Can You Upgrade a Maya Student Version to a Full Commercial Edition?

The Maya 3D software from Autodesk has long-been a staple tool for the production of the highest level of Visual Effects and animation for Oscar-winning blockbuster movies, TV shows and video games.

Students who are looking to secure themselves commercial work upon graduation these days typically need to show some familiarity with this software…ideally the more the better, since most companies these days use Maya as their main software package, and many have it deeply integrated into their own proprietary pipelines and tools – meaning that the situation is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.

Students who take the opportunity currently afforded them of purchasing a copy of the Maya Student Edition do well since they are able to improve their skillset on the full Unlimited version of the software, and do so at a huge discount (the student edition typically retails for around $350).

However, a number of students wonder if they also qualify for a discount later on if they wish to upgrade to a full commercial edition of the Maya software. Jumping from graduation to commercial work can be a challenge, so any way to alleviate the expense of setting yourself up as a freelancer is more than welcome…but can it actually be done?

Upgrade Maya Student Edition To Commercial License?

Yes, you’ll be pleased to know that there is a program available where current owners of a Maya student license are able to upgrade to the full commercial license at a massive discount of around 60%…in other words, a full commercial license of Maya would typically cost around $3,900, but student license holders are able to upgrade their current license to a full commercial one for just $1,300.

This is huge, and can be a real lifesaver for folks who want to go it alone and start their own freelance business but are wary of the huge costs involved.

In fact, if you’re smart about it and don’t mind a little negotiation, the license could even be purchased with a down-payment from your first client before you even begin working on their project.

Such a huge discount on the student to commercial upgrade is a great incentive for students, especially at this economic time, and it also makes purchasing the Maya student edition in the first place a sensible option, since you get access to these kinds of discounted upgrades.

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Turn Your Basement Into a Virtual Shooting Gallery

An indoor shooting simulator is easy to add on to most projection based home theater systems, and in most cases is an inexpensive way to add hours of entertainment for the whole family. People of all ages enjoy playing the wide range of games that are available for the system, everything from “Baseball Challenge” to “Elephant Hunter” will keep your family and friends entertained. Utilizing a shooting simulator is not only a great way to add excitement to your home theater room; it is also a get way to keep your shooting skills sharp.

System Basics:

There are a few basic requirements for adding a shooting simulator to an existing home theater. The simulator runs on a normal Windows based computer, software is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. The image is broadcast through a projector to a screen, which most projectors and home theater screens will be suitable for use with this simulator. Now all you need to add is a basic simulator package, which includes a rifle, case, camera and five games. Installation of the simulator will only take about thirty minutes to setup and install the new software and hardware. Now you are ready to start enjoying the very best of simulated shooting. To recap the items you need: computer, projector, screen and a simulator package.

Benefits of Indoor Shooting:

There are many advantages to adding an indoor shooting simulator to you home theater room, these are just a few.

Convenience- having the ability to practice your shooting skills from within your own house, cuts down on drive time to the range and you can fire up your system anytime you want.

Cost Savings- ammunition is expensive! You will save a lot of money practicing your skills using a true to life replica laser firearm verses using live ammo.

Safety- using a laser firearm is a much safer weapon to practice will and it’s a lot better for your hearing.

Shooting Variety- with a shooting simulator you have the ability to practice your skills on a wide range of software titles. You can practice shooting skeet and with just a touch of a button you can switch over to another game and practice your marksmanship on simulated popup targets.

Entertainment- Gather you friends and family, challenge them for the highest score or for bragging rights.

Packages and Software:

With this system, there are many packages of both hardware and software available. Looking for a portable package or maybe a complete package if you don’t have a projector, computer and screen? Those packages and more are available. There are over 35 software titles currently available, which can be purchased separately or in 15 game packages. Software titles are being added, so you will always have the option to buy the latest games on the market. Do you have the best Halloween party on your block? There is a Halloween software package that will insure your party is unforgettable. Do you have a young hunter or marksman that could benefit from “Hunter’s Education” software? It is an option on this simulator. Teach them everything from ethical shooting to animal anatomy, with the hunter’s Ed package. Looking to hone your archery skills? This simulator has packages available for you bow enthusiasts. There are several optional firearms which can be added to the system, to maximize the skill development and enjoyment of the simulator.

Adding a shooting simulator to your theater room is easy and a cost effective way of increasing the entertainment value of your room as well as improve shooting skills. If you would like some more information on the shooting simulators or have any questions please contact me through the website.

