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A nice XSL for CRM 2011 datamaps

I’ve been doing a lot of data imports to CRM 2011.  When it comes to showing the client where the fields are getting mapped, it’s a bit of a hassle.

If you export the data map you get a nice XML document, but you can’t exactly show that to your business lead (it’s difficult to read even if you know XML).

So, I created a nice chunk of XSL to make a better way to present the data mapping.

<?xml version=”1.0″?>
<xsl:stylesheet version=”1.0″
xmlns:xsl=”http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform”&gt;

<xsl:template match=”EntityMaps/EntityMap”>
<html>
<body>
<h2><xsl:value-of select=”@SourceEntityName”/> | Target: <xsl:value-of select=”@TargetEntityName”/></h2>
<table border=”1″>
<tr bgcolor=”#9acd32″>
<th>Source</th>
<th>Target</th>
<th>Process Code</th>
</tr>
<xsl:for-each select=”AttributeMaps/AttributeMap”>
<xsl:sort select=”ProcessCode” order=”descending”/>
<xsl:sort select=”SourceAttributeName”/>
<tr>
<td>
<xsl:value-of select=”SourceAttributeName”/>
</td>
<td>
<xsl:if test=”TargetAttributeName != ””>
<xsl:value-of select=”TargetAttributeName”/>
</xsl:if>
<xsl:if test=”TargetAttributeName = ””>
<xsl:text disable-output-escaping=”yes”><![CDATA[&nbsp;]]></xsl:text>
</xsl:if>
</td>
<td>
<xsl:value-of select=”ProcessCode”/>
</td>
</tr>
</xsl:for-each>
</table>
</body>
</html>
</xsl:template>
</xsl:stylesheet>

Save that to a file in the same folder as your XML file, then add the line below to the XML file itself (where ImportMapping.xslt is the name of the xsl file).

<?xml-stylesheet type=”text/xsl” href=”ImportMapping.xslt”?>

I’ve been doing a stupid amount of research about online tools for managing your dojo. This is a breakdown of 5 of the sites I’ve researched. I do have a personal preference, but I’ve tried to be as balanced as possible in my overview.

The Dojo Managerlink
This site is based on simplicity and ease of use. The design of the software makes it easy to use, and gives a desktop feel, very rarely do you see the page reloading itself to refresh the data, and many smooth effects make for fun eye candy. It includes many of the typical features, tracking student fees, events and testing, belt tracking, reporting, and basic lead/visitor tracking. There is also a mobile site for quick reference from any smart phone.

Printable invoices with a custom massage are there, and there’s a feature to allow integration with paypal.

The Dojo Manager is still in beta, and there have been many updates and changes in the last several months, and the developers are very engaged with the users. The site is free for 30 days after that ranges from $5 to $20 depending on the number of active students.

Overall, the site is well executed. There are currently not as many features as some of the other sites in this list, but you can’t beat the price. This would be my first choice for a school under 30 students, and if you like the usability and the features of the site, it could easily handle much larger schools. Once some marketing and auto-invoicing features are added, this would be my top pick overall.


Zen Plannerlink
Zen Planner seems to be focused around billing, with many features related to online billing and account tracking. There are also lead tracking, marketing features, and automated email reminders. One of the nice features of this site is the automatic creation of a school web page. It will not create a full web site for you school, but it is a great way to get started on the process, and also includes a page for online student payments.

The downside is that it starts at $55/month for up to 50 students and goes up to $120/month for 300 students. For a 300 student school $120/month may be worth it. But it seems difficult to justify $55 a month for a 10-20 student school.

Igo Karatelink
This site (as well as the remaining 2 sites), are membership management sites. So they are not specific to martial arts, but also provide general features to any site which tracks members. The upsitde to this is that it’s packed with features, the downside is there may be many features which you pay for but never use.

The interface feels a little “bubble gum” for lack of a better term. But it is truly packed with features.
Online payments, student fee and payment tracking, employee tracking, full POS system, attendance tracking with key-tags, members can register and pay for classes online. There are also many training options on the site for you and any staff you may have.

There are unfortunately two distinct downsides to this software. It’s not web based, so must be installed on a specific computer, and it’s $800. You can add other computers to your “network” for an additional $100. This is a one-time fee, so if you’re planning on paying $120 a month for another solution, you might find your self being able to actually save some money of you have a large school. And that saving may be significant over a few years.

