Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Diffie-Hellman SSL Business Intelligence Launchpad Issue

If you are having trouble connecting to your Business Intelligence Launchpad through Firefox or Google Chrome and are hitting the Diffie-Hellman weak ephemeral key message you will know how confusing and frustrating it is. The obvious work around is to use Internet Explorer as that particular browser does not currently check for the weak cipher keys that make the Logjam attack possible.

Some of you will be stuck using a particular browser due to IT policies so this could be for you.
To allow Firefox and Chrome to connect once again a few changes need to be made to the Tomcat/conf/server.xml file which will allow you to specify which ciphers to use when browsers are trying to connect.

In the connector element for SSL (normally port 443) add in the following ciphers to use:


I added it just before the password section but I believe you can put it in anywhere in the corresponding connector section of the server.xml file.

Assuming everything is in the right place you can go ahead and restart Tomcat. When its back up, you will be able to log in using Firefox and Google Chrome.

There are other methods which involve downloading the Java Unlimited Strength files but these need a little bit of extra configuration and we personally could not get them working. If you can get them working they will allow you to use 256 encryption and not restrict you to RSA. 

Written by Luke Johnson, BI Support Technician, DSCallards

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Microsoft Visual Studio (VS) – Good Website Tool or Not?

I’ve been with DSCallards since 2007.  As the Marketing Manager one of my key roles is to ensure that our website presence reflects our culture, technical brilliance as well as the services and products that we offer.

As we are a technical organisation, the Development Team have had a say in the types of tools we use to develop our websites.  In the early days we used DreamWeaver, then Open Source Joomla seemed like a good idea, then we moved onto pure HTML because of the potential security threats, then back to DreamWeaver.

Having gone full circle, and with the task of creating a brand new website, the Development Team suggested we used MS Visual Studio and a series of Bootstraps.  At first Marketing was a little hesitant having been sent around the houses over the course of nearly a decade.

According to Wikipedia, Microsoft Visual Studio:

“Microsoft Visual Studio is an integrated development environment (IDE) from Microsoft. It is used to develop computer programs for Microsoft Windows, as well as web sites, web applications and web services. Visual Studio uses Microsoft software development platforms such as Windows API, Windows Forms, Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Store and Microsoft Silverlight. It can produce both native code and managed code.

Visual Studio supports different programming languages and allows the code editor and debugger to support (to varying degrees) nearly any programming language, provided a language-specific service exists. Built-in languages include C,[5] C++ and C++/CLI (via Visual C++), VB.NET (via Visual Basic .NET), C# (via Visual C#), and F# (as of Visual Studio 2010[6]). Support for other languages such as M, Python, and Ruby among others is available via language services installed separately. It also supports XML/XSLT, HTML/XHTML, JavaScript and CSS. Java (and J#) were supported in the past.”
This was all well and good but what about the design element? 

The Development Team had an answer for this.  By using a Bootstrap design template, we should be able to design and develop a website to be proud of.

Marketing put together a Website Brief and sent it to a number of web design agencies. The responses we received weren’t particularly impressive especially given the many thousands of pounds it was going to cost us. 

We finally decided to run with the in-house MS Visual Studio idea to develop a website that promoted the SAP Business Objects element of our business:  The Business Objects People.

Here’s the outcome:

We were very happy with what we had developed in-house utilising both our technical Microsoft expertise and knowledge of our business and what we were trying to say.

In fact, we were so pleased, we went on to redevelop a new site to promote our Development services:

I am now in the process of working with our Development Team to redevelop our corporate website – www.dscallards.com – from a pure HTML website to MS Visual Studio.

We have kept to the same bootstrap and look and feel for an integrated branding approach across our offerings.  Hits to the websites are good and it is easy to incorporate the SEO requirements from Google to keep our sites at the top of the organic listings. Also, via the Bootstrap template technologies available, the sites are mobile friendly – another Google SEO requirement.

Having tried many different website designs, tools and technologies and having looked at outsourcing to third parties, I believe that so far the MS Visual Studio approach has been the most successful for us as a company. 

The reasons are:
  • Design tools are intuitive
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Easy to update
  • Excellent design facility utilising bootstrap technology
  • SEO friendly

So, moving forward, I’m looking forward to launching our new DSCallards site over the next month or two.  I’ll then embark upon redeveloping the rest of our portfolio of websites.  So, you could say that after a bit of a reluctant start I’m now a fully-fledged MS Visual Studio convert!

