back to article Christmas Eve ERP migration derailed by silly spreadsheet sort

Welcome again to On-Call, the column on which we conduct a Friday forage through the inbox full of readers' stories of jobs gone wrong. Today, we wrap our special week of Festive On-Call and so our topic is ... drumroll please ... Christmas. Let's start with “Mike” who told us that “Back in the Christmas of 1995 I was working …

  1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    If you want to screw something up, use excel

    Excel genetically modified bugs.

    Happy Halloween (OCT31==DEC25).

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: If you want to screw something up, use excel

      "Someone had sorted that spreadsheet and in doing so mixed up the order..."

      If I had a € for every time - no, if I just had all the time spent fixing stuff like that back I'd be the happiest man on earth.

      1. Adrian Jones

        Re: If you want to screw something up, use excel

        I remember a temp being told to sort a spreadsheet of names and addresses on the surnames, in Excel 2000. She selected the Surname column, pressed the sort button, saw they were alphabetical and ran the mail-merge.

        Alas, Excel 2000 didn't warn that only that column was being sorted. So pensioners all over the borough were sent letters inviting them to come for a flu jab, but addressed to the wrong person.

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: If you want to screw something up, use excel

          Why would any spreadsheet program default to sorting a single colu... Oh, Excel - carry on.

          1. Sandtitz Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: If you want to screw something up, use excel @Will G.

            Why would any spreadsheet program default to sorting a single colu... Oh, Excel - carry on.

            My Excel 2013 works exactly as LO - i.e. it asks whether columns with data should be included.

            I just tested OO 1.1.5 (released in 2005, couldn't find earlier ver) and it didn't have such prompt. (and it also asked wheter I'd like to install Java!)

            It also capitalized the first letter in a cell as I typed data for the sort test, which Excel certainly doesn't do!

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: If you want to screw something up, use excel

      Its taken MS years but they finally have a product that is completely immune to all normal programming management techniques designed to make software just a bit more reliable then a Samsung battery,

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: If you want to screw something up, use excel

        @Tom 7 - Samsung batteries are more reliable than Slurpware; they can be counted on to catch fire.

    3. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: If you want to screw something up, use excel

      Friend had a sheet that listed leased lines between international sites. Marked which were old and to be disconnected, and which were new and now live.

      Between last update, and going to the next department, someone spotted the sheet didn't have the company logo on it, and inserted it, moving some coloums down.

      All "to be disconnected/old" became "new/live", and all "new/live" lines became "to be disconnected".

      They only noticed when the sites started to vanish..

  2. big_D Silver badge

    PCock-up

    My brother worked for a temp agency and was desperate for qualified PC tinkerers to work between Christmas Day and New Year.

    The problem? His client, a German food discounter, had bought a container load of PCs from their German distributor for their UK stores... Only they sent the wrong HGV to England and the PCs sold in the stores were German specification, with German keyboards and German Windows 95 installed... Unfortunately, they only found out after they had sold the complete batch!

    As these PCs were mainly going to be given as Christmas presents, the discounter was looking for tech support staff to driver around the country and swap out the keyboards and re-install Windows on those PCs.

    The pay offered wasn't bad, but I decided that the wrath of hundreds of unhappy families watching over my shoulder as I reinstalled Windows wasn't worth it.

  3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "...and in the morning when the parents turned it back on they would be greeted with 'Operating system not found' instead of a working Windows 95 PC."

    I am actually at a loss to say which one is worse.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I am actually at a loss to say which one is worse."

      You don't remember the times when people used to queue to get the latest version of Windows? Actually 95 was a major step forward, at least in terms of versions built on top of DOS. They put together a lot of stuff that had been around in terms of UI over the previous few years and hit a sweet spot with it. There's a good argument that the overall trend form that time has been down. They also incorporated a lot of stuff from HP's New Wave which, if you ran it over W3.x, made a big improvement in usability. And this from someone who is considerably less than Microsoft's greatest fan.