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Schedule Slippage – Root Causes

“The single most important task of a project: setting realistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations based on inaccurate estimates are the single largest cause of software failure.”- Futrell, Shafer

Introduction

With global and competitive market, it is very important to launch a product or service in the market on time, ahead of competitors. Definitely, timely launch depends on on-time-completion of the product development projects. Project planning has lots of challenges to overcome in order to finish the project on time – right from schedule predictability, envisioning future/possible risks and coming up with mitigation plans.

This article talks about some of the challenges, often faced in the Software Product Development industry that causes the schedule slippage.

Schedule slippage: Delay in the project completion from its initial estimated date of completion.

Each project plan will have a planned completion date (NRA, RA), and a bounding box or upper limit in schedule. Nowadays, it is a common practice to have three dates associated with any project plan:

  • Non-Risk Adjusted (NRA) date: Project completion date assuming no hurdles – Ideal conditions.
  • Risk Adjusted (RA) date: Project completion date assuming some risks will come on the way and will need extra time to attend to them.
  • Bounding Box (BB) or upper limit: The upper limit on the project plan before which the project has to be finished under any circumstances – Generally decided by the top management based on product/services roadmap and launch in the market.

Under ideal circumstances, any project is scheduled to complete by NRA date. Considering some risks that may come on the way and would eat some time off the schedule, the project should be over by RA date. If the risks were not envisioned and hence not planned well, then project may get delayed and would complete after RA date. Project completion crossing the RA or upper limit is neither good nor expected out of a well-planned project.

Root Causes

As we always plan for a project to get over before RA date, seldom is the case it happens as expected. There are multiples reasons for schedule slippage, right from improper planning, lack of resources to unplanned requirements and rework that eat away vital time off the planned schedule.

A typical project development process – Each project will have a team (development, testing and other functions) that will work through a process (requirement analysis, schedule estimation, design, implementation and testing) to deliver a product to the customer/end user. Each entity that participate in the project – directly or indirectly affect the schedule.

From the development process, we can identify the items that can cause delay in the execution of the project – for example, misinterpreted or unclear requirement adds up to completion time, unavailability of development tools or resources can prolong the project duration. Various processes like schedule estimation, detailed design and product development if not executed skillfully, may significantly blow up the project cycle.

For better understanding all these possible causes that may result in schedule slippage are categorized .

Let’s have a detailed look at the root causes of schedule slippage category wise.

1) Schedule Estimation: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey

For a project to be executed on time, it is very important to have it planned very well. Any mistake in project schedule estimation reflects as delay in the project completion from its deadline. There are several factors that contribute to improper schedule estimation:

· Underestimation of technical complexities: At the start of the project, many of the team members may not have thorough knowledge of technical complexities and hence their estimation would be incorrect. Sometimes it may so happen that the person giving estimates for a particular task is having no idea about the technical challenges involved in carrying out that particular task. You might hear, towards the mid/end of the project life cycle when the task is not finished on time – “Oh, I didn’t know that this feature also requires 5 more tasks to be done!” or “I was thinking this task to be so simple, but I under estimated it!”. · Lack of Design/Big picture: It is important to have a bigger picture / overview of the complete project to understand how a particular module/feature would fit in to complete project. Product or system level design helps in understanding the interfaces among other modules and the required coordination for product assembly and hence, a better insight into the work involved. Often, estimates without focus on detailed design tend to deviate more from the actual time taken for finishing the job. · Integration Testing: While making a project plan, testing also needs to be accommodated in the schedule. At times, the unit testing or testing done by individual contributors on their module is taken into account but not the system level testing. Toward the release, when all the individually tested modules are brought together, a system level or integration testing is a must. Having the time for integration testing not accounted in the overall project schedule will cause delay in the project completion.