Written by Adriane Gillies, Marketing Manager, DSCallards

DSCallards – Breath of Fresh Air

I am bias.  I have been working for DSCallards since 2007.  But, I’m no spring chicken and have worked for a number of organisations since I started in the world of work back in 1985.  So what makes me stay at DSCallards?

The answer is simple: We are small yet perfectly formed.

We have been around for a long time – since 2001 - and have evolved with the changing external environment.  This is in stark contrast to the larger organisations that I have worked for who struggled meeting changing market requirements due to lack of flexibility and ability to change quickly enough because of all of the corporate bureaucracy, ‘jobs-worths’ and red-tape. 

We are established partners with SAP, who are one of the world’s most successful business software application vendors.  We also develop software applications for some of the most prestigious companies in the UK and we work with other specialist software vendors such as LEADTOOLS, HiT, Yellowfin and Pervasive.

Our customer-base includes organisations such as West Yorkshire Police, Harrods, Princess Yachts, numerous County Councils, Kelloggs, Babcock, Volvo, NHS, the list goes on and on.  And, once a customer engages in our services they invariably come back year after year.

As individuals, we are very much empowered by the Board of Directors to run with our own ideas. I am given a lot of freedom and responsibility to position our products according to our company’s direction and adapt campaigns to bring in the interest required to propel ourselves into our chosen direction.

We are self-sufficient.  As a Marketing Manager, if I need help with building a website in MS Visual Studio or require blog content from our talented group of Business Intelligence consultants for our social media seed marketing and thought-leadership campaigns, all I have to do is ask, and they deliver.

Marketing’s relationship with the Sales team is second-to-none.  More often than not, Marketing are seen to sit in their ivory towers, churning out campaigns that do not reflect the goods and services on offer by the Sales Team.  Here we work hard to ensure that we have a unified message and work together to deliver on this. 

Because we aren’t a huge corporate, everyone’s role is important and everyone plays a part in the company’s success.  Working for larger organisations I found that you are set an objective and given resources to deliver, but when it came to delivery and justifying ROI, so many people got away with weak excuses and poor delivery hiding behind bureaucracy and procedure.  At DSCallards, we all have to deliver true ROI on our work.  Transparency is the key and no-one can hide behind their clip-boards, clever words and empty promises.

DSCallards is not the place for you if you want to step over someone’s head to get to the top or hide behind corporate red-tape when you fail to deliver on a project.  Yes, we have comprehensive quality systems in place, but they are relevant to our culture and customer-base.  We are professional and disciplined without being strangled by unnecessary procedures and red-tape.

Finally, we really know our customers.  We have customers that have stayed with us for years and years.  It’s great to see what started off a small reporting project, evolve into a cross-company Business Intelligence roll-out.  We have been running seminars, in association with SAP, for over eight years.  We have customers that come along regularly to keep up-to-date with trends and technologies.

So, given the choice of working for a colossal defence manufacturer like British Aerospace or a small but perfectly formed Devon-based Business Intelligence and software specialist, based on the fringes of beautiful Dartmoor – where the air is pure and fresh.  I know what I’d choose – any day!

Written by Adriane Gillies, Marketing Manager, DSCallards Ltd

Blogging: How to Extract Knowledge from The Company’s Brightest Minds

Social Media is widely accepted as one of the most powerful tools available today to take messages to the market.  To be considered a thought-leader in our chosen markets, it requires continuous ‘drip-feeding’ of messages that illustrate our brilliance and know-how in our specialist areas.

Knowledge is gold dust.  Also, we all know that we need to speculate to accumulate. But day-to-day our consultants and developers are far too busy with their job in hand – writing code, installing software, writing databases, running training courses – to take time out to write a blog for the Marketing Team.  So it’s easier for them to ignore the relentless nagging and requests for blog and website content and get on with keeping the customer happy - for today.

This is where Marketing need the backup from the heads of the company.  The top brass need to realise the importance of good content as well as the time it takes the busy team members to create this content.  Social Media is not free.  It is expensive as it takes valuable time for the team to create compelling content to strengthen our position in our markets.

DSCallards decided to embrace this challenge.  As a pilot, the Marketing Manager took the Technical Director and BI Practice Manager off-site to a beautiful old venue in the middle of Dartmoor and locked them into a room with their laptops.  During the course of the morning they were asked to create three blogs each which represent the areas of the business that they are responsible for.  Here is the outcome:


Business Intelligence

The output was excellent and the material has since been used to populate eDMs and websites and helps both with the thought leadership requirement as well as SEO as we know that Google love it when websites are updated with original and topical content.

