Part 2 - Time and Attendance

This is the second part of a series of blogs which covers the Time and Attendance (TaA) system I have been writing for work.

The screen shot embedded in this blog is from the setting screen which administrators have access to (first time installations also get prompted to enter these details) The first four fields are all about SQL Server authentication, I included a ‘Test Connection’ button just to verify the details before they are saved (just for reference the function behind this button is also called when the ‘Save’ button is clicked)

The rest of the fields on this screen dictate how the application will look and perform.

Show Name’s First: Dictates how information is presented in drop down lists the default option for this is No, as we normally prefer to see employee department number and ID first then their name e.g. 000 - 99999 – Dummy User, however an operator may prefer to see the department number first and then the employees name 000 – Dummy User – 99999

Authenticate Against AD: If you are running TaA in an active directory environment (which we are) then you can allow the operator to use the same username and password that they use to logon to their workstation / email, otherwise you will need to create a new user under the users table on SQL.

Work Saturday’s / Sunday’s: We do not work weekends, but I decided to build in the flexibility if we ever decided to. When this option is set to No it prevents the operator from entering any values for Saturdays and Sundays (it also blocks Public holidays that fall on a weekend)

Years after 2007: Every time I review this setting I think to myself ‘There must be a better way’ however I just can’t find it. This box simply determines how many years to show in a combo box. Now the simplest solution would be to populate the combo box with 1000 or so years, I doubt very much that the TaA application will still be in use but to be on the safe side I wanted the operator to be in control of that.

Full / Half Day Value: We work on an 8 hour full day system so we enter 8 and 4, I think this is pretty self explanatory.

PC Woes

I’ve had a busy few days, we are right in the middle of our budget period which means we have most of the regional sales offices visiting the UK to present their budgets to our US owners (which in turns means I have about 20 or 30 additional users to support) It’s not a real problem and so far things have gone smoothly.

My home PC is offline at the moment, I finally managed to get my hands on a 9800GX2 (That’s a graphics card for those of you who don’t speak geek) Every now and then a piece of a hardware comes out and I say “I want one” but it’s cost new was £500, now just over a year old I’ve bagged myself one for £150 (there probably are better cards on the market, but this is something I’ve wanted since day one) I would love to get another card and set them up in SLI. Anyway the card doesn’t fit in my existing case which means I’ve had to purchase a new case which has given me the hassle of transferring everything from my old case to the new one, only to find out that now my PSU is not powerful enough to run my new graphics card so I’ve had to purchase a bigger PSU (which is now on order) – argh!

I’m working on some documentation for the Time and Attendance system, I’ll be sure to throw some screen shots of it up as I progress.


Easyjet HELP!

So I’ve been watching Easyjet.com daily now to see when the dates for July 2010 become available so that we can book the flights for my stag do (code named Stag Do 2010 – because there will be only 1 stag do in 2010 worthy of mentioning)
Anyway within the last few days the dates have become available in their drop down calendar however every time I select them I get an error. Being in work (and having time on my hands) I decided to look for some kind of help on the Easy Jet website (if you’ve ever done this you’ll know how frustrating their website is, it is one of those typical new millennium websites where by providing contact details to speak to a real human is a crime!) but alas I FOUND IT!


That’s the link to a Q&A database, if you can’t find your answer on that page use the following page which will allow you to talk to a live operator



Disaster recovery is a disaster

My head seriously hurts right now, nothing I have tried has worked so far. I can recover the data from backup, which is great, however I have been unable to restore the system state, which means I have a major head ache on my hands should something ever go wrong with our Servers.


CSS Help

I was amending some CSS files while doing some development work when I came across the following website http://www.somacon.com/ it’s a blog by Shailesh N. Humbad. On his website are lots of useful articles for web development, close to the bottom of his blog are links for several useful CSS related tools he has developed, they are worth checking out


I could have made that!

Another Sunday and another though Raven’s loss, at least we are heading into a bye week which should give us time to readjust our focus. It’s hard NOT to blame the kicker for missing from 40 yards but talk of “Stover would have made that” is nonsense, last season Matt Stover attempted 10 field goals (from 40+ yards) of which he made 5 (that’s far from “AutoMATTic”) from 20-39 there’s no better kicker I agree.

I don’t like facing a loss, but that second half come back is by far the best half of football I’ve seen the Raven’s play this season (that includes all games we’ve won [which personally I think we’ve looked very poor in])

Coverage and tackling both need to be addressed, far too many times have Raven’s players gone for the “money shot” and missed, turning what would have been a no gain or moderate gain in to a big play, sadly this has ALWAYS been a problem with Raven’s special teams and defence, hopefully Harbaugh can address this.


Part 1 - Time and Attendance

I’ve just completed some nice functions for the Time and Attendance (TaA) application I have been writing for work. We probably could have used a generic package and with some minor tweaks adapted for our use, but being the super developer I am I decided to just write the thing from scratch, I already had the backend table and data structures from my college who wrote the original application for our IBM AS400 system (which is due to be decommissioned [has been since 2007])

The bulk of the TaA system has been written, but little niggling features I wanted to add have taken longer than expected to develop (mainly because I’ve gotten lazy) Today I finished testing the Public Holidays module (which in itself doesn’t sound very exciting nor very complex) As I am currently entering everyone’s timesheets on a monthly basis (until I train another member of staff and hand the process back to them) I have found it very annoying having to constantly enter bank holidays (especially when the member of staff has not taken any other kind of special day in that month) What the public holidays module allows me to do is define dates and where applicable mark them as reoccurring (e.g. 25th December) when I then come to enter a new timesheet for an employee the application automatically checks and marks off any days it thinks should be holiday, the operator can still manually override this and mark the employee as “working”.

