VB Programming

Variables

Programming is a process that requires us to organize our actions into three stages. These are:
  1. Entering information into the program.
  2. Processing the entered data.
  3. Outputing the results to a screen or a printer.
In this process we often find that we need to temporarily store data because we are not ready to process it just yet. For example when we calculate the payment due on a loan, we need to input the following information before the processing can occur.

Inputs Necessary for Loan Calculation
  • The amount of the loan.
  • The current interest rate.
  • The duration of the loan.
Until all three datum have been input, we cannot perform the calculation to determine the payment which will be due each period. So we cannot trigger the loan calculation after any of these three individual inputs occur, but we must wait until all three inputs have occurred before we can calculate.

The question is what do we do with each datum entered so that we will have it when we are ready to perform the calculation. The answer is simple. We put it in a safe place where we can go back and get it whenever we need it. If programming terms that 'safe place' is called a variable.

The beginning programmer in Visual Basic will usually say: "Well it is in a safe place, it is in the textbox where the user entered it," or "It is in the radiobutton which the user selected." They are correct, but only partly. In a simple programming we can indeed leave our data on the form and expect it to be there when we need it. However, as a person learns more about programming you learn that there are advantages to making a copy of the data which has been entered and storing it in a place which will not permit the user to accidentally change or remove it. The only real disadvantage is a bit of extra coding to create the variable and store the information in it.

Some of these adavantages are:
  • Data stored in a textbox is a string. If it is to be used as a number it must first be converted from string data type to one of the number data types. If we leave the data in the textbox then this conversion must be done everytime the data is needed. So the question is: should you do this conversion every time you need the datum or do it once and store the number as a number? Experience has shown that fewer conversions are more efficient and safer because there are fewer opportunities for errors to occur.
  • By storing the data we want to keep track of, we are certain to have it when we need it. A form's main purpose is to allow the user to input data, and to display output, not for holding or storing data. Information in textboxes and radiobuttons could be changed by the user. If we do not store the data we need to keep track of, it may not be there when we need it because it may have been accidentally or deliberately altered by the user. By placing the data in a variable we can control it better preventing the accidental or deliberate changing of our data.
  • Separating the entry of the data from the storage of the data allows us to check each time data is entered to see if it is the right kind of data. If it passes the error checks then we can store it in a variable. This way we are only asking our program to do one thing at a time. This is an approach which has been proven to be a more reliable way to do things for over fifty years.
  • Processing is sometimes done in stages. If we continually convert our data from number to string and back again we can lose precision. We should convert between data types as seldom as possible. Ideally that means twice: once just after the data is entered and second when we display the result for the user. The best way to do this is to use variables for data storage.
Examples of When a Variable can be Used
  • Q The data which has been input is stored in a textbox but it is not text data.
  • A Create a variable then convert the date to the proper data type and store it in that variable.
  • Q You have two numbers stored in two variables. How do you swap the numbers?
  • A Declare a third variable. Move second number into the third variable. Move first number into second variable. Now move second number, currently located in the third variable, into first variable.
  • Q You need to keep track of whether the data in your program has changed so that you will know whether the file needs to be saved.
  • A Declare a boolean variable and name it appropriately e.g. fileNeedsSaving When this variable is set to True the flie needs to be saved and when set to False it does not need to be saved. Now use this variable to note when your file needs saving. For example when we add data the file needs saving, When the file has just been saved it does not need saving.


Organizational Behaviour

Solving People Problems

Actually this article is not about solving people’s problems, it is about how to get people to do what you want them to do. The simplest context is that of working in a business, but the process is also applicable to personal situations. The central issue is how do you get someone to do what you want done? There is a rational process for doing this. It does require their cooperation, but assuming you have a common objective this is posible and does not have to invole blackmail or any other illeagal or immoral activity.

The Basics

Given a situation in which someone did not do what you wanted them to do, how do you get them to change their behaviour so they will do what you want rather than repeat the undesireable behaviour. If someone does not do as you want them to do, there are only two possible reasons for their behaviour.

First: they cannot do what you want them to do because they lack the ability to do it.
The first is an ability problem. They literally can not do what you want them to do. A quick example should help qualify this situation. If you are confronted by a robber who holds a gun to your head and demands that you give them a $100 bill. In this situation most of us want to do as the robber demands. We want to live! We are motivated! If we do not have the required bill giving the robber one hundred dollars will not do—he wants a one hundred dollar bill. Assuming you do not carry one hundred dollar bills on your person, this is an ability problem, No matter how much we want to do it we cannot because we do not have the demanded banknote.

