Define Computer Hardware

It is quite well known that the working of the computer is dropped by hardware and software. One can define computer hardware as the electronic, magnetic, and electric devices that carry out the computing functions. Hardware is the physical components of the computer like microprocessor, hard disks, RAM, and motherboard. The peripheral devices such as monitor, mouse, keyboard, printer, and speakers can also be included in the list of hardware parts. The programs that run on the computers like Windows, C ++, and Photoshop are the software parts of the computer. A good example for an easy understanding of hardware-software definition is music CDs. The actual compact disk is the hardware, while the songs and music in the CD are the software parts.

There is another way to define computer hardware. Hardware devices are the executors of the commands provided by software applications. For example, let us see what happens when you click the print button of the web browsing software. The software application provides a command to the processor, which is the central part of all computer hardware. Processor in turn checks for an attached printer. If the printer is ready, the software will get a positive response from the processor. Then the software application provides instruction to the printer via the processor to print the web page. In that sense, hardware parts are the foot soldiers and software applications are the commanders in the digital operation that takes place within a computer.

The main player of computer hardware is unduly the microprocessor. It is the sun in the solar system of computer hardware devices. It is the central component and all other components work around it. It is an integrated chip on which a number of functions are incorporated. Two specifications determine its efficiency. One is its processing speed, which is measured in gigahertz. The other is its bit rate. Commonly available processors are 32 bit and 64 bit. The bit rate is a measure of the efficiency of a processor to carry out multiple operations at the same time.

One can not define computer hardware without mentioning the two types of memory used in computers. One is permanent memory. It refers to the magnetic storage capacity of hard disk. It is measured in gigabytes. The second is RAM or random access memory. This memory is able to store data only when the computer is switched on. The memory will lose all the data when the computer is switched off.

Another important product that one should mention when one defines computer hardware is motherboard. It is the electric and electronic circuit board on which all the other components are inserted. There are several other kinds of products such as sound card, video card, network card, and modem that complete the hardware spectrum.

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7 Benefits of the Doctor and Clinic Management System Software

A cloud-based clinic management system addresses your hospital management related woes. It brings simplicity to the patient appointments, their treatment, medical billing and payments and services that take care of other requirements of the hospital.

Advantages of a Cloud Compliant Software

A software that leverages the cloud technologies in full, offers flexibility, cost saving, fast service, ease of accessibility and sustainability.

Flexibility

Even small hospitals can harness the power of this type of software. As the business grows, the software automatically scales itself to the hospital’s increasing needs without the user having to provide for it. The software is easy use, at its fullest, right from the first day.

Cost Saving

Choosing to use clinic management software located on the cloud platform is cost effective for the hospitals. It is an attractive choice for the small as well as big hospital setups.

It requires no expenditure on hardware, equipments and trained IT staff. These are the resources that a hospital, supporting an in-house IT setup must utilize. They are costly.

This highly optimized software is maintained, updated and configured in the cloud by the skilled IT experts. The users are, thus, spared from the burden. It leads to cost saving. Unhindered, the hospital staff stays focused on the core functions of the hospital.

Harness it From Anywhere at Anytime

The hospital administrator acts as the super-user of the software. He or she, then, grant access permissions to the others. The managers, doctors and others can then access the necessary data stored in the cloud, from anywhere at anytime.

They can use smartphones, tablets, phablets, laptops, notebooks and desktops over the internet for the purpose.

Fast Service

This software gives fast, easy and simple solutions for the hospitals in managing their day-to-day activities. It helps in streamlining patient management, inventory management, employees’ and doctors’ attendance, online report generation and other tasks.

Sustainability

For hospitals using this software, it is easy to recover from an on-site disaster. Their data is stored in the cloud, where it remains safe. It is repeatedly backed up. They need to simply access it to get their system online.

Features of the Cloud Based Clinic Management System

1. Patient management: Maintains records of the patients that include personal details, visits to the hospitals, allergy related data, medication, etc.

