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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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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Double Towel Racks – The Easy Way To Increase Space

Bathrooms almost always pose a storage challenge. They often have minimal space to do all the jobs we need to do in there and to store everything we use while we're in there.

When a bathroom is shared by a couple of people, or even an entire family, unique storage challenges come up, and they require unique solutions. When, say, four people use the same room for bathing, an obvious problem is: where do you put all the towels? Bathroom hardware manufacturers came up with a better solution: double towel racks.

A traditional single towel rack provides sufficient space to dry one towel. If you've got four people using four towels each day, and you have a typical bathroom, you'll need a wall covered with towel rods to provide enough drying space.

Double towel racks provide an innovation solution to this all-too-common bathroom storage problem. You'll find double towel racks come in traditional finishes like polished chrome and polished and antique brass, and popular finishes like brushed nickel and oil-rubbed bronze. You can find economic versions of double towel racks in unfinished wood and ceramic-and-plastic. Regardless of the amount the wall space you have available to install this hardware, you'll find one to fit your space; They come in the range of standard sizes.

If your bathroom is short on storage, you'll usually be open to considering any new space-saving solutions. You can find bathroom suites with a double towel racks installed below. Imagine-in the space where you could normally dry a towel or two, you can double your hanging space, and have room to store a few fresh folded towels and other bathroom essentials, too.

Double towel racks are an excellent solution when you've got lots of damp towels to handle, but other solutions do exist:

• Install a row of pegs or hooks along the wall of the bathroom.
• Install one or more multi-prong hooks on the back of the bathroom door.
• Buy a shower curtain rod with a towel rack incorporated in its design.
• When you purchase shower doors, look for ones where the handles double as towel bars.
• Install suction-cup hooks inside the tub surround.
• Place a swing-arm towel bar to the wall next to your tub or shower. This way, the towel bars extend into the room; They are not limited to hanging against a wall.
• Hang a hook over the bathroom door, linen closet door, or the door of the water closet. These over-door hooks come in single, double, and multiple hook versions in colors and finishes that either stand out or blend in.
• Repurpose an old-style coat rack and use it to hang towels in the bathroom. It takes up only a single square foot of precious floor space.
• If you want to add furniture to your bathroom, look for a hall tree, which is usually reserved for use in the foyer or a mudroom. They come in many styles and finishes, equipped with hooks, mirrors, storage benches, and shelves.
• If you've fortified enough to have a sizable linen closet in your bathroom, visit the closet organization section of your home improvement store. These stores have trained personnel who can help you look at the space you have and redesign it to suit your needs.

Installing a couple of double towel racks can provide a simple way to add storage space to your bathroom. But investigate all the possible storage options for your unique bathroom design challenges. You're not limited to one solution-think creatively and combine them to make a bathroom that works for you.

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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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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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Creative Marketing Ideas For Hardware Stores

With large nationwide chains that dominate the market, small hardware stores sometimes have a difficult time being competitive. The key is to find a unique selling proposition for your business and to capitalize on it so customers see the value in choosing you over one of the larger stores. Here are some great ways to make your business stand out.

  1. Giveaways -When your store first opens (or even if you're just looking for an extra push), offer small giveaways to your customers with their purchase. These will be tools or products they can use that are branded with your store's information-hammers, tape measures, levels, etc. When a customer is using this product and runs out of something or determinates the need to visit a hardware store, they'll see your information and immediately head your way!
  2. In-Store Classes -Hardware stores often form a bit of a culture and social atmosphere, so find ways to play this up. One great choice is to sponsor training classes and educational seminars in your store. Work with your vendors to provide information that your customers will find valuable. Even your employees can instruct these classes-anything from minor home renovation products to full-scale remodeling. List the classes you're offering that month above your cash registers with a large, visible vinyl banner which clearly-informs customers of their opportunities to expand their skills.
  3. Charity Donations -Offer your products to charity groups and organizations in-town which build or repair homes for the less-fortunate. This is great PR for your business, it makes you look more-reliable, and in return you're often able to advertise at the home-site using a banner or yard sign. When customers see that you're giving back to your community, they are more-inclined to shop with you.
  4. Ladies Night -Most hardware stores predominately-market toward men. While the majority of your customers are probably male, do not neglect the ladies. Host a "Ladies Night" at your store that offers your educational classes and even a special discount on purchases made by women. Use removable window clings to give your store a slight feminine touch. There's a huge potential market here that is somewhat-untapped, and with the right approach, female customers can dramatically affect your business.
  5. Personal Shoppers -Some customers complain that hardware or home improvement stores are overwhelming. Counter this objection by providing customers with a personal shopping service. Your employees already help customers find products daily anyway, but creating a formal program provides a revenue opportunity. Customers can have one of your employees guide them around the store and help them find exactly what they need for their project, or for even-more convenience, your employee can preselect the products they need so that when the customer arrives, all they have to Do is check out.
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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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Futon Frame Maintenance and Common Replacement Parts and Hardware

A little preventative maintenance of your futon frame can greatly increase how long it lasts. We recommend checking the bolts on your futon frame every month or two, depending on how often it's used. If they are loose, gently tighten them, but be careful not to over tighten them. If you have a wooden frame, you can rub a bar of Ivory soap in the arm tracks every now and then, to keep things operating smoothly.

