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November 2015 | Issue #37
Current Releases: SM 8.0.030 (10/23) | AW 3.5.022 (10/29)
ACEware Systems Newsletter - Information to Run Your Program
ACEware Employee Spotlight: Chuck Havlicek
We thought it would be neat to really show what ACEware Systems is made of: A great staff. This month, we're highlighting ACEware's original employee, Chuck Havlicek.

Chuck founded ACEware 32 years ago. He is the President, CEO, Head Cheese, Guy in Charge, etc. In addition, he is the technician for everyone since he helps the staff support the schools and organizations who use ACEware. He is also the guy you hear in most webinars. As you can imagine, he does a *few* other things around here as well.

Prior to working for ACEware, Chuck earned his B achelor's degree in Agricultural Honors. He became interested in Continuing Education when he was a student worker at the Nebraska State 4-H office at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. There, he helped the office organize and run a national agriculture youth conference (which is still being held). After graduation, Chuck joined the Division of Continuing Education at UNL as a conference coordinator, where he worked for the next 15 years. During that time, Chuck finished a Masters degree in Adult Education, and completed most coursework for the Ph.D. in Continuing and Higher Education. He then moved to Manhattan, Kansas and worked as the Assistant Director of Conferences for the Kansas State University Continuing Education office for three years before starting ACEware Systems.

Chuck wrote the very first version of ACEware registration software, thus crossing the divide between computer programming and the user experience of Continuing Education staff who want to develop/market programs and track/serve students.

Chuck is married to a wonderful lady (who has put up with him for a lot more years than she probably should have), has two married daughters (one in Houston and one in North Carolina), and two talented, handsome, well-behaved (ha!) grandsons.

In his spare time, Chuck e njoys gardening, fishing, hunting, and woodworking. He and his wife recently moved to an acreage outside Manhattan, where he's been able to get some serious new garden plots!

In Chuck's own words: " Waaay back when, we had a price for a single user version of Student Manager (no modules) that was $ 1,495.00. I had been talking with a prospective customer (here in the midwest) about Student Manager and all the things it could do (and even "back then" it could do a lot!). Well anyhow, the school said, "great.. we'll take it. How much does it cost?"  I told them (it was on  the phone) Fourteen ninety five. Well, two weeks later I got a check in the mail for $14.95. So the tradition of Continuing Ed folk running a tight budget has been going on for a long time. NOTE: After a good chuckle, we did clarify with them that it was FOURTEEN HUNDRED, ninety-five, and they did send a new check with the decimal moved over to the right place!"

Chuck just finished a whirlwind tour of several western US customers. He always enjoys the chance to get into the trenches with customers and see how they use ACEware products to help manage their programs and serve students. We're going to try to continue to do some drive-bys and social calls, so if we're in your area, we may call and ask if we can stop by for a visit. It's always great to get faces and voices connected, and we always get some good tips on how we can improve the system and keep Matthew busy!

Contributed by Matthew J. Olson and Chuck Havlicek

Recovery Testing

(NOTE: This is a repeat of what was sent to the ACE-LIST a couple of weeks ago.)

I was at dinner a few weeks ago with some brilliant developers from around the world. We were talking about database disasters and how to recover from them. Let's face it:  Bad things happen from time to time. Someone said a phrase that got me excited: Monthly Recovery Test.
All of you reading this should have someone in your office who does backups of your data on a regular basis. (If this is not happening, then you need to start!) Several people at my table shared horror stories of corrupted backups and not having a usable one for months on end. In fact, this very thing happened to an ACEware customer. So the proposed solution was this idea of testing backups to see if they are indeed viable.
There are two procedures to test if you can restore from a backup. In either case, you need to assume that the entire Student Manager server has died. Here are the two scenarios:
  1. If your IT people backup your entire server, then they should be able to restore the entire folder somewhere for you to access it.
  2. If someone makes backups out of Student Manager, then you will need to first get a Student Manager install file from your technician and unzip the backup over the install.
Assuming you are able to restore the backup in either one of these scenarios, then you just need to log into Student Manager to check whether the data you expect to see is actually there. Only the latest data should be missing. If this were not a test, then you would need to manually reenter this missing data.
As I write this, another thought comes to me: How often should backups be created? As you can see from this, you are going to have to recreate whatever data is missing from the last backup to the date you are recovering. If you are willing to reenter months of data, then you should make a backup about once a quarter. If you are only willing to reenter the last hour of data, then you should get everyone out of the system every hour and make a backup then. (Okay, this last sentence is admittedly a bit extreme, but I think I've made a good point.)
I think that some of you might think a monthly test of your backups is too often for your organization. Maybe doing recovery testing once a year is enough. But, again, you need to ask yourself how much data you're willing to lose. I don't think doing a recovery test more than once a month is required. I also wouldn't recommend anything less than once a quarter unless you are a Summer School or something that only has one registration period a year. In any case, you should do a recovery test as soon as possible and figure out a schedule going forward.
Something I haven't mentioned to this point is ACEweb. There isn't a real way to backup ACEweb other than copying your INI files and template files out from time to time (usually any time there is a change to any of these files, which shouldn't be too often). In a real recovery, you would need to reinstall ACEweb from scratch. This would not be very feasible for recovery tests since this can be cumbersome. But ACEweb doesn't have data and data is really the key to your business.
Another item up for discussion is that, even if your IT support team is doing server backups, you might still want to consider doing a backup from within Student Manager. This puts less of a burden on your IT team for these recoveries and doubles your insurance.
Contact your technician if you need any advice or to get the install file if you need it for your recovery (either as a test or if we are in an emergency situation). Unfortunately, your technician is going to be too busy to help with these recovery tests, but we will be documenting this procedure in the Online Help during the next update cycle. Don't worry, you'll be able to do this on your own. Happy testing!

