination, the gateway then uses the bits of the subnet portion of the IP address to decide which LAN to send the packets.

Circuit Switched Leased Lines

A circuit switched network is one that establishes a dedicated circuit (or channel) between nodes and terminals before the users may communicate. Here are some terminologies associated with a Circuit switched network.

Frame relay is a telecommunication service designed for cost-efficient data transmission between local area networks (LANs)

Basic rate interference is a service used by small business for internet connectivity. An ISDN BRI provides two 64 Kbps digital channels to the user.
Primary rate interface (PRI) is a telecommunications standard for carrying voice and data transmissions between two locations
All data and voice channels are ISDN and operate at 64kbit / s

Packet Switching

Http://www.raduniversity.com/networks/2004/PacketSwitching/main.htm – _Toc80455261

Packet switching refers to protocols in which messages are broken up into small packets before they are sent. Each packet is then transmitted over the Internet. At the destination the packages are reassembled into the original message. Packet switching main difference from Circuit Switching is that that the communication lines are not dedicated to passing messages from the source to the destination. In Packet Switching, different messages can use the same network resources within the same time period.

Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asynchronous_Transfer_Mode

Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) is a cell relay, packet switching network and protocolwhich encodes data into small fixed-sized cells.

ISDN is used to carry voice, data, video and images across a telephone network. ISDN stands for integrated services Digital Network. Isdn also provides users with a 128kbps bandwidth. This is done through frame relay. Frame relay complements and provides a service between ISDN, which offers bandwidth at 128 Kbps and Asynchronous Transfer Mode which operates in somewhat similar fashion to frame relay but at speeds from 155.520 Mbps or 622.080 Mbps. Frame relay is based on the older X.25 packet switching technology and is used to transmit analogue signals such as telephone conversations.

PSDN stands for packet switched data network and is a data communication network. Packet switched networks do not establish a physical communication signal like the public telephone circuit (circuit switched network) Packets are sent on a fixed length basis and assigned with a source and a destination address. The packages then explicitly on the routers to read the address and route the packets through the network.

Mobile and Broadband Services

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is mainly used to bring high bandwidth connections to homes and small business's over a copper wire telephone line. This is can only be achieved if you stay within the range of the telephone exchange. DSL offers download rates of up to 6mbps allowing continuous transmission of video, audio and 3D effects. DSL is set to replace ISDN and compete with the cable modem in providing multimedia to homes. DSL works by connecting your telephone line to the telephone office over copper wires that are twisted together.

Asymmetric Digital Subscribers Line is most commonly used for home users. It provides a high download speed but a lower upload speed. Using ADSL, up to 6.1 megabits per second of data can be sent downstream and up to 640 Kbps upstream.

Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symmetric_Digital_Subscriber_Line

Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line is a digital subcriber line which runs over one pair of copper wires. The main difference between ADSL and SDSL is the difference in upload and download speeds. SDSL allows the same upstream data rate and downstream data rate as ADSL upstream can be very slow.

[Http://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0],,sid7_gci558545,00.html

HDSL High bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line, one of the earliest forms of DSL, is used for wideband digital transmission within a corporate site and between the telephone company and a customer. The main characteristic of HDSL is that that provides equal bandwidth in both directions.

IDSL is a system in which data is transmitted at 128 Kbps on a regular copper telephone line from a user to a destination using digital transmission.

The Local Loop enables operators to connect directly to the consumer via copper local loops and then add their own equipment to offer broadband and other services. This process involves operators accessing local exchange buildings to connect to a network of copper lines which connect them to homes and businesses. BT is an Example of a Local Exchange. The local loop connecting the telephone exchange to most subscribers is capable of carrying frequencies well beyond the 3.4 kHz upper limit.

Benefits of using DSL

DSL can provide a virtual instantaneous transmission of voice, data and video over ordinary copper phone lines. A DSL connection can eliminate delays while waiting to download information and graphics from the Internet. It provides users with a cost effective high speed Internet connection. Another benefit is that a DSL connection is always on-line (like a LAN connection) with no waiting time for dialing or connecting.

There are now more than 10 million broadband connections in the UK. By December 2005 there were 9.792 million broadband connections in the UK and the average broadband take up rate during the three months to December was more than 70,000 per week.

