Archive for September, 2008

Shiver me timbers

Friday, 19th September, 2008

Bugger looks like I missed talk like a pirate day.

I’ve just sent an xll to a client – I could have done ‘ahoy me hearties – there be speed about these parts’ as an opening message, instead of the slightly less piratey ‘Loading actuarial functions xll’.

Oh well, next year maybe.

Rum tonight?




Friday, 19th September, 2008

I’ve been trying for ages to explain something about the ribbon, finally I’ve worked out what I had in the back of my mind.

Dad Dancing

All the kewl kids know dads can’t dance, but dads don’t know it. The more dads try to be cool and dance like their kids the more they look, well, like dad dancers.

So it is, the clumsy dad dancing ribbon compared to the cool UI experience of other operating systems.

have a good weekend



Visual studio to get calamity UI

Friday, 19th September, 2008

Messaging aside, what’s in the VS pipeline, according to Schlimmer?

For VS10:

(From all about MS)

Surely points 1 and 2 are saying they want to disorientate all their ‘professional’ developers next?

Whats really scary is what MJ reckons they’ll have in a future version:

  • Visual Studio Tools for Applications (VSTA) used for macros, plus other “end-user extensibility” improvements
  • The ability to create more add-ins in managed code

Which would you prefer a new ‘look and feel’ (feel the pain…) or the ability to interact in a reliable way with other core MS products.

A while ago I was bemoaning the fact that Office has no community gurus (since pointed out that they do have a few ex VS/VBA devs on staff in the Excel team), and VS has loads. I’m not sure its helped if thats their priorities!

I know the VS crowd are obsessed with new new new, and completely unobsessed with anything to do with Office but I do think there is room for improvement on their current Office interaction story.

Are you looking forward to losing all your commands in VS10?



Apple marketshare

Thursday, 18th September, 2008

The next marketshare figures are due out in a few weeks ( I think/hope). In fact some notebook ones are here. (Apple are booming)

How do you think Apple will do? do you think they will continue to take marketshare from MS or do you think MS will pull it back?

Me, I am convinced they will grab another chunk, and continue for some significant time. Franky I can see parity within a couple of years, certainly in the consumer space (Win 40%, Mac 40% Linux 20% – Oct 2010)


Because Apple deeply understand something vital that MS seem utterly unable to get their head around.

Apple understand that first impressions count, and they understand that caring is the best ever first impression.

Compare and contrast the neat ‘quality’ packaging that Apple stuff comes in to the crapware infestation that greets a new Windows user.

Of course Apple have more control of the whole process from manufacture to retail, I think that shows how smart they are. In going for mass market MS have ceded too much control to orgs with potentially conflicting objectives. Even if MS understood that first impression thing, they are powerless to affect it. oops.

Tom first mentioned it ages ago, things have changed in IT. Years ago business drove IT and things moved from business to consumer. These days a lot of new trends appear first in the consumer space and are driven from there to the corp. world. If that happens with OS’s MS will have big problems.

In 2 years time where do you think things will be?

The big issue with any OS shift is that MS Office only really works on Windows. I guess there is Wine, but really I think the only cross platform office suite is OpenOffice. The current Mac Office has no VBA which puts if in the chocolate teapot category of usefulness.

Do you see/expect to see a noticeable reduction in demand for MS Office related services if/as people migrate to other OS’s? Or are all these Apple-istas just dual booting back into Windows/MS Office?



Calamity UI blunderthon continues

Wednesday, 17th September, 2008

Not content with destroying Office 2007 with the calamity UI, MS seem determined to roll it out to every app that stops hopping long enough. Here is a screenshot of Paint in a dev build of Windows 7.

Now correct me if I’m wrong but one of the nonsensical ‘reasons’ touted for the ‘need’ for the calamitous new UI was the complexity and power of the main Office apps. So wtf have they forced it onto little old MS Paint for then? And even littler and lacking in features Wordpad apparently?

