General FAQ's

Technical FAQ's

Barcode/Hardware FAQ's

General FAQ's

Q. Tribal Software markets itself as a system for all labs. Can your system work in the very large lab environment? What is meant by "Designed for all labs"?

A. Yes, many of our current customers are considered large laboratories or very large companies. Tribal Software does market itself as the system for all laboratories. This doesn't mean our system will not work in a large-scale lab. What this does mean, is that we at Tribal have developed our systems to meet the needs of all laboratories.

Some of the typical modern laboratory needs include:
  • They have no system administrators or limited access to IT people.
  • Their budgets are much smaller.
  • Hardware resources are much more limited (older hardware systems).
  • Most technicians have to multi-task (Sampler, Equipment operator, and lab administrator duties).
  • A system that is very user-friendly throughout because of the multi-tasking.
  • The ability to address lab growth as it occurs in real time.
  • The flexibility to make custom changes to their own system if resources are limited.
  • Tools included in the system for any in-house system changes.
  • Change electronic interfacing as new equipment is purchased or old equipment retired.

We have been very surprised by inquiries and sales from many laboratories (small to large). We were not surprised that some of these very large users had many of the system needs as the small labs.

Q. Is the Tribal-LDMS a LIMS system? Why do you call it the LDMS?
A. Yes, the Tribal-LDMS is a LIMS system in conventional terms. We have purposely avoided the acronym LIMS because of the bad rap that early software businesses have given the name LIMS. We also feel that LDMS better describes electronic laboratory management. Information management is for word processors and telecommunications; databases manage data, thus the Laboratory Data Management System (LDMS).

Q. How does Tribal software keep the system prices so reasonable?
A. If you look under the Price section of our web-site (www.tribalsoftware.com), many reasons are listed in detail.

Q. How does Tribal stay current with the changes of the laboratory industry?
A. The CEO of Tribal Software is involved in managing a small environmental lab on a daily basis. He is often asked why he is still with the laboratory. Besides his love for the lab business, he feels that the best way to make a great evolving laboratory system is to be involved in the ever-changing environment of the laboratory. Working in the lab everyday allows our design people and programmers to get this information first-hand. It allows Tribal to stay current with the growth of most labs and address those needs first-hand. Thus, "By Lab people for Lab People."

Q. What is meant by "The Tribal-LDMS is a truly open-ended system"?
A. The best feature of the Tribal-LDMS is the complete access to the source code. With our unique license agreement, we are able to allow you, the system users, to change our system as your lab needs change. You can hire us to do it, or hire contract programmers, or even do it yourself. You no longer have to pay for small changes on reports or new bench sheets or an additional field that is needed by your personnel.

Q. I have found that the Tribal system offers many different ways to accomplish the same goals. Why is this?
A. Like most Microsoft software systems, we incorporate several different ways to accomplish the same task. With custom toolbars, right click events, double click, and shortcut buttons, we hope to please all types of users.

Q. I have some great ideas on some new features for our system. Will my ideas be taken seriously?
A. All of our customer wishes and ideas, big or small, are taken very seriously. If you give us an idea for a new feature and we feel other labs can benefit from this idea, we will often develop it for your lab at no charge, and then offer it to our other customers at the next upgrade. This is an excellent way to get custom software development… FREE.

Q. As my lab evolves, and I have the need for data acquisition, can the Tribal-LDMS interface with my G.C. or I.C.P. software systems?
A. The great thing about developing a lab system in one of the most popular database structures today (MS Access 97) is its compatibility. Many instrument software programs are compatible with MS Access, and most can export directly to an "mdb" file and/or transport data via an RS232 port.

The approaches to data acquisition are as numerous as instrument systems on the market. One approach might be to build your own using Excel/Lotus, etc. You may also choose one of the very inexpensive data packages mentioned below, or have custom interfaces built between the various instruments.

Several very good companies (Labtronics, TAL Technologies, etc.) specialize in software data collection. These software packages capture data and use dynamic exchange to move data from instrumentation systems directly into our LDMS. Remember, the best part of our system is full access to the source code. You determine how much will be spent on data acquisition issues. Tribal will assist you with any decisions or custom programming you might need.

Q. Why is the Tribal-LDMS split between two database files?
A. There are several reasons why we separate our "Front-end" database from the "Back-end" database.

  • It allows Tribal to upgrade the front-end without affecting your data.
  • It allows you the user to customize your front-end without affecting your data.
  • In a network situation: It allows the server system to grow without any growth on the client system, thus the client system is not affected as much by storage space and speed requirements.
  • It also allows individual users to personalize their front-end without affecting other front-ends or the system back-end.
  • Since the only growth is in the data back-end system, it makes archiving and system administration easier.
  • If the user makes a custom change that adversely affects the system, they only have to replace the front-end without the worries of lost data.

