Archive for July, 2009

Is Change Control The Critical Factor?

Thursday, 30th July, 2009

Dick M has a great post here about the pain and fragility of user maintained spreadsheets/systems.

I think many of us have been in that situation. I have had to twist Excel to do things because clients do not want the maintenance hassle of VBA. (But they feel happy to maintain millions of cells of complex interrelated formulas).

But I wonder if the real issue is just crap, or non-existent change control? If the client had a test environment and tested before release would that make most of the user maintenance misery go away?

A test environment, or even a test mentality does not have to be difficult. But I sure don’t see it much in End User Computing. Do you?



Too hot

Wednesday, 29th July, 2009

Ken Puls has a post about how it is too hot where he is.

Welcome to sunny Cumbria:


That’s right ‘summer’ is in full swing here: its pouring down and 14 deg C!

Anyone thinking of visiting the lake district can be assured there is plenty of water in the lakes! don’t bother with sun cream, but bring a waterproof coat. Its been like this for weeks now.



Office 2000 now out of support

Tuesday, 28th July, 2009

Oops I missed this a couple of weeks ago.

As of July 15 2009 Office 2000 is out of extended support. That means basically its in ‘self help support’. MS speak for you are on your own buster.

There was a brief flurry of Office migration activity in the first half of this year as a few firms moved from 2k. The smart ones made the cheap move to 2003 to extend support for 3 more years. The brave went to 2007.

I’m revving up for an uptick in migration activity in 18 months when all those Office XP die hards will likely be making a move to maintain support. The real spike will be the year after though when all those Excel classic shops move – perhaps to Office 2010 (perhaps to OpenOffice?).

Are you still using 97 or 2000, or do you know anyone who is?



More VB6 work

Monday, 27th July, 2009

I just got an enhancement request for some VB6 components I wrote way back in 2001.

It just another reminder of the awkward reality that rip out and replace is not always that easy.

When I wrote these components VB6 was the tool of choice for business apps. By the time we were finished integrating all the bits from different suppliers Microsoft had moved on to .net. At that point multiple factories in multiple countries were running our VB6 code – not that easy to rip out!

The system is moving slowly to .net, but with no obvious business benefit, and a whole heap of compatibility testing it is likely to stay a back boiler project.

Luckily as I still do a lot of VBA, the VB6 IDE feels positively space age. I suspect it would be like a bad dream if I worked in VS2008 all day everyday!

Anyone else still writing/maintaining commerical VB6 apps?



Cancel My Kindle

Saturday, 18th July, 2009

I don’t think it could get much more ironic than Amazon reaching out from the cloud to remove the book 1984 that people have paid for.

I wasn’t planning on buying one, but if I were, I wouldn’t be any longer.

Makes me glad I still buy my books old skool style. Customers did get a credit, but their bought and paid for books were just removed without any discussion or negotiation. Imagine if you were on the verge of the cliff hanger. Then suddenly when you wake up to finish the last 3 pages – kapow the book is gone! I’d be somewhat annoyed, would you?

What about you? Is this a big issue?



another ahh moment

Friday, 17th July, 2009

Its just dawned on me what that niggling deja vu feeling has been around Office 2007 (and 2010).

I have built a few Sharepoint sites in my time, and whilst I think there are a lot of powerful features, I have always found the browser based interface to be woefully clumsy. You have to click over here to enable something over there because right click doesn’t work, and drag and drop doesn’t work.

And bingo bongo – thats what going on with the fluent UI (TM). We used to be able to drag buttons to new toolbar. Now we have to open a dialog, get a list, select an item click the arrow to move it into the other list.

The real bizzaro bit is that Sharepoint is now leveraging the richness of the Office client to get around the misery of bland browser UI, at the very moment that Office is giving up its richness so it can be implemented in a browser. Ironic!

Anyway its the first day of the school holidays today so sadly I’ll have to go skateboarding and bmxing with the kids (its a dirty job job but someone has to do it ;-)) so might not get through as many posts as I have been. (its pouring down – in classic british summer holiday weather)



Financial Markets Spreadsheet research

Thursday, 16th July, 2009

Got a great link the other day.

Its to a bunch of reports Microsoft commissioned into Excel usage in the financial Markets.

(See the Research box)

The link came from the Eusprig newsgroup.

And was posted by Ralph Baxter of ClusterSeven, purveyors of serious spreadsheet management tools.

It would be worth your time to read those reports, those are exactly the sort of thing that inform where the Excel and Office teams invest in future versions.

It great to see MS dipping it hand in its pocket for this sort of stuff

  1. Because no one else can afford it
  2. It should show them how important this stuff is



Excel 2003 Menu Structure in Excel 2007

Wednesday, 15th July, 2009
Excel 2003 menus in 2007

Excel 2003 menus in 2007

Those delightful folks at Codematic have heard our pain.

Its a simple .xlam that adds a new ribbon tab with the old 2003 style menus on. (and some other useful stuff)

Whilst it may not solve world poverty, and there are other similar tools around, at a range of price points, this one is the easiest to deploy. And its cheap enough, and there are discounts for multiple licences.

It doesn’t fix all the things that are wrong with the 2007 UI (2003 does that ;-)), but it does address the main one – the shuffling around of commands, by putting them back in their familiar place.

There is a free demo version so you can imagine the productivity of a compatible user interface.

Read all about it at the link, any questions drop me a line, or leave a comment here.

I hope the server farm doesn’t buckle under the download pressure!



The Bing Effect

Tuesday, 14th July, 2009

That Bing thing is actually sending visitors to codematic.

whoda thunk it?

Persusing the stats the other day (instead of working of course) I notice that almost 3% of (none direct link) visitors came via Bing (as a link, not a search result), about 6% came from Yahoo!, and the rest from Google.

I feel bad now for dissing it, 3% is pretty good I reckon for something so new, against such established competition.

I am quite interested to see its impact over the whole month, anyone else noticed a bit of Bing trafffic?

I should maybe start using it myself. Are you?

And on a separate but related issue I’m seeing 55% IE, 30% Firefox, 5% chrome for July so far. Seems to be somewhat short of the monopoly the EU seems to be accusing them of. Instead of Windows 7 E maybe the EU should just say carry on as you are?



Office 2010 tech preview out

Monday, 13th July, 2009

I was looking forward to it, until I read this lukekwarm review from el Reg. (not that they are ever mega positive about MS in general) (I thought it was all still under NDA??)

I assume we can look forward to all those dormant Ms Office based blogs bursting back into life?

I am in-particular looking forward the Jensen Harris getting going again justifying Ribbon 1.1, or ribbon 2.0?? (If he is still there of course)

(‘People told us they couldn’t see it, so we made it even bigger…’)

The big news is 64 bit, that means your spreadsheets and Access databases can now go beyond 2Gb. Yahoo!!

Actually that is great for Access as I have hit that barrier lots. 2Gb spreadsheets on the other hand fill me with trepidation!