2. Appointments and schedule management: Determines the availability of the doctors before scheduling appointments. Uses powerful search engine to set up an appointment for the patient. The software assists the staff in knowing the availability of the beds for the patient’s hospital stay.

3. Alerts: Sends alerts and reminders using SMSs and Emails. It notifies the patients about the future appointments and vaccination schedules.

4. Purchase and inventory management: Keeps track of the drugs, equipments, instruments and other hospital items in the stock. Generate expiry alerts for the drugs in stock. Assists in creating a purchase list.

5. Records: Stores all the electronic medical records of the patients and the data related to the hospital, in a central place. It is available to the authorized persons from anywhere, at any time. Doctors can use the patient data to conduct medical research.

6. Payment Processing: Assists the hospital’s accounting department in, accurate medical billing to the patient. Provides connectivity to the top accounting software and eases the tasks of accountants.

7. Lead Generation: It assists the business managers employed by the hospitals in lead generation and tracking.

It is easy to start using a cloud-based clinic management system software. It needs no installation and one can access and start using it over the internet, in a jiffy.

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How to Change the MPI Node Address For a Siemens S7-300 PLC

I have seven Siemens S7-300 PLCs connected together using the MPI (Multi Point Interface) interface. The Siemens MPI protocol is used by Siemens PLCs to communicate with external devices. I want to rename each of the seven PLCs. Here are the steps to accomplish that task.

First, connect your MPI cable to the first PLC. I will be connecting my laptop to each PLC individually. Power up the PLC and open Simatic Manager. The "New Project" Wizard window will open. Just click Cancel to close the window. Now click the Accessible Nodes icon on the toolbar. A window will open showing the identification of the PLC you are connected to. My window is showing MPI = 2 (directly). Make a note of this address and close the window.

Next we need to download a hardware configuration to the PLC. This is where we will rename the PLC node address. There are probably a couple of different ways to do this – following is how I accomplish this. All seven of my PLCs are the same model; Therefore, I am using the same hardware configuration. For the obvious reasons, I want to give each a different MPI node address. I have a project file that contains all seven of my PLC programs and one hardware configuration file. I open the one hardware configuration file, and then double click Hardware in the right hand window. This will open the HW Configuration window. In this window you should see your PLC with its MPI address given.

Remember when we clicked the Accessible Nodes icon and saw MPI = 2 (directly)? My Hardware Configuration Window is showing a MPI address of 7. Place your mouse cursor on the 7 and double click. Your CPU Properties window will open. It should open to the General tab. Look down and you will see Interface Type MPI with an address of 7. Click Properties and the MPI interface Properties window will open. Using the pull down menu, choose your MPI node address and make sure the MPI (1) 187.5kbps is highlighted and click OK. You are now back on the CPU Properties window where you will see your address has changed. Click OK and you will go back to the Hard Ware window where you can verify your MPI node address has changed.

You will now click the Save and Compile icon and then click the download icon. The Select Target Module window will open. Click OK and the Select Node Address window will open. Here you will see the MPI node address you assigned earlier. You will need to click the View button right below this. You will see the current node address appear, this should be the same as what you saw earlier when you clicked the Accessible Nodes icon. Simply click on this number and you will see it appear in the MPI address slot under the Enter connection to target station. Click OK and the Download to Module window will open. Click OK and the Stop Target Modules window will open. Click OK and the "Do you want to start the module?" Window will open. Click Yes.

Now go back to the SIMATIC Manager window and click the accessible nodes icon. You will see your new MPI node address. You can see this same article with pictures at http://www.morerobototics.com .

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Different Types of Computer Repair Services

Our dependency towards technology is increasing day by day. Even a minor problem in the operating system disrupts our life and hampers our work. With the development of new technology, there also comes many technical problems such as virus infections, spyware attacks on the operating system, networks issues, and hardware failures. Therefore, fast and efficient troubleshooters are always needed to fix all your technical problems without disabling your work.

