Showing posts from May, 2013

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.

Meeting with software industry "guru" John Cullinane in Belfast

John Cullinane (see and is one of the global software industry's pioneers.  He was the first person to develop a "software product business" large enough and successful enough to be listed on the US stock market.. in fact listed with a billion dollar valuation.

I've got to know John via Alpha Software, the business behind the software development platform which enables Start Software to build world-class web and mobile applications quickly and professionally.

Last Monday I went to Belfast to hear John deliver a fascinating lecture on the role of the economy in conflict resolution around the World.  John was appointed by Bill Clinton to lead a business/economic task force during the Northern Island peace process and is still heavily involved in that process today.  In fact, during the lecture he was thanked for his personal involvement in the Gasworks development in Belfast (which, co-incidentally, was where I had gone for my morning run).

John Cullinane lecturing at Riddell Hall
John delivered his lecture to an invited audience of the great and the good (and me!).  I was delighted that John picked up on the possibilities that mobile and web development has in a growing economy like NI's and was even more thrilled when he gave Start Software and me a name-check half-way through his talk.  He sees our business model here at Start as being one that could be replicated elsewhere and referred to the work that I'm doing personally in NI to help them in this area:

"Robin Bennett and Start Software would be outstanding models to emulate in Northern Ireland in my opinion. That's why I was so pleased that he was able to join us today. He confirms that it would be possible for NI to become a world leader in mobile application development using Alpha Software's new Alpha Anywhere platform and he is prepared to help them do it".

Thanks John for the mention - really appreciated it.

Here's a press clipping about John's talk (at the bottom of the page):

Major asbestos consultancy REC receive their Alpha Tracker training

Asbestos consultancy REC have received their initial training in Alpha Tracker, our web-based system designed to increase efficiency and reduce admin within environmental consultancies.

The initial training covered the Alpha Tracker basics:

- client and contact management
- logging projects and surveys
- scheduling work in the in-built diary
- capturing data on site using Tracker Mobile
- lab data entry
- report production.

REC have offices across the UK and will be rolling out Alpha Tracker and Tracker Mobile over the coming months.

Tracker Web Server v1.5.418 SVN52 available

This is a maintenance release of Tracker Web Server, the web-based compliance management system for clients of environmental and health-and-safety consultancies.

If you would like this update (which fixes a number of minor bugs), please contact the office.

New version of Mobile Data Studio in beta test

We're testing the latest version of Mobile Data Studio, the software that powers our Tracker Mobile handheld asbestos surveying system as well as our other on-site data capture software.

The latest version, v7.2, has these improvements:

  • better quality photo capture (which will improve the photos within asbestos reports)
  • the option of keeping copies of data sent in on the handset for re-using or re-sending (which means that backups will not be needed any more on the handset) (see screenshot, below)
  • more form design options (for better looking, easier-to-use data capture screens)
  • improvement in the Data Window within the server software.
We are testing the beta release now and should be in a position to recommend upgrades to our Tracker and Alpha Tracker customers within the next month.

Encompassed receive their Alpha Tracker training

Chris Donne and his colleagues from asbestos surveying consultancy Encompassed ( have received their Alpha Tracker training today at our training facility in Telford.

Encompassed's staff complete their Alpha Tracker training
Alpha Tracker is our state-of-the-art project management, scheduling, on-site data capture and automated asbestos reporting system which is the product of more than a decade of experience in asbestos software in the UK.

With his surveyors already familiar with Tracker Mobile after working with the system elsewhere in the industry, the training session was refreshing brief, only needing a half day session to become competent in use of the web-based administration system (Alpha Tracker runs "in the cloud") and on-site data capture and transmission.

Chris and his colleagues are using a mixture of iPhones, iPads, Android smartphones and Android tablets - flexibility which is a real strength of Tracker Mobile and unique in the asbestos surveying market.

Start Software trading results 2011-12

We've just had the final accounts through for our financial year 2011-12 (ending October).

Turnover was up 3% which was a respectable increase though only broadly in line with inflation.

Our investment in rebuilding and renewing our software line-up (including our fantastic new Alpha Tracker product for environmental and asbestos consultancies) hit profits but will stand us in good stead for years to come.

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.163 SVN37 released

This is an update to Tracker Dashboard containing cosmetic improvements to the emails generated:
  • the font used in the emails is now Calibri rather than Verdana
  • when the email shows notes (a description) at the top of the email below the heading, it is better spaced
  • the main window caption is now Tracker Dashboard rather than Tracker Daily Dashboard.
Please note that the name of the EXE has also changed in this release from Tracker Daily Dashboard.exe to Tracker Dashboard.exe.