Expect a surge in demand for non widescreen screens as people struggle to fit the screen stealing ribbon on a normal monitor.

Well except most consumers will have moved to Linux netbooks (crap name I know – but no-one liked laptot either) or Apple Macs by then. Corps of course are sticking with compatibility mode.

Do they read the computer press???

These 8.9″ screen sub notebooks only have 600 pixels screen depth – the bloody ribbon is 599* that only leaves 1 pixel for scroll bars, status bars and your work. (and the taskbar)


It make no sense, you can’t use Vista on them because it needs too much resource (why? ffs) and it looks like you won’t be able to use Windows 7 on them because they chose to use the silly ui.

Of course you can hide the ribbon, but correct me if I’m wrong but its not actually a ‘user interface’ if you have to hide it to interact with the product is it?

I can only assume the MS see no value in the sub notebook market and see no danger from people getting comfortable with non MS software on these devices. Lucky then that OOo has big/small button options and facility to have 0, 1 or 2 rows of buttons as the _user_ chooses.

I’ve seen hints on line that Windows 7 might be out in 2009 – I can’t see that helping Vista sales can you?



Hacking Excel worksheet protection

Tuesday, 16th September, 2008


Who hasn’t ever had the need to crack open a worksheet to see whats really going on?

Who hasn’t genuinely forgotten a password and needed to edit a sheet? or really taken over from someone who left after protecting loads of sheets with an unknown password?

All of those have happened to me, but the big one is I regularly get sent workbooks to review for some kind of repair/enhancement. Its impossible to follow the logical flow through protected worksheets, the auditing toolbar doesn’t work, select special doesn’t work, apparently blank cells may have hidden contents…

I guess a few of you know I’m not a fan of worksheet protection, so it will come as no surprise that I use the services of a password removal tool. There’s plenty of free VBA floating around t’interweb that will brute force a password. And some 2 line instant hacks for older versions. Some I tested do not remove all passwords – thats a PITA, after waiting 2 minutes.

VBA was too slow, so I went to a VB6 COM addin – for about a zero % speed up sadly. It still takes upto a couple of minutes on my laptop. Not good enough for a busy boy like me.

So I wrote an xll version which removes passwords in about 1 second on the same laptop. Its compatible with, and has been tested on, every (Windows) Excel from 97 to 2007.

Winter is coming

Winter is coming

As winter is coming (did it ever leave) and the smurflings need new shoes this is another commercial product. There is a free trial, and the full version only costs 20 quid (+HMRC cut of course) so its not like its going to bankrupt any other busy people who can’t wait 2 mins for a VBA version. Get in touch for details of multiple user discounts.

This only removes worksheet passwords and workbook structure ones, its doesn’t open or un-encrypt files saved with a password. If you can’t get into the workbook this tool won’t help.

All the details are here

The shop page is here

More on Excel security here

Its a proper commercial product so comes with full support, and you can buy in confidence knowing you are not funding drug cartels or people traffickers.

If anyone would like to incorporate a no user interface version into their products then give me a shout about possible licencing deals. I have already had some interest from some audit tool vendors, and you can be sure this will find its way into the next version of XLAnalyst (due out before Christmas (2008!))

Any feedback welcome, here or via email.



Recession bites

Monday, 15th September, 2008

Just got this today:
VBA Developer Required urgently to start tomorrow, You will be doing he basic coding, wring forms / Queries and reporting. This is a 1-2 Weeks contract, paying £10 per hour. I understand you may be senior or this role may not be relevant for you however if you are available immediately please send me an updated CV…

Now if it were 1-2 weeks at the end of our garden I still wouldn’t trip over myself for a tenner an hour for coding, forms and queries. I’m guessing though that its London, where a tenner an hour will barely pay for cattle truck transport and a butty with too many ingredients from pret a manger.

I guess it could be for the work I just quoted for, as the client (after needing the quote ultra ASAP last week) has disappeared off the face of the earth since. Lucky then we agreed a days charge for scope, design and quote.

