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Questions: Custom Conversion Applications
Questions: Downloadable Software
Questions: Licensing
Questions: Privacy and Security

Questions: POMPT Issues

Questions: New Features, Bugs, Mistakes

Here are answers to the aforementioned questions, organized by topic.

Answers: Custom Conversion Applications Go to Top

How much does a custom conversion application cost?
A small custom conversion application, fully tested and delivered, with complete help, sample files, install and uninstall, typically costs about US $1200 (Currency Converter). Larger applications, of course, cost more.

To get a rough idea of how much a project will cost, ask your local computer guru — everybody knows one — how many hours it would take him or her to understand your requirement and then create an appropriate program that is fully (A) functional, (B) documented, (C) tested, (D) packaged with examples and (E) delivered. Multiply the number of hours by 130 and you will have a ballpark idea of the cost (in US dollars) of such a project.

Of course, after carrying out this estimation you may think, "Why don't I just ask my local computer guru to do it?" Even assuming he or she has the time, most people who are not experts in conversion typically underestimate by a factor of three or four the time it would take to create a professional conversion package. Fortunately, the power of Parse-O-Matic lets us work twice as fast, so the numbers generally balance out. Needless to say, though, we cannot provide a firm quote until we have analyzed your requirement.

If your budget is rather tight, you can always try to code a script yourself (many have!).  Click here to open a new window with a description of the Parse-O-Matic Free Edition.

How can I lower the cost of a custom conversion application?
On many projects, more than half the expense goes into helping the client develop their specification. You can significantly lower your cost if you explain to us, in plain but precise terms, exactly what you want.

Another tip: it is a very good idea to provide us with at least three sample input files so we can assess the variability of your data. This lets us spot exceptional situations and can prevent inconvenient surprises later on.

Some clients find it expedient to organize certain kinds of information — such as field definitions — in tabular form. A simple spreadsheet can sometimes add a lot of clarity.

One of the best ways to think of a specification is in terms of the Three Stages of Computer Processing: Input, Processing, Output.

Input: We need to know what you are using as input: what kind of file it is, where it comes from, how it was used previously, and why it is not suitable for your current needs. If you have a document that describes, in formal terms, the structure of the input file, this is very helpful.

We then need to know what steps must be carried out to change the file into what you need — extracting and changing specifically identified fields, calculating new fields, looking up values, and so on.

Next, we need to know how you are going to use the output file. Will it be used by a program or a human? If a program, which one? If you have a document that describes, in formal terms, the required structure of the output file, this is also very helpful. It's also effective (though not always possible) if you can provide us with a manually-produced example of the output file. It does not have to be a complete conversion of an entire input file, but if it illustrates the format you are seeking it can greatly clarify your needs.

Finally, please bear in mind that we are not familiar with the inner workings of your business. The terminology may be second-nature to you, but it is unlikely that we will understand the various acronyms and expressions your company uses. So if we're told something like, "The QRT for NTN temps needs E-Stack for RS-1920 compat" then we will have to delve deeper to find out what you mean — and verify that you are in fact speaking English!

To summarize all of the foregoing: the more you tell us, the faster we can provide you with a solution, and the lower your final cost.

Incidentally, we find that email discussions are much more effective if a client's email program can display HTML. This lets us use highlighting and different fonts, which (if used sparingly) can make important distinctions more evident. If your email program can indeed display HTML, please let us know when you write to us.

To assist people in developing comprehensive specifications, we have created an online form that can help guide them through the steps. Click here to open a new window and see the form.

Our goal is to provide you with a product that is easy to use, works correctly, , and is priced reasonably. With this in mind, we encourage you to plan ahead in the manner described above. Experience has demonstrated to us that a careful preparation of a clear specification is the best way for our clients to save effort and money.

What is the cost for a small change to an existing application?
The minimum charge for any alteration is US $250, so if you have several small changes you need to make, it is a good idea to gather them together and submit them as a single upgrade request.

