Thursday, December 31, 2009

Missouri Computers on Farm Conference

Here's a very economical conference that combines computer and agricultural topics at a scenic resort on the Lake of the Ozarks. It's sponsored by the University of Missouri Ag Extension, but is open to everyone.

There will be a breakout session for FBS users, and I'll be speaking on and demoing "cloud computing" applications and using smart phones.

The conference runs from 1:00 pm on Friday, January 8th through noon on Saturday, January 9th, so you need to make your reservations now.

For more information click on this link:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Webinar Schedule

The weather outside is frightful, so join us from the comfort and safety of your office for the following free, one hour webinars:

What's New in FBS Version 8.1 at 10:00 am CST on Monday, December 28th.
LifeCycle Budget at 10:00 am CST on Monday, January 4th.

To register, e-mail by 9:00 am CST on the scheduled day.

Merry Christmas from the FBS “Team”

Not a team of eight tiny reindeer; just eight, full-size, computer professionals. Employing “Old World” craftsmanship we create, train and support the world’s best ag software right out of the FBS “workshop,” located somewhere in the frozen tundra of Illinois. Note that our programmers are not coming out of their cubicles until 64-bit FBS is a reality!

So “on Dan, on Greg, on Sarah, on Cheryl, on Tammy, on Doug, on Andy, on Norm!”

May the true peace from the free gift of salvation through Christ fill your hearts and families this Season.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Q&A Of the Month--Introducing SupportSmith

This month our Technical Services Manager, Sarah Dixon, introduces an exciting new service.

We have a great new tool to help us support you, our clients. Our technical support team now is using SupportSmith to provide “live” technical support for assistance with your FBS software. This enables support technicians to remotely connect to your computer through just a few easy steps. A similar service is already available for clients running our hosted version through the server, but now this is available to everyone.
You may have already experienced live technical support. Have you ever had a chatted with support personnel when you had an issue with your Internet provider or when you have visited a shopping website? This is a form of live support, but we go beyond that with SupportSmith. We connect to your computer, enabling us to see and manipulate your computer and do everything you are able to do on your computer without leaving our desk. This can be helpful in solving many issues. For example, we are able to see firsthand what your system is doing when there is a problem, and you can show us the steps you took in reaching the issue. It also allows us to teach you how to use new functions as well as show you shortcuts.
SupportSmith has also been a very powerful tool in helping new FBS clients and is a great complement to the on-site training. By “looking over your shoulder” we can catch and resolve small errors before they become larger problems.

How does SupportSmith work? It’s really very simple. When you call or e-mail our support team with a problem or question our team will determine if the issue could best be solved with SupportSmith. If so, you will be directed to . This link will prompt you to run our support module and enter your name, e-mail address and phone number so we know who’s in the queue and can re-contact you if the connection is broken.
Next click on “Get Help” button and a ticket will be generated. This will alert us that you are waiting to be helped. Before we actually connect to your computer you will be prompted that it’s ok to establish a remote connection.

The web link above will be included under the Help menu in the 8.1 version due to be release soon. This service will be available to all clients, but will be subject to the normal service fees. This service is free for Priority, VIP, and Corporate Support clients. Basic Support clients are charged $1.25 a minute, with a $25.00 minimum. Clients without a current service plan will be charged $3.25 and minute with a $25.00 minimum. Because problems can usually be resolved more quickly that over the phone, SupportSmith is an economical as well as convenient solution for all FBS clients.
We look forward to serving you in the coming year and hope this improvement in our service makes your software experience even more productive.

Your FBS Support Team

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Go "Green" and Save with the New E-Payment Module

FBS users have a new option for bill-paying that eliminates checks, envelopes, stamps and wire transfer costs. It's called the E-Payment Module, and it creates secure ACH transactions through your bank.

For many years FBS clients have requested some type of online banking function. Most general accounting programs can import payment transactions created on their bank's website; however, the problem with that approach is that no account, center, division, quantity or description detail can be coded. A generic "default" account for each vendor may be adequate for a check register but not for a farm accounting database like TransAction Plus.

That's why we chose to follow the ACH (Automated Clearing House) format developed by the NACHA, the Electronic Payment Association used by 15,000 depository financial institutions. This is the same system used to create direct payroll deposits and business-to-business payments.

