Archive for December, 2008

Microsoft PAYG patent

Wednesday, 31st December, 2008

MJF has a piece about a recent patent MS got for pay as you go computing of some sort.

I was going to leave this comment there but there were far too many hurdles to leave a simple comment.

This might be appealing to groups who can’t afford netbooks.

Microsoft has no current software targeting this form factor – Vista is too resource greedy, Office 2007 UI is too screen greedy. Win 7 is not going to fix this.

I think Linux netbooks are the main competition for this PAYG, and IMO are much better. I have Ubuntu netbook remix on my Acer Aspire One, its superb.

With corporates pulling out of SA and EA, I think Microsoft subscriptions are proving to be unpopular. Possibly because of the ‘OW starts now’ with EVO (Exchange Vista Office in 2007).

Thats my view, I’m not a fan of rentals, what do you think?

Is renting software by features used/needed radical and new and exciting? or not?

I think MS need to do something to target netbooks – OS and Apps. My kids got Linux netbooks for Christmas and are now learning OOo not MSO, Firefox not IE, Linux not Windows. (in fairness they are just playing flash games found through google!)

Maybe MS should resurrect Office 2003 (as they did with Win XP – just for netbooks) – at least that UI can be customised to work on a 600px high screen.



Blog Stats end of 2008

Wednesday, 31st December, 2008

SOS has now been going 2 years.

In that time there have been 580 posts and 4320 comments.

That’s an average of just over 7 comments per post, which is excellent I think.

If you have commented, thank you for contributing. If you just lurk and have never commented, then please do join in. The more the merrier, and the more views the more we can all learn.

As usual I’ve learnt a ton of new stuff this year, both from people who hold similar views and from those with different ideas.

I eased off some Excel work in 2008, 2009 looks like its going to be full steam ahead though. So I’m looking forward to discussing what I am upto and getting feedback on other approaches.

All the best for the new year



Proof of challenging economics – maybe.

Tuesday, 30th December, 2008


Two seemingly opposite points jump out at me from that:

  1. Apple must be feeling the pinch to lower their standards to accept this sort of junk (for a 40% [EDIT 30%] cut of course).
  2. iPhone users must not be feeling the pinch if they are happy to squander USD 10,000 per day on tat like this!


Now I’m wondering if all these companies going bust is related, or if its just some freakish coincidence and actually everyone has plenty of cash to piss away!

Have you split your sides laughing at your own, or one of your mates’ iFart?



Top posts

Tuesday, 30th December, 2008

Here are the most popular posts from SOS from when they were written

The spreadsheet disadvantage 4,488 views

1 million rows 2,080 views

Excel 2007 calculation bug test code 1,540 views

Excel forms 1,459 views

Tight jean babes 1,115 views

Spreadsheet types 1,068 views

Excel macro performance 1,026 views

Who uses Excel autosave? 1,005 views

Tight jeans babes was a discussion about link spam I think. I’m guessing there are 1,115 mildly frustrated sufers having not found quite what they were after.

I don’t think this is a valid popularity list because some of those posts have been around a lot longer than others. And a lot of folks just subscribe to the feed.



2009 Predictions

Sunday, 28th December, 2008

I guess I could rehash my 2008 fails but I’ll try instead to cover some new ground. Here is what I reckon will happen in 2009

(note this is what I really think will happen, that is not the same as what I WANT to happen, or HOPE will happen):

