Free or Commercial: Which Software is Best For Your Company?

When a company requires software to help with their operations they have two choices: purchase a license for a commercial product or use free software. Each type of software has its benefits and disadvantages.

Free software can be a proprietary product that is given away for free. This software can either be actual freeware or a free lite version of a commercial product. Free software can also be open source, in that not only is the software free, the source-code is also available for anyone that might want to make modifications to the software.

On the surface what’s not to like about paying nothing for software? The lack of up front cost is a strong benefit. The down side is that free software is often less functional, harder to use and support can be almost non-existent. Typically free software, if it has support, will require payment for that support or support can only be obtained through a user-supported web forum.

Commercial software on the other hand has a large up front cost and sometimes a recurring cost but usually comes with an option for timely support. Some companies even offer free support by email or even by phone. Because commercial software is supported by fees it tends to have more features and less problems using it.

So which software will you choose? Free open-source software is a good bet when it is extremely popular like the Apache web server. Though the group that maintains it may no offer support, third party companies will. When it comes to niche software that is very important for your day to day operations you will want the ability to talk to someone immediately when things go wrong. This is where commercial software shines.

Data Backup For Disaster Recovery And Faster Support

There are two main reasons you would want to backup your data: 1) to make a copy of your data in case the original data is lost and 2) to send in your data to CyberMatrix support when you encounter a difficult or hard to reproduce problem.

Disaster Recovery

Many companies forget that their company relies on software for day to day operations. This software usually stores important data. If this data is not safely backed up and a disastrous event like a fire, theft or even a hard drive crash occurs business operations can be seriously impacted.

Many companies will use specialized software to backup all important shared data. While these backup solutions tend to be very robust it is important not to become complacent. At least every month the backup should be inspected to verify that it is actually backing up all important data. There’s little worse than restoring a backup only to find that data from one important application was not included in the backup.

Also important is to attempt to store the backup files offsite. See: Disaster Prevention: Backup to the Cloud

Technical Support

Another important use for data backup is obtaining speedy application support. Complex software that uses a database to store large amounts of data is often virtually impossible to troubleshoot over the phone or via email when the software starts behaving improperly. To provide a solution to a technical problem, support technicians either have to have witnessed the problem before or they need to try to reproduce the problem themselves. If a problem can’t be reproduced chances are that either the customer left out an important detail or that the problem is data-related. By sending in the problem data, support resolution time can often be reduced dramatically.

All CyberMatrix non-client/server desktop database software has a backup solution included with it. To back up data in this software simply choose Records | Backup Data from the Data Manager menu. This will create a time-stamped file in the application’s Data\Backup folder. The created file is a zip archive file that can be opened in Windows. Customers with support issues can easily send in the file as an e-mail attachment.

For customers of CyberMatrix client/server software and web software, the data files will have to be manually zipped up and send to support. For newer software all files with the extension *.EDB* should be sent in. For older software all files ending in *.Dat, *.Idx and *.Blb should be sent in. (* is a wildcard that stands for any number of characters.)

With CyberMatrix enterprise software all data is stored in large database servers like Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL or PostgreSQL. Because the data files are not directly accessible they cannot be backed up as with local database software. One way to backup your data within the software is to export key table data in CSV or SQL format. The CSV or SQL files can then be stored somewhere safe. This approach can be problematic since not only is it more time consuming but CSV files cannot handle carriage returns and other odd characters in memo fields. Binary data such as images also cannot be saved in a CSV file which is really just a delimited text file. SQL files are better at handling such data but this depends on the database server used. So for enterprise software, the best mechanism for data backup is to use the replication features of the particular database server used.

Color Coding To Aid Scheduling

Scheduling can be very complex. It is important then for scheduling software to incorporate ways to cut through this complexity. CyberMatrix scheduling software uses color-coding to make the scheduling process easier to follow.

Pro Schedule

In Pro Schedule, appointments can be assigned a color to the appointment itself, to the appointment status, to the appointment topic, to the person the appointment is with, the client the appointment is with, the room the appointments is in or to the category of the person. If you are using the simple payment feature then all unpaid appointments will be red. If you have set the “Show current time” colored bar will be shown across the schedule grid indicating the current time.

