The Dovetail Blog

Dovetail are in the Web Awards Finals

We're excited to have made the finals of the 2014 Irish Web Awards in the Best Agency category. And we're very pleased that MenuCal, the restaurant calorie calculator application we developed with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, is in the running in two categories - Best Web App and Best Government Site.

WebAwards Finalist

Read more about the system in our MenuCal Case Study here.  

If you're in the industry, we recommend going along to the awards night, it's always great fun, win or lose.  For details and booking, check the Web Awards site.


How to make real dough in the software business

Trevor and Martin are playing tag at the moment. I just got back from holidays in San Sebastián, while Martin has now headed off to Portugal for some well earned sunshine. I want to plug San Sebastián Food for providing some fantastic guides to the local wine and food. And of course the flag came for a photo op...

Trevor in San Sebastian

 

This week John and Mossy delivered a fantastic upgrade for Gift Voucher Solutions.

Giftvouchersolutions

The system is now fully responsive, mobile friendly, and integrates with more payment providers. Dawn in GVS tells us she is head of heels with delight!

Tomas has been working on our current IKEA project, developing some data import features and learing about some arcane features of Microsoft Excel in the process. He says it's reminding him how custom software development is a constant journey into the unknown.

 

I had a great visit to Dublin's finest purveyors of artisan bread, the Bretzel Bakery.

Bretzel Bakery

I was there to talk software with my friend William Despard, but I grabbed the opportunity to get hands on with some potential pastries (I presume they threw this lot out after I left!)

Trev In Bakery

 


Your mostly Mossy technology update, week 36

I've started collecting links that go past my Twitter feed, Facebook stream, Slack channels and many other news sources (read: distractions). These are my notable saves from this week. P.S. this won't be weekly, I'm not a machine!

Designing for Website accessibility. A nice checklist of, mostly obvious, but often overlooked details on designing for visual impairments and other disabilities. The internet is is like any other public space. It should be open and accessible to all who wish to use it.

IBM's new smart chip. We still haven't figured out why our brain is so powerful. Okay, we (not me, scientists) have a fair idea why it's powerful. I find it interesting that the faster chips are the ones trying to mimic a neural network.

The feature guy. You don't always make software better by adding features. Sometimes, taking away features or polishing existing functionality is a better use of time.

Balancing bike stations. A discussion cropping up here a lot is the difficulty in keeping the Dublin Bikes stations with bikes and also with spaces. Turns out it's a lot more complicated than we thought, and it's not quite been solved yet.


We're on slack, but we're not slacking off

We've started using slack. Do we really need another way to communicate besides email, im, sms, fogbugz? Apparently.

I had seen Slack over a year ago, and thought, nah, surely we've enough ways to communicate already. But it has actually proved quite useful so far. Yes, it's another realtime chat app.

Where we have found real value is in the different channels (rooms). We have created channels for each of our clients, so relevant discussions about client projects can be kept. Context matters when it comes to adhoc information, so this keeps the right stuff in the right place. It's searchable, which is really handy to find old conversations.

We have places for our structured data like: specs (Google Docs), support cases (FogBugz), and project management (Teamwork). Slack fills the gap for unstructured ahoc conversations. Conversations that might come in handy in the future.

What we're up to this week

Dovetail office GEC

Martin is working with CIS this week. He's been tasked with migrating their server infrastructure from a dedicated physical server to an Azure virtual machine. Cloud rocks!! He was also specifiying some salesforce and sharepoint integration as the guys in CIS are evaluating both tools to improve their workflow. Martin has also been working on an eTender for the Transport industry.

John is working on the final tweaks to the GVS voucher system before we go live with a new version very soon. As mentioned before, the new version takes advantage of responsive web design, which will make the user experience much better for clients on mobile and desktop browsers.

While Trevor is away on Holidays (The south of France mind you, swit swoo!) I am taking over the project management of IKEA Family Kiosk project. Tomás is working on this with me and we are creating lots of new functionality for an upcoming release of the IKEA Family Kiosk system for the UK and Ireland.


An office portrait

Google+ just found a picture on my camera and did something to it. If the content wasn't so odd I think I'd have ignored it, but now I think it belongs here...Dovetail office oddness


Sub-sea sex-change shocker!

We're still sad, missing über-intern Greg, but we've been cheered up by playing darts on the board he left as a parting gift. Mossy and Martin have been struck down by Darter's Elbow already, much to the delight of the rest of us. Thanks again Greg - it was a really well chosen present and is much appreciated.

Dartboard in action

This week Mossy and I rolled out an upgrade to IKEA's FAMILY system. We're utilising Microsoft Azure Traffic Manager to provide geo-redundancy across datacentres, and I've been very impressed with how the Azure platform makes features such as this so straightforward. I did get caught out by the fact that Internet Explorer caches DNS records, but everything is working great now.

