Application Rewrites after Acquisitions: How Large Software Companies Destroy Startup Value

Reading Application Rewrites after Acquisitions: How Large Software Companies Destroy Startup Value made me think of a decade or two ago how Computer Associates were famous for the same thing.  Then later it was Symantec.    One comment I read somewhere, somewhen went along the lines of “As soon as you read that XYZ, big software conglomerate, purchased a product you had a year or two to find an equivalent product by a smaller software organization. “

I feel the reason is even simpler.  The best folks in the small acquired software company, from management to developers to testers and others, start leaving due to the clash of corporate culture and ossification of the new corp culture.  

Actually that applies to all acquired corps.   Not just software corps.  

I saw the same thing with a client from the 80s who was a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) wholesaler and was acquired by a company which, once you traced through the corp ownership, was on the world wide Fortune 10 list.  For the while after acquisition by they weren’t too bad but the senior managers at the former head office in Vancouver started leaving as did the branch managers.   As did all the employees at the former head office.  After five years there was only two employees left in the head office from when they were acquired.  I recall visiting that employee in the office.  The difference in moral and attitude was striking. 

Then the head office in Toronto, who was running a very different business, decided to convert the sales order, accounts receivable, and accounting app onto their older, slower and much more cumbersome system.