The different Pro Schedule color options have a priority. The priority listing is as follows:
Status
Appointment
Topic
Person
Client
Room
Category

Meeting Manager

Similarly, in Meeting Manager bookings can be assigned a color to the booking itself, to the resource that is booked, to the booking topic or to the person who made the booking.

The different Meeting Manager color options also have a priority. The priority listing is as follows:
Booking
Resource
Topic
User

In both Meeting Manager and Pro Schedule, if you have set the “Show current time” colored bar will be shown across the schedule grid indicating the current time. If you have set the “Show current items options” then the bookings taking place right now will be colored green.

Class Scheduler

In the CyberMatrix Class Scheduler software the classes seen in the class schedule can be color coded. Classes can be color coded by Class, Class Type, Student and by Group. The Class Type color takes precedence over the Class color. That is, if you assign colors to both the Class and the Class Type the Class Type color will be used. The Class color takes precedence over the Student and Group colors. You can change colors in the form view of the Data Manager.

Employee Scheduler

In the CyberMatrix Employee Scheduler software the work periods seen in the work schedule can be color coded. Work periods can be color coded by Employee, Category and by Shift. The Employee color takes precedence over the Category color. That is, if you assign colors to both the Employee and the Category the Employee color will be used. The Category color takes precedence over the Shift color. You can change colors in the form views of the Data Manager.

You can find out more about the CyberMatrix scheduling software referenced here at the following links:

network server

Difference Between a Desktop Application and a Service Application

network serverAll CyberMatrix web applications require a web server application running at all times. Similarly, all CyberMatrix client/server applications require a database server application running at all times. Many customers are confused as to why we offer a separate service form of both these server applications.

The Difference Between Service and Desktop Applications

The main difference between a service application and a desktop application is that a service can be always running on your server machine even if there is no one logged in. A desktop application on the other hand requires someone to be logged in in order to run the software. Having a machine logged in at all times can represent a serious security hazard for any company. Anyone passing by a logged in machine can do anything they like on that machine including access any data.

Also, service applications can be configured to start automatically when the server machine is rebooted. So for example, suppose you lose power. When the power comes back your server machine restarts. Because the database or web server is a service, it will be automatically running despite the fact that no one is logged into the server machine or had to manually start the server software.

Employee Project Clock login dialog

Using a Biometric Fingerprint Scanner with Employee Project Clock

Employee Project Clock login dialogOur Employee Project Clock software allows you to use a DigitalPersona U.are.U biometric fingerprint reader to quickly and securely log in employees and track their time.

Fingerprint Reader Optional

Note that using the fingerprint reader is entirely optional. Employee Project Clock will continue to work just fine as it always has without a fingerprint scanner.

How To Use A Fingerprint Reader

There are two ways a fingerprint reader can be used with Employee Project Clock:

  • To securely login.
  • To securely and quickly punch in and out.

Each options has it benefits and disadvantages.

The fastest and most secure method is use the “Fingerprint punch only” option. In this way each employee needs to only to scan their finger to punch in or punch out. It is very secure. No one else can punch in for another employee. The disadvantage is that no projects or tasks can be assigned to the tracked time.

The second option is to only use the fingerprint reader to login. This is the default option and will be in play if the “Fingerprint punch only” option is not set. As implied above, the advantage of this option is that employees can still assign projects and tasks to their tracked time.

Accessing CyberMatrix Software Through the Web

All CyberMatrix business software can be shared with multiple people on your company’s network. The Client/Server, Enterprise and Web editions of our software can also be accessed outside of your network via the Internet.

Sharing Data on Your Network

To share data on your network you enter your network IP address in the Network tab of the Options screen in the Client/Server and Enterprise editions of our software or the web browser URL of the Web editions of our software.

Finding Your Network IP Address

The easiest way to find your network IP address is through the Windows program called IPConfig. To start IPConfig, right click on your Start button and choose Open Windows Explorer. In the windows that pops up, type cmd in the navigation box that says Libraries. Press enter and a command line window will appear. Type IPConfig and press return. If you are on a wired connection look for a line like this: Ethernet adapter Local Area Connection:. If you are connecting wirelessly, check for a line like this: Wireless LAN adapter Wireless Network Connection 3:. Your IP address will be on the line that starts with: IPv4 Address. Usually it will start with 192.168.