Contributed by Matthew Olson
I Got an Error! Now What?
As we're always striving to expand and improve our software, regular program changes inevitably mean that something, somewhere will go wrong. But fear not, with your help, and these quick tips, we can squash those bugs flat!
In dealing with Student Manager error messages, there are three things that will greatly help us in tracking down the error:  

  • The version and build number you are running (located in the far top left on the title bar, after you're logged in to Student Manager).
  • A screenshot of the first error message you receive. (See below for a handy tool to make this easy!)
  • A quick description of how you arrived in this unfortunate circumstance (I brought up a name record, then clicked the quick reports button, then etc., etc.). 

If you are running Windows 7 or later, there is a convenient feature built in called the "Snipping Tool". This lets you specify an area of your current screen that you want to take a screenshot of. To launch it, just click your start button, then start typing "Snipping" without the quotes, it should show up above after a second or two.  Once you see "Snipping Tool" in the list, simply hit enter or click it to launch the program.
You should see a box that looks like this:
Your screen will go grey at this point. This is prompting you to select the area that you want to capture, so just use the crosshair cursor to drag a box around whatever you want to screenshot (the error message box), then let go of the mouse button. Now you'll see another window that has the cropped and captured image showing, and the tool is nice enough to already have "copied" it to your clipboard. So open up that email to your technician, click into the body of the message, and then hit CTRL-V or right click and "Paste"!
If everything worked right, you should see your captured image in the message, and now you can fill in the rest of the details about your version #, and what the heck happened, so we can get you all fixed up, and back to work!
ACEweb Errors
ACEweb error messages are a bit different, but luckily the process for getting those to us is quite simple as well! ACEweb has two "modes" of displaying error messages, the normal, and the verbose. The verbose is what our ACEweb programmer would need to see to best troubleshoot the issue, so here's how you (or your tech) can enable it:
From your ACEweb Administration page, under Debugging, click the link that says "Expanded Error Display". This turns on verbose error reporting. Next, let's check a couple of ACEweb.ini settings -
AdminEmail: This should be set to whomever wants to get an emailed version of the ACEweb error message, which is handy for forwarding to your tech.
AdminMailServer: This should have a mail server set in it (it's usually the same as the value of "MailServer").
AdminSendErrorEmail: This needs to be set to ON for ACEweb to send out those error emails.
The tricky thing about ACEweb errors, should they happen, is that often times it's your students that see the error, and you get the unfortunately phone call, but not too many details on how or why they got it. That's where having the error message automatically emailed to you comes in handy, so we definitely recommend that you set someone as your AdminEmail person, especially after a big upgrade, or adding/changing a payment gateway.
We always hope that you, your staff, and your students will never have to worry about seeing an error message, but with these tips, you'll be armed with the tools you need to help us get you squared away as soon as possible!

Contributed by Jason Allen
New Information in the Newsletter!
You'll see something new in this and all future newsletters. At the wonderful suggestion of a customer, we will add the most current version of Student Manager and ACEweb to each newsletter. Have you found it in this edition? Look right under the date of the newsletter. There you'll see the most current version and the release date of both Student Manager and ACEweb with links taking you to the What's New pages in help.

This is one of several ways to stay informed on the latest version available. Other ways include:
  • Join the Forum and subscribe to get automated SM update notifications.
  • Visit the online reference guide (you have that bookmarked, right?). The big red, What's New button will give the current version and all new features included.
How do you know what version you are running? For ACEweb, you just need to go to <yoururl>/about.awp. When you are in Student Manager,  you will find the version number listed at the top of your Student Manager screen in the left corner. If you see 7.2.A there, remember that support (including maintenance, patching and development) will end on December 31st. Schedule your upgrade with your assigned technical support representative.

Contributed by Sharon Brookshire
20th Annual Users' Conference
May 18-20, 2016 - Manhattan, KS
You're invited to join the ACEware staff  for the 20th Annual Users' Conference! Meet and consult with our team, network with other Student Manager/ACEweb users, increase your ACEware IQ, and have some fun!

The goal of the conference is simple - help you get the most from your software! We'll help you:
  • Discover new ways to use your software and take full advantage of the powerful features.
  • See how others are using the software to serve students and manage programs.
  • Exchange experiences and ideas with other continuing education professionals.
  • Interact with ACEware staff to learn about the new developments in Student Manager and ACEweb.
  • Help shape the future development of your software!
We will offer pre-conference training sessions on May 17, and at your request we are also offering a couple of post-conference sessions as well. We have limited space in these sessions, so don't delay!

Register now to receive the early bird discount that will expire on December 31.  Don't delay!

Contributed by Sharon Brookshire
Enterprise Consulting
It is a treat for ACEware to visit customers, meet their team, and see their operation in action! Chuck spent a few days in the great state of Texas last month doing a bit of  Enterprise Consulting. This is a highly personalized service where an ACEware consultant examines your data and setup, travels to your office, meets with your team, observes the workflow, and watches how ACEware software is used to support procedures. The consultant will make recommendations based on what they've seen and will do a bit of training where needed.

Consider Enterprise Consulting as a part of your staff development plan. It is a great investment to make sure you are getting the most benefit from your software!

Contributed by Sharon Brookshire
Here's to your continued success!

Your ACEware team,

- Chuck, Sharon, AJ, Cheryl, Jason, Lauri, Lindsey, Matthew, Mike, and Stein
Aceware Systems
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