What if we need a change to the program 10 years from now?
Much of the need for parsing comes from companies that have "legacy" software that needs a small change — but the people who made it can no longer be found. Since we are confronted with this situation so frequently, we do our utmost to ensure that you do not have the same problem with our solutions. That is why we use the Parse-O-Matic for most custom applications. These solutions are script-based, so if necessary you can make the adjustments yourself or hire a temporary programmer. Parse-O-Matic's user manual explains how each scripting command works.

Answers: Downloadable Software Go to Top

Is Parse-O-Matic Free Edition "freeware"?
This product can be used free of charge, if you use only the basic functions. Many conversions can be performed this way. If, however, you require more conversion power, you will probably need a Parse-O-Matic Basic, Business or Enterprise license.

Click here to open a new window describing the Parse-O-Matic Basic Edition, or consult the documentation that accompanies our products.

You may also review the following grid that lists the differences between the versions.

Is there a Macintosh (Mac) version of Parse-O-Matic?
There is no native version of Parse-O-Matic for the Macintosh, however you can run the software under Apple's Boot Camp or Parallels Desktop for Mac.

I can't get my script to work. Can you fix it?
Work of this nature is treated the same way as a custom conversion application and is billed accordingly. Of course, there is no charge for the work if it turns out that the cause of your problem was a bug in our software.

Answers: Licensing Go to Top

Can my company use the Parse-O-Matic Free Edition?

Can you brand our company logo onto Parse-O-Matic Enterprise?
Yes, we can.

At the top of the Parsing Parameters screen on Parse-O-Matic is a large banner. Some companies like to have their own banner in this spot; this is known as "branding".

This does not, of course, reassign copyright or distribution rights; the programs are still National Data Parsing Canada Corporation products. Nonetheless, this branding service is welcomed by large companies (who like their software to reflect their corporate image) and consultants (who wish to remind their clients who wrote the scripts).

If you wish to brand your program, please contact us, describing the details of your requirement and attaching a copy of the logo you intend to use (so we can include it in the branded installation package).

Where can I find a "cracked" version of your program?
We apologize for including this in the FAQ, but some people actually do enter this sort of query into search engines. We believe we should warn them about the dangers they face.

Is it worth the risk? Some "crack" sites offer a "registered" (i.e. purportedly pirated) version of the software that is actually a "trojan horse" (definition). Such programs are not always detected by anti-virus programs since they are not actual viruses. Yet they can let the pirate take over your computer, transmit or corrupt your files, or even erase your hard disk.

Consider this: if the crackers have already been tinkering with the program, or generating an illegal registration or unlock code, how likely is it that they have your best interests at heart?

If you practice safe computing, you'd best avoid "cracks", "warez" and "keygen" sites. Even visiting the sites can expose you to "sploits" (exploits), which attempt to take over your web browser.

What options are there for Federal & State government purchases?
We offer special reduced pricing and options for Federal & State government users and purchasers. Please email us for more information and to receive our special pricing grid.

» What is your upgrade policy?
Parse-O-Matic Basic Edition customers may upgrade, after their one year of free upgrades, via our existing client discounted price.  Click here for current pricing.

Business and Enterprise also come with one year of upgrades.  Before the one year anniversary of your purchase, you must purchase a Service Renewal in order to continue to receive free updates.  To purchase a a Service Renewal, click here.

Answers: Privacy and Security Go to Top

If I send a file in a password-protected ZIP file, is it safe?
Password-protected ZIP files are not perfectly secure, but with a sufficiently long password they can be moderately safe.

A fast password-cracking program can try about 150,000,000 passwords per second on a single 10 GHz computer. So assuming your password uses a mix of lowercase letters and numbers (for example: r39xe1fgx) and the password-cracker knows that you have restricted yourself in this way, then these are the results we see...

