Archive for January, 2008

Outsourcers shafted

Thursday, 31st January, 2008

I see the backbone cable cut fiasco is affecting connectivity in many key outsourcing destinations.

I wouldn’t mind if it meant I can do my telephone banking with someone who understands my accent.

[lo – see the chaos theory in action, a boat anchors in a slightly different place than normal in Asia somewhere, now my bank is unobtainable, my favourite weather site is down, and work enquires have shot up]

I don’t generally worry about off-shoring, Excel/VBA/Finance does not seem to be a key target technology for most providers.

I did once have a client fire us off in preference for some cheap offshore developers, but they came back once they had a quick lesson in basic maths:

Total cost = Time taken x cost per time unit

Halfing the cost per day is a bit pointless if the time taken quadruples. Especially if you are in a hurry. Anyone ever done a non-urgent Excel/VBA project?
I’m sure there are some valid uses for off-shoring and maybe once upon a time it made sense. But in most software development/maintenance I see it as a sign of low class/ignorant management.

Anyone out there feeling the pinch from cheap off-shore labour?



Name conflict

Thursday, 31st January, 2008

Anyone seen this before?
name box box cannot resemble a reference:
name conflict

I got this when trying to switch from A1 notation to R1C1 with a certain spreadsheet. I checked all the names visible and hidden, and none contain non printing chars or anything that could be mistaken for an R1C1 ref.

Of course in writing this post I have thought of loads of ways to investigate further. Also of course I can’t reproduce the behavior anymore. D’oh!

I guess I could pick through file names and dates to see if those dated around the time of this jpeg exhibit this behavior. Maybe tomorrow.

Unless any of you know whats going on?




Wednesday, 30th January, 2008

Many people moan about Microsoft pricing (excluding me, I don’t mind the prices, its that product activation I detest). I often read phrases like ‘predatory pricing’, ‘gouging’, ‘monopoly’ etc. when talking about Microsoft pricing policies.

But I was leafing through a Dabs catalogue the other day and I saw this

MS Word 2007 – 137.09 GBP

Adobe Acrobat 8 – 211.99 GBP

Whats all that about?

Are people complaining about Adobe pricing as much (or 55% more) than MS?

Are these products so vastly different its an invalid comparison?

I’d like to know who are the ‘better value for money’ competitors? Lets exclude open source from this, and just consider other software writer/vendors. I’m mainly thinking in the desktop productivity space, but if you want to suggest server stuff that makes MS look expensive (Oracle??) please do.



Avoid OOXML for now?

Tuesday, 29th January, 2008

Interesting post here from Bob Sutor. He suggests that it might be worth holding off using Ms Office XML file formats until any changes required to get through the ISO process are sorted.

I’m using 2007 compatibility edition (Office 2003) anyway so it doesn’t bother me. I just delete attachments sent in the 2007 format, or ask the sender to use an industry standard format (ie 2003, or Open Office).

As a matter of good communication I think stuff should be communicated in the most common/open format that supports the features you need. For me thats RTF for my cv and other Word type docs, and 2003 .xls for spreadsheets.

I think the xml formats are handy if you are picking them apart or constructing them using a non Office app eg on a web server. They are too bloated to send around (about 30-50% bigger than a zipped .xls).

I was expecting to get shouted off Office Zealot in the run up to the ISO meeting by all the ooxml noise, thats what happened when they went for ECMA. It doesn’t seem to have built up the same momentum yet – give it a couple of weeks.

On a related note, I wonder if getting bounced by ECMA has delayed Office 14? The rumours were that it would be out mid 2009. I would have thought there might be some limited releases soon if they are to have a similar beta program to 2007, and hit Q2/3 2009. I can imagine them delaying any beta until they know what the file format needs to be, what do you think?

Are you using 2007 MSOOXML formats?

Also do you think the default blocking of certain file formats in 2003 SP3 (which goes on auto update soon btw) will help their cause at ISO?



Microsoft and community

Monday, 28th January, 2008

Are Microsoft getting more involved with the communities around their products or are they withdrawing? (I’m thinking Excel mainly.)

I have recently felt they are getting much more involved, with blogging, newsgroups, public betas etc.

But then I was thinking about the (big and regular) MSDN roadshows they used to run where most of the presenters were industry folks not MS staff like now (and the roadshows are smaller and less frequent).

And the fact that many books now seem to be written by the product teams rather than community members.

So now I’m not so sure, what do you think?




Friday, 25th January, 2008

In case you don’t already have one, here is my (free) Excel workbook colour mapper. it colours cells according to the base data type – text, number or formula.

