When I was at College, I made mine in Visual Basic, saving the chat unencrypted, in plain text to a dll file in the mapped network drive we all had access to. But I took a print screen of MS Word 97 and used that as the background of my form so when the lecturers walked by - they thought it was just Microsoft Word. It worked surprisingly well. People were less suspicious in the late 90s... they would run anything without a second thought (as evidenced when Newcastle University students sent the Win32CIH virus to someone in the College which was called "Porn2000.exe" and brought every computer in the College to it's knees in an incredibly impressive 3 and a half hours)
We shouldn't encourage readers to waste their time like this, but it's the kind blend of wonderful insanity that springs from a sysadmin with time on his hands: an enterprise instant messaging platform that runs in Excel. Of course, nobody would want to deny Microsoft the chance to stub its toe properly by writing its own …
Thursday 8th September 2016 05:04 GMT David 132
People were less suspicious in the late 90s.
Some people are still not suspicious even now.
Unable to believe that there was, really, an octopus glyph in the Segoe UI Symbol font (WHY, Microsoft?) I wrote a trivial Winforms app recently that just displayed the glyph, large, in the centre of the screen. Sent "octopus.exe" to my colleagues and they unthinkingly ran it.
And then I had to explain that no, it wasn't supposed to do anything at all. Isn't a large octopus in the centre of your screen reward enough?
Thursday 8th September 2016 06:25 GMT Gene Cash
Thursday 8th September 2016 07:29 GMT Novex
Oh mighty, invisible, non-gender specific, big entity in the sky...
...please save me from Excel absurdity such as this. While it's 'fun' to see how far to push a program with in-built coding capability (I've done it myself in Access) it's such torture to try and keep these things going because some PHB (and sometimes not so pointy) decides they actually like it and want to keep using it!
As Mr. Scott once said (in Star Trek V, I believe): "The right tool for the right job". Excel is really pretty much only for data analysis. For everything else, there's 'proper' development tools.
Thursday 8th September 2016 08:57 GMT Anonymous Coward
"Excel is really pretty much only for data analysis."
If it can change - then anything is data.
An Excel spreadsheet is a useful way to store lists which can then be sorted and filtered on many different criteria.
I use it to store details of international choirs and their video/events web pages: Facebook, Youtube, Vimeo, and custom sites.
That information is then used by an automaton in VBA/Selenium to analyse any changes to the pages. That takes about 4 fours overnight with a VB.Net watchdog to overcome any unexpected Excel/browser processing hang-ups.
Each choir has a spreadsheet that is the history of changes to the page. Only potentially relevant new items on a page are flagged for human decisions. It also remembers which videos have been found before even if the URL is different. Another spreadsheet remembers if Excel or the browser crashed while previewing a particular video.
Other spreadsheets remember the details of: geographical locations and venues; performance titles; common city name translations in English; month and day of week translations.
The HTML analysis parameters for each page are held in Notebook rather than Excel. They can then be edited easily while VBA is running should a page's HTML format change significantly.
The human interaction is with a layered set of forms and dialog boxes that fill a 27" 16x10 screen plus a 19" 4x3 secondary screen.
Like Topsy - "it just growed". Moving it to Linux Mint will be a challenge.
Thursday 8th September 2016 20:33 GMT wikkity
useful way to store lists which can then be sorted and filtered on many different criteria.
There's this new fangled thing called a relational database ;-)
> Moving it to Linux Mint will be a challenge.
That is the crux of most peoples issues with excel, It's great for 10 mins of mucking about with data and throwing it away. Beyond that for anything useful it becomes a pit of man hours and only the person who lashed it together and hack every last suggestion in knows how it works. Every new feature means huge changes, often actually rewriting it. I've come across people who have survived redundancies because their spreadsheets have becomes so tangled up in processes.
Thursday 8th September 2016 09:22 GMT Doctor Syntax
Thursday 8th September 2016 09:23 GMT Dan 55
Thursday 8th September 2016 09:52 GMT David Roberts
When all you have is a hammer......