  Password Length     Typical Time to Decrypt  
7 characters 4 minutes
8 characters 3 hours
9 characters 4 days
10 characters 150 days
11 characters 300 years
12 characters 12000 years

If you use numbers plus a mix of uppercase and lowercase characters (for example: R39Xe1fGx), the results are like this:

  Password Length     Typical Time to Decrypt  
7 characters 2 hours
8 characters 5 days
9 characters 20 years
10 characters 1,000 years
11 characters 50,000 years
12 characters 3,000,000 years

These calculations are based on the assumption that a "brute force" search for your password will not produce a false match. Without a deeper analysis, it would probably be best to assume that a password can be cracked in about one tenth of the time shown in these tables. In other words, the tables show the approximate magnitude of the cracking task in each case.

Under no circumstances should you ever use an ordinary word (such as "Elephant") as a ZIP password. These are easily cracked, using what is known as a "dictionary" attack.

If the cracker has access to a copy of one of the original files in the ZIP file, a "full plaintext" attack is possible, which can decrypt the ZIP instantly. To avoid plaintext attacks of any kind, you should not include any files that contain text whose presence is fairly predictable. For example, if there was a file in the ZIP named "Letter.txt", it would be reasonable to assume that it starts with the text string "Dear" (or some variation thereof).

Of course, if you write your password down and tape it to your computer's monitor, or send it in an email, the entire encryption process can become a pointless exercise. Any passwords you have should be kept in a very secure place, away from prying eyes.

The obvious question at this point is: how does one convey the password to the person who is supposed to have it? Sending it in an earlier email is rather risky, and putting it in an encrypted ZIP file simply makes the problem circular. However, it is reasonable under most circumstances to tell the person the password on the phone — provided that both people are on land-lines. That means: no cell phones, no radio phones.

For added security, the password could be divulged gradually over the course of several different phone calls. However, this might actually be more risky if the person at the other end is writing it down on a piece of paper which is left lying on his or her desk between calls.

If, after reading the information above, you consider that sending a file in a password-protected ZIP file simply isn't safe enough, you could use a high quality public-key encryption program. However, some people find these difficult to use. Another alternative is to send the file on a CD-ROM via a bonded courier.

Can I protect myself by sending you fake sample data?
If you want us to assess your input files, you can certainly protect the data itself by sending us fake data. However, this can end up costing you time and money.

Creating truly representative fake data is a task best left to a data conversion specialist. When we create demo input files for our applications, we will use fake data if the information is confidential. However, we will know how to make the data reflect real input data because by that time we will have studied the original input files.

When a non-specialist creates fake data, they can omit important variations or even drastically change the format of the data itself. For example, if the original input file contains some spurious "Carriage Return" characters and you load it into a text editor, it will probably be saved with all of the extraneous characters converted to "Carriage Return and Linefeed" pairs.

For the reasons listed above, we suggest that our clients send us real data if possible.

If I send you a file, will it be safe on your computers?
Security is very important to us. We protect our installation with a firewall and anti-virus software, applying patches and upgrades as they become available. Our operating system software is similarly kept up to date.

We avoid the standard email and browser programs — the main focus of crackers — choosing instead to work with products that we consider reliable and secure. We regularly review and identify the processes running on our computers. Our system registry is scanned and cleaned frequently, and we routinely perform anti-spyware checks. We scan any executable we download or receive via email — even if it appears to come from a trusted source.

We have implemented special measures to safeguard the physical security of our installation. For obvious reasons we can not specify the nature of these measures.

What is your web site's privacy policy?

The informal answer: We have been in the technology consulting for many, many years, so we have been party to gigabytes of confidential information. We guard it as jealously as if it was our own.

The formal answer: We do not require registration to use this web site.  In some cases we are able to determine how a visitor arrives at our site, but the only information this reveals is the IP address, originating web page and search term, if any.

We do advertise using Yahoo and Google.  Both of these companies use cookies.  This helps us determine which ads are more successful than others.  It also lets us look at our website to determine which pages are viewed and which ones aren't as popular.  We don't send either of these companies your name or email address.  You're certainly welcome to not accept their cookies if you'd rather not participate.

