Archive for April 2012
A couple of weeks ago I blogged on Learning over the Web, in this blog I mentioned that I really like the Khan Academy and their video method of training. I’ve now started experimenting with making Khan Academy style videos. I’ve now done three, so far, as an introduction to SData. I plan to make more of these going forwards. Once I have a larger set of videos on SData, I may try branching out to other topics. Below is a picture of Sal Khan working on such videos:
New Video Page
I’ve added a Video page to my blog which will provide links to all the videos I produce. To start with there are three videos, which aren’t very many. However I hope to make a new one every week or so and then if I can keep that up, after a year there will be fifty or so videos. The first three videos are:
The best way to learn something is by doing. So I recommend playing with SData and experimenting with the various items described in the video. To this end you can play with a locally installed version of Sage 300 ERP (or another Sage product) or you can access our demo server at http://sage300erpdemo.na.sage.com. The user id and password are ADMIN/ADMIN, make sure you enter them in upper case if prompted from the Browser or other client software. If you type the URL: http://sage300erpdemo.na.sage.com/SDataServlet/sdata/sageERP/accpac/SAMINC/arCustomersFinder into the Chrome browser and enter ADMIN/ADMIN for the userid/password then you should get back a large amount of XML containing the first 10 customer records in the SAMINC database. For information on how to perform other querying, see the third video.
If you want to try these with a different Sage product, then you might need to run Fiddler to see the exact form of their SData URLs. Once you have this, you can be up and running. Fiddler is a very useful tool for spying on HTTP requests made from your computer. You can spy on any program or website to see what it is doing.
For more background information on SData, see the SData Website or some of my previous blog posts: SData in Sage ERP Accpac 6, More on SData and Sage ERP Accpac 6, Stateful SData, On the Sage GCRM Contract, Fun with SData, A Roadmap for SData Integration to Sage Products or Defining SData Feeds for Sage 300 ERP. Jarett Smith has also started a blog on SData which is well worth checking out.
I find creating videos more time consuming than writing, mostly because it’s harder to jump around in videos and harder to edit them. I’m hoping I can get better at creating videos with more practice and time. Partly getting used to the process and learning by doing. I hope that as I keep doing these, they will get better. It certainly takes some practice to use the writing tablet for drawing (hopefully my handwriting will improve) and at the same time I need to watch myself to not say “Um” so much. So I consider these first three videos the first three steps on a longer journey.
For producing the videos I pretty much copied what they use at Khan Academy. It’s neat that you can create videos these days with very little equipment or post production software. I used entirely either open source or free software and a very inexpensive writing tablet. The items I used:
- YouTube to post the videos to. Seemed the easiest and the URLs are easy to circulate.
- SmoothDraw 3 for drawing. I start with a black rectangle 854×480 pixels (which is a preferred YouTube resolution that fits well on my monitor).
- BB FlashBack Express for screen recording.
- Wacom Bamboo Connect pen input tablet. Cost around $80CAD.
- A Blue Snowball Microphone. This works a lot better than the microphone built into my laptop and we already have a few of these around the office. Original cost was about $65CAD.
- Windows Live Movie Maker for video editing. Not a very good solution, but it has done what I need. Suspect I might need to buy Camtasia eventually.
It took me a bit of trial and error to get things to work right. I tried a couple of free screen recording utilities like Camstudio, which didn’t work for me. They either crashed or didn’t produce good results. Then in editing, for MovieMaker you need to change the project from 4×3 to 16×9 or it produces something that doesn’t work right on YouTube.
Generally handling video files is a bit of a pain since they are so large. Uploading from work is ok. Uploading from home is very slow, I suspect because cable modem is optimized for downloading content rather than uploading it. Either that or Shaw decided that uploading videos is a no no and throttled my connection.
I’m still undecided on whether I want to add vlogging to my blogging. This requires a camera, but web cams are cheap and for that matter both my phone and camera both take really good videos, certainly good enough for YouTube. When I’ve tried this in the past, I haven’t been happy with the results and found that much more video editing is required. But then again hopefully with some practice, I can get better over time.