As a result of this success, the Management Team decided to continue along the same vein and the Marketing Manager was given the thumbs up to take the whole Business Intelligence and Development Teams off site on a Monday morning with the simple objective to write blogs.

So, I’m sat here now.  Surrounded by my colleagues.  Laptops open, coffee cups topped up and minds ticking over and keyboards tapping.  They’re hopefully creating some masterpieces which extol the virtues of why a company like yours should come to DSCallards to help with their Business Intelligence or Development projects.

I’ll be posting the output shortly.  So, watch this space …!

Written by Adriane Gillies, Marketing Manager, DSCallards

LJ Pi SQL Server and SAP Crystal Reports

I’m relatively new to SAP Crystal Reports and I thought a good way to get a grasp of how the database connectivity works would be to create my own database and then connect Crystal to it.

Since we were doing some work with Raspberry Pi’s in the office I seized the opportunity and grabbed one. A bit of research later and I discovered that MySQL server can be run on the pi.

I had flashed the Raspberry Pi’s SD card with Raspbian Wheezy. When booted up open up a terminal window and the first thing to do is update the software list that’s available for Raspbian:

sudo apt-get update

The next step involves updating your current software to make sure you have the most up to date versions on there:

sudo apt-get upgrade

Now it’s time to install MySQL server:

sudo apt-get install mysql-server

You will be prompted to confirm the install and after it’s installed you will again be prompted to set a ‘root’ user password.

Another package that is worth installing is php5-mysql:

sudo apt-get install php5-mysql

This will add the MySQL libraries that will allow PHP access.
At this point you are ready to start up your MySQL server by typing:

mysql -p -u root

the –p item is how you request to put in a password and the –u is specifying which user you are wanting to log in as. At this point you will need to remember the password you put in earlier when installing MySQL server.

At this point you should be logged in and ready to create a new database, you can do this by using the following command:


For the purpose of testing I imported a SQL database from a dump .sql file. I was having a few problems importing it so I decided to go the long way round and copy the SQL into the terminal window line by line. Luckily you can do this in bulk and it ticks away loading all the rows in. To do this you will need to specify the database you would like to insert the SQL into:

mysql use my_database_name

You can then open the .sql file in your preferred text editor and copy the whole thing. You can then right click into the terminal window and this will paste it all into it. It will then go about creating the database for you. I don’t know if this will work with very large databases, the one I used comprised of 3 tables and around 4000 rows.
At this point you will need to specify who can access the database, the easiest way to do this is to allow access from all IP address with the following command:

flush privileges;

However if you want to only allow access from one IP address then the best way to do this is:

flush privileges;

To make sure your crystal reports can connect to the MySQL database drivers can be downloaded from the MySQL website:

Once installed go to the ODBC connections and add a new connection, choose the MySQL connector which will then prompt you for the IP address of the Pi and for your MySQL log on details.

Click test connection and then hopefully it will be successful.

The next step is to open Crystal reports and add a new database connection using the ODBC option. If all has gone well the connection you have just set up will be in the list. Once selected click ok and you will be ready to import tables and fields to be able to report from.

The performance of the Raspberry Pi was fairly quick and snappy, I made a few simple reports and found refreshing them fast and efficient. 

Written by:  Luke Johnson, Business Intelligence Support Technician, DSCallards

What Do People Class as Business Intelligence?

What do people class as Business Intelligence? Is it the fancy management reports that you see in your daily or weekly meetings that let you know about churn or sales or another KPI that some has decided is pertinent to talk about? The answer could be a bit more complicated than you might think. Just showing reports on their own isn’t what I would class as Business Intelligence. Of course this is all subjective but reports that invoke no additional thought is not intelligence it’s just display.

In my opinion true business intelligence doesn’t just merely display data, it displays information that can invoke ideas or decisions that can positively affect the success of your business.

It’s possible that you are in this situation. Stagnant reports, boring presentations and repetitive spreadsheets that restrict the creative thought process? You’ve got to ask yourself how am I actually making decisions in my business? Do I have all the necessary tools at hand? Can you make a decision and then show compelling evidence as to why that decision is a good one?

