Archive for the ‘enterprise’ 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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Vetting pantomime

Thursday, 24th March, 2016

Hopefully you have heard the phrase coined by Bruce Schneier ‘security theatre’ to refer to a lot of the recent changes in travel security etc. The basic inference is that it looks like security but isn’t really.

I know this because I have had all sorts of things confiscated while trying to board a plane, but have never been arrested. Too much of a threat to take my plastic clamp on the plane but not enough for a life sentence at gitmo. At least I can take comfort knowing that none of the other passengers has a small plastic clamp with which to take over the plane (or the world).

I am now living through a vetting pantomime. I have been offered a (short term) contract at a UK bank, and now ‘just need to go through the security vetting process’.

I need a disclosure Scotland, can’t get one on line as I don’t have a uk address. One suggestion was that I use someone I knows’ address in the uk as my current residence. Hmm – false information?

They want a 5 year work history, which I have provided, but now they want the gaps explaining. Well derrr I’m a contractor, sometimes there are gaps…

No, they want me to send them bank statements for all the gaps! What the fuck for??? They haven’t specified which account so I guess I shouldn’t use the one with all those NSA/KGB payments for leaking vital information? Or at least I should ensure those payments do not fall in a month when I am not in a contract.

Someone suggested it is to see if I have ‘been away’, ie looking for lack of transactions whilst held at her Royal Britannic Majesty’s pleasure. Its a joint account – there are transaction all the time (me putting money in, wife taking it out :-))

What are they going to do with my bank information? How can it help their vetting? it can’t. its stupid. If they came to me with a list of all my accounts then maybe, but thats SC level stuff not mickey mouse 10 week contract stuff.

Why are banks wanting to recruit people that think its ok to spaff personal confidential information all over the interwebs??

That’s right they want me to email them my bank statements, no mention of a sFTP secure upload facility, no details on the usage of the information, the storage, or the expiry/deletion. they just want people who don’t give a shit about information security, incredible.

Leaving aside of course the irony that between me and this bank, only one of us has ever been found guilty of any fraud or criminality. and I don’t (mis) sell PPI or fix Libor rates.

I’m know I am too old and battle scarred for this shit but really…

You’re the bad guy, oh no I’m not you’re the bad guy, oh no I’m not etc etc. He’s behind you…

Aaaanyway if you need a grumpy old fart with just enough knowledge about security to be cantankerous then let me know. It looks like I may be having a gap opened up in my agenda for me…

Some of that Excel development

Friday, 6th December, 2013

At one place I worked, the IT department were, you might say, not massively responsive to user needs.

User needs being rapid response (hours or days, rather than months or years) systems development.

The RAD team I was in was a battleground, Users wanting us to rush stuff into production as soon as it compiled, IT wanting us to stop development and start documenting from scratch on new improved word templates. (The improvement being a more consistent theme and styling rather than anything of business value.)

ThenĀ  a funny thing happened – the users stopped calling us.

They had been recruiting assistants with strong Excel VBA dev skills and were bypassing the whole IT rigmarole.

This is where I think a fair chunk of Excel dev work has gone – under the radar, out of IT control, and off the IT job boards.

And when I say strong skills I mean on a business scale rather than a developer scale. ie crap naming, global variables, no design, no testing, lots of macro recorder pap, etc etc.

Overall, I doubt this move will have a positive impact on long term delivery ability, or quality (compared to decent RAD input – you can’t compare to mainstream IT as they wouldn’t have delivered anything, so sure, they would have less production defects).

Anyone else seen this rise of the super user?

cheers

simon

 

 

Where are all the RBS jobs?

Thursday, 5th December, 2013

It looks like RBS could do with a slightly stronger (or greyer) team.

When this happened last year the view was it was caused by sacking off all the experienced staff and offshoring the jobs to cheap fresh graduates.

Presumably thats still going on…

Anyone seen any UK based COBOL or VB3.0 jobs advertised at RBSĀ  recently?

cheers

simon

In from the cold

Monday, 25th November, 2013

Hiiii!

So after a few months out I am back.

The cycle is fairly well established now – I do a contract, get frustrated, take a break, start looking for the next contract.

What is the frustration?

  • If I work in an IT department its their complete determination to do anything except deliver working software to the people who need it (and pay for it)
  • If I work in a business role its a. much less frustrating, b. more rewarding, c. bit of a niggle about not getting access to the best tools for the job.

Most recent contracts have been in IT departments.

I have had a great break over the summer, have been doing some teaching at a local college, but now its time to start the long painful search for a new contract.

The process was never fun, but gets even less funner every time. Clients with unrealistic skill set expectations (30 years .net 4.5, 100 years excel 2013 and 50 years Linux kernel debugging etc), and crashing pay rates (seem to be 60% of last year, which was 80% of the year before). Agents with even less knowledge of the business, the market or even IT. Too many alarm words: “prince2”, “visio”, even seen “waterfall” a few times last week!

The death of Excel as a client side target and the rise of its pale and pathetic arch-nemesis the browser, and all the the bullshit time wasting that represents. But having devs write thousands of lines of javascript to replicate 1 click actions in Excel sure cuts down the spreadsheet error rate.

So anyway I am brushing up my JQuery and Ajax skillz ready to bluff my way into that Useful Spreaddie to Pointless Web App migration project coming to a company near you soon. :-)

cheers

simon

Visual Studio

Saturday, 26th May, 2012

I see MS have detailed their new plans for the latest releases of Visual Studio 11.

The Express editions of VS11 will only be able to create Metro apps. This is about as opposite as you can get from what most of us were hoping : that Express 11 would include VSTO. Rather than beef up the features of the free IDE they have kneecapped it in a rather desperate looking attempt to get devs to target Metro. Express 2010 will still be available for a while so its not the end of the world, but it doesnt look great for VSTO etc.