· Unplanned dependencies: Project planning is not only about breaking the project into minute tasks and managing them. A well-planned project schedule also needs to consider certain unplanned dependencies. Some of these are:

o People: Optimum utilization of human resources calls for same set of people working in multiple projects. A person may not be available to work for currently planned/assigned project due to extended/unplanned work in another parallel project. Another issue related to people could be unplanned/unexpected attrition that will affect the project plan. Time is also lost in mentoring of new member by a senior (more experienced) person which goes unaccounted if not planned.

o Tools & Equipments: Project can be delayed if team is waiting for release of upgrade or procurement of any vital tool (hardware or software being used in the project) or if the equipments required for development and testing are not available. “We had a 3-months project for validating our existing solution on new product platform using customer DUT (device under test). We had to wait for the DUT for nearly 1.5 months as it got stuck in customs. After getting the DUT, we realized that it’s been damaged partially during transportation. As a result we had to ask for another DUT and whole project took more than 5 months to get finished.” – I am sure that such cases will be quite familiar to many organizations. Other reason for timely unavailability of tools / equipments is that they are shared among various projects to reduce the operating cost. Any unplanned dependency on their usage or wrong assumption about availability of these shared resources would cause delay in the program. Team members might have to work on shifts to optimize the usage of shared resources which can cause reduced work hours and/or productivity loss and results to schedule slippage.

“I was waiting for Matlab license to be released by another person in the team but he left the office without doing so and I lost 3 hours figuring out what to do?” – is it something you faced before?

o Other programs: If multiple programs have deliverable dependencies, then delay in one project will have cascaded effect on other projects, which directly or indirectly depend on its deliverable. “We got delayed because we had to wait for a critical UI component from the framework project team” or “We didn’t plan for bug fixes for a component which was supposed to be delivered defect free for our usage” are the common scenarios for delays in program which are dependent on other program deliverables. Parallel programs may affect the schedule of your program in a different way as well – Sometimes, management changes the priority of the programs running in parallel. If your project is considered as a low priority one then there might be lack of resources assigned to your project that may result in schedule slippage.

· Beta releases: How many times we seek feedback on our product during development? And how often we allocate time for it? It’s important to plan beta releases if we desire to have our product validated by expert users or lighthouse customers during development. Getting feedback from beta customers becomes important especially when their requirements echo that of a mass customer base. Process of giving workable releases to customers, collecting their experience, having their feedback analyzed, and then incorporating in the final product version takes significant time.

· Risk mitigation and plan B: Every project will have some or the other risks. These risks can be of varying severity and probabilities. While making project plan, it is important to treat the risk individually based on their severity and probability of occurrence. If high probable risks with higher severity are not planned with their mitigation plan (or plan B), they will have huge impact on schedule deviation from planned one. As in one of the previous examples quoted, getting a DUT on time for validation was a risk. Had there been a mitigate plan (plan B) like – Validate with other DUT or if DUT is not available here, let one developer travel to customer’s place and finish the validation on time, the schedule slippage would have been avoided.

2) People: Ultimately, projects are executed by people who may not be skilled or talented. Hence, looking for perfection in projects involving human beings may not be a feasible thought. Certain unpredictable and hence unavoidable issues under this category are:

· Poor leadership: Before thinking of project execution, it is project planning that actually would set the platform of success. Execution of the project depends on its team while planning is taken care by the project leader. The project leader is expected to have enough technical know-how to understand the project goals and to the details of the tasks involved. Poor leadership and superficial knowledge of assignments often results in invalid effort estimation and ad hoc task delegation causing stress and possible delay in project execution. People leading the team are also responsible for keeping the team spirit and motivation level upbeat. Poor personal commitment due to lack of motivation results in loss of productivity and may cause schedule to slip. Another reason that adds up to delay in projects is inability of leadership team to track the schedule progress and take the correction action.

· Attrition: If the project duration is large and job market is hot, it may be difficult to retain people in the project till its completion. Attrition may further delay the completion especially if the person leaving the job was in critical path. A person leaving the organization would leave a gap in the project that a new person may not fill immediately, which in turn causes sudden reduction in the task force.

· Learning curve: When ever a new person or team member is included in the project, he or she may require some time to understand the project to keep in pace with other members. Learning curve is needed for new team members, joining the team either due to attrition or due to any specific technical competency requirement. · Context switching: In smaller organization or groups where people work on multiple projects simultaneously, it is important to have some buffer for context switching. A person planned to work in project ‘A’ for two hours after a gap of two weeks, would take more than scheduled time to complete that task. Gap of two weeks and the fact that he or she was involved in other project would require some time for the member to get back to the context of current project. · Global development teams: In an era of globalization and outsourcing, it is common these days to have development team distributed over different geographical regions. Project plan needs to account for different time zones and working culture. You might expect an input for your task on Monday morning your time but it may be Sunday late evening for that person and finally when the input arrives, you might be on your way to home after work.

