Addsum web site and general info

Postings here will focus mainly on Advanced Accounting software updates, tips, and related topics. They will also include general comments relating to troubleshooting PC/Windows/network problems and may also include reference to our other software products and projects including any of our various utilities, or to the TAS Premier programming language. We considered setting up separate blogs for different topics so that users/others could subscribe to topics mostly aligned with their interests, but decided that it would be better to keep things simple since some topics cross over into others. We would nonetheless welcome your feedback/input in this regard. Our web site URL is www.addsuminc.com. Call us at 800-648-6258 or 801-277-9240. We also maintain www.advancedaccounting.us so that older Business Tools users in particular have a greater chance to find us.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

New federal-state e-filing payroll interface available for Advanced Accounting


A new federal and state e-filing interface has been added to Advanced Accounting 7i's payroll module that can be used to electronically file W-2 forms with both the IRS as well as in various states.

The trend towards paperless forms has been apparent for some time.  The threshold for filing state forms in many states continues to be lowered.  Some states (Connecticut, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, and Virginia as of the date of this post) already do not accept the filing of paper W-2 forms, i.e. the threshold is zero. Minnesota has a threshold of just ten forms.   Six states have a requirement of either 25 or in one case 26, and another seven currently have a requirement of either 50 or 51.  These numbers will continue to drop, and states with state income tax withholding that currently have a high (or no) threshold will no doubt be implementing similar requirements in the near future.

While the IRS/SSA threshold is still 250, the IRS continues to strongly encourage e-filing to improve accuracy and timeliness and we would expect that number to be significantly lowered in the not too distant future.  States such as Utah have gone paperless under the philosophy that it is a safer mode of transmitting highly sensitive information.   Many end users are increasingly wanting to file their SSA copies electronically for this same reason.

Further, the complexity and ever-changing nature of these requirements both federally and on a state-to-state basis indicated that a better overall solution was needed for Advanced Accounting users.

A federal filing format option has long existed in the software and one that we have regularly updated over the years.  Originally it was referred to as the 'W-2 Electronic/Mag Media Filing" option.  We first started making significant updates to this option going back to at least as early as July of 1997.  That program was originally using the MMREF-1 format.  In tax years starting in 2007, the MMREF started to be referred to as the EFW2 format, which we continued to support through the end of 2014.

But the complications of that rather esoteric format coupled with increasing additions and requirements have made it difficult to make it a full solution even for federal-only e-filers. Further, states typically have their own separate requirements that the prior option could not satisfy.

So, in mid-December of 2014, we entered into some preliminary agreements with Nelco Solutions.  An actual interface however has not been available until now, and we are in the process of submitting test cases to validate the results (postscript: 2015 acceptance testing was completed on January 6, 2016).   We therefore anticipate that the interface will be available to users for 2015 filings, and it is being included in year end payroll updates.

Nelco specializes in W-2 and related e-filings and is an organization we have kept in touch with for well over a decade now in terms of potentially working together to come up with an effective solution for end users.   New capabilities and options will no doubt be made available to our payroll users and their employees as we go forward as a result of this collaboration.

Further, this option simply supplements the existing payroll module and in no way replaces it.

There are typically small fees associated with submitting these filings through the interface.  We believe that users will find these fees very reasonable particularly given not only the convenience and complexity involved but also in meeting applicable federal and state requirement. 

A quick overview of the new option and import process follows:



New PR-G option:




Answer "Y" to the export file option.  Then simply continue to process W-2's including a W-3 if desired.  This includes editing informational boxes as already provided in the software.   Prior to editing that information, however, when choosing the export file option, a new screen will appear asking for verification of the submitting company name, address, phone and e-mail.  In addition, you will be asked for the folder and file name of the export file. 




The file name can have any desired extension (a CSV extension is recommended).  If the directory does not exist, the program can optionally create it.   If the file name selected exists, you will receive a warning message and will be asked if you want to overwrite (normally you would not select an existing file).  

Click on proceed to continue and then proceed to process W-2's and optionally a W-3 as normal.  At the end of the normal process and after having chosen the export file option, you will then see a (new) launch portal screen from within the software.   This screen will also repeat the full path of the file name which we suggest you either copy and paste and/or make a handwritten note.  



Before clicking anywhere on the panel in the left corner of this screen, you can if desired retrieve the CSV in a spreadsheet program for review.  Normally you would not want to make any changes to the CSV file unless there is an unusual situation involving an error that needs to be corrected prior to submission.  The file otherwise must remain in the exact same format and delimited the same way.  The CSV file naturally contains confidential employee information which should be safeguarded and not made available to others.   We suggest retaining a copy of the file however at least until the process is completed and you receive acknowledgment of your filing request.   Submitting the file through the portal however is safe.

