Windows 10 Build 1903

Windows 10 Build 1903

Microsoft has released Windows 10 Build 1903 in the month of August 2019 and has been gradually rolling out the availability to downloads to end-users. However, the availability of this update is not user-controlled and is being controlled by Microsoft. This is resource-hogging, time-consuming process is similar to what was experienced with the Windows 10 Upgrades from Windows 7 and Windows 8… meaning that no one should expect this finish in a timely manner, so it should only be done during off-hours.

Failing to do this could mean that with some older, slower registers, they could end-up being non-operational for at least half a day or more.

Some finer points:

  • The installation packet is several Gigabytes in size, so the downloads take a really long time. So while this is offering is being provided as part of the standard Windows Update, the entire process this is going to affect bandwidth, especially for users who have only basic Internet service, limited bandwidth and/or use multi-site.
  • The typical download times can be as great as 4 hours, plus another 2 – 4 hours for the actual installation to fully complete.
  • The entire installation process requires multiple automatic restarts of the computer. – It is important that the end-user NOT intervene with this process by physically powering off the PC or register, as doing that is will corrupt the operating system.
  • Of note: The previous Homegroup feature has been completely removed from the operating system.

– John

Washington State Family and Medical Leave Update for July 2019

Washington State Family and Medical Leave Update for July 2019

Paid Family and Medical Leave reporting and payment requirements have now changed for the Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 of 2019.

As of July 1st, 2019, you will now not only be required to submit your quarterly reports, but you will now be required

to make your business payments for both the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2019.

Information on reporting requirements can be found at:

https://www.paidleave.wa.gov/reporting

After gathering all of the reporting data requirements, the Employer needs to log into the Employers Secure Access Washington account in order to make a payment.

https://secureaccess.wa.gov/myAccess/saw/select.do

If you don’t currently have a SAW account, the need to first sign-up in order to be able to make payments. You will be required to have your UBI number.

If you don’t know your UBI number, you can look this up at:

bls.dor.wa.gov/checkstatus.aspx

If you use a 3rd party administrator, CPA, or business manager, make sure that they plan to submit your Q1 and Q2 payments on your behalf.

More information for 3rd party administrators can be found at:

paidleave.wa.gov/employer-agents

Of note… when signing your employer agent up, you will need to request an access pin number. This process may require a 3-5 day wait before the actual pin number is

sent to you.

– John

Advances in Automated Delivery Services.

Advances in Automated Delivery Services.

While plans for using automated drones to deliver packages have been around for quite some time, what is not commonly known is that that are actually other similar types of delivery services already in operation throughout the world.

A recent example of this involves smaller automated delivery services such as the experimental Amazon Prime “Scout” delivery service which has been undergoing testing in the small town of Snohomish, WA

Link to a recent article: https://www.cnet.com/news/amazons-scout-robots-thats-no-cooler-thats-your-prime-delivery/

Eventually, these types of services will likely expand into all areas of retailing:

As examples:

  • You could be online ordering groceries from a local grocery store and have the items delivered at your convenience.
  • You are physically at the grocery store and realize that have you have to run other errands and don’t want your food items to spoil in your hot car. – You could have all or a portion of the purchases delivered later via automated delivery on your terms.
  • Hot and cold meal deliveries – Things such as takeout meals, luxury restaurant meals and perishable items like ice cream could be delivered via heated or refrigerated drones.
  • Potentially, this could eventually involve larger delivery vehicles delivering items such as garden soil, lumber for your new deck, or bricks for your new patio.

– John

How the Wayfair Decision Affects You.

How the Wayfair Decision Affects You

Four primary facets of the law.

1. The law applies only to sellers who run a substantial amount of business in the state of South Dakota.

So what qualifies as substantial?

The state can’t just tax any seller. They can only tax sellers who have reached what is commonly referred to as a “minimum presence threshold.” For South Dakota, a threshold placed on total sales and/or total transactions.

