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The traditional approach is to produce paper customs documents (C88, AAD, etc) that accompany the goods to the national border.
Many countries, including the UK and Ireland, now have a means by which registered companies can submit these customs documents in advance electronically. NES/CHIEF and DTI/AEP are examples of this. There are usually charges per document submission and fees for intermediary service providers, but it obviously can cut out a lot of paperwork production and handling.
We've been spending some time on this. From a technical perspective its good that the Customs and Excise authorities are moving from the older, somewhat complex, standards (X.400, EDIFACT) to more modern arrangements based on web services (SOAP, XML). These should be simpler and less costly.
One of our customers were having trouble accessing the Internet from one of their PCs and called us in to fix it. Apart from a faulty modem lead, the software provided on CD by the Internet Service provider (ISP) didn't work well when you had to dial 9 for an outside line. After getting through to the ISP's technical support we established the information needed to set up the Internet Access using Microsoft's Wizard instead of using the ISP's "dialler" software.
It is several years now since the Excise Goods (Accompanying Documents) Regulations 2002 came into force. This replaced the older W81 document for intra-UK movements of duty suspended excise goods. The old W1-4 forms were also replaced with a new W1 for excise warehouse returns.
Infotop Mbond produces W1, W8 and bespoke commercial equivalents of W8.
A lot of people seem to be having problems with laser printers recently.
Many of the cheaper printers in a manufacturers range are so-called winprinters or GDI printers. These rely on driver software to do all the work in the PC before the resulting page image is sent to the printer. Usually the drivers are only supplied for Microsoft Windows. When choosing a printer for use with Unix (as well as Windows), we find it is essential to make sure the printer internally has the capability to understand a page description language such as PCL 5 or Postscript (PS).
One customer had a HP LaserJet that kept returning to a default paper size of "letter". After setting the default to "A4" at the printer control panel, after a while the printer would revert to "Letter". The problem with this was that any print jobs that didn't explicitly set a paper size would wait for someone to go to the printer and deal with the printer's request for some "Letter" sized paper. We fixed this.
Traditionally, customs documents were printed onto multipart pre-printed stationery using high speed dot matrix printers. Mbond can produce high quality HMC&E documents on laser printers for those who prefer this.
Mbond can print forms double sided, including the correct information on the reverse, and will print individually numbered copies ("copy for the consignor", "copy for consignee" etc).
The main benefit is legibility of the result. Mbond's forms are optimised for legibility, and the layout of the forms conforms to HMC&E templates to sub-millimetre precision.
Just because your computer is not infected doesn't mean you are not affected. Infected computers from far away can be caused to send you large numbers of infected emails. It saves a lot of time if your email server deals with this for you.
August was a bumper month for computer viruses and worms. First Blaster, then Nachi and finally, Sobig.
None of this directly affected us for a number of reasons:
It's wise not to be complacent though, defences need to be under regular review. If you are concerned about this subject, why not call?
Some SMEs still use terminals to give their staff access to server based applications. Recently we converted one of these from a terminal to terminal emulator software running on a PC.
Our testing went well, but the next day the customer could not log on. It turns out that the PC was turned off for the night, when it was turned on in the morning, some data was sent by the PC to the server which confused the serial-port at the server.
There is a key that can be pressed in the terminal emulator program that will get out of the confused state. We configured the server to ignore bad data sent to it at PC start-up.
ADSL seems to be reaching more parts of the UK, our local exchange can now provide ADSL connections. So, as a small business, we are considering whether to replace one of our ISDN lines (Business Highway) with ADSL for Internet access. The increase in speed would be a benefit but the main improvement for us would be having it always on, so that our internal mail-server can collect e-mail more or less continuously rather than once an hour.
If you are a small business wondering how to get the best out of broadband, why not give us a call?
Our trusty fax machine seems to be worn out by all the faxes we receive. Most of the faxes are junk faxes, but we don't want to use the Fax Preference Service to block them. This is because one of us occasionally finds something useful in one of the unsolicited faxes. We were getting concerned by all the paper and ink being consumed.
So we attached a faxmodem to a Linux server and plugged that into our Fax line. Now we get our incoming faxes converted to email attachments and emailed internally to the appropriate people.