It should save whoever is entering the timesheets quite a bit of time (for the moment that means me) so as you can guess I’m a real big fan of this module.

Give Royal Mail the finger V's

Just a heads up for anyone who needs to send a parcel in the next few weeks. As you may be aware those arse holes at Royal Mail are striking again (I really dislike Royal Mail, it’s overpriced and slow there’s also the added bonus that most of their workers get really shirty with you when they lose your shit “It’s not my problem!” – fuck you!

In case you didn’t know signed for / recorded delivery doesn’t actually track your delivery it merely tells you whether it go to the delivery address!

Go to http://www.pharosparcel.com/Home/ I came across this courier a few months ago, not exactly sure what the deal is but a brown UPS van came to pick up my parcel and as a result I also got a UPS tracking number. Simply enter your details, the parcel details, any optional insurance and the recipient address and it will provide a price for you. The price is actually half of what you would pay if you went direct to either UPS or Royal Mail.


Raven's bleh!

I am still a little bitter about the Raven’s losing, what makes it worse is that I couldn’t fully enjoy the game. Due to my lack of vocabulary I find it difficult to fully express my feelings while watching sport ;) so I tend to swear at the screen... a lot! The last two Raven’s games where shown on Sky Sports (something I currently don’t have. I really can’t justify the cost of £15 per month, seen as I don’t watch a whole lot of TV and I don’t think Laura would appreciate me hogging the TV to watch random sports / teams) So I went across to my parents to watch, they have no interest in American Football (apart from the fact that I follow it) so for two weeks running I’ve had:

“How can they tackle people without the ball?”

“That’s not tackling mom, that’s called blocking”

It’s all good fun really though it does raise an eyebrow when my farther of all people (someone with a degree in Chemistry and a strong mathematical background asks:

“How many quarters do they play?”

Haha, in fairness he did realise his mistake after he’d said it.

I’ve not had a successful backup since 16-09-09, which quite frankly leaves a brown stain in my pants every time I think about it. I've been having all kinds of problems, looks like I may have solved the issue today so I’m rerunning last nights backup. As a side project to all of this I’m going to take a full system backup to an external drive and then as a “disaster recovery” exercise I’ll restore it a VM Server I have up and running.

It gives me good peace of mind to know we are making backups, but I want to cover my ass by knowing that the backups we make actually work.


Monday = Sad Face, Half Day Monday = Happy Face

Does anyone actually like or look forward to Monday mornings? Luckily I am on a half day today so hopefully I can get my hair cut and get the shopping done, which should free up some time to head down the gym.

My legs have recovered from the 2.30 hours of football on Thursday (which was topped up with a 4 hour 6 mile+ Mountain trek – check Face book for Pictures) It was an excellent walk and we could see right across the channel to Bristol.

We are starting to make progress on the Kitchen, the new floor tiles have been put down (aprox 85% floor coverage, only under the old units to go) Laura has started cleaning out some of the cupboards so I can take them apart and move the fridge and washing machine; once the plumbing and electric have been done we should be able to move pretty quickly with the rest of the units.


Part 1 - VirtualBox

I want to talk a little about Sun Microsystems ‘VirtualBox’. For those of you who are not familiar with virtualization technology then what something like VirtualBox allows you do to is install ‘Guest Operating Systems’ on your PC. As you know there are a few versions of Microsoft Windows (Remember Windows 3.11? or 95?) well believe it or not ;) there are alternatives to Microsoft when it comes to Operating system (OS) choice. Linux or more specifically Ubuntu is a free OS that is a popular choice.

One method of sampling these alternative OS is to use a ‘Live Disc’. This will essentially run the OS off the CD (without installing anything on to your hard drive) this is great for OS like Linux, but older versions of Windows never came with this functionality.

A second method to solving this problem would be to create a separate partition and create a boot menu (installing the secondary OS on the newly created partition), this method is actually quite technical in my opinion and I recommend you backup any data on your system before you try it. If you didn’t want to partition your hard drive you could add a secondary hard drive to your system.

The third method would be to use virtualization software (in this case VirtualBox) You can download VirtualBox from http://www.virtualbox.org/ the installation package is only 68MB big.
In another blog I’ll go through the basics of getting some Virtual Machines (VM’s) up and running and also talk about what I intend using them for.

SevenF 7-0 TTFE

The result is disappointing, I honestly do not like losing (even when it’s a ‘friendly’) The score line is probably fair with Weller having to make a number of outstanding saves, we have a few chances to bag ourselves a goal but could convert any of them, our midfield was largely infective and we where easily overrun leaving one or two man overlaps on a lot of SevenF’s attacks.

I am knackered after playing 2.30 hours of football in one night (was probably a little less given the current TTFE punctuality issue; which has been addressed on the TTFE forums)

So well done to SevenF for taking a 2 game lead over TTFE, the better team won on the night, and well done to TTFE 7 goals conceded in a great improvement on 12 :P