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…


March 17

Thursday, 17th March, 2016

raise a glass…

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.





Sept update

Friday, 11th September, 2015

Barely a decade after Microsoft, I too have finally given up on Office development.

The holidays are over and its time to, at least appear to, look for a contract. I’ll still chuck my cv in for any sensibly paid Excel/VBA/.net contract but a. there aren’t many around at all, b. I think the competition might be quite stiff, c. I’m not investing any other effort in this area.

What am I doing? well…

iPhone development, in a word, or two.

Why? I realise I am very late to the party, and most of the streamers have already been popped, but I still think there is some mileage. I have a reasonable level of confidence that over the next 3-5 years this is still a viable skill, even if it is in the throes of a move from objective-C to Swift.

In a way I regret milking Excel/VBA as long as I did and not jumping ship sooner, as I think the golden years of app dev are behind us. But I’ve made a decent living from one long tail, I’m not above setting my sights equally low again!

The great thing about iPhone development over say SAP Hana (apart from from the lifetime of death march tedium) is the accessibility, assuming one has a mac of course.

I can sit on my arse at home, develop apps in areas that interest me, publish to the app store and sit back and wait for the avalanche of money to trickle in…

Well that’s the plan anyway, but here I am on SOS instead of xcode…

I will link from here if I decide to blog about my exploits, but I won’t drag SOS off topic as I know some people still find value in the content we created here.

Please leave a comment if you too have jumped ship, and what to, or if you are staying in the Excel/VBA world, and why.



Will I Pimp Your Shizzle?

Sunday, 28th June, 2015


I currently get several categories of email:

  1. You a due in court, here is your virus laden summons pdf.
  2. Your account is overdue here is your virus laden account xls or pdf
  3. Can I be your fuck buddy?, with a link I sure as shit don’t want to visit
  4. Hi,  please will you promote our product or service to SOS readers

and I occasionally get a useful message.

1,2 and 3 I delete and curse my crap anti spam filterage

4, I ignore. why? writing to me doesn’t confer the right of a reply, its what you write about that may get you a reply.

Have you actually reviewed the content here and checked your product or service is relevant. Not just any old Spreadsheet stuff, but it needs to be relevant to advanced developers. How to write a VLookup is about as much use here as the virus laden court summons.

Will I pimp your stuff here? are you making money? how much? what’s my cut? per click, month, sale or what?  But whatever, if you need to ask, the answer is no.

I never set out to make SOS directly commercial, I don’t show any ads here (WordPress might, but I don’t and I have never made a penny from this blog, directly at least).

I set up SOS to create a place for advanced developers to talk about complex issues away from the noise of how to open/save files etc. Along the way I have highlighted some excellent tools that I have found personally very useful, ExcelDNA and XLL plus are two that spring to mind.

And of course I’m not really investing much time here now…



Quick Update

Friday, 26th June, 2015

Hi, I’m still here.

Just in the process of finishing up my Essbase/Oracle Exalytics project and planning my summer hols.

I had to edit a file list routine in and Java from top level only to include all sub directories.

in Java (6) I had to restructure a ton of code and make it recursive, with guards etc and lots of testing.

In vb : Directory.GetFiles(directory, “*”, AllDirectories)

I know Java 8 has the same, but this is .net CLR 2.0 from the 1950’s

Anyway the difference made me smirk.

In terms of SOS I think things are going to get quiet to silent here as I really don’t see much spreadsheeting in my future (I have just applied for an Access role so never say never). I might refocus on more general software dev stuff or I might just sack it off – we’ll see how the time goes. I hope you are all doing well, doing the stuff you enjoy with the tools you like.

(I still prefer java to vb.)




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.


Excel Modeling World Championships 2014

Wednesday, 27th August, 2014

I saw this last year and thought it was a great idea, and have just been prompted to mention it.

Here is all the info

Big wedge for the winner…

And the fame of course…

ciao, peeps

Smurf Off Spreadsheets

Friday, 23rd May, 2014

Just a quick update after these last few months of neglect…

I haven’t been doing much spreadsheeting recently.

My last role was as an Access developer, which actually made a nice change. There are lots of good things about Access, a few weird things and some proper daft stuff.

It easy to forget after years of other front ends that in Access you can point a wizard at a table and have a form with full CRUD functionality in a couple of clicks.

My next role is just being finalised but is not looking like a spreadsheeting one either. This isn’t a conscious choice on my part, more just following the market.

There are still a few worthwhile Excel roles out there, but not many. My search terms wouldn’t pick up Calc or Google docs jobs so maybe I am missing out on a mass migration… But most likely professional spreadsheet development is out of fashion.

In fact a lot of development seems out of fashion, everyone seems to want managers, not developers. Makes one wonder who/what these hordes of managers are managing? (no one ever advertises for an outsourced/offshore dev team manager…)



Win XP

Saturday, 22nd March, 2014

XP support ends in a couple of weeks so…

How is your (personal) migration project coming along?

We still have a few XP machines at home, and I think I might have a win 2k one somewhere. I won’t be upgrading updating them. We never use them anyway. I sort of wish I picked up a Win 7 licence before the latest Windows Lemon was released.

I read an article that banks are considering Linux for cashpoint software. Well about time!! Those things only have half a dozen options, why indeed have a fully featured fully licensed OS? Although I guess they are getting more options (top up phone, and some random other options I can’t remember spring to mind).

I also read the NHS are negotiating an XP extension. And if MS did a U turn in the face of pubic pressure it wouldn’t be the first time. They are offering a 100USD bribe to encourage XP holdouts to buy a win8 machine. I can’t see that working – they would need to pay me much more than 60 quid to use that time sink.

So are you still on XP or something older/newer/different?