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The developer, Mike Towle

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Latest blog/rant from the developer, Mike Towle . . . . . . . .

2021-07-03 Saturday: As I write this, a Florida based IT company called Kaseya is reportedly dealing with a 'colossal' ransomware attack. As I understand it, the ransomware got into Kaseya's VSA product, and from there infected 200 of their business customers. Kaseya VSA security incident One would imagine, being a prestigious IT company, they would be a very difficult target for hackers. Yet they have been found vulnerable.

I'm mentioning this, not to single out Kaseya at all, but to highlight the increasing danger posed by hackers. Kaseya are certainly not the first, neither will they be the last. For all the great things the internet makes possible, it also has a dark side. A destructive side.

My other business, Media Hut, based in the UK suffered a ransomware attack in late March last year. Literally the week staff were leaving the office to work at home due to Coronavirus. As if we didn't have enough problems, we found ourselves with a ransomware attack to deal with. We didn't pay the ransom, all our data was well backed up, we just lost a few hours worth. Nevertheless, it was hugely disruptive as our system was down for a couple of days. Ironically, due to Coronavirus sales had slumped at that point to almost zero, which actually helped! (as Media Hut is heavily involved in the events industry, sales are still very low as there are no events! But that's another matter....)

How safe is your system? That's an interesting question. While I would of course beat the drum for keeping your accounts data on your own hard drive rather than in the cloud (where it could be anywhere), the fact is, your own computer system is still vulnerable. It's true that businesses that hold data as part of a cloud service, particularly data that may be of value, like accounts data, are going to be targets. Potentially lucrative targets, as hackers would see it. But one would hope their security is robust. I dare say people thought Kaseya's security was robust, until today.

Chances are, if you're reading this then you're probably using Adminsoft Accounts, and your data is safely stored on your own PC. My point is, it may not be that safe. While it's unlikely your PC or network will be a specific target (I don't think Media Hut was specifically targeted), there is lots of malware out there just waiting to be downloaded from a dodgy web site or from a link in an email. One nasty side effect of this, is Anti-virus software is supersensitive to anything that looks like it could potentially contain any kind of malware. If you download and install software from any organization that is not from a big company, there can be problems. I get frequent reports from users installing or updating Adminsoft Accounts, who say their anti-virus software is reporting it as possibly containing malware. If you download the software from this web site, I can assure you it does not! My advice is often to disable your anti-virus software while installing Adminsoft Accounts. But it really shouldn't have to be that way.

I don't know what the answer is, and of course the large companies, the organizations that could do something about it, are not affected by issues of false positives. So they don't.

2021-04-20 Tuesday: You may have noticed a new book has appeared called 'Using Adminsoft Accounts'. Check out the 'guides' section of this web site, or click here. I foolishly thought putting this book together would be quick and simple.....

It wasn't! As a lot of it already existed, all I had to do was add the various documents together into one big document, and add in some extra bits, job done. Simple. Except when I did add all the documents together, and wrote all the extra bits, based on a book size of 9 inches by 6 inches, it came to well over 600 pages! I'm publishing the book via Amazon, and so ended up using the largest size book they will handle, which is A4. It still came to over 400 pages. Next I reduced the font size to 11 (small, but not too small), and rearranged most of the images so as to reduce the number of pages which were only partially covered due to the location of some images. I made the text flow around some of the smaller images. I also made the borders as small as possible. Eventually I got it down to 369 pages. This was important, because the more pages there are, the more expensive the book would be due to printing costs.

All that mucking about took LOADS of time. It wasn't helped by the production process. Although Amazon's self publishing process is actually very good, as I was pushing things to the limit, using the slenderest of borders I could get away with, and printing right up to those borders, I kept having problems with some images, and even some bits of text just going out of the printable area. I used Word 2016, and in that application they were within the printable area, but when uploaded to Amazon's platform, they weren't, it rendered the Word file slightly differently. Only slightly, there was only maybe 1mm or so in it. But that was enough. It took some trial and error to get the book into a format that Amazon would print.

Having completed the book, I then went to the final stage of publishing. That's when I discovered just how expensive it would be to print such a large book in color! Sadly, far too much. So, it's being printed with all images in monochrome (as in greyscale). As most books of this type are.

Was it all worth it? Well I hope so. The book contains some information you can't get anywhere else. It also contains a detailed index, which will be really useful when you're looking for something specific.

I strongly recommend everyone buys the book (what else would I say.....). There's something in there for both the beginner and the experienced user. But, don't forget the book written by Yogesh Patel. If you're not familiar with bookkeeping at all, or you're a bit rusty, you may find his book the best place to start. It's called 'Free Accounting with Free Software' and can found here.


2021-01-01 Friday: I can't believe my last blog was in April 2020. Where has the time gone? I talked about Coronavirus, but at that time I thought the worst would be over sometime in the summer. But eight months later, and here we are in the middle of a second wave.