With the indispensable use of computers in our daily lives, we can not imagine encountering an issue that will leave us without our personal computers thus; We seek to have the computer service immediately. But due to the busyness of life, it is not possible for us to go to a computer service centers every time and get the system repaired leaving you days without a computer. Seeing today's need, there are many efficient and fast troubleshooters available online that will solve your problem in a fraction of time. Many of us do not understand need for professional computer repair services and try to solve the system related problem by themselves. Before going to any of the computer repair service sites, it is very important to be aware of the various types of services that are offered by the computer repair service centers:

1. IT services like network installation and configuration (LAN / WAN setup).

2. Virus & spyware removal. Installation of anti-virus software for a proactive approach to external attacks.

3. Hardware repair: Laptop / Mac / PC, printer, scanner, motherboard; CD / DVD ROM installation etc.

4. Problems related to Website development and presentation, graphic designing

5. Firewall and email security setup.

6. Windows OS installation and troubleshooting

7. Data backup and recovery

8. Tutorials to employees for solving small problems in-house

So, These are some of the services offered by the service providers. Before hiring any of the online computer repair services, it is very important to check the various types of services offered by them. So that you do not need to switch to different computer repair services sites for different services. It is also very important to check that there is a team of expert technicians for solving computer related problems individually, as this will help in solving the problem fast and efficiently. It is better to switch to such online computer repair services that you avail with the guarantee of fixing the problem fast else money back. As such, promises will pressurize the technicians to work efficiently and fix the problem quickly.

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Computer Viruses Problems and Solutions

We all are now aware with the term Computer Viruses

Let’s understand this simple definition: Computer Viruses can be considered as small software application which tends to take control over computer operation. The computer virus may delete contents from the hard disk and even take a ride on e-mail programs to become pandemic. Computer viruses be in various formats like in form of images, audio or video files. They may spread while downloading files from the Internet. Sometimes they may be purchased along with the pirated software too.

Let’s concentrate on symptoms of Viruses

There can be difficulty in accessing any disk or drive. The system might be running slow. Sometimes it may freeze. You may see distorted menus and dialog boxes. Any program may disappear on its own without any action. Sometimes you may see some new icons on the desktop. Application will not be running smooth. You may get error of any system file missing. Your windows may restart automatically sometimes. If you see this kind of symptoms on your system, then install any latest version of anti virus which you think compatible with the Operating System you have. Scan your system for the Computer Viruses. Even in severe condition you may need to format your system completely.

Let’s see what we can do to remove a Virus

You need to apply a Computer Viruses removal tools for the purpose. Sometimes you may find specific problems which are associated with some unwanted software programs which carries Computer Viruses You may get those viruses again in your system after uninstalling those programs. So you should be very much smart while choosing for the Tools for Computer Viruses removal.

To remove virus, follow these steps

1. Visit the Microsoft website to get latest updates from Microsoft Updates.

2. Perform regular scanning of your system with any updated Anti- Virus.

3. Download, install, and then run the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool to remove Computer Viruses the system.

Preventive measure for Computer Virus

Its highly recommended you to keep your Operating systems updated. If you are not online don’t forget to check for Windows updates frequently. This is important because the Virus creator always tries to make use of any void in your Operating System to install their software Computer Viruses. If you are online user then make sure that your web browser is also an updated one. Try to use the most compatible and latest of the Web browser may be from any one like IE, Firefox, Opera or anyone else, because the Virus writer always tries to find mistakes in your browser.

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The Importance Of Excel In The Workplace

Excel is perhaps the most important computer software program used in the workplace today. That’s why so many workers and prospective employees are required to learn Excel in order to enter or remain in the workplace.

From the viewpoint of the employer, particularly those in the field of information systems, the use of Excel as an end-user computing tool is essential. Not only are many business professionals using Excel to perform everyday functional tasks in the workplace, an increasing number of employers rely on Excel for decision support.

In general, Excel dominates the spreadsheet product industry with a market share estimated at 90 percent. Excel 2007 has the capacity for spreadsheets of up to a million rows by 16,000 columns, enabling the user to import and work with massive amounts of data and achieve faster calculation performance than ever before.

Outside the workplace, Excel is in broad use for everyday problem solving.