......every task looks like a nail.
Nobody can stop the use of any office product for scripting tasks because the person with the problem only knows one scripting language. Real coders are nowhere in sight and would anyway get sniffy about requirements, testing, budgets, ongoing support.
If I had a pound for every middle manager who said "what's the problem? I knocked this up over the weekend and it works fine." I would have spent it all on beer long ago.
Thursday 8th September 2016 10:29 GMT phuzz
I can't be the only person that uses a spreadsheet (Libre office in my case) to analyse logs can I?
Import as a CSV, and then you can filter and sort to your hearts content, and even graph stuff with a bit of pivot table action.
Yeah, ok, I should probably find a way to feed it into logstash and graphana, but Libreoffice is right there...
Thursday 8th September 2016 19:12 GMT Holtsmark
I have a spreadsheet that inputs CAN-bus log-files in hex, parses these in binary, and then outputs clear-text information. All using only Excel native commands, no VBA or similar.
A very useful tool.
However; if I had the chance, then I would have the dev-. team at Microsof Office undergo some light waterboarding, followed by a brief (by it's very nature) visit to the scorpion-pit.
Who the hell thought it was a good idea to hard-code the default line with of a charted curve to 1.5?
..yes, it looks better for your example containing Bill and Bob, and the months January to March, but once you have 72 lines overlapping, you can not see anything, and you are forced to re format every single line one at a time!
And, after all these years, why is there no xyz diagram option? It must be very EASY to code, and it would be a good reason to actually upgrade.
Friday 9th September 2016 07:30 GMT JimRoyal
No. I did it as well. Looking for contract jobs, downloading data from Jobserve, import into Excel and had a VBA filter which took out jobs I did not have the skills for, towns too hard to get to on a daily basis etc. It used to trim the list down from 750ish to about 50 in a minute or two.
Tuesday 13th September 2016 00:09 GMT Trixr
I use Logparser - one of those awesome MS apps like Robocopy. Shame they can't extend that kind of quality to their OSes or Office.
Logparser will process a structured text file (doesn't have to be CSV - it's easy enough to create parsing rules) using SQL-type queries, and is lightning fast. Outputs to CSV, text, on-screen sortable grid and even graphs.
If you've got big log files (or even not so big ones) or lots in a series, that's the tool to use.
Thursday 8th September 2016 11:46 GMT agurney
Back in the 1980s I used Mentor Graphics' document scripting language on an Apollo workstation to calculate tidal gates and generate tide tables.
[When I lost access to the Apollo I ended up converting the script to GW-basic .. it now gets fired up once a year in a Windows 98 virtual machine. It still works, so I don't see a need to bring it into the 21st century]
Thursday 8th September 2016 13:29 GMT Jonathan 27
This sounds like another example of "wrong tool for the task". If they have Office, wouldn't it make sense to do this in Access, all the controls are in there already. You could have your "messaging app" written in about an hour and messages wouldn't take 40 seconds. Also, you won't hit the issue Excel does as your workbook expands. The solution in the article won't scale very well and will eventually corrupt the "server" worksheet.
Thursday 8th September 2016 13:50 GMT Anonymous Coward
Thursday 8th September 2016 18:08 GMT H in The Hague
Thursday 8th September 2016 20:52 GMT wikkity
Re: Oxford Concordance Program, ..., was written in FORTRAN.
You've just reminded me of something I wrote years ago, I should try and dig that out too. A Concordance module to generate indexes that took SGML and TeX source and LatTeX* output. Implemented as a couple of awk 'modules' , an awk module being a script that piped input into other awk scripts.
Thinking about it awk is a lot like excel, good for lashing stuff together but a maintainability nightmare.
* I took my copy of the The LATEX Companion home from the office a log time ago after too many comments.
Thursday 8th September 2016 14:50 GMT Naselus
Not excel, but...