After launching the web portal (which you can also launch simply by copying and pasting the link provided under the clickable panel, and go to:

https://addsum.nelcoportal.com/import/gwximport


The PR-R-C option now also shows this same screen (but without the import file box) simply to provide a way to reference the portal's web site if follow-up or other action is needed, but not because the import is otherwise initiated here, as it formerly optionally was (this is is where the older EFW2 export option existed which has now been retired).

After launching the portal, either create a new account when logging in for the first time or log in with your previously established credentials. Then at the data import screen, import the same file that was created above within the accounting software (click on the Choose file option, and select the import file).



After clicking on import, unless problems were detected in the upload, you will select your filing options.  If you will only be filing federally, be sure to click on the "federal e-filing" check box.   


If wages are submitted for a state that has an e-filing option, a "State E-filing" check box option and an additional column next to each employee will appear. You can choose to file federal and state via the "a la carte services" section, or you can choose the "full" service (bundles) that also includes Nelco actually printing the employee copies and providing employees with e-mail address to the filings (requires the input of each employee's e-mail address; in a future Adv release we will be providing a more automated way to accomplish that).   So using the full/bundled service allows users to not even have to purchase W-2 forms and saves the time involved in both printing them as well as providing them to employees.

Make sure that the appropriate options are reflected on this screen.   Click on Next to review and submit your forms.




After clicking on Next from the submit forms, you simply enter your payment/card information and the process is complete.


More information:
Paperless Filing flyer (2015)

Additional operational and technical details:


If a problem is detected at the web portal import stage, those errors will be outlined as which point you can return to the import page to try again after correcting the errors (contact us 1-801-277-9240 or e-mail us at support@addsuminc.com to resolve any problems in this regard).

When filing in a given state, any required form that is required by that state will appear as part of the submission process with as many boxes already completed as possible based on the data imported.

(Postscript:  the information below about IE and Silverlight no longer applies starting in 2016)

While to initially submit and import data any of the major browsers seem to work without problems, Nelco recommends the use Internet Explorer.   When making state filings and a form has to be completed, the web portal may inform you that you need to use Internet Explorer with the free Silverlight plug-in.   This does not create any additional work should this happen since any imported data will still remain pending.  Switch to an IE browser with the Silverlight plug-in installed and log back into the portal and proceed to manage your account where you will be able to proceed with completing your submission.

In all it is an efficient and economic solution to federal and state e-filings.
















Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Adapters and binders and provider order priority may cause chaos

Recently two of our accounting software users have reported problems that correspond to whether their PC's wireless Internet connectivity is enabled or not.   In one case, a Windows 7 Pro PC connected to Advanced Accounting across a network "stops working" when connected wirelessly for Internet access (normally the PC is without Internet access).  In another case (operating system unknown, probably Windows 7) , the software installed on the local drive and not networked operates as expected when the PC is wirelessly connected to the Internet, but the user experiences "run program not found" types of error messages when that connectivity is disabled.

Locally installed programs (on-premises software in today's jargon) usually do not care whether Internet connectivity is available or not, much less whether it is wired or wireless and that is certainly the case with Advanced Accounting.

Network adapter and binders priority and/or provider order settings that have been changed by other program installations may be responsible for these problems.

Microsoft has a tendency to to put wireless connections at a priority with newer PC operating systems.   Also certain programs may install themselves as having priority potentially creating  slowness.

We note for example that the Teamviewer VPN likes to insert itself as first priority under Adapters and Settings.  This was a result of its installation and not because we placed it there:



TeamViewer VPN made itself first priority.  Even if we used it very often (we don't),
it would still be advisable to move Local Area Connection by highlighting it and then 

using the arrows at right to instead make it the first priority.

If you have wireless connections set before your local wired network, move your wired network above them.  Wired networks are always faster (and safer) and so if you have one, make it the priority.


Even Microsoft Terminal Services puts itself as the first network provider:
Move Microsoft Windows Network to the top by highlighting it and 
then using the arrow buttons at right.

Whether these changed priority settings would lead to local software not loading at all would be unexpected, however, it is known that bad or corrupt settings can lead to drive mapping failures including errors such as "Network path cannot be found."

Some examples:

http://www.tpateman.co.uk/reboot/unable-to-access-unc-paths-and-map-drives/

http://weblog.west-wind.com/posts/2013/Apr/04/UNC-Drive-Mapping-Failures-Network-name-cannot-be-found


To review and potentially change the order of Adapters and Bindings as well as your Provider Order, see below.


XP Pro:



On the desktop, right-click My Network Places, and then click Properties.

On the Advanced menu, click Advanced Settings.

On the Provider Order tab, in the Network Providers list, click Web Client Network.