Sometimes schedule estimation might go completely wrong if you have not understood the work culture of the region your teammate belongs to – “In my previous work, I was given a task to be completed with a heads up that its very critical task and needs immediate attention’. When I asked my project lead how many days/hours I have for it, I had been time for 2 weeks for high priority and ‘immediate-attention’ work.” Definition of ‘urgent’, ‘high priority tasks’ changes with culture and region.

· Communication Issues: People communicate differently. If important issues are not brought to the notice of the team members, or are not escalated on time, the entire project may suffer. Often fear of embarrassment stops team members from reporting issues faced during execution leading to more time being spent on that task that can easily be executed additional help.

3) Customer Involvement: These issues are quite serious if customer or end users of the product are involved in the development phase. Understanding customer’s priorities, defining your expectation from their involvement needs to be clear and in agreement with both the parties.

· Expert user testing: In the beginning of the project, expert user testing cycle needs to be planned. Process of giving builds or releases for testing and collecting their feedback, analyzing and incorporating them in your product takes significant time which, if not planned, can delay your program. · Timely feedback: “I got feedback from customers for features, delivered in development milestone-1, after milestone-5 towards the release. These feedbacks are critical but now I am worried how to incorporate them without affecting the schedule.” It sounds like a common problem. Incorporation of feedback from customers needs to be planned well taking a commitment from the customer. · Product requirement specification review: Having a product requirement review planned and executed will keep you on right track throughout the project. Reviewing the requirement specification will avoid requirement related defects fixing which otherwise would have delayed, the project.

4) Ambiguous Project Requirement: For any project to be initiated, the first thing is to have requirements for it. In the product development life cycle, requirement phase acts like a foundation. Clear requirement or vision for the project navigates the team to success. However, requirements may not be clear at the time of estimation and may result in delay in the project completion. Issues related:

· Evolving specs: If you are making a product based on a standard which is not yet matured or still evolving, you are more prone to have this risk. Frequency changes in the specs will change the requirement for the project during different stages of product development and team will continue to work on something that is not yet evolved. This results in rework that would delay the project if time for dealing with these changes is not accommodated in the schedule. “We developed an algorithm and hence measurement that was based on certain industry standard. Towards the release of the product, the specs changed and our measurement was no more valid. We had to redo the algorithm to reflect the changes in the specs. This caused our product release delayed by 2 months.” · New requirements: Sometimes new requirements are added as the project evolves towards completion. Implementation of new requirements is not planned at the beginning of the project and hence is not accounted in schedule. Adding new feature without revising the schedule may result in delay.

· Untold expectation: Requirements from the customers may be of two types – implicit or explicit. It is important to have the requirements well documented. Implicit requirements needs to be better defined and documented to avoid any confusion towards the end of the project. Customers may not describe their requirements related to system performance, memory issues, user interface quality and usability but they are very keen on providing feedback in those aspects once the product is given for expert user testing. If we are not clear about such requirements, out design might not address them. Addressing them towards the end of the project may call for design changes and extra work that would delay the project.

5) Unplanned Tasks / Reworks: Bounding box for the project is set by higher management and often lack buffer for unplanned task(s). Having more of unplanned task that creep up at different phases of project can cause schedule slippage. The unplanned tasks or rework may arise due to:

· Sustaining work: In smaller organizations, some of the project team may also be responsible for sustaining / customer support of existing products. These unplanned tasks, which come on event basis, related to customer support are always of high priority. Excess or prolonged sustaining work may take resource out of the planned project causing a potential threat for schedule slippage. · Defect fixes: Defects are bad as they degrade the product quality and consume extra time/effort to fix them. It is good to have testing of the intermediate releases of the project to find and fix defects sooner in the development life cycle. If the fixing-cycle for such internal-milestone defects is not planned, then either the project is either going to slip or product is going to be of poorer quality. Poor programming skill of the team, not adapting to modern programming practices and having ad hoc development processes may lead to higher number of defects which would take more time to fix then planned and cause slippage.

· Task spillover from previous milestone: Tasks that are not completed in previous milestone, due to whatever reason (inefficiency, vacation of the team member, resource crunch etc), will have to be completed in the next milestone thereby increasing the load on the team. If adequate buffer is not planned, these tasks spilled from previous milestone over to next, can delay the project. · Requirement change / refinement: Requirement changes during the product development will result in rework of what has been previously done with first version of requirement(s). Addressing changes in the requirements needs extra time and effort and may cause schedule slippage. In some cases, the requirement from customer is misunderstood resulting in wrong system design and implementation. Additional, unplanned time is lost in correcting the design/implementation which causes schedule slippage.