I hope you find my new Video page useful. Hopefully over the coming month I’ll add quite a few videos and start to branch out to other topics.
We introduced an integration from Sage 300 ERP (Accpac) to Sage Exchange in version 6.0A (with a retrofit to 5.6A). This integration allows ERP users to take credit card transactions directly from ERP screens including pre-authorizations and charges. I blogged about this in these two articles: Accpac Credit Card Processing and Accpac Payment Processing.
Now as we approach our next release we are including a number of enhancements to this integration. We are in the process of changing our version numbering scheme, so the next release of Sage 300 ERP will be Sage 300 ERP 2012 rather than 6.1A. However it is still the next version of Sage 300 ERP after 6.0A.
With this upcoming release we are going to add three main features:
- Ability to capture pre-authorizations in Shipment Entry, Invoice Entry or either. Currently users can only capture pre-authorizations in Shipment Entry when items are shipped. Many customers tell us that they would prefer to have office personnel perform the capture rather than have this done during Shipment Entry.
- Ability to capture a number of orders from different customers in a batch rather than individually. This will streamline operations, especially in high-volume companies.
- System will automatically ‘force’ an expired pre-authorizations without prompting the user whether they want to force a pre-authorization. “Force” is the process of doing a capture (post-authorization) for a pre-authorization that has expired. Currently there is a prompt that appears if it has expired and users have to select whether they want to force a payment. This change streamlines operations and removes unnecessary user interaction with the software.
Capture Pre-Authorizations During Invoice Entry
This feature basically means exposing the functionality already available from Shipment Entry in Invoice Entry. Capturing a pre-authorization, really just means charging the credit card for real, so you get paid. The earliest you are allowed to capture (or charge) the credit card is when the item ships as per credit card processing rules. However due to separation of duties, in many companies the people doing the shipping aren’t the right people to process the credit card. Usually this needs to be done by a finance person and it is most convenient for them to do this when they prepare the Invoice (since the shipment has already been done).
Here is the Invoice Entry screen displaying Invoice Prepayments screen with full credit card functionality. Notice the “Capture…” button on the main form.
When you hit Charge, you get the “Capture Pre-authorization” screen:
And then you when you hit “Process Payment” it will capture the Pre-Authorization, so you will be paid.
Capture a Batch of Orders
Now, let’s look at how we will “capture” a number of orders in a batch. For any orders that have been pre-authorized, this means to really charge their credit card. To do this we have create a new Form in the Order Entry Transactions folder:
When you run this Form you get:
From this screen you specify the A/R Batch to add the transactions to (or create a new one). Then you can get a list of Orders which are candidates for charging. To be in the list, the Order must have an outstanding pre-authorization and have shipped. It is a rule from the Credit Card companies that you can only charge for items that have shipped to the customer. Select which Orders you want to capture (charge). Once you have chosen all the Orders, then all you need to do is hit the “Process” button and away it goes.
This should make it easier for companies to process a high volume of Orders.
Automatically “Force” Expired Pre-Authorizations
In the current system if a pre-authorization has expired then we put up a yes/no question when you go to capture the transaction asking whether you want to “force” it. Forcing a transaction may not work for various reasons and usually causes higher transaction fees on the transaction. This is why we put up the warning dialog, so if people don’t want the extra fees then they can avoid them.
However the feedback we have received is that this prompt is just annoying. If you are taking credit card transactions then you are willing to put up with the fees and you would like to try to get any money you can. For instance if the transaction fails because they have maxed their credit card, well if you hadn’t tried, you wouldn’t get anything anyway (or would get something like a bad check which has its own fees).
We may offer an option for this, but it seems like the consensus is that people would like the process streamlined.
The original credit card processing support that we previously added has been quite successful and we are looking to build on this by continuing to add functionality in each release based on customer feedback. Hopefully these new features will keep our Sage Exchange integration growing and as it grows we will get more feedback and enhance the integration further. Notice that sometime listening to feedback means streamlining a process or removing a feature, not just adding new bells and whistles.