Showing posts from 2012

About Start Software

Start Software is an award-winning developer and leading publisher of asbestos software, systems for the legal services industry and more.

Want to know more about asbestos software Alpha Tracker? Alpha Tracker is the most used asbestos software in the UK, Australia & New Zealand with more than 60m items of asbestos data stored.

Our legal services software Alpha Legal helps will writers, accountants, solicitors, IFAs and estate agents to communicate securely with clients. Read about developments here on the blog.

Or need help with Alpha Anywhere or Alpha Transform projects or software development? You'll find useful info here.

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.115 SVN20 released

This release has a new dashboard-specific flag called "Send if no data?" which enables you to specify whether dashboard emails should be sent if they do not contain any data.

For example, if a dashboard contains actions for the following day but there are no actions present, the email would be suppressed.

Please contact the office if you would like this update.

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.113 SVN19 released

This release of Tracker Dashboard adds an important new feature - it is now possible to set up a "dashboard" which runs some special processing rather than send an email.

For example, you may need to update a CSV file to send to a client at specific times of the week.  Or perhaps some SQL is required to update a database every night.  It is now possible to add this sort of processing into Tracker Dashboard.

Please note - this "special processing" is by its very nature not something which can be defined by you, the  client.  Rather, if you need this sort of processing please contact us so that we can add the required programming for you.

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.97 SVN17 available

The latest Tracker Dashboard has passed through testing and is now available.

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.97 SVN17 has two important new facilities:

1 Colour-coded dashboards are now much easier to set up so you can highlight figures which are above or below target in green or red, for example:

Colour-coded dashboards are now easier to set up

2 Multiple schedules are now possible

Previously, setting multiple schedules was a pain to set up as you had to repeat the same set of dashboard instructions for each occasion that you wanted the dashboard to run.

Now, you can list any number of schedules by putting their schedules in a list as shown:

"Journeyman" review at Countrywide Group

The Countywide Group are a growing, ambitious and very successful legal and tax services company with a Head Office in Kenilworth.  We have been working with Countrywide for over a year now and we are thoroughly enjoying working with such a well-run business.

Over the last 12 months we've been building substantial Microsoft Access/SQL Server systems for them to control their orders ("Tracker"), enable their consultants to access data remotely ("Tracker Extranet") and - now - to log and manage new leads and opportunities ("Journeyman").  The latter two systems are built and powered by Alpha Five from Alpha Software.

Journeyman is a really sophisticated yet easy-to-use CRM system which shares the same database as the other systems and so can be used to "push" business into the main operation.

Today Dan held a full run-through with the first users of the system to get their early feedback.  It is looking good - the changes requested were largely cosmetic and large volumes of data are now starting to go through the system.

Nice one Dan!

Read more about Journeyman here.

Tracker Web Server v1.5.330 SVN34 released

This has a raft of minor improvements including:

- a much improved administrator menu
- more settings relating to the showing of report documents when viewing asbestos registers
- more settings enabling building names and data to be shown in preference to site names/data for particular clients
- a new option to allow search by register ID from the main menu.

Please contact the office as normal if you would like this update.

Happy Christmas from all at Start Software!

Another year has flown by and we're still going strong!  It's been another busy year for us, but a difficult one for lots of our clients as the recession continued.  I have a feeling that 2013 is going to be better - fingers crossed.

We're open every day over Christmas apart from Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day in order to support you and your businesses.  If you have a problem, please log it with us as normal either by phone (0845 612 2402) or via the new client portal

As usual, the money we would have spent on Christmas Cards will be going direct to charity.  This year we're supporting the RNLI who do such fantastic work saving lives at sea.  They are supported entirely by voluntary contributions and so donations are absolutely vital to them.  We'll be sending a cheque for £100 in the New Year.

Thanks again for your business and support in 2012, we really do appreciate that we have to earn your custom and we will continue to do our best to deliver what you need at a price you can afford.  We've got exciting plans for the New Year and we all look forward to working with you in 2013.


Robin, Elaine, Adam, Kim, Dan, Billy, Ricky, Shane & Andy

SL Environmental are latest Tracker users

SL Environmental of Kent have just completed their Tracker installation and training and are already busy with their first Tracker surveys.

Surveyors Joe Cumming and Lucy Smith have used Tracker at previous employers and were keen to bring it to SL Environmental to increase efficiency and to enable capture and transmission of survey data from site on their Android smartphones.

With the installation complete in only 3 days, SL Environmental have proved to be the perfect Tracker Lo-Start customer.

Read more about their installation by clicking here.

Start Software/Alpha Software partnership in Midlands Business News

Nice write-up about our partnership with Alpha Software!

Improved error trapping in Tracker Document Maker Service

Occasionally, Word will generate errors during the process of producing a report via Tracker Document Maker Service.

