John Croson's Blog Home: 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003

Saturday, August 30, 2003

No collection management software.

Another thing I wanted to add to the effeciency of the workplace there was a database to collect information about our permanent collection and our sales/rental gallery. All of the information for the permanent collection was stored in a FileMaker Pro spreadsheet, and sales/rental items were tracked by paper... Unfortunately for the museum, the person that handled the sales/rental area left them, and in doing so took all the information that was in her head about that area. It was really pretty scary, having all that artwork, and needing to somehow come up with a system to track it's arrival, rental or sale, or even return to the artist. What I did was use the NorthWind database example from M$ Access and hacked it up to satisfy our needs. I used quite a bit of error checking on the input of data, really putting some tight reigns on that. I didn't want the data entry to become tainted. Some of the fine points are these:
  1. All the artists that exist in the DB have related objects, and possibly an exhibition to that object. This allowed us to enter an artist ONCE, and any objects and exhibits they were in at any time.
  2. I fleshed out the invoicing process to include things not present in the NW example;
    • percentages off on sales for museum members, s&h expenses, etc.
    • Lots of reports were added to perform invoicing, contract generation and the like
    • Automated the generation of exhibit labels using Word and merge [THAT took some VBA in the backround :)]
  3. Added a help file
Alot of this also meant that the Curatorial staff could request features at any time. This could have saved us literally thousands, since most software of this type is quite expensive. Unfortunately, we have stopped using this software because management seems to think that it has worn out it's usefullness... I'm sure we will have to "get off the pot, or shit" sooner or later, because we just took one HUGE step backwards. Buy or write, THAT is the question.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Some modifications in the work flow...

I'd been working at the Wustum Museum for a couple of months when I started noticing what I would call an inefficient use of users time spent doing daily tasks. The biggest problem to tackle was the "Mailing List From Hell". They were using FileMaker Pro for years with their old Mac LCII's and since the systems weren't networked, there were multiple copies of many lists floating all over the place... Once the PC's were put in by my predecessor, the lists were "somewhat" consolodated, but there were those that just couldn't relinquish control. The real problem was to collect all of them, remove them from the users computers, mesh them together, and send them in to our mailing guru that found duplicates, updated addresses, etc. It was a real mess, and took some time to fix, but now we have a pretty clean list of 10,000 + names, and a fund raising program called Paradigm to manage it and other things. Now we all use the DB, and no more multiple copies of "Mailing Lists From Hell".

Monday, August 25, 2003

I start working at Wustum Musuem as IT Manager

So I start at Wustum Museum as Techology Operations Manager. What a mess. The woman that set up the system used a local company that installed a leased system for them. Bad business decision, and even worse setup. SBS from M$ (I'm not a lover of M$, but they have their place). No patches in place, no connection to the internet except for dial up to an ISP that has a collection of mail boxes that they connect to at specific periods. Lame. I convinced them to allow me to turn the mail accounts off, get DSL and set up Exchange 5.5 to do what is was supposed to do, serve mail. Shortly thereafter, I set up a RedHat box on an old Acer 233mhz box that served as our firewall and web server. Still works to this day, even after I set up a chroot'ed caching DNS server, SMB (just to transfer backups to the M$ box from the RAM site), Webmin, SSH, and even MRTG. WOW that's a big load for a little box. I love this stuff.

I've decided to journalize my work history.

I've decided that I should document what I've been doing in my position at the Racine Art Museum these past couple of years. I've taken on a number of projects, and while I should have done this progressively as I performed them, I'll try to do it now. My interest in computers started long ago, when I joined the Army. I wanted a job that involved computers, and they were happy to oblige me. Unfortunately, I knew nothing about computers, only that I wanted to they assigned me as a 13E MOS. Field Artilliary Fire Direction Specialist. The only computer they had was FADAC, or "Freddy". It computed the trajectory of bullets for us when we were too lazy to do it on paper and using protractors and slide rules. And I hate math... Once I got out of the service and finally ended up at Rode's Camera some years later, I started going to school, puttering around with machines at home (Alpha server, PC's, Mac's, Linux, etc) and learning lots. I wrote my first production piece of software for them. They were logging every film processing order on paper, and writing pricing by hand on envelopes full of pictures. My program, written in VB, utilized a used thermal printer from UPS (thanks Ebay), and simple algorithm's to compute different types of orders, print labels, and keep an electronic log. They still use it today, and I've since made some improvements. In addition to selling to corporate clients, I set up a Yahoo Store for them, and also a vigorous Ebay presence that is still maintained in my absence. I worked with a man named Skip, and his wife worked at the museum as Deputy Director. She saw and heard what I was doing for Rode's and hired me. I was so geeked!

Saturday, August 23, 2003


Woke up this A.M. to edit some of my wedding video and run some tests on output. I decided that I needed to open a browser to my WebMin interface on my firewall/webserver here at home to whip up a quick file repository that my siblings and friends could navigate to and view my latest "creations". What did my eyes behold...but a Blog option suddenly appeared in my trusty Google search bar! Now that is a nice thing to wake up to. Now I can journal my daily routines and put the masses to sleep...

Sunday, August 03, 2003