Do they really fill these start tomorrow, pay crap jobs?

Apple Macs

Monday, 15th September, 2008

Apple are back on my radar for a few reasons.

  1. The iPhone apps store – this has really taken off, like really taken off. Compare and contrast with Office Marketplace which seems like a ghost town. (especially from a Linux client!)
  2. Several small software vendors are suggesting the market is now 50:50 Mac and Windows in many application areas. Although Apple only make up 5% or whatever of the Pc market, owners seem more prepared to spend a few quid on software.
  3. I got my usual web mag the other day, I havent bothered for a few months, being somewhat tied up with non web stuff. Lo, its well geared to Macs, any software or article that does not apply to Macs has big warnings all over it. Incredible! its clear whilst I’ve been away Macs have really taken hold of that market.
  4. I read somewhere that some recent big Ruby conference was dominated by Macs, I already know many of the security ones are becoming Mac only affairs.
  5. I had a raging argument with some relly about how crap iPod +iTunes was compared to a normal player that works with a file explorer. His eyes burnt wide with the fervor of a fanatic. I left him fuming about how stupid I was for not being able to see how giving up all control to Apple was ‘A Good Thing (TM)’, I went and got some more manky undercooked chicken (I think?) from the barbey. I’m pretty confident he would have bought I am Rich! for his iPhone if he had seen it before it got pulled. (He’s probably traumatised for missing out)
  6. They come ready equipped with half decent developer tools.
  7. All the kewl kids have them.
  8. You can always triple boot into Wndows and Linux, or use VMs

Looking in from the outside it all looks a bit mad, but from a business opportunity POV I think it has legs. I think Apple make Microsoft look like a kindly Aunt from a corp POV. but hey thats business right?

Anyway if any of codematics clients actually ever pay up I may well buy a mac ‘for research purposes’.

Anyone else keeping an eye on developments in this area?

Anyone else looking at the IB world and wondering if they’ll ever get paid at all?



Wheres the Office 300 big ones?

Saturday, 13th September, 2008

I’ve seen all the fuss about the 300 mil MS are ‘investing’ in margeting Vista.

As I remember, off the top of my head, without checking, Windows and Office are similar operating income generators? roughly about a billion each per month give or take.

So has Office had 300 big ones to ‘invest’? If not why not?

I’d have thought , perhaps naively, that the best way to drive uptake of their ailing (failing?) OS would be to push the premier product that runs on it?

(I wonder then if O14 might have some features that shine a bit more brightly in Vista?)

Have you seen a big budget campaign for MS Office recently? Or are they saving up for O14?



Cheap training

Thursday, 11th September, 2008

As you would expect HR numpties irritate me only slightly less than officious sys admin jobsworths.

JP made a great comment on the previous post about his company not paying to send him on the Excel user conf, they’d rather send him to some cheap as chips bodyshop down the road where he will be taught by someone who teaches every office app (from every vendor). They can do this seemingly incredible feat, simply because they are 1 or 2 pages ahead of the students in the manual. And normally many years behind in commercial experience. slap on the back, how much saved?

As it happens the user conferences represent stunning value for money. The presenters obviously are a big draw, but also meeting and chatting with other delegates will set your learning alight.

In related news I had a consulting client contact me recently. I had done some coaching for his team a while back (ie helped them use Excel features that help them do their actual job better- not follow some bland syllabus). He had a new team and was after the same thing. We sorted out some details and he said he would just run it by HR ‘should be fine’.


Got to use their preferred supplier, that means bland rigid courses delivered from someone who has never used the product in the real world.

I’m guessing he wont even bother losing the days work to send them, so an even bigger cost saving. Hearty slaps all round HR. Especially when they are tasked to find another 100k cost analyst because his team are working so suboptimally they need extra staff.

–Here endeth the lesson on the destructive combination of visible cost, hard to quantify benefit, and dumb HR policy.–

Feel free to add your examples, good or bad