Qualifications   BSc (Hons)
BSc (2.1) in Civil Engineering - Queens University Belfast
with effect from November 2023, I have relinguished
my Chartered Engineer (CEng) status
and my membership of the British Computer Society (MBCS)
formerly a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (MICE)
GCE A Levels in Maths, Physics and Art

About my work in Information Technology

I worked for over 30 years as a consultant and contractor in the IT sector,  trading in my early years under the name 'Rowan Associates' and then latterly as "Rowan IT Consultant".

Over these years,  I both supplied and built computers including optimising the operating systems and installing major office productivity solutions such as MS Office.  These computers were installed in local area networks with central Servers running MS server operating systems.  Internet access was provided to the networks initially via ISDN and then later via ADSL routers.  From the early 2010s onwards, my support work had been made easier by the adoption of various Remote Access tools.

early yearstop

In the early years of my business, a lot of my software supply, support and development work was concerned with provision of business management solutions for small businesses.  SAGE 50 software was always my first choice for accounting software.  However,  I also undertook a number of bespoke software development projects - such projects were inevitably relatively expensive but when developed closely in line with the client requirements,  invariably yielded very good long term returns on the initial investment.  In fact,  in 2020 at the time I originally wrote this page,  I had been working with a client who had been using software originally commissioned in the early 80s, which was then extensively developed over the period of late 80s into the 90s, and which was still running on Windows 10 computers in 2020  --- via virtual machines --- !

A particular thread running through my SAGE orientated software development work was about getting digital data in and out of SAGE.  This started in the early 1990s when I wrote the first SAGE add-ons to import product and cost data files supplied by Spicers of Cambridge,  who back then were the largest trade supplier of stationery and office products in the UK.  Over the 1990 and 2000 decades,  I developed a lot of SAGE for DOS add ons,  which were delivered on floppy disk and supported via the telephone  (those were the days ! ).

As Windows took over from DOS in the mid 2000s,  I moved away from programming for a while and focussed more on system supply and support.  Eventually I returned to programming using 'graphical user interface' (GUI) tools,  this representing a very large change in the philosophy of software design and execution.

The RAS_EDI project was started towards the end of the 2000 decade really in response to demand from existing clients.  All the lessons gained from supporting the SAGE for DOS style add ons were embedded in the design philosophy of RAS_EDI with the (largely) successful objective of reducing the amount of user knowledge required to operate the software.  I think RAS_EDI was a very easy package to operate in processing incoming data,  but, in the setup phase, required a good understanding of the SAGE 50 environment on the user site as well as the quirks of the various suppliers' data files.

RAS_EDI was developed using the PowerBasic Windows compiler (PBWin).  PBWin produces very compact and fast programs but perhaps requires a greater knowledge of how Windows works under the bonnet.  Notwithstanding that, I have created many PowerBasic 'applets' which I frequently embedded in other higher level applications.

As well as programming desktop applications,  during my journey,  I have also worked on the development of web sites some of which required server side data management in order to function.  Several of these web sites provided document management facilities at a time before Wordpress and similar 'easy to use by the less experienced developer' web tools became available.

towards the end of my career in ITtop

In the last decade or so, I did a lot of work using MS Access in developing larger applications. This was very interesting.  Despite its poor reputation as a professional programming tool,  I was able to quickly develop and maintain a number of sizeable applications all of which are running on small networks. One of the benefits of using MS Access is the adoption of the 'run time' module to deliver the finished application to the user.  All my Access projects used the MS Office 2007 runtime module,  which of course was (and is) no longer subject to updates from Microsoft - so nothing got broken as the latest and greatest version of Office was introduced.  MS Access front end modules can be easily packaged into a single setup file which then makes short work of the process of updating user installations.  In my opinion (which I haven't seen any reason to change), this was all good - good for the user and good for me.

Finally and as a footnote, I have lost count of the number of versions of Microsoft operating systems that I used (or avoided if at all possible):
- for workstations:  DOS,  95,  98,  ME ,  2000,  XP ,  Vista ,  7 ,  8   and 10
- and for servers:  NT4,  Server 2000,  Server 2003 and Server 2008.

Civil and Structural Engineering top

After graduating and prior to starting Rowan Associates,  I spent just under 20 years working in the civil and structural engineering sector, including 10 years as an Associate in a small Glasgow based firm of Civil and Structural Consulting Engineers.  In my time with the Consulting Engineering practice, I was privileged to have held a senior civil engineering role in a number of research projects involving large scale Renewal Energy installations.

I started to develop my interest in programming initially while at university and then in a more focussed manner in the Consulting Engineering practice.  My programming work for the consulting engineering practice was very technical in nature and included the development of structural analysis and road design software which ran on the first MSDOS IBM compatible personal computers.  I was also responsible for the introduction of very high resolution Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Drafting computers,  these being used in the  preparation of detailed ground and road layout drawings for small to medium sized housing developments.  It goes without saying that the road design software was able to feed digital data into the CAD systems,  thereby increasing the overall benefit of the investment.

Finally,  I would like to say that the project orientated approach to jobs that I was taught to apply while working as a civil and structural engineer stood me in good stead in my career in IT.  The most important knowledge gained was that every job always has many aspects which when properly taken into account then contribute to a more successful outcome.

 

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