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Catalyst: Connect, collaborate, create   29 March 2017, by Anni

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My colleague Kaja and I had the privilege to be a part of the first ever Catalyst, a 10-week programme by Innovators Hub in Liverpool. Catalyst is a free, voluntarily run programme for creative individuals aged 18 to 30 who are looking to get their feet in the digital industry door, or those already in the sector but looking to brush up their skills and network with like-minded people.

The Catalyst took place over 10 weeks, one day a week in the Tempest building in Liverpool. The space was provided for the Innovator’s Hub to use free of charge for the duration of the programme. Local companies, arts and cultural organisations, and young people were brought together by Innovator’s Hub founder Robyn Dooley and Angel Solutions CEO and founder Andy Kent, who are passionate about solving the digital industry problem: the skills gap.

Throughout the 10 weeks we were mentored, challenged and even shared intriguing industry secrets first-hand by the creative experts from digital companies based in Liverpool and even got to visit the offices of some of these great, innovative businesses. To actually get private tours of the leading digital companies was genuinely an extraordinary experience you often do not get an opportunity to do.

After 9 weeks we were equipped with the tools and the knowledge to innovate a product concept of our own. The course gathered at Angel Solutions’ (award winning) offices to brainstorm ideas in small groups, consisting of people with similar interests to solve a certain problem. Week 10 we got to pitch our ideas to We Are Nova, a Liverpool-based digital product agency. To end the day and the programme in a high note, everyone involved were invited to a graduation party to celebrate the successful completion of the first ever Catalyst.

I myself am happily employed, but it was always jubilant to hear updates each week how Catalyst helped my course mates to score an interview for a position, an internship or even global publicity with their photography. Hopefully, in the future iterations of the Catalyst I can be there, sharing my expertise with young creative folks who wish to work in the industry we all share the love for.

 

To find out more or to sign up for the next Catalyst Programme visit Innovator’s Hub’s website here: http://innovatorshub.co/academy/.


An Excellent Final!   30 June 2016, by Sue

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Reach and Rescue were the proud winners of the 2016 Merseyside Innovation Awards but what an exciting final it was with Immersive Interactive and Extreme Low Energy as close contenders! With their £10,000 prize Reach and Rescue are planning to put their life-saving equipment through Solas final accreditation.  
It was our intention this year to be able to give some recognition to established businesses in the larger turnover bracket of £1m - £25m. We were looking for businesses that are focused on innovation and bring their new ideas and process into their business model. Perceptive Engineering were the proud winners of the award. You can read a little more about them and their advanced process control systems here:
Rob McLoughlin was our compere for the night and gave some entertaining insights whilst ensuring the whole evening progressed smoothly. 
Our thanks must go to all who applied throughout the year and in particular to the three finalists who put so much time and effort in preparing for the final. 
Reach and Rescue  www.reachandrescue.com
Extreme Low Entergy (ELe) wwwextremelowenergy.com
Immersive Interactive    www.immersive.com
Good luck to all of you!

Advanced Data Capture and Reporting in Excel with VBA   26 May 2016, by Dominic

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At Village we push Excel Macros to their limit. Excel’s accessibility and omnipresence are its greatest strengths. It’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll have opened it up at some point to do some calculations or plot some graphs. Maybe you’ll have e-mailed a spreadsheet of data to a client or stored it on a shared drive so that a colleague can see your results.


Excel’s accessibility and omnipresence are its greatest weaknesses, as people feel empowered to use its more complex features. Multiple users will try and access sheets at the same time, risking data integrity issues. Users might start writing macros without understanding what they’re really doing and end up with workbooks that act unexpectedly or crash. Maybe you’ve inherited someone else’s spreadsheet and don’t really know how it works.

We can help you wrangle spreadsheets that have grown out of control. Often the best solution might be to migrate to a sturdier platform; we can assist with that process. Other times there is a business case for sticking with the software that you know and we can use our wealth of design experience to build robust systems that use the full breadth of Excel’s capability.

With our help, your spreadsheets can integrate with your various operational databases. They can present easy-to- use data entry tables or forms. We can automate your data manipulation and calculation and generate in nicely-formatted paginated reports for printing and distribution. We can also set up other systems to pull data from the spreadsheet - maybe you’d be interested in our Business Intelligence stack.

It might be a technology from the last century, but it’s still commonplace. If you’re in need of a spreadsheet saviour, maybe we can help.

So drop us an e-mail, because we’re thinkingahead@villagesoftware.co.uk


PECTAB for rail tickets   8 October 2015, by Ste

tickets-cover-photo.jpg Whether you buy your rail tickets online, from the ticket office, or at a self-service kiosk, they always look the same. And in all likelihood, they come out of the same model of printer!

We've been working with the Newbury Data ND4020 and ND4030 printers for a couple of years now, integrating them into kiosk products to vend magstripe tickets and contactless cards (respectively). Consequently, one of the things we've become experts in is the "PECTAB" language, which is used to print ticket text.

PECTAB is a contraction of "Parametric Tables", and it works like a stylesheet for serial devices. Ticket printers contain a thermal print head just like in a receipt printer, but whereas those devices often need the KPL language to describe layout, here we use PECTAB to format a list of text lines. I think this goes to show the broad range of skills that are needed to build a feature-complete self service device!

Pectabber screenshot
There's not a great deal of information about rail ticket PECTAB on the web, with only snippets here and there about the airline ticket variant (which is quite different). As a result, the best strategy really is to consult prior integrators and experts like us. We've got a number of brains in our office who love to talk over this stuff, and we're eager to power your next ticketing project.

Naturally, as developers, we had to build a tool which let us rapidly test different PECTAB designs. That's why myself and new developer Ankit built 'Pectabber' (pictured). This means we can rapidly iterate on designs according to your needs. Not only that, but our connections to rail industry web services like SilverRail mean that we can produce standard-compliant tickets without an minute of original design work being done.

Are you creating a new ticketing product for rail or any other industry? Do you want the benefit of the hardware and software expertise which we bring to the table? Well, we're thinkingahead@villagesoftware.co.uk; just get in touch for more information!

Ankit joins the crew   14 September 2015, by Ste

We've got a new Villager! Ankit Soni joined us today as our graduate trainee developer. We're all joyful to be growing the team, and gaining a friendly new colleague.

Now we face the dilemma of every web-facing company... when to find the time to update the Staff page!

Contactless payments in the UK; a history   4 September 2015, by Ste

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Contactless payment saves you time when you check out that coffee/bag of shopping/train ticket. But you knew that already, because you've either experienced it, or enviously await the day you actually have a contactless card!

Paying this way means you don't need to put in a PIN or a signature. As a result of this lack of authentication, there's a limit on how much you can pay for at once. I'd like to make a little reference here of the history of contactless roll-out in the UK and the transaction limits that went with it.

2007 - £10

2008

  • The first contactless cards are issued by Barclaycard
  • EAT becomes the first restaurant chain to accept contactless payments

June 2010 - £15

2011

  • McDonalds lead another charge in adoption of the technology. Interestingly, at time of writing in 2015, their limit for transactions is still just £15. Maybe they should call us for help with reprogramming their payment devices?

June 2012 - £20

  • The limit rises to £20 as adoption increases nationally

September 2015 - £30

  • The latest limit increase, to £30, means that the UK's average shopping bill of £25 is now covered.

Which brings us up to the present day. I use my contactless card every day, I just wish ASDA's self checkout would support it! At Village Software, we integrate payment devices from Ingenico and ViVOTech to enable quick and convenient payment. If that's something you'd like to talk about, please get in touch with us; we're thinkingahead@villagesoftware.co.uk.


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