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Flame

        Win95

        Still mostly 16bit, just all the 32bit extensions in WFWG3.11 rolled up. Real 32bit NT was two years old. Properly configured Win For Workgroups had poor "Program Manager", but had 32bit disk driver, same 32bit TCP/IP, Video For Windows/ Multimedia, Win32s to run NT programs.Win95 was less stable than properly installed WFWG 3.11 with all extras. Rubbish compared to NT3.5

        Plus: The new desktop instead of Program Manager.

        Minuses:

        * Explorer File Mangler, single window and buggy.

        * Autrorun added, even though already proven bad on Amiga

        * Fake Win APIs added so mostly 16 bit Office 95 wouldn't run on Win3.x, even with Win32s, which meant that that NT 3.5 couldn't run Office 95, they had to release NT3.51

        * No named pipe creation (just like Win3.x)

        * Barely more than WFWG 3.11 with new shell.

        * No process isolation

        * No Security. The Log-in only affected what LOCAL Network resources you could connect to!

        * Poisoned development of NT4.0, Win2K, XP and led to Vista.

        * Led to Win ME, the Win98SE was best version.

        * Only later OEM Version b had USB

        * Encouraged bad practices on Program Application development.

        * Direct X, nothing more than a Kludge to port DOS games with direct access to Graphics HW, leading to stupidity of Graphics and Printer Drivers in Kernel in NT4.0.

        * Held back deployment of NT in business for about 7 years.

        * As damaging to progress of Security & decent OS adoption as DOS was in 1980/1981.

        Win95 should ONLY have been on a games console. Instead something intended only for home users was mis-sold to most small bushiness and many larger ones.

        In reality to run Excel, Web Browser, Word and TCP/IP, without paging, you needed as much RAM as NT 3.5x anyway.

        Oh, and a Shell only version of Explorer desktop / Explorer File manager as "Tech preview" worked fine on NT3.51. Instead they broke NT4.0 by kernel changes and Direct X (and it still couldn't run most Win9x games anyway, so they broke it without achieving anything for business users).

        It's been downhill since 1995 for MS, accelerating in 2002/2004 with Vista development. Too late, Aero is officially a mistake. Vista = NT 6.0, Win9x on Ecstasy.

        Win7 is really Win 6.x

        Win 2000, XP and Win 2003 are NT 5.x

        Win 8 and Win 10 are pointless.

        MS already had a decent 32bit OS for over two years when they released Win95.

        Heck, they even had their own versions of UNIX(Xenix in 1987?) and MS OS/2+LanManager (1989 after ending IBM deal).

        All they needed was to put the new shell on NT3.5 and have a game console with Win95. Idiots.

        1. Sandtitz Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Win95 @Mage

          "Rubbish compared to NT3.5"

          Except that NT had much tougher hardware requirements, and had poor backwards compatibility with DOS software. On purely architectural merits NT and others beat it hands down, no question.

          "Plus: The new desktop instead of Program Manager."

          Compared to DOS/Win3.1 there were more than just that. Long file names and just a general ease of use for the home users not accustomed to using command line. With Windows you could just plug in hardware and have some expectations of Windows finding it and having it working instead of guessing the serial port addresses and interrupts for COM3 or finding the correct mouse driver and not worrying about having the base 640k exhausted and thus not having enough memory for programs to launch.

          "Only later OEM Version b had USB"

          WIndows 95, released surprisingly in 1995, predates USB. NT - released in 1996 (post USB) didn't.

          "Encouraged bad practices on Program Application development."

          Please explain. Microsoft has been offering coding guidelines since before Win95.

          "It's been downhill since 1995 for MS"

          "All they needed was to put the new shell on NT3.5 and have a game console with Win95. Idiots."

          Are you from Bizarro world??

          Bill Gates and his cohorts weren't idiots - still the richest man alive? The company is still a behemoth and steadily making money and ruling on PC platform. They've made lots of stupendous mistakes but Windows 95 was really the point where they left the competition behind on personal computers.

        2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Win95

          Urban Dictionary has a rather short definition:

          "Windows 95/98, (n): 32 bit extension and a graphical shell for a 16 bit patch to an 8 bit operating system originally coded for a 4 bit microprocessor, written by a 2 bit company that can't stand 1 bit of competition."

        3. PNGuinn
          Mushroom

          Re: Win95 @ Mage

          Personally, I think you're being far too kind to Slurp.

