Friday, November 30, 2012

Websites for Non-Profit Organizations - For Example, Safari Club International Chapters

The owner of Tepato Systems is a life member of the Safari Club International.  She is also a former board member of her local chapter, SCI Novi (Michigan).  Tepato Systems has been creating and supporting websites for SCI chapters around the United States since 2001.
Chapters of Safari Club International usually have similar organizations, goals and challenges.  As a volunteer organization, it is often difficult to promote a Chapter effectively.  A web site can be a strong tool in establishing a Chapter’s identity.  It is extremely valuable as a marketing tool and it can add credibility to your organization.  A presence on the web is a great opportunity to get the word out on the important work that your Chapter may be doing.

The Chapters supported by Tepato Systems have found their websites to be effective tools, both for communicating with their members and for promoting the Chapters to the general public.  Some of the most common uses of a Chapter website include:

  • Posting the dates and times of Chapter events, including links to the location for directions.
  • Publishing the forms used for membership and fundraiser donations.
  • Promote the Chapter’s various educational programs, including application forms for participants.
  • Publish a list of auction items and raffle items for the annual Chapter fundraiser.
  • Offer donors a free link from your website to their website.  This free advertising for the donor can sometimes be the motivator to encourage a 100% donation rather than a 30/70 or 50/50 split of auction proceeds.
  • Enable donors to contact the Chapter about potential donations, including unsolicited donations from previously unknown donors.
  • Automatic forwarding of website email to existing private email for Chapter departments or board members (to avoid using actual email addresses on the site and hopefully minimize spam).
The Board of Directors of a local Chapter often does not include anyone who has the skill set or free time to create and maintain a website. Tepato Systems can offer full support to any Chapter, with the help of a designated "coordinator" from the board who will serve as a point of contact and provide content on an ongoing basis.

If you'd like to create a website to serve your Chapter, or if you currently have a website but are unhappy with the support you're getting from your current vendor, please contact Tepato Systems.  We can develop a new site according to your specifications or modify an existing site.  Our prices start at $150 per page.

For long term support, we can provide maintenance and web hosting at very competitive prices. Our support packages are priced according to the amount of maintenance involved and the size of hosting space required. The packages also include the annual renewal of your domain name registration. Hosting is available without any maintenance or support, if desired (but hosting price is discounted with a maintenance agreement).

Windows 7 - More Tips

Here are a few more of the useful tips that I found in the PC World article "50 Essential Windows 7 Tips".

Hidden Wallpapers - go to c:\Windows\Globalization\MCT to find wallpaper images from all over the world that you can use to customize your desktop.  One of the things that I like about Windows 7 is that it's easy to set up a set of images from any location ("my pictures" for example) to be used as wallpaper and that rotate automatically several times a day.

Change the launch folder for Windows Explorer - it defaults to the Libraries folder which is not useful to me.  You can change this by right clicking on the Windows Explorer icon and using the Properties function.  Edit the Target field with a new folder location to change the default when it opens.  You can also "pin" a shortcut to the Windows Explorer icon, so that when you right click on it, the pinned item is available on a list similar to "recent items".

It is very easy to "pin" programs to the taskbar that you use frequently, so I find myself using those icons all the time rather than trying to return to my desktop icons.

You can also customize the image that is used as the background on your login screen.  In order to do this, you have to make a small change in your Windows Registry file, so I don't recommend trying this if you're a novice user.

Windows 7 and IE 9

I've now had my new laptop for about a month, and I'm getting used to Windows 7.  It is different than Windows Vista, but in most ways it has been better for me.

I like the popup images of my application windows that appear when I mouse over the apps on my task bar.  It's useful to move from one window to another without using alt+tab keys.  My Office 2010 applications also seem to work better in this version of Windows.  I think 2010 was a little too much for poor old Vista.

One thing that I am NOT liking with Win7 is Internet Explorer version 9.  For some reason, it has an issue with most of the links on most of the websites that I visit.  It will load a blank screen in many cases, not the page contents.  I've gotten in the habit of copying and pasting the shortcut/link into my address bar in order to get around it, but can we say "INCONVENIENT"!! 