The E-Payment Module converts standard FBS accounting transactions into electronic NACHA files that can be transmitted through your financial institution's website. In that way no detail is lost or has to be reentered "after the fact." For efficient batch operation we recommend that it be connected with Accounts Payable.

For more information or to schedule a demo, contact

Friday, December 11, 2009

One Download from Disaster

Computers are extremely complex, fragile ecosystems. The first generation of DOS boxes were flaky enough with just a few hardware and software "cooks" stirring the soup. Today's machines consist of layers and layers of hardware, machine-specific BIOS firmware, operating system software, security software and application software. Now multiply these variables by all the possible combinations of programs, versions, peripherals and malware and you should be eternally thankful any time you turn on your computer or launch a program and it actually works!

When something does go wrong, we don't mind you contacting us--even it your problem isn't directly linked to our software. While most problems are so specialized and technical (that's why it's called technical support!) at least we can provide personal, "on-shore" empathy and perhaps point you in the right direction based on our expertise and experience.

One source of our experience is all the things that go wrong with our own computers and network. My latest horror story enfolded from a "recommended Windows 7 Security" download that conflicted with my video card, resulting in the "Blue Screen of Death" followed by the "Black Screen of Purgatory." My Lenovo tech was certain it was the motherboard, but after 1 1/2 hours with Microsoft Tech Support we finally undid the damage created by the download.

It's not a matter of if breakdowns like this will occur, it's when (when you're in the biggest hurry). So here's a reminder that you can't have enough layers of backup redundancy to counter the layers of conflicting technologies. I use premeditated backup tools (USB hard drives and USB thumb drives) but back them up with automated backup tools (Carbonite on-line).

What are your experiences and recommendations?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Staring Down the Monster

Check out the "Extra 2009" edition of Farm Futures magazine (farmfutures. com) for the cover story, "Staring down the monster--New budgeting tools help you thrive in uncertain times."

You'll find a synopsis of FBS's LifeCycle Budget software as the only planning tool that can incorporate historical and real-time data into your projections. LCB is a logical step for FBS and its clients as agriculture begins to take advantage of the accounting and planning processes used in other industries. A demo copy of LifeCycle Budget can be activated from any FBS 8.x CD and product literature can be downloaded from products page on our website.

Since I began using LCB in my operation, I've been projecting cash flow, income and break-evens 18 months or more into the future, monitoring deviations, constantly tweaking projected costs and revenues and tracking multiple scenarios to "bracket" all the uncertainties we face today.

While this issue of Farm Futures has not been published on-line yet, when it is, make sure you go to the "Farm Futures Now!" page to interact with FBS client and "bookworm," Ron Swanson. Here's the link:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Q&A of the Month--A/P Aging

Q. My A/P Aging Report doesn't match my User Defined (UD) Report for the A/P ledger account, and when I run a detail report option 7 there are a lot of unmatched entries. What is going on?

A. Several things are possible. First, check the date range of the report. All A/P invoices should have due dates, and when running the Aging Report the date range needs to look far enough in the future to include these dates, otherwise it will not match the UD Report. The date range for both the Aging and the UD R

Next run the A/P Detail Report using option 7 (Invoices with Payments), making sure that the date range begins with the date of the earliest invoice date on the invoice for which the payments have been made. For example, if you received money on 7/1/09 for an invoice that had an invoice date of 5/1/06 you would need to open up your date range to include 5/1/06 so that you have an invoice to match the payment up with. In doing so, you can see the unmatched entries and look for errors, mismatched vendors, invoice # typos, double payments, etc. The errors or unmatched entries will be shown in orange. Fix the errors that are shown; overpayments can be fixed by putting in a dummy invoice for the amount and then entering a credit invoice.

Some things to look for:

  • Payments entered as a check (or deposit) entry instead of through the A/P payment routine.
  • Vendors or invoice numbers that don't match. For example, if the invoice was to "ABC Farm" and you applied the payment to "Abc Farm," the system will consider these two different vendors. Or if the invoice number was typed in as "12345" and when paying with a check it was entered as "012345," again the system will not match up to two entries because of the variation in the invoice numbers.
  • If a payment or invoice is altered or edited it could cause it to unlink. Along those same lines if there was a change to the amount due field after a payment was made, resulting in an overpayment, you would see an unmatched entry. The last few things to keep in mind are that if data recovery was run on another machine which didn't have the year's data that contained the original invoice or that entries were made on an older version of FBS software, a version which allowed the description on payment to be changed. If data recovery was then run on the newer version the link would be removed because of invoice numbers no longer matching. The system will also flag an entry if you have an invoice that has been open for a long period of time, say several years, there may not be a problem with the entry, but the system will still flag it because it has been outstanding for so long.