          Even if it it's Christmas.

          Fortunately I missed '95. Got landed with Crashmatic 98se.

          BLEAURRRGH!

          At least it got me to cuddle up to the Penguin. Never looked back.

          Feelin' hungry yet, ms??>>

  4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
    Pint

    consumer-focused digital candy bar phones

    Best description of modern smartphones ever. Totally going to pinch that.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: consumer-focused digital candy bar phones

      Sorry to disappoint you, but 'candy bar phone' is usually used to mean something like an old school nokia in order to differentiate them from the flip phones which came before. I assume because one of those Nokias is approximately the dimensions of a chocolate bar (ish).

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: consumer-focused digital candy bar phones

        Can we call the modern thin smartphones Diam Bar phones, please?

        1. Alien8n Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: consumer-focused digital candy bar phones

          "Can we call the modern thin smartphones Diam Bar phones, please?"

          I thought we voted to rename them back to Dime bars?

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: consumer-focused digital candy bar phones

            I prefer Armadillos.

            1. PNGuinn
              Joke

              I prefer Armadillos.

              Hmmm...

              Probably got fairly decent shock protection, but might be a little hard on the pocketses.

              How would you butt dial on one of them?

              Ouch!

          2. DavidRa
            Joke

            Re: consumer-focused digital candy bar phones

            Come now, SURELY you'd have to call them Crunch bars.

            (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/f/f3/Nestle-crunch-small.jpg/330px-Nestle-crunch-small.jpg for those who don't know of them)

        2. Swarthy Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: consumer-focused digital candy bar phones

          "Can we call the modern thin smartphones Diam Bar phones, please?"

          I have had many comments from SWMBO about her "Diam phone!" ... or something that sounded like that...

          1. DropBear Silver badge

            Re: consumer-focused digital candy bar phones

            We might as well call them Scroll Bars...

      2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: consumer-focused digital candy bar phones

        I think the canonical mars-bar phone was actually a Sony

        http://www.tvfilmprops.co.uk/det/434/Sony-CM-H333-%5EMars-Bar%5E-Mobile-Phone/

      3. Daniel B.
        Boffin

        Re: consumer-focused digital candy bar phones

        Sorry to disappoint you, but 'candy bar phone' is usually used to mean something like an old school nokia in order to differentiate them from the flip phones which came before.

        Indeed, but it still applies. It's just that in the transition to smartphones, and due to the iPhone design taking over everything else, every single smartphone is now in candybar form.

        And I hate this. I miss the clamshell form factor, as it was far more pocketable. The last manufacturer to keep some form of this was BlackBerry, and they decided to give up this year.

        I've seen the future, and it's full of boring, featureless slabs with no physical keyboards.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, Excel sorting

    I've been at the wrong end of a bad Excel sort. Disk migration, where the storage guys had a spreadsheet mapping the old LUN IDs to the new so I'd written up all my scripts to do the LUN remapping at the VIOS and import the VGs... and it didn't work. After much head scratching, it turns out the storage guy had sorted the spreadsheet, but not all the columns (only a section) so some of the columns weren't in sync so all my planning was out the window.

    We wound up having to revert back the change as there were over 700 disk IDs and no way we could sort out the mess in the change window.

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: Ah, Excel sorting

      God forbid you should ever try and save something with a leading zero to excel either...

      Like say a phone number or a part number... And thats before we come to having numbers longer than 10 characters.

      Always helpful when you've got a CSV file that a customer helpfully edits and then saves to upload to a database before complaining everythings missing/wrong..

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Ah, Excel sorting

        Most spreadsheets (including Excel) allow you to modify the format of a column (/row/cell) to allow it to keep the leading zero. It's up to the user to pick the appropriate format themselves.

        1. Mark Dempster

          Re: Ah, Excel sorting

          >Most spreadsheets (including Excel) allow you to modify the format of a column (/row/cell) to allow it to keep the leading zero. It's up to the user to pick the appropriate format themselves.<

          But that's only temporary formatting. Try saving it as a CSV, ready to import into something else - then decide you need to edit a little more. When you open that CSV in Excel the leading zeros are all gone

          1. John Riddoch

            Re: Ah, Excel sorting

            or importing data which has an e in it; e.g. LUN IDs like 12E3 or MAC addresses like 12345678e123. It'll "helpfully" assume they're numbers in scientific notation and import them. You can reset to text, but by that time, it's changed the underlying data as well and you have to recopy/reimport. PITA.