I did a bit of research and there weren't a lot of good alternatives unless I want to go back to IE8.  The copy/paste thing is working for me for now.  Sometimes it also helps if I turn on "compatibility mode" but not always.  I've also tried turning on the developer window at the bottom, so that I can choose IE8 to load the page, and that helps too, but who wants that window to be at the bottom of their browser window all the time?  Not me...

Have you used IE9 yet?  Have you experienced this issue?  The information that I found online made it seem to be a known issue.  What are your thoughts on this?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Data Management with Microsoft Access

Tepato Systems has extensive experience with the design and development of databases in Microsoft Access for use by small businesses and non-profit organizations.

Microsoft Access allows for quick development of user-friendly data entry and reporting capabilities, so it's perfect for the use of small companies who can't afford to buy the larger applications or web services that may be available.  It's highly customizable, and Tepato can provide periodic enhancements as needed via a remote connection (or train a power user how to apply updates).

As an example, see the linked user guide for a database that is designed to keep track of donors and items that they've donated for an auction event.   It is currently in use by several non-profit groups.  It can be modified to suit your needs and Tepato can also load your initial data if desired.

Auction Database

Another Tepato database is designed for use by a child care or day care center.  All of the children are entered into the database, along with the days of the week that they attend.  Each child has a specific rate/price applied to them, based on a defined list of the various rates (daily, weekly, etc.).  The database can then  quickly and accurately generate bills for all of the families who use the facility.  This can eliminate issues with incorrect bills and save a lot of time for the person who is responsible for billing.

Child Care Billing Database

For help with managing data for your organization, please contact us.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Website Projects with Tepato Systems

As an overview for new or potential customers, here is some background information on how Tepato Systems normally handles a website project, from start to finish.

Phase - planning
  • Initial meetings with Client are held to discuss content, design, timing and budget (can be in person or over the phone).
  • Tepato creates requirements document and initial design ideas, including pricing.  Tepato can also provide an example of our standard development contract if desired.
  • Tepato provides a link to a test site where the designs can be viewed online (will also be used throughout the development process for client to review site progress).
  • Client reviews and any adjustments are made to the documents and pricing as needed to meet requirements and budget.
  • Client and Tepato come to an agreement to move forward with the project.
  • Client appoints a single point of contact to work with Tepato on the site for the rest of the project.
Phase - design
  • Client contact works closely with Tepato to refine the design as needed.  This can occur over the course of a couple of weeks via email exchange, or during just a few working sessions over the phone.
  • Once design is final, Tepato sends final contracte to Client for signature, along with invoice.
  • Client signs last page of contract and returns a copy to Tepato, along with first payment (usually about half of the total amount due).
Phase - construction
  • Tepato begins work on creating all of the pages of the site to prepare for content.
  • Client contact sends content for entire site (usually in small chunks over a period of a week or two at least).
  • Tepato inserts content into site pages as it is received.  Any formatting, image editing, photo cropping or other design work to fit the content to the site is done at this point.
  • Client contact reviews the site as the development progresses and gives feedback to Tepato as needed.
  • Client requests any design changes if needed (Tepato provides quote for additional cost if any).
  • Tepato keeps client informed of progress on site and requests feedback or additional content if needed.
Phase - approval
  • Once site is fully created and all content is inserted, Client gives final approval.
  • Tepato sends final invoice to Client for payment.
  • Upon receipt of invoice, Client sends final payment.
  • Tepato publishes site to domain name (so it becomes "live" on the internet).
Phase - hosting & maintenance
  • If hosting is to be provided by Tepato, the cost is included in final invoice.
  • If long term maintenance of the site is needed, Tepato and Client will sign a separate contract and an invoice will be sent. 
  • Clients who sign an annual maintenance agreement get a discounted price on hosting if needed.
  • Tepato can also handle the renewal of the site's domain name for the Client if desired, for a nominal charge.

If you'd like more information about creating a new website, or if you have an outdated site that needs an overhaul, please contact Tepato Systems at


My New Laptop & Learning Windows 7

My new laptop arrived at the end of last week.  It's an HP Pavilion dv7t model, with i5-3210M 2.5GHz Intel processors.  It has 8 GB of RAM and a 750 GB hard drive.  I bought it online from Costco, who extends the warranty from 1 year to 2 years and offers help through their Concierge service group.  It took 3 full weeks to arrive but I wasn't in a hurry.