Conclusion

On time delivery is the challenge software development companies are facing globally. To have a complete control over estimated schedule, it is very important to identify the elements in the development cycle that cause schedule slippage. This article uncovers and explains the root causes of delay in programs using examples from real world. Having an insight to the root causes will help the program managers to make good decisions to avoid future schedule slippage.

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Computer Hardware Course – The Advantages of Taking It

Computer hardware courses are an excellent way to learn how to manage the inevitable computer failures that you will encounter as you find yourself hanging on your computer more and more everyday. While you do have the option of taking your computer to the service center it can cost you a lot of time and money. Your computer hardware course is invaluable for helping you understand the hardware requirements for your computer that will be enable you to jump to the rescue instead of trudging along to the repair shop.

It does not take an engineer or a technician to be successful in learning about computer hardware. If you are interested in engineering or technician positions however, a background in computer hardware can make you a far more valuable person in your field and can enhance your employability tremendously.

To troubleshoot your computer you can do very well with a simple computer hardware course. You can become your own specialist and forgo spending the money on an IT specialist.

The time invested in a computer hardware study program will pay off quickly when things go wrong. But, this is not the only reason taking a computer hardware course would be a good plan.

Not only will you be able to fix your computer, but you will have the knowledge to build a computer from scratch. The cost of computer parts is often far less expensive than buying a pre-made package. You will also be able to customize your computer so that it is perfectly designed for your needs.

By avoiding the cost of labor from the computer store you will have a far less expensive computer that is perfect for you. You will also no longer need to worry about taking your computer in for repairs as you will know just how to fix what goes wrong.

Computer knowledge is in high demand no matter what career you are involved in. With the information you learn in a computer hardware course you will be able to take on an IT position. Such positions are in high demand as a limited number of people have the knowledge to take on an IT role.

The time needed to take a computer hardware course is well worth the investment. Learning about software and programming can only make you even better with your computer goals. If you are limited in time, not to worry. Many courses are available online or on CD for you to do at home.

Take some time to discover exactly what will be covered in your course. The computer technology field is huge, so you will need to focus. You will never be able to learn everything about computer hardware in a single course. It takes a lifetime of study to learn, and with technology constantly changing you will need to continuously work on keeping your knowledge up to date. A computer hardware course will bring you a chance to get ahead of the game and keep up with your own computer.

Louis Zhang, computerhardwarecute dot com

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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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8 Criteria to Choose the Best Antivirus Program For Your Needs

There is no best antivirus program in general. You can make the best choice of your antivirus software depending on your goals, your needs and your environment. In order to choose your best antivirus software you should look at vendor information, independent antivirus certifying agencies reviews, as well as other sources. Here are the essential criteria for the right choice.

1. Compatibility
Antivirus program has to be compatible with your PC configuration. Your PC must meet hardware and software requirements of antivirus solution.

2. Range of Protection
Antivirus software should protect your PC from as many threats and on as many viruses as it can: viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, keyloggers, adware, rootkits, password stealers, phishing attacks, spam and others.

3. Effectiveness
Antivirus protection delivery by antivirus program should be effective and efficient. You may find and compare test results released by independent antivirus certifying agencies: Virus Bulletin, AV Comparatives, ISCA Labs, Westcoast Labs and others. If some antivirus solution was scored by these agencies high and consistently near the top, then you really can not go wrong with this top rated antivirus software.

4. Easy Installation
Good antivirus program has a prompt and easy installation. Interface should be clean, easy, and intuitive to use.

5. Easy to Use
Most users want to "install and forget" their antivirus software. So the best antivirus solution should have default configurations acceptable for most users. And at the same time good antivirus program can be easily configured and tweaked by advanced users.

6. Features
The best antivirus programs have the large features set that may include:
– list of compatible versions of Operational systems and platforms,
– amount of used system resources,
– using of proactive protection without false positives and with effective utilizing of system resources,
– availability of laptop battery saving mode,
– bootable rescue disk,
– silent gamer mode, and other available options.

A comprehensive features set adds strength to antivirus solution.

7. Update
The best security solutions have Automatic Update option and automatically perform updates every hour or "as needed updates" to keep virus definitions and program code up to date.