Q. Why are there such large price differences between most bar-coding hardware packages?
A. We think it is easy to get locked into the idea that more money is equal to better hardware, but we have found just the opposite. Why pay thousands for a thermal label printer when you can accomplish the same goal with one priced in the hundreds.

Many of those expensive label printers are loaded with expensive labels. We only sell proven printers that print on the least expensive labels on the market. Most labels are only on the bottles for a few years. Why pay $.25/label when you can pay $.03/label and discard it when needed?

As for expensive readers, if your inexpensive reader can read the inexpensive barcode labels, why should you pay more?

Just a note: Our oldest hardware station as been in place for over eight years with absolutely no problems.

Q. Do I have to use the bar coding with the Tribal-LDMS?
A. No. Our system will operate seamlessly with or without the bar-coding hardware attached. The bar-coding hardware is included with every system purchase, but it can be hooked up or set aside until you are ready for coding.

Q. Is bar coding only used in Sample Tracking?
A. The Tribal-LDMS uses bar coding throughout the system. It is used in Sample Tracking, as well as chemical inventory, MSDS, data entry, several note fields, special labeling, QC sample/results entry, numerous reports, and in future features, like the new "Reagent label maker."

Q. What are the benefits of bar coding/scanning?
A. There are many benefits in bar coding. Here are a few:

  • It is used to speed data entry and in searching for a specific sample.
  • Bar coding is used as a unique identifier for a selected sample.
  • It creates an unbiased relationship between the sample and the technician. Lab personnel will not tend to treat the sample as a known when they only have a number.
  • Bar-coded worksheets are used to assign work and assist in the update of the sample information.
  • Ensures customers of data security and eliminates all of the common keyboard errors associated with sample selection.
  • Shows professionalism and established technology to outside contractors.
  • Used to query reports and for special input of common dialog into many note fields.
  • Allows the laboratory to establish its own in-house numbering system for chemical inventory, MSDS, and QC samples.

Q. I want the system to calculate the number of labels I need. I also want complete control over label generation and the flexibility to eliminate defaulted labels in real-time. Can I accomplish this?
A. Bar coding and label generation are not magic. That is why the system can only suggest certain numbers of labels and label types based on predetermined information (e.g., study, project, container type, size etc.). The Tribal system gives you the flexibility to change that information and force the system to calculate and change the number of defaulted labels. With our pop-up label factory, you still have the opportunity to select duplicate labels and eliminate other labels on the fly.

Q. We often want the analyses to be run on each container. We have used color dots and grease pencils and a variety of special codes to determine the analyses on a sample bottle. How does the Tribal system handle these problems?
A. In our newest release we have added a new feature that allows the user to generate full label sheets of analyses based on projects and saved templates. With these labels, you can have analysis information displayed as a full name or as an abbreviated name. These smaller labels can then be attached to samples as added into the lab, and the analyses are displayed on the container. The technician can scratch out analyses as performed and remove the label when finished. There is no bottle cleanup for markers, and there are no special codes to remember.

Q. We are upgrading our MS Office 97 to MS Office 2000. What kind of problems will we encounter with the Tribal-LDMS? A. We suggest that you leave your MS Access 97 on the system and only install the Office groups, such as Word and Excel. If you have both Access 97 and Access 2000 on the system, Microsoft access 2000 will want to open the LDMS and convert up. You can do some "On Open" commands to stop this, but the best way is not to have both on the system. When you are ready for Access 2000 and Access 2000 has proven itself in the database world, Tribal will have an upgrade (expected 12/2000).

Q. How does the system handle the number zero ("0") in the container size field in the Analyses Setup Form?
A. This value (Container size) is used by the system to calculate the number of default labels needed. In Multi-Sample Entry the system will handle the analyses as if they were inactive and remove them from the analytes list in the Multi-Sample Entry Form. We suggest that all active samples have at least the value one "1" in this field.

Q. I want to include NPDES or other special numbers for my customers. Do I have to add a new field to my customer form?
A. Because of the flexibility of the Tribal system, you can add any special fields, as you need them. In many cases, we have already placed a field that you can use by re-labeling and entering the data directly. Use the Customer ID field for those numbers.

Q. When is the best time to archive my data?
A. The best time to "archive" depends on the amount of access needed to the archived data. We suggest you only archive for hard drive space requirements when you notice a significant decrease in system performance. Remember, you can always UN-archive data to run a quick report and then re-archive the data again.