Sharing Data Over the Internet

To share data over the Internet you enter your Internet IP address in the Network tab of the Options screen in the Client/Server and Enterprise editions of our software or the web browser URL of the Web editions of our software.

Finding Your Internet IP Address

Finding your Internet IP address can be a bit harder. Often it is not listed in the IPConfig output. If that’s the case you can easily find it by typing the text “what is my ip” in your web browser.

Static Vs Dynamic IP Addresses

A final note on the importance of the type of IP addresses your network or Internet connection uses. The best type of IP address to use with our software is called a static IP address. The benefit of a static IP address is that it never changes. Dynamic IP address on the other hand will change. When your IP address changes you will have to find the new address and enter it in the software again.

Using a DNS Service

If you have a dynamic IP address the simplest way to get a static IP address is to use a DNS service like no-ip,com.

Server Name

Another option to try is to enter the server’s name instead of it’s IP address.

Accessing Your Schedule on Your Phone For Free

Many people love the simplicity of our scheduling software, Pro Schedule for scheduling appointments and Meeting Manager for scheduling meeting rooms or resources. The Windows editions of this software is easy for just about anyone to install and use. The problem is that more and more people need to access schedule information on their phone when out of the office.

Our Web editions: Pro Schedule Web and Meeting Manager Web can be accessed from a phone’s web browser but these applications can be tricky to setup and maintain for smaller organizations without an in house IT department. A very affordable alternative is to use the HTML calendar export feature.

Often organizations have just one person managing a schedule for appointments or rooms and resources. Many other people however, need to view this schedule but don’t need to add to or modify the schedule. A very affordable solution for this scenario is to use the HTML calendar export feature.

The first step required is to have a website setup where you can easily manage web pages or posts. One extremely popular and easy to use website management system is WordPress. Once you have WordPress setup on your site you can create a special page where you will maintain your schedule.

From Pro Schedule or Meeting Manager view the schedule you want to share and choose View | Schedule HTML Report from the main menu. This will create a web page version of your schedule. Save this file somewhere and you will then be asked if you want to open it. Say yes and the schedule will appear in your browser. Press Ctrl+A to select the entire schedule and then Ctrl+C to copy it. Go back to your WordPress page and press Ctrl+V to paste the schedule. Save it. Now you have a web page with the current schedule your people on the road can easily view on their phone or workstation without requiring expensive software licenses.

Database Antivirus Problems

security-265130_960_720These days antivirus and anti-malware software are a necessity that protects us from software viruses and malware that threaten our data. This security though has a downside in the form of false positives.

A false positive occurs when a benign file is suspected by your antivirus software of being malicious. Certain files update frequently, like database files. When these files are scanned every time they are written to disk, the files can appear locked to the software using them. When a necessary file is locked the software issues an error and can’t finish what is was trying to do.

At CyberMatrix we have had a major headache with several antivirus products locking the database files used in our applications. When this happens an error something like the following would be seen:

ElevateDB Error #600 File manager error (Cannot delete the file C:\DOCUME~1\user42\LOCALS~1\Temp\CM1S29083572PC45.EDBTbl (OS Error: The process cannot access the file because it is being used by another process. )).

When encountering such a problem the easiest thing to do is to configure your antivirus software to avoid scanning the problem file or file type or even the entire folder involved. In this case, the folder involved is users42’s Windows temp folder. Every antivirus software has a way to prevent certain files or folders from being scanned. In Microsoft Security Essentials for example, you just navigate to the Setting tab and click on Excluded files and locations. Enter the files and folders to exclude in the File Locations box and press the Add button.

If you want to avoid scanning an entire file type you can enter something like this:

C:\Users\user42\AppData\Local\Temp\*.EDBTbl

The * is a wildcard which stand for any number of characters.

If doing that doesn’t solve the problem some other process is locking the file. The next usual suspect is our software itself. If a machine on your network has some sort of problem, our software might lock up while in the middle of writing to the database. This will lock some database files. Try closing down all instances of the software to see if it resolves the problem.

