Archive for December, 2009

Happy Christmas and New Year 2010

Thursday, 24th December, 2009

Best wishes for Christmas and the new year to all readers of SOS.

I might do a post next week if Santa brings me owt interesting (I think he might, I’ve been fairly good (sometimes) this year).



2009 Prediction review

Thursday, 24th December, 2009

This time last year I made some predictions, here is how they seem to have turned out:

  1. Office 2010 beta was released, correct
  2. Office 2010 did not RTM, correct
  3. No, I think OOo is running about 2 million a month, any one know if something changed – the figures seem down from 2008. FAIL
  4. Correctamundo – no Apple Netbook
  5. Yeah 2007 is slowly gaining traction I reckon, do you?
  6. Yep starting to hear bits and bobs about ES in the wild
  7. Hmmm. not sure what happened here, Linux netbooks are suddenly as rare as rocking horse poop. FAIL
  8. No 2007 UI improvements from MS, but plenty from 3rd parties (incl Codematic), correct
  9. OOo netbook default? nah, don’t think so, FAIL
  10. end of cloud BS? Mega FAIL.
  11. Challenge getting funds, yeah I think that has been harder
  12. Compliance consolidation? no, not that I have seen, although rumour has it some have taken to suing their clients(?) or advisers(?), FAIL
  13. YES! back in March MS went sub 15, seem to be recovering well at 30 now
  14. .net IS still largely irrelevant, 2010 though…
  15. Sooo True, but hardly hard to predict
  16. Kinda, if the EU would let them get on with it

So in summary, I think they were fairly clear predictions and easy to see if they came true of not (unlike some I’ve read about). Overall there are 4 or 5 I got well wrong, but most of the others were right, very right, or near enough.

I might peer into the crystal ball once again for 2010 next week, or I may just take the whole holidays off away from computing and away from Excel.

2009 in general has been a bizarre year in the wider world, and pretty dull in spreadsheets I reckon. Next year we have the 2010 release to look forward to but with Microsoft’s complete absence of Office marketing commitment I guess it will be the same old dreary ‘best release ever’ ‘faster selling ever’ claptrap rather than anything that will make actual users sit up and take note.

Of course, maybe nothing would make Office users sit up and take note?

I’ve seen a few articles with ‘end of the decade’ round up type stuff, but I don’t think I will do one. 10 years is a long time in IT, too long for a little post, and too long ago to be over exciting.



Steam beats modern trains

Wednesday, 23rd December, 2009

Ha Ha, love the irony.

The UK is suffering some pretty extreme weather at the moment, as is much of Europe I think.

I must admit to a little soft spot for a lot of ‘legacy’ equipment/technology. Somehow it often seems a little less brittle than the more recent stuff.

What new things can you think of that are worse than what they replaced, and why?

Here are a couple to get you started:

new VSTO, old VBA, why worse? not well integrated, unsuitable languages

new VISTA, old Win XP, why worse? slow, pointless, incompatible

new wooden flooring, old carpets, why worse? cold and hard

new front wheel drive, old rear wheel drive, why worse? no power slides

Subjective, of course, one sided, for sure.

What old stuff do you prefer and why?



(don’t worry all you young pups, we’ll have a ‘why modern stuff is better than that old out of date crap’ post in the new year, probably)

Jobserve Alchemy virus

Friday, 18th December, 2009

I’ve been keeping an eye out for a contract on the (UK IT industry) default standard website Jobserve.

They have a ‘service’ called Alchemy, where they email you details of any jobs they have on their database which are like ones you apply for.

It’s doing my head in!

I’m getting half a dozen emails a day, and there seems to be no way to turn it off. I’ve deleted as much info as I can from their site, if it doesn’t calm down I’ll have to delete my whole profile, or maybe change my email address. They give you the option to pause emails for a day, month or 3 months, but no options to FOAD.

It wouldn’t be so made if it wasn’t so dumb – ‘oh look he once applied for a job in Edinburgh – send him an email about any job in Edinburgh’ SAS? Me?

What a crap design, they have a really intrusive ‘feature’ that you can’t turn off. WTF?


That’s it!, just got another, I have unregistered myself. what a load of rubbish. Its never been this bad when I have used it in the past.

Are you having the same problems?



