back to article BOFH: You can take our lives, but you'll never take OUR MACROS

"...And I can't seem to import all of the data I need," the user explains. "And you're importing into Excel from what... a CSV file?" the PFY asks. "Yes." "And the import fails?" "I just stops. It says something about resources." "So perhaps you should get rid of some of the data in the spreadsheet?" "It's an almost …

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Steering a luser to use Access. No way that is going to end well.

My bet is on Access requiring a plugin installation to work with data older than 7 years, installation media for which was just delivered in the basement, in the shipment with a carpet, showel and to bags of lime.

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Coat

Its better than letting user have access to SQL, running several queries at once which deadlock and lock and wonder why the Information Something department is yelling at them to stop it.

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Oh, I don't know. Eternity might be a whole lot closer while they try and figure out how to write queries in Access… Access' version of SQL is somewhat special!

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Access gets fat more stick than it deserves, usually because people don't understand what it is aimed at and the fact that access isn't a database. Jet is the database and it is a vaguely acceptable single user database. The beauty of access is its ability to do what the bean counter wants without screwing up the central database and with a more user friendly user interface. Our had had its fair share of wonky scripting languages but if you want to drag a significant amount of data off a corporate database and play around with it with zero risk of falling down and stairs, access is what you need. It's also pretty cheap and easy to lean (compared to say Oracle forms and plsql). If you want to run a new report is usually a matter of a few minutes work and you are done. It's those scenarios where access shines.

However, try and run an entire department of a single jet database and toy get what you deserve. If you want to make a quick read only front end for an entire department to access a corporate database then access does that well.

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Its better than letting user have access to SQL, running several queries at once which deadlock and lock and wonder why the Information Something department is yelling at them to stop it.

What? Like when they decide to just cobble up some forms in Access and point them to live RDBMS via ODBC resulting in some interesting locking in target RDBMS?

Access should be burnt on a stake. No wait. Probably better and more satisfying to just do that to the users...

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Mushroom

Jet is the database

And like the real thing, it sucks and blows at the same time. Also, when something other than air gets sucked into it, it either comes out again totally shredded, or it causes the engine to explode.

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Trollface

"Steering a luser to use Access. No way that is going to end well."

And then ... give him admin access to his own sharepoint subsite...

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Well...

I've once done the Excel to Access to Access-but-using-PostgreSQL-backend dance. A pretty nice lady from Payments had to do a big-ass cost analysis which involved call logs for the last 3 years. Back then, Excel had the 65536 row limitation. So I went on "hmmm… Access can handle this" only to find that Jet would start barfing somewhere around the 300k record mark. However, I had already done the whole DB query stuff, and found out about "linked tables" so I used that and ended up dumping all the data into Postgres. Then I just pulled a view from Postgres out to Access, then used that with my lady friend. Worked really good, and Postgres does the heavy grunt work in 40 seconds.

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WTF?

Cruelest Ending!

Of all the awful things that the BOFH and his PFY sidekick have ever done, this has to be the worst! Introducing someone to Access!?!?!?

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Re: Cruelest Ending!

They get what they deserve.

All on its own the chief actuary decided to do the loss triangles etc. in Access. It's unintelligible beyond believe - having to understand what they do I came as close to slowly torturing someone to death as possible without becoming felon.

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Facepalm

Re: Cruelest Ending!

quote: "Of all the awful things that the BOFH and his PFY sidekick have ever done, this has to be the worst! Introducing someone to Access!?!?!?"

In fairness, they are introducing Access to someone who has been using Excel as a pseudo-database. Impossible as it sounds, Access may actually be slightly less of a headache once they get the concepts...

(I have a friend who once told me, completely straight faced, that he loved using Access "because I can use Excel spreadsheets directly as a table". Some things are their own reward)

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Re: Cruelest Ending!

Cruel and unusual punishment. Love the neat and understated style

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Re: Cruelest Ending!

god access. what a pile.

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Alert

Re: GettinSadda Re: Cruelest Ending!

"....Introducing someone to Access!?!?!?" Well, it could have been worse, they could have suggested DB2.

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Re: Cruelest Ending!

"All on its own the chief actuary decided to do the loss triangles etc. in Access."

Having endured business decisions to use excel for everything, It can't be much worse.

