Blog posts written during July 2011

A little R and R at Ava

Sunday Sunday, July 31, 2011 by Ian Pettman

In the 80's and 90's, team building exercises were all the rage. It's only taken us about 10 years, but we had a "team building exercise" this week. Ian (the MD) was quite proud of this one and feels he may have scored 11 out of 10.

One of the really nice things about developing our software in house in the UK is that we have such a nice bunch of guys in the office.

This is just the part of the team who were up for for their first experience of real flying: being able to actually touch the controls.  It says a lot for team spirit that they opted to do this in an aeroplane without an engine. One of them asked "Do gliders ever do an emergency landing?". Well, since in aviation an emergency landing is described as one without power, the reassuring answer was "Every glider landing is an emergency".

Armed with this comforting knowledge they grouped themselves in front of a glider for a team photo.

Team gliding day out

The boys were keen to show how macho they were, so first up was Nayyab.

Team gliding day out 2

Her instructor was Dr Tony Gee of whom more later.

Dr Gee is re-adjusting his eyeballs (or something) and clearly putting Nayyab at her ease judging by the confused or worried expression on her face.

Team gliding day out 3

Time to lower the canopy, the process from strapping in to attaching the cable for launch can about a minute. Naayab later said with Tony it seemed much, much longer.

Team gliding day out 4

The cable is attached.

Team gliding day out 5

Two of the guys are confer, "It would have been gentlemanly to have gone first", "Yeh, but let's see it she gets back in one piece first. Then we can be gentlemanly".

Wings level...

Team gliding day out 6

And with one mighty bound Tony and Nayyab were airborne.

Team gliding day out 7

Within 10 seconds they were over a thousand feet in the air: you can just see the wings in the exact center of the photo.

Team gliding day out 8

Tony released the cable and the glider turned away.

Team gliding day out 9

Twenty minutes later, Tony and Nayyab landed safely further down the airfield. Did Nayyab enjoy it?

Team gliding day out a

That will be a yes then. Reassured, the guys form a line. Next up Matt.

Team gliding day out b

Tony explains the instruments.

Team gliding day out c

Tony explains the instruments some more...

Team gliding day out d

Tony has finally finished explaining the instruments.

Tony goes through the pre take off checks.

Team gliding day out e

Apparently Tony has a senior moment. Pushing his glasses back he tries to think.... "what am I doing next?"

Tony remembers...

Team gliding day out f

They are off and fly around in the rising columns of air known as updrafts or thermals.

Team gliding day out g

Team gliding day out h

Team gliding day out 1

Tony lands safely and a crow looks on in amazement....

Team gliding day out j

Next up Max. Max has a new instructor who is called Brian.

Team gliding day out k

Checks complete, Brian calls for the cable.

Team gliding day out l

Cable attached, the all clear is given and they are promptly being launched.

Team gliding day out m

At the top of the launch, Brian releases the cable.

Team gliding day out n

And they are off into the wide (no so) blue yonder.

Team gliding day out o

Some time later, they approach back over the Hangers at RAF Halton.

Team gliding day out q

Finally its Oly's turn. Brian explains to Oly one of the finer points of control.

Team gliding day out s

Oly asks another question and Brian explains. Brian is a very avuncular chap, which is, coincidentally, the Ava word for the day. The word is...avuncular.

Team gliding day out u

Oly is finally happy with Brian's explanation, so Brian can proceed.

Team gliding day out v

Looking at this picture reminds me that the minimum age for flying a glider solo in the UK is sixteen. I have to remind myself that Oly is a second year university student, who is either very brilliant or takes a very young looking photograph.

Waiting for clearance to hook up and then launch.

Team gliding day out w

The rest of the team look on.

Team gliding day out x

Checks done, hooked up, all clear, launch signal given.

Team gliding day out y

Climbing higher on the wire.

Team gliding day out z

They fly around out of camera range. Then return, approaching after the flight.

Team gliding day out z1

Touching down as gentle as can be.

Brian says it was a very good flight. Brian is clearly impressed by Oly. Brian says Oly is a natural... We are not quite sure what Oly is a natural at, but we will no doubt find out in due course. Whatever it is, we hope it is pleasant.

Max's first flight was a little shorter than the others, so Max has a second flight with Brian.

Team gliding day out z2

Brian goes through the instruments in more detail this time.

Team gliding day out z3

Brian calls for the cable to launch the glider.

Team gliding day out z5

Very soon they are going up the wire again.

Team gliding day out z6

The cable is released, the glider turns away, the parachute on the end of the cable helps being the cable back in a controlled manner.

Team gliding day out z7

Team gliding day out z8

Max gets a much longer flight this time, the sky is bluer because the thermals are more spread out. Brian's expertise enables him to contact a late afternoon thermal and with a safe height margin, Max is able to fly the glider and under his control it climbs hundreds of feet. Eventually to return.