Press DOWN ARROW so that Web Client Network is the last provider in the list, and then 
click OK.

Alternatively, you can change the network provider order in the registry. The registry 
entry is:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\NetworkProvider\Order\ProviderOrder
The default value of this entry is RDPNP,LanmanWorkstation,WebClient.  

Above based on:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/832161


Windows 7 including Win 2008 and 2008/R2:


See:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2526067

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/change-network-protocol-bindings-order#1TC=windows-7

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc732472(v=ws.10).aspx


Windows 8/8.1:


www.laptopmag.com/articles/change-connection-priority-windows


Windows 10:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/networking/archive/2015/08/14/adjusting-the-network-protocol-bindings-in-windows-10.aspx


Make your local workstation and wired connections the first priority via these options, i.e. before  any wireless or other connections.  Occasionally re-check these settings.  If nothing else, your local network connectivity should be faster.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

W-2 reporting of employer-sponsored health coverage

Using Advanced Accounting's editable W-2 feature pertaining to boxes 10, 12, 13 or 14 first introduced in version 6 in 2007, the costs related to employer-sponsored health coverage can be easily input so that W-2 forms will contain this information as may be required.

While the requirement for this information went into effect in 2012, the IRS has provided transition relief for many businesses until "final guidance" is provided that still appears to be pending.  The current recommended course of action can be found hereIRS 2015 W2/W3 general instructions on the one hand indicate that reporting of these amounts is required, but then makes a somewhat circular reference to the Box 12 instructions which then refers one back to the recommended reporting guidelines and the reference to future guidance.

For those companies who either want to, or are required to, report the amounts, they are reported using code DD in Box 12 (a, b, c, or d). The amounts reported are not taxable to the recipient and are simply an information requirement (logically then Box 14 would have represented a more appropriate place for them, but that is not where they are reported). Unlike deferred compensation amounts included in Box 12 and carried over to box 12a on the W-3 form, code DD amounts are not reported on the W-3 transmittal form.

Previously anything entered in one of the four slots in Box 12 via Advanced Accounting's W-2 option were summed and included in the W-3 Box 12a total.  Starting in 2015, we have added programming logic to exclude any DD code amounts from being included in that total.   Other than this change (and adding some additional instructional language on the main screen of Advanced Accounting's PR-G option used to print W-2s as well as when presented with the "edit" question along with some screen changes to reference code DD on the pertinent input screen), the program remains the same.    

While we still support all versions of Advanced Accounting ever released, only the latest version (7i with latest updates, and soon version 8) will contain the changes described above.

So what are the steps for reporting this information?

(1) Give yourself enough time to tackle processing your W-2 forms even though it may not be particularly time consuming.  In this regard, take advantage of the "do it later" feature (i.e. under PR-G and then the option:   Clear employees/process W-2s later) which was first introduced in version 7i in early 2012;

(2)  Before proceeding to process your W-2 forms, accumulate information you may either be required to report, or that you may want to report, in the editable boxes.    Read through the latest W-2/W-3 instructions from the IRS and/or the instructions on the back of the W-2 forms paying particular attention to the editable boxes.  With respect to the cost of employer-sponsored health coverage, IRS instructions indicate that it should include both employer and employee paid amounts;

(3)  Nothing related to code DD is initially selected when tying employee deductions to IRS boxes, because the amount you might report under code DD will not likely correspond to those deductions.  Simply process as normal until you reach this question:




Answer:  Yes.

(4)  Next you will see a screen for each employee like this:




The highlighted Box 12 section is where you input the code DD and then to the right of that code, the cost amount for that employee.  It does not matter in which of the a,b,c, or d slots that you input the code and amount.  Further, you can input it in different places for different employees if you need to. (For simplicity however we would recommend using Box 12d for all DD amounts; or chose some other box that is the same for all; but again, this is not required.)  The program will include all amounts entered in Boxes 12 a,b,c, and d into the W-2 transmittal's Box 12a except it will now exclude any DD coded amounts.

(5) Simply continue to the next employee and process to completion as normal.



More information:
IRS Employer-Provided Health Coverage Informational Reporting Requirements: Questions and Answers

Sunday, November 1, 2015

XLS files: converting text to numbers


When retrieving an XLS file generated directly from the print to file option included in all Advanced Accounting versions from 6 through 7i (see printing to a file in Advanced Accounting) as well as upcoming release 8, numeric data may be initially formatted as "text" rather than as numbers.  In order to use the data in calculations, this text data can be easily converted from text to numbers via a few steps depending on the spreadsheet program that is used.  The discussion that follows outlines options available in OpenOffice Calc and Microsoft Excel to accomplish this task.

First, here's a preview of a sample report generated out of upcoming Advanced Accounting 8's enhanced sales tax analysis report grouping sales by month:





The discussion below involves retrieving the XLS file generated from this report and converting some of the columns to numbers.


