Picking on IT

I started composing a similar message to my manager ┬átoday. I neither like nor dislike IT. In this case however, IT’s lack of initiative made me realize I am resentful of IT’s lack of initiative, considering the alternative is so cheap. It all started when IT Guy sent this around the Department (paraphrased and only slightly altered from a neutral disposition):

<Infrastructure Guy>: Do you think you could delete some stuff? The network is really full up.

This is the umpteenth time my department has been asked the same question. I have nothing against Infrastructure Guy, but with cheap (i.e., free) technology (go ahead, ask me) and 5 extra minutes I would have asked this instead:

<Me>: You have 30 GB of text files in one folder tree that could probably compact to less than 5 GB, saving over 25 GB of disk space. That would reduce your department’s usage by 10%. Do you need these files online or can we zip them?

So let’s compare: In IT guy’s scenario, the staff disperses. If they are engaged at at all, they will hunt & gather files to reduce or delete. They have no information about the size, location, or ownership of files. They probably have no idea how to make an impact here. In my world, a couple people check a few files and (hopefully) find a few quick hits to reduce disk consumption.

This is a real world scenario. Just Sayin’.

ps. Get your free disk usage widget here or here. The former is cool, the latter is too.

Good foo Gone bar

Until today, ImgBurn was my go-to app when I needed to read (rip) or write an optical disc. ImgBurn had a great reputation for being free and exceeding expectations. ImgBurn was like, oh, WinAmp before AOL; it was like your all-time favorite band before they sold out.

I looks like the ImgBurn crew sold out. Oh well.

ps. I realize this is not an appropriate use of the foobar construction. I probably should have titled this “Good foo gone bad” or perhaps “Good foo gone fubar”.

Ideas for New Posts — Part the First

“I am not an actuary, but I play one on TV”.

I like to say this, even though it’s not true (the TV part). But I get some things about data that actuaries like to dig into that end up being fun challenges in Excel. One of the biggest learning experiences for me over the last few years has been “how to best query, organize, and analyze my_metric in the context of ‘root year’, calendar year, and ‘dimension x’ ?”

I have recently migrated my core preference from pivot table to (in Excel 2007 and hopefully later) Excel Tables, the entities formerly known as lists. Tables and structured references are not only viable replacements for the former, they have some syntactical qualities that make them superior. In the right context of course.

So, in keeping with the ambiguity of the title, “stay tuned” hah ha.

p.s. some typo fixes

Strange Arrangements in MS Word

I am a reluctant user of Word, but at times my hand is forced. Real pro uses of the Word probably understand its idiosyncrasies, but I sure don’t.

In Word (2007) “single document interface”, aka “SDI” is the default. In SDI each document opens in its own window, which you see represented as a task bar button. SDI never worked well for me since I frequently have many applications and many documents open at one time.

Luckily, for a few versions now MS has offered this nice option found under Advanced | Display | “Show All Windows in the Taskbar”, which effectively toggles off the “MDI” mode or “multiple document interface”. MDI is king for me because it reduces taskbar clutter and therefore the number of alt+tabs I have to do to find my way back to the right document when I have 10 applications open, some of which have 4 documents open.

Here’s the strange thing… Whether in SDI or MDI mode, for some reason Word cannot arrange multiple documents in a vertical (left-and-right) arrangement. Only horizontal (top-and-bottom). This is absurd. In a world where monitors are wider, not taller, why must I be forced to split my document views along the long axis? Adding insult to that injury, the vertical pixels the ribbon nearly uselessly commands detract from usability even further. And by the way, Excel 2007 can tile vertically, but Word 2007 can’t. What?

Stranger yet — and thank you if you followed me this far — in MDI mode, you can still work outside the Word box. I just discovered this Windows trick, maybe three months ago actually, after oh, maybe 13 years of using…

Ctrl+Click taskbar buttons and ask them to tile vertically. Just what I wanted! So why it that so hard to do in Word?


With best intentions I jumped in here to begin (a somewhat regurgitated) compendium of do’s, don’ts, tips, tricks and hey kinda wow things to do in the excel / dashboard / info visualization genres.

And I might go back to that. But for now I’m going to play. You don’t have to bear with me.