Let’s say you have a home office. You can use Excel to calculate sales tax on a purchase, calculate the cost of a trip by car, create a temperature converter, calculate the price of pizza per square inch and do analysis of inputted data. You can track your debt, income and assets, determine your debt to income ratio, calculate your net worth, and use this information to prepare for the process of applying for a mortgage on a new house. The personal uses for Excel are almost as endless as the business uses for this software – and an Excel tutorial delves into the practical uses of the program for personal and business use.

The use of spreadsheets on computers is not new. Spreadsheets, in electronic form, have been in existence since before the introduction of the personal computer. Forerunners to Excel and Lotus 1-2-3 were packages such as VisiCalc, developed and modeled on the accountant’s financial ledger. Since 1987, spreadsheet programs have been impacting the business world. Along the way, computerized spreadsheets have become a pervasive and increasingly effective tool for comparative data analysis throughout the world.

Today, end users employ Excel to create and modify spreadsheets as well as to author web pages with links and complex formatting specifications. They create macros and scripts. While some of these programs are small, one-shot calculations, many are much more critical and affect significant financial decisions and business transactions.

Widely used by businesses, service agencies, volunteer groups, private sector organizations, scientists, students, educators, trainers, researchers, journalists, accountants and others, Microsoft Excel has become a staple of end users and business professionals.

The beauty of Excel is that it can be used as a receiver of workplace or business data, or as a calculator, a decision support tool, a data converter or even a display spreadsheet for information interpretation. Excel can create a chart or graph, operate in conjunction with Mail Merge functions, import data from the Internet, create a concept map and sequentially rank information by importance.

Excel offers new data analysis and visualization tools that assist in analyzing information, spotting trends and accessing information more easily than in the past. Using conditional formatting with rich data display schemes, you can evaluate and illustrate important trends and highlight exceptions with colored gradients, data bars and icons.

Indeed, Excel can be customized to perform such a wide variety of functions that many businesses can’t operate without it. Excel training has become mandatory in many workplaces; in fact, computer software training is a must for any workplace trying to keep up with the times.

Let’s say you’re an employer with 97 workers, 17 of whom called in sick today, and you want to know the percentage represented by absentees. Excel can do that. You can learn Excel and use it to determine the ratio of male to female employees, the percentage of minorities on the payroll, and the ranking of each worker by compensation package amount, including the percentages of that package according to pay and benefits. You can use Excel to keep track of production by department, information that may assist you in future development plans. You can create additional spreadsheets to track data on vendors and customers while maintaining an ongoing inventory of product stock.

Let’s say you want to know your business production versus cost. You don’t have to be a math wiz – you just have to learn Excel. Excel allows you to input all of the data, analyze it, sort it according to your customized format, and display the results with color, shading, backgrounds, icons and other gimmicks that offer time-saving assistance in later locating precisely the information desired. If this spreadsheet is for presentation purposes, Excel helps you put it together in such a visually appealing way that the data may seem to pop and sparkle.

The single most important thing an employer may do is learn Excel – it is one of the most essential tools of the workplace.

Excel and Microsoft are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation, registered in the U.S. and other countries. Lotus is a registered trademark of International Business Machines Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries.

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Determining the Best Type of Fastener to Use For Outdoor Furniture Construction

If you want to learn about selecting hardware for your next outdoor furniture project, then you'll want to read this article. Specifically, I'll be telling you about what type of hardware will perform best, why the type of metal used for fasteners and the finish used are important considerations, and how properly protecting or limiting exposure of your furniture to wet and winter conditions can increase Life span. After you're done with this article you will understand that the best choice of hardware for your outdoor furniture project is dependent on furniture style, material used for construction, selected location for the furniture and budget.

Selecting proper hardware for your furniture will help ensure a long life span, as well as improve the overall appearance of your furniture. Part of the problem is knowing what hardware to select when there are so many options available at the hardware store. The typical Lowes or Home Depot carries a huge selection of stainless steel, hot dipped galvanized, bright galvanized, plain steel, coated steel and brass bolts, nuts, washers and screws. Each type of fastener is suitable for certain applications, but not all are ideal for outdoor furniture applications.