For more information visit www.thebusinessobjectspeople.com

Written by Luke Johnson, Business Intelligence Support Technician

Monday, 5 October 2015

How To Display Parameter Entries on a Web Intelligence Report

1. Drag a blank cell onto the report
2. Double click the blank cell
3. Click the formula button inside the blank cell
4. Paste the formula below into the cell 

="Report was run for the period " + Left(UserResponse("psEnter value for Order Date (Start):");10) + " to " +Left( UserResponse("psEnter value for Order Date (End):");10)

Written by Steve Chapman, Senior BI Consultant, DSCallards

Wednesday, 16 September 2015


When you think of charity you tend to think of just giving pages, friends of a certain age doing marathons or people sitting in bath tubs full of baked beans to send cash into the BBC to keep Pudsey socially relevant with the latest spotted eye patch, Gucci no doubt.

Personally this isn’t for me. Why can’t charity be something much more in line with my own beliefs and interests. I’m not sure if I’ll ever run a marathon and the idea of beans simply offends me, I think it’s more the assumption that everyone likes beans is the thing that really irritates me. Like the Beatles.

Moving on from my own irritations this was supposed to be about charity and how it can start at home and be more relevant to yourself.

I was first introduced to BOINC during my time at university in Sheffield. BOINC is a community based grid computing program which allows to you donate CPU cycles to crunch numbers for charitable purposes.  Very few of us use 100% of the resources our computer possess. BOINC uses a portion of this power to help solve mathematical problems or run test models for all sorts of different organisations. From searching for aliens to searching for a cure for cancer, trying to solve historical mathematical problems or helping analyse the Ebola virus, there is something for everyone.

Most charities can’t afford super computers to help with all their research, grid computing allows normal every day computers to link together to form a grid powerful to generate 6,187.945 TeraFLOPS.

Here at DSCallards we have signed up to the world community grid project and we use our old hardware to run BOINC and help all of causes here:

It’s a great way to repurpose old hardware which would have otherwise been thrown away. We are currently in the top 500 contributors in the UK and climbing.

Written by Luke Johnson, DSCallards.

Concurrent Access License for SAP Crystal Server

So, what is a Concurrent Access License (CAL)?

Simply put, it allows casual users of an SAP Crystal Server system to log in and view BI content that has been published for them to access.

For example, if you have five Concurrent Access Licenses for SAP Crystal Server, five session can be active at any one time.  If there was to be a sixth session, for example another person logging in, it won't allow them until one of the sessions given back into the pot.

Click here for full article.

Written by Rebecca Middleton, Senior BI Consultant, DSCallards

SAP Lumira: Where and What to Eat in Birmingham City Centre


As a frequent visitor to Birmingham, working mainly in Corporation Street, I thought it prudent to find out the best establishments for an evening or lunchtime meal.  Using SAP Lumira, I have analysed data from the Ordnance Survey website and blended this with data from the Food Standards Agency website.  The sources are shown below and are free to download.  I concentrated my search solely on the city centre postcode regions.

Read full blog here.

Written by Steve Chapman, Senior BI Consultant, DSCallards

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Microsoft Will Cease to Support Windows Server 2003 and Small Business Server from 14th July 2015. The clock is ticking ...

If your business relies on your SAP Reporting Platform 2008 and you are on Windows Server 2003 you may need to upgrade! 

July 14 2015 sees Windows Server 2003 reach its end-of-life. The mainstream support finished July 13 2010 and it has been in ”extended support” since then. This means that no further patches or security updates will be available from Microsoft. In itself this poses a Security risk and Compliance problem for businesses. Most third party applications are now only supported on the latest 64bit platforms and application support from these bodies is another major risk driver for the change.

If you are running the SAP Crystal Server 2008 or older you may need to upgrade your platform when you upgrade the windows server to the new version Windows 2012. 

This transition can be managed smoothly and expertly by our experienced team here as we have perfected the migration process so you don’t have to worry.

We can smoothly migrate all your history and instances along with all your reports, show you all the new and improved features including the Universes for easier reporting and even take you mobile

When end of life is reached, you’re at increased risk of corrupting your data and running into unsupported applications. Application support challenges can also be complex and costly. Save time and money now to secure the future. 

Call us on 0800 652 4050 or email us today!

Written by Donna Hornickel, BI Sales Executive, DSCallards

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Universe and an Analytic Database?

If you’re modelling your data into business information in the universe then surely creating an analytic database as well is overkill?

It’s a distinct possibility. If your data is in reasonably good shape, then let the universe go at it with what it does best – see “The Universe Is Your Friend”.

However, complex computations such as a validation rule calculating customer eligible for a loyalty bonus may best pre-processed.