Information garnered from email (e.g. email address) is considered company confidential. We do not engage in unsolicited bulk mailing. In rare cases we may broadcast to our clients, but this is done only in exceptional circumstances.

We do not share client contact information with anyone except subcontractors who have a legitimate need to know. We do not give out contact information to potential clients asking for references. While this would be to our advantage (since we have so many satisfied customers), we do not impose upon them in this manner. We nonetheless reserve the right to publish any non-confidential material sent to us via email; in such case will we remove any clearly identifying information unless we have permission to retain it in the republication (e.g. testimonials).

We do not divulge any non-public information we obtain about clients and visitors to our web site, with the following exceptions: (1) We will comply with requests for information if we are compelled to do so by law enforcement officials who possess the authority to make such demands; (2) We do publish (here) the company or organization names of some of our clients; (3) We reserve the right to forward information pertaining to technologically debilitating activity (e.g. spamming), or illegal activity (e.g. scams).

Answers: Parse-O-Matic Edition Issues Go to Top

What is POMPT?
POMPT is an abbreviation for "Parse-O-Matic Power Tool", now known as Parse-O-Matic Free Edition, Parse-O-Matic Basic, Business and Enterprise.

To answer the question in a different way, Parse-O-Matic is a data file parsing utility. If you would like to learn more, you can view the user manual. (Please note that the manual sometimes takes a minute to load. The free Adobe PDF reader must be installed to view the file.)

One reason we included this section in the FAQ is that it isn't completely obvious how to spell the name of our product, so people occasionally have trouble finding us. We have seen various renderings of the name, including:

ParseOMatic Parsomatic Parsamation
Pars-O-Matic Parse-a-matic Parse-O-Mation
Parse0Matic (with a zero) Parse-a-mat DataMatic
Parsematic File-O-Matic Parse-O-Magic
Parse-Matic File-a-matic Parse Magic
Parsermatic Filematic Parse-o-rama

Did we miss any? It's hard to know, because if people can't find us, they can't tell us.

If we'd known about this potential problem when we created the product in 1986, perhaps we would have named it "Data File Fixer"!

What are the differences between Parse-O-Matic Free, Basic, Business and Entperise?
Please review the following grid for more information:

  Free Basic Business Enter
Integrated Development Environment x x x x
Lifetime license for that version x x x x
Basic 30 commands x x x x
Advanced commands   x x x
Binary commands     x x
Script encryption option     x x
Database connectivity (ODBC)     x x
Run from Task Scheduler or batch file     x x
"Deployables" (stand alone parsing solutions)       x
Maximum file size 10MB 1GB 1TB None
Upgrades n/a 1 year 1 year 1 year  

Can I download and parse a web page?

Yes, you can supply Parse-O-Matic with a URL or URLs as an input file or files.  HTTP, FTP, etc. are available as input files.

In addtion, you may select "HTMLDelimited" as the input file type, where Parse-O-Matic will parse your data accordingly.

Answers: New Features, Bugs, Mistakes Go to Top

Do you listen to suggestions for new features?
Yes, we most certainly do listen.

Most of the features of our Parse-O-Matic technology were implemented in response to a client's specific needs. Our product's evolution has always been tied directly to customer requirements.

Every idea that comes to us is retained for our next Development Priorities review. (We cannot, however, commit to a specific implementation date.)

If the feature you want is crucial to your operation, you may be able to order it as a custom enhancement.

How do I report a bug or mistake?

If you've discovered a bug in our software, please let us know. If possible, please send us a script and an input file (in a ZIP file) so we can reproduce the problem.

In addition, if you discover even a minor typographical, grammatical or spelling error in our software, documentation or web site, we hope you can take a moment to tell us about it.

You can send us email at:

To get our attention, please set your email's subject line to "Parse-O-Matic Problem Report".

Thank you!

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