Thursday, 14 February 2019

No more A380s - I'm sad! Heathrow-Perth was amazing but the Dreamliner is simply no comparison

If you're not a transport nerd, stop reading now!  My love for technology doesn't stop at computers and writing software... I'm also fascinated with trains, ships and aeroplanes too and absolutely love the Airbus A380 double-decker superjumbo in particular.

The incredible Airbus A380
When I work in our Adelaide Alpha Tracker asbestos software office with Judy & Leanne, a highlight of the journey is the A380 from Manchester or Birmingham to Dubai.  It is whisper-quiet, roomy, sophisticated and such a relaxing way to travel even in economy seats.  On the occasions I've upgraded to business it is simply awesome with comfortable lie-flat beds, superb food and a bar - yes, an actual bar - at the back of the upper deck to relax in.

At Dubai, I have to switch to a Boeing 777 on to Adelaide and it is always such a disappointment.  In comparison, it is noisy and cramped and feels nothing like the Airbus.  So, like many other frequent flyers, I'm gutted with today's news that the A380 is stopping production 14 years early.

The main competition for the superjumbo Airbus is the new Boeing 787 "Dreamliner".  I've just flown the Heathrow - Perth direct flight for the first time to spend a few days with Judy in Perth and, for sure, a 9000 mile journey is an incredible human engineering achievement but despite the 787 having special lighting, higher cabin pressure, and a special menu to help make the journey an easier one, I was struck at how it was nowhere near the experience of the A380.

So why has the A380 been a relative failure (despite passengers loving it) with only a few airlines taking it on and only Emirates placing really big orders?  The main cause is fuel efficiency.  The A380 has four engines whereas the 787 only needs two in order to travel similar distances, albeit with far fewer customers, and therefore needs less fuel (and fewer passengers) for a successful flight.

So, in a way, it's gone the way of Concorde and another of my favourites, the HSS ferries.  A technological masterpiece crippled by the cost of fuel.  The A380s in service will keep flying for many years to come but I'm sad today that an engineering marvel is coming to an end, and very sad for the Airbus workforce in the UK who build its enormous wings.

Alpha Tracker Release 30 is nearly ready (fingers crossed)... this time we mean it!!

We blogged last month (http://robinbennett.blogspot.com/2019/01/asbestos-software-alpha-tracker-release.html) to say that asbestos software Alpha Tracker Release 30 was nearly ready but to get in touch if you wanted any extra features "squeezed in".  How you responded!!!

Fingers crossed we've packed the last feature in!

Well, we've added another 25 features into this release following your feedback and we're in the final stages of testing now.  Dan has just built Release Candidate 8 of this update for Judy and Leanne to check over.  Shouldn't be long now!


Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Another Alpha Tracker order placed by a Sydney (Australia) asbestos consultancy

I'm working this week from Perth with Judy from our Australian asbestos software business, Alpha Tracker Pty.

Robin outside 100 Havelock Street, Perth, our Alpha Tracker base for the week
It's great to see that Judy and Leanne are so busy with new orders and just this morning an email arrived from an asbestos consultancy in Sydney wanting to place an order for asbestos software Alpha Tracker.  What's especially comforting is that most orders arriving are from personal recommendation - users are switching to us from competitor systems because they have heard about our industry-leading 24x7 personal support and our mature attitude to doing business.

We'll blog again when the consultancy goes live and has had their 1-1 training session. 

Can we help your Australian consultancy to become more efficient and save hours of admin time with every asbestos report produced?  Get in touch to find out how Alpha Tracker can help.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Chromebooks - a real alternative to a Windows laptop now?

The day before setting off for my week working in Perth, my laptop screen failed.  It tantalised and teased me to begin with, flickering slightly and responding to a "waggle" and the classic switch-it-off-and-on-again approach to fixing anything.

But hours after starting to show signs of problems ahead, it simply died and left me with a laptop that was on and working but with no screen to see what I was doing - unless I plugged into an external monitor.  It's not really an option to cart a 24 inch monitor halfway around the globe so I only had a couple of hours, before the shops closed and my flight was ready to board, to see if I could find a replacement laptop to take with me.

