Archive for the ‘error’ Category

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…

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 RBS  recently?

cheers

simon

Good Spreadsheet practice

Wednesday, 27th November, 2013

Something a bit more realistic and less dramatic than ‘don’t use them’, from the ICAEW.

Please have a read and make some (constructive) comments on that site.

I can think of a counter example to all of their suggestions but I guess in general they are mostly fair enough, if perhaps a little woolly.

Some of them read a little like workarounds for poor fundamental design (eg protection – I’m never a fan!).

cheers

simon

 

 

Run and hide

Tuesday, 26th November, 2013

Just saw this in a job ad:

“You will be building a shared workbook with … for multiple users”

I guess on the plus side it will be a job for life fixing it and keeping it limping along (badly).

But its not for me.

I’m fairly pragmatic, I don’t remember ever building one myself but I don’t mind helping other people keep theirs working, unlike some devs I know, who just blank them with a “not fit for purpose”.

I have also seen a few death march projects failing to replace them quite badly.

What are they like in 2013? they are rubbish in 2010.

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

Excel Styles and formats

Friday, 31st May, 2013

Hopefully we all know what a disaster zone this area is so I won’t dwell on that is this post.

I have a specific question related to an ongoing support incident raised with MS.

We have some (admittedly old) workbooks with unusual style names, that cannot be deleted via code. In fact just trying to access them causes an error (in VBA, C#, C and XLM).

I wonder has anyone else seen this? does anyone know the cause? (To me it looks like an old culture/unicode issue simply because I have seen oriental and Cyrillic characters elsewhere in the styles list. (MS feel it came form a non MS source)

excelstyle1

In Excel 2003 these styles can cause the file to refuse to open with invalid file format or unreadable content type errors. 2010 opens them fine, but you still can’t delete them via the UI or code.

xmlstyle

The only way we have found so far is to save as xlsm and manually edit the xml to remove those rows. There are other tools but for this post I really just want to know if anyone else has seen these uneditable styles and if anyone knows the cause?

thanks for your help

cheers

simon

Rare Excel blunder reported

Thursday, 28th February, 2013

Blunders arent rare, of course, but fessing up in public is…

no matter how obtuse.

Sorry for lack of progress info on the conf. I have only just identified which country I will probably be in for the next few months. Progress should improve (well begin ,-))

cheers

simon

 

Any of you buy into FacePlant ™?

Thursday, 2nd August, 2012

I just happened across a comment that it is now trading down below twenty having IPO’ed at 40 odds. No wonder so many execs are getting trampled in the stampede out the door.

I can think of more fun ways to lose half my money.

GB comes to mind…

I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds and fast cars – the rest I just squandered.
George Best

I also read about the Knight destructacon algo disaster, potentially driving them titsup. I am sure this was a ‘proper’  HFT algo tech, not some Excel/VBA monster. But the effect seems pretty similar (Google Dr Evil spreadsheet). Please, please, please let the Knight rider ‘system’ be called KITT.

In a similar vein I also spotted that UBS are suing NASDAQ for their part in the FacePalm debacle. (Or FaceBerg as it is now known). Presumably they ended up owning too many of these citrus shares.

So its been a good few weeks for crap systems, no national spreadsheet horror stories though (Unless you include the Olympic ticketing/empty seat fiasco, which we were told last year was spreadsheet based).

What little spreadsheeting I have been doing recently has been Gnumeric, I can’t remember the last time I fired up Excel (or Windows in fairness).

I am still resisting the pressure to participate in Facebilk, I think they will probably rename it to facespace as people leave in droves, and evidence emerges of millions  of fake accounts. Too old for faceache, too young for linked in, what should I do?

On the investment front I guess you could always try to recoup your FB losses with MS shares ready for the Win8 effect? (buying puts of course ;-)).

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

Code execution has been interrupted

Thursday, 23rd June, 2011

by whom?

not me!

I had this issue a couple of weeks ago, but for some reason (possibly an update) it seems to have stopped.

As my code was running, for no apparent reason this dialog kept popping up. It seemed especially prelavent when writing data to cells. In the end I had to wrap all my writes with

   ‘Application.EnableCancelKey = xlDisabled
   wsLogging.Cells(m_outrow, col).Value = wsLogging.Cells(m_outrow, col).Value & ” | ” & message
   ‘Application.EnableCancelKey = xlInterrupt

Anyone else bothered by this? I was going to try cleaning the code, but now it seems to have gone away. Or possibly it was someone elses code, and/or some interference from another addin? Whatever, I can’t seem to repro the behavior anymore.

If it makes any difference I am using a multilingual Office (2007 –  12.0.6550.5004).

so I am curious, did anyone else see this problem? did you work out what caused it? did you find a better workaround? has it fixed itself?

cheers

simon