If that doesn’t work what you will have to do is use special software to see which application on whose machine is locking the files. One such program is Microsoft’s Process Explorer.  In Process Explorer go to Find > Find Handle or DLL. In the “Handle or DLL substring:” text box, type the path to the file (e.g. “C:\Users\user42\AppData\Local\Temp\Clients.EDBTbl”) and click “Search”. All processes which have an open handle to that file should be listed. Go to each machine listed and close down those applications.

Antivirus software is indispensable in this day and age but it can cause headaches too. Please don’t blame innocent software vendors when a problem is caused by overzealous anti-malware scanning.

Putting a Calendar Schedule on Your Website

A common request we get from customers is how to put the calendar from our scheduling software on their websites. Most customers that ask this question simply want a static page that people can view but not change. Our Pro Schedule and Meeting Manager event scheduling software both do have web editions but using this software provides another layer of expense and maintenance. A simpler cheaper way is to use a static HTML representation of the schedule.

All our Windows scheduling software can save the currently viewed schedule to an HTML file. This includes: Pro Schedule, Meeting Manager, Class Scheduler and Employee Scheduler. To save the current schedule view to an HTML file chose View | Schedule HTML Report from the main menu. You will be prompted to save the HTML. After saving this file you can upload it to your web site.

Continually saving your schedule and uploading it to your website is very time consuming. To save time you could use a program like the free Core Ftp to create a batch file to upload it directly to your site.

How To Use Core FTP To Upload File With a Single Click

  1. First download Core Ftp free here and install.
  2. Create a site profile in Core Ftp by choosing Sites | Site Manager from the menu. Click New Site and enter the FTP details for your server.
  3. Create a batch file with any text editor like Notepad. It must end in the extension .bat.
  4. Enter something like the following text in this batch file:
    “C:\Program Files\CoreFTP\coreftp.exe” -O -site MySiteProfile -u c:\myschedulefile.html -p /public_htm/mydirectory/
    Change the path to coreftp.exe if it is different on your machine. Change MySiteProfile to the name of your site profile you created in Core Ftp. Change c:\myschedulefile.html to the path of the html file you saved from our software. Change /public_htm/mydirectory/ to the path on your web server where you want to access the file from.
  5. Save the .Bat file somewhere like on your Desktop and double click it whenever you want to upload.

CyberMatrix Calendar Software New Year Problem

On January 2, 2015 we heard from several calendar software (Pro Schedule and Meeting Manager) customers with the same problem. When trying to add a new appointment or booking they saw an error message stating that “Your schedule end date is earlier than today. Would you like to change it to one year in the future?”. On choosing Yes, another error could appear saying something like: “The new booking end date will cause double bookings due to the booking with ID 31245”.

This is an annoying situation but unfortunately it is a side-effect of how the scheduler was originally designed. Fortunately, the situation is easy to resolve. The solution involves temporarily allowing double bookings, updating the End Date to five or ten years in the future and then again disallowing double bookings. Here are the exact steps:

  1. From the main menu choose Tools | Options.
  2. For Pro Schedule choose Schedule for Meeting Manager stay on General.
  3. Make sure the Allow Double Booking is checked.
  4. Choose the Date/Time tab.
  5. Ensure Default End Date is unchecked.
  6. Click the year in Booking End Date.
  7. Enter either 2025 or 2030.
  8. Press OK.
  9. Go back to the Options Screen and uncheck the Allow Double Booking box.
  10. Press OK to save.

That will solve the problem for another five or ten years. But the same thing will happen when the next Booking End Date is reached. This is why we are now recommending changing the End Date setting to five or 10 years into the future instead of one year into the future. In the past, we recommended one year because this would give the software better overall performance. At this point though, the scheduler has been optimized so that any performance benefit of a one year end date will hardly be noticeable.

The problem with this solution is that all recurring events having the current End Date will be changed to have the new End Date. This may cause double booking of appointments at some time in the future.

To minimize these problems we released updates on Feb 2015 so our software no longer has this particular error message. However, adding any recurring bookings with an End Date in the past will still result in an error that prevents saving the booking until the End Date is changed. We apologize for this annoyance and want to assure all customers that the upcoming Event Scheduler software will use an unreachable End Date (100 years in the future) to deal with this problem.