Archive for April, 2008

Access User Group – May MS Reading

Wednesday, 16th April, 2008

Just got a note about the upcoming UK Access User group meet May 15th.

Its at MS TVP and they have great line up of speakers, if you don’t recognise the names, give yourself a slap and google them. If you are not a database person then fair enough I guess.

All the info is here.

might see you there?



Get some street cred

Wednesday, 16th April, 2008

Those nice people at BonaVista are offering the chance to win an iphone (also known as the Jesus phone (El reg only?)).

Obviously its aimed at getting us to try their Excel add-in based micro charting tool to design your whiz bang dashboard.

I was wondering about aiming for second place so I can drag Stephen Few to Carlisle which is completely nowhere ;-)

Most people I know have a blackberry, not sure we could step down to an iphone, but some folks get quite forceful in their defence (so I heard…).

If you enter let us know how you get on (I’m guessing if you come last you may not rush to tell us?)



I think they mean us

Tuesday, 15th April, 2008

Guerilla IT

How to love your superusers!

The article is a bit more related to sys admin type stuff, and thinly veiled sales pitches, rather than deep and dirty Office dev. But I like the principle – instead of IS battling against the power users, support them and encourage them – same effort, much better outcome for everyone.

Of course, back in the real world there is the small matter of something called FEAR…

I have worked at the odd place that worked this way and supported and encouraged those users pushing the limits. But most places are some way off I reckon.

Anyone else worked somewhere where IS encouraged them, or are we all brow beaten into submission daily?



Excel accuracy

Monday, 14th April, 2008

The Excel team have a great post explaining Excels accuracy here.

Do you think its adequate for normal spreadsheet use?

Do you think it should be improved in todays 64 bit computing world?

Would you be willing to take a performance hit for greater accuracy?

My answers – yes, no, no.

In fairness I have tripped over accuracy issues in spreadsheets I’ve worked with, so if it didn’t impact performance (I’m not bothered about file size), and didn’t break a bunch of old stuff, then a few more significant digits would be welcome. What about you?




Wednesday, 9th April, 2008

important or overrated?

I think I am gradually getting more consistent in more things as time goes on and I find ways of doing stuff that I think are the best in the circumstances.

But every project is different and in many I will do a similar operation in different ways. Sometimes because I am searching for a ‘best’ way. Often because I forgot I already solved this in a previous project (even with the nagging deja vu). Sometimes I know I solved it before but can’t find the right project.

I do have tons of library code that finds its way into nearly all my projects, for managing Excel, managing Essbase, menus, common constants, ADO, logging etc.

I am thinking things like working with certain types of list, managing application state etc. Stuff that is not totally general but is in 1 in 3 projects or something. And I mean consistent across projects, not within one.

When I work with other peoples work if I find the same thing solved is many different ways in the same project I would probably start to worry. But if I got 2 projects and one used the app.rows approach and the other used the used range intersection approach it wouldn’t bother me as being inconsistent, would it bother you?

I think some consistency is handy enough, but overall I think it could be a little overrated, especially if we are constantly learning.

What do you think?

how consistent do you think you are (beyond library code stuff)?



Decent UK ISP

Tuesday, 8th April, 2008

I am planning on changing my broadband ISP anyone got any recommendations?

I’m currently on an 8 Mb (arf arf) pipe, _allegedly_ – I have never seen a download speed greater than 300k.

I was going to change to BT, but not after this phorm fiasco. Phorm have just fessed up to changing some wikipedia stuff about themselves – not the sort of org I want to deal with.

Any suggestions welcome, ones to avoid?



Secure on-line banking

Tuesday, 8th April, 2008

Banks have once again demonstrated what a bunch of slope shouldered narrow backs they really are. Henceforth the security of our on-line banking will be no concern of theirs unless we are using a pc with fully updated operating system, anti virus, anti spyware, anti phishing and firewall.

I thought I would highlight this as I know a few people don’t run AV as they manage risk in other ways.

This seems a shift in risk and responsibility from the olden days of cheque books and cards.

As a matter of interest would any of you do your banking from an internet cafe?

Also if someone hacks your wifi/network and listens in to your banking and nicks your cash mountain whos liable?

Its no surprise some of my mates still hide money under the mattress!




Monday, 7th April, 2008

[Not the Yorkshire meaning!]

Dick over on DDOE has recently done a post on investment analysis. His basic premise being that ‘lean’ companies may make better preforming investments.

In his excellent book ‘Slack’, Tom DeMarco almost goes the opposite way.

TDMs view is that these lean companies that have stripped the middle management layer back to the bone have made a huge blunder. His view is that this much maligned middle tier is where all the creativity happens, where great new ways of working are invented, where new products or services are imagined. Having a little slack in the business gives people the space to create.

Its a compelling argument, and the book is well worth the couple of hours it takes to read.

I certainly think it holds true in SW dev (for me at least!) – when I’m under massive pressure I just do what I know works, when I have a bit of time I try and find a better way.

Do you think the middle management layer in orgs is/was important? or just a bunch of fat cats with mid level company cars (and cheap suits)?

And do you think that less pressure or more pressure results in the best quality work?

Have you read Slack? what did you think?



Old dog new tricks

Saturday, 5th April, 2008

I have had a few set backs recently.

The Ribbon ruined my main work environment (that would be Excel for those that are new here), and Subaru released a new pig ugly Impreza that is even uglier than the hideous bug eye version they got ridiculed for a few years ago.

The deal was when I gave up my Ducati to be a responsible parent I could get a scooby doo instead. I did, and its ace, but its approaching time to change it and I can’t think of anything in the world that would make me buy that new bush pig (offers to the usual address though! ;-)).

That lead me to wonder if it was just a case of being and old dog not capable of new tricks. An accusation that I think was levelled at me when I first brought up how crap the ribbon is.

I was reassured then to read this Following broad condemnation of the conservative five-door hatchback shape which shows at least I am not alone among the scooby faithful. Rather than devalue the current model, I think the new one turns it into a classic, a bit like Excel 2003.

And back to computing, since Excel 2007 was released, I have changed browser to Firefox, changed email to Thunderbird, I now use Linux as my main web stuff os (on my magnificent Asus Eee). I’ve also moved to VS2005 (for C++) on my dev machine, reviewed Resolver including playing with Python and tried a bit of Ruby. And I have started poking around VS2008 have also been working with MS on Office 14. And of course I started this blog.

Outside computing, I’m training to be a football coach (thats proper football, involving foot and ball, not any kind of hand throw misnomer) and I have my eye on some other new stuff too.

In short I don’t think my dislike of the ribbon can be explained by some fear of change, or some inability to pick up new things. I think the only rational explanation is that is doesn’t support either the way I work or the work that I do. Other user interfaces do.

What new stuff have you been looking at this last 12m?



New WordPress dashboard

Friday, 4th April, 2008

is minted.

They have made everything I do easier. If it used to be 1 click, now its none, 2 click things are now 1 click or less.

I don’t think they have taken anything away, just combined existing things in exactly the way I use them, and added new things and new ways to get to existing things.

I would have to put this at the opposite end of the user experience satisfaction scale to the Office 2007 mess.

nice one.