Client Conundrum

Thursday, 30th January, 2014

Back in olden times when MFC roamed free, and VB6 ruled the roost, fat client was it. Then came thin client and the dash for browser based apps, and its more attractive sibling platform independence.

A few of us warned MS that this was a bad move, they did nothing. A few of us moaned about this lowest common denominator approach and the decreased user experience compared to smarter/fatter clients. MS tried to call Office its smart client,  this fizzled out, quickly.

Eventually we were all browsered up and windows apps were career limiting comedy, and Silverlight (A fake weak impersonation of Windows that only worked in browsers on Windows) was created. A few of us guffawed, lots. Those handful of companies that committed to SilverShight are still clearing up the mess its oh-so-bleedin-obvious retirement caused. Some poor goofs in Zürich are constantly looking for their white knight (but probably not dressed in silvershite armour).

Then the iPhone happened, and suddenly sleek, powerful, integrated, native apps were back in fashion. Big time.

So my conundrum is this: will iOS/Android client/native apps all migrate to the phone browser? or not?

What do you think and why?

Personally, I think browsers are ok for surfing the interwebs, crap and/or pointless for everything else. Ok for content consumption, crap for creation. However I have always thought that and it didn’t stop the revolution last time… I think probably not in iOS as Apple will maintain control of many key apis to be native for ecosystem reasons. Dunno about Android, they may go the web route.

What do you reckon?

cheers

simon

About those jobs…

Wednesday, 29th January, 2014

Looks like I picked the wrong time to specialise in financial services IT:

Lloyds cull

Barclays cull

And those are just the public ones…

So I guess FinServs isn’t going to be leading us out of the depression then?

Excel VBA certainly isn’t, at least not according to the IT job boards, I suspect the business ones tell a different tale.

Maybe its time to consider a move to the darkside? (permie – although as shown above that is largely illusionary).

cheers

simon

 

Video Somnolency

Tuesday, 28th January, 2014

As discussed previously I have concerns about the market viability of the old Excel/VBA/C# skill set, so I am developing other skills.

Part of this reskilling involves watching some very good videos.

Every time I put one on I get extreme head lolling syndrome.

I was watching one on the train last night and nearly missed my stop I was so flat out asleep.

I’m getting scared to put the videos on as they seem to just flick an off switch in my brain, and within 5 mins I’m snoring like a good-un.

As I mentioned they are good videos, so I really don’t think it is the fault of the producers.

I remember the same from years (decades!!) ago when I was learning Access 2.0, it seems I’m just not very good at learning from videos.

Maybe I should put them on my iplop and watch them whilst walking, although latest research suggests that using a smart device on the move is the cause of an increasing number of accidents. I have never fallen asleep whilst walking but I have dozed off whilst standing, so this could be risky.

I have some related books that are pretty heavy going too. Maybe I just need to start straightaway building something, even if it is very badly, and cobble it together as I go. But before I do that I was really wanting to get some perspective about what is possible. Maybe I just have to resign myself to building the same thing half a dozen times as I learn more and more…

Do you have the same video learning problems? (Maybe this is an important issue for all these MOOC’s)

What do you find is the best way to introduce new stuff for you?

cheers

simon

Competitive rate

Tuesday, 21st January, 2014

Why put this on the ad if it isn’t?

Do you really think you are going to trick us into accepting a crap paying job by telling us its competitive??

There has been a bit of a buzz the last couple of days about an apparently interesting job advertised. One of my buddies put me onto it so I applied. noting the ‘competitive rate’.

The agent was cagey when he phoned, wouldn’t say what the budget was, asked what I wanted etc – the usual shizzle. Eventually he fessed up – the client is a consultancy and known for paying low rates!

Why waste everyones time then?? dipshit.

Just put ‘crap paying job for desperate developer or substandard one’. You might drop lucky and find someone who can’t calculate day rate – accom – travel = 0 or less, but is still a great financial systems developer.

I notice it is now out with loads of agencies – a clear sign of desperation. The poor consultancy may have to give up some of their 200% margin to the actual worker. Unless they can find a local with the right experience and a low cost base.

These consultancies are weaselling in all over the market and charging a fortune for nothing (well maybe sue-ability). They take from both sides and provide nothing as far as I can tell. Unless you know different?

cheers

simon

 

Jobs to Avoid

Friday, 17th January, 2014

Just saw an Excel dev job to consolidate a bunch of templates, easy enough, I’m sure lots of us have done it a millions times. The trouble is this was a 1 week contract, thats right 5 days! To understand the current 40 odd spreadsheets in the system, create a consolidation system, and presumably test it…

I would *test* something like that for more than 5 days, even after building it carefully and testing as I went along.

Reminds me of an irresistible job offer I had a while ago. The end client said ‘To be honest, you are here to take the blame when it goes wrong. We only have 2 weeks, we can’t do it in that time. So you will carry the can when we fail!’. I appreciated his honesty and was still up for the job until the agency started messing me around on rate. In the end I blew them out as they were squabbling over a few euros per day on something that had a client charge out rate in the thousands.

I can’t help thinking this is a similar set up…

stay safe…

cheers

simon

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

Apple v Microsoft again

Tuesday, 7th January, 2014

Both Apple and Microsoft now make portable computing devices without keyboards, sometime called iPads or fake iPads.

Its Christmas (ish), both companies are trying to encourage sales (I think!!)

Apple have a lovely ad with cool music, lots of beautiful people (like our ExcelDevCon attendees:

rachdevconfvsml). Lots of narrow depth of field, cool lifestyle type shots. All in all quite aspirational.

Microsoft have got some unattractive grey bloke sitting in a grey office banging on about MS Office.

The contrast couldn’t be sharper.

Now I love MS Office – I’ve made a living from it since before the internet, but I don’t think its going to be the defining factor in Christmas tablet sales. Longer term, for IT departments, maybe, but for consumers for Xmas? no.

I really think MS need to sack off their advertising agency, and most of their margeting department and get some folks who know what they are doing. Like this guy, he could fix their image issues, probably.

Or at least they should sponsor my extreme spreadsheeting series.

Do you think Microsoft has an image problem?

cheers

simon

Job Hunt 2014

Monday, 6th January, 2014

I am still keeping half an eye out for an interesting contract. I didn’t bother over the hols because I drank and ate too much instead. Barely even turned my lapper on in fact.

I am now back perusing Jobserve from time to time. Its unfortunate that they can’t remember my search terms properly. But its very unfortunate that you can’t exclude certain agencies from search results. There are a couple I won’t have anything to do with, and it would be nice not to have my results polluted with their fake jobs, misleading descriptions and dodgy terms and conditions. Not to mention all the locum GP jobs my search for Excel or VBA or C# seems to throw up.

Then again, there aren’t that many results to search through…

cheers

simon

Excel Dev book

Monday, 6th January, 2014

Thanks for all the input folks.

I had a good think, and although it feels somewhat like a waste not to share some of my most useful experiences, I don’t think now is the time for the book I have in mind.

There are several factors depressing the Excel development market at the moment, some are permanent trends, some I think will reverse in a year or two. In particular there is a heavy regulatory downer on Excel just now, once people get caught messing up in the replacement technologies that focus will move off, allowing people to get back to the benefits of Excel.

Also IT departments currently have a big veto power, I think once people notice that that doesn’t actually move the business forward their influence will decline, allowing people to get back to the benefits of Excel.

maybe.

On the other hand the time may really be up for professional Excel development.

Either way I’ll still chip in here with points of interest.

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