While the economies of most countries took a hit, they have recovered to some degree. But the persistence of the virus is holding back a full recovery. Any industry that involves getting groups of people together, such as sports, airlines, hospitality, and so on, are really suffering. Businesses have proven more resilient than I expected, in no small part due to the continuation of various government schemes supporting them. But the human cost has been enormous. I don't have the words to express how shocking it is. I can't imagine the pain and loss that so many families are suffering.

Although I expect the first half of 2021 to be tough, vaccines have provided us with some light at the end of this very dark tunnel. The second half of 2021 should finally see us put Coronavirus behind us. I wish you all a healthy and prosperous new year.


2020-04-09 Thursday: It's news to no one that Covid-19 is sweeping the planet, leaving thousands dead in it's wake. The human cost is tragic. But what of the economic cost? What will business look like when we come out the other side of this?

It depends, of course, on how long the lock downs in various countries last. I would guess, and it's only a guess, that most countries will be relaxing the laws restricting the movement of people during June/July. But some rules, such as social distancing could remain in place for some time. Most governments are providing a lot of financial support to business at the moment. I suspect that support will be withdrawn during June/July, as shops are allowed to open and employees are allowed to return to work. It leaves us with two major issues. Firstly, most businesses (and people for that matter) will be short of cash. They won't be able to spend the money necessary to kick the economy back into life. Secondly, the continuation of some restrictions could prevent large gatherings of people, such as sporting events, exhibitions, concerts, etc. They could also restrict the number of people allowed into restaurants, bars, shops, gyms, etc. at any one time. Severely limiting the potential for the business to make a profit.

In economic terms, the real impact won't be felt until the summer. When government support for businesses is withdrawn and they are struggling to re-establish sales and cash flow. The global economy was already looking a bit shaky before Coronavirus came along. My worry is that it doesn't have the strength for a bounce back. The cash simply won't be there. Many businesses, like many governments, will be up to their eyeballs in debt. Sadly, I expect a lot of businesses to go under. When the Coronavirus is finished with us, the economy will be left reeling for some time. The second half of this year will be tough. It will get better, but it will be a slow process.

There is no silver lining. But however long this nightmare lasts, the economy will come back. However many people lose their jobs, they will eventually be re-employed.

Covid-19 has taken many lives, and continues to take lives. Economics and business are not our primary concern, and rightly so. Stay at home, and stay safe.


2019-11-20 Wednesday: There's a lot of talk about carbon emissions and global warming. Some politicians are taking it more seriously than others. I came across a startling statistic the other day that for me really brought the problem into focus. Apparently, it takes four grown trees one year to absorb all the Co2 produced from just one hour flying, per person!

I don't fly a lot, maybe once or twice a year. But a lot of people do fly a lot. In fact, in 2019 it is expected that over four and a half billion people will fly (source: Statista). The average duration of a flight is around 2 hours. As one hour of flight by one person produces around 200 pounds of Co2, so 4.5bn flights x 2 hours will produce 1,800bn pounds of Co2 per year. That's 900 million tons. One grown tree can absorb around 48 pounds of Co2 per year. So it would take 37,500,000,000 trees one year to absorb all that carbon. That's 37.5bn! The air travel industry has a big problem. Though many airlines are starting to work on this, they're a long way from solving it. In the future, you can expect significant extra charges on your airfare to cover environmental impact.

The average European person is responsible for producing around 10 tons of Co2 per year. In the USA it's higher, in China less (though their emissions are increasing). It takes 360 trees to absorb all the Co2 produced by one European. As there's around 500 million of us Europeans, that's 180,000,000,000 trees. Yes, 180bn. The average Co2 production per person on average across the planet is about 4 tons per year. So, 4 tons multiplied by 7.5bn people equals 30bn tons. 60,000bn pounds, as in 60,000,000,000,000 pounds. At 48 pounds per tree per year, it would take 1,250,000,000,000 trees to absorb all that Co2!

Staggering. So how many trees are there in the world? Well, a quick Google search revealed there are 3,041,000,000,000 (source: Geography Realm). That's well over twice as many trees than we need to absorb current Co2 emissions? If the figures right. So what's going on, why is Co2 such a bit issue? Previous estimates have been a LOT lower, at around 400,000,000,000 (400bn) trees. So maybe the latest estimate is a little optimistic? Also, a lot of these tress are young and/or rather small. Their capacity for absorbing Co2 will be considerably less than a fully grown Pine, Elm, Maple, Oak or something similar. In reality, we might find the average Co2 absorption capacity of the worlds trees is far less than 48 pounds per tree per year. It could be, the trees are just about coping with current Co2 production?

A study led by Xiao-Peng Song and Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland (Mongabay) concluded the number of trees over the last 35 years has actually increased! But, there's a caveat here. To quote directly from the article in the link: "tree cover is not necessarily forest cover. Industrial timber plantations, mature oil palm estates, and other non-natural “planted forests” quality as tree cover. For example, cutting down a 100-hectare tract of primary forest and replacing it with a 100-hectare palm plantation will show up in the data as no net change in forest cover: the 100-hectare loss is perfectly offset by the 100-hectare gain in tree cover. Yet, that activity would be counted as “deforestation” by FAO. Therefore tree cover loss does not directly translate to “deforestation” in all cases." The article doesn't discuss Co2 absorption. But it seems to me, the inescapable conclusion is the world's capacity for Co2 absorption is reducing. At a time when the production of Co2 is increasing.