Retailers with annual sales that either exceed $100,000 or that have more than 200 separate transactions in the state must set up their POS and sales systems to collect and pay taxes for the state.

2. The state had a simplified standardized tax code that was easy to comply with.

South Dakota is part of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA), along with sixteen other states. These states share a simpler, more uniform tax system, which includes everything from product definitions to tax policy. The simplicity and uniformity of it removes some of the “undue burdens” of doing business in a different state and complying with their tax laws.

That said, cost of compliance remains a huge concern for some Court Justices and business owners everywhere.

As part of the decision, Justice Roberts expressed concerns in his final comments as:

“Correctly calculating and remitting sales taxes on all e-commerce sales will likely prove baffling for many retailers. Over 10,000 jurisdictions levy sales taxes, each with ‘different tax rates, different rules governing tax-exempt goods and services, different product category definitions, and different standards for determining whether an out-of-state seller has a substantial presence’ in the jurisdiction.”

3. The law will not tax out-of-state businesses for past sales.

This means that online retailers are legally protected from any retroactive taxes being assessed by any state or local municipality.

4. The state is providing free tax software to remote retailers.

The cost of compliance with all the various state and local taxes is a concern, and there was a concern that sales tax compliance software would not be available immediately or within the near future. Also, while there was confidence that the free market would quickly provide affordable solutions. Another caveat to this Court ruling was that only Congress actually has authority over this issue, and politicians could write legislation that contradicts or supersedes the Court’s ruling.

Because of the profit potential, many states are now following South Dakota’s lead in mimicking this new law.

How does this potentially impact you?

  • States can tax remote sellers.
  • Retailers must track sales levels and tax law changes in all states where they do business.
  • Retailers must set up operations to collect tax wherever they sell, and then pay taxes on each state’s schedule, so this could require substantial additional business overhead in order to be compliant, especially if a business doesn’t have good reporting software on hand.
  • Competing for business now presents a more even playing field. So If an online business must start charging tax, they lose the competitive advantage of being tax-free. This makes remote retailers more vulnerable to competitors,

including local brick-and-mortar shops. Huge online business such as Amazon are least likely to notice much of an impact because of the sheer scale of their business and their profit volumes. It’s feared that many small merchants will really suffer as a result of this ruling, however, if they don’t reach the minimum presence threshold, then they aren’t affected at all.

Medium-sized businesses might feel this the most, as they will be required to take on the pressures of tracking tax law changes, tracking their own sales volumes in each states taxing jurisdiction, and then actually collecting and paying the sales

tax when they need to.

– John

Is there a Gap in your GAAP?

Is there a Gap in your GAAP?

GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practice) standards are often overlooked. Things that you should look for are:

1. Running edit lists to review transactional data before posting it in batch. – This allows you to catch any errors or omissions prior to posting.

2. Documents that you create should always have unique numbers. This would be true regardless of what area of the software that the document being created in.

Examples: POS Orders and Invoices, A/P Vouchers and Checks (paper and EFT), Payroll Checks, General Journal numbers, etc.

3. Auditing as you go – Whenever you are doing transaction input, after auditing your work, you should have another staff member review it before you post it.

4. Grouping transactions by date or period– As you are making any adjustments, make sure that all adjustments that are posted together are on the same date and/or within the same accounting period – Meaning don’t post entries dated in January with activity for February or March.

Typically, in most software applications, a document number is considered a Primary Key, so it should be considered “Unique” and would not be duplicated. However, there are some programs where it might be a Secondary key where multiples might be allowed, such as using a sequence Number, such as when using duplicate entries and historical tables such as Check History (e.g. checks, voids for the same checks, or manual payments, EFT transactions, etc.).

Just because a program might allow you to insert duplicate data, that isn’t necessarily a good thing to do

Even in situations where the programming might allow for this sort of thing, a duplicate document number might cause other issues with software functionality. -As examples.

