Linkedin: The Middle East’s Google for IT?

I’ve used Linkedin for a long time running, and one of the features that I enjoy most is the ability to join professional or recreational “groups.” I am part of quite a few groups involving Microsoft Excel, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), Microsoft Access, etc. The groups give me an opportunity to ask questions and answer questions asked by others, which fosters great discussion and learning.

What about the title? How does it apply at all to what you’re getting at?

Well, one trend that I’ve noticed in my perusal of these group pages is that the majority of questions being asked seem to come from the middle east. Now, please understand that I am in no way profiling or attempting to slander a people group or anything like that. I am basing my assumption on the language barrier and names realizing that many could be here in the USA. However, it did make me wonder at the situation, assuming it’s true: we outsource a good amount of IT work to India and other countries. If they are using Linkedin to ask questions, many of which seem to be answered by folks in the United States, are we paying them to ask questions of professionals in the USA who could probably do that same work quicker (being that they already know the answers to these questions)?

This is just a question meant to foster discussion, not a rule or anything like that. Also, I know nothing about browsing restrictions in middle eastern countries that would limit their ability to search out the information on their own time.

Thoughts?

I Heart Technology

It’s true… I won’t deny it! The catalyst to this post’s creation is nothing more than a circumstance that made me realize just how amazing technology is compared to even a handful of years in the past.

Story Time

Ok kids, gather ’round! I was driving home from work the other day and had planned to stop at a local gas station where the prices are usually slightly below the other area stations. My low gas indicator had been blinking furiously away and I figured that it would be worth a quick fill up to appease it. I glanced over at the sign; “3.61, not a bad price… definitely made the right choice,” I said to myself. Too bad I had already missed the exit and was looking at the sign from the highway.

A few minutes of disbelief in my own stupidity paved the way to a realization: I could just fill up at another gas station! Genius… some guys have it, some guys don’t. The only issue was that I didn’t want to get raked over the coals paying 3.80-something at another station. My Droid X stared quietly at me from its car dock, waiting patiently for me to recognize its potential. I popped open its browser and used Google’s voice search to search for “Valero gas sale Binghamton New York.” I know that the local Valero stations each have a gas sale on a different day. The fist hit was their site with a chart showing the station and the day. I checked the address for Tuesday and then brought up the Droid’s built in turn-by-turn. I spoke in the destination and, after waiting a few minutes for the device to be found by a GPS satellite, was off to the gas station. In a few minutes I was not only able to figure out which gas station had a sale (we also have shopper discount points at Valero so I definitely wanted to go with them) but was also given the shortest route from my current location. Wouldn’t you know, I took another wrong turn on my way… recalculating! GPS got me there in the same 6 minutes as the original quote… and then I found ten dollars. (Jkz! Rofllolz.)

Yeah awesome story, you filled up your gas tank.

I realize that it’s not particularly heart-pounding, but I thought it was incredible that I could do all of that from my phone, most of which was hands free and voice activated. Years ago, even when GPS devices were still an option, I wouldn’t have been able to figure out which gas stations of those propinquant to my current location had a gas sale that day.

Have a similar story? One that’s more exciting than mine? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Toodledo: My Favorite

In the world of task lists, to-dos, and time management processes, only one product has satisfied my long list of required parameters: Toodledo.

On the surface, Toodledo is a free web-based application that allows you to quickly set up a task list and get things checked off. However, it has all of the advanced features that I was looking for while still being accessible to the user looking for a quick and easy, daily to-do list. My needs are very specific: I need a task list application that wins in all of the following areas:

  • Sub-task support
  • Advanced repeating task management (copy, not move)
  • Long term record retention
  • Detailed notes storage
  • A functional Android/iPhone application w/ sync (or decent web app)

A lot of the apps that I looked at had many of these features but not all of them. As a note, before you read on, I did end up paying for the pro version which, at $15 a year, is extremely worth it for the additional record retention time frame alone.

Sub-Task Support – I need to be able to define tasks within tasks for things that I do at home and at work. Checking off the requirements elicitation phase of a project and then moving on to the coding with the implementation and documentation check boxes still in view allows me to be realistic about what’s left on my plate.