In fact Office dev is barely mentioned in all the bumf.

On a separate note I actually spoke to a pimp (agent) about a VSTO role this very week. I never heard back after I told him my rate! He did say most of the other applicants had only dabbled with it and there weren’t many of us with real world commercial experience. I guess the client went with one of those cheaper neewbs. I hope the deployment goes well for them ;-).

I have long since doubted Microsofts commitment to Office development (from around the time they disbanded the Office Developer Advisory Council ;-)). But everything I read seems to confirm that I made the right choice to de-emphasise it. Indeed I haven’t seen anything for a long time that would give me any doubts about my decision to de-emphasise Microsoft altogether.

cheers

simon

 

Job Hunt update

Sunday, 6th May, 2012

What an eye opener this job campaign has been!

Not sure what happened in the last couple of years but its a different world from the last time I was looking.

I already mentioned ridiculous NDAs but having found someone a bit more real world I began to go through the process.

For this role the confidentiality clause needed witnessing by someone who was not a family member who did not live at the same address. Yes this is for a low risk Excel dev role, seriously!

There were over 10 increasingly ominous, largely pointless forms to fill in. One of which was a rehash of my CV I had already provided. But now they wanted contact details. Why? If they want to check up they should use publicly available contact info. If they don’t believe my version of my work history, then asking me for people who can confirm it is grossly flawed. If I can’t be trusted to tell them where I worked, why can I be trusted to give them valid contact info?, rather than a friend or family member. This is just vetting pantomime – either pay and do it properly, or don’t do it.

Having battled through that and other bull shit I finally got first glimpse of the contract terms.

Client can give me immediate notice at any time, I can’t give notice for the duration of the contract (6 months). WTF?? that’s not a commercial agreement, its slavery. Thankfully I am not so desperate I need to accept such rubbish, or work for the sort of scumbag company that tries to shaft their workers like this (Large UK bank – of course!).

I know some people say just sign it, its so unfair they could not enforce it, and that may be so. I don’t do schoolboy law. But I do distrust completely any organisation that would try and trick or force their workers into this sort of shite. What else would they do? (well one thing for sure is they would cut the agreed rate whenever they fancied it, by as much as they thought they could get away with).

So I am still in the market, but probably not targeting banks. Which is a shame as they are about the only organisations still making heavy use of Excel contractors.

Have you seen this nonsense? have you signed this sort of rights grab contract?

cheers

simon

Excel Dev Conf Presenter Bob Phillips

Wednesday, 11th January, 2012

Well known Excel MVP Bob Phillips is presenting a session on Self Service BI at our Excel Conference, his profile is here.

I am really looking forward to this session as the Excel BI story is getting better and better. Eventually people will actually start using the stuff and stop some of the current poor working approaches. Bob has been doing this stuff for a living for years so I am keen to hear how it actually works, rather than the Microsoft/Contoso fantasy stuff.

Conference bookings have been better than expected, but there are still a few spaces left. Booking will be open for another week or so if you don’t want to miss this excellent event.

cheers

simon

Last few hours of conference discount

Friday, 6th January, 2012

The Early bird discount for the 2012 Excel Developer conference expires tonight at midnight (ish). (European time, CET not GMT) (11pm for the Brits).

Please visit the booking page here ASAP and get yourself booked on.

After tonight, the price goes up to 250 GBP, still a staggering bargain actually.

Hope to see you there,

cheers

Simon

Academic and commercial spreadsheet errors

Thursday, 22nd December, 2011

[I just posted this on Eusprig – but I suspect it is too long to hold the interest in a list post]

I think there is a total chasm between
a. academic researchers whose main spreadsheet experience is the classic ‘student grades’ thing and
b. business spreadsheet jockeys who are in spreadsheets all day everyday.

group a think several hundred formulas is big, group b think several thousand is small.
group a think most commercial spreadsheets have material errors, group b rarely see any error effect.
a think b are over confident, b think a are inexperienced.

Within Eusprig I think we need to find a way to reconcile and explain these two completely opposed views of apparently the same thing. Otherwise neither side will ever gain any credibility from the other.

Personally I don’t believe many commercial spreadsheets have material errors, because most commercial spreadsheets are immaterial. They are a small piece of a bigger effort.

Yes I have seen spreadsheets wrong by millions, and 10+ % or whatever you want to call materiality. But did it change anything? no, not ever.

In a billion dollar, multi year, deal evaluation model, a multi million formula error can be dwarfed by inflation or interest rate assumptions. But whatever, if the price comes in at 1 billion and the client only wants to pay 900 million, then the whole analysis, errors and all, is largely irrelevant. Now the question is ‘are we prepared to take the risk that we can deliver this and survive for 900m?’ or slightly more cynically ‘will they ever tie cost overruns back to me and take back my bonus?’

In my experience spreadsheets are normally one of many inputs to important decisions, any inputs out of tune with the majority are either reviewed for credibility or rejected.

So I agree that most spreadsheets have defects, and I agree that very few lead to an erroneous outcome. And I agree that this is the Human element of spreadsheet interaction, ignored in much academic research. I also believe that the big issue is wasted time and effort, around ineffective spreadsheet use, not error impact.

Maybe we need some more holistic research that covers the whole person/spreadsheet system (in a commercial setting) rather than the spreadsheet in isolation.

I would highlight that in my experience when a spreadsheet changes hands (for holiday cover, job role change or whatever) there is a huge spike in wasted time and risk of nonsense outputs, and external support requests.

What’s is your experience? have you also found that the complete information system that includes these potentially erroneous spreadsheets is usually somewhat self healing? (and self learning – ‘x in reporting is useless, I now ignore everything they send me’)

cheers
simon