In fact, choosing the wrong fasteners can greatly shorten the lifespan of your furniture, contribute to rot of wood furniture, cause unsightly staining, and even make your furniture unsafe to use.

One thing that needs to be noted right up front is, do not ever use unprotected steel fasteners for outdoor furniture, they will rust very quickly, and the steel will react with the tannic acid in the wood causing streaks and staining. The tannic acid actually speeds up the corrosion of the fasteners. Have you ever seen a wooden fence with black streaks running down the boards from the nails? This fence was installed with the wrong type of fasteners. The same thing will happen to your furniture. Even worse, as the fasteners rust, they will speed up the decay process of the wood around the rusted fasteners, ruining your furniture and making it potentially unsafe to use.

Hot Dipped Galvanized

Screws and bolts treated by hot dipped galvanizing are specifically designed for use outdoors. Electroplated galvanized or bright galvanized fasteners will very well not hold up as well as the hot dipped galvanized hardware. Zinc is used as a coating in both methods, and acts as a barrier against the elements and the tannic acids in the wood.

I strongly recommend only using screws or bolts in the construction of outdoor furniture, however. The galvanized finish on nails, either electroplated or hot dipped, can easily become damaged while hammering them in, exposing the nail head to the elements and allowing them to begin rusting quickly.

Adequate care must be taken when installing galvanized screws. Drill pilot holes in hardwoods, and be sure to use a bit that is not worn and intolerable to skipping in the screw head. For whatever reason, the galvanized screws seem to not be as well tempered as other steel fasteners, and are more likely to either snap off or have the heads strip out while installing them. Due to the permission required for the hot dipped coating, galvanized bolts do not have as tight of tolerance on the threads, and are more likely to strip if over tightened.

Hot dipped galvanized fasteners are a fine choice for many outdoor furniture applications, including Adirondack Chairs, but are not the best choice for use in woods, such as teak.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel is the best choice for use in woods with higher levels of tannic acid, such as teak. Stainless steel is an alloy or blend of steel, nickel and chrome. The ratio of the other metals with the steel determine the weather and corrosion resistance of stainless steel. Because the steel is mixed with other softer metals, the stainless steel is not as strong, so predrilling of screw holes is highly recommended in all applications, and essential in hardwoods such as teak and mahogany. The added corrosion resistance more than outweighs any shortcomings that the metal may have, especially in outdoor furniture applications.

While stainless steel fasteners are the most rust resistant, they are also the most expensive of the options we are discussing. However, using stainless steel fasteners will add years of life to your furniture. In the respect, they are an investment that will pay out for years to come.

Brass

I have seen brass used in some commercially produced outdoor furniture, but do not recommend it. While brass does not form red rust, and is well suited for many wet applications such as toilets and sinks, it does tarnish and corrode. It is also very susceptible to the tannic acids in wood, which will cause it to fail more quickly. Brass screws in particular Do not have sufficient strength for outdoor furniture applications.

Outdoor or deck screws

In the past several years a number of manufacturers have introduced outdoor fastening products specifically marketed for deck building. These will typically be green, gray, tan or brown. These screws are either ceramic or plastic coated to delay the metal reacting with the wood acids. The specific coating methods are proprietary to each manufacturer, and can be a combination of electroplated galvanizing and plastic, or a baked on ceramic.

I have used these fasteners in furniture applications and they perform just fine. Unfortunately, I have not come across bolts with this type of finish. The brand of screw I used was Deck Mate, and they were available in tan and brown, so that the color can be selected to better match the wood being used. These screws are ceramic covered, and the manufacturer provided a coated bit for installation, which was designed to not damage the ceramic coating at the screw head. If you choose this type of fastener, be sure to compare the cost with stainless steel, as the price will vary. If the stainless steel is reasonably comparable in cost, it would be the recommended fastener.

Always be sure to read the manufacturers specifications on the box to be sure that the screws are suitable for your application.