This software is defiantly designed for Yoga studios or Gyms, which have many, many members, and a dedicated staff to manage the facility and members. But it’s got a great features list, and a one-time payment may be a great option for larger schools.

Mind-Body Online (MBO)link
This seems to be the “Cadillac” of membership management software. If there’s a feature you can think of.. I’d guess this site has it. There’s even a iPhone application for it. To some degree it’s the SalesForce.com of membership management. Scheduling seems to be a big focus, but online payments and transaction processing is all a part of the software. The interface is not the most intuitive, but I’m sure after spending a little time with it, it would be fine.

They have a nice demo area on the site, where you can play with, and use the software before you commit to buying it. The pricing for the system is based on the number of “professionals” you have as a part of your business. From the perspective of a martial arts studio, this means instructors. It starts at $39 for a single instructor, and goes up to $155 per month for 21-50 instructors. If you’ve got a school with 21-50 instructors, you can afford $155 per month. $39 per month is still a little steep for one instructor with 10-20 students. Although, this is a feature packed and very well designed site.

JackRabbit Dojolink
According to Google, this is the top result for “Dojo Management Software”. JackRabbit, MBO, and Igo seem to be a big dogs on the block, and honestly have a very similar feature set. JackRabbit specifically lists: student skills, class management, event tracking, instructor tracking, and reporting. I believe online payments are also a part of the tool and attendance tracking with a barcode reader is an interesting feature (barcode scanner is extra $, of course). The only thing I’m not a big fan of is the interface, it’s a bit difficult to use, and there’s a lot going on on each screen, again this may be simply a learning curve thing, and (of course) just my preference.

The cost is per students and starts at $45/month for 0-100 students up to $295/month for 3001-4000 students (yeah, at 4000 students, I’m not going to sweat $295/month)

Overall:
I’d recommend The Dojo Manager for schools under 30 students, it seems to be the only one that is affordable for “young” schools. Online payments and the other features missing, aren’t something many school just starting would find valuable anyway. More than 30 students it’s time to shell out the big bucks for MBO. Although, The Dojo Manager is still in beta, and could very competitive with MBO, when released in the spring of 2011.

I reciently realized the importance of being yourself. There was a time in my life when I would customize my resume based on the job I was seeking. I’m a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy, and was always expecting employers to want an empolyee they could eaisly put a label on. I’ve come to realize that while that’s true of many companies, it’s not true of the ones that I fit into.

Reguardless of the company and it’s philosophy, I’ve found it critical to be honest about your strengths and weeknesses. If your a good worker, the right company will find a place for you. If they can’t benefit from your unique skills, then it’s simply not a good fit. Shake hands, and know you’ve at least made one more good contact, that knows you’re a no bull shit kind if guy. Your reputation follows you everywhere you go.

The first step in doing this is being honest with yourself. The career that fate/genetics has chosen for you might make it a little harder to find work, but when you do, it will be a job, that will be a career, that you can be happy with. And work won’t seem so much like work.

Don’t be afraid you won’t get the job, if your not right for it, brave the cold and find the one you are right for.

Dan

Metcalfe’s law

How many web developers aren’t aware of Metcalfe’s law? My guess is that most know it very well, but many never knew it had been formalized.

Digg is my quintessential example of this theory in action. I was one of the first users of digg 2.0, hearing about it on their podcast Diggnation. The traffic was sparse at begin with, but it seemed to explode at a some point. I remember the debates about adding non-technology digg categories. Many of the the old-school guys didn’t want their culture to be tainted by the “normies”. It’s crazy to try and limit your potential, especially once the ball gets rolling.

The utility of a network increases exponentially as the users of the network increases. This applies beautifully to social web sites, but does not apply to utility or productivity sites, we shouldn’t think that by simply creating a web site, we’ll get exponential traffic. Sites like salesforce.com and basecamp.com have no use of Metcalfe’s law, they may try to wedge social features into the site, but it ends up looking out of place. To truly take advantage, you need to create real value from the social aspect of your product.

The first way I found to do this was by adding the GS_PROG environment variable (add the path to the .exe file), but I’ve got the portable version of GIMP and it seemed to not be checking the environment variables. After much internet searching I found this.

The solution was to copy the executable files from C:\Program Files\gs\gs8.54\bin into GIMPPortable\App\gimp\bin

Some day google will index this page, and I hope others find this as easily as I should have been able to the first time.