• Unique document numbers make auditing easier. If an auditor sees a lot of duplicate documents, it may prompt the auditor to dig deeper looking for other accounting irregularities, thereby artificially extending the length of the audit. An example of this sort of this would be a local, state or federal tax audit.

• A Ticket/Invoice number exists in history multiple times – So A user runs a report on ticket #54653 without having specified a date or date range. The subsequent report returns a dozen documents created over a period of 10 years.

• Problems posting – I have seen examples where end-users have used the same invoice number dozens of times. When they try to post a new voucher using the same invoice number, the program may hang or crash while it attempting multiple times to create a “New” document for one that already existed previously. As an example, the program might be writing data for the same document into history a dozen times, and they just stop the attempts to write the new data.

The worst example of this that I have seen so far, is with one vendor that 21 manual payments on file using an invoice and check number of “SUPPLIES”

In this case, a better example of document number creation would have been to enter numbers in a format like the following: “SUPMMDDYY” (e.g. SUP042519… or Supplies for 04/25/2019), or “VendNoPrefixMM252019) (e.g. BOS042519, Bobs Office Supplies for 04/25/2019).

Check number and Invoice numbers should always be auto-assigned.

If you have any questions or need assistance with the creating your own document number assignment schema, please contact the CCS Retail Systems Support department.

– John

Using Proper Physical Count Procedures

Using Proper Physical Count Procedures

It’s always a good idea to make copious notes about physical count configuration and usage issue and to review them prior to doing the actual work.

Typically, this process would include:

  • Making backups of current data. – Typically, this would involve backing-up the full database.
  • Archiving old count files for previous periods or years. – This would ensure that old files are not accidentally imported.
  • Making sure that PDT’s (Physical count device) batteries are fully charged, and that any old count data is cleared from the devices.
  • Training staff who will actually be doing the work to properly use both the software and hardware functions.

Taking this proactive approach is vitally important, especially if you only do inventories once a year or less frequently. Failing to do this can mean a potential disaster waiting to happen…

As an example…

An end-user who had just completed a physical count determined that ALL of the adjusted inventory levels were wrong for all of their locations.

In working with the counter staff, the following was later determined:

  • When importing the count file into the default PDT’s (Physical count device) software directory, the file downloaded was named the same as what it was last year and downloaded to PDT software’s default directory.
  • However, their default NCR Counterpoint parameter was pointing to a different import folder than the PDT software default. When the staff imported the count file, they were actually importing the previous year’s physical count file. – No one had checked the date of the file or the content before importing it.
  • After importing the count file, the user did a blind post the count data without checking any of the data, and just let the system to adjust all items not counted to zero.

To compound matters…

  • No backup of the existing CounterPoint data files was done prior to the start of the import process. – This means that they had no recourse but to restart the physical count process.
  • The count file had obvious errors in it (Barcodes scanned into the quantity field; Quantities input into the barcode field; Blank Quantities; etc.). – The NCR Counterpoint software has both a verify function that can be used prior to importing data and various worksheets that can be used for reviewing and validating data.
  • Other users had started multiple physical count snap-shots that involved many of the same items. Some of these has been open for as long as a year.
  • On detecting the initial problem, the staff repeated the exact same import/post process (using the wrong file) at least twice, before finally creating a new physical count, and without doing any imports, then zeroed-out

the entire inventory for that location.

The one saving grace here was the current year’s count file uploaded not been deleted, nor had the PDT been purged after the upload.

If you are unsure of any part of the physical count process, CCS Retail Systems can provide both training and technical assistance prior to starting the count, as well as ongoing process support during the actual count.

– John

Some good reasons to keep your software subscriptions current

Some good reasons to keep your software subscriptions current

  1. License key validation – Most software subscriptions are issued with an annual license that requires a renewal in order to be either installed as either a new installation or re-installed as of the current date.

