Archive for the ‘development’ Category

2018 UK Excel meet up/conference

Sunday, 25th February, 2018

Would anyone be interested in an Excel related conference in the UK this year?

Probably summer time, probably that London, probably one day (with pissups before and after hopefully). Cost – unclear, probably between 50 and 200 gbp depending on numbers and the type of event. (the room I hired in 2012 has gone up in price 1,000%!, for real – 10x more expensive now!!!)

It could be user focused or developer focused (state your preference)

It could be classic Excel, on stuff that works on every version for the past 15/20 years, or it could be on the new stuff in 2013 and 2016 (again state your preference)

No promises, but if there is enough interest a few of us might try to get something organised.

At this stage we are just trying to gauge interest (do we need a phone box or the Albert Hall?)

So if you might be interested please leave a comment. (no commitment (either way))

Venue suggestions welcome too.

ta muchly



Freelancer sites

Friday, 22nd December, 2017

I had a little sniff around the freelancer sites again, as I do from time to time…

Previously I have excluded rentacoder as they wanted to install some spyware on my pc so ‘clients’ could check what I was doing.

This time I actually registered on PeoplePerHour a few days ago. I just deactivated, over my short residence I was unable to decide if it was just a giant scam or not.

I realise that as the service provider we are the ‘stock’ of these sites but when the freelancer site has more, and more onerous, terms and conditions than an investment banking employment contract, shits messed up. right? Their T&Cs maybe aren’t quite as long as Apples, but run it close.

On Pph you have to pay to send a proposal to a someone offering a project. You get a few credits initially, but then you have to pay real cash money. The proposal needs firm costs, unless its an hourly rate project. So…

When the full and complete project description is:

“I need android app developing”

How much would you quote? Would you pay money (even toy money) to apply? (I might be doing something wrong here – 30 other people have already applied)

Then pph take 25% of the fee you quote the seller (upto 500 per month, a bit less after – but its hard to see how you could earn more than 500, tbh. Maybe that’s a skillset thing?). Most UK agencies take less than that these days, and they provide a bit more (just) than a contacts website.

Like RAC, Pph are obsessed with keeping all comms on site – of course, it would be so easy for people to connect there and then take the project offsite and keep their 25% cut. But the downside of that is as a supplier its hard to leverage non pph resources to differentiate. For example I can’t point people to codematic to suggest I know a bit about Excel dev. The fragility of this particular point I think, dooms these sites to long term failure. Certainly on a 25% cut.

If it was 5 or 10% and they were offering useful workflow and customer management tools then maybe, but at 25% the benefits of moving offsite will be irresistible for too many I think.

I had been advising people to use these sites to build up experience and a visible portfolio, but now, having done so I don’t think I would again.

Do you have suggestions for better freelancer sites?

Define better? supplier friendly, reasonable rates, sustainable process, significant work opportunities, reasonable T&Cs.




Wednesday, 20th December, 2017

If agile is so good, why do we need so many Agile coaches?

I see these roles advertised all the time and it makes me sad. Your development *process* is so involved you need a full time specialist just to show you how to do the *process*. Its mind numbing.

I have never seen a role for a RAD coach, waterfall coach, or an ad-hoc coach, or a slap-dash coach.

You have to be pretty sure your current process is beyond rubbish if you can justify a full-time equivalent overhead to coach your team in the new way. Will they really deliver so much better software so much faster than if you recruited another dev to your current process?

Plus the rates are amazing, nearly as good as SAP job-fer-lifing, another shitfest I aim to avoid.

I won’t mention scum master, or scam master because I just can’t bear to talk about scrum its so retarded. Well maybe it isn’t when properly applied to an appropriate project, I have seen more unicorns. Mind that’s another well paid zero value none job, of which there seems to be more and more.

Shame no one seems to want Rapid Application Development any more, even if it was sometime a bit more slow app dev. Hey ho.

Happy xmas if I can’t be arsed to post again before the big day. :-)



Universal apps

Sunday, 26th November, 2017

That don’t include Office? What sort of universe is that? not any business universe that I have been in.