Most of the damage that we see is from forcing the frame to operate, when it's stuck. If you are converting your frame from a bed to a sofa, or from a sofa to a bed, and it does not easily convert, stop what you are doing, and remove the mattress, and carefully examine why it's not moving easily. Usually if you try to convert the frame and you pull on one side more than the other, something will jam, and if forced, you may break something.

Normally a guest will try to make their bed in the morning, and not knowing how to do it, they may break your frame. We suggest telling your guests to leave the futon as a bed, and you'll take care of changing it from a bed to a sofa for them.

Some parts wear out, and some of the plastic parts can dry out over the years. If the bolts are not tightened, a part can move around in a way that it's not recommended to, and that can cause it to break. People ask us why they do not make some of the parts in futon frames out of metal so they're never break. The reason is, if they were metal, and something jammed up, and was forced, the seat, or back, or an arm would crack, and that would be a more costly repair.

Here's a list of some of the more common futon frame hardware and parts. This is by no means a complete listing of all the parts, but it includes most of the common parts. Some items are called more than one name, so we list them twice. Futon store that has been around a long time, might even have obsoleste parts that you might need.

If you need a part that you can not find anywhere, consult a good futon store who's willing to help you, and give them a description and a couple of pictures showing what you need and see if they are willing to help you. They may need to know the name of the manufacturer of the frame because there are many frames that look the same, but the size of the bolts or seat decks and other items will all be slightly different.

Futon Bolts
Standard Futon Hinges
Click Click Hinges
Triple Click Hinges
Futon Mattress Storage Bags
Oblong Rollers
Carriage Blocks
Round Futon Rollers
Double Futon Rollers
Nylon Roller Inserts
Futon Barrel Nuts, Nuts, and Cross Dowels
Larger Futon Barrel Nuts
Futon Seat Stoppers
Futon Storage Bags
Allen Wrenches
Larger Allen Wrenches
Plastic Leg Caps
1/2 "Futon Hardware Sets
5/8 "Futon Hardware Sets
Angle Support Brackets
Decorative Bolt Covers or Plugs
Clevis Pins and Assemblies
Various Plastic Rollers, Glides and Carriage Blocks
Stretcher Support Rails
Futon Seat Decks
Futon Back Decks
Futon Arms
Cotter Pins
Washers and Clips
Futon Slats and Supports

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Choosing the Right SDLC For Your Project

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

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

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

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

Scrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waterfall

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

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

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

RUP

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

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

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

3. Construction phase – produces the system

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

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

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

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

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

JAD

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

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

RAD

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

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

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

LSD

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

1. Eliminate waste

2. Amplify Learning (both technical and business)

3. Decide on requirements as late as possible

4. Deliver as fast as possible

5. Empower the team

6. Build integrity

7. See the whole

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

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

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

Extreme Programming (XP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Automated Real Estate Software – The New Trend in Investing

The value of real estate has appreciated in the last few years. It also shows great potential for growth. Hence, now might be the best time to look at an investment in property. However, if you’ve spoken to someone who already has his knees deep in real estate investing, you will realize that a lot of things are easier said than done.

It requires skill and experience to scour the market for high value properties.

Then comes landing good buyers.

Finally, there’s a humongous amount of paper work to handle.

This is where real estate investing softwares might lend a hand. They automate the entire process of real estate investing. If you would like to know more about such applications, here’s a low down on some of the common features they offer.

Lead generation –

At the click of a single button you are able to find a comprehensive list of buyers and sellers scattered across the country. The information elicited includes names and mail addresses of buyers, owners of properties, the type of property (bank owned, foreclosed, low and high equity, absentee owner etc.) and amount of cash paid.

Website creation –

Every business needs a website, especially if you do not have a physical location from which operate. Not all of us know the technicalities of writing HTML codes and designing a website. The real estate softwares can help you create targeted and user-friendly websites that you can use to showcase your business.

Direct mail generator –

Marketing is the soul of a real estate business. The more you network the more leads you can generate. The direct mail generator feature helps you setup a highly productive and efficient mailing system. You can send out emails, newsletters, posters and flyers.

There are a range of pre-made email templates you can use to send out messages to your leads. Autoresponders make sure you can keep in touch with sellers and buyers even when you are not physically present to answer their queries.

This feature is a highlight feature of most real estate software given that the savings in time and money are large.

Investing tips –

This is a section that most newbies can benefit from. Most applications include a resource library with info on the basic aspects of the trade. An open community of members can also give you an opportunity to interact and build your resource with real-time knowledge about making, building and closing a deal.

Diverse user base –

Modern-day automated real estate investing software applications cater to a varied group of investors. It includes those who buy, fix and flip properties. If you are a landlord, it can increase the convenience of managing your properties including finding tenants and repairing and renovating properties between subsequent deals. There are also features that rehabbers and builders of new constructions can use.

Contracts and paperwork –

Real estate investment also means a lot of paperwork. Most applications offer tools to generate contracts. Features such as auto-fill enable you to fill personal details into letters, contracts and other property-related documents. You can sign them online, and then email or fax them free of charge.

There is one thing – you need to be realistic. Real estate softwares are tools you can use to streamline your business. You should have a real estate business to start with and some basic know-how on investing.

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