As examples:

  • The currently installed application software is only supported running on the currently installed operating system. If you want to move the installation to a newer server or workstation operating system environment, you’ll need to have a current license key in order to physically move or update the software.
  • Passport will not let you either re-install software or install new software using an old expired license. This means that you are required to renew your subscription first.
  1. The application software environment becomes corrupted over time – This requires re-installing the software or a service pack which may require downloading software. – Many software applications now have huge installation files, this can be true whether or not you plan on doing a full installation or simply installing an incremental service pack.

For example:

  • If your NCR CounterPoint Subscription license isn’t current, you will not be able to download any software, or access NCR’s customer support website. Considering that it is common for downloads to be several gigabytes in size, it can take hours just to do the downloads prior to any installation attempt even being made. Not having this as of a specific deadline date, can mean having to reschedule a critical installation or cause you and your organization some unwanted hardship or downtime. Inability to access the website can mean not being able to download installation and configuration manuals or updated training manuals.
  1. Some of your software applications stop working – If a license expires, it may take time to get it renewed.

For example:

  • Your ShipRush or StarShip shipping software and interface to NCR CounterPoint expires. Until the license is renewed, you will not be able to use the shipping software or the software interface for NCR Counterpoint.

Please contact the CCS Support department if you have any questions or for assistance with updating your software subscriptions.

– John

New Twists Ransomware and Spear Phishing Attacks

New Twists on Ransomware Spear-phishing Attacks

In recent years we have seen an increase both the number of spear phishing campaigns, and increased ingenuity as to the ways that scammers try to assist you in getting your systems infected, or attempt to fleece you out of money.

In the past, this may have been something sent via emails that used official-looking emails complete with a financial institution’s corporate logo, or they could get phone calls from a fake bank account executive. The email or caller could tailor an email to the customer with personalized information they downloaded, making it seem like it was a legitimate email.

The fake bank account executive or emailer would then indicate there is an urgent problem with the customer’s account, and then ask for birthdates, Social Security numbers or passwords. The virtual trap could also be set by the official-looking email asking customers to click on a link embedded in the email to, say, update their account information. However, the link takes the unsuspecting victim to a fake but legitimate-looking website, where the customer is then tricked into listing passwords, bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, user ID’s, access codes, and PIN’s.

Some recent twists on the above are:

An email that spoofs your email account in the emails “sent from” field. The body of the scammer’s email claims that they have already hacked into your system via a porn or adult dating website that you “supposedly” recently visited. The email indicates a direct threat to email explicit photos or videos to all of the contacts in your email system, specifically to your employer, and/or the police, if you don’t send money to a specific destination as of a specific date and time.

One or both of the following may be included:

  • Instructions on where to go to pay the ransom.
  • Clickable links that direct you to site to pay a ransom, and/or a link that actually infects your system with encryption malware, which subsequently locks you out of your system, with another ransom demand in order to get a key to un-encrypt your drive(s).

Typically, the best thing to doing in these situations is to immediately delete the email, and clear it out of your mail deleted mail folder and the follow-up with staff on how to be diligent about recognizing and handling these sorts of threats.

– John

Passport Version 12.06 Update 2

Passport Business Solutions
Passport Business Solutions

Passport Version 12.06 Update 2

With the release of PBS 12.06, Passport completes a major infrastructure project on field expansions that were begun with the v. 12.05 release. Enhancements for PBS v.12.06 now include:

  • Expanded field sizes for both the name and addresses in Customer, Ship-to, and Contact files.
  • Field expansions in A/R, O/E, POS and Customer Order Processing in PBS Manufacturing.
  • Professional Time & Billing fields expanded.
  • PO # expanded to 30 characters to accommodate Amazon and other vendors.
  • Approximately 12-14 new Accounts Payable reports have been created
  • There are three new SSRS reports that replace CounterPoint version 7.5 related reports that were used with wholesale distributors.
  • PBS 12.06 includes a new runtime, version 10.2, so this is not an update-in-place, and requires exporting of existing data, a fresh software install and the use of EZ Convert utility to migrate your existing data to the new format.

Also, Passport 12.06 SQL installation has some significant software and configuration prerequisites detailed as follows.