After 5 years and interminable wars we finally managed to get a real financials system, imported all the raw data and promptly discovered a $250k discrepency in our financials (close to what I was expecting, vs what the execl system was claiming)

The scary part is that the same excel setup was being used by the local health trust to run several hospitals and suchlike, covering about 2 million people (it was all setup by the same people and they just used the same templates for us as they'd developed for the health authority)

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Anonymous Coward

Brilliantly evil..

Pointing someone to Access, no. That could almost revive my own conscience, that's beyond evil..

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Coat

Single user PC database might be OK

The worry is that MS Access on a single PC of the sort, and with the amount of RAM, that a bean-counter will have demanded could probably do it with a bit of fiddling.

I don't know about SQL Server lite, MS will have crippled it; but SQLite almost certainly could do this : http://www.sqlite.org/limits.html

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Flame

Re: Single user PC database might be OK

Yep - then they roll it out across the network and wonder why it is so slow when the server relocates to Corp HQ in another country !!

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Re: Single user PC database might be OK

I was once asked to help out an intern that was doing a database project that hadn't gone through IT.

It was a conversion of an excel spreadsheet (that was too large) to an Access database.

It worked perfectly until they split the backend from the front end, put the back end on a server in London, and tried to use it from New York.

I gave them a rough time and cost estimate to rewrite it, and left as quick as I could!

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Re: Single user PC database might be OK

One of the great things about Access is that it is so massively internally broken at the design level that it has a "repair" button so you can fix all the horrible things that your database has done to itself.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Single user PC database might be OK

My experience has been:

Step 1: Excel

Step 2: Import data into poorly written Access database

Step 3: Hire data entry monkeys to enter data as quickly as possible to try an d meet some deadline

Step 4: Discover why Access wasn't a great idea....

Step 5: Discuss moving to a standard MSSQL/Oracle/other company standard database for £££

Step 6: Silence

Step 7: Discover that said department has decided to upgrade to the latest version of Access in the hope of resolving the problem.

Step 8: Goto step 1

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Windows

Re: Single user PC database might be OK

@Extra spicey vindaloo

London/NewYork - We did something similar with MS Remote Desktop Services/Terminal Server. It worked well with the server 3 time zones away from two clients.

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Re: Single user PC database might be OK

I've found Access to be quite useful.

1) Get sent the data as stack of Excel spreadsheets

2) Import that data and build quick'n'dirty mockup in Access. Get most of the business logic agreed

3) Port to another database and front end

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Single user PC database might be OK

Alternative:

Step 1: Excel

Step 2: Discover existence of VBS, ODBC and PostgreSQL

Step 3: Read a book on VBS (cost: 1 day) write a VBS script that reads Excel data and spits out an SQL file you just have to run in psql to create and populate tables (cost: 1 day)

Step 3: hook up excel to PostgreSQL via ODBC (cost: 30 to 35 seconds)

Step 4: schedule a script that retrieves latest data from production database to update data in PostgreSQL. (cost: 1/2 day - we are talking production db, so extensive testing is required)

Access is pretty good with forms, as a database, though, it is utter crap.

I did this for a customer some years ago before powershell was available, today I would probably do it in powershell. Solution is still running to this day ... and I knew VBS/PostgreSQL/ODBC already before I started on the project. Did that as an ad hoc project, since project manager had overestimated implementation time of the actual project I was hired-in for - I simply asked, since we are done with this, what else is causing pain around here? The answer was a massive Excel file with data out of SAP ...

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Pint

Love the instant consensus here

Every single first comment hits on Access :)

A worthy end to the week. Bottoms up!

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Access

I cant wait until the bean counter hits the 2gb limit.... right about now......

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Re: Access

To repurpose a joke about regular expressions*: you have a problem. You decide to solve it with Access. Now you have two problems.

*as far as I know this is actually the only joke about regular expressions.

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Re: Access

*as far as I know this is actually the only joke about regular expressions.

Obligatory:

https://xkcd.com/208/

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Re: Access

*as far as I know this is actually the only joke about regular expressions.

Also obligatory, and yes it is THE joke:

http://xkcd.com/1313/

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Windows

Re: the only joke about regular expressions

No-one remembers the one about them being indistinguishable from modem line noise?

I must be getting old.

