Tag Archives: Skype

New Software added to the Stack

 

Here is some cool software that I’ve started using during 2015.

Places

Here is a cool tool if you find yourself pushing data all around. From server-to-server, cloud-to-server or anything in between. CoffeeCup software has a nifty utility called Places. It can read and write to Amazon Cloud Services, OneDrive, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Instagram and Flickr. I picked it up on a weekend sale for $9. Well worth it.

CrashPlan

Crashplan is one of the best pieces of software we have at the house. We back up our Windows tablets, PC’s and Mac’s onto a small PC with a large hard drive. It’s very easy to install and there are options that allow you to back up the target PC on to a portable drive or even to the cloud (which is an additional expense, but still quite reasonable.)

Microsoft Office 16

I use Office all day long. I love it and Office 16 has raised the bar even further. I’ve been loathe at using OneNote but have finally started to use it since it syncs so well across so many of my devices. I use Word and Excel extensively and really don’t see a single issue since I upgraded from the previous versions.

Skype – Skype is just about the best communications system I use. I make phone calls, video calls and text. Buying a subscription with a phone number gets you one step further towards being able to work remotely and not having to use a damn cell phone.

Skype is improving and becoming more robust with each iteration. New features seem to be aimed at the enterprise market but I suspect we will see some of these trickle down to the small business market very soon. The ability to do a web conference similar to Webex will be a big boon for small business customers and software developers working from home.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Integrating WPS and Skype

One of the things I like to do in programming is integrating other tools with WPS. I don’t know why I find that so fun to do, but I just find it rewarding for some reason. Every once in a while, I stumble across a problem to be solved and it just seems like it should be something that is easy, simply because it’s so useful. That is rarely the case as we all know.

I always wanted to have some way for an interactive WPS job or a WPS batch job to notify me of an error when it reaches completion or to notify me that it has reached a certain point in the job process. One of the main requirements is that the notification be sent by text message so that I could be notified if I wasn’t sitting directly in front of the monitor of the machine that the code was submitted on.

We have been able to send text messages for years (see “Sending SMS Text via WPS”) but that was kind of clumsy because as far as I could tell, it would only send the message to my cell phone. I want more! Give me more!

Skype is the logical choice for me because I sit in front of a PC most of the day that has Skype running. I also have Skype installed on Skype is the logical choice for me because I sit in front of a PC most of the day that has Skype running. I also have Skype installed on mobile Apple and Android devices so I can receive messages through those devices pretty easily.

All I needed to do is install Skype on a Windows Server. The Server I installed it on is running Windows Essentials 2012 R2. Getting Skype on that platform can be a chore but it can be done. I ended up installing the Windows 8 version of Skype on the server and after getting it to run properly (i.e. sending and receiving messages) I installed the classic Skype for Desktop on the machine. If you are running a previous version of Windows Server… well good luck on getting it to install.

Usage

%WPS2Skype(SkypeID=minequest_llc,

                         category=-U,

                         SkypeMsgTxt = “Your job reached the halfway point you awesome guy!”);

 

Where

SkypeID is the ID of the recipient of the message

Category = -U or –CC

SkypeMsgTxt =”Your message text here.”

 

If you are a WPS programmer or are familiar with the macro language, then the above should be self-explanatory with the exception of Category. Category can take one of two options, either –U or –CC. If we want to send the message to an individual user than we use –U. If we want to send the message to a list of contacts then we use –CC. A contact list is somewhat similar to a group and you should read up on what a contact list is and how it can be created in the Skype documentation.

Running the following code:

%WPS2Skype(SkypeID=xxxxxxxxxx,

                         category=-U,

                         SkypeMsgTxt = “Your job reached the halfway point you awesome guy!”);

 

We see in the WPS log the output when the message was sent:

 

2         %WPS2Skype(SkypeID=xxxxxxxxxx,

3         category=-U,

4         SkypeMsgTxt=”Your job reached the halfway point you awesome guy!”);

 

NOTE: WPS2Skype returned execution to WPS.

 

And what I see in the Skype message window on my workstation is:

 

 

 

clip_image001

 

 

Of course, this will show up on all the devices that I have logged in to Skype using my Skype ID.

 

I also extended the Skype interface into the RunWPS.CMD file. The RunWPS.CMD is a Windows command file that allows you to run WPS as a batch job. With the integration of Skype with RunWPS.CMD, I catch all return codes from WPS and send out a Skype message if the return code is greater than zero. This is easily modified but I’m not personally interested in getting messages when jobs complete properly. I’m only interested when jobs terminate abnormally.

 

The WPS2SKYPE utility will be available in our next release. There are a few more utilities that I want to add to the package and I still have documentation that needs to either be written or cleaned up.

 

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Cool and Useful Software

I always enjoy reading other folks blogs on how they work and the tools they use most every day. It’s a great way to learn about new tools and how to work more efficiently. I have to rave about the phone system we use here at MineQuest. We use VOIP and our provider is VOIPO out of Texas. The quality is tremendous as well as the support. The cost is amazing for what you get. The benefits of VOIPO are numerous for a small business, but the one I like the most is a softphone. I can travel and still be able to use my phone system almost as well as if I was in the office. You can visit the VOIPO web site to get pricing and view all the features that they offer.

Of course I use Skype. I can use Skype to call overseas and to text message with friends, family and business contacts. I have contacts that are almost always on Skype and the number of Skype contacts that I have just continues to grow. If you want or need to do business overseas, then Skype maybe the only way you can do so cost effectively. I hope to see more integration of Skype into other products and services and the availability of an easier to use API. If you don’t have at least a free Skype account, you should visit the Skype website and get Skype today.

I recently started to use a new Linux distribution called ZorinOS. I have version 6.1 and essentially, ZorinOS is Ubuntu Linux with the coolest GUI interface. With ZorinOS, you can change the interface to mimic Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X and the Ubuntu Unity Interface. If you are a Windows User and want to start using Linux with minimum fuss and frustration, ZorinOS is something to try. Check out the ZorinOS website to learn more.

I also signed up for Microsoft’s Office 365. There are a number of plans available and you can see all of them at the Microsoft web site. But if you have multiple machines like I do, desktop, laptop and a Mac, Office 365 gives you five simultaneous installs for $100. This is an annual license and I love that I get Outlook on all my desktop machines. I love the simplicity and the fact that I get cloud storage to store my documents so I can access them from anywhere.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.