Clearly it's a situation that can not continue. We need to reduce our production of Co2 and plant more trees, and we need to do it now. The longer we leave it, the harder it'll be. A LOT harder.

You may think, sat at your desk as I am now, that we're contributing little to the Co2 problem. But your computer will be using electricity, generating that electricity on average produces one pound of carbon per kilowatt hour (source: Blue Sky Model). So your computer may produce between one and two pounds of Co2 per working day. Work five days a week for 52 weeks and that's 390 pounds of Co2 per year. It takes 8 trees to absorb that.

We all need to take responsibility for this. Especially those politicians who refuse to accept there's a problem simply because the problem is inconvenient.


2019-08-08 Thursday: Is it harder to start and run a small business now compared to say 30 years ago? I suspect it is. And, this is a big problem because a surprising amount of long term growth comes from the creation of small businesses, as some of those small businesses become medium or even large businesses. There are plenty of stories of businesses started up at home in a spare room, that years later end up employing hundreds, or even thousands.

I think there are three main problems:

First problem is the internet. It's great for almost instant communication, and for getting your message and brand out there. But there is SO much competing for the viewers attention, these days getting your message and brand out there is very expensive. It requires a lot of carefully placed advertising. It requires the kind of investment most small businesses, and certainly most start-ups simply don't have. The internet hasn't turned out to be quite the leveller we all thought it would be back in the early 2000's. Of course, some get lucky, and with next to no monetary investment they rise to the top of the pile. They become the influencers, their messages trend, they set the tone, and plot a path to the future. It's lead almost entirely by young people. No harm with that, good luck to them. But how does that help the women who wants to sell her new line of shoes, or that guy or who wants to build up his business importing saxophones? Without a substantial advertising budget, it doesn't.

The other problem is regulation. There is far more of it now than there was 30 years ago. Starting a business now, you could easily spend all your time sorting out what regulations apply to you, how to manage them, and what administration is required to keep all the government agencies happy. Where do you find the time to actually run your business? In practice of course, most people will ignore much of the regulation, and just keep their fingers crossed they don't go too far wrong - or if they do, they don't get caught!

The third problem is the internet! Again? Yes, well partly, because there are a lot of businesses out there on the internet, fulfilling all sorts of needs for both private and commercial customers. So where does a prospective new business find a niche? Years ago, if you were interested in catering, say, and wanted to set up a simple cafe, you'd look for a busy area that doesn't already have a cafe, or least not too many, and where the rent isn't too expensive. But now, you have to be more particular. You can't rely on business from housing estates or apartments, like you might have done once, because a lot of those residents will use one of the on-line delivery services. In the United Kingdom, you have to be very careful you don't pick premises with too high a rateable value, otherwise all your profit will go to the local council. Business rates on commercial property in the UK are just ridiculously high. A throw back from the hey day of retail back in the 1990's, when high street retailers could actually make money. Sadly, those days are gone, but sky high business rates remain, turning many high streets into commercial deserts. Also, unless you're just relying on customers walking past, then you also have to pick premises that people can actually get to. Many councils are limiting car parking to such an extent, they're crippling access to many parts of their towns. So not just the internet, but the tax system, and your own council may also all be working against you. Perhaps your business doesn't need a shop front? That reduces some of the problems. But not having a shop front means you need to market your goods/service in some other way, which leads us back to the internet.

What shocked me, is that when I checked the statistics for business start ups, I found that in the UK 82% were started up by people aged 40 and over! 57% by people aged 50 and over. So the vast majority of new business are being started by people who are middle aged or older. Is this due to young people not having access to capital, and/or not having the experience to deal with the issues I mentioned above? I honestly don't know. It surprised me. I'd assumed they'd be a lot more younger people starting businesses. But the statistics showed only 4% of businesses were started by people in the 18 to 29 age range. You can check out these figures here: Small Business TRENDS. Further, figures show older entrepreneurs are more likely to be successful. Peaking around people aged in their mid fifties (sourced from the Harvard Business Review).

Looking at figures showing business start ups over the decades, there are less now than there used to be. In percentage terms, relative to population size the number of start ups appears to be around half what it used to be back in the 1970's. That's depressing. And a rather damning indictment of the policies of many governments towards small businesses.

So the answer to my question, sadly, seems to be 'Yes'.


If you would like to comment on any of the issues covered in Mike's blogs, or would like to suggest some improvements to the software, please email: mike@adminsoftware.biz



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2021-07-03 Saturday: As I write this, a Florida based IT company called Kaseya is reportedly dealing with a 'colossal' ransomware attack. As I understand it, the ransomware got into Kaseya's VSA product, and from there infected 200 of their business customers...... more
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