The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Smallholding => Equipment => Topic started by: Norfolk Newby on September 10, 2009, 10:59:23 am

Title: Computers
Post by: Norfolk Newby on September 10, 2009, 10:59:23 am
Sorry if I am stretching the term 'Equipment' beyond its breaking point!

I was looking through the Forum and saw an advertisement for a software tool - Talend Open Studio - and wondered what it was about. It turns out to be a sort of database creation tool. That set me thinking about using computers to help manage a smallholding operation.

Does anyone have any thoughts on computers as tools in this context or useful software.

I have a little knowledge of spreadsheets and databases. I used to make quite complicated spreadsheets and have made a few databases as well. All of this was done with Excel and Access so nothing that fancy. My career has been spent trying to keep engineering projects on the rails which has meant storing and organising quite a lot of information on schedules, parts, suppliers, etc.

However, I can imagine if you have a lot of suppliers or customers or possibly a herd of beasts, a database would be useful provided it works and you feel in control rather than the wretched software being in control of you.

I use an office computer all the time and have a small laptop which goes with me on 'field' trips (mine and customers, also to shows, etc.).

Linking up digital cameras, GPS and other devices to a computer can make then much more useful as well.

Anyway, anyone got any thoughts on what works and what to avoid?
Title: Re: Computers
Post by: Fluffywelshsheep on September 10, 2009, 11:07:05 am
spreadsheet who be good to keep control of vet bill, well bills in general for even a cash flow/balance sheet

Databases would be good for keep an eye on the vaccinations etc for animals
Title: Re: Computers
Post by: doganjo on September 10, 2009, 11:54:30 am
I have used the Microsoft Office products all my working life (well from when they first arrived on the scene, anyway ;))  They are as good as you'll get unless you go into a full blown accountancy programme like Opera, Sage and the like.  I doubt if any of the farming software would be much better to be honest.  The only difference is that they have pre-defined fields programmed in.  I personally would prefer to set these up as part of a bespoke system on Excel and Access.  Also if you have these already why spend huge amounts of cash that could be utilised elsewhere - buying more animals, food, machinery etc? Hope that is helpful.
Title: Re: Computers
Post by: sunnyjohn on September 12, 2009, 09:24:05 pm
Hi Norfolk Newbie, I'm inclined to agree with doganjo Annie. Microsoft have their critics and cynics, but they've been in the field a long time and have rather established industry standards. Specialist programmes may be better for a full-blown business, but there are better things to spend your money on, especially these days!

One (of many) valuable attributes I've found with Access (databases) and Excel (spreadsheets) is that you can VERY easily migrate or connect data between them, or use a spreadsheet or database (usually a 'Query' within the data) as the source for a mail-shot, address labels, or other mail-merges. You can also insert hyperlinks to connect web resources into something you're building/developing for your own use. It saves copying and pasting pages (and using up your memory), and means you always get the up-to-date web-page when you use it.

Doubtless, there are talented teenagers who'd scoff at my reactionary views, while themselves capable of rattling off a bespoke system after lunch one day...! But as I'm not one of them and havent any to hand, I'll settle for the proven reliable Microsoft Office product, acknowledge it does have quirks, and get the best out of them for what I want.

Also, training and advice is more available for them. The 'European Computer Drving Licence' (ECDL) is a recognised I.T. qualification that's based on MS Office software, and is the standard for people using I.T. in their work. You'll probably be able to enrol on a local Adult Education class based on ECDL, or find something in a local library to help get you started. And there's loads of stuff on the internet, too (obviously...??).

Good luck!   John
Title: Re: Computers
Post by: doganjo on September 12, 2009, 09:49:12 pm
You'll probably be able to enrol on a local Adult Education class based on ECDL, or find something in a local library to help get you started. And there's loads of stuff on the internet, too (obviously...??).

And if you do this and apply for an ILA account you'll only pay £10 if you have earnings less than £18K
Title: Re: Computers
Post by: Norfolk Newby on September 13, 2009, 09:54:21 am
I was looking for suggestions like useful bits of software, computers that don't mind the wet or other gadgets that you can use with them.

Thanks for your comments. I am reasonably competent with Excel/Access but why spend time inventing a wheel if there is one free to download off the internet?