“Start building Universal Windows Platform apps”

That was the tag line from the MS Visual Studio site.

I finally managed to get their virtual machine working (it’s 40 Gb fully expanded, not 20). It has Visual Studio alright, but no Office. I am amazed that MS do not see Office as a development target, or at least not enough to put a copy on their development trial virtual machine. unbelievable.

I might chuck a 30 day Office 2010 trial on it, I think I have one on a pen drive somewhere. All the other stuff needs an MS account, which is just too much like going back in time.

In other news Android studio 3.0 is just out, with Kotlin as a first class language. All free, and easily accessible.

Anyone else had a play with the MS dev vm I mentioned a few days ago?

Well that was underwhelming

Saturday, 25th November, 2017


Bothered my arse to download their 20 gigs of pap, and lo it doesn’t work.

Unfortunately I have hit my buggering around limit now so the only outcome I can note is that I tried their Win 10 dev environment and it didn’t work. It was shit in fact. waste of my time. I’d like tuppence back for my bandwidth please…

I accept I have probably done something wrong but I didn’t see any instructions to ignore.

It’s now stuck on ‘importing windev eval’ been there for two hours. A fail.


Free Win 10 Developer virtual machine

Tuesday, 21st November, 2017

Our good friends at Microsoft are giving away time limited virtual machines with Win 10 and VS2017 on board. They expire mid Jan so don’t get locked out.

Its for developers to get up to speed with the latest and greatest. However there is no mention of full fat Office. So I guess its not for ALL developers. Unless its a given that developers need a proper office suite not a mickey mouse online one.

I’ll download it and take a proper look as soon as I find a device with 20 gigs of free space. If you look first let us know if it has proper Office with VBA (If so I might delete a load of shite off here to get it up and running)


Is VBA a dead end ?

Thursday, 28th September, 2017

This topic came up on Excel-l, I got shouted down on there, so I thought I would elaborate on my views here. (its mainly an Excel view but I don’t think the other MS Office apps are much different.)

I see two sides to the VBA story – the technology and the career.

Technology wise a VBA solution is a dead end – it can’t be run on a server (officially), it can’t be run in a browser, it can’t be run in a high performance cluster, it can’t be run on mobile devices. This means it can’t be easily scaled if more users or geographies must be served. You can’t really even have multiple simultaneous users of an Excel VBA app. With the relentless march to cloud and mobile, VBA is left behind.

Of course MS won’t remove support for VBA, the world would fall apart, well the finance, pharma, and energy industries at a minimum. But the editor is pitiful by the standards of this century. It is testament to the work of those MS guys in the ’90’s that the debug Edit/continue is still better than nearly all mainstream IDEs. But its still out of date and hard to extend.

MS can’t invest in VBA because their strategy is .net/cloud/browser blah blah. They had the chance to fight on their strengths – rich client, but instead they tried to be google. And lost. Now we are all struggling with crap web sites in bloated browsers with slow Win3.11 style interactions from 1995.

VBA hasn’t suddenly become bad, its still very good at what it does, its just that we are often now looking for more from our solutions. More users, more device types, more threads, more whatever.

So its not dead but it is basically limited to single user apps on their individual workstations. But I am sure it will continue to work for a long time.

From a career point of view, what else is like VBA? nothing really, so expertise in VBA doesn’t easily lead onto anything else, hence its a bit of a dead end.

VBA is not really object oriented so it doesn’t lead to the sort of object based designs that C# and Java are suitable for. Its not functional so it doesn’t lead to F#/Scala.

Of course you can write VBA in classes, but lack of implementation inheritance hobbles your solution. By the same token you can write VB style ad-hoc procedural code in C#/, but you would be missing out on many of the elegant OO features of .net. You would struggle to implement most modern design patterns in VBA, and the latest CV must-have MVC is also all but impossible.