If Word does throw an error, TDMS will move on to generating the next document in the queue, but it may leave a "hanging" Word process.  Over time, these Word processes (you see them as "WINWORD.EXE" in the Task Manager) may use valuable memory and processor time on the server.

If this issue affects you, we are able to compile TDMS in a different way so that these orphaned Word processes are killed automatically.

Please contact the office if you would like to discuss this.

Tracker Upload Manager v1.0.59 SVN7

This is our latest release with more flexibility in terms of specifying SMTP mail server settings.

Please contact the office if you would like this update to Tracker Upload Manager.

VAT rounding queries with Sage/QuickBooks

Invoice Tracker is able to push invoices across to Sage (most version) and QuickBooks (ditto).

When calculating VAT you may find that Tracker, Sage & QuickBooks may occasionally differ by 1p.

This is not a bug in any of the systems, but a well-known computer system problem called "rounding errors".

If you are concerned, we can adjust the Tracker calculation process to exactly match your particular version Sage and/or QuickBooks.  Please contact the office if you would like to discuss this.

Additional analysis options available in Lab Tracker

Our original versions of Lab Tracker support up to 3 analysis results per sample.

Following updated advice from UKAS, we are now being asked to provide space for up to 8 analysis results per sample.

If you would like us to extend your Lab Tracker to support these additional analysis results, please contact the office.

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.89 SVN16 released

This is a minor bug-fix update resolving issues when blind copying emails (using "bcc") using Tracker Dashboard.

Please contact the office if you would like this update.

Photo issues with HTC One Android smartphones

Some clients have reported issues with Tracker Mobile being unable to read photos created with the new HTC One range of smartphones including the:

  • HTC One X
  • HTC One S
We have tracked the problem down and it relates to the internal file names being used by these devices.

If you are using the HTC One range of devices please take care to check photos carefully and contact the office if you think you may be experiencing the problem yourself.

Resource Tracker v1.0.614 SVN35 released

This is a bug fix release with a number of minor problems fixed in Resource Tracker including one that affects copy/paste operations.

Please contact the office if you would this like update.

Tracker Filer v1.0 launched

Tracker Filer is an exciting new module for Tracker which will be of huge benefit to all Tracker customers.

Tracker Filer links your email system and the Tracker project folders.  It works quietly and efficiently reading emails sent to it (at the special email address and then filing the emails and attachments in the appropriate Tracker folder.

How does it know which folder to use?  It reads the email looking for Tracker project numbers! What if it can't find a project number?  It emails you back to ask you which project number to use!

You can even "cc" or "bcc" emails to Tracker Filer - so, for example, when you send an important email to your client with the plan of works for the job, cc trackerfiler@ and the email (and attachments) will be filed for you.

v1.0 is now in beta and is available if you contact the office.  The module price can be found here.

Tracker Web Server v1.5.322 SVN28 available

This release of Tracker Web Server has a number of minor bug fixes and a new feature.

The bugs fixed all relate to document handling for companies with 10-character project numbers eg: SP12-00023.  If you use Tracker project numbers in this format, please do contact us for the update.

The new feature enables TWS to display additional information from the buildings tab (on the Survey screen) in Tracker to identify what sort of survey was undertaken at that building.

For example, if the survey was a refurb/demo specifically for the bathroom, whenever Tracker lists the buildings it can now show "(R&D to bathroom)" after the building name helping your client to find the information they need.

Here is an example:

Start Software at The Gadget Show Live!

Here are a few shots from our Christmas outing to the Gadget Show Live at ExCel London - don't miss Elaine's and Billy's dancing (scroll down)!

Close to the action - here's Jason Bradbury
Never seen Billy so excited

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.85 SVN14 released

We found a problem in the previous releases of Tracker Dashboard which meant that alert emails with invalid ASCII characters might not be fully transmitted.

Although not specifically a Tracker Dashboard issue (the problem relates to the way that email clients interpret certain ASCII characters) we have been able to find a workaround which is included in this release.

Please contact the office as usual if you would like this update.

Robin presenting at Microsoft HQ

I've been presenting at Microsoft UK's HQ in Reading today for the Microsoft Access User Group.

Microsoft's UK HQ
The topic of the presentation was how to package Access applications into saleable systems and I focussed on our successful "Toy Tracker" application (see for more info).

Ready to present Toy Tracker to the Access User Group
I travelled by train and had to battle floods around Oxford which meant that I was an hour later arriving and missed some of the Access 2013 presentation from Kevin Bell, Microsoft Seattle.  Access 2013 looks interesting for "information users" who are wanting to create simple databases accessible over the web, but of less interest to Access developers building desktop apps.  Looks nice though!