Advanced Repeating Tasks – I don’t only want to be able to set up a task that repeats every day including weekends. What if it’s a work task? Toodledo gives me weekdays, bi-weekly, every nth day, allowing for quick entry of the most-used options and an advanced area to specify those tricky repeats. Also, the task creates a new iteration when it’s check off as complete. Many of the apps I’ve used in the past just move the task to the new day and uncheck it as if to say, “here’s your new task!” Yeah, but… “where’s my old one?!” I want to see that I did something on a specific day! Toodledo allows me to do so, even entering specific notes on one iteration of a repeating task.

Long Term Record Retention – We do year-end and monthly performance reviews at my workplace, making the option to look back at project notes and tasks that I’ve completed by date an invaluable necessity. The free version of Toodledo only supports record retention for 6 months from the date of the task’s creation. The pro (paid) version, allows me to extend that up to two years, though I currently have mine set at one.

Detailed Notes Storage – In my line of work, I get hit with a lot of questions and problems that I’ve already dealt with. The only problem is that I dealt with them just beyond the threshold of memory. Without notes to look back to, I would be double-counting a lot of time that I could have saved by doing a search for “Excel” or “Macro” within Toodledo and pulling up the notes. Having a project’s notes attached directly to the entry in my to-do list is also an excellent way of keeping everything together.

Functional Android/iPhone/Web App – Unfortunately, Toodledo is still working on their Android app but they have tons of other serviceable options for the mobile tasker. A native iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app exists, great for the Apple enthusiast and another arrow in my quiver of reasons to get an iPad. They also have a great “slim” version of their task list page that works very well in the browser of my Droid X and is currently my primary mobile solution (no sync required, it’s online!). Lastly (do I even need to say it?) there are a myriad of third-party apps that provide sync options with Toodledo across all platforms, allowing you the freedom to decide on the app that’s perfect for you.

While your needs may not be as specific as mine, I’d still recommend Toodledo as a fantastic to-do/task list for the basic to advanced user. Check it out @ www.toodledo.com.

What’s your favorite task list application?

Macro error at cell: [YourFileName.xls] ScDataWorksheet! A1

I’m new to the whole blogging scene but I’m going to start off with something that I work with every day: Microsoft Excel.

The subject line (spaces added for word wrap) is an error that users of ShowCase Query may see if they upgrade to a new version of Excel or update their ShowCase Query install. The fix is simple, but the problem can be extremely annoying due to the fact that the error prompt is referencing a sheet that doesn’t exist in the workbook.

The source of the problem is simply that the ShowCase Query add-in (.xll) file has not been associated with whatever version of Excel you are using. In Excel 2003, navigate to Tools > Add-Ins and then click Browse on the Add-Ins dialog box. In Excel 2010, the same result is reached by navigating to File > Options > Add-Ins, clicking Go next to the Manage: Excel Add-ins list box, and clicking Browse on the Add-Ins dialog box. 2003 and 2010 processes realign here, and in a typical installation environment, you will find the .xll file that you need at C:\Program Files\ShowCase STRATEGY\Bin. Select the file and the add-in will be added to your list and checked by default (which you want!).

For those interested in learning more about the error message, the name of the sheet is ScDataWorksheet and is a hidden tab that is created by ShowCase Query for use in linking a query with an Excel workbook. The problem with this sheet, however, is that it is hidden and cannot be shown by using the typical methods (right-click > Unhide or Format > Sheets > Unhide). Instead, we have to go through the Visual Basic Editor for this one.

In Excel 2003, navigate to Tools > Macro > Visual Basic Editor. In 2010, assuming you have the Developer tab enabled, navigate to it and click Visual Basic (should be the first icon). In the Visual Basic Editor, press Ctrl-G to view the Immediate window. This window will allow code that you type to be executed immediately (see wut they did ther?) upon hitting the Enter key at the end of a line. We want to enter the following code:

Sheets(“ScDataWorksheet”).Visible = True

Hitting Enter after this line of code may not seem like it did anything, but the ScDataWorksheet should now be visible as the first tab in your linked workbook. Hiding the sheet is as easy as returning to the Visual Basic Editor and entering the same exact code shown above, but replacing the word “True” with “False.”