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The Advantages of Working With a Software Boutique Company

First of all, a boutique is a small shop where clients can find dedicated merchandise and unique items, or products which are produced in small quantities. The advantage of entering in such a shop, compared to big supermarkets, is that here you’ll also find staff ready to assist you and to give you guidance step by step. Indeed, one may say that a boutique charges higher prices, also in comparison to chain stores, which is definitely true. However, once you bought something from a boutique you’ll have the feeling that you own a unique item, which will differentiate you from the rest, and isn’t this what we all want – to be unique?

Software boutiques are a new way of defining petite software companies which are focused on a certain niche, and which are able to offer specialized support to their customers. Even more, such a firm is able to offer a unique product, tailored on the client’s needs and requirements. But, let’s see what advantages does a customer have when collaborating with a software boutique company:

Tailored product

A software boutique takes the client’s specifications and transforms them into a customized piece of software. Practically, if you are not satisfied by the mass-produced software programs which you can find, then a boutique company will tailor a product according to each and everyone of your requirements. The outcome will be a software product which is able to fit perfectly your company’s needs.

Niche focus

Generally, a boutique company is focused on a certain niche, for example developing applications and software products using Microsoft technologies. The advantage of having such a partner, is that you’ll have the confidence that he has the knowledge and proven experience to offer you the best advices regarding that specific area, and that he’s always updated with the latest technologies.

Crystal clear communication and dedicated support

Having a smaller amount of projects, a boutique software company can offer its clients dedicated support, according to every client’s need through a direct communication flow. This means that the information won’t need to travel through several departments until it reaches you, so that you’ll always be updated with the status and the quality of the work.

A good communication, not only that can save time, but also can make the development process more efficient. For example if you want a specific functionality for your application, collaborating with a boutique firm, you’ll able to keep track of the development process and promptly interfere in the development process if the work isn’t going in the desired direction, or if you want to change the approach. Also, fewer the clients, better the support. Practically, a software boutique will offer you their entire attention and expertise, whenever this is required.

Every client is important

For a boutique company every client is important, and because they can’t afford to lose a client, they can’t really afford to do a bad job. Every development project is treated with care, and you’ll know for sure that your project will be handled by the best men.

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Review of Takeoff Software for Estimating Construction

So often people want to rush out and buy estimating software or takeoff software without first trying to define their internal estimating processes. Once the estimating process is clearly defined, then and only then, can you actually try to compartmentalize the process into segments. So often the segment is really quantity takeoff. Takeoff of what you may wonder? That is like the million dollar question. This article will speak about the takeoff software process which usually associated with estimating software processes. The takeoff software process can often be takeoff of materials for some folks, and to many others, the takeoff process of scoped systems to create estimates or proposals. This review or comparison will not try to explain the estimating software process but bring to you valid quantity takeoff thinking among estimators in a quest to find which product thinks the way you do. These are the opinions of the author.

I will review and compare 3 types of measuring takeoff products:

It is extremely important to note that these are ONLY measuring takeoff programs, NOT estimating programs.

1) Planswift

2) On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software

3) Electronic Plan Takeoff Software

All three products have their strengths, however, Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff are stand-alone products and Electronic Plan Takeoff is actually dynamically integrated live with Microsoft Excel which means that it starts and finishes and saves in Excel. They all integrate with Excel, however, you will have to evaluate your thought process and decide which of the three products work-flow think along the lines of how you think. For instance, what is the first thing you do when you get a set of plans? Typically, you start flipping through the plans to see how involved the project is and what type of work do you see that is attractive for your company. Then when you decide you are going to estimate this job, more often than not, you start like 80% of companies in the world of construction estimating by opening your takeoff master template Excel spreadsheet. You rename your spreadsheet to the new job or project and off you go performing takeoff. This is where the differences are:

In Planswift, you decide what drawing you are on and then you perform the measuring of an item you want to perform takeoff on the plan. Unfortunately, that is not exactly how an estimator thinks. Planswift does give you the ability to add a type of takeoff item on the fly by naming it and then perform takeoff of it; somewhat of a very manual and slow process. They also provide you with the ability of applying a type of assembly to a takeoff to aggregate quantities of items in that assembly. Not quite the way an estimator thinks. It forces you to jump to different screens which slows down the process. Typically, the main start of anyone’s takeoff process, or some may think of it as a checklist approach, is to start with your own spreadsheet of YOUR items. Those items can be material items or can be scoped assembly system items. Either way, by starting with a master spreadsheet say in Excel for example, many estimators think of this as a risk reducer, not to forget things they normally takeoff. Being that Planswift is a stand-alone takeoff program, it typically saves your takeoff images in Planswift instead of your estimate in Excel, if Excel is your estimating system. If you are using Excel, you have to manually save your takeoff measurement numbers in Excel and your takeoff images in Planswift or elsewhere, just not in Excel where the takeoff quantity resides. Again, if you want to integrate with Excel, they force you to either export or import takeoff items from Excel rather than being dynamically integrated live to Excel. They do however have the ability to dump the measured quantity from Planswift into any Excel spreadsheet or Word document. The main purpose or the primary focus of this program is measuring, therefore it does a good job at that function. Most of the other functions require you to jump around different screens, and essentially, you loose your thought of where you are. There are some features that attempt to address the estimating process, however, there are many features that are missing for Planswift to be a full fledged estimating system; it is NOT one. Planswift does integrate with the leading estimating system Sage Timberline, but the integration is weak. Since Timberline’s power is in assembly takeoff and where most estimators reside in Timberline, Planswift does not give the estimator the ability to add quantities of miscellaneous Timberline items or one-time items that need to added on the fly to an assembly while they are in Planswift at the Timberline interview screen, and while being in the measuring phase. Planswift does allow the deleting of assembly generated items as well adjusting assembly item quantities in a different screen. Again, to perform all that, you are forced to jump around to different screens. No assembly is ever perfect in any estimating system since project conditions are always uniquely different, therefore, having to add items to an assembly is extremely important. That adding of items and associated quantities is an absolute requirement any estimator typically has to do during the takeoff measuring and estimating phase; something that Planswift struggles with as related to Timberline Estimating. Planswift does allow the direct send of measurements to Timberline Estimating items and assemblies while in Timberline Estimating, just as you would do with the old digitizer measuring boards. Training, support and maintenance are extra for Planswift. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (mandatory) which costs the end user more expense annually especially if a customer has more than one license.

On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff is the Grand Daddy of software takeoff products due to the fact that it has been around the longest. On Center recognizes that On-Screen Takeoff is primarily a measuring program. That is why they have a separate estimating program named QuickBid for those who want an estimating program. On Center does not try to trick you into thinking it is an estimating system. In On-Screen Takeoff, you also decide what drawing you are on and then you perform the measuring of the plan. BUT, before you start, you can load a master set styles of things you typically takeoff or measure from your own library. That process seems to be less complicated than that of Planswift. On-Screen Takeoff does give you the ability to add a type of takeoff item on the fly by naming it and then performing takeoff of it; somewhat of a manual and slow process as well. The program does come with many features that are primarily focused on simple measuring to advanced measuring issues all with attention to detail regarding easy navigation for the takeoff process. On Center does a very good job at that. However, there seems to be a disconnect of thought from an Excel spreadsheet items you may use for estimating and/or proposals. The integration to Microsoft Excel is not a dynamic live link, more like an after thought in my opinion. Yes, you can establish links to named styles to cells or ranges in Excel, somewhat rigid. But the question you will have to ask yourself, which will happen more often than not is: What do you do when you need to add things on the fly during takeoff and in an Excel spreadsheet? Again there will be manual associations you will have to establish with Excel which is another major slowdown. You have to manually save your takeoff measurement numbers in Excel and your takeoff images in On-Screen or anywhere you decide, except the takeoff images will not be saved in Excel where the takeoff quantity resides. This type of situation arises when a takeoff program is a stand-alone program. On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff has the best integration with the most widely used estimating system in the USA: Sage Timberline Estimating. It basically mimics the same interview process as you would do with the old digitizer measuring boards. By working directly with Timberline, On-Screen Takeoff allows the estimator to perform takeoff of a Timberline variable question and immediately returns back directly with the takeoff quantity in a Timberline assembly at the variable question. By virtue of this process, On-Screen Takeoff allows the estimator to continue his/her Timberline interview process in Sage Timberline Estimating by reviewing/massaging generated quantities, or adding items in a Timberline assembly as the estimator see fit. That workflow process gives full control to the estimator, good job On Center. Training, support and maintenance are extra for On-Screen Takeoff. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (mandatory) which costs the end user more expense annually especially if a customer has more than one license.

This next system is ONLY if your estimating system or proposal generator is Microsoft Excel. Electronic Plan Takeoff Software is a plug-in for Excel. You start your spreadsheet, you perform the measuring takeoff, you may even add some more items on the fly all the while you are in the measuring phase in the Electronic Plan Takeoff program. When you are done, even if you added items on the fly, they automatically appear in your Excel spreadsheet. Excel is the control of everything. Your project is started in Excel, your takeoff is saved in Excel, the estimate or proposal is/can be produced there in Excel; one program, one place. Many takeoff programs interface with Excel somehow, but only Electronic Plan Takeoff is live linked with Excel, meaning all your Excel spreadsheet descriptions appear in the measuring takeoff program so you always know where you are in Excel. That is a huge difference in comparison to Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff. You can even change a description of a takeoff item in Electronic Plan Takeoff and it is automatically changed live, in your Excel spreadsheet. When you talk about the estimating and takeoff phase you must keep processes cleans and easy and this program does just that. There is no getting lost in this program. Just like the other reviewed programs above, the central focus of this program is takeoff measuring, and it does a GREAT job at that. The navigation within the program is really simple and easy. It is not made to work with other estimating systems, but there is a version that allows the direct send of measurements to any Microsoft Windows program awaiting a keyboard entry, just as you would do with digitizer measuring boards. There is also a version that works with digitizer boards as well. If you use Microsoft Excel for estimating, or takeoffs, or proposals, then this Electronic Plan Takeoff program for Excel would be your best choice. The integration to Excel is unmatched in Electronic Plan Takeoff compared to Planswift or On-Screen Takeoff. What is quite different in Electronic Plan Takeoff is that training, support, and maintenance are INCLUDED with a purchase, whereas training, support and maintenance are extra for Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff. Moreover, annual support and maintenance for Electronic Plan Takeoff year two and beyond is a low fee per company per year, instead of per license. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (mandatory) which costs the end user more expense annually especially if a customer has more than one license.

Microsoft and Excel are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Planswift is the registered trademark of Tech Unlimited, Inc. On-Screen Takeoff and QuickBid are registered trademarks of On Center Software, Inc. Sage Timberline Office, Sage Timberline Estimating are registered trademarks of Sage Software, Inc.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Professional Shopping Cart Software

Advantages & Disadvantages of professional shopping cart software As e-Commerce is becoming a regular technique in the business industry it appears that more and more software development firms are developing professional shopping cart software to be released in the market. There is currently a huge range of free shopping cart software that has been released, and it seems that most e-Commerce website owners prefer these free systems over paid for professional shopping cart software. In this article we are going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of professional shopping cart software.

Advantages

• Even though you will have to pay for the solution, you get a cart package that has been fully developed, tested and used in the real working world by other e-Commerce websites. If the solution is used by a popular website service then the chances are it has been under more than enough testing to be deemed ready for use.

• Professional shopping cart software will be supported by the people who developed it. A lot of free solutions out there are simply developed and then discontinued as the freelance developers move onto their next project. Support is essential if you are going to want upgrades as mentioned in our next point.

• As the system is supported, the development team are likely to fix any bugs that may occur and provide patches and security fixes. This means the shopping cart software will only get better as time goes on and furthermore improve your e-Commerce website.

• Your site is likely to be more secure when using a professional software solution as in most cases the it developed house private content management systems. This improves security as public content management systems such as WordPress are constantly under threat from hackers as they try to compromise the free source code.

• Another huge advantage of using professionally developed software in e-Commerce is that they will already support a huge range of different payment options for your customers. There are various carts – that only offer PayPal for payment by standard, and it can take a very long time to find plug-ins or figure out how to add other methods yourself. With professional software you can save time and possibly money as it is all included.

Disadvantages

• Your e-Commerce venture might be a small time project and professional cart does cost money which you may not have. In this case you may have to make do with a free shopping cart solution. The good part of conducting business online is that after you have made profit with the free system you can reinvest your money to buy a professional package.

• You trust the developers to do everything they promise to ensure the best experience. It might be slightly difficult to use at first and you might have to spend some time getting used to the bespoke system. You also have to understand that you are vulnerable until patches are made if a security flaw is found.

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