Azure Traffic Manager

John has rolled out fixes and new features for a number of clients, including PerfectCard and IKEA. He's really found his feet now and doing great work. Meanwhile Martin has turned the first sod on a new project for CIS so it's all go. When Tomas gets back from holiday next week there'll be no easing back in to it - sorry Tomas!

The big surprise of the week was discovering that Pinchy the Crayfish is a lady - she's carrying eggs under her tail to prove the point. Hooray! It's about time we got a bit of gender balance in the office!


Builders' holidays, a visit to IKEA and a Tender completed

The title would suggest we've had a very busy week this week, and you would be right. We've done it, however, with only half the work force.

John & Tomás have gone on holidays (not together ... we think), and Greg has bid farewell to Dovetail for some time off before returning to college. As a result, it's been quiet in the office.

Martin has been burning the midnight oil on a tender for a new line of business application (bespoke software) for a major player in the Utilities sector. It was submitted today, and he can now breathe a sigh of relief after a solid effort of writing (nobody likes writing THAT much).

Crayfish party in Dovetail
Mossy and Trevor partying like it's 1999

Trevor visited IKEA Southampton earlier this week. He was attending a project kick off meeting to build on the success of the Swipe a Surprise pilot. He also brought back some hats and songbooks from an upcoming Crayfish party. Better not show them to Pinchy.

I have been continuing to work with Dawn, Tanya and Julie in GVS on an upcoming version of the Gift Voucher Solutions application.


Consulting, IKEA Kiosks, Ektron upgrade and Gift Vouchers

TL;DR We've been working hard with a lot of our existing clients (CIS, IKEA, FSAI & Gift Voucher Solutions). The summer has kicked off and so have a lot of new projects.

Martin has been working with CIS over the past few weeks, he's been consulting on a technology strategy for their product platform (CISOnline). We plan to integrate cloud-based SAAS platforms with CISOnline which will result in a more efficient business process for CIS, allowing them to manage their ever-growing customer base.

A new Gift Voucher Solutions project has started, with John taking on his first end-to-end project here in Dovetail. He has been working closely with Dawn in GVS. They are doing a total overhaul of the existing system, with an emphasis on improving the Customer Experience (UX) and changing to a responsive design which will work much better on both mobile and desktop browsers.

UML Diagram for IKEA Family Kiosk Platform

Trevor and Tomás have been working on a new IKEA Project. This is Phase 2 of the IKEA FAMILY Kiosk project. After two years live with the current implementation, we have analysed, measured and learned. We are now applying this learning to "Phase 2". We are focusing on customer experience for the IKEA FAMILY member, trying to improve the customer journeys as they use the kiosks. We want to make these journeys more enjoyable, faster and clearer than before.

Greg was working separately on a small IKEA project which will be going live at the end of the month. Greg was also doing a lot of internal work, adding functionality to our customer support portal, and improving our internal reporting system "Hawkeye". Today is his last day, as he's taking some time off before heading back to college in September.

I have been floating around a bit, working with John on the User Experience design for Gift Voucher Solutions. I have also started an Ektron upgrade project for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. We are upgrading their website Content Management System from version 8.0.2 to version 9.1.

This afternoon we'll be kicking off our summer office party and BBQ. It also doubles as a farewell to Greg and welcome drinks for John. We're fully stocked with beer and cider, so it should be a fun one.

Dovetail Beer delivery
Craft beer delivery aided by Trev's sweet bike rack.

Create a cloned SQL Server Azure Database

Today, I wanted to create a clone of a SQL Server Azure database. I was looking at various ways of doing this, including exporting and re-importing the database, but thankfully, there is a much easier way.

I ran the following SQL command against the master database on the SQL Azure server:

CREATE DATABASE New_database
AS COPY OF Old_Database

 For more details, check out the official documentation and this Idera blog post.


The 'new' John

Hello, I’m the ‘new’ John last name Doyle and I’m here to introduce myself. Over the past few weeks I’ve been settling in and getting to know some of the projects currently being undertaken here at Dovetail. I’ve also managed to somehow sneak a cheeky holiday to Malaga in those weeks but this was only for a few days.

As mentioned in a previous post I have come from City Wonders where I was working as a Web Developer for their Front End websites.

I have joined Dovetail as a Software developer and have already began working on my Microsoft Certified Professional Certificate. It has been a great few weeks at Dovetail and the entire office has been very welcoming and patient as I try to get up to speed on the projects and workflow.

Over the coming weeks I hope to post some more blog posts and maybe some more pictures like the one below.

PalmTree