New client "portal" now live

I don't know if you've noticed our new-look web site at

It has lots of new content and many new sections with even more to come.  One of the most important new sections already live is our new "portal" for customers to log in and:
  • tell us about a problem or ask us a question
  • chase up open problems
  • search old problems and queries
  • monitor work we are doing for you.
Click where I've highlighted (on the left-hand side) to log in to the Start Software client portal
Your existing "extranet" user ID and password should work - if it doesn't or you want a hand logging in, give Elaine a call on 0845 612 2402 or email as normal.

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.79 SVN12 released

This latest release of Tracker Dashboard has some bugs fixed and a nice new feature whereby you can now choose to group the information sent in the dashboard email tables by the first column of data.

Here is an example:

Please contact the office if you would like this update which is free to all customers with an active support plan.

Video case study for Start Software - Alpha Software - Sportsjam

The team over at 7video have just created a video case study for us.

The video showcases a bespoke order management system we've written for leading sportswear manufacturer Sportsjam using the Alpha Five development software from our US partners Alpha Software.

We think the guys at 7video have done a great job.  What do you think?!

Resource Tracker v1.0.613 SVN34 released to beta test customers

This new release of Resource Tracker has an important new feature when logging in plus an improved database consistency check process.

To improve performance when loading Resource Tracker, especially for multi-office companies, the user logging in can now pre-select the group of staff to be displayed:

In addition, the database consistency check feature (available through the File|Consistency Check menu option) will run more quickly and will not require users to present while the check takes place.

Beta test customers can contact the office to request this update.

Mobile Data Studio update for Android available

Our Australian software partners CreativityCorp have just announced the following update which will be of immediate benefit to all Mobile Data Studio users running on Android smartphones and tablets, especially our Tracker Mobile users.


A major upgrade to Mobile Data for Android is now available, to version 7.1.2 (build 76). The upgraded MobileData.apk file is available by Customer Login at and from Trial page at        
1. PRINT POINT is now supported to enable printing of HTML output from Mobile Data on Android devices. PrinterShare in combination with IO File Manager facilitates both printing of HTML and distribution via email and Dropbox. Setting defaults for PrinterShare and/or IO File Manager can streamline the process.

2. CAMERA POINT launches full function of inbuilt camera, with all controls and greatly improved user experience. Both smartphone and tablet cameras operate as we had always envisaged but required developments in Android APK to deliver. For use of camera images in the Sketch point it is best to use the ‘Lines’ option in Sketch point to wrap the image.

3. SESSION LIST COLUMNS are resizable by dragging on the column heading, columns manual adjustment can be reset back to zero by double tapping on the session column heading, user adjustments to sessions widths are saved and restored when the project is opened and closed, and tap to top of columns sorts sessions alphanumerically.

4. PROJECT UPDATE forced by TCP/IP is given effect if mobile user is within a session, on close of the session.

5. PROJECT FILE SIZE increase enabled, where previously project .ppc files of greater than about 3MB had poor performance on some Android devices. Such large projects containing images are now more likely to open and speed is improved.

6. LOGIC POINT outputs dynamic values, looks for "<%pointname%>" strings in the output value and does substitutions per Layout / Formatter points. This allows a Logic point expression to effectively ‘copy’ the value from one point to its output based on the condition of the logic. This will also be introduced for iOS and Windows Mobile.

7. ULTRADROP POINT filter is no longer case sensitive, consistent with Apple iOS and Windows Mobile.

8. GUIDANCE for points and pages now scrolls if the volume exceeds the Information box.

9. VERSION number is shown at bottom of Settings.

We encourage the deployment of the upgrade to your customers. Before upgrading, it is prudent to move sessions off the mobile device to the Mobile Data Studio server.

We're testing Microsoft Office 2013

Office 2013 is soon to be released to the public and our Microsoft Partner status has given us early access so that we can check that Tracker and our other products are going to be compatible.

The staff here at Start Software have given it a luke-warm reception so far but there are some nice features in it for sure.

Also - it looks like Microsoft might be developing something for iOS (iPhones and iPads) as well as Android phones and tablets to allow Office docs to be viewed or edited... that might be interesting?  I don't expect to see that being launched until Spring 2013 at the earliest.  See for more info.

Best keyboard for Android smartphones?

I was reminded about "Swype" the other day by a magazine article listing the top 10 downloads for Android devices.

Swype lets you enter text onto an Android smartphone much faster than typing  by letting you run your finger to trace each word on the keyboard.  It doesn't sound fast but it is!  Blindingly quick and very clever too as you can be really inaccurate and it always seems to guess the right word.

Really worth a go if you do a lot of data entry on your phone (so especially good for Tracker Mobile users).

Visit to "NTAILS" project looking for RFID/QR code/barcode opportunities

One of the benefits of having an office on Wolverhampton University's Telford Campus is that we have access to their research projects and some exciting new technology.