8. Support
The best security programs have a comprehensive online and offline technical support. The program vendor should provide online knowledge base, FAQs, tutorials, user forums. The best sellers provide 24/7 support so you can ask your questions by phone, email or chat at any moment.

The best for your needs antivirus program delivers you the best security and usability with a minimal outlay of your time, money, or your PC system resources.

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How to Resolve “Memory Card Error” From Canon IXUS 130

Canon IXUS 130 is a sophisticated digital camera that has a resolution of 14.1 megapixels. The camera is inbuilt with almost all advanced features, including fully wide-angle 4x zoom lens and motion blur technology. The IXUS camera is compatible with SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) and SDXC (Secure Digital Extreme Capacity) cards, with storage capacity as high as 2TB.

Since the storage memory of the cards is huge, data loss from these cards is simultaneously huge. One of the main reasons for data loss from cards is corruption of these cards. In most cases, you receive an error message after your card gets corrupted. However, an updated backup allows you to overcome card corruption. It allows you to restore data. But in case of unavailability of backup, you can use recovery software to recover data from a corrupted card.

As a practical case, you view the below error message on Canon IXUS 130 while attempting to view some previously stored photos on your SDHC card:

“Memory Card Error”

Every single photo saved in the memory card becomes inaccessible after the above error message appears. In addition, no more photo can be saved on card. In short, the card can not be read or written upon.

Cause:

The above error message that makes all the photos inaccessible is primarily caused due to corruption of card. Few reasons that are accountable for the above error message are virus infection, interrupted read/write operation, and human errors.

Resolution:

The resolution for the above error message is formatting of memory card in the camera itself. The process deletes all the previously saved data and allows you to save new data. While formatting proves a good resolution for users who do not require the old data, it becomes fatal for users, like photographers, detective agents, etc, who save critical data in their memory card. However, recovering formatted data now-a-days is an easy process. To do so, you need to use an advanced third-party Photo Recovery Software. A Image Recovery tool is readily available on the Internet by just one single click.

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Learn How to Fix “Runtime Error 53 File Not Found” Easily

Computer errors generally plague us a lot. They have to be removed immediately before they can cause any further problems. One such error is the run time error 53. It shows the message “runtime error 53 file not found”.

In this error, problem occurs when a software program that is installed on the PC shows this error because it is trying to reach a DLL file that has been removed from the windows registry. This registry contains all the files that are used by Windows for executing any kind of commands by human users. This DLL file might have never been installed on the computer itself.

To fix runtime error 53 from your system, some simple steps have to be followed. Such steps include clicking on the start menu and then landing at the control panel. After you reached the control panel, open the programs and features icon. Open up all the programs stored in the computer through it. Uninstall the program, which produced the run time error 53 message. A window will also open up telling the user that the program has been removed from the system.

To make sure that the DLL file is stored again on the computer, one has to remove the program and then put it back. The program can be reintroduced into the system through a hard disk or a CD. Instructions will appear on the screen as this program gets installed. After clicking on the install it now option, the user will see the option of terms and conditions on the screen. Click on the “I agree” choice to continue with the installation. The operating systems that generally display this error are Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Run the program to ensure that runtime error 53 is not displayed again. If the error is still being produced, then contact the company, which supplied you with the software.

It is also intelligent on your part if you find out about the compatibility of your software with the operating system of your computer or other software. You can find out about this compatibility through an online research. The website of the software developer can also yield you such details. Tell the software developer about the intricacies of your system to get an adequate response from him about the runtime error 53.

However, the last and most easy solution to fix “runtime error 53 file not found” error is using windows registry cleaner software. Registry cleaner software can always eradicate any registry errors produced by wrong entries, which cause a runtime error 53. It can delete all the useless entries in the registry that are causing such an error. Using such software can ensure that you get an error-free system.

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The Advantages and Disadvantages to Bug Tracking Software

Bug tracking has been around as early as the 1940’s, just not in a software form. In these early days, simply using a pen and a paper created tracking systems. It evolved from then to using spreadsheets. Now there is bug tracking software like the defect tracking tool and even more specific programs like Mantis and Bugzilla, just to name a couple. As with anything that evolves however, there will always be those that are 100% for the programs and those that are against it. This article will cover all claims – both positive and negative – of bug tracking software like the defect tracking tool.