Other Considerations

If you are building furniture that will be located on a covered porch or patio where it will be protected from the elements, the concern will be the interaction between the wood and the fasteners, much more so than the weather. Furniture that will be exposed to the elements all year, such as a garden bench, or an adirondack chair in the corner of your garden, will have to be constructed with much more care and concern to ensure that they hold up more than just one or Two winters.

Additional considerations must be made beyond just the choice of what type of fastener to use, though this is very important. For example, fasteners should not be located where water where collect and sit on the fasteners for an extended period of time. The screws that attach the seat slats to an Adirondack chair are a prime example- typically these screws will be countersunk below the surface of the wood. This will allow water to collect in the screw holes, shortening the life span of all but stainless steel fasteners, and prolonging the exposure of the wood to water, which will increase the rate of decay. In applications where the furniture will be exposed to the elements year round the screw heads should be driven flush with the surface of the surrounding wood.

Construction and design of the furniture are also important considerations. Are the horizontal surfaces of the furniture constructed in such a way that will allow them to shed water, rather than collect it? Think of a picnic table with a slatted or board top. The gaps between the boards allow water a way to run off the top and not pool up.

Conclusion

Stainless steel is usually the best choice for outdoor furniture applications, although the cost may be prohibitive for some. There are other less expensive fastener options available that will perform acceptably. Do not use unprotected steel fasteners for outdoor furniture applications under any circumstances. Know where and how you intend to use your furniture and design it for the conditions it will be subjected to.

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The Importance Of Excel In The Workplace

Excel is perhaps the most important computer software program used in the workplace today. That’s why so many workers and prospective employees are required to learn Excel in order to enter or remain in the workplace.

From the viewpoint of the employer, particularly those in the field of information systems, the use of Excel as an end-user computing tool is essential. Not only are many business professionals using Excel to perform everyday functional tasks in the workplace, an increasing number of employers rely on Excel for decision support.

In general, Excel dominates the spreadsheet product industry with a market share estimated at 90 percent. Excel 2007 has the capacity for spreadsheets of up to a million rows by 16,000 columns, enabling the user to import and work with massive amounts of data and achieve faster calculation performance than ever before.

Outside the workplace, Excel is in broad use for everyday problem solving.

Let’s say you have a home office. You can use Excel to calculate sales tax on a purchase, calculate the cost of a trip by car, create a temperature converter, calculate the price of pizza per square inch and do analysis of inputted data. You can track your debt, income and assets, determine your debt to income ratio, calculate your net worth, and use this information to prepare for the process of applying for a mortgage on a new house. The personal uses for Excel are almost as endless as the business uses for this software – and an Excel tutorial delves into the practical uses of the program for personal and business use.

The use of spreadsheets on computers is not new. Spreadsheets, in electronic form, have been in existence since before the introduction of the personal computer. Forerunners to Excel and Lotus 1-2-3 were packages such as VisiCalc, developed and modeled on the accountant’s financial ledger. Since 1987, spreadsheet programs have been impacting the business world. Along the way, computerized spreadsheets have become a pervasive and increasingly effective tool for comparative data analysis throughout the world.

Today, end users employ Excel to create and modify spreadsheets as well as to author web pages with links and complex formatting specifications. They create macros and scripts. While some of these programs are small, one-shot calculations, many are much more critical and affect significant financial decisions and business transactions.

Widely used by businesses, service agencies, volunteer groups, private sector organizations, scientists, students, educators, trainers, researchers, journalists, accountants and others, Microsoft Excel has become a staple of end users and business professionals.

The beauty of Excel is that it can be used as a receiver of workplace or business data, or as a calculator, a decision support tool, a data converter or even a display spreadsheet for information interpretation. Excel can create a chart or graph, operate in conjunction with Mail Merge functions, import data from the Internet, create a concept map and sequentially rank information by importance.

Excel offers new data analysis and visualization tools that assist in analyzing information, spotting trends and accessing information more easily than in the past. Using conditional formatting with rich data display schemes, you can evaluate and illustrate important trends and highlight exceptions with colored gradients, data bars and icons.