My laptop, a Lenovo X1 Yoga, is my trusted old friend and still in warranty so I really only needed something to work on while I was away.  Our local PC World had a few laptops that appealed but they were all £1500+ and that's far too much to spend when I knew that my own laptop would be repaired by the time I was back.

So... I challenged myself to look at alternatives and browsed the Chromebook section of the store.  Could a cheap and cheerful Chromebook possibly do the job for a week?  Could I possibly live without a "proper OS" ie Windows?!?  The Acer Chromebook R13 looked well built and very cost-effective and only £300:

The Acer Chromebook R13 - click here for a review
Checking to see what software I use all day, every day, I realised that most of it is now web-based or has an online version I could use at a pinch:

- QuickBooks Online is our accounts software
- Alpha Tracker runs our business* and is entirely web-based
- Outlook is available through Microsoft's Office365 website and so work email, tasks and calendar would be OK, and
- Gmail and the other Google cloud tools would sort me out for personal stuff.

Chrome even has a remote desktop feature which would allow me to access my broken Windows laptop (if I left it on in Telford while I was away).  So I rationalised that I could manage with just a web browser for the week and decided to give it a go.

Then I noticed a sticker on the Chromebook and had the revelation... Chromebooks can now run Android apps from the Google Play store! Did everyone else know this and just not me?!  This was amazingly useful - so favourite phone and tablet apps for Outlook, Tasks, Skype... they all install and work perfectly to give an almost-Windows feel and capability.  It should mean that even mobile app development software like the incredible new Alpha TransForm should work perfectly.

So, what's the verdict so far?  Yes, it works just fine!  I'm missing one or two Windows features (like the in-built photo editor, for example) but nothing important.  This has been a real eye-opener and an example of how the Internet and cloud computing is changing the hardware world, too.

*Eagle-eyed readers will be thinking "but isn't Alpha Tracker software for asbestos consultancies?".  Yes it is! But Alpha Tracker is actually end-to-end business management software which works for most businesses, whether they are in the environmental industry or any other - and it works perfectly for us a software company.  Using our own software to run our own business also means that we have a real incentive to fix bugs and improve it each and every day which is great for our users.




Neil & Robin meet after 20 years of business partnership and 30,000,000 items of asbestos data captured

Meet Neil Bartholomaeus.  Neil has been a business partner of ours for 20 years and is the brains and energy behind Mobile Data Studio, a key part of Start Software's Tracker and Alpha Tracker asbestos software systems.

Neil and Robin finally meet - after 20 years of business partnership
Neil lives and works near Perth, Western Australia, and had the vision to see the market for mobile site data collection systems even before reliable handheld devices existed! His experience working for the government in the most senior health & safety roles gave him an insight into the value of collecting data electronically and replacing paper with electronic forms.  The result of this vision, working with software developer Mike Stokes, is the software that we use to create our Tracker Mobile asbestos data collection system which has now captured 30,000,000+ items of asbestos data from buildings worldwide.

Having been business partners across the globe for 20 years now, we have finally got to meet!  I am working out of Perth this week with Judy from our Australian Alpha Tracker office, so Neil & I arranged to meet to discuss strategy and the next round of software improvements.

Cheers Neil for 20 years of partnership, helping us to help asbestos consultancies to identify and remove asbestos from buildings around the world.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Another asbestos consultancy switches to Alpha Tracker

We're delighted that another Scottish asbestos consultancy is switching to asbestos software Alpha Tracker.


Robertson McGregor Property Solutions, based in Fife, provide asbestos surveying, management and removal services to their clients and Alpha Tracker will help them to be even more efficient.

Can we help your asbestos consultancy to improve your service and become more efficient?  Get in touch!

Happy 50th birthday Elaine!

We all celebrated director Elaine's 50th last night at the best pub in the world... the George & Dragon in Much Wenlock.

Happy birthday Elaine from all of us!!