Computers - A useful tool
The modern home computer is a useful adjunct to any cashmere-breeding program. Currently available software and hardware technology have put time-saving recording tools and complex analysis functions within easy reach of the innovative breeders mind and pocket.
In addition, the advent of "photo quality" colour printing technology, and the Internet, have produced an information gathering and promotion system that will find daily use.
Hardware is the general name for all the electronic bits and pieces.
The currently available, "middle of the range" home computers, running Microsoft Windows 95 (or later operating system), or an Apple Macintosh have adequate power to handle the most complex of record keeping and analysis tasks associated with cashmere production.
A wide choice of printers is available. Selection of the most suitable model will depend on the tasks envisaged.
If you plan on keeping a large digital photographic library, you will need a computer system with adequate storage space. This means either a high capacity hard disk (in excess of 8Gb) or the addition of a CD writer so you can store your images on CD. 1Gb of storage will only hold around 20 normal size, high quality print images, although you can fit hundreds of "screen" quality images (Internet GIF or JPG) in the same space.
Storage capacity is particularly relevant if you decide to buy a digital camera to record your progress.
If you plan on doing sophisticated colour printing work, you should consider the purchase of a higher end processor and a quality video card.
Computers are designed to use one of the several different operating systems. These can be thought
of as different languages. Application programs written for one operating system are unlikely to work with other operating systems.
The most common business operating systems on older computers was MS DOS as used by IBM compatible computers. This has now been superseded by the modern operating systems comprising the Microsoft Windows 95+/NT family, Apple Macintosh and to a lesser extent Linux. At the time of writing applications for use under Linux were limited.
These systems vary in their cost of ownership and operation. Linux is free, or nearly so, and requires much lower processing power to do the same job. It is supported by a group of dedicated enthusiasts, but there is a fairly steep learning curve.
The Microsoft Family of operating systems are mainstream and host the widest range of available software.
The Apple Macintosh system is probably the easiest to use, but it does have the highest cost of ownership and operation. There is a smaller range of programs available for Apple machines.
There are three kinds of application programs suited to cashmere breeding record analysis.
The first two are general purpose programs that require adaptation to a breeders requirements. They also require an extensive knowledge of the analysis techniques involved and some knowledge of the associated mathematics.
Application-specific programs vary in quality and what they will achieve, but in general they are ready to receive information and produce results. Check with your Association to find what is available to suit your needs.
ADVANTAGES OF A COMPUTER
POINTS TO WATCH
The following are some examples of useful information that CAN be produced by a GOOD computer program to assist breeding decisions.
THE COMPUTER AS A PROMOTION TOOL
With the advent of colour printers, scanners, CD writers, digital cameras and the Internet, a modern computer will find a lot of uses outside record keeping and analysis.
The preparation and printing of quality business letters, cards, leaflets and sale sheets can now be done in the home office.
Digital presentations (including photographs - and sound if you wish) can be created and emailed to prospective customers.
Technical and promotional information can be made available to the world by placing it on the Internet.
You will need some extra equipment such as a modem. You will need some extra software and you will need some extra time to learn, but the benefits should well and truly outweigh the costs. The possibilities are limited only by your own imagination.
© ACGA 2000