Super Computing with Excel

Wednesday, 16th December, 2009

I guess its one of lifes little mysteries how Microsoft can put a childish toytown interface on Excel, yet at the same time re-engineer its deepest scariest innards to work in High Performance Computing Clusters. (Noddy and Big Ears go to a 20 node teraflop cluster?)

Anyway its a very interesting proposition, and note this is different to Excel services. This is the full client operating as part of a cluster. This will allow (certain) VBA to be parallelised. This is a big deal. I understand there are a few restrictions on the features this new approach will support but it still sounds massive. (for restrictions think along the lines of current restrictions for UDFs.)

There are now a somewhat confusing array of Excel/Server products, not all of which are endowed with Magnificent Microsoft Margeting Monikers yet.

There is Excel services that lets you stick a workbook on Sharepoint and let people access and modify their version of it via a browser. This does not support VBA, it is well connected with .net instead. In 2010 ES gets some big updates, one of the most useful being the ability to load a workbook with unsupported features and let ES do what it can. In O2007 ES would only work with .xlsx for example, in O2010 you can use an .xlsm with VBA, it will load and the grid part will work. The VBA and other unsupported features won’t work but they don’t force you to use 2 versions, full fat and ES approved anymore.

There are the web apps, I don’t know anything about them. But I assume they are a limited browser based clunky pale reflection of the real office client.

There are thread safe xlls that can be offloaded to a cluster, this is an extension of the multi threaded calc in E2007.

And there is this new richer cluster feature which isn’t quite putting the full client on a server but it allows you to offload certain calculation and VBA activities to a cluster. I’m not sure the full feature set is settled yet but it sounds just the job for massive simulations where you pump in some numbers, calc some stuff, hold some intermediate results then load some new numbers etc etc.

There is some other good stuff in 2010 that I’ll be talking about as time goes on, in particular the development story.

I’d have more to say but I hosed my TP build to make way for the Beta, only to have major external drive hassles trying to install it. So currently I don’t have a working 2010 (or 2007 actually). Ooops!



Office 2003 Info Rights fixed

Monday, 14th December, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned an issue I had seen in the newsgroups of folks being locked out of their Information Rights Management protected workbooks.

Opinions seemed to be mixed between ‘never heard of it’ and ‘would never used it’. But a few people did and they got burned in November when it all stopped working and they were locked out of their own files.

Anyway the issue is now apparently resolved by renewing an Office crypto certificate, full info and download available here. If you apply this fix please let us now if it does indeed resolve the problem, or not.



Wot, No Spreadsheets? – very OT

Thursday, 10th December, 2009

I’m gutted that spreadsheets don’t seem to have been implicated in the Climate Research Unit excitement. why read_me_harry.txt instead of read_me_harry.xls?

Spreadsheets are ok for amateur mistakes, but pros use Fortran?

I’m also a little disappointed that the Government Broadcasting Company (BBC) doesn’t seem to be applying its normally fairly balanced reporting to this area.

I’ve had to switch to the Telegraph (FFS) to get some balance. And maybe even the Express!!

Over the last few months I have become more and more sceptical about the motivations and justifications for some of the stuff done ‘to save our planet’. Over the last few weeks I have become more and more sceptical about mans influence on the climate. Over the last few days I have become very sceptical that the research is fit for its current purpose.

As it happens I bought a new USB portable drive last week – 320Gb for 60 quid – I am amazed the CRU couldn’t find a similar amount to prevent the ‘loss’ of their ‘critical to the survival of mankind’ data, out of their alleged budget of 20 million.

What is your take on whether our activities are causing, or about to cause catastrophic changes to our planets climate? And what should we do about it?

Seems to me if the intention was to genuinely cut CO2 rather than fund their mates in ‘green’ industries and carbon trading the govt would be pushing for:

  • Those that can to work a min of 2 days a week from home
  • encourage local sourcing of everything where possible
  • encourage the extending of the lifetime of any and all equip
  • reforesting where ever possible
  • Local community based power generation

As it is it just looks like they are trying to move us away from oil without actually explaining why. And keep their coffers full of course.

For info here is a climate change is our fault website

Here is a climate change is normal website

Here is a WSJ article highlighting the broader concerns raised by the recent fun.

So a couple of guidelines then feel free to add you view below.

This is a fairly heated topic so I’ll moderate comments pretty tightly. The discussion is about the validity of the claim that human activity is the cause of changing climate. Comments in that area are welcome.