Team gliding day out za

Team gliding day out zb

Ian curses the lag between pressing the camera shutter and the picture being taken - it's a good but somewhat old digital camera.

And curses again!

Team gliding day out zd

If you are interested in Gliding, then there is the British Gliding Association web site here.

Ava support web site launched on YouTube with GIT

Thursday Thursday, July 28, 2011 by Ian Pettman

First a bit of history:
A year ago we adopted a new version control system called GIT. (This is a software system that allows us to develop our product suite in multiple directions and maintain a consistently higher quality and more frequent updates.) We did this because the development team was expanding and the previous methodology which had been satisfactory till then was becoming overloaded. To help us get up to speed we were lucky enough to know Jeremy Skinner who gave this presentation to us and then did a bit of one to one tuition.
The amusingly titled GIT was developed by the same guy behind the Linux operating system
We have been working towards a YouTube channel for support. To kick it off and have a dry run at producing reasonable content, with Jeremy's permission we have edited the tutorial he gave. We recorded it at the time. It needed to be in YouTube sized chunks so we ended up with 9 episodes: they are all quite short.
In the spirit of open software and supporting GIT: which is proving its worth many times over. We are very happy to publish the presentation. If you are thinking of adopting a better source control system, then GIT, especially when combined with the Smart GIT UI then, you could do a lot worse than spend half an hour looking at these videos.

Agency worker regulation or AWR articles

Thursday Thursday, July 21, 2011 by Ian Pettman

The second AWR or Agency Worker Regulation article concerns the time period that both the hirer and the Agency need to monitor when scheduling workers and giving the required notifications to the other relevant parties. The Act not only stipulates various periods and categories of employment and absence, but also explicitly states that there is not a sole organisation responsible for ensuring compliance. The Act states that both the hirer and the agency must work together exchanging information to ensure that the worker's rights are not infringed or abrogated.

For correct adherence to the Agency Worker Regulations (in force Oct 1st 2011), it is vitally important that employment is monitored accurately and reliably over an extended period. This period is significantly more than 12 weeks.

A future article will illustrate how a single workers employment over an extended period can be summarised in a simple report covering periods contributing to the 12 week clock and those resetting the 12 week clock.

Agency worker regulation or AWR trigger

Tuesday Tuesday, July 19, 2011 by Ian Pettman

The Agency worker regulation or AWR comes on Oct 1st 2011. This article considers the conditions which will trigger a worker's eligibility for equivalence with full time employees. The formula is quite complex: not withstanding we have got it to run in one second or so giving a totally accurate update and warnings to allow the legally required notifications to be made. Here...

Service Pack for SQL 2008 R2 (SP 1) released

Saturday Saturday, July 16, 2011 by Ian Pettman

After some time (it has to be said), Microsoft have released SP1 for SQL2008 R2.

We should reinforce at this point that 2008 R2 is a paid upgrade for SQL2008 (apart from SQL Express which is free for all editions).

The service pack includes cumulative updates to CU6 (but not the currently released CU7 and 8).

Tech net release notes here

Download details here

SQL server team blog here




What is a VPN or cloud connection?

Friday Friday, July 8, 2011 by Ian Pettman

Ava cloud provides connections to your staff scheduling process using what is technically known as a VPN.

What does this mean?

It means that you can have your laptop, home computer, work computer or tablet pc seeing everything you need as long as you have a reasonable Internet connection.

What does that mean?

In the simplest case, you have Ava cloud installed on a laptop computer and Ava cloud also installed on your office PC(s). All the information (data) about clients, employees etc is available wherever you are (as long as your are connected to the internet). This connection can even be by a "mobile dongle" which is a little stick that you get from a mobile provider such as O2, Vodafone, 3 etc (see below). Your office is also connected to the cloud and both the office and laptop can work at the same time updating availability, taking requests, emailing customers, sending SMS messages to employees, processing time sheets for invoice and payroll, and all the other tasks to run your business successfully.

This is all done over what is known as a VPN.

What is a VPN?

VPN stand for "Virtual Private Network".  When you access a standard web page, the information you send and receive is sent in "clear "text. In other words if this web page has the words "Ava cloud is a wonderful product", then anyone and everyone can see that this information has been passed from the Ava web site to you. The "private" part of the VPN or "Virtual Private Network"  means that the information is now sent in an encrypted form. This means that personal information can now be sent with full confidence in its privacy. It means that a nosy competitor cannot access your data. It means you meet your requirements under law for the data protection act. It means you can do this anywhere.  It means that if your computer is stolen, your data is safe.

More about the technical side of VPNs here..

O2 mobile dongle provider

Vodafone mobile dongle provider

3 (and 3 mobile) mobile dongle provider

Orange mobile dongle provider


Price comparison for mobile dongle providers

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