            1. Nolveys Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Ah, Excel sorting

              I've had to pull SKUs from excel files recently. Some SKUs are of the form 123456, others 123456.323 or 123456.1 or 123456.3232323 and still others 123456.abc. Of course 123456 is an integer, 123456.323 is floating point and usually turns into something like 123456.3229999999999 and 123456.abc is a string. Even if you do manage to convert the excel SKU into what it looks like on the excel sheet, they don't always match what's in the database, i.e. the supplier will have 654321.654, 654321.653 but the company will only buy one type and so uses just 654321 as the SKU. Gobs of fun.

              1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

                Re: Ah, Excel sorting

                One of my pet peeves with Excel is when importing a CSV file (at least how it is set at work) is it auto imports using the site settings for dates. Some of our reports have a custom, programmed date format in the CSV file which is forwarded to our customers. Queue autoimport, every so often the programming group gets a ticket to fix the date format in the Excel file. This means we have to verify the CSV file has the correct format and write up a reply saying this one is on Slurp not us and next time try sending some hate mail to bozos in Redmond.

          2. SkippyBing Silver badge

            Re: Ah, Excel sorting

            'Most spreadsheets (including Excel) allow you to modify the format of a column (/row/cell) to allow it to keep the leading zero. It's up to the user to pick the appropriate format themselves.'

            Yes, but if I type a leading zero surely it should figure out that I want a format that includes one and switch to it. Be a more useful feature than that f*****ng ribbon.

            1. G7mzh

              Re: Ah, Excel sorting

              Of course, a lot of this wold be avoided if people didn't insist on using spreadsheets when they should be using databases.

              1. SkippyBing Silver badge

                Re: Ah, Excel sorting

                'Of course, a lot of this wold be avoided if people didn't insist on using spreadsheets when they should be using databases.'

                I would upvote this more if I could.

                The problem is most people can 'use' a spreadsheet, whereas setting up a database appears more challenging. If you could solve that problem I wouldn't be in the situation where my regulatory authority requires me to keep an auditable record of operating risks in a spread sheet.

            2. Missing Semicolon

              Re: Ah, Excel sorting

              ... and don't even go there with international format numbers! (+44...)

          3. OffBeatMammal

            Re: Ah, Excel sorting

            but... why would you edit an intermediate file not the master "source of truth"? and again, Excel CSV import can be told about formatting so it knows what columns it should treat as (say) text. I'm not an Excel fan, but most gripes with it are down to how people use it - watching the magic that experts can whip up is astounding!

            1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

              Re: Ah, Excel sorting

              Because said file might be a list from a supplier and a customer has then decided to add a cost column to it so they can import it into a full fat database (because that how they've always had it) - happy fun times for all. As for how people using it... most aren't experts. Some would be insulting to people learning to use excel to call them amateurs... unfortunately these people generally pay IT bods like myself money to make problems go away without taking the time to figure out what they're doing wrong. And in some instances it's the software thats making arbitrary choices on behalf of the user.. choices that are usually wrong (or at least poorly judged).

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Ah, Excel sorting

        But a telephone number has spaces in it* so gets inserted into the underlying Excel data as a string.

        *if you've entered it correctly

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ah, Excel sorting

          "But a telephone number has spaces in it* so gets inserted into the underlying Excel data as a string."

          Not necessarily. Every .gov.uk site with the whiff of GDS (that I've come across) insists you enter the phone number without spaces.

          The latest one I came across wouldn't allow pasting a phone number in.

          All in all a complete and utter bugger for acute arthritis sufferers.

          So much for Accessibility guidelines.

    2. simonlb

      Re: Ah, Excel sorting

      If you have performed all your testing and everything is working exactly as designed when reading the data from the spreadsheet, why would you not:

      A) Have version numbers appended to the filename every time the data is changed while doing your development work?

      B) Save it as read only once you have finalised all changes to it and communicate this to all the relevant people working on the project?