    After the errors are fixed, Run Utilities Recover Bad Data for all the years that were edited and then re-run the A/P Detail Report using option 7 to match up all the entries correctly. Once you have all of the unmatched entries cleared up, rerun your Aging Report. If it’s still not correct, drill down to the source entries drilling down into the entries and check for the following:
  • Make sure that you don't have an invoice dated after the due date (for example, an invoice dated for 6/30/09 and a due date as 1/15/09).
  • Check that the beginning balance of the current year matches the previous year’s ending balance.

    Here are a few tips to avoid A/P and A/R errors :
  • Always use the Pay A/P Entries for writing checks or the A/R Money Received for recording deposits rather than going through the standard Checks or Deposits screens.
  • Be aware of your invoice and due dates; for the Aging Report to work correctly these dates need to be recorded and they need to be correct.
  • When selecting vendors during A/P or A/R Invoice entry maker sure there are not duplicate vendors with similar names.
  • Get into the routine of running the A/P and A/R Detail Reports using Option 7 on a regular basis to trap unmatched entries and errors to correct them in a timely manner instead of allowing them to accumulate.

The 64-Bit Question That Won’t Go Away

In September, 2008 we first alerted our readers that mass-market retailers were bundling the Vista Home Premium 64-bit operating system, rather than the standard 32-bit version with some new computers. With the arrival of both Windows 7 and the 2009 Christmas shopping season the 64-bit trickle has turned into a torrent. In fact, unless you’re shopping on a website that caters to businesses you’ll have to search far and wide for a computer installed with a 32-bit operating system.

Why is this critical? While 64-bit machines are optimized to process graphics and play the latest games, they aren’t compatible with many farm and business applications, including mapping and accounting/management systems like FBS Windows versions 8.0 and older.

Because of this inevitable transition, FBS has been diverting significant time and resources to convert all of our Windows software to the .NET platform, opening the door for 64-bit compatibility as well as future web applications. These changes will be incorporated in the upcoming FBS Version 8.1, which will be released soon. For a list of new features in Version 8.1, go the FBS Website Homepage. (Most of these changes are already available via download (Utilities Check for Updates).

Our recommendations:

  • If you are purchasing a new computer this year, make sure you select either XP, Vista, or Windows 7 32-bit editions. Don’t expect informed advice from the “big box store” salespeople—they’re stocked to the ceiling with 64-bit boxes and have no appreciation for ag software or even business applications.
  • For those of you who have already purchased 64-bit versions of Vista or Windows 7, short-term work-arounds are still possible (Virtual PC, Remote Desktop or using an older machine to run your farm applications). Long-term solutions—for FBS and other programs—may still be a few months off.

Ag Consultant Trusted Source

We’ve recently attended the annual meeting of the American Society of Agricultural Consultants in Nashville, Tennessee.
Founded in 1963, ASAC continues to be a premier organization for agricultural consultants worldwide. It’s a non-profit organization oriented around raising the standards and image of professional agricultural consultants. ASAC members have expertise in many agricultural disciplines including, Agricultural Food and Animal Production, Farm Management, Biotechnology, Farm Management, Finance, GPS/GIS Systems, Environment, Sustainability, Irrigation and many more.

ASAC’s Mission is to:

  • Maintain highest standards of certification and ethical behavior.

  • Provide quality member services and continuing education.

  • Maintain fiscally sound organization.

  • Help its members provide clients with the best objective advice. Match consulting needs with member expertise.

I’ve been a member of ASAC for ten years and highly recommend the professional services provided by its members to FBS clients. Likewise I highly encourage all consultants working within the FBS network to join ASAC. Click on this link for more information:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Welcome to Our New Interactive Format

Beginning this month our newsletter enters an exciting new era. Launched in 1981 as The Friendly Farm Computer Newsletter (later FarmSmart), this publication converted to a monthly all-electronic format in 2001. Now we're taking the next logical step--the "blogging" format to make FarmSmart more interactive and useful.
  • Rather than published just once a month, news will be disseminated several several times a week. Therefore, we encourage you to check this site regularly.
  • You are welcome to add your comments and questions directly, thereby adding value for everyone.