Archive for October, 2010

XLL Plus to the rescue

Friday, 22nd October, 2010

I had some major performance issues recently on one project.

I’ve worked with loads of xll related tools and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. And I think they all do something that none of the others do. And having worked with the raw API (I also built my own xll generator) I love any tool that hides any of that Excel4 hell hole.

Anyway we had a UDF lock up issue, with a slow calculating function, so the usual solution is to move to asynchronous.

To convert a slow single threaded locking synchronous function to asynchronous multi-threaded joy using XLL+ is just a couple of clicks. And it requires zero understanding of the plumbing underneath.

Of course before you fire off a few thousand calls per millisecond to your server infrastructure, its probably worth checking it can cope…;-) (although it seems if you don’t check, someone will let you know as soon as they have checked the logs to find out why it crashed) (Tip: always test under someone elses login)

ExcelDNA also does async, but I would have needed to code up my own RTD server, not hard, but not a fast as clickety click on the XLL+ function wizard.

At the Excel dev conf recently I demonstrated creating an RTD function in Add-in Express which is very simple too.

So asynchronousness is covered by many of the tools, and it is integral in Excel 2010 (although I have not had chance to investigate just how ‘integral’).

We had another issue too, also solved with a couple of clicks of XLL+, that I have not seen addressed in any of the other xll tools. Namely: when you have volatile arguments to an RTD server you get in a race condition because the RTD update triggers a recalc which updates the volatile function which triggers the RTD function, which.. guess what? triggers another calc when it returns. I’ll write more about this in a future post, but just to say if you are struggling to resolve this take a look at xll+.

Anyone else messing with asychronicity?



Apple and Microsoft

Tuesday, 19th October, 2010

And a bit of Google

I think Apple are doing really well in the PC business, and they are doing very well in the phone business too.

Microsoft are doing ok in the PC software business, and are nowhere in the phone biz.

I think Apple can and are, out manoeuvring Microsoft on the Pc side of things. I think Microsoft’s massive install base prevents them from evolving too rapidly. Apple don’t have such legacy baggage holding them back, although the move to Intel did cause some anguish, I think they got away with it.

What I find interesting is that Apple is the Microsoft of the smart phone world, they are the incumbent. I know there is blackberry, but they are still trying to shake of their dull work only image. Apple is the target, and apple has the legacy baggage. Reports now suggest Android is over taking iPhone sales, which I think will be a tipping point. ‘There’s an app for that’ will soon make people think of Android rather than iPhone. (or maybe not now Apple have trademarked it!)

I have an android phone and frankly my Blackberry was miles better in so many ways. The point is though Android is evolving so fast, and there is a viable distribution channel to find apps that cover the os weaknesses. A key one being the worse than crap standard email (a real W-T-F! IMO). Thank goodness for K9 email.

Google seem to be doing the best by far at leveraging open source which effectively give them unlimited developer resources. They still are little more than an ad broker though, as few of their non-ad stuff has made it out of beta.

I find these cycles quite interesting, it happens with so many things where the new kid overtakes the old establishment, then x years later they are the establishment and a new kid overtakes them. Android is doing iphone, apple is doing MS on pcs, and Bing is doing Google in search (ok I made that one up, but who knows? one day someone will superseed them surely?

Do you see the same pattern?



On a separate but related incident I see Ray Ozzie is leaving MS. I’d love to know the real story behind that.

ExcelDNA is mint

Sunday, 10th October, 2010

I was somewhat despondent recently when I realised my big Excel add-in project was going to need some sort of install.
I had picked up a few dependencies that would not be on non dev boxes so it looked a bit like I was going to need a proper set up. Exactly the sort of thing us Excel types hate.
But then I remembered that ExcelDNA can pack everything into the xll, not just my .dll.
a quick edit of the .dna later:
<ExternalLibrary Path=”my.dll” Pack=”true” />
<ExternalLibrary Path=”dao.dll” Pack=”true” />
<ExternalLibrary Path=”Interop.ADODB.dll” Pack=”true” />
<ExternalLibrary Path=”Interop.ADOX.dll” Pack=”true” />
<ExternalLibrary Path=”Microsoft.Office.Interop.Excel.dll” Pack=”true” />
<ExternalLibrary Path=”Microsoft.Vbe.Interop.dll” Pack=”true” />
<ExternalLibrary Path=”office.dll” Pack=”true” />

and we are back to a single xll file deployment. youpeee!

I have the following as a post build event:
C:\…\ExcelDna-0.27\Distribution\ExcelDnaPack.exe “C:\…my.dna” /y

I think ExcelDNA packing is mint.

Are you using ExcelDNA? What for?

(Can you get packing to work??)



Where are all the fake iPads???

Friday, 1st October, 2010

When the iPads first came out I wasnt that interested in the form factor. I have recently though started to see some sense in it (sick of lugging my magnificent Macbook all over ofter just to read stuff).

I took a look at the Apple iPad and it’s just a bit too locked down for me. I want an Android one (Or Unbuntu – I’m not proud) so I can run my beloved firefox. But where are they?

There are drips and drips of 7 inch ones but thats no use to me. 9, 10 or 11 inches seems the sweet spot in my mind. Everyone is talking, no one is delivering. I believe that well known pc retailer Next (?) (thats right the clothes shop!) are selling the iPed. Some dodgy Far eastern look alike. But where are the well thought out, reliable, properly reviewed versions from well known manufacturers?

The blackberry thing seems ok but it too is too small.

If there is no sign by xmas I may have to ask santa to just get me a iPad (and a jailbreak).

Anyone else awaiting the overdue arrival of the iPad competition?

If you have and iPad or similar is it any good? useful?