Taking this dreamed up criteria as an example:
  • has to have had a certain number of transactions for qualifying products (which need to be looked up from one source, decoded and compared to another source)
  • over a set value (which varies by customer country)
  • in a particular time period
  • had no gaps in their membership in that period.
  • made no derogatory comments about the Chief Exec's gold handicap.
  • opted in to received worldly enlightments about future products.
  • and not be related to any member past or present of the company's illustrious management structure.

Whilst the computation could be run at query time it would probably be better pre-processed, so at query time the only computation is true or false.

The universe doesn’t store data. You can sit it on top of a transactional system and let users see who’s bought what products in the last five seconds. But asking that same system which customers are eligible for a loyalty bonus, well that might make two people unhappy. Firstly the next customer waiting for the system to respond so they can buy one of your shiny products, but also the account humble manager wanting to know which of her customers she can delight with news of their eligibility. If the customer loyalty bonus object was selected with a few other objects of similar complexity, the resulting database query could take tens of seconds or over a minute to run. After waiting a minute for that information her mind may wander on to that spreadsheet she keeps of her own sales to her key customers and decide her time is better spent maintaining her own little island of data.

So by trimming the query run time from tens of second or a minute plus to milliseconds what will the impact be? Probably,
  • more people will use the system to make fact-based decisions
  • people will rely less on their own islands of data, meaning more consistency in decision making between people and departments
  • people will find uses for the system you or they didn't originally envisage
  • you may see a cultural shift in the way people use information.  After all, data is the new gold!
Written by Angus Menter, BI Practice Manager, DSCallards - The Business Objects People

The Universe is Your Friend

It lets you model your business data into information that makes sense to humans who need to make good decisions.

It makes a little knowledge a powerful rather than dangerous thing by quietly translating your human question into an unambiguous data query that a data machine can respond to accurately.

Take for example products by supplier, rather than just returning a list, the universe will ask whether you mean available products, previously stocked products or previously sold products. The universe is semantically dynamic – the results are dependent on the meaning. While the lists may be similar they will probably be slightly different, which could be the difference in determining which supplier to award a contract to.

If you want product in stock and products sold it will ensure that one value isn’t multiplied by the other. Which these data machines will do if you don’t talk them right.

It lets you roam through time, space, products, customers, suppliers and the other dimensions of your business.

It presents numbers as you expect to see them: costs summed by material, inventory counted by product, headcount averaged over time.

It ensures that Fran from Finance and Oliver of Operations share a common vocabulary of clearly defined business terms.

Love is a strong word for a piece of technology you can’t touch or feel and certainly can never love you back, but the universe does its job of bridging the gap between people and data really, really well.

To quote Flight of the Concords in ‘The Robots’, “a little understanding could make things better.”

Written by Angus Menter, BI Practice Manager, DSCallards - The Business Objects People

Thursday, 15 January 2015

SEO in a Nutshell

Thought I’d take five minutes out to re-look at what SEO is all about.  We talk about it all of the time but what does it REALLY mean.

SEO stands for “search engine optimisation.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.

In a nutshell it means getting your website showing on the first pages of search results (and ideally number one).  Forget about being at the top of page two or page three.  Page one is where you need to be placed to really be beneficial.

Fundamentally, commercial organisations optimise their websites to attract new business. It’s as simple as that.  By optimising their websites for search engines, companies can ensure that people will be able to find them easily online.

Choosing your keywords you want to target is the first part of optimising your website for search engines. It’s also the most important thing of SEO and sometimes the hardest part.

So what determines what’s shown on the first page or search results?

Search engines all have their own ranking algorithms that are secret and not known publicly. However there are some techniques we can employ using those keyword phrases to optimise your website (or a particular page) to help that you show on the first page of search results.  

Here’s a useful SEO keyword checklist:

  • Make sure they are not goo generic - try to be as specific as possible.  For example, if you’re a hotel, you wouldn’t just target ‘hotel’ but perhaps add in the location name or if you’re a budget hotel, add ‘budget’ or ‘cheap’ in the mix.
  • Consider another phase – Instead of hotel, you may want consider an alternative for example ‘accommodation
  • Don’t have too many – Having too many keywords in your phrase can dilute they strength – aim for about 3 to 5
  • Make sure they are relevant to your business – the more closely the keywords relate to your website, the better they will perform.
  • Don’t use superfluous words such as ‘great’ ‘amazing’ etc.

Hope this helps!

Click here for more.