One of the projects running at the moment is an EU-funded "NTAILS" project which is aimed at introducing all sorts of "sensor" technologies into Midlands businesses, including:

  • Radio Frequency Identification  (RFID)
  • Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC)
  • Barcodes and Quick Response Code (QR) Codes
  • Sensors
  • Global Positioning System (GPS)

Lots of our systems can benefit from this technology - our asbestos consultancy clients running Tracker, for example, have opportunities to use QR codes and RFID tags when labelling asbestos.  Another one of our clients, SMC, runs a warehouse control system which we created for them some time ago and they see immediate uses for the technology.

I was able to visit the NTAILS demonstration suite with some of my clients to see the technology in action - here are some of the photos:

Automatic invoicing posting to QuickBooks

We've just implemented a very cool feature in a customer management and order processing system we built last year for a growing sportswear supplier - Sportsjam.

They use QuickBooks as their accounts package and have been creating invoices by hand once orders are fulfilled... but the system we wrote for them has all of the information it needs to post the invoice. So could we do that automatically to save some admin time?


Using a QuickBooks add-in called QODBC we changed our Alpha Five written system to automatically create an invoice in QuickBooks on the press of a button.


Can we do the same for you?

Do you use QuickBooks as your accounts package and have a system written in Alpha Five or Microsoft Access that you'd like to link to QuickBooks in this way?  Perhaps automatically post invoices or other data?  Perhaps read information from QuickBooks (eg customer balances) and display them in your Alpha Five or Microsoft Access system?

Contact us for advice and to discuss your requirements.

Robin speaking at the Microsoft Access User Group, Reading Microsoft Campus

The UK Microsoft Access User Group has just announced the agenda for the November national event: Here’s a summary of the agenda but you can go to for the full thing. MS-Access User Group Annual Conference - with special guest speaker: Kevin Bell, Access Dev Team, Microsoft Seattle We are extremely pleased to announce that Kevin Bell of the Microsoft Access Development Team will be coming all the way from Seattle to join us at: The Access User Group National Seminar Tue 27 Nov 2012 at the offices of Microsoft, Reading RG6 1WG (known as TVP – Thames Valley Park) AGENDA: Access 2013 by Kevin Bell, Microsoft The new version of Access takes a dramatic new approach to creating database application and Kevin will explore its architecture and features. He will also discuss how your existing Access skills can be leveraged with Access 2013 and he will be joined by MS-Access MVP & Author, Andy Couch, to look at building applications in the new version of Access. Productisation of Access Applications – What You Need To Know The afternoon session will feature 4 speakers presenting Access applications that they have built - and then marketed as a product in particular vertical sector. Following each presentation there will be a chaired discussion considering alternative approaches by members of the audience. Customer Updates: Techniques For Streamlining presented by Alex Bloom, Jeux de Couleur Limited JDC provides a system for over 100 publishers all over the world; Alex will look at how you can issue updates to these systems in a controlled fashion – and still have time to go to the pub! Clinical Information System for Hospitals presented by Frank Douglass, Delian Systems Frank will look at combine individual functionality with common functionality shared by one or more other areas. System Being Used Across 50+ Sites With 700+ Users presented by Dave Talbot, D J Talbot & Associates Limited How do you manage a system used across a huge user population and keep the database structure consistent across all instances? Toy Tracker, A Management System Used by Nearly 100 Toy Libraries presented by Robin Bennett, Start Software Robin will discuss how Start Software has approached issues such as versioning, deployment, upgrades and support.

Start Software exhibit at UKITA AGM

Last night Elaine & I attended the UK IT Association (UKITA) Annual General Meeting.

Very conveniently, it was held at the University of Wolverhampton's Telford campus, just across the car park from our office at the e-Innovation Centre.

Here are some of the photos from the event:

Tracker Web Server v1.5.312 SVN23 released

This new release of Tracker Web Server has a couple of nice new features.

First, site names when seen in the "view by project" list are now colour-coded according to whether they contain asbestos or not.  These site names are also hyperlinks to "view by site".

Second, building names work in the same way and are also hyperlinks to "view by building".

Please contact the office if you would like this update.

Tracker Web Server v1.5.308 SVN21

We have a new version of Tracker Web Server ready and available to all customers on a support plan.

This release has a new option to show a link to project documents underneath the thumbnail photos on the asbestos register pages.

A new setting is available to control this new feature:

{Client ID} show document link on register (default True)

Please contact the office if you would like this update.

Mobile Data Studio "Data Deleter"

Mobile Data Studio has an internal Data Window (looks like a spreadsheet) where data can be stored temporarily.

We use this window for data passing through Mobile Data Studio within our Tracker Mobile product, for example, and it is very important that the Data Window is kept tidy.

In fact, if the number of records in the Data Window grows large (say, > 1000 items) the system may slow down or become unreliable.  There are also some "hard limits" within Mobile Data Studio, one of which being that the Data Window file (the .ppd) cannot ever grow beyond 4GB in size.

