Thoroughly Unusual Itches

July 23, 2010

(This article was first published on R-Chart, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

I have found myself over the years in a rather awkward situation.  I work in old-school, bricks and mortar industry IT shops for the most part.  However, I love many open source projects and identify with many of the values of start up culture.  I started the whole IT thing later in life than most – and hey I’ve got bills and grown up responsibilities and stuff.  So I exist – rather weirdly – between two worlds.

I also don’t have quite the religious fervor for particular technologies that is common among programmers.  I use different tools in different settings, based upon availability, restrictions and what I know.  So to me, the project I discuss here is pretty logical and a good idea.  Nevertheless, I am certain that it will deeply offend.

For those who have come to this site to read about R, this is not about R.  Sorry – really false advertising on my part.

For those who love Ruby, this involves Microsoft products .  

For Microsoft fanboys, this involves open source software .

For those who program in …don’t bother.  You have arrived anyway.

I just uploaded a bit of code to github.  It is simply this: a tiny web application that displays Excel spreadsheets (.xls files) sitting in the directory with the web app.  It requires Windows and Microsoft Excel – because it uses OLE to control Excel rather than reading an XLS directly.

Seemed to me to be a pretty good idea while I was cranking it out.   I once had a manager who asked me to “put a spreadsheet on line.”    Google spreadsheets was not in view – further questioning revealed the need to represent data in a database backed web application.  Was able to meet the requirements by banging out a Rails web app against an Oracle database (again the crowd boos).  But I kept the requirement in mind:  put a spreadsheet online.  And so the code as it stands sits on github.

I did not ever use it extensively.  But it did provide a reference to how such a project could be set up.  Add a css and some additional functionality and it will surely be serviceable in a small business environment.

So I scratched an itch… well, no… I guess I sort of brushed it against the wall a bit and decided that was enough.

How was I to know how thoroughly unusual my itches were?

Anyway, please excuse the slightly out-of-the-ordinary rant.  I just finished about 10 hours of work related to a consulting gig.  What’s involved?  Old school enterprise technology.  No cutting edge web 10.0 newness and neatness.  I am a bit of a mercenary you see – but I still appreciate excellence when I see it.

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