  1. (90%) Office 14 beta will be out
  2. (80%) Office 14 will not be released in 2009 (O2007 had 12m+beta, I think?)
  3. (80%) will hit 2 3 3.5 million downloads a week (regularly) (they hit 2 in Oct, 3 in Nov/Dec)
  4. (60%) Apple won’t release a Netbook, and will keep their ‘quality’ niche.
  5. (70%) News of commercial/enterprise Office 2007 deployments (client tools) will start filtering through the on-line communities
  6. (60%) Some people will actually try Excel services (not easy…)
  7. (70%) More netbooks will come with Ubuntu/ mainstream disties rather than manufacturer-specific Linux variants
  8. (80%) Microsoft will not address the fail that the ‘Gargantur’ UI of Office 2007 basically precludes its use on the only growing PC segment (netbooks)
  9. (80%) OpenOffice will continue to be the defacto standard for netbooks.
  10. (70%) Somebody that the airheads listen too will finally help them see the futility and pointlessness of much of the cloud BS and the web 2.0 BS we have endured for the last year or so.
  11. (80%) Companies whose business plan does not indicate a way to actually generate an amount of cash at least of the same order of magnitude as their costs will finally struggle to access capital.
  12. (70%) There will be some more consolidation in the spreadsheet compliance tool space. Expect to see 1 or 2 follow Compassoft to the fjords.
  13. (70%) Microsoft will report some pretty grim financials, worse than the Wall street numpties are expecting. But not surprising to anyone connected with the real world. (I’m thinking sub 15 USD share price in 2009)(The rest of tech will also take a bath)
  14. (80%) .net will continue to be largely irrelevant for most Excel/VBA devs
  15. (100%) Spreadsheets will still not be sexy.
  16. [edit] (70%) Sun will get bought or go bust, and I think a close look at the financials of many tech firms would show a high risk of failure.

I think 2009 will be pretty lean, which I welcome in some ways, as a lot of time and money wasters will be outed. It may also focus attention on productivity and effectiveness. 2 areas where frankly Excel and VBA deliver (when used wisely of course (and classique of course)).

My main focus, from a commercial view will be more migration and compliance tools for sale via codematic. For interest I’ll be updating my (light) Sharepoint knowledge to 2007 and getting to grips (a bit) with Excel services, and VS2008). And I intend to release some new C/C++ xlls. I may also release some E2007 compliant versions of my add-ins and tools.

I would like to say I’ll migrate a bunch of stuff to OpenOffice, but I remain to be convinced the returns are there. Unless you know different?

Further afield I have been doing a little (very little!) Linux dev in C, I’d like to continue that, but I suspect time will be short for that. I’m dreaming of doing some Android dev on the Google phone. But that’s a pretty big leap!

We have an MS Office Developers Advisory Council meet next spring, so maybe I’ll be buzzing about Office/Excel 14 (All under NDA of course). I might try the early adopter path rather than the luddite path I followed for O2007. Although being off that hamster wheel for 18 months was a sound move I think. It gave me chance to focus my energies in other more directly useful areas.

I am undecided if open source will make big inroads v proprietory stuff (as some commentators are suggesting given the financial climate). Logic says it should if it represents better value, but history suggests many companies like paying for vendor support services. So I expect the status quo to be the big winner in 2009, not any kind of change.

There are rumours of a new Windows in 2009 too, I can’t decide if this is a big thing or not. If MS marketing is as effective as they were with Vista then this will have zero impact. If they get their act together then it could be big.

So in summary:

  • Netbooks – BIG
  • OpenOffice – BIG
  • Mainstream Linux Disties – Medium
  • MS Office – building
  • Cloud – small and insignificant

Thats my predictions, what are yours?

What do you agree/disagree with and why?



2008 looking back

Friday, 26th December, 2008

Well its that time of year – I don’t know if I’ll get many more posts into 2008.

Here are some predictions I made for 2008 at the end of 2007 and what I consider the outcome:

  1. (90%) Office 14 beta (or alpha) released, probably full public beta (Wrong)
  2. (80%) Office 2007 will continue to flounder, MS will not accept the fluent interface is a factor in disappointing uptake.(Right)
  3. (70%) Vista and Office SP2s will be hurried out (sort of)
  4. (60%) Windows XP will get another extension (Right)
  5. (70%) Asus Eee will sell tons and lead a deluge of cheap Linux pcs from Asia (Right)
  6. (60%) Other mainstream PC makers will follow Dell and start to supply pcs with Linux installed – probably Ubuntu. (not really)
  7. (50%) Dell will make it possible to find their Ubuntu machines on their website (just barely)
  8. (90%) the OOXML and ODF file format ‘excitement’ will continue (I suppose so)
  9. (70%) new lease of life for C++ following VS2008 add-on due Q1 2008 (within MS and outside) (kind of)
  10. (100%) spreadsheets still won’t be sexy (too right – unless they are super sexy browser based of course)

And I said I’d do less Excel/VBA and more C/C++, and that is actually what I did/am doing.