Last year, during a quiet period, I started building up my powershell profile - you know, just some basic functions and aliases for routine tasks, stuff like a short account unlock command so I don't need to go via ADU&C or a short command to load Exchangeshell and run a top-10 mailbox size report. Humdrum stuff to save me five minutes here or there.
Well, the quiet period dragged on a longer than initially anticipated, and I got a little bit carried away. I ended up building a complete 1980s-style text-based adventure. It contains a complete 10x10 map of areas (stored in a hash table), each with an individual description, a short story line (which revolves around finding some cheese and defeating a Luminous Sprocket), several items you can pick up and use, and multiple NPCs you can interact with. I was just beginning to add another 10x10 level to the dungeon when some genuine work came up and the project had to be abandoned; there's still a downward staircase which just leads to a sign saying 'under construction'.
But I didn't write it as a separate program - it's literally built into my profile on our production network. When I launch PS, it immediately greets me with "Welcome to Powershell Dungeons of the Endless! You are in a dark passage. Exits are to the North, South, East and West" along with some ASCII art. This has caused me to get some funny looks when someone wants their account unlocking and I respond by apparently launching a text-based adventure game.
Thursday 8th September 2016 15:10 GMT GrumpenKraut
Thursday 8th September 2016 23:53 GMT John Brown (no body)
Re: Not excel, but...
"This has caused me to get some funny looks when someone wants their account unlocking and I respond by apparently launching a text-based adventure game."
Ah, a sort of steam punk version of what TV SciFi thought computer interfaces would look like in the future, like playing a first person shooter in a floaty psychedelic universe.
Thursday 8th September 2016 18:30 GMT Anonymous Coward
A wrong assumption
right at the start it says that everone has excel open in every cubicle farm
Let me be the first to say that me and my collegaues only open any MS Office application when we have to and through gritted teeth.
Even Lookout is accessed via the HTTP connection rather than the .exe
And our company has sold itself to the devil and adopted Office 365.
We are getting email from the IT thought police asking why none of us have installed Orifice 365 yet.
Our next step is to create a Win 7 VM and install it on that VM and only use it when we absolutely have to.
For us, Office 2010 is all we need.
Posting A/C because it makes perfect sense.
Thursday 8th September 2016 20:03 GMT AndrueC
I once wrote a Unix emulator in Amstrad BASIC. I even gave it a version of troff and email. The disk subsystem was derived from CP/M so I had to emulate folders using user areas. Luckily the CPC allowed you to select up to 255 areas so it was quite effective.
It didn't really do multi-tasking but you could set up an alarm that 'rang' at a future time.
Thursday 8th September 2016 23:55 GMT John Brown (no body)
Friday 9th September 2016 04:53 GMT Nolveys
Monday 12th September 2016 08:42 GMT AndrueC
Yeah, fair comment about the nomenclature, guys. Guilty as charged. I used to develop data recovery software (I was the file system expert ironically) so I do know better. I tried to stick with the program but I'm a Windows developer and no longer in the data recovery field. Just run of the mill consumer stuff. So I've had to give in. Too many meetings where people are talking about folders. Too much documentation (and code) I have to write and share with people.
Please forgive me - we all have to earn a living :)
Thursday 8th September 2016 20:12 GMT Anonymous Coward
Not Excel, but in the late 80s I used Lotus 123 to size refrigeration units using the tax table functionality.
If BTU load is over this number, but under this number, then this is the refrigeration unit.
Saved a lot of time for supermarkets with a couple of dozen units.
Of course, then we started multiplexing units, so we had to write a real app.
Thursday 8th September 2016 20:28 GMT ben kendim
Used Excel for PC board layout...
OK, it was a small board, but Excel was the most convenient thing I had right then.
Select all, set column heights and row widths to 0.05", and use borders/lines with 0.025" thickness, and voila PCB design tool... Can do multiple layers using different colors.