      C) Make at least two backup copies in safe locations (including your own personal USB pen drive, perhaps) to guard against just this scenario?

      Although option C will almost certainly be seen as a potential security breach, sometimes it's the only way to ensure that you have the exact copy of the file the whole project is dependent on.

  6. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "Gary and his mates were granted their wishes, practiced the job until they could do it in two hours and showed up on Christmas Eve confident of a fast and lucrative getaway."

    "...since I’m not in the mood to make some big, dramatic, sweeping statement, I’ll just tell you this: God hates doctors, He truly does. You see all these old people in here? Well, any of ’em would give just about anything to be able to sashay off this planet, but most of ’em are gonna stay and they’re gonna live forever and ever and ever. And your Mr. Milligan, well, it turns out he’s just young enough to die. I mean, think about it: It’s the holidays, there’s a sweet little kid involved. Can’t you just feel it?"

    source

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      He is my mentor

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Extract, Translate & Load on Xmas Eve.

    Genius.*

    I smells a bonus at stake or a PHB with zero home life at work.

    *Smart move about the no "lessons learned / wrap up " meeting afterwards.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Extract, Translate & Load on Xmas Eve.

      Oh I dont know - I've always found Xmas the one time of the year where my home life collapses into something near hell* and yet the office is free of PHBs and much work can be done.

      *The pubs are full of amateur drinkers, you cant get a decent meal out, the telly has nothing worth watching, you realise why people would rather sit in a kayak in a frozen sea and harpoon seals than be at home with the relatives. Christmas is why people want to go live on Mars ffs.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Extract, Translate & Load on Xmas Eve.

        Part of that is just proof that TV is the work of Satan - EVERY TIME around the year one would have some time to sit down and actually watch something, everything even mildly interesting invariably scoots off the screen, and only marathon versions of inane reality shows and 20-year old reruns remain. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I mean seriously, what the hell?!? It's not like it's all live, nobody actually needs to be present at the time except the broadcast techs - so why do we absolutely HAVE to watch canned shit on anything that even remotely resembles a holiday or weekend...?

      2. Anonymous C0ward
        Pint

        Re: Extract, Translate & Load on Xmas Eve.

        Click for "amateur drinkers". Here's to having a pint or 12 this Christmas.

  8. imanidiot Silver badge

    How?

    How did Gary and his team not have a backup of a known and working version of the excel sheet? That situation could have been easily avoided with a bit of prudent version management.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: How?

      Excel (all of Office really) has no real version control so if someone sorted the data and did a save then after a few minutes there is no way to undo the change. Sometimes there is temp file created which has the changes which is automatically deleted after a few minutes. Unless the sorter saves the two versions the original order will be lost.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: How?

        Okay guys, this version works --> save file to personal disk, usb drive or alternate location --> finish job....

        It's not that hard.

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    bubblesort(excel.false);

  10. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    Bugger off you lot.

    314 million files on the volume

    948,726 of them in one folder. (and 5 other folders of a similar ilk)

    NFS mounted

    HPUX.

    This is my christmas.

    1. Wensleydale Cheese
      Happy

      Re: Bugger off you lot.

      "314 million files on the volume"

      I wish you a Hap-Pi Christmas.

      Times 100 million.

      :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bugger off you lot.

      Being as was ever single, I worked every Christmas vacation period. Keeping up the electronics and performing all the "we can't do this during normal operations" shit job.

      Good luck, God bless.

  11. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "All thanks to the grinches at AST."

    I'd have thought a library that rewrites BIOS might take a share of the blame.

  12. m0rt Silver badge

    "The column will be back in mid-January 2017"

    Mid Jan?

    What kind of half-arse....sorry. Forgot which site I was on for a moment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The column will be back in mid-January 2017"

      Rejoice! HTTPS Approacheth!

  13. Chris King Silver badge

    AST Premium 386

    First PC I used in anger, and this particular one was a real rage-inducer.

    Damn thing almost caught fire on three occasions, and spent lots of time in transit between work and AST.

    In the end, it turned out to be a local problem - the site had metalwork and automotive workshops, and the local substation was pumping out a much higher voltage than normal. Certain parts of the site were receiving mains peaking at almost 270V AC ! Once this was corrected, the workshop boys complained that their furnaces took longer to warm up of a morning, but no more PC's went bang.

