Metroland Last Ticket to Ride Party - Say good bye

Metroland is almost gone, a few more weeks and it will merely be a memory for all the children and adults who have grown up with the fun of the fair at the Metro Centre Gateshead. To be redeveloped as a cinema metroland will be lost forever together with the Zierer Tivoli custom coaster.

There is a competition running at the moment for the "Last Ticket to Ride Party" that some may be interested in:


Last Ticket to Ride Party Competition

 We have to make the effort this month to get down and ride the rides before they go...


Alton Towers - Rita bunker and Hex behind the scenes

Our first European Coaster Club trip was to Alton towers for the first day of the season last weekend.

We had been to Alton a couple of weeks before when the ponds were frozen and it hurt to ride due to the near zero temperatures causing frost bite on your face however it was restricted opening as it was still closed season. This weekend everything was open, well by eleven o'clock (except for the sky ride post fire work still going on). We managed to arrive for just after nine and got on the front row of Nemesis while no one else had arrived.

Alton Towers Teacups now Mauraders MayhemWe got to see the newly re-themed pirate area, last time very under construction, now finished off together with the new water ride, and even better there were hundreds of pirates walking around the park from various pirate societies. Many of them looked uncannily like Mr. Dep. It was a great day not too busy with the pirates been very well behaved for pirates, lots of "argh"ing going on though. 

It was really nice to be so welcomed by the EEC members. We enjoyed completing the Alton Challenge where we had to find the answers to a list of clues given to us around the park. We thought it was our first trip and didn't want to be too disgraced, so we diligently went around finding out as much as we could, and ended up a very respectful 3rd. As we'd only been in the park a couple of weeks before we'd already found our coaster legs so didn't mind not riding too many rides.

Alton towers HEX drive wheelThe evening brought us to a look at the under belly of HEX the ride. We got to watch the ride go through its program from the outside. I learnt it is not a Huss ride but built by Verkoma. It was really cool to be allowed into see this as it is something that I've always wanted to see and we could not have seen it much closer, my nose almost getting sliced off as it rotated. We had previously nearly got to seeHex by going to one of the Alton behind the scenes tours last year, but Clare was too ill to go. At last the secrets were revealed and we also got to ride with all the AV switched off. Everyone was interested by how quiet it was. Personally I thought the music was to mask the ride motors, not the case!
Then we got some extended ride time on Rita, in the rain -that was painful, but sort of fun. It was very dark by this time too, with just a couple of flood lights lighting the station, they are very sensitive about lighting at night so as to not upset the local residents. It was an honour to be invited into the hydraulics bunker to see the hydraulic motor launch the train. We also were told all about the instrumentation used to measure the launches and conditions of the cables. Very interesting to an engineer like me!

Next we were brought around The Towers by some professional ghost hunters. This didn't really work for me as I've always found The Towers very welcoming and homely. I couldn't get into the teenage switch the lights off and lets tell stories to scare ourselves frame of mind - sorry. That said I am very glad to have experienced it so at least I know it is not my cup of tea!

The evening finished off with an evening buffet that was really high quality. It was just what I needed after a long day at the park. Everywhere was looking smart for the new season; it is nice to see the place getting better every year. It was also nice to see the restored stained glass windows back in the chapel, worth a look if you are on your way past after riding Hex. You must also check out the conservatory on the way out, the glass is almost all back in! It was said that even the kite marks on the glass have had to be hidden in the putty of the frames to keep the conservation officer happy.
Sometimes I think when you look at the overall state of the towers, worrying about small details like this is inappropriate. Does it have to be restored so precisely. Is it not better that something happens rather than running even bigger bills up by pandering to such requests...? Alton Towers Hex behind the scenes, underbelly

The my day people were out in force at the park, the new video of my day system was under test and they thought would go live the next day. Shame they didn't use us as guinea pigs. 

Super day, great people and I've included links to the launch and Hex.

Special thanks to staff that stayed back on a wet cold night to let us see what we could only have dreamed of seeing and talking to me on a none patronising level about the technical stuff.    


29/03/2008 Edit - Justin has uploaded photos now from the trip, see

Dynamics GP Warehouse Despatch Fulfilment .NET

Some years ago I wrote a lovely bit of software to that allowed us to gain much more control over the way that orders are handled by the warehouse at despatch.

Once an order is sent to the "Warehouse" Batch a custom windows service prints off a pick list for that order or sends the order to a "Pending Stock" batch if it is awaiting allocation of more goods due to pending purchase orders or stock shortages. The order is checked for weight and manual handling warnings are printed on the pick if any item requires special handling as does notice get applied should there be hazodous chemicals or problems with air frieghting the item. The picklist is then added to a despatch screen as awaiting picking and fulfilment.

The operative takes the pick list from the printer and goes off to pick the order (version II was always  intended to feed the virtual picklist to PDA's that the staff would carry, not got that one done yet!). Once they have the pick complete, the items are weighed and they then scan the barcode on the picklist at the despatch terminal. The terminal asks the user for the weight of the consignment cartons/boxes and the dimentions if they are exceptional or for export. The wizard then asks for the picker, checker and despatcher names for that pick. Finally it caculates the best carrier for the consignment depending on the weight, if the order has none stock items (thus would be delay if item was to be lost in normal post), if the value of the consignment is over a threshold, the time of day (to catch the next carrier arriving), dimentions are checked for those supported by different carriers, including if the consignment is on a pallet. The soup is stirred and a service and carrier selected to get the items to the customer by the time they requested.

A despatch note is printed by the despatch terminal and tracking numbers are obtained from the carrier systems, and labels printed off for the parcels, and xml sent to the carrier machines so they know all about what they have to deliver.

It automates much more such as preventing duplicate despatches, taking notice of process holds and customer credit issues, charging Credit cards if they were applied to the order, its great!

However I've another company implemenation to do over the next couple of weeks, we are putting Dynamics GP into a computer periferal company that we aquired. Although they have very similar requirements to those already existing they also add in the complexity of a trade counter operation. This means the software now needs to support sales staff at the counter fulfilling orders, producing invoices etc. Cool - I like a challenge. Thus I've cracked open the solution file and started having a look at how it all works again as a refresher to see what needs adapting for the next implementation. Now I've realised that times have moved on with GP and .NET. We now have the WCF and the WPF to help me out together with better webservices in GP. All this application is direct to table, which was the only way to go when it was written, econnect was an arm and a leg and laden with bugs. Now it is a mature affordable soution - thanks MS!

Thus I start thinking about where to go as I also have to think about multiple binning that was never used in the old implementation. This is where you have stock held in multiple locations in the warehouses and set priority for where the stock should be drawn from. Useful if you wish to keep bulk stock up a height and draw it down to accessable locations further down the racks. This lead me to a blog of interest where Jacob sounds he is in a similar suituation to my own using similar technology sets to solve the problems. Jacob also has some interesting posts on development to read.

Now I just need to get my skates on and work out how to get my application working for next week....


Nolan Computers Credit Control Dynamics GP v9 SP3

Just a note if you use the Nolan Computers Credit Control module for Dynamics GP. 
We just went to apply the SP3 release to our clients and server only to find that it caused issues with Nolan credit windows.

As it happens we had been considering migrating to the native module now available with GP, so we have now got the keys for the native module and will be moving to that in the near future. I will cover that when we get to it. Aparently there is no migration wizard...

I'm certain a new release of Nolan will be available in a few days to cover SP3 so contact them if you want to keep using the product. We'd rather jump ship to the natively supported version and be carried along for the ride with whatever enhancments come our way. I doubt there are any plans to do much work with Nolan with the native verion now available.