Yesterday I finally finished transitioning over from the old machine to the new one.  It's official, I'm using it for my main computer now.

I really like the new 17" monitor on my new laptop, and the nearly full size keyboard with number pad.  I'm still getting used to using Windows 7, having had Vista on my old laptop for so many years.

Some of the things that are new in Windows 7 are actually cool and I do like them, but they do take some getting used to.  For example, the task bar now has a transparent "box" around the icon of any app that you are currently using.  It appears to be layered if you have multiple windows open of that app (like multiple spreadsheets).  I like that I can mouse over the task bar icon and it will show me a mini view of each window, so I can more easily choose which window I want to open.  I also like how I can right click on any task bar icon and it will display a list of recent files so that I can open one directly.  I can easily "pin" any program to either the start menu or task bar by right clicking on it, which is also very helpful.

Windows Explorer is different and I'm not sure if I like it yet.  The "My documents" folder shows now under a group called Libraries, along with Pictures, Music, and others.  You can still see the folder structure if you click on Libraries and expand each level, but I'm sure I like having that extra layer.

I have definitely noticed an improvement in the speed to start up and also to open applications.  I've tried all of my applications and they all seem to work fine.  I'm even able to use my old outdated copy of Family Tree Maker, in spite of it having compatibility issues (mainly with PDF drivers).  When installing all of my applications, I was able to use the list that I created in a spreadsheet and import all of the program (.exe) files from my "downloads" folder.  In just a couple of cases I had to get a new download due to needing the 64 bit version (iTunes and Nitro PDF).  Once I had the 64 bit version it installed just fine.

Transferring my data was a simple matter of copying my entire "my documents" and "tepato" folder off my old machine's C: drive, onto an external drive, and then copying all of it into my new C: drive.  I did a little cleanup during that process.  Unfortunately I did not see a simple or quick way to do this using my backups created by Norton Ghost.  The user interface for ghost is really geared towards restoring an entire machine, not transferring data files.  I could retrieve a single file by searching for the name, but not move an entire folder or folders (over 30 GB of data all together).  There may be a way to do this using Ghost but I got frustrated and did it the old fashioned way.  It's a very good thing that I have an extra external hard drive that could handle that much data at once.  I can remember the last time I had to transfer data (about 5 years ago) and having to use a flash drive in multiple sessions to get all of my stuff.  It's amazing how the capacity of both flash drives and external hard drives have multiplied in the last five years.

The only thing I have left to do on my new laptop is to review my "Guide to Windows 7" one more time and try out some of the recommended utilities.  Stay tuned for more on that topic...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Windows 7 Tips from PC World

I've recently purchased the document "50 Essential Windows 7 Tips" from PC World.  It was only $4.99 for a PDF copy, so I figured it was worth a read.  I've never used Windows 7 before and I'm expecting my new laptop any day, which has it, so I'd like to be prepared.

Here are a few of the tips that I found the most useful:

Adding fly-out menus to the Start menu - this seems like it would be great for the things that I use the most.  Anything that gets me to stuff with fewer clicks or less searching is always good.

Removing pre-installed software - recommended a tool called Revo Uninstaller, which is free.  I will definitely be trying this one as I hate all that junk that comes pre-loaded.

Move the taskbar - this is great if you use multiple monitors.  Rather than having my taskbar at the bottom of my laptop screen, I now have it running down the left side of my large monitor.  This tip actually works with Windows Vista as well as other versions.  Since my large monitor is very wide, that horizontal space is often unused.

Creating a system-repair disc - I will definitely be doing this when the new laptop arrives, and at several points during my process of installing software, etc. onto it.  It was the fact that I had an old restore disk that allowed me to recover at least the basics of my operating system when my hard drive died this summer, so I'm a believer.

Copy the file path - you can now copy the path to an object (like a picture) from the right click menu.  This might be a time saver when uploading a picture to Facebook, for example.  I'm thinking it would be nice to find the file only once, then copy the path, rather than having to navigate to it all over again.

