MS Excel moving with the times

Over the last few days I have been spending more time in MS Excel than can be considered good for my health! As I tweeted this morning, this has obviously hasn’t been without its frustrations!

I don’t often use Excel for more than basic stuff, but this time I am putting together a front end to a simple reporting tool in our internal Confluence wiki. More to come on that in a later post, but allow me to get this off my chest first!

First up, I wanted to do some string concatenation. Easy I thought, only to find out that the CONCATENATE() function does not allow a cell range to be used as a parameter!

Google to the rescue, where I came across this great little snippet of VB which does the job nicely:

'Purpose: Concatenate all cells in a range
'Inputs: rRng - range to be concatenated
' sDelimiter - optional delimiter
' to insert between cell Texts
'Returns: concatenated string
Public Function MultiCat( _
ByRef rRng As Excel.Range, _
Optional ByVal sDelim As String = "") _
As String
Dim rCell As Range
For Each rCell In rRng
MultiCat = MultiCat & sDelim & rCell.Text
Next rCell
MultiCat = Mid(MultiCat, Len(sDelim) + 1)
End Function

Next I wanted to create some links between workbooks. Easy right!? Its easy enough to create the links, but I didn’t like the full filepaths it was using:

C:\Documents and Settings\User\My Documents....\

So I went to look for a way of creating relative links….

It turns out that in some areas, Excel hasn’t exactly kept up with the times. This article gives us some insight:

it just can’t be done in Excel. A *LONG* time ago Microsoft wrote the original Excel version 1 for 512K Macs. Those beasts had a nonhierarchical file system and mostly only one floppy drive and no harddrive, so there could only be one file open with a given base filename. And Microsoft decreed this was Good & Sufficient, and it hasn’t changed at all since. Yes, all OS’s under which the most recent 3 or 4 versions of Excel runs now have hierarchical file systems spanning multiple local and networked drives, but Microsoft seems not to care to expend the resources to bring this bit of Excel functionality out of the mid 1980’s.

So a dead-end there then! 🙁

The same article goes on to finish with an assessment of things….

Excel simply hasn’t evolved from its original implementation in this respect. It’s nice to imagine Microsoft fixing this, but it probably won’t happen until well after they provide built-in support for flashing text. Microsoft seems to prefer adding eyewash to adding serious features that have been in competing spreadsheets for over a decade.

Sad, but likely true. I had to chuckle, rather than cry.

Microsoft vs Mandriva: The plot thickens

Jonathan Carter has an update on the goings on regarding the Classmate PCs in Nigeria:

The plot has thickened as more details emerges in a PC World article.

The funder of 11000 of the 17000 classmate PC’s is insisting that Mandriva remains on the machines, at least for now. This will have a big impact on the project as a whole, and Mandriva might just yet be the default system on all these machines after all.

In the article it also mentions that the Microsoft country manager for Nigeria, Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu wrote that Microsoft is working on an agreement with the Technology Support Center (which seems to be an independent service provider in Nigeria) to pay them US$400 000 for marketing activities around the classmate, if they switch to Windows.

Hopefully this means the door is not cloased on Mandriva.

While I can understand the stakes are high for Microsoft, if only half of this is true, their ethics need questioning.


Mandriva Vs. Windows

Yet more strange decisions regarding software choices where Microsoft is involved.

François Bancilhon writes an open letter to Steve Ballmer regarding the news that Mandriva Linux will be replaced by Windows XP on the 17,000 Classmate PCs for Nigerian schools.

We actually closed the deal, we took the order, we qualified the software, we got the machine shipped. To conclude, we did our job. And, the machine are being delivered right now.

Now, we hear a different story from the customer : “we shall pay for the Mandriva Software as agreed, but we shall replace it by Windows afterward.”

This raises so many questions, both business and ethics. How much pressure and money did MS throw at this?

We will probably never know the truth, and it is likely not going to swing back Mandriva’s way. Unfortunately. Such a shame that so many children will have there first computing experiences tarnished by politics and an out-of-date OS running on low powered hardware.

It is the apparent lack of ethics and arrogance that Microsoft seem to be showing that really gets my goat.

Plenty more commentary out there including this and this.

Quote of the day

If Microsoft had used Open Standards from the moment it was founded in 1975, this problem would not exist.

Couldn’t have put it better myself! The problem being discussed is, you guessed it, Microsoft’s proprietary file formats.

Via Chris Linfoot from the Free Software Foundation Europe, on the beeb

So where is Microsoft at with Vista?

This rather (in my opinion) poor piece of journalism from the BBC quoting Gates on Vista sales figures caught my interest, particularly following the news this week regarding Microsoft’s threat to persue patent royalties from open source initiatives such as Linux and (Link via Bub Sutor).

Mr Gates said sales had been quicker than Microsoft expected, and made Vista the firm’s quickest selling software.

What!? Does anyone believe this stuff? What upset me about the article from the beeb was the lack of comment or verification of Gates’ statement. There is plenty on this out there, so you can do your own searches on google, but with Vista sales being reported as slow, Dell offering linux and bringing back Windows XP, how can it be Microsoft’s quickest selling software?

Oh, and to say sales were quicker than they had expected, that just makes me wonder just how low their expectations really were! 😉

Just where are MS going? They are appearing increasingly deperate and looking to create confusion. Smells like fear to me.

My take on all this, forget Vista and move to Ubuntu. 😀