It turns this:
colour mapper

into this:

colour mapper post

It has a simple worksheet based options sheet

colour map control

Of course it doesn’t have an undo, feel free to code that yourself and let us know.

The reason I chose borders rather than full fills was to try and capture the regions structure of a worksheet. Now that the borders are shared though it didn’t work how I wanted. In the olden days one cell could have a blue border and its neighbour red and they wouldn’t interfere.

I only did 3 colour/datatypes as that is all the colour meanings I can hold in my head at once. It just copies and pastes the format from the cells in the options sheet.

Oh to run it, activate the workbook you want to colour, then tools>macros>rum macro (alt TMM) then select whichever routine is visible from colourmap5. There is only one, and it does every worksheet.
Thats right I didn’t even bother to put it on the tools menu (mine was getting so clogged up I am now just using alt tmm). If you want to put a nice interface on it then please do and send us the code/new version.

Its not been thoroughly tested or anything, but I have found it useful and spotted a few errors using it.

I haven’t tried it in 2007 so no idea if it works with that.

Any problems let me know



Poetic justice

Friday, 25th January, 2008

scamming the phishers

Netcraft finds a freely downloadable phishing kit contains a twist – it emails all victim details to the kit builder as well as the phisher.

Be careful – its a jungle out there!

Office Developer conference

Thursday, 24th January, 2008

San Jose in a couple of weeks – more info here. I thought they were being slack on getting the agenda organised until I realised that no-script was blocking it all. No idea how long it has been there.

I’m not going, but Dick is presenting. You’ll know him when you see him – he’ll be the one talking about real world actual systems and issues.

I was going to present on xlls, but after a rather calamitous FY2007, in 2008 I’m cutting back on unpaid travel and work.

I find it mildly incredible that MS are charging over a thousand dollars per delegate, but won’t pay presenters expenses. Of course they are paying expenses (and salaries) to many of the presenters as many of them are Microsoft employees. And of course whilst they are preparing and attending they are not working on the products. I guess I’m missing something, but using MS staffers looks more expensive than using folks from industry to me, even if contributing to their expenses.

So on the down side there will likely be a chunk of Contoso use case fantasy stuff. On the plus side however, MS presenters are usually very good, and they have excellent product knowledge, and inside knowledge of course.

And possibly most importantly many of the folks who look after Excel and Access etc will be there so there is a great chance to meet and greet.

Whatever you do don’t get sucked into the sharepoint stuff (watching paint dry is much more fun), the client track and maybe the real world track look like the best bet for spreadsheeters.

Anyone here planning on going?



Fed rate cut

Wednesday, 23rd January, 2008

They knocked a chunk off the US interest rate yesterday. The last time they did that was when the dot com bubble burst around 2000 (that would be the Web 1.0 bubble).

Apparently one of the reasons that it worked so well the last time was the strength of the housing market at that time.

With the arse falling out of the property market everywhere except Cumbria, commentators are suggesting the rate cut might not work so well this time around.

Apparently there is nothing to shore up the economy.

Der! havent they *heard* of Web two point zero? der!!

If we all just keep checking our mates aren’t having more fun than us on Facebook I think we’ll be alright.

What Web 2 point oh web sites/product/service/community/Saas do you reckon will actually be useful in 2008?

Their main use seems to be for talking about how great it is to be able to talk about t’intarweb, which seems like a recursive waste of time to me. I guess I am missing something right? what?



DVD rant (OT)

Tuesday, 22nd January, 2008

Anyone else have problems playing DVDs?

One of the kids DVDs wouldn’t play right (stuttering and sticking)(player a), so I tried it in my laptop. It didn’t freeze, but would only play in black and white, and no sound.

Of course I cleaned all their grubby fingerprints off it first.

As it happens we have another DVD player (player b) so I tried that and everything was fine, fair enough – player a is knackered.

Last night we were watching a different DVD in player b (a is on the verge of retirement). It got part way through and froze. hmm.

I tried the dvd in player a out of desperation, and guess what – it worked, fine, no problem.

So what the chuff is going on with dvds and dvd players?

We now have some dvds that will only play on player a, and some that will only play on b, some that will play on both, and some that won’t play on my laptop. And we don’t have some that we threw out because we thought they were knackered.

Call me naive but I thought dvd players played dvds (the clue is in the name!) wtf??

I heard a rumour that its all to do with DRM. That sounds about right, I have never met an industry that hates its customers as much as the entertainment industry.

Anyone else had any problems?