OpenOffice Calc:

In OpenOffice, a leading apostrophe denotes text formatting.  





Rather then edit the cells individually, after retrieving the XLS file (click on File then Open and navigate to where the file was saved), first select and format all cells to numeric (not currency) with two decimal place precision.





Note:  a convenient way to select cells is to simply click on the first cell and then hold the SHIFT key and use down and ultimately right arrows.   Then click on Format then Cells to get the option above.

Without unselecting the cells, do a Find and Replace (click on Edit and then Find and Replace, or CTRL-F) .

Search for:

^. 

(i.e. input the caret or exponent symbol produced via Shift-6 followed by a period)


Replace with:

&

(i.e. an ampersand character, Shift-7)

Click on More options if the option list is not already expanded and make sure that "Regular expressions" is checked.

Click on Replace All, then Close.




All of the selected cells are now numeric.

The above procedure works in OpenOffice 2, 3 as well as the recently released 4.

Microsoft Excel:

There are many different versions of Excel, each of which may offer different approaches to accomplish this task.   A general reference document can be found here: How to convert text to numbers in Excel.

The "text to column" approach is one method (Method 7 in the link above), although it only works in selecting one column at a time and is not as convenient as in the OpenOffice Calc example.  Here is an example using Excel 2010 and this method.

Select one column of text that contains numbers.

Under the Data menu or tab, choose Text to Columns.

Choose Delimited, click on Next and choose Tab and again click on Next.






Choose General for the column data format.   Via the Advanced button, the decimal and separator options can be made, and then click Finish.   





Repeat for each column.




Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Panda antivirus: not our favorite


The truth is that we really do not have a favorite brand of antivirus protection software. Like death and taxes, antivirus software is not optional in today's world.   Often the antivirus and related malware detection applications however behave at a level equivalent to some viruses.  And they typically steal processing power along with their incessant updates making computer use much less enjoyable and efficient.

Users are further placed into the unsavory position of having to choose sometimes between antivirus packages that have excellent detection but high resource utilization versus antivirus software that has lower detection accuracy but also lower resource usage demands.  

Often Norton/Symantec Antivirus and McAfee brands have been the causes of PC slowness. Over the years, however, we have heard of more rogue problems with Panda Antivirus than any other.  And today was no exception.

Yesterday we updated an end user's main executable with a newer version simply as a part of an update and because it might have helped with an issue they were having.   Everything was working fine until an automatic update occurred on that system this morning. The update at least in part involved Microsoft updates (this was on a Windows 7 Ultimate operating system). The 19 Microsoft updates that were installed rendered the PC unusable for a time, a story that is all to common (and we recommend managing these on a non-automatic basis for exactly this reason). The end user though was also using Panda Antivirus 2015, and we suspect that a Panda update also occurred. After these updates and after having used the executable associated with the software earlier today that we had updated yesterday, the executable simply vanished along with the desktop icon associated with it.

And it was Panda Antivirus 2015 that removed it.  When adding it back, naturally Panda still refused to allow access. Initial responses however were Windows permission and networking errors and nothing from Panda until finally:




What was suspicious about the file?  Because it was downloaded via a web service (in this case via file transfer protocol)?  Yet that's where pretty much everything comes from these days.   No other details whatsoever?  No indication of the publisher name or the digital signature date if that information is present (which it was) so that the user can make an informed decision?  How would the user otherwise easily, quickly and without having a somewhat high level of expertise know what to do?  How high of a burden is this to place on a end user without providing as much information as possible in a case involving a false positive as here?   Won't this then encourage the user without this information to "neutralize" (a euphemism for delete, kill, remove, etc.) the threat?   The "threat" once averted then cripples the end user system.

So at this point, the file can be "excluded" and the software was then again operational, but that alone is not enough.  Exclusions need to be added as we did here after this problem arose:






(Any antivirus program you use should allow for adding exclusions or exceptions.  If it doesn't, find another antivirus program.)

Prior to adding the exclusions above, Panda's settings reflected the fact that the files had been quarantined but then excluded.







And this is not the first time we have seen this happen.   A different system in 2013 that was using Panda and a software package that also uses the same executable suddenly experienced the same thing and that was on system that had not changed for some period of time. Yet, these are are simply completely valid, digitally signed executables with no compression and which have been widely used on many other systems and not falsely detected as being suspicious by other antivirus software.

Is it possible that users when presented with the "suspicious file" option are choosing "Neutralize" rather than "Exclude" since it is the first option and since it sounds less benign, and so the removal is actually being confirmed by the user?  Yes, that is possible, and we can't be certain that did not happen in these two cases, but there have been other reports of files deleted by Panda that did not appear to involve any user interaction.