Please contact the office if you would like the update.

Tracker Dashboard is a part of the Tracker and Alpha Tracker product family, sending automated daily, weekly and monthly emails to staff containing action lists, data summaries and dashboards created from Tracker data.

New Tracker tablet on-site data capture system in development

We've just started the design work for our new on-site data capture system for

  • asbestos surveys
  • re-inspection
  • bulk sampling, and 
  • air monitoring.
Unlike our Tracker Mobile system (which runs on iOS, Android and Windows Mobile devices), this will require a Windows tablet PC running Windows 8 and will incorporate a drawing tool to allow site plans and other diagrams to be drawn and annotated by site staff in the field.

Site staff will be able to create and annotate site plans and other drawings in the field
The new system will be an alternative front-end for Tracker and Alpha Tracker and will be of special interest to Tracker asbestos consultancies working in the domestic housing market.

Please email or call in on 0845 612 2402 if you would like to discuss this new Tracker module.

I've been "hacked" - or is "Hackered"?!

Our Alpha Tracker diary is pretty cool and even displays a thumbnail image of the person being scheduled so it is easy to see, at a glance, who is doing what and when.

I've just been elected as a town councillor and so the team here at Start decided to adjust my thumbnail image... see the results for yourself!

Congratulations to Ian Tipton of Bronze Software - our prize winner

Well done Ian ( for correctly guessing that the Start Software sweets were rhubarb and custard flavour (see

Ian was presented with his prize (a remote control helicopter) last week.  Congratulations!

Tracker user reaches a milestone - 100,000 projects logged

One of the UK's leading asbestos and environmental consultancies clocked up a Tracker milestone this week - 100,000 projects logged.

When I first designed Tracker I thought I'd be long retired and a multi-millionaire by the time anyone "clocked" Tracker - how wrong I was!

Taking license fees, hardware and support into account, Tracker has probably cost our client £1-2 per project, but has saved £10s or even £100s per report in reduced admin costs, quicker report production and increased efficiencies.  Not a bad return on investment.

A few other customers are rapidly approaching the same landmark and so perhaps we need to look at extending Tracker to support 1,000,000 projects?  Surely, I'll be retired by then...!?

Microsoft back-track on Windows 8

Back in March 2012 I blogged about the new Windows 8 interface and how it was a nightmare for laptop users.  Gone was the Start button and some of the basics (like shutting the computer down) required a convoluted process of clicking and dragging off the screen.  Madness.

Well, finally, Microsoft have seen the light and the information being leaked about Windows 8.1 indicates that the Start button will make a reappearance and you'll be able to boot straight into the classic desktop, avoiding the new tile interface completely.

What a complete waste of time and money!

Quick turnaround - nice thanks!

Twice this week we've been asked for software changes which were urgent but quite complex (clients needed us to make changes to web-facing systems in time for demonstrations with new customers).

On both occasions, were were able to do the changes on the same day - Dan and Ricky were the two programmers who specified, coding and tested the changes within hours of the requests coming in.

"Thanks Ricky - really appreciate what you've done" was one of the responses.  Good work all round.

Tracker Web Server v1.5.410 SVN48 released

This is a bug fix release of Tracker Web Server, resolving some issues relating to photos being displayed (or not displayed) on asbestos- and combined-registers.

Please contact the office to receive the update.

Call stats for April 2013

We logged exactly 250 calls in April from our customers and resolved 92% on time (ie within the customer-set timescale).

That's not bad but of the high priority ones our hit rate was "only" 84% - much lower than in previous months.

In part, this is because some of the issues logged this month have been very demanding to solve and customers' expectations are very high.

Kim, Elaine & I will be working hard in May to see if we can get the resolution % back up to 95%+.

Tracker Upload Manager v1.0.69 SVN9 - important new release

Tracker Upload Manager has been updated with an important new feature.

As part of its processing, it now double-checks that the XML files have been successfully loaded into the Tracker database tables.  If any records do not appear to have been loaded, an email will be sent (with the source data as an attachment) to the system administrator:

This is an important upgrade and we recommend that all Tracker Upload Manager users upgrade their systems accordingly.

Please contact the office to request the update.

Tracker Web Server v1.5.406 SVN47 released

We have a new Tracker Web Server update on general release.

This update enables you to set client-specific welcome messages on the home page without needing to adjust any HTML.  The two new settings are:

{Client ID} welcome message, and
{Client ID} thank you message

If you would like this update, please contact the office.

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