Turning a company around with custom build software.

When I started at our company business, I had no idea what and how but I wanted change the place for the better. I am soon coming up on 11 full years there and it was neat to see the cycle of which I already have lived through. The first year when I started there we went with computerized scheduling (which was still printed out). Now I have been there so long that the software needs to be discontinued. Since that time there has been a lot of things coded.

I started there doing just website stuff, part time. Anyone who knows me knows I won’t just stop there. I’m not stopping until the company is converted into a example of efficiency and convenience. Fortunately about 1-2 years there I really started to learn about PHP & Database development. I have a good background in MySQL from my college days but never really had a purpose for it until I built Llama Punter for UT2004. With that knowledge I began to build my first software suite that is still used today (even though it shows its age) which is a complete CRM & Scheduling system for our sales staff. Originally created for us to evenly split leads anonymously between our staff so that there was no way we played favorites.

I remember the day in 2011 when our owner pitched an idea to me, “Could we send the call information to our technician?” That single request completely changed our company around. I started with a very basic script that linked with our old MDB based scheduling system. It would hook and grab call information about the day. You could push the call and it would send a URL with a very long unique code that would allow you to view the details of the appointment. In there was the call information, notes, button for directions and a quick link for history. It was the absolute basics and while it worked I wasn’t happy with it just there.

I started to work hard building out a complete customer management system, dispatch tool, workflow monitoring system, document storage engine, etc. It was not a priority (over regular job tasks) but it was what I could spend spare time on, and now the system is almost fully where I want it to be. I have built everything single tool into the program but the data it gets for customer lists and visit history is still referenced to our old program powered by an unreliable database (thank goodness for constant snapshot backups just in case.) That’s the final feature, build a scheduling system that is within my existing suite.

Scheduling apps are not easy, especially user friendly ones. I found a way to build a scheduling system without drag and drop that was still super easy to operate and in the feature I can always tweak and add the function in. The last few days I was hammering out all the “what if” situations to make sure when we are booking appointments on the phone all the options are right there in front of us.

I hope this feature will be done in the next few weeks. My programs have put us as a 100% competitive advantage over all other businesses in the area because we aren’t shelling out crazy money for development, it’s built by someone who fully understands our industry (not software developers making general solutions) and it has deep decision matrices (which it does learn and store knowledge to help in the future) which I consider machine learning. We run more efficient than ever before, we are making less mistakes than ever before. If we do make mistakes we can easily look back and learn how to fix it.

When that Scheduling feature is complete here is a list of program features.

  • Fully Integrated Appointment Scheduling
  • Online Linked Appointment Scheduling: allows customers to book appointments. The “machine learning” system will look at the coordinates of their home to search what open spots makes feasible sense to allow it to be scheduled. Incredibly popular feature used by many hundred each year, fully automated no back and forth they can pick the time and it’s set up.
  • Dispatch board lets you queue up and send calls.
  • Built in notifications will push live notices to all office users as technicians do big tasks on a job or close the job out.
  • The most powerful Customer Searching System ever. You can search by anything including a super search which searches contents of notes and other odds and ends to help you find what you’re looking for.
  • Multiple mini-calendars (shared among the office)
  • Inventory system which helps you track product and what’s available.
  • Pricing Book which supports flat rate pricing or manual overriding of items.
  • Scanning system allows you to batch scan in documents to link to jobs or customers.
  • Warranty workflow allows you to flag jobs for warranty processing. You and other office staff can work through the workflows posting updates to the job.
  • Need to Return workflow allows us to get back to jobs without forgetting or requests not getting where they need to.
  • Spiff management. Staff can see their current balances and has support for requesting items with it.
  • Detailed reporting system. Generate mailing lists based on hundreds of unique reasons to make sure you aren’t wasting stamps and paper.
  • Full API Library which we used to set up an online “My account” system where customers can access their records and get further information about what we have done.
  • Official app for iOS for field techs. Works on iPad and iPhones.
    • Has appointment info, maps integration for directions
    • Call look back on prior days if you are trying to recall a visit.
    • Customer search system
    • On Call calendar system, see who is on call
    • Interactive repair book
    • Payment processing for Credit Cards
    • Interactive Phone Book (everyone can work on records in it like a wiki)
    • Knowledgebase supports PDF files, sorted by keywords. Techs can search the contents of the KB or PDF contents.
    • Reviews (shows them reviews about them from customers)
    • Timesheets allows them to fill out timesheets and submit it, saving time and paper.
    • Restock Buddy helps them know what they need to pick up when they are back at the office based on parts used.
    • and more more more!

I left dozens of things out because I honestly forgot about most of them. The program has been in the works since 2014.

I do not believe in cookie-cutter software and I’m not sure I ever will. Software companies make software intentionally generic to help fit a wider base and make the most profit. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s the best way to get the most money and use out of your product. I don’t settle for other’s work which I cannot see how it operates. In the next few weeks our ENTIRE company will be running on QuickBooks… and everything else is my software solutions. I am not even going to try touching QuickBooks.