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Re: Access

I'm not a programmer. but I sit next to one at work.

Does this count? http://xkcd.com/327/

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Re: Access

Or indeed this one:

http://xkcd.com/1171/

I wonder if there is a way to trawl xkcd to determine whether there are any more regular expression jokes...

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Trollface

Re: Access

I wonder if there is a way to trawl xkcd to determine whether there are any more regular expression jokes...

Yes.

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Bane of my life

I swear western civilisation would crumble to dust if anything ever happened to all the Excel spreadsheets that appear to run most businesses...

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Re: Bane of my life

This pdf about how "Shadow IT" (notably Excel) harms business is now nearly a decade old. Yet I still work with many clients who suffer the debilitating disease.

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Mushroom

Re: Bane of my life

If MS produced a version of Excel that fixed all the bugs that have previously been reclassified as features, that would be the end.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bane of my life

The writer of that Shadow IT article has it nailed. I've even done Shadow IT. It's what you do when you have a load of information, you need to do stuff with that and no one has given you budget, training, admin support or appropriate tools.

No one is responsible for setting the workers up in anything better.-

IT have been told to concentrate on the important stuff defined by what some executive types somewhere believe that IT departments should do. mostly buying and fixing.

So we cobble together something that gets the job done.

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Re: Bane of my life

I swear western civilisation would crumble to dust if anything ever happened to all the Excel spreadsheets that appear to run most businesses...

But it already has! (for pretty much all possible values of "Anything" )

There's a theory that if anybody ever manages to understand the universe, it will abruptly end and be replaced by something less understandable. There is another theory that this has already happened. many times. My personal theory is that this explains hangovers.

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Devil

Re: Bane of my life

"I swear western civilisation would crumble to dust if anything ever happened to all the Excel spreadsheets that appear to run most businesses..."

You say that like its a bad thing....

http://www.youngagain.org/images/obamasun.PNG

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Paris Hilton

Re: Bane of my life

"There's a theory that if anybody ever manages to understand the universe, it will abruptly end and be replaced by something less understandable. There is another theory that this has already happened. many times. My personal theory is that this explains hangovers."

I have never been formally exposed to that theory, but have in experience. A long long time ago in a burst, a flash of understanding as though the Earth had finished running its millennia-long program and sent its output through my brain... I understood women.

Nothing has been the same since.

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Re: Bane of my life

I'm not sure about it. Yes it's used by many businesses, but the question is if it's used by important ones. I mean our civilization wouldn't suffer much if certain companies would cease to exist.

Your bakery or fish monger doesn't Spreadsheets to do their work.

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Trollface

I beg your pardon...

...you can't possibly mean there are people who don't have an Excel - uh, hold on... s/Excel/GCstar/ - catalogue of their DVDs, including a "watched" flag, surely...? What sort of person would fail to do such a thing?!?

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Happy

Re: I beg your pardon...

No , but I do have all my books on an Alpha4 (v11) database - no books read tag though

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Happy

Re: I beg your pardon...

No, the only two spreadsheets I maintain for personal use are one to log the deep sky objects I have seen through my scopes or binoculars, listing catalogue/number,alternative names, type, constellation, date observed etc, and one in which I list the number of species of fish and seafood my kids have eaten (79 for the youngest (10), 80 for the eldest (12)), listing English and Dutch common names and who ate them. The first helps me select new objects to tackle, the second encourages the kids to try more different kinds of food.

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Re: I beg your pardon...

Yeah, I just rely on Google/Apple/etc. to tell me what I've been watching!

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Lines to become legendary

"Sorry, I think I just slipped into a coma, but I'm back now."

"The main limitation being that it has an inbuilt stupidity limiter..."

And Access... what a great ending! That 'lil piece of dung surely caused me more problems than it ever was supposed to solve.

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A Heavenly Space ...... Devoid of Minded Idiots.

If only all of that were no so true, Simon. :-)

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I think I may have a few of them here... data could easily be stored in the existing central ERP system. But no, it's stored in spreadsheets that are emailed between team members.

I don't hate myself enough to push a user to MS Access. It'll just cause more pain for me later.

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Devil

More bits

Should have got him to upgrade to the 64-bit version of Excel first. Handles heaps more rows than 32-bit. And all his plugins won't work... Bwhahahaha!

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