From a functional point of view (probably more useful than OO these days) VBA can’t treat functions as data smoothly (although CallByName does better than many languages). And a little toot of Application.Run can ease the friction too.

In Excel VBA especially we can get an awful long way without worrying about user interface/user experience or data structure. This is great for your current users (fast development/deployment) not so good for your career development – no other system is so well integrated as Excel/VBA. No worrying about Restful APIs, onClickListeners, Asynchronous callbacks, all very powerful, all generally avoided in VBA land.

If you love VBA, and why not, then continue on, you are probably adding untold business value with the work you are doing (and perhaps a little future maintenance pressure for someone). But I’m not sure it will take your development career too far, business career possibly but IMO it won’t help you much as a developer.

If you are doing VBA now and thinking of progressing to other development technologies then consider carefully how you will make your next steps. Adding Access and SQL to VBA is completely doable, adding modern scripting, web technologies or .net/Java is much tougher.

Getting into .net via is a possibility, but, I think it would be easier to go straight to C#, although the .net/Excel story is still, in 2017 very ugly.

ExcelDNA might be a good bet if you want to inject a bit of .net into your Excel life. I found this approach much more viable than VSTO infrastructure hell. Somebody somewhere is maintaining a lot of both that I developed. I bet the ExcelDNA maintainer is having more fun.

I also managed to blag my way into writing a load of custom Java on Essbase, that route probably isn’t open for many though.

Which led to my new focus on Android which is both challenging and rewarding. Although stay posted for news on that…

btw this is my 1,000th post on SOS, I assume WordPress will give me some superficial badge of honour, reward or ‘achievement unlocked’ bollocks, in the modern way.




Drum roll please…

Friday, 2nd June, 2017

To avoid polluting this place with loads of off topic nonsense and to try and preserve it as a mainly spreadsheet development resource I have created a new blog.

Its mainly about my new life as an Android developer, so if you are interested in that topic or just find my writing A-fookin-mazing, or you are that stalker that nicks my underpants off the washing line, be sure to follow me over there… on.. wait for it.. in a moment of blinding originality… MURF ON MOBILE. :-)

10 year birthday

Sunday, 12th February, 2017

I missed it obviously but one of the kids pointed out I have been blogging here for 10 years! ken ell!

(as of January just gone)

I can’t imagine dragging it out for another 10, unless some spreadsheet miracle happens and I am sucked back in. I still think spreadsheets are brilliant at a great many things, I have just given up waiting for numb nuts management to realise.

I built a random mental maths test generator for the kids the other day. I looked at doing it as an app, as a web thing,  but in the end I did it in a spreadsheet in about 10 minutes. The kids hate it!

I love it!

(it even has a bit of VBA in it – woo hoo)



Google sheets

Monday, 19th December, 2016

We have been using Google sheets a fair bit recently as our spreadsheet of choice. The kids can use their phones for data gathering in the field (eg how many keepy uppyies they do) and then we can fire up the tomputers and do some proper data analysis on it. Again using Google sheets.

This has worked well for trivial stuff but the other day I decided to combine Maths, IT and spreadsheets and it didn’t end well.

In maths we have been doing equations, in IT, programming – so name a couple of variables x and y, create a scary looking equation, loop through a load of numbers and print out x and y, copy and paste into Google sheets and draw a nice chart. Well that’s what happened on the macbook, on the Android tablet the Google sheets app appears so completely hobbled that it does not offer the choice to parse a string into multiple columns. And I could find no way to use the more powerful browser version.

I wouldn’t claim to have done an exhaustive search but initial indications are that the app versions of google apps offer only a fraction of the features of the browser versions (bit weird if you ask me – but hey, I’m old school). And you can’t seem to keep the browser version on android devices. As soon as you click anywhere you are launched into Google drive and its game over, shit versions only. As far as I can tell??

If anyone has a solution to this I would be very interested. I would like to use the more powerful browser versions of google apps on an android tablet please.

ps the Excel app has the same limitation as far as I can tell.

Or if you have a suggestions for a better spreadsheet for Android I’m all ears…