  • Currently, for server environments, MS Server 2008 and MS Server 2012 are supported server operating systems.
  • MS SQL Server 2014 with MS SQL Reporting Services is recommended for Passport 12.06, MS SQL Server 2008 and or MS SQL Server 2012 with Advanced Tools are supported, however, MS SQL Report Service must also be installed prior to installing Passport 12.06.
  • Like Passport 12.05, the CashPoint interface for Passport 12.06 is NOT compatible with NCR Counterpoint version prior to version 8.5, so your NCR Counterpoint software may need to be upgraded as well

Please consult the CCS Support department if you have any questions on the above release.

– John

New System Implementation Planning

New System Implementation Planning

Some things that you can do to prevent complications related to new software systems implementation.

1. Verify existing hardware, operating system, and software infrastructure meets or exceeds the minimum requirements for the new software well ahead of time. Update to meet prerequisite beforehand.

2. Read all of the documentation related to the entire data migration process and software implementation process in advance. This allows you to be apprised of any issues that might adversely affect your staff.

3. Plan to have a thorough test migration done well in advance of the intended go-live date.

4. Get proper training on the new software in advance of doing either a test migration or a live migration. Enough time should be allowed between a test data migration and the final go-live date to do testing. Proper testing of both the software and data is critical prior to the final live data migration to get more familiar with the software and proof the software configuration and the integrity of the data migration.

** Testing should include end-users’ replication of normal work processed over several days of live data that was done in their old system. Limited generic test data may not reveal the subtler issues that will be encountered in actual use.

Data migrations can go awry for several reasons, most often these bad situation scenarios can be avoided.

Some examples include …

  • Data Migrations where excessive corrupt historical data is present.

The MIS person for a longtime Counterpoint version 7.5 user did an in-house test migration to the newer NCR Counterpoint software.

This particular company has a long-term policy to never purging history of any kind. At the time of their test, the company MIS person indicated it took him over a month of clean-up work before the migrated data could be considered usable. Further, he indicated that a lot of the corrupt data was related in older history records (and this was especially so with transaction dates). The company had detailed transaction history going back over 30 years. Typically, most retailers only keep around

2 years’ worth of sales history. Unless one has warranty related issues 30+ years of historical data may be excessive.

The migration plan was to start the live upgrade on a future Friday night and be live by the following Monday morning. This approximately 48+ hour time frame would be considered very aggressive even under the best of circumstances. The company required over a month just editing out corruption data from their test conversion. Other issues may arise that make 48 hours to go live difficult to achieve! A less aggressive plan would be a better approach.

  • Trying to use the new software on older hardware and unsupported older operating systems.

This approach can be a recipe for disaster resulting in migration failure with damage to your data.

In one recent example, a business owner copied his current updated software installation onto a really old server that was running an obsolete, unsupported operating system.

The software was failing due to insufficient memory and system resources. Software/operating system conflicts were also corrupting data. When attempting to run file rebuild utilities, and detailed history reports, the performance of the software was made the software functionally unusable. File rebuild operations on the obsolete system took 6 hours instead of less than 4 minutes on the current systems to be used after migration. Reports required similarly took hours rather than minutes as they could have.

  • Indefinite implementation postponement followed by the decision to go live without all of the appropriate parties being adequately coordinated.

A partially complete implementation project was on hold indefinitely. Months later the store was scheduled to go live on a specific date, but this was not communicated adequately to the rest of the migration team. The assumed prerequisite set-up and configuration work required had been not been performed beforehand. This massive amount of work could not be completed with the less than 12 hours prior notice considering it involved a complete redo/reconfiguration of the software and core data before it could be used in any form.

  • Incorrect or incomplete data being provided to tech support people.

Data provided to CCS tech support is imported into a test system for review. If Incorrect or incomplete data is provided it cannot be reviewed and prepared for use properly. On the scheduled go-live date required data may not be found on the system or corrupt data may be missed in the preparation tasks.

Some critical food for thought!

– John