To assist customers with large numbers of old records within their Data Windows, we have developed a utility which can delete records based on date at the click of a button.  This utility is called MDS Deleter.

The utility is being made available for free if you contact the support team on

Have you got a problem with our software? Help us to help you

I saw this blog post yesterday and can't believe I haven't come across the facility before!

Users often call us with problems but struggle to explain how they got the issue in the first place and - more importantly from our point of view - how we can reproduce the problem and so fix it for them.

There is a Microsoft tool built into Windows 7 and Windows 8 which is designed to make this really easy.  It is called the Problem Steps Recorder.

To fire it up:

1 Press the Start button then Run

2 Type "psr"

3 Press Start Record and then do whatever you need to do to show us the problem...

and when you've finished, you can email us the file and we'll be able to see exactly what you were doing and so we'll be able to fix it for you!

New cloud-based Mobile Data Studio service launched

Do you wish that there was a way of running your Mobile Data Studio projects "in the cloud"?  Do you have an unreliable server running Tracker Mobile, for example, and wish that someone else was monitoring and running the system on your behalf on ultra-reliable cloud servers?

A new service launched by might be the solution you are looking for.

These Mobile Data Studio experts (based in Australia) have installed a system running within Amazon's cloud server farm which can run Tracker Mobile and other Mobile Data Studio projects.

Take a look at their website for more information and to price up your setup.

We can organise the migration for you (at no charge from us to you) as part of your support contract - but do let know that you are a Start Software customer.

New Mobile Data Studio for Android in beta

We've had a brand new version of Mobile Data Studio through from our developer partners to test.

Mobile Data Studio is an excellent product for capturing and transmitting data from site using handheld devices.  It is compatible with Android phones & tablets, iOS devices (Apple iPhones and iPads) and the older Windows Mobile systems.

We use Mobile Data Studio for Tracker Mobile and other handheld data capture systems for water (legionella) testing, air quality, expense records, work records, auditing work, health and safety inspections and many more besides!

The latest release of Mobile Data Studio for Android devices has a direct printing capability and a much-improved camera interface.

We'll continue our testing and will blog again when the final release version is ready.  If you would like more information in the meantime, please do get in touch.

Tracker Web Server v1.5.300 SVN18 available

There is a new Tracker Web Server executable available with the following changes:

1 New setting “{client ID} use last report date from Register” – if “Yes” (the default), it uses data from Asbestos Tracker whereas if “No” then it looks at all projects booked into Tracker

2 New setting “Automatically try to push download” – if “Yes” then report documents will auto-download if the user’s browser allows it

3 New setting “{client ID} list projects by project number (Yes) or date (No)?” – if “No”, lists them by report produced date rather than in project number order

4 Various minor bugs fixed when adding new actions

5 Improvement to the audit trail

Please contact the office as usual if you would like this update.

Prices held for 2012/13

We're really pleased to announce that we will be holding our prices across the board for 2012/13.  We will not be increasing any of our prices this coming year.

Our focus on overheads and costs means that we are able to offer clients some of the best software prices and labour rates in the industry and this directly benefits all of our clients.

Please note: In order to keep our prices low, we have strict cash chasing procedures and customers needs to keep to our 30 day terms in order to avoid late payment charges and interest.

Radon module now available for Tracker

We now have a Radon testing module ready for Tracker.

The module comprises a mobile data entry form compatible with our usual handsets and software, a new "Radon" project type and associated screen, and the automated report production facility.

The price of the new module is just £950+vat and can be ordered now from Elaine (

Financial results for Start Software 2011-12

I've just "done the numbers" for our financial year 2011-12.

Despite the economy being flat we've increased turnover by 12% and profit by 2.5% which means that this has been our best ever year here at Start Software.  This is all due to the hard work and dedication of the team here and the loyalty of our customers - thanks to you all.

During the year, we've invested over 25% of our income into new software product research and development and we expect this investment to deliver results on the bottom line this coming year and next.

Thanks again to you, our customers, for your support this year.  You are the reason we come to work and we will continue to strive to deliver the software and services your business needs this coming year.

Resource Tracker v1.0.595 SVN29 released

The latest Resource Tracker release (v1.0.595 SVN29) is now available.

This build brings a number of performance enhancements especially when dealing with large numbers of staff (>100).

Please contact the office if you would like this release.

Web Resource Tracker prototyped

An entirely new build of Resource Tracker is under way completely rewritten from the ground up.

We've gone with a web interface to the diary which is fast, slick and much more "friendly" than the existing Resource Tracker.

Dan's early prototypes are working well and we're now testing the system on large datasets to check that performance will be good no matter how many staff or appointments are in the system.

Contact Robin if you would like to arrange a early viewing of the new system.

