AV EcoSystem Review Painful Decisions

11 Jan 2018

hardest thing and the right thing

The APSoc has responded calmly to the email I sent about the problems with LibreOffice Base. Here’s what I sent:

Thanks for this.

That’s disturbing to hear that you’re experiencing lock up. We have been experiencing that too, but only with the system in edit mode, i.e. editing the UI, tables etc. updates to tables have been working fine. These lock ups are pretty much what caused us to be late delivering last week. That you’re encountering them to makes me think that we have a particularly tricky issue to solve here and some important decisions to make.

Rest assured that the problems fall on our side and not yours. We’ve given a fixed quote for this, and will do whatever is necessary to deliver robust and stable software by the final deadline however many additional hours are required on our side.

I’m going to be discussing the options in a team meeting today, and will come back to you with some alternative approaches to consider by the end of the day. In the meantime I notice that, in the database pack we originally received from you, there are a number of file formats including XLSX, but notably we do not have an XLSX formatted file for the subscription or members tables; while we do have them for the gift aid, member types and recurring subs tables. Is there any chance you could provide XLSX files for the subscription and members tables as this would help with debugging and testing alternatives.

Many thanks in advance

Best, Sam

They responded with:

Ah-ha … thanks for this … I’m glad it isn’t just me getting lock-ups and being stupid! The lock-ups seem to happen as soon as I select “Queries” and use the Wizard. Sometimes it just locks Libre and I can continue with other things; at other times everything locks until I kill Libre. If I then try to restart Libre and access the beta file I get “General Error: General input/output error” until I refresh the Libre file from the supplied one. This also happens if I try creating anything more than a very simple report.

As well as including the files I requested and answering a few other outstanding questions and some other feedback on the interface. I also had a call yesterday from Zoho indicating that the non-profit discount is 20% if we pay a year up front (instead of the usual 10%), which is not a huge boost, but I guess I at least use the new file from the client to check out Zoho’s offering.

In short order it gives me the following:

I see I can also import different sets of choices for the country field

but I can see a fair chunk of work required to get this set up to where the client might be passing happy (including being able to generate all the forms and reports they like), and then there’s the question of the monthly fees. In the meantime I got MS Access 2013 for £14.40 through the tt-exchange using AgileVentures charity status. And … they are going to physically deliver shrink-wrapped software to my address? What, no download? Seems like we won’t receive anything for five days, hmm.

I can see MS Access 2016 being offered for close to £100 from Tekgia on a charity offer. Hmmm. So I had another go at getting in through the MS portal to no joy. I did seem to be able to get access to the basic office suite through our existing nonprofit setup by going through the sam@agileventures.org login in my safari browser. I finally found a help request form and submitted a help request:


and I would have pasted in here the help request but super-irritatingly I can’t go back to the form and they don’t send me a copy … although they send me a notification that they’ll get back to me in about 5 business days:

Ugh, I guess the main question on my mind is whether Zoho can produce the reports the client needs, and maybe more importantly the complex subforms … the other alternatives I have are build their system from scratch in LibreOffice on PC, and/or force through and buy a copy of MS Access 2016. £100 is not insane from Tekgia, but will be frustrating if we can get it for £1.50 a month as part of our MS nonprofit status, of I’ve doubled up having already spend £12 on MS access and I’ve missed the download button or it will arrive tomorrow.

I do have MS Access 2007 on my machine - should I perhaps start playing with that? Quick answer is that I can’t import the LibreOffice odb format into MS Access 2007. Also, it looks like Zoho does support subforms:


I have been able to import the XLSX table into MS Access 2007, so that’s a basic route forward I guess … painful decisions ahead.

by Sam Joseph