StoreBoss… the plugin!

storeboss(tm).io
StoreBoss: first sighting…

Okay… so it’s just a PHP file with header info, for now, but I think it looks right at home in WP admin.

I did some more data modeling and source data checking today to make sure that the “tick-and-tie” algorithm will work, given the test source data available from WC, Stripe, and Bank of America.

Much of my day was spent wrestling with the question as to whether I should implement part of StoreBoss on a desktop. I discounted MS Access and/or Libre Base as unsatisfactory options for a variety of technical and functional reasons.

So what other choices do I have?

For example, if I use SQLite as the DB engine, what language should I use for the GUI part?

Python has been all the rage for data analysis for some time, so Python/SQLite is an obvious choice.

But…

  1. I don’t know Python;
  2. I don’t really want to hassle with Tk or other Python frameworks to produce a desktop GUI that will probably look amateurish;
  3. I don’t care for some of the limitations of SQLite.

On the other hand…

  1. I am stunned — stunned! — at what PHP programmers have to go through if they wish to debug their apps by stepping through code; and;
  2. I want to avoid, as much as possible, being overly ensnared by the WP way of doing things;
  3. You can do a lot of cool thing in terms of data visualization with existing JS libraries.

So it looks like the split might be  SQL + basic PHP for extracting and prepping WC data for querying by parameterized stored procedures on the prod WP server. By focusing on doing much of this work via SQL, I can quickly create a few custom tables in WP, populate these via SQL, while providing value add transactional information via a bare-bones PHP script that (safely) calls the queries, then display results using JS razzmatazz.

StoreBoss would also provide a download facility to either a JS/SQLite SPA app (again, this is a lot of work for one person, especially for someone who is more of a data modeler/architect than a down-in-the-trenches developer who eats Laravel magical callbacks for breakfast) or EasyMorph (a bit on the expensive side, but fits right into the code-free data analysis mantra) or MS Power BI (more achievable, in a shorter time frame, with fewer GUI headaches, despite the learning curve) for sophisticated data analytics on the desktop.

This type of hybrid architecture is a simpler cousin to the sort of Big Data deployments ably discussed by Lockwood Lyon here.

I am eagerly awaiting, by the way, the short term release roadmap that is planned for Easymorph.

The “Actions for REST APIs” might allow for downloading of data from WC’s headless interface. The ability to pipeline data to Power BI in December ’19 is pretty exciting too — although its (meaning Power BI’s) notions of what constitutes a DSS data store and its associated BASE standards compliance requires further investigation, ditto the pros and cons of time spent mastering non-portable, non-transferable MS data manipulation sub-languages.

We’ll get to all that down the road. But for now, plain ol’ StoreBoss will live in the open-source WP cloud.

Initially, users will have to manually upload their bank file transaction data, and that’s a drag.

But that’s how it has to be, at least for now.

B of A (which is the bank I use for the e-commerce site I run) would not accept a wildcard SSL certificate comparable to the one used by SiteGround for my site:  so I would not be able to programmatically access B of A’s CashPro Account Info API from my hosted SG server.

I’ll have to figure out how to make the uploading (of banking data) to StoreBoss’s staging table as simple as possible;  there might be existing, open-source software out there that might be of help in that regard.

Maybe I can just lay out a sample Libre Calc template and my prospective customers can do the work of mapping CSV fields to the DB columns.  If explained clearly, and it’s not too complicated a file structure, the payoff might be worth the tedious hassle. But I don’t like this part of the solution… so we shall see how all this pans out. At the very least, I should be able to develop reusable template mappings for the top 3 US bank transactional files, and have those available out of the box.

Speaking of reusability, one of the interesting things (to me, at least) of this proposed StoreBoss architecture is that almost none of the code touches or relies on WP core.  What this means is that I can use JS libraries such as Datatables (which in turn depend on JQuery) that will greatly reduce the coding I have to come up with attractive tables for StoreBoss, and even if I end using other libraries (say for charting or date-fns for temporal calculations) that carry MIT licensing, it won’t matter, since I’m hitting the database the directly, and not depending directly on WP/ WC.  I will have to verify this with plug-in gods at WP, but I think I’m right.  Why re-invent the wheel?

Meanwhile, I am close to finalizing the sb_transaction_event table, and ran a few test analytics SQL queries against real-world data.

Boy was I unpleasantly surprised at some of the things I found! (Hint: certain online CC processors appear to charge over 3% in some cases, which I think is pretty rich, considering that my client’s in-store credit card processor charges less than 2).

Woah.

StoreBoss can’t come soon enough.

It shouldn’t be only big corporations that can shell out for automated systems that check this sort of thing.

What about the SMB WooCommerce store owner who can’t afford fancy cloud-based systems and an army of accountants and data analysts?

If smaller scale WC store owners are doing any kind of volume, you can bet there’s money probably slipping through the cracks. And even if there isn’t, would it be nice to know for sure?

Time to get cracking!

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How I turned into a snake in the grass

Python in the grass

I’ve spent the last month coding in Florida, where the “local” Burmese python population is apparently exploding.

I was putting together an app that used PHP, HTML, CSS, some JS, and a custom SVG ico.  It currently runs on a desktop Xampp server configuration, with MariaDB 10.3 as the storage engine.

Initially, I thought I would eventually turn this application in a WP plug-in, but have since changed my mind.  The more I got my hands dirty with PHP and Maria, the less enthusiasitic I became about this whole plug-in idea.

Instead, I realized that my app would best be implemented  as a series of “widgets” written in Python, with SQLite as the data store, and PYSimpleGUI on the front end.

Going Xampp was hardly a waste of time though.  But rather than have my Data Analysis/DSS app hit the WP DB in real time, I’ll create a simple WP helper plugin that downloads the STRIPE and Woo Order info that’s needed by my app .  Instead of using plain old CSV, I’m thinking of implementing a micromodel download, as described here. Not sure yet how this would work, but the concept of dowloading relations (in a Coddian sense) instead of data cell arrays sounds far more appealing.

Using DB Browser for now, to look at my test data, and play around with SQLite, until I learn Python well enough to write the actual app.

SQLite seems perfect for my application, which is meant to be used by a single user  — whom I envision to be a non technical business owner running a small online and/or brick-and-mortar shop.

Since the app deals with sensitive financial data, it’s actually best — from a peace of mind standpoint — for the data to live securely where no one (presumably) can get at it but its one legitimate user — the store owner who is looking at store cash flow information.

What a relief not to have to write the contorted sanitizing code in order to deal with SQL injections and other annoyances!

However, I still have to look into the RCE vulnerability in SQLite that was identified earlier this year.

So far, though, SQLite seems to be lightning fast, espeically given the small test sample I am using (around 400 rows).  There are peculiaritiies in syntax that I have to study; a good primer on this topic can be found here.  Another peculiarity is that atypical code of conduct manifesto that made the news recently; and that is all I will say about that!

My work is cut out for me.  I have to simultaneously learn Python 3.7, PYSimple, and how to use GitLab — not to mention figure out the algorithms for my app.

I hope to resurface in Pythonesque mode in a month or two or three.

What’s the rush?