Latest problem solved analysis statistics

Kim and I have just done our monthly analysis of the time it has taken us to resolve queries and problems raised by customers and here is the latest graph showing the results:

We've got data going back to 2003 as you can see... and what's clear from the results is that we have got better and better over the years at meeting the deadlines set by our customers.  The blue line is the analysis for *all* problems and queries raised; the red one shows the results for problems marked as high priority.

I'm really proud of these results and I enjoy showing them to customers who have long memories and remember the days when we were less professional about our call logging!

First support video posted on YouTube

We've previously posted support videos on our own web site here:

For most clients, this has worked fine but some (especially those with iPads) have struggled to get the videos to play.  One such client had a problem this week and needed us to show him how to restart Mobile Data Studio (Tracker Mobile) if surveyors were struggling to send their data in.

YouTube turned out to be the solution!  Uploading the video to YouTube put it into a format which his iPad was happy to display... problem solved!

If you would like to see a support video relating to any of our software packages, contact the office ( and we'll upload a video to YouTube for you.

Every suggestion made will get you a box of chocolates so get suggesting!

Resource Tracker v1.0.590 SVN27 released

This is a minor bug-fix and performance release.  In particular, issues relating to the automatic updating of Tracker's "Project Staff" tab from Resource Tracker have been resolved.

Please contact the office if you would like the updated file for your system.

Tracker iPad laboratory data capture - first lab live

We've been working with a new Tracker client on an iPad-based lab data entry system so that each lab analyst can record their asbestos fibre analysis results directly on their own iPad without the need for individual PCs.

The process is now working well and the first lab is running their checks through.  Looking good so far!

(PS the same software and process would also enable lab data entry on Android tablets such as the new Samsung Nexus)

Resource Tracker v1.0.586 SVN23 released - important bug fix release

This is an important update for Resource Tracker users with linked Google calendars.

A bug has been discovered whereby appointments cut and pasted between Google-linked users could result in "orphaned" appointments on the Google calendars.

The bug has been fully resolved in this release.

Please contact the office for this update if you use Google calendars linked to Resource Tracker.

Is this a World Record?

I'm back from two weeks away and I've got 1,030 emails to read... is this a record?!

New help video: Clearing default values from Mobile Data Studio

If you are finding that unwanted information is appearing as a "default" when surveyors are using Tracker Mobile, for example, take a look at the new help video on this page (called "
Clearing default values accidentally saved in Mobile Data Studio")

Hope that helps you!

ISO 9001:2008 "surveyance" visit successfully negotiated!

Our new ISO9001:2008 assessor spent Wednesday with us to check our processes and performance meet the rigorous ISO9001:2008 standards.

We're a small business and so spending the time and effort to meet the standards can be a strain on us all, but it has been worth it, and he seemed impressed with what we do and - more importantly - the impact it has had on our customer satisfaction scores.

We're awaiting the final report but it does look like he only found a single minor issue so congratulation to Quality Manager Kim and the team.

Resource Tracker v1.0.583 SVN22 released

The latest Resource Tracker is now available to support contract customers.

This is a performance upgrade in the main, but there is also a new facility to auto-include PDF attachments with job scheduling emails.

Please contact the office if you would like more information.

Travelling abroad? Try

Using UK mobiles in Europe is now just about affordable thanks to an EU regulation that has forced the European operators to have sensible call rates (at last).

BUT travelling further afield is still a lottery and the charges to make and receive calls, and especially use the Internet when abroad, are horrible, truly horrible.

For our trip to South Africa I'm trying and so far it has gone really smoothly.  Their service not only supplies you a PAYG SIM for the country you are travelling in, but also a means by which calls to your normal UK number get forwarded to your mobile when abroad without incurring the usual charges.  Clever stuff!

Tracker Web Server v1.5.297 SVN17 released

Another TWS update has gone through quality assurance this week and is available for support contract customers.

This is a bug-fix release with a number of minor defects resolved in the area of action management.

As usual, please contact the office to request the update.

Tracker Web Server v1.5.293 SVN15 released

This a minor update with some performance improvements relating to page display within the Chrome browser and some improved functionality relating to the display of open actions for a selected project manager.

Please contact the office if you would like this update.

Customer satisfaction results in for 2011/12

I always hold my breath when the results come in for our customer satisfaction survey... but I can breathe again!  2011/12 was an improvement on 2010/11 with the results in each category showing that customers are more pleased with us than they've ever been.

On average we're up about 5% on last year (and last year's scores were good) so - thanks to all of the hard work from the Start Software team - our customers are generally really pleased with us.

We scored 10/10 from more customers than ever but we also had a few concerning scores where customers felt that either we didn't have enough time to spend with them during training, for example, or development work took longer than we anticipated.  These are fair comments and we'll do our best to address them.

Thanks for your feedback and keep it coming.  You still have chance to send in your questionnaire by clicking this link:

Resource Tracker v1.0.577 SVN20 released

This is a bug-fix release which resolves a number of minor issues relating to skill management and the auto-assignment of staff to projects based on the skills database.