Second: they want to do something else because they lack motivation to do what you want done.
The second situation is a direct clash of our desires and their desires. Here we must point out that you can only negotiate this situation if you do indeed have a common objective. We need to jointly examine the consequences of performing or not performing the desired behaviour. One person’s wants will prevail in this situation. In other words we will have a consequence off to determine whose wants will become uppermost. We want to motivate the other person to do what we want done.

Communicate

So our first action in our hypothetical situation mentioned above is to find out why the other person did what they did. We need information from them to understand which of the two possble reasons explain their behaviour. They we can determine what course of action we need to follow to change their behaviour.

However, two common obstacles commonly arise at this point. Let me illustrate with a couple short examples. Let us say an employee was late for work one morning and their supervisor catches up with them later that morning. What does the supervisor say?

"That was a bonehead move you pulled this morning!"

The employee now has to interpret this comment and respond. Several thoughts and responses are possible:
  • What did I do? There is uncertainty because the supervisor did not spell out the topic of discussion. Lack of specificity is hampering the communication. Some supervisors actually do this deliberately with the mistaken idea that a fishing expedition is good policy because it might turn up something they did not previously know about. In the long term baiting employees in this manner only causes them to clam up and say the minimum possible. The less that is said the harder time we have determining whether their problem is an ability problem or a motivation problem.
  • What does he know about? This is one step more paranoid than the above and also reduces the quantity and quality of the communication. Again we have determining whether their problem is an ability problem or a motivation problem.
  • Bonehead move? who does she think she is?’ This is the other main problem because now the employee will become defensive. How much communication takes place when we are defensive?
In this situation the supervisor needs to communicate specifically and non-threateningly. Something like this:

"Bill you were fifteen minutes late for work this morning, Help me understand what happened."

This is specific. Bill knows exactly what his supervisor is asking of him. It also invites Bill to share information rather than judging him or threatening him. The very fact that his supervisor brings it up also tells him that it matters and that he should not be late. Whatever Bill's reason for being late, the supervisor has invited a response and has not threatened him. Naturally, to be effective this message must be consistent in words, as well as in tone of voice and in non-verbal behaviour.


Continued here

Desktop Publishing

Genesis


In 1985 the introduction of an inexpensive laser printer (it sold for less than $5,000) and a software program from Aldus corporation called Pagemaker (cost about $1,000) triggered the creation of what today we call Desktop Publishing. Prior to the introduction of those two items, it was common to spend over $100,000 for computer hardware, software, image setters, and to hire a 'typesetter' or two and set up in business. By 1986 there were no more typesetters. Most of them had gone into business for themselves by buying a Macintosh computer, (Pagemaker only ran on Macintosh computers at the time) a laser printer and Pagemaker. Desktop Publishing allowed us to easily combine text and graphics on the same page, and anyone could do it!

The only advantage that typesetters had over a novice who bought the same equipment, was they knew what they were doing and how to do it quickly. The rest of us were on our own and what was produced by all those novices was thrilling, and at the same time rather chaotic. It took a few years for the novices to learn the rules that the typesetters knew well. Ironically the typesetters were in the best position to educate the rest of us, but by and large, they did not take up the gauntlet. The traditional way to learn the trade was to apprentice with an established typesetter and learn over time.

This is not an uncommon situation. When paradigms change it is the established people who have the first opportunity to take advantage of the changes. Often they are the last to see the inevitability of what is happening. So most of them resist such change, and it usually takes an outsider to see the real potential and act upon it. However this generalization is a story for another time.

One of the first people to provide instructions on how to get professional looking results with less time and effort was Robin Williams - the author and teacher not the commedian.

At this time a Maintosh computer could be purchased for about $2,000 to $3,000; the Laserwriter debuted at under $5,000, a real steal compared to other high quality printers at the time which could run as high as $100,000; and Pagemaker from Aldus Corporation weighed in at just under $1,000. For under $10,000 you were set up in the typesetting/publishing business. Just a year before a package of hardware and software to do the same thing had cost over $100,000. What an opportunity!

Of course, you could only actually do the first six steps of a traditional twenty-four step publishing process, but it was the most revolutionary advance since the introduction of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg and others in the 1400's.