Q. What is the best way to handle samples that have been lost, frozen, spilled or that are only needed for storage?
A. There are many ways to handle these types of (Non-Result) samples. One way is to create an analysis, storage, for example, and record the Julian date of the dump date in the result field. This way your lab can track holding times and be warned when to get rid of the outdated samples.

Q. I realize the need for data integrity. In the Sample Entry Form, I also understand the use of the pull down list. Can I add a new location on the fly? Do I have to exit and return to the Sample Entry Form after I add the new location?
A. No. You do not have to exit. If you double click in any of the fields in the Sample Entry/Multi Sample Entry Form, you will launch the data input form for that field. You can then add, and when closed you will appear back at the Sample Entry Form. Note: Older versions must select off the field to refresh the list box; in newer versions the refresh is done automatically.

Q. Many LIMS systems use alpha type fields for result entry. This allows us to add special characters or text in a result entry, but it causes problems on special reports. How does Tribal handle its result entry?
A. In order to allow alpha characters in the result field, most databases are setup for a "String" field. The problems occur when data in "String" fields are dumped to other software programs (Excel, Lotus, etc.). This data cannot be used for statistics or graphing without stripping and data conversion. Since most of Tribal's competition does not allow their users access to their code, you only have to ask for a custom report and our competitors are happy to bill you for it.

Tribal, on the other hand, offers you, the end-user, complete access to the code. By doing this we assume you will want to manipulate your data using special reports and software applications such as Excel and Lotus. Thus, we have taken a unique approach to our data Result fields. We have separated our alpha characters from our numeric characters. This allows you to report a 4.567,5.0, N/D, or any other alpha character and still be able to analyze the results with a spreadsheet, report statistics, or a graph on the selected data without any conversion. This is done with a single button from our reporting toolbar. Great question!

Q. In the Tribal System, can I call my projects, studies, and locations anything, or am I restricted to a naming structure.
A. You set your system up for Your Lab. We allow and encourage you to use your own naming convention; we can offer suggestions and give examples if needed. There are six characters you shouldn't use in data search fields: { } [ ] ' " These 3 keys are known as the Bermuda triangle because of their location next to the Enter key on the keyboard.

Q. What is meant by "Easter eggs" in the software program?
A. The term "Easter eggs" comes from cyber vocabulary. It means hidden features or events within a software system. If we documented every right click, double click, pull down, etc., within the Tribal-LDMS, the manual would be the size of a 1960s A.A. Spectrophotometer and would probably get used as much.

Q. If I have a problem with my system, and my lab is located 1,000 miles from Cheyenne, how can Tribal help me?
A. Tribal software has many different ways to help its customers, one of which is using programs such as PC Anywhere, or our "virtual desk top" to take control of your system and troubleshoot via a phone line.

Q. How does your LIMS generate a unique Sample ID number? A. The system automatically generates the Sample I.D. number using the "New" prefix letter, then the date and time the sample is logged (format = last two digits of the year, three digit day of the year, hour, and minute in military time, and replace identical time characters with a alpha character if needed). Example: January 15, 2000 at 1:09 pm; the Sample I.D. number would be S000151309. If more than one sample is added in a minute, the last character is changed to an alpha character (Ex.: S00015130A).

Q. If the Sample ID is generated automatically and uses the last two numbers of the current year in the ID, how is this Y2K compliant?
A. The system does use the last two digits of the year in generating the barcode number. This is not affected by Y2K because it is used only as a unique way to number a sample. Example: When a sample is added on January 1, 2000, at 08:15 a.m., the barcode will read "0001010815". This number will appear in all pick lists after the last 1999 sample. The Tribal system only uses the Sample ID number as a unique identifier. Sure, there is an added benefit; it also helps the Lab Tech quickly identify when the sample was logged.

Q. What is the purpose of the LookUp button?
A. The Tribal system uses many features we call "Smart Links," and the LookUp button is one of those links. It allows the user to select from a predetermined list and view or edit the existing record or data.

Q. When should I compact my database?
A. Compaction should be performed monthly, or when large amounts of data have been removed or system changes have been performed in the database source code.

Note: When forms are opened in the source code, Access allows the maximum space you might need. Because of this you will notice your database growing in size. Compaction will remove the "empty space" from the system.

Q. When should I repair my database?
A. Repair of the Access database should only be performed when either MS Access suggests repair, or when you have encountered a problem that has corrupted your system (e.g., power outage in the middle of using the system).

Q. When should I convert my database?
A. Conversion is performed to move an older application into a newer MS Access environment. There is no need to convert the Tribal-LDMS (8.x). Do not attempt to "Auto convert" your LDMS system to latest MS Access version without the help of the Tribal programmers.

Tribal Software 2011