Please contact the office if you would like the update sent over to you.

Tracker Web Server v1.5.289 SVN13 released

This is a minor update with two new features.

First, the software now supports an optional "view by managing agent" link (the option is selectable by client).  The managing agent field within Tracker can be renamed and so can also be used to provide a filter for project management, client department etc if that suits your operation better.

Second, when an administrator logs into Tracker Web Server the system will now show the licence purchase date for each client login and will also show whether licences are due (which will be where there are more than 250 hits for that client and the most recent login is within a month):

Tracker Web Server v1.5.285 SVN12 released

A minor bug-fix update to Tracker Web Server is now available, v1.5.285 SVN12.

This release fixes a couple of minor issues relating to the display of library files and folders when the settings for the library are disabled for a specific user.

Please contact the office if you would like this free update.

Cycling finished - back to reality...

The week's cycling was hot, wet and hard work at times, but also great fun.

Thank you so much to everyone who has sponsored me so far.  I was hoping to raise £400 (£1 for each mile cycled from Paris to Much Wenlock) but thanks to your generosity I'm approaching £1000!

If you haven't sponsored me already, it isn't too late and every penny will go to Cancer Research:

Thanks again,


10,000th customer call taken

We've just taken our 10,000th call from customers!

We log all calls from customers whether they are requesting assistance or reporting a problem, and since starting our call-logging system back in 2003 we've taken and logged 10,000 in total.

Our quality management systems (which enables us to be ISO9001 and AccredIT certified) require us to manage each call professionally and according to the timetables and service levels agreed with our customers and this area of our business is something we're very proud of.

We've sent a small present to the company who made the special call so keep an eye on the post in case it was you!

Robin cycling from Paris to Much Wenlock next week

I'm off on an Olympic-themed cycle next week and so won't be at work.

Robin's route from Paris to Much Wenlock

Paris and Much Wenlock (my home town) share an Olympic connection because they are the birthplaces of the founding fathers of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin and William Penny Brookes.  I'm raising money for Cancer Research, so if you'd like to support me and this great cause please visit 

Thanks in advance,


The team outside William Penny Brookes' house (I'm on the left)

2,000th Start Software Project!

Elaine logged the 2,000th Start Software project this week in our Tracker system. 

Each piece of work we do for a customer is logged into our management system - Tracker - so that we can schedule the work into the diary (using Resource Tracker) and track it through each stage of the job to invoicing.

Since forming Start Software, we've logged 2,000 such jobs for our customers - here's to the next 2,000...

PS The next milestone will be the 10,000th customer query logged (we're at 9,706 currently).

Tracker Web Server on BBC TV (Midlands Today)!

I spluttered on my tea last night when I caught a glimpse of our Tracker Web Server product on BBC TV!

Tracker Web Server in action at Kier (Environmental Essentials)
The story was all about the difficulties that ex servicemen and women have in finding work when they leave the forces, and Midlands Today were focussing on the story of one particular individual who has now found work as an Operations Manager for Kier in Stoke on Trent.

At his desk, he was using Tracker Web Server from Environmental Essentials, one of our largest and most successful Tracker users.

To watch the story yourself, go to and fast forward to 06:40.

Start Software - Alpha Software Certified Partners

We're delighted to have been appointed Alpha Software Certified Partner status recognising our investment and training in the Alpha Five software tool.

For our customers, this means even shorter development times, more software features and access to the latest web-based database systems for PC, Mac, Android and iPad/iPhone.

Resource Tracker v1.0.571 SVN17 available

Resource Tracker v1.0.571 SVN17 is now available.

This release has a new feature which will help users with a large number of staff and other resources to schedule.

By default, Resource Tracker searches the project list as the user types into the search box.  This can be slow if there are a very large number of open projects.

v1.0.571 has a new option in the General section of the settings file, Schedule.ini:


If this setting is used, the search will only happen when Enter is pressed, speeding up the search process.

Please contact the office if you would like this update which is free of charge to all users with an active support and maintenance contract.

Alpha Software interview me over Skype

Regular blog readers will know that we're making full use of Alpha Five now when building web-based database applications.

Alpha Five has enabled us to extend our database systems to run entirely with a web browser (either Internet or Intranet) opening up a new range of possibilities for our customers.  Where previously our systems would have been built using Microsoft Access and Microsoft SQL Server, we are now extending our offerings to including Alpha Five against SQL Server databases too.

Here is a short interview that Alpha recorded with me over Skype about the difference Alpha Five has made to our business:

Tracker SQL Database Space Auto-check

Tracker works best with Microsoft's SQL Server database product.