Special characters - useful if I need to send an email to my French cousins and really need to use those French accents!

Uses for the new Windows key - this will be something I need to remember to try.  You can use the Windows key to  lock the screen, open a Windows Explorer window, go to your Desktop and get to the Run command, among others.

Upgrading the task manager - recommends a free tool called Process Explorer, which gives more detail that the default windows task manager.  This sounds like it might be useful when the day comes that my brand new laptop starts to run sluggishly (hmmm, maybe around day 5?).

Using Windows Problem Steps Recorder - makes a recording of the steps when you're using your PC.  This could be really helpful as a demonstration tool.

I'll share more tips later this week.  For now, if you'd like to purchase your own copy of this useful guide, please see this link:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Windows 7 - How big of a change is it?

The new laptop I've ordered will have Windows 7 installed on it.  I've never used it before, so I'm wondering, how different is it?  My old laptop has Windows Vista, which had many issues, but will Windows 7 be better or worse? 

It seems like whenever a new version of Windows is released, it always gets a lot of bad press for the bugs that are found in the early days.  I'm always hesitant to be an early adopter of new software for that reason.

I've just purchased a "super guide" on Windows 7 from PC World.  It was only $5 so it's worth reviewing their "50 essential windows 7 tips".  I'll post again after I've read it with more thoughts.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Converting to a new PC

Today I've finally ordered a new laptop.  My current HP laptop is almost five years old, so I think it's time.  The new laptop won't arrive for about 2 weeks.  Between now and then I'll  have some work to do to prepare:

  • Confirm all of my backups are current (and keep them current)
  • Confirm all of my Outlook data files are included in my backups
  • Update my list of downloaded software and license keys as needed to be current
  • Burn copies of any new downloaded software to my backup CD
  • Create a restore point just before converting (just in case)

My old laptop has Windows Vista and the new one will have Windows 7, so I won't be able to use my latest restore point to set up my new laptop, unfortunately.  I'll have to check and see if I can do a partial restore which includes all of the software except the operating system.  I have Norton Ghost, so it's worth checking my options. 

Once it arrives, I'll have a bunch of work to do to get it set up with all of my software, including:

  • Install all software that I have on CD
  • Install all software that I've downloaded (from my list)
  • Copy all of my data files over (from my last backup)
  • Set up my email accounts in Outlook and open data files (from backup)
  • Install my new Adobe CS6 software - excited to get the new version of DreamWeaver and others that I'll use a lot

As far as I know, all of the business software that I use is compatible with Windows 7.  One exception may be my "Family Tree Maker" software that I use for personal stuff (I'm the historian for both sides of the family).  I may have to bite the bullet and finally buy a new version, in spite of the terrible reviews that I've seen on it.

As I go through this process, I'll continue to post my findings and experiences, as I did when I was recovering from a hard drive crash this summer.  If you are one of my customers and are reading this, please be patient while I do the actual conversion (starting in about 2 weeks).  I may not be able to respond quite as quickly as normal if you need something, but I will get back to you.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Favorite Features in Excel

I admit it, I'm a geek.  The good news is that I can do really cool stuff sometimes on my computer.

One of a geek's best friends is Excel spreadsheets.  Have you ever used some of these really cool features?

Cell formats - on the Home tab
You can use the buttons on the home tab to set the format of a cell, row or column so that it displays nicely.  For example, you can select $ format, then add or remove decimal places if you do (or don't) need to see the amounts less than a dollar.  You can also choose from several date formats which may or may not display the year, or may use the name of the month rather than just a numeric value.

Merge & Center - on the Home tab
If you have values that are too wide for a single cell, you can merge two cells together to give it more space.  The fastest way to do this is to use the "merge and center" button, which looks like this <-a-> in a box (in alignment section). 

Paste Format- on the Home tab (icon looks like a broom)
If you're typing and the fonts, size, colors or other formatting are not consistent, you can highlight a cell, row or column that has the format you'd like to duplicate.  Then click on the broom icon, then click on the cell, row or column where you'd like the format to be applied.  This is much faster than applying the formats one at a time (font color, font size, centering, etc.) on a cell or area.  This icon is available in all of the Microsoft Office packages (Word, Excel, etc.).