Don’t cheap out on web hosting.

Just heard a horror story of a company who decided to change hosts to their new IT guys and it backfired. It’s not best to trust a small business web hosting company who does not handle web hosting primarily. They may have servers that work but they may not have reliable services like Backups, Backup Power, etc.

Websites are important and many use the hosting account to run their emails too. They did in this case and lost them all. I had them on a service that had backups. The hosts I recommend at this point in time is Dreamhost or Hostgator. I prefer Dreamhost for their free SSL certs (using Let’s Encrypt) plus user isolation incase of security incidents on just one of your sites. If you’re used to using cpanel go with hostgator. Neither will give you 100% uptime but they do their best (much like others I didn’t name) to make sure things are fixed quickly.

Net Neutrality

It’s a shame this is where we are. The FCC is going to be voting to strip Net Neutrality rights. This is not good, and speaking as a person who has set up and manage TONS of servers on different carriers I can tell you this breaks rules that helps keep everyone honest.

While I don’t believe ISPs will be doing tiers in the way people over-react to, I do see legitimate throttling like so…

(These are examples, they are not doing this currently, only theoretical)

Spectrum has their own voice service, to encourage people to use their service they will intentionally starve connections to that service to make their service look better. They could do anything from providing poor routing, not upgrading where needed to handle the load or just having a lot of packet loss making the phone call sound terrible.

AT&T offers DirecTV Now and U-Verse service. They could slow down or not give proper bandwidth to services like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu TV, etc. This would make their services look better by giving the illusion that a service is worse when it really wasn’t the producing company’s fault.

Verizon has a NFL deal and if you were trying to watch NFL on their network from a different legit source they could slow you down or just not provide reliable service so you would get a bad feeling about what you’re paying for and dump it for verizon’s.

In the past things like this has happened, and it would make a triumphant return if their lobbyists get their way.

This should not be a divided issue. There is literally no benefit to the customers, only the freedom for the companies to do what they do best… Try to get all the money they can from us pathetic chumps. From what I have seen our current government is not remotely listening to the people at this time, they are setting up their friends and other wealthy donors with the bonuses that they really want. We have to do what we can, call your politicians… It’s pretty much all we can do.

https://www.battleforthenet.com/ Get more information here.

Fraghouse Nations server is back up for the holidays

One of the game servers I set up a decade ago is back for the winter. Updated with TitanRPG for better leveling. Fraghouse Nations is a group of custom mods that weren’t necessarily designed to work together all into one unique experience. It uses standard invasion but with a lot more monsters and on custom maps designed for this mode. There are customized Vehicles, Weapons, Maps, Monsters, and more?! The leveling is set up so you can get to a point where it’s relatively easy within about 45 minutes.

You can find this server under the Assault Tab where you will find the other legacy PWC-Gaming servers.

UT2004 Files Sorted a Bit

Thanks for a fan (GoPostal) I thought it was finally time to go through some of the archives of stuff I have for Unreal Tournament 2004. One of the things I double checked was the LAN Party in a box server for UT2004. As it stood it was functional but when I set it up it was configured to a redirect server I hosted that was not active anymore. Since I have the hosting ability I put the files back up on there, so the server will function 100% out of the box.

I also uploaded to the additional files area the Game Mode Override feature, which is quite helpful if you have a lot of servers but want them to appear all in the same game mode list. That’s what I originally set it up for is to allow our invasion server and freon servers to appear under assault along with all the other servers we had. It’s easy to set up and no bull to configure, just add the mutator and it will tell the master server you’re running that mode no matter what you’re doing.

An update on my life.

I have had a few people reach out since me stepping away from DCTV. Since things are slowing down a bit I thought I would update and let you guys know how things are going.

The overall decision was one I needed to make to keep my sanity. Did I “throw away” a lot of effort and labor? I guess. Do I regret it? No. The entire idea of how twitch has really taken over (and may I say doing well) and for me to continue running a site that at the core was primarily a CDN and then a streaming point.

My professional career has been changing a lot and I am happy with where I am there. For many years I have debated that working with family held me back from really achieving success in life. I am happy I waited and did not quit because our business is turning around. The features I have been working on have been really neat, and the public is taking notice of how easy I make it to do business with our company.

I have been waking up early and going to bed early. It’s not so bad once you’re used to it, but honestly still never thought I would be that guy. I have been spending my free time occasionally playing some games and just watching TV. When I get home from a mentally exhausting day the last thing I want to do is work on more things.

In the future I have been toying with doing an audio podcast but really not sure on that. It’s all in limbo! Rest assured though, I am happy. I am relaxed. I have a huge pile of stress off of my head when I don’t have to worry about managing all the services required to keep DCTV v2 alive.