Indeed, Excel can be customized to perform such a wide variety of functions that many businesses can’t operate without it. Excel training has become mandatory in many workplaces; in fact, computer software training is a must for any workplace trying to keep up with the times.

Let’s say you’re an employer with 97 workers, 17 of whom called in sick today, and you want to know the percentage represented by absentees. Excel can do that. You can learn Excel and use it to determine the ratio of male to female employees, the percentage of minorities on the payroll, and the ranking of each worker by compensation package amount, including the percentages of that package according to pay and benefits. You can use Excel to keep track of production by department, information that may assist you in future development plans. You can create additional spreadsheets to track data on vendors and customers while maintaining an ongoing inventory of product stock.

Let’s say you want to know your business production versus cost. You don’t have to be a math wiz – you just have to learn Excel. Excel allows you to input all of the data, analyze it, sort it according to your customized format, and display the results with color, shading, backgrounds, icons and other gimmicks that offer time-saving assistance in later locating precisely the information desired. If this spreadsheet is for presentation purposes, Excel helps you put it together in such a visually appealing way that the data may seem to pop and sparkle.

The single most important thing an employer may do is learn Excel – it is one of the most essential tools of the workplace.

Excel and Microsoft are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation, registered in the U.S. and other countries. Lotus is a registered trademark of International Business Machines Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries.

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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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Futon Frame Maintenance and Common Replacement Parts and Hardware

A little preventative maintenance of your futon frame can greatly increase how long it lasts. We recommend checking the bolts on your futon frame every month or two, depending on how often it's used. If they are loose, gently tighten them, but be careful not to over tighten them. If you have a wooden frame, you can rub a bar of Ivory soap in the arm tracks every now and then, to keep things operating smoothly.

Most of the damage that we see is from forcing the frame to operate, when it's stuck. If you are converting your frame from a bed to a sofa, or from a sofa to a bed, and it does not easily convert, stop what you are doing, and remove the mattress, and carefully examine why it's not moving easily. Usually if you try to convert the frame and you pull on one side more than the other, something will jam, and if forced, you may break something.

Normally a guest will try to make their bed in the morning, and not knowing how to do it, they may break your frame. We suggest telling your guests to leave the futon as a bed, and you'll take care of changing it from a bed to a sofa for them.

Some parts wear out, and some of the plastic parts can dry out over the years. If the bolts are not tightened, a part can move around in a way that it's not recommended to, and that can cause it to break. People ask us why they do not make some of the parts in futon frames out of metal so they're never break. The reason is, if they were metal, and something jammed up, and was forced, the seat, or back, or an arm would crack, and that would be a more costly repair.

Here's a list of some of the more common futon frame hardware and parts. This is by no means a complete listing of all the parts, but it includes most of the common parts. Some items are called more than one name, so we list them twice. Futon store that has been around a long time, might even have obsoleste parts that you might need.

If you need a part that you can not find anywhere, consult a good futon store who's willing to help you, and give them a description and a couple of pictures showing what you need and see if they are willing to help you. They may need to know the name of the manufacturer of the frame because there are many frames that look the same, but the size of the bolts or seat decks and other items will all be slightly different.

Futon Bolts
Standard Futon Hinges
Click Click Hinges
Triple Click Hinges
Futon Mattress Storage Bags
Oblong Rollers
Carriage Blocks
Round Futon Rollers
Double Futon Rollers
Nylon Roller Inserts
Futon Barrel Nuts, Nuts, and Cross Dowels
Larger Futon Barrel Nuts
Futon Seat Stoppers
Futon Storage Bags
Allen Wrenches
Larger Allen Wrenches
Plastic Leg Caps
1/2 "Futon Hardware Sets
5/8 "Futon Hardware Sets
Angle Support Brackets
Decorative Bolt Covers or Plugs
Clevis Pins and Assemblies
Various Plastic Rollers, Glides and Carriage Blocks
Stretcher Support Rails
Futon Seat Decks
Futon Back Decks
Futon Arms
Cotter Pins
Washers and Clips
Futon Slats and Supports

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