Personal attacks, nonsensical arguments and deceptive statements are not, I’ll delete these and publish the reason for your information.

Please keep your comments short and on topic and as polite as possible.

Irrelevant stuff like references to your own or others ‘green’ credentials etc will also go in the big round file.

Don’t feel compelled to comment, I’ll keep comments open for a day orso then close them to ease the moderation. After that if you want to comment just email me and I’ll add it.

Have fun… (and play nice)



Netbook market is 125% of Netbook market

Tuesday, 8th December, 2009

Looks like someone has been using a spreadsheet to calculate the market share of various operating systems in netbooks. (If it was fortran it would be worse – but we’ll save that joke…)

Microsoft claim 93% run Windows, and yet these guys reckon 32% run Linux.

So thats a 125% (added in my head) market – wowzer. Thats some kind of rounding error.

Dell reckon about 33% of their netbooks ship with Linux. so perhaps MS have picked up a (‘accidentally non representative’) sub market in their stats.

I find this really interesting because I thought the netbook world was going to make Linux mainstream, but somehow it never quite panned out. Win XP got a reprieve and somehow Linux netbooks became hard to get hold of. Almost like the whole Linux thing had been a marketing ploy to get MS to negotiate the OEM price of Windows.

We are delighted with the Linux netbooks we have here, for the kids especially.  You can leave them to roam around and all the scareware prompts showing Vista security warnings and goading them to click to install malware are easily ignored.

Have you got a netbook? what OS are you running?

We have Linpus and Ubuntu.



Next Monday: D Day for SOX gravy train

Saturday, 5th December, 2009

It seems some legal beagles in the US are taking the organisation behind Sarbanes Oxley to court on the basis that the way it is set up is unconstitutional.

Whilst mainstream IT think about that from a security industry POV there is the infant spreadsheet management industry to consider too.

SOX, and section 404 in particular have been used to encourage organisations to take some responsibility for their crappy spreadsheets. Ideally they would de-crappify them, but in my experience companies prefer just to list them and claim they are now ‘managing them’.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, impact this legal challenge has, I think the current mood is for more legislation and control (Certainly in the UK!). But maybe those that claim SarBox has damaged US business competitiveness will hold sway.

I have seen a few remediation/migration type roles on Jobserve recently so maybe orgs are taking this seriously now. There are a lot of ingrained habits to change though.

Are you getting much SOX/Remediation business?



Bloody Office Marketplace

Wednesday, 2nd December, 2009

So today after several months of faffing around I finally did some codematic website updates. Including finally doing some product landing pages as required to be listed on Office Market place.

I have been selling software for over a year now via the Codematic website and for most of that time I have been thinking I must get around to applying to get listed at OMP. Obviously with it being Microsoft there are a few irritating hoops to jump through, enough for me to put it on the back burner, but actually not that hard when I came to it.

So you can imagine the ranting and raving at the Smurfplex having finally sorted my pages to go and try and register and find out registration has been suspended until the spring of 2010! Bunch of Arse! As an indication of the amount of procrastination on my behalf – they suspended new applications in September!

In my defence though I normally cruise t’intarwebs in stealth mode with javascript disabled, enabling it is what gave me the ‘suspended’ news. Bugger!


If you are moving to Excel 2007 and want to maintain your 2003 levels of productivity then you may well benefit from the excellent Classic Tab, details here.

If you are moving to Office 2007 and want your FileSearch object VBA code to keep working, you may want to get hold of AltFileSearch, the magnificent drop in replacement for the removed FileSearch object.

If you are fed up of being locked out of worksheets because you have forgotten the password, or don’t have time/patience to wait for the slow old VBA password removers then you should consider the wonderful ultra fast worksheet unprotector, details here.

All are very good value for money, free trial versions are available as is a full money back guarantee.

I am thinking I might have to reduce my session on the Office Marketplace at the Excel dev conf in Feb!

Seriously, putting it into perspective- this is even worse than the Apple iPhone app approval farce. I can only assume OMP not really that important/useful, at least to Microsoft. Did you ever buy anything via there?

If you got in with your product listing before the lockdown, are your servers buckling under the strain of all those highly qualified leads looking to splash the cash? Or was demand so great you had to migrate your fulfilment infrastructure to the cloud?

Any suggestions for other (sensible) marketplaces for listing/selling Excel/Office add-ins?