Archive for the ‘development’ Category

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)

cheers

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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 But its still out of date and hard to extend.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#/VB.net, 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 VB.net 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.

cheers

simon

 

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)

cheers

simon

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…

cheers

simon

Excel Conference in Amsterdam

Tuesday, 5th January, 2016

I just saw this (on linkedin of all places – I only go there twice a year).

Dunno much about it, except its being run by a gang of well known Excel experts so should be very excellent.

I won’t be going as Excel is basically dead to me these days.

If you are going, have fun.

cheers

simon

 

 

Linux

Tuesday, 23rd September, 2014

I’m doing my first proper commercial Linux project at the moment.

Might need to resurrect my Eclipse and dust off my Java skillz.

cool…

GPH

Tuesday, 14th January, 2014

Googles per hour.

My new proposal for estimating developer toolset proficiency.

In Excel/VBA mine is pretty close to nack all these days, I spend more time on codematic trying to unforget stuff I once knew. C# is a bit higher as I always like to check if things have changed since the last time I opened VS.

In my more recent dabbling tools (Eclispe and xcode) I have a google window open all the time, and use it all the time too.

so

Excel/VBA 0.1 gph (roughly 1 a day)

C# 0.5 gph (1 every couple of hours)

xcode 10 gph (the rountrip time it take to find, copy a line and change the variables to the ones I am using). It might reach even higher if I start getting better search hits.

what about you?

cheers

simon

Excel Dev Book

Thursday, 19th December, 2013

I keep wondering about writing a book about Excel development.

It would be less technical than PED, perhaps a bit more like Code Complete for Excel. A bit more design based than code based. The target audience would be business folks wanting to improve their Excel clicking and IT folks needing to target Excel. It would be set in the context of the reality of working with Excel in big companies.

I did discuss it with a publisher a while ago, but at this stage I would probably do it as a self publish e-book, with maybe a print option.

It would be based on my couple of weeks Excel experience (cataloguing my CD collection), and would touch many complementary technologies like ADO, ExcelDNA, XLL+.

I’m thinking more of a 300 page wordy tome rather than a 1000 page screenshot fest.

The sort of chapters might be something like

  • strengths and weaknesses of Excel
  • The RAD process with Excel as the client
  • Excel dev models (workbook with VBA, Add-in etc)
  • Excel grid best practices
  • Excel facts and fallacies

The only thing stopping me is the apparent death of Excel as a serious business tool. I’d hate to invest all that effort and then find my mum is the only person willing to buy it. (Well, her and as an excellent stocking filler for my kids at Christmas (not this one of course!)).

There is no doubt in my mind that sensible use of Excel is good in every way for most organisations. Sadly its the bad use that is most common and gets all the bad press. One aim of the book would be to propose some of the smart ways of using Excel (including using some of the newer features).

So my question is:

If there were such a book do you think there would be a market for it? Do you know people who would buy it?

(I know, that’s two questions)

cheers

simon

Silverlight

Monday, 16th December, 2013

Some poor Fin Servs company in Zürich has been searching for a Silverlight developer for weeks now. 

That’s some ex-devs’ CV polishing hobby horse turning to bite them on the arse. The dev has probably moved on and is now doing this weeks flavour of the month tech (MVVM?), leaving the client dependent on this dead tech that no one wants to touch.

That said, I chucked my CV in for a VB6 job today, first one I have seen in a long time ( a decade???). Also a tech no self respecting modern .net clicker would want to touch… I still would though, at least VB6 had a point, more than can be said for SilverShight.

I’m still waiting for VSTO to go the same way, but at this stage I am beginning to wonder if MS are genuinely committed to it. I doubted it for a long time, but its there in VS2013, and they don’t have many other options, apart from the obvious helping to extend and improve ExcelDNA. Or buying Add-in Express. (jobserve still doesn’t recognise VSTO and changes it to VSTS, that’s better than Vista which it used to do).

Any of you seeing much client demand for VSTO?

cheers

simon