The Positive Claims

It certainly depends on the type of bug tracking software that is used, but it seems as if there are many more advantages to these tools than disadvantages. The most obvious advantage is that these types of tools allow companies to keep a record of the issues that are recorded, who fixed them, and even how long it took to fix the issue for some types of programs. Customers are encouraged to be as detailed as they can be when requesting that an issue be fixed so that companies can complete their requests as quickly as possible. The fact that the issues are recorded and saved is a huge benefit for the companies because sending the recorded bug list with the purchased software is a common practice. This is a benefit to customers because if it is a common error, they can simply look up this issue in the previously recorded bug list. However, if the list is incredibly long (a common disadvantage) it can become more of a hassle.

The Negative Claims

As with anything that has a list of positive aspects there is also a list of negative aspects, though there are few. One of the biggest complaints is not so much from the bug tracking software or defect tracking tool itself but more from the process of submitting issue requests. Customers need to be extremely detailed with their issue requests if they want a detailed response. Miscommunication isn’t a fault of the product, the customer, or the company – it’s simply something that happens. Customers and companies alike both need to remember to be patient with each other and to treat each other with a mutual respect. A second complaint that was previously mentioned is the length of issues in some of these software programs.

Some customers don’t have the patience to look through a long list of software issues that have been previously recorded and this causes frustration among the companies that took the time to purchase software that saves them. The length of issues that are submitted can also become a problem because if there are too many issues submitted and not enough engineers to address them, some can get overlooked. Nobody likes to be forgotten, but usually these types of bug tracking software include detailed instructions and are easy to use.

Usually when a company purchases a bug tracking software or defect tracking tool it already has an experienced IT department in place. Whatever the software is that is being used with these programs should have some sort of backup for when the work is completed so it does not get lost if the issues that occur are deadly.

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History and Components of a Modern Mainframe Computer

Mainframe computers are critical for some of the largest corporations in the world. Each mainframe has more than one modern processor, RAM ranging from a few megabytes to multiple-score gigabytes, and disk space and other storage beyond anything on a microcomputer. A mainframe can control multiple tasks and serve thousands of users every second without downtime.

The chief difference between mainframes and other computing systems is the level of processing that takes place. Mainframes are also different in terms of data bandwidth, organization, reliability, and control. Big organizations-banking, healthcare, insurance, and telecom companies, etc.-use mainframes for processing critical commercial data.

In this article, we discuss the evolution of mainframe computers and their components.

History of mainframe computers

IBM developed a critical part of mainframe computing, the Automatic Sequenced Controlled Calculator (ASCC) for arithmetic operations, in 1944. From the late 1950s through the 1970s, several companies manufactured mainframes: IBM, Burroughs, RCA, NCR, General Electric, and Sperry Rand, for example. Since then, System / 390 by IBM is the only kind of mainframe in use. It evolved from IBM's System / 360 in 1960.

An Early mainframe occupied a huge space. New technologies have drastically reduced the size and cost of the hardware. A current-generation mainframe can fit in a small closet.

Components of a modern mainframe computer

Like a PC, a mainframe has many components for processing data: operating system, motherboard or main board, processor, controllers, storage devices, and channels.

• Motherboard: The motherboard of a mainframe computer consists of a printed circuit that allows CPU, RAM, and other hardware components to function together through a concept called "Bus architecture". The motherboard has device slots for input cards and cable interfaces for various external devices. Where PC motherboards use 32- or 64-bit buses, mainframes use 128-bit buses. General instructions regarding the internal architecture help the motherboard connect to the other devices and retrieve data using binary computation.

• Processor: A CPU acts as the central processing point in mainframe architecture and includes an Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU) for performing arithmetic calculations. It also works as a controller for the bus architecture and handles traffic and data requests. The processing power of mainframes is much higher compared to PCs, so that they can handle huge amounts of data.

• Storage devices: Storage devices are for entering, retrieving, storing, and recording data. Many are external devices, such as hard drives, tape drives, and punch card readers, all connected to terminals of the mainframe and controlled by the CPU. Their capacity for data storage can be hundred or even thousands of times that of a PC.

• Communication controllers: Communication controllers allow remote computers to access a mainframe. With the help of networks, LAN or WAN, communication controllers establish connections with various devices, perform data transmission over communication channels, and keep track of users at terminals.

• Channels: The "channels" are the cables used to connect the CPU and the main storage to other parts of the system and make sure that data is moved in a systematic way without losing its integrity.

Modern mainframes have advanced features such as expanded service management capabilities, cross-platform integration facilities, etc. And so are suitable for critical data center operations. The cost of maintaining modern mainframes is much less compared to older models.

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