e-Newsletter, March 30, 2002

Roundtable Software E-Mail Newsletter Issue #15, March 30, 2002


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Novell Client 4.8 Is Buggy

If you are using Novell networking and upgrade the server software, upgrade workstations or add new workstations, look out! The default client used in most of these situation will be Novell 4.8x which has some very odd problems. In RTS-Advantage the problems are manifested in some really nasty ways.

The most obvious, and least destructive, manifestation of the problem comes in master programs where you will get invalid errors saying that the file is locked. If you try to use a lookup window the program will claim that there is no data to display.

If these problems don't tip you off right away that something bad has happened, things  only get worse. The other manifestation of the problem is highly destructive. Any  multi-file batch updates (for instance, Billing or Point Of Sale end of day update, AR Process Postings, etc.) will act like everything in the update went okay, but will have actually 'missed' updating some of the files. This situation is almost impossible to correct once it happens, so hopefully you catch the problem before doing anything like this.

If you are experiencing any symptoms like this on Novell or have recently upgraded or added stations to your Novell network, you can resolve the client software problem in one of two ways. First, you can switch clients to the Microsoft client that comes with the workstation, or to an older version of the Novell client software. We have had several dealers report that this successfully alleviates the problem. The other option is to get a patch from Novell--the company is aware of the problem and has a patch available on their website that fixes the 4.8 client software.

Our thanks to Data Solutions Unlimited and J.P. Williams Company, both of whom independently discovered and found solutions for this problem.



Using Printers With Windows

The keyword for this discussion is 'simple'. RTS-Advantage does not work with your printer driver, it doesn't read your INI files, it doesn't supercede or monkey with the Windows printer interface and it doesn't try to send control codes. The RTS-Advantage printer interface is the model of simplicity--we don't assume anything of your printer except that it can print text that is sent to it.

What seems to confuse people about printing from RTS-Advantage is that we don't use the names you've given to your printers in Windows (for example, "Fred's LaserJet"). That doesn't mean you can't get there from here. Except for a few unusual cases, RTS-Advantage can print to any printer attached to your Windows-based network. Doesn't matter if the printer you want to get at is on your workstation, someone else's workstation or on the server. We can get to any of these. That's because we simply send our printer output to Windows and let Windows decide where it should go. We let Windows worry about where the printer is on your network, what type of printer it is and so on.

RTS-Advantage is the consummate dummy when it comes to printing. All we know is that we're supposed to dump a bunch of text out to a particular port. The magic is all in Windows and how it deals with our output.

In the old days you referred to printers attached to your machine by their physical port number (in other words, where they were plugged in on the back of your computer). Port numbers were LPT1, LPT2 and up, also COM1, COM2, and up. When you specify a printer number in RTS-Advantage here's how it is mapped to the port numbers:
 
RTS-Advantage
Printer #
DOS
Printer Port
1
LPT1
2
LPT2
3
LPT3
4
COM1
5
COM2
6
LPT4
7
LPT5
8
LPT6
9
LPT7

So for instance if the printer you wanted to print to was on port LPT2 you would print to RTS-Advantage printer number 2.

Now with Windows you don't typically print direct to a printer port, or at least you don't refer to that printer port by it's real name. You let Windows worry about such nitty-gritty details. When you print to Fred's LaserJet, Windows checks and determines that this printer is the one installed on port LPT2--Windows knows this because of the setup process you went through when you first added the printer to your system.

However, RTS-Advantage still asks for a printer number--we don't know Fred's LaserJet from Adam. So how do you figure out which number you should select in RTS-Advantage  to get to Fred's LaserJet? The secret is in the Windows setup of the printer. When you setup the printer one of the questions it might have asked you is whether you plan to print to it from DOS applications (not all printer setups ask this - some because they assume an affirmative answer, some because they assume the negative--fun, huh?). When you answered yes it would have then asked which DOS port you want to be associated with this printer. In other words, the setup is in effect asking you, "when you print to this printer from DOS, which port will you be sending to?". You can then typically select an LPT port from 1 to 9.

