Saturday, June 30, 2012

Where I been At, Sorta........

As you all have noticed and commented, I haven't been blogging much lately. Absolutely true. I have now (hopefully) reached a point where i can at least offer an explanation. As those of you who have been following the blog for some time, or those of you who know me personally, you know that I have several marginally successful businesses, the sum of which allow me to pay my property taxes and keep the lights on. One of those enterprises is a software programming/development project that is wrapped around liquor store software that I originally wrote many years ago, and every year gets a few new features as needed.

In the past,  liquor stores in Washington State were of one of two types of operations. One type of store was totally run by the state, and the other type was more like a franchise, closely controlled by the state. The latter type was my market, and I had about 60 or 70 stores running their entire store using my software. Inventory, point of sale, reports, etc. it did everything they needed to keep the doors open.

Last Fall, Costco spent 22 million dollars on an initiative campaign and advertising campaign to get the voters to vote to get the state out of the liquor business. The initiative, and the subsequent law generated after the election, was badly written, and it appears that the "Hope and Changers" crowd once again didn't read the fine print, and figuring that if Costco was selling booze, the price would be lower, so they could get their booze cheaper. In the past the state had to buy the booze from the distillers, set up stores, distribute the booze to the stores, track everything, and make a profit on doing all of that. What the voters missed was that under the new law, the State has it set up so they would still take in the same amount of profit from the booze sales as before, except that  now they don't  have to do anything to get it! Now it's just collected as a whole bunch of new taxes!

So, how does that explain where I've been for the last several months? Well, it seemed to me that the State would look for an easy way to put everything into place, walk away from the business they used to run,  and enjoy figuring out ways to spend all the money they no longer had to work for to get. Nope, they came up with the most complicated and arcane system of tax collecting that you could imagine. The election was in November, but it wasn't until the early March that they actually put it in writing as to what a store had to do to calculate, apply,  track and submit all of the new taxes. To make it even worse, the absolute changeover date was June 1st., leaving me barely nine weeks to completely re-write hundreds of pages of code and even re-design the interface itself. In addition, a number of new capabilities had to be written in from scratch. Normally a major revision like this would take me six or eight months, followed by at least three or four months of testing and fine-tuning, running the new software is a couple of stores until we were happy with everything. After all that, then it was ready to be released. So, I had to squeeze between eight months and a year's worth of programming and testing into nine weeks, or loose all of my customers. Clearly a formula for disaster. I had two choices, do the impossible, or give up on the business. To give up would have left a lot of the stores running my software in a bad bind, as they would have to change to other software, and there was no guarantee that the other software would actually do what was needed.

Even though I had commitments in that time period to shoot in some major matches, including Holland, I decided to go for the impossible, and if I failed, I at least gave it all I had in the attempt. Since March I have pretty much put my entire life on hold, and done almost nothing except to work on the software.  Much of my days were spent answering questions and talking to the stores using my software, and the afternoons, evenings, nights, and early mornings were all spent programming, testing, and de-bugging the software. It finally reached the point where I would program until I could go no further, then take a couple of hours nap, program in my sleep, then wake up and enter in the code I had written while sleeping. For several weeks I had no sense of day and night, and if I looked outside and it was somewhere between daylight and dark, I had no idea if it was morning and it was getting light, or it was dusk. When I got to Holland this actually worked to my advantage, as my body had, for all practical purposes, no biological clock anymore, I had no jet lag. Sure, I was tired, but I deliberately practice tired sometimes, since shooting when tired is a skill that sometimes is needed.

As I neared the June 1st. deadline, a couple of the stores helped a bit with testing, but since they already had a store of their own to run, the amount of testing they could do was pretty limited. Of course, not only did I have to produce the new software, I also had to produce documentation for all the new stuff so the store owners would know how to use it.

A week before June 1st. I sent out the final pre-release version of the program to the stores that were helping with the testing. Three days before June 1st. KeeWee and I stayed up all night burning CD's, labeling them, packaging them with the documentation, addressing them.  The next morning they were all mailed out, a few days before the deadline.

On June 1st. all of the stores that were planning on opening that day were able to open their doors as usual. The new software was doing the job. Over the next few weeks a number of small bugs, error messages, and so forth popped up. Most of them I was able to fix and get the fixed version emailed out or posted onto a server for download within hours of the discovery. The toughest one took me all night, but I had it ready to go first thing the next morning. 

Now it is almost four weeks after the cut-over, and hopefully the worst of it is over. The next month will be critical, however, as the June's taxes must be calculated and submitted within the next 30 days. The program will calculate all of the taxes for them, but if they didn't use our new Price & Markup Calculator, they may have set their prices to low, and may be in for a surprise. I sure hope not, but it could happen.

So now I am still closely monitoring the software, fielding several questions a day, trying to get caught back up a bit on sleep, get in some regular range practice so I don't shoot like a zombie, get some more OKO sight mounts programmed and machined, and last but not least, get everything lined up for this year's Gun Blogger Rendezvous coming up in September.

WHEW...........................

1 Comments:

At Monday, July 02, 2012 11:05:00 AM, Blogger DirtCrashr said...

Phew!!! Statist-incompetence? Who'd a' guessed ?

 

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