Paste Special - on the menu when you right click
If you are copying values from one cell to another, or from a totally different document, you can use "paste special" to avoid using the format of the source document.  Or you can also use "paste special" to copy just the value (or answer) of a calculation, rather than the calculation itself.

Data sorting - on Data tab
When you have a large spreadsheet it's sometimes useful to sort it by one of the column values.  For example, if you have a list of all the sales for your company, it might be useful to sort the list by date, to see the most recent sales, or sort by customer to see trends in what your customers want.  Once your data is sorted, you can better use the functions like subtotals, filters and charts/graphs.

Subtotals - on Data tab
You'll need to sort your data first, then use subtotals to count records or sum values in the sorted data.  This is really helpful for analysis.  How much revenue did you earn for each of your products?  How many people on your mailing list live in zip code 33837?

Autofilter - on Data tab (icon looks like a funnel)
If you have a lot of rows of data, you may want to look at just a subset of your data sometimes.  You can use the filter button to decide what criteria to use for your filter (column A, values = 0 for example).  You can toggle the filter on and off using the button with the funnel.  You can select the value of any cell in the column as the value to use for filtering.  You can also use custom values or basics such as blank, non blank, or boolean values like greater than, less than, not equal, and others.

Print Titles - on Page Layout tab
You don't need to copy the header row in your spreadsheet so that it appears in your data where each of your page breaks appear.  Just insert your column names in row 1.  Then you can use the "rows to repeat at top" option in the "print titles" section to have the first row or set of rows print at the top of every page.  This allows the page breaks to fall wherever they have to and it doesn't require that you move your title rows to match the page breaks.  That is a lot of extra work that you can avoid.

Header/Footer - on Insert tab
You can also use headers and footers to get a consistent title or page numbers at the top or bottom.  Use Excel's buttons to get automatic page numbers, dates, and other values.

I hope you find these useful next time you're using Excel.  If you'd like to hear about more useful functions in Excel, please post a comment.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Multiple Monitors - Have You Tried It?

About two years ago, I began using two monitors  - my laptop's built in monitor and another, larger one.  I have them set up to be two totally different windows, so they are not mirrors of the same content.  That setting is called "extended desktop" and you can find it under Control Panel ->Personalization->Display Settings.

My setup allows me to keep one monitor displaying something, for example some data in a spreadsheet, while another displays something else, like my email.  It took a little while to get used to using both of them, however now I find that I feel lost if I only have one monitor (like when using laptop away from office).

It's really useful for a few things that I often do:
  • when doing any copy/paste from one document/spreadsheet to another
  • during design or development on a website, to view the page as it appears on different size screens
  • to monitor my email as I'm working on other things
  • to read or reference a document while writing another document
  • to work on a document or spreadsheet while displaying a presentation using a projector
  • to work on a document while also looking at a webmeeting
If you've never tried to use multiple monitors, especially if your computer is a laptop with a 15" or smaller screen, it's worthwhile to try it.  You can buy an inexpensive monitor sized at 19" or 21" (or even bigger) for around $100 at most electronics stores.  It is essential for anyone who often does multitasking.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Non-Profit Organizations Need Technology Too!

You may know that Tepato Systems supports numerous clients that are non-profit organizations.  A lot of those clients use our website services, but some of them are starting to also look to Tepato Systems for help with other technology tools.

For example, many non-profits hold fundraising events during the year, and often these events might include an auction (either live or silent).  Tepato Systems has an Access database tool that was developed to keep track of the donors, donated items, winning bids and all of the other details involved in an auction.  It can produce a variety of reports, including letters to thank your donors after the event, and financial summaries to show the amount of money raised.

For more information on using a tool like the Tepato Auction database, please contact us on our website or email

To see a user guide which includes screen shots of this tool, use this link:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Often Misunderstood Apostrophe

You can call me nitpicky, but I can't stand it when people misuse apostrophes.  It is especially annoying when it's done so frequently in the public view, like on signs, flyers and even by teachers occasionally.