There are two  important concepts to understand here. First, when you set up a printer in Windows the port you select is totally up to you and is in no way dictated by where the printer is actually physically attached. Second, the LPT you choose in the setup is then the LPT to which you print in DOS, including RTS-Advantage,  in order to send output to this printer.

Okay, so what does all this mean? How do you know which RTS-Advantage printer number to use to send a report to Fred's LaserJet? Simply go into the printer control panel and look at the properties for Fred's LaserJet. Typically you will find the port number on the Details screen, sometimes in a pull-down box called Capture Printer Port. This varies since much of the layout of the printer properties window is determined by the printer manufacturer rather than being a standard Windows layout. Once you've found the port, just refer to this table to determine which RTS-Advantage printer number is associated with that port:
 
RTS-Advantage
Printer #
DOS
Printer Port
1
LPT1
2
LPT2
3
LPT3
4
COM1
5
COM2
6
LPT4
7
LPT5
8
LPT6
9
LPT7

 Note that it also makes no difference  to which computer Fredís LaserJet is attached on a network. If you can print to that printer from Windows then you should be able to print to it from RTS-Advantage. Just check your Windows printer setup to find out which port you should use.

Before we finish up, we need to throw in a few gotchas (wouldn't be much fun if everything was cut and dried, right?).

Gotcha #1: As discussed in a previous newsletter, USB printers cannot be printed to from DOS on the computer to which they are attached (only across the network). See newsletter #14 for details.

Gotcha #2: On some Windows networks, the printer number associations listed above are wrong for LPT4 and above--refer to newsletter #4 for details.

Gotcha #3: Due to what seems to be a bug in Windows XP, network printers cannot be set up to be associated with an LPT in the Windows control panel. In such cases you need to issue a NET USE command in DOS. See newsletter #13 for details.

Gotcha #4: Windows XP also has a bug in that it only allows you to select ports LPT1 and LPT2 for local printers.  There is a patch available from Microsoft that will increase this to LPT1-5 (still not as many as in other versions of Windows, but five is certainly better than two).



Roundtable Software Summer Vacation Days

Roundtable Software will be closed July 30 through August 2. No dealer orders or technical support will be available on those days. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.



Success Stories

Dealer J.P. Williams has been working with some users lately who are really getting the most out of the Advantage software. Mr. Williams suggested we share some of these success stories, so take it away Jim:

From a Texas user comes this one. Our user is a distributor that takes no orders but sells her products from available stock on route trucks driven to customer businesses. Salespeople used to turn in copies of handwritten tickets that were entered in a dozen separate Billing companies.

Now she's purchased wireless palm devices that transmit sales to the office. Working with the handheld vendor, sales are collected to a single text file redirected into RTS-Advantage to create invoices, complete with customer, purchase order, salesperson, item numbers, quantities, etc. It's slick.

From Virginia comes this one. Our user is a multiple location wholesaler who also maintains a secure website for customers and salespeople. He wanted to add real-time product availability and pricing to the website because both change constantly.

Working with the user, a Report Generator format was created to output data he needed for the website. The report was made to run from a keystroke macro enable to run from outside of RTS-Advantage and printed to file. A Windows scheduling program now runs the macro three times a day, replacing the previous file each time. Though not quite real-time, it's close and the cost is a whole lot less than the alternatives. It's also 100% secure unlike exposing your live data directly on the web.

From Maine comes this one. Our user is a $5M retail store chain. Each store is set up as a separate company and individually responsible for ordering and receiving merchandise from the central warehouse that they also maintain.

Working with their MIS department, auto-created purchase orders are printed to file and emailed to the central warehouse. As they arrive the files are redirected into RTS-Advantage Order Entry, picked, posted, transferred to Billing and invoiced. A printed copy of the invoice goes on the delivery truck with the merchandise and a text file copy is emailed to the store. When the goods and email arrive, the store checks both for accuracy. The text file is then redirected to Advantage and the items posted as received. It can't get much easier.

Thanks to Jim for those great stories. It's amazing what kinds of things you can do with Advantage with the help of our knowledgeable (and certainly in Jim's case, incredibly creative) dealers. End users take note--practically anything is possible with RTS-Advantage!

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