Dan

In software development there exist things called integration points. This is when any point in the process your working on makes contact with an independent system. You must also include the systems that that system depends on, so the count can quickly balloon. If you’re sleeping with X, you’re also sleeping with all the systems X has slept with.

Every time your dependent on a independent system, the risk of success of your project is reduced. Does your project depend upon a web service? A .dll file? A folder/file on the server? Network permissions to the folder? Each of these integration points can cause a failure in your project, none of which are in the scope of the changes to implement the feature set. Most integration points are unavoidable, but if you’re considering a particular architecture and are considering a web service (for example), think again. If you need to access the service from multiple systems, across networks, or on a heterogeneous architecture it may be the best option. But don’t do it without thoughtful consideration to the risk that you’re adding to all the future projects that require that service to be running, and running bug free.

It’s not the only way to identify risk for a project, but should be considered as a factor.

My New Flip Camera

I got a new Flip video camcorder, it’s not very fancy, but it’s a lot of fun. Even my wife can use it 🙂

So, technically it’s a Pure Digital Flip Ultra Series F260 Camcorder. I got it from woot for $90 (woot’s the bomb!). The “Flip” in it’s name is due to the flip-up USB connector which makes it very easy to connect to your computer. This connection also allows you install the software directly from the camera itself, so you don’t have to worry about being at Uncle Bob’s and not being able to get to your videos, although it’s nice to never need to worry about my batteries dieing and not having a charger.

It can record 60 minutes at 640×480, and uses a DivX compression format. Not exactly sure what the bit rate is, but it looks good, even in the YouTube video the rocks show up nice and clear, with little artifacting. The functionality is painfully simple, the giant red button in the back records. That’s about it, you can also playback and delete videos if can’t get back to a computer before you fill it. The zoom is so lame it might as well not be there, but it might as well not be there anyway. That kind of functionally is not what this camera is intended for, I don’t see me ever using it. Another interesting feature is that it takes 2 AA batteries, I’m hoping it won’t burn through them too fast.

I’ve got a Canon PowerShot SD500, which I love, and it takes great video. There’s just something about this flip camera that makes you want to use it. Plus, with the flip I don’t need to find an SD card to USB converter.

I’ve also included a link to the original video, for those of you that have the DivX codecs, and care.
Flip Video Test

I can’t remember, I’m not even sure I was actually “alive” then anyway.

Ok, ok, maybe that’s a bit of an overreaction, but this is an undeniably fun game.  I haven’t spent too much time with it yet, but I’m planning on it.  When you play this game you need to be sure you’ve got the sound turned up.  It’s a visceral experience for all you senses.  From the night missions using the night-vision goggles in the middle of a urban firefight, to the 50 cal on the side of a C-130 (or whatever the fuck that plane is).  It’s heart pounding all the way through.

From what I’ve heard the story line is a little short, but I’ve put about 6 hours into it, and haven’t seen the end yet.  I’ve also heard the multi player is outstanding, I’ve only played one game, but had lots of fun.  One other suggestion, start on the easy level.  I started on the medium level and have to replay several of the scenarios several times.

Rent it, buy it, live it, love it.

10 on, 2 off

I’ve discovered Merlin Manns (10+2)*5 formula and I’m loving it.  I’m finding I’m more focus, and more motivated.

So here’s the breakdown of the idea for every 12 minutes, you spend 10 working and 2 as a break, I’m not one right now.  You don’t get stuck down rabbit holes of non-productivity, i.e. You Tube videos.

And you don’t get down about some miserable project you’re working on, because you can check when your next break is.  It’s a “OK, I can work on this for another 2 minutes, unitl my break” thing, otherwise you can find yourself dreading the task.  It breaks up the task into doable portions.

My current GTD application (http://www.gtdageenda.com) does not have repeating appointments, which has vexed me for some time, as I’m in love with the rest of the application, and I’m not willing to switch just yet.

The solution came to me in a flash of light!  And the answer is contained withing the GTD system itself.  I now use a repeating appotiment on my calendar (Google calendar) to remind me to put the action on my next actions list.  This results in a little double entry, but gives me the ability to have soft deadlines, where I don’t have to constantly check what I didn’t get complete in my calendar.  As well as my calendar not having the ability to mark things as complete.  It’s a great system to make sure monthly bills get paid, among other things.