    1. Anonymous IV

      Re: AST Premium 386

      > Certain parts of the site were receiving mains peaking at almost 270V AC ! Once this was corrected, the workshop boys complained that their furnaces took longer to warm up of a morning

      Chance for some clever IT so-and-so to implement Wake-on-LAN for the furnaces, so that they were on and hot by the time the "workshop boys" (isn't this both sexist and ageist?) got into work...

      1. keithpeter
        Coat

        Re: AST Premium 386

        "Chance for some clever IT so-and-so to implement Wake-on-LAN for the furnaces [snip]"

        Not a great fan of furnaces warming up unattended (or at least unobserved) myself. The furnaces I used to use many decades ago were in the 5 litre crucible size range and quite small mind you.

        Coat: off out now.

        1. Fat_Tony

          Re: AST Premium 386

          one of my first jobs was tech/customer support for Compaq. They shipped out a ton of cheap machines around Christmas with an extra video card (cheap because the onboard video card was faulty, didn't update the user guide/set up instructions). We spent Boxing day telling people to hook their monitor up to the 2nd video card all day. Most folk figured it out and didn't call in, the majority of the people who phoned in were happy to get it working (a felt a bit sheepish about not trying the other video card) and a tiny minority whinged endlessly about how sh1t Compaq were (but we got that everyday!).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AST Premium 386

        The furnace start-up procedure may need to be carefully sequenced:

        Cooling pumps on

        Cooling water flow upto speed

        Heat exchanger fans running

        Door shut & locked

        Vacumn/ Inert atmosphere established

        Finally start temperature ramp.

        It will take more than a glorified oven timer. Even if a PLC does the sequencing, you may need to check visually that it is okay to start. I.E. No intruder has decided that your nice warm furnace room is a good place for a kip in winter. (In fact, an unpleasnt new years chore used to be removing the dead tramps from the platforms around the blast furnaces. They'd go there because it was warm and the carbon monoxide would kill some of them.)

  14. Nolveys Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    For reasons I fail to understand, the client manager was okay for a go-live date of December 24th

    There should be government program entailing a constantly flying, jet-powered drone with a passenger compartment, a winch and a breaching charge of some sort over every major population center. As soon as a manager states that anything is scheduled for December 24th it should be possible to phone a 1-800 number, causing the drone to arrive over top the building in a matter of seconds. The drone would then fire the breaching charge downward, making a clean hole through the roof and however many floors separate the sky from the manager. Then a uniformed man, attached to the winch, rapidly descend to land right next to the manager, slap him in the face and fly off, back into the sky.

  15. GrapeBunch Silver badge

    The wrong kind of hot.

    Nausea was my reaction to the story of "Gary". I too came a cropper after an instance of database / spreadsheet sorting. I took all the blame, too, and I deserved it for trusting that the other party would comply with an agreed-upon, simple, and precise division of responsibilities. During months of event planning, I had come to know them well enough! No matter how rarefied or sophisticated what you're trying to achieve, the most basic considerations may intrude.

  16. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I once worked in an organisation that produced mail-merged literature for non-Royal Mail delivery. I put hours and hours in putting the address database into "walk" order - so the mailmerge would be printed in the order that physical buildings were in, up one side of a street, in'n'out a side road, down the other side, etc. Too many times some idiot would go through the printout, think "oh no, it's all in random order" and "helpfully" sort it into alphabetical streets.

  17. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Yes, setting up a spreadsheet seems so much easier than setting up a one table database and so much more techy than a simple text note....right up to the time something like this happens.

  18. Oengus
    FAIL

    Excel sort

    Our payroll system provides the ability to mass load data from an excel spreadsheet...

    Best one I had was the HR department that decided to sort the bonus file into ascending amounts to do a "quick" eye check of the amounts. Of course the HR computer illiterate decided to sort only the amount column then upload the data to the payroll system. The error was only spotted when someone complained that their bonus was less than their manager had told them... 2000 reversals and recalculations later. The HR person kept their job and didn't even offer assistance in sorting out the mess.

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