Let me offer some basic tips so that you can avoid this very common grammatical error:

The function of an apostrophe is to show possession OR to replace a missing letter in a contraction.  For example:

"I am" can be written as I'm
"do not" can be written as don't

the girl's hat  - the hat belongs to the girl
today's date
teacher's pet dog - the dog belongs to the teacher

Apostrophes are not needed when a word is plural unless it also involves showing possession!

the girl's went outside
the boy's went outside
chair's and table's for rent

These are all incorrect because the word with the apostrophe is just plural, meaning there are more than one girl or boy.  These phrases are not trying to show possession so an apostrophe is NOT needed.

If a phrase needs to be both plural and possessive, then the apostrophe goes at the end.

girls' hats - more than 1 girl owning more than 1 hat
knights' armor - more than one knight has armor

If you don't believe me, here is a reference:

What I Learned From My Hard Drive Crash

Hello from Tepato Systems.  It's been a while since I've blogged, but I'm going to try to post items more regularly.

Right around the July 4th holiday this year, my laptop hard drive failed.  My PC would not start up at all.  This had never happened to me before, so I was a bit shocked.  I eventually replaced the drive and got everything working again, however it was a slow and painful process.

Here are the highlights of what I've learned from this experience:

Backups are only good if they're kept current - REALLY current - and if they include ALL of your data files.
  • Automatic backups can be set up pretty easily but you have to leave your PC on all the time to take advantage of performing the backups while you're not actively using the PC.
  • Backups need to include ALL of your important data files.  Keep in mind that not everything may be stored under "My Documents".  Some types of software might store your data file in the same folder as the program itself, so you need to be sure to include that folder or file in your backup process.  Email is a good example of this, if you use Outlook.
  • It's a good idea to have a software package such as Norton's Ghost which provides automatic backups of your data, as well as doing "restore point" backups.  A restore point will get your PC back to the same state as just before a failure, so all of your data, as well as all of your software installations, will be included.  This is also very helpful if you buy a new PC (as long as you don't change operating systems).

Rebuilding all of the software that you need on a new hard drive (or if you buy a new PC) will require more than just your software CDs.

  • If you've ever upgraded any software using a downloaded file, you need to know what file and keep a copy of it where you can locate it.  It's a good idea to keep a running list of all the software you've installed and/or upgraded from a download.  Keep all of these downloaded files together in one place.  Keep the downloads list current, and burn the downloaded files off to CD or back them up for easy re-use.  You can re-download some of these from the vendor's website, but if you've got an older version you may get stuck buying a new copy.
  • Keep all of your software CDs together and keep the license keys with them (or write the keys onto the CDs themselves).

If your PC seems to be running hot, it can cause your hard drive to fail. 
  • My internal fan seems to have stopped working, so I think that is what cause my failure.  A cheap desk fan keeps me cool for now, but I think a new PC will be on my "buy" list very soon.
  • The easiest part of the whole process was actually replacing the bad drive. I only had to open up the bottom of the laptop, pop out the old drive and put it's bracket on the new drive to install it. It took less than 30 minutes and I've never done it before.

There are companies out there that can try to recover your data from a bad hard drive, but it's not cheap. 
  • I got very good results with Data Recovery Group in Southfield.  They were able to save pretty much all of my data (almost 70 GB) and it cost me $500.   I dropped off the hard drive at their office and they called me when they were done, just a few days later.
  • It could have cost me $1500 or more to get my data if the issue with my drive had required DRG to disassemble it in a "clean room" and use the magnetic media in a different machine.  Fortunately this was not necessary.
  • I actually had backups for a lot of my data, but the few things that were missing or old in my backup file made it worthwhile for me to pay the money.

My hard drive crash cost me a total of $650.  About $60 of that was for the replacement hard drive.  Another $90 was for a large external hard drive for the Data Recovery Group to use to store the data they saved.  The other $500 was for DRG's work to recover my data. 

Overall I was glad to get my data back but I realize that I could have bought a whole new PC for $650.

I hope this summary can help you to avoid the pain I experienced.  Bottom line is back up everything, back up often and keep an organized list of everything you have installed on your PC.  It's a little work to set up the backups and create the list of software, but believe me it's worth a little time now to save a LOT of time if you happen to have a failure.  It's also very helpful if you need to transition from one PC to another (like when you buy a new one).