Here is a sample I just did in 5 minutes...
Thursday 8th September 2016 20:54 GMT Anonymous Coward
I think I worked with this guy
Oh, wait, he did it as a joke.
No, the guy I worked with did shit like this and was serious about it. Years later I'm still dealing with his absolute *MESS* of spreadsheets littered around my network.
He "developed" a few "automated" analysis tools, for instance. Previously they were compiled by hand taking half a day a week. Using his "automated" tools, it now takes 2 days AND has the added benefit of the numbers sometimes not adding up ( due to excel being excel and him not having any notion of what programming actually means ).
I drink a lot.
Thursday 8th September 2016 21:51 GMT taxythingy
Mixing compressed gases with Excel
I have an Excel sheet at work controlling serial-connected equipment for mixing compressed gases. I chose Excel VBA for bodging it, as I could put the solution together quickly and didn't have to deal with IT to get a dev environment installed. It does the job I need.
However... it is stupidly difficult to modify thanks to my shonky programming skills, as I found out when I wanted to blend different gases. I've tried twice to re-write it using C# to be more useful (as a learning exercise), but couldn't be bothered finishing it. Could be there is a different learning in that.
Thursday 8th September 2016 22:22 GMT Anonymous Coward
Used it in the 90's to write lease management system for over 200 assets, including reconciliation of bank payments and allocation etc
Also wrote a cashbook style small business accounts for a friend that was retiring and going self-employed to use to start out with
Sometimes when it's all you (or others) have to hand you have to make do best you can
Thursday 8th September 2016 22:52 GMT Oscar Pops
Badminton Game Picker
I play badminton in a small club of 20 people. We use Excel to pick the games (all doubles matches), it picks teams based on giving everyone equal time on court or equal number of games, mixing up the teams as much as possible and keeping the strength of teams relatively balanced. It was fun getting it to work and more fun proving it worked by analysing the games played when disbelievers insisted it wasn't being fair :)
Friday 9th September 2016 01:38 GMT Anonymous Coward
If we're going to start mentioning non-Excel hammers
Back in the 90s, over at comp.sys.hp48 we have used our calculators in a diversity of roles, such as:
* Game consoles (though it doesn't really count as the calc itself came with a version of minesweeper)
* Remote terminals (I recall doing emails and telnetting to a BBS from hotel rooms with my calculator and a dodgy 9600 baud modem)
* Garage and car door opener (back when those had infrared remotes)
* TV remote (or hifi, etc., as you could teach it more or less arbitrary commands via its IR receiver)
* Thermometer (I never tried this myself, but various people froze and cooked their 48s in various calibration attempts. The thing to understand is that the calculator did not have any temperature sensor as such, but someone, can't remember who, figured that they could measure temperature differences by the shift in the CPUs clock rate. There is such thing as overgeeking it.)
Friday 9th September 2016 02:27 GMT Barry Rueger
Managed a community radio station.
One volunteer, yearly, came in with a floppy disk that generated a massive group of linked sheets.
One sheet* for each radio show; probably twenty shows each day. added rows automatically so that each pledge phoned in could be entered with a name and amount.
Plus daily summaries, and weekly, and grand totals.
It was, for its time, (c 1999) a truly wonderful and impressive feat.
Probably still have it buried somewhere on my hard drive.
* tabs? We didn't need no stinkin' tabs in those days!
Friday 9th September 2016 09:17 GMT Anonymous Coward
It can get worse
PowerPoint! 'scuse my language.
One place I worked a sales team was introduced to PowerPoint back in the mid 90s and went crazy for it. To the sales way of thinking, 'if it looks good, it is good'. So they used it for anything they could think of. I've even seen someones annual staff appraisal done on PowerPoint. And it became an arms race with them trying to outdo each other with the flashiest presentation. I even had them complaining to me that someone else had a newer version of PowerPoint than them, when in fact all that the other person had was some extra clipart.