Other big things that happened in 2008:

  • All this cloud nonsense got blown hideously out of proportion in a full bubble 2.0esque style
  • Netbooks happened, and seemed to have settled at 20-30% Linux.
  • The iPhone happened and effectively made Apple equal Microsoft revenues
  • The hot air/cloud/bubble based financial world got its comeuppance, leading the Bank of England to drop interest rates by the largest amount ever. To the lowest level since the last lowest level. To put this into perspective – the interest element of our mortgage repayments has dropped by over 30 % over the last 2 months

So by my reckoning I got it right about half the time, and only got a couple of things completely wrong. Not too shabby I reckon.

How did you get on compared to your expectations?

(2009 predictions coming in the next post)



Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Wednesday, 24th December, 2008

Title says it all really

All the best for 2009



Dell and Ubuntu

Wednesday, 24th December, 2008

One of my predictions for 2008 was that Dell would make it easy to find their Ubuntu options on their website.

You will have to decide for yourself whether I was right or not, I could read it either way. The URL is pretty unambiguous.

Anyway here is the link:

Dell and Ubuntu

I think I will get an Ubuntu notebook next because I have a few spare XP licences lying around (from retired machines) so I can dual boot with one of those. Or go the VM ware route.I sort of feel I should try Vista, but I can’t really see why.

My experience with manufacturers versions of Microsoft operating systems is they are so badly pre-infested with crapware they are virtually unusable. And the idea of restoring to factory defaults is farcical (re-crapify). I’d rather do a clean install and patch/update from MS directly.

I think Dell do offer to de-crapify their machine but last I saw you had to pay extra.

I am assuming Ubuntu doesn’t come with Norton virus, but maybe it does, they are pretty pushy!.

Is Linux in your future?



Spreadsheets as functions

Tuesday, 23rd December, 2008

Some significant time ago those nice people at Resolver emailed me about a new feature they had added to the then latest version. (BTW they have some competition on at the moment to win 17k USD – thats about half a million fine British pounds I think at today’s exchange rate?)

Unfortunately, it arrived at the point of maximum turmoil in my web life (change of hosting and all the crap that goes with)

Anyway the point was a new feature that allows one resolver workbook to expose its logic as if it were a function to other workbooks. That means you can pass in parameters and receive back an answer/value.

I think that’s pretty neat. I have always maintained that the most important component of spreadsheets is the logic not the data. The data is normally sourced from, and still available in, some enterprise system somewhere. People aren’t trying to expose the static data they have in spreadsheets – they are trying to expose the logic, certainly in my experience. Would you agree?

I’ve written a few systems that open up a specific workbook in Excel throw in a load of values, calc, run some VBA (sorry Excel services!) calc a bit more, then fire out a value or a few values to some web front end or other spreadsheet. I think that is a fairly common usage pattern, does anyone else come across it?

What sort of things do you do to implement this functionality?

Do you use Resolver to do it?



Christmas and NY posting

Monday, 22nd December, 2008

Things will be pretty quiet here for the next couple of weeks.

My main focus is very much likely to be on setting up bagpuss linux (Acer Aspire one) for safe surfing by the kids, and anyone else who is lucky enough, or was good enough to deserve one. Hopefully I’ll get some away from the tompooter too!

Last week I was away and was using skype to report in. A couple of days its was a bit poor and got christened ‘skype shite’ by Madame. But most of the time it was very good.

Calling a UK landline from abroad on skype works about about 1 Euro per hour. Slightly better than Vodaphones generous (for them) 1 GBP per minute. And it seems their hotels are a bit more enlightened about complementary wireless t’interweb (than the UK donkeys that are still trying to charge 5/10 quid a day (per precisely metered 24 hours that is).

I will have a few posts of course to help those poor souls that are working over the next couple of weeks (to avoid working too hard).