SQL Server provides a secure, reliable and fast database facility and comes in a number of versions.  The most commonly used with Tracker is SQL Server Express Edition which has a strict limitation in terms of the amount of space that can be used in a single database.  SQL Server Express 2008 R2, for example, is limited to a database size of 10GB.

If you have an IT administrator they can keep an eye on the database size and perform database housekeeping if it is getting close to the limit.  But if you don't have IT staff on site, how would you know if you are getting close to being "full"?

We can now offer an automatic SQL database size check in the form of a new Tracker add-on.  This will warn you if the space remaining in your database is dangerously low and tell you what you do about it.

If you'd like this Tracker add-on, please contact the office.  The add-on takes a couple of hours to install and costs £200+vat.

Phew! Four new systems near completion

I don't think the long weekend could have come at a better time!

We have four major systems all reaching the "pointy end" - all are ready to go live which means that we're working around the clock to finalise documentation, find and kill any remaining bugs, and train users.

We're off until Wednesday to recuperate - hope you have a great Jubilee celebration too.

Resource Tracker update v1.0.569 SVN16 available

Couple of new features in this release:

- you can now choose whether staff names are sorted by surname or by first name
(Schedule.ini option - SurnameFirstNameSearchOrder=F,S in the [General] section)

- you can now auto-show project notes when you book an appointment onto the diary.  For example, you might want to remind the scheduler that two people must attend this site for health & safety reasons

(option is ShowProjectNotesPopup=Yes in the [General] section)

This release also addresses a bug whereby repeating appointments were not being sent through automatically to sync'd Google calendars.

Finally, Cut/Paste operations have been made more reliable.

Please contact the office as usual if you would like this release.

Tracker presentation at BMTA meeting

The British Measurement and Testing Association invited me to speak to their group about Tracker, our software for asbestos consultancies.

Dr Martin Gibson speaking on CAR2012

Most of the audience were in the asbestos consultancy industry in one form or another and it was my pleasure to speak about Tracker and what it is capable of.

It was also a very useful seminar for me as I was able to listen to Dr Martin Gibson from the HSE about the new Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Start Software receives prestigious AccredIT quality certification

We've just received our shiny new AccredIT certification following our annual comprehensive review.

AccredIT is a quality standard which not only measures the quality of the software developed, but also the organisation and ethos of the business.  We're really proud to have passed our review with flying colours.

Congratulations go to the whole of the Start Software team for their hard work and attention to detail - well done!

"Help me! I'm an Alphaholic" presentation at the UK Access User Group

Andy Couch and I are at the UK Access Group today at the fantastic Heritage Motor Museum venue.  As I'm writing this, Andy is presenting about multi-tenanted Access/SQL Azure databases (wow!) whereas my presentation this morning was not quite as technical but just as interesting to the assembled group of UK Access developers.

Some of the attendees listening to "Help Me! I'm an Alphaholic" at the UK Access User Group
I gave a presentation about Alpha Five v11 and how it can be used alongside Access and SQL Server as a tool to get database apps onto the web and onto mobile devices. There is a huge amount of interest in Alpha Five here in the UK, especially amongst Access developers frustrated at the lack of opportunities to get their systems onto the web.

Mobile Data Studio v7.1.2 released

We have an important new release of Mobile Data Studio available which is especially important for Tracker Mobile users running with Android handsets.

Please contact the office to request the update.  Please note, the update is server-side only, handsets themselves are not affected.

Tracker Web Server v1.5.283 SVN10 released

Tracker Web Server v1.5.283 SVN10 with a number of cosmetic improvements has passed through quality testing and is available as a free update to customers with an active support & maintenance contract.

New Mobile Data Studio being tested

We are beta testing a new version of Mobile Data Studio which has some major improvements for Android users (especially when connected to SQL databases).  This will benefit our Tracker Mobile customers especially.

We'll post another blog as soon as the testing is complete.

Another Alpha Five v11 and Mobile Data Studio web system goes live

We've just built a web-based Alpha Five v11 system for an asbestos removal and consultancy business with a Mobile Data Studio based field data capture system alongside.

Friday was the training day for the field staff and the feedback was terrific... "wow", "so much faster than our old system"... it is great to hear comments like this when a new system goes live.

That's a lot of Android tablets to configure with Mobile Data Studio!

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.73 SVN 8 available

Tracker Dashboard now has the facility to send instant "alert" emails in HTML format as well as plain text.  This means that the notification emails sent by Tracker can now include formatting, your company logo, the standard company email footer etc.

If you would like this free-of-charge update and have an active support & maintenance contract, please contact the office.

Know anyone wanting to get into software development?

We're in urgent need of new developers - Microsoft Access, SQL Server and Alpha Five - do you know anyone who is looking to get in into software development?

We are looking for experienced developers as well as apprentices.

Initial contacts and CVs please to Elaine Porter -

Alpha Software posts press release about Start Software

We've also just appeared about 1000 times on Twitter, too!

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