The only thing I have against Microsoft is that each version of their Office products is different from the last. Macros which worked fine need to be rewritten which is tedious. It's happened to me a couple of times now so I have limited myself to very simple stuff.

The other aspect of computers these days is the access they give to web sites like this one. So I tend to follow up links to see what is offered and use Google to check on product names even if they are about things I don't need immediately. My Bookmarks list is pretty large and I keep text files on generic area like 'tools', 'chemicals' and so on in order to find web pages when I do need the products. I almost need a database to keep them all organised!

However, please don't think I am complaining. I am very grateful for your suggestions.


Title: Re: Computers
Post by: Norfolk Newby on September 13, 2009, 12:10:58 pm
Just to add substance to my comments, I had a look for some software and equipment suitable for smallholders.

Obviously, I found a lot of stuff more suited to farmers (both large and small). Their needs are different but it serves to illustrate what a lot of software there is (too much?!).

Anyway, to take this to a conclusion, I found this web site which lists a range of products. I did a search on 'small' and that helped cut down the number of links worth looking at.

While doing this search I also came across equipment (OK, gadget) suppliers. This one was typical:-

The only interesting ideas were software products that linked things on the land to their location. This could be plants, machines, water supply (taps, pipes, wells), and buildings. The software employs GPS equipment which limits the accuracy but still could be useful.

However, the best recommendation is from someone who has tried these things and found them useful.

Title: Re: Computers
Post by: cmorrell on September 13, 2009, 02:10:17 pm
I've been watching this thread since you started it as the initial post interested me. My non-photography history is in IT, a good part of which as a systems designer. Unfortunately I'm nothing more than a wannabe smallholder at present, so while I have the skills to design a system, I wouldn't have a clue what it would need to do! Then it would be a minor (ha!) task of finding some coders to implement the design.

I suspect the most useful option would be to design a framework rather than an application. Perhaps if there is some aspect which would be useful to ALL (or the vast majority) of users, then that could form the core of the system. On top of that, pluggable modules could be designed which would integrate seamlessly with the core system. This would allow a module to be designed and developed at any point in the future when the need has been established and wouldn't require everything to be considered up front.

It would not be a small task, however!
Title: Re: Computers
Post by: marigold on September 13, 2009, 10:06:52 pm
Just in case there are any budding Iphone app designers out there looking for ideas for the next ace app................
I would like one that will record the number and ages of my hens and then each day I could record how many eggs and over a year it would show patterns of laying etc. It would also predict how many eggs I will get in November based on previous stats.....
Any takers???????????

SOmebody has designed a programme like this for womens' menstrual cycles now how about hens????????

What else would we like????
An easy app for measuring how many courgettes one variety produces over another?

Title: Re: Computers
Post by: cmorrell on September 13, 2009, 10:10:40 pm
If you ever feel like travelling to Glasgow at a set time, I can get you talking to a few iPhone devs..
Title: Re: Computers
Post by: marigold on September 13, 2009, 10:43:30 pm
Thanks for the offer but its easy for me to think of briliant ideas sitting on the sofa, with a glass of wine. I may well be totally out of my depth talking to someone who knows what they're doing. My OH is a computer engineer and I'm afraid i start snoring gently soon after the third sentence. I can read the sales pitch on itunes and download an app though :D
Title: Re: Computers
Post by: moltonfarm on February 10, 2010, 01:25:06 am
I don't know if this helps, but I found a place on the internet that is selling farm software for sheep and cattle which is something I wanted for our place. They offer a couple of handheld options - not sure if this is what I'm going to need, but it works for electronic tag animals too.  They have local guys in england and wales so hopefully they can sort out how I can monitor my farm movements too.

Their site is called Farmaware.  Spoke to a guy called james this morning and it sounds okay to me, they're sending me a disk today,

cheers, Chris (
Title: Re: Computers
Post by: supplies for smallholders on February 25, 2010, 10:55:32 am

Just to add some more companies to the list - have a look at these (they are nothing to do with me so dont ask me any questions about them :-) )

Agridata (Thistle Ltd)
0844 500 2220
Border Software
01938 820625
Digital Farm
Cwmni Cefn Gwlad
01286 830459
NMR (Nation Milk Recording)
0870 162 2547
01643 841611