In much older systems (and going back into the late 90's) we had several reports from users using Panda where false positives would occur on end user data files (and so not executable files at all) that could not possibly be infected with a virus, and yet in at least two cases Panda actually deleted the end user's data (files that just happened to not be open that Panda decided to quarantine and delete them) during daily operation of the software.  

We've never experienced these problems with any other commercial antivirus software programs.

This points out how critical it is to exclude critical software installations such as accounting software or heavily used production systems from real-time antivirus or malware scans.   False positives can and do happen with all antivirus software.   And if you use Panda, you are at even greater risk if you do not do this.

And also be very wary when updates occur.  While Panda is not alone in having update problems, earlier this year a significant problem arose with a Panda update, see this story published on March 11, 2015 in the iDigitalTimes:  Panda AntiVirus Update Problems Bricked Your Computer? Here's How To Fix Wiped Files And Restore Your PC Stability.

Is the cure worse than the disease?  Maybe not, but often it seems that way.









Sunday, October 4, 2015

TAS Premier 7i release 10

Tomorrow we will will officially publish our tenth release of TAS Premier 7i.   Originally released on September 21, 2005, we have published ten releases in the last ten years. 

Release 10 addresses many different areas of the development system from data dictionary maintenance to internal runtime handling in the event of missing program files (whether physically missing or temporarily unavailable to network connection or pathing issues).  



Of note however are the many enhancements relating to reporting and printing.   A vexing issue that has only occasionally been reported (not just in TAS Premier 7i but also in the TAS Professional 6.x series before it) is a report image  (whether actually attached or loaded "on the fly") which while appearing perfectly in order on the preview screen, randomly prints out to the printer as either blank (i.e. leaves white space) or is outlined in black.  One user thought the problem started with Windows 10 but in fact it is unrelated to any particular operating system.   Some users have thought it related to a printer driver issue. Others suspected that the size or type of the graphic file was the issue.  

In fact, it was none of these.   And it also had nothing to do with anything in the TAS Premier 4GL development system itself but rather with an underlying third party component that had in turn based its image handling code on the 3GL language used to create modern versions of TAS.

The use of components is a necessary part of Windows programming, but this also shows how a problem with one procedure in one underlying component has a rippling impact on everything that is then built on top of it.  Finding an appropriate patch was difficult, but was something we accomplished several months ago.

For the first time, report emulation text files are supported in release 10 and appears as the first option in the print to file drop down box:




(for more about printing to a file, see Printing to a file in Advanced Accounting)

A "Text" option was originally provided by the original publisher of the TAS language and IDE starting with version 6, but its purpose was actually to export specific fields/columns of information in a report, and requires a special setup that is essentially report specific.   Its selection would therefore result in a blank page.  The RET files instead produce the text (no graphics) equivalent of any existing report including spacing (but no printer specific codes).  This is no doubt what was originally intended and provides users with a quick way to output text from a report somewhat similar to what was available in legacy (5.1 and prior) versions most which did not support graphic reports (with the exception of one private label version).   Note though that if a report layout relies on auto-sized fields and/or its column spacing is cramped or relies on a variety of differently sized proportional fonts, you should expect that some text may overlap or be truncated, and the resolution for that, if critical, is with the design of the report layout itself, i.e. its RTM.

Also included is support for the first time of report archive files (RAF).  We decided against including these in the drop down box (but might add that in the future) associated with "Print to file" since end users would typically not know what they were for, plus they would no have a way to preview/print them without an appropriate viewer and there could be issues with security/confidentiality (although that is certainly true with other types as well).   Instead we decided to put this powerful capability into the hands of the developer to create them when needed and we have also provided a new function that allows them to be previewed/printed exactly like any report.   Report archive files have many potential uses for storing a report exactly the way it was initially generated, and also for generating reports after hours and then previewing/printing them later. Developers will be in the best position to implement their use.

For the short explanation of other updates including in release 10, see TAS Premier 7i updates.  For a detailed explanation, see the help (CHM) file that is included with the update or full download.  A PDF equivalent is also separately available and now exceeds 720 pages.

Occasionally there has been more than one TAS Premier release in a single year as there was in 2012 and there was one two year+ period between 2009 and 2011 without an official release.  Updates however are made frequently and our goal remains to provide at least one official TAS Premier release per year.

The TAS Premier 7i development system is still completely free as it has been for the last ten years.  End user deployment does require an inexpensive runtime license.  As future more advanced capabilities are provided, there may be charges for use of those features.




Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A salute to Gene Patterson

Yesterday we were saddened to learn that the president of a longtime Advanced Accounting user had recently died.

At age 76, Gene Patterson had still been very much active in the business operations of PatCo, Inc.  an industrial and contractors supplier specializing in fire safety equipment located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and had been its president for the past 28 years.   Gene's son Roger, with some 27 years of experience and formerly the vice president of PatCo, will be continuing to lead the company.

Gene also served in the National Guard.

Our first contact with Gene was in July of 1995.  His company at that time was using Advanced Accounting 5.0 published by Business Tools, Inc.   We were engaged to make a number of custom program modifications which were completed that month. Only a few months later, we held our first ever Advanced Accounting seminar (in St. Louis) and had the privilege of meeting Gene and one of his employees.  Gene would later also attend a seminar that we held in Salt Lake City in the fall of 2000.

We continued to provide technical support and custom program services as needed including the software and programming assistance to convert PatCo's system from Advanced Accounting 5.0 to 5.1 by the end of 1998, and continued a relationship through to the present.   PatCo continues to use the 5.1 version in 2015.

As is often the case with longtime users, often we would not hear from PatCo for long periods of time.  From 2003 to 2008 we would sometimes not hear from them for more than once or twice per year, or sometimes not for an entire year or more.   There was a three year period from late 2008 to late 2011 when we had no contact at all.  Prior to the call the other day when we learned of Gene's passing,  we had not heard from anyone there since July of 2014.

Gene and his staff were always a pleasure to deal with.   He typified the hard working, long-lived entrepreneurial spirit of business owners that use Advanced Accounting.

We often don't get the opportunity to say thank you to customers like Gene and to companies like PatCo that we have had the opportunity to work with, in this case over a twenty-year period.  Thank you.

And we salute Gene for the hard work he put into his business that unquestionably had a positive impact on the local community and the lives of others.





Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Windows 10: Wait

A number of our users have already tested running our software under Windows 10, and the results are all encouraging and we don't anticipate any problems.

Nonetheless, especially if you depend on your PC in running a business, it is too early to update.

If you will be eligible for the free Windows 10 upgrade, then at some point before it is too late (and if Microsoft gets the message that forced automatic updates are not acceptable) you will no doubt want to upgrade.   

But as with all new operating systems (and there is no exception to this rule for business users), you should wait for the first service pack to be released before simply forging ahead.

Minor updates/releases can be problematic enough. Seemingly simple updates can cause significant problems.  We've written about recent examples including Win 8 updates that do not fully complete (this app cannot be run on your PC in May of 2015) and updates that caused font degradation (Microsoft automatic security update 3013455 released in February of 2015 ).

Apple iOS updates over the past several years have had more than their share of problems showing that Apple users should justifiably have the same fear of even minor updates as Microsoft users have been conditioned to have.  In fact iOS 8.4 has for some of us has been a disastrous update (we have an occasionally used iPad that the iOS 8.4 update has rendered useless, even after a full reset).

Yet the fear of not getting the latest, untested security update has been pounded into the minds of computer users.

Jumping to Windows 10 however is an even bigger leap of "forced update" faith.  Users need to be able to control when/whether they want to receive those updates.   And, regardless of that issue, unless you want to be a part of the Windows 10 testing community and because there are always unknown problems that follow new releases, wait for the first service pack at the very least.

Some recent resources on this topic:

Windows 10 review: Hold off if you use Windows 7 (InfoWorld, July 29, 2015)
Windows 10 Forced Updates Causing Endless Crash Loops (Forbes, Aug. 8, 2015)
Windows 10 Problems: Wait to Upgrade for Now (GottaBe Mobile, Aug. 10, 2015)


An additional side note of interest relates to Microsoft's currently planned support cycles for Windows 7 and Windows 8:  Windows lifecyle fact sheet.

While Windows 7 "mainstream" support ended in January of 2015, "extended" support (security updates) are still expected to be provided until January of 2020.

And if you do decide to put Windows 10 on an older computer, keep your expectations low.  The upgrade may very well install and work up to a point (and that is perhaps the surprise), but your PC may also become marginally useful.

Can your old PC run Windows 10? The answer will surprise you. Here's how Windows 10 feels on very old hardware. (PCWorld, July 30, 2015)

Win 10 will not be a cure for an older, poor performing PC.









Friday, July 31, 2015

New California sick leave requirements effective July 1

When we first heard about the final implementation of this law effective July 1 in early to mid-July, last minute changes were still being made.   One of the impacts of the law relates to a requirement to notify employees of their sick leave availability, one of the simpler methods being via a paycheck stub or equivalent.

The law states:

246 (h) An employer shall provide an employee with written notice that sets forth the amount of paid sick leave available, or paid time off leave an employer provides in lieu of sick leave, for use on either the employee’s itemized wage statement described in Section 226 or in a separate writing provided on the designated pay date with the employee’s payment of wages.

Section 226(a) outlines how employee wage payment information must be to provided to employees, and what minimum information must be provided.

With few exceptions, starting July 1, 2015 employees who work at least 30 days* for the same California employer within a one year period are entitled to the sick leave at a rate of not less than one hour per every 30 hours (see alternative method however discussed in the next paragraph).    Employees who are exempt from overtime are not exempt from receiving this benefit, but their accrual rate can be set based on 40 hours per week (unless they work fewer hours per week than 40).

*Employees can begin taking sick leave after 90 days of employment which can be restricted to a total of 24 hours; in fact, employers can provide 24 hours of sick leave in a lump sum available at the beginning of each year instead of the "one hour per every 30 hours worked" rate.   This however may not make sense for a company with a large number of part-time employees.

Various third party sources indicated that employers were required to provide employees with a notice stating sick leave "days" that were available.   Not only would that be a very confusing way to to notify employees and difficult to calculate (based on an employee's part-time vs. full-time status for example), it is not what the law states.    The law states employees are to be provided with "the amount of paid sick leave available."  Logically, that would not be "days" but rather hours.

Accordingly in mid-July, Advanced Accounting 7i paycheck stubs were updated to include that information.




The new law will require potential changes to personnel policies and added administrative burdens.

For employees of employers who would otherwise be entitled to no time-off whatsoever, the new law should be helpful and might make some public policy sense.

But for employers already offering various vacation/sick/holiday plans and for those who may offer paid "leave" for time-off without trying to distinguish as to whether it is for a "sick" day or for vacation, personal day or compensatory leave, etc. does not in our opinion make much sense.  Employers should not be placed in the position of having to be watchdogs with respect to the reason an employee might take a day off, whether planned or unplanned.  If completely unscheduled, then some reasonable explanation should be provided by the employee and the unplanned absence tracked by the employer at its discretion, but the employer should not then be placed in the position of determining whether the employee was "really" sick or not, nor whether the sick leave was taken in accordance with the type of circumstances  that might qualify as sick leave under the act.  Mandatory plans that segregate different types of leave tend to lead to abuses.    If employers want to combine their sick and vacation and any other paid leave into one package to their employees, they should be allowed to do so.  The new law does not regulate nor require vacation or other types of paid leave.   For employers who already offer more enlightened and more generous benefit programs, the new law will simply lead to a certain amount of gamesmanship and the changing of certain words in policy manuals simply to comply with the law which in the end will not likely lead to any real benefit for their workers and will simply add to the employer's administrative costs.


Background information:

http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/at-last-amendments-to-ca-s-paid-sick-56103/

http://www.natlawreview.com/article/california-enacts-urgent-clarifications-to-california-paid-sick-leave-law

http://www.natlawreview.com/article/emergency-legislation-to-amend-california-s-paid-sick-leave-requirements-signed-gove

http://www.natlawreview.com/article/last-minute-amendments-to-california-s-sick-leave-law
State of California general link:

http://www.business.ca.gov/StartaBusiness/AdministeringEmployees/EmployeeBenefits.aspx





Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pervasive 161 (license count status code)

A Pervasive (informally Btrieve, and now owned by Actian) status code 161 as intercepted and returned in an Advanced Accounting environment might appear as:




While most often it is in workgroup installations (i.e. using the Actian/Pervasive workgroup engine, even if installed to a "real" production server) when this error is generated, it can also occur in client-server versions since the 161 means (from Pervasive's status code documentation):

161: The maximum number of user count licenses has been reached 

You attempted to open another session when you were at the limit of your user count license. Either close a session or upgrade your user count. 

This status code is also returned after a trial or temporary license has expired. If all users receive this error and no one is able to access the database engine, then most likely you have been using a temporary license key and you must now apply a regular license key. Please contact your reseller or Pervasive Software to purchase a regular license. 

For more information about purchasing and installing additive user counts, refer to Getting Started With Pervasive PSQL. You can use Monitor to determine which users currently have connections to Pervasive PSQL. For information about Monitor, refer to Advanced Operations Guide. 


A 161 however can mean something quite different than the explanation above.   In a workgroup situation where the gateway locator has been appropriately set using the Pervasive/PSQL Gateway Locator Utility and the accounting or other software is moved to a different server or gateway PC, this can then lead to the user receiving a 161 until a new "server" gateway assignment is made.

The Gateway Locator Utility (which again, only applies to Actian/Pervasive workgroup configurations and not Actian/Pervasive client-server installations) is located under the utilities section (or can be searched for under PSQL Gateway Locator in Win 8 or just search for gateway).  



This utility should be used to assign the PC that "hosts" the software application and needs to point to the data folder where the Pervasive data files are stored.  In that folder, it will create a read only file name PVSW (an abbreviation for Pervasive Software) that is enclosed in tildes and that has an LOC extension, i.e.:  ~PVSW~.LOC.   Designating a PC as gateway then basically allows that designated PC to act more like a server would in a true client-server installation.   In other words, the Pervasive workgroup engine has some built-in client-server type capabilities.   The locator file can be removed manually only by first removing its read only attribute or by using the Gateway Locator Utility.  Removing it would solve the status code 161 but if the gateway locator is not set, then the first PC to open the data files becomes the gateway computer and that can lead to a number of problems (if for example that first PC is then shutdown after other PC's have accessed the data while it was still the "traffic cop").    We would therefore highly recommend always making a gateway assignment when using the Actian/Pervasive workgroup engines.

When migrating the data folder(s) of a system to a new computer, all of the data and related INI files (and usually also the software as well) are naturally going to be copied to that new computer.  But this then will pick-up the locator file.  Then, when trying to run the software even after deauthorizing and re-authorizing the license via the Pervasive License Administrator, an error 161 may result since it will be the old server/gateway with the deauthorized license that new server/gateway as well as the other workgroup engines will be looking for.   If the old server/gateway is off-line, instead of an error/status code 161, a status code 11 (invalid file name) or some other status code might be returned, and it may also take a long time before that error is returned while the database engine/Windows tries to find the old server name.

To resolve, a new gateway assignment needs to be made.   The new server name would be entered under "Enter the computer name of the gateway" and this would be run directly on that same computer:





Without re-booting, it should then be possible to run the application that accesses the data files without getting a status code 161 or some other error, both from the gateway PC as well as from other computers with an installed Pervasive workgroup engine (and assuming those other PC's have been pointed to the NEWSERVER name in the Pervasive license administrator which needs to be run on each PC in the workgroup).






Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Pervasive 11 status and Windows 10

In light of the release of Pervasive 12 (PSQL v12) late last year (see Actian releases Pervasive 12: first look), Actian has as of June 30, 2015 stopped selling new user copies of PSQL v11.

One day later, however, a v11 patch was issued on July 1, 2015 (Pervasive PSQL V11.30 install build 11.31.073 read me file).   Nothing in that patch appears to be of great importance for our user base.

While official support for v11 from Actian is planned to continue until July 1, 2016, Actian does not plan to support v11 on Windows 10, scheduled to be formally released by Microsoft very soon.   That timing is awkward.  It is nonetheless likely that v11 will work at the very least in connection with Windows 10 clients and in workgroup configurations.  

PSQL releases are normally compatible if within one major release of each other and typically do work on the "next" major Windows operating system release (but not always).   Whether v11 will also work on "Windows 10 server" remains to be seen, but a release of server technology based on Windows 10 is not yet imminent.

End users are always advised to wait until the first service pack (SP1) of a new operating system or database engine is released before migrating to that release, absent extenuating circumstances.






Thursday, May 14, 2015

Win 8: This app can't run on your PC

A somewhat strange and potentially misleading message can appear on the desktop of Windows 8 PC's:


This app can't run on your PC
(much less walk!)


Most users will probably know that "run" is the same as "execute" or "operate" or "invoke" or "launch."   So we do not quibble with that terminology per se.

Use of "app" is for those of us who have been developing software programs and software applications for decades is a little disconcerting, but is now the widely used lingo for anything and everything that runs on "smart technology" (whatever that is).  We would however never refer to our accounting software as an "app" no matter how hip that might be.  

But, besides use of the informal "can't" in the context of a relatively serious and disconcerting error message like this, our objection is that the problem could well relate to the fact that it is the operating system that cannot execute the program.  Thinking that it is the program's fault, or that of its software publisher, immediately leads to potentially errant conclusions, provoking the user to start reinstalling previously working programs in acts of futility, and making a bad problem worse.

If you receive a message like this the very first time you have ever tried to "run" a newly installed program under Windows 8, then, yes, it could relate to the fact that you have a 64-bit program trying to run under a 32-bit operating system version, or perhaps anti-virus software, user permissions or SmartScreen conspiring to block your program and not allow it to run, and potentially any number of other culprits.

But, if this message suddenly appears after programs have already been working (i.e. running), then in fact the problem could be the result of incomplete processing of Microsoft automatic updates (which is why we do NOT like to enable automatic updates).

The actual solution may be to return to a prior system restore point.   Or complete the unfinished updates.

This is all sounding eerily familiar.  Incomplete automatic update problems that lead to applications not being launchable is not a new problem.  We just have now a new unhelpful error message associated with that circumstance.

Another recent example of a problem caused by an automatic update that we wrote about:

Microsoft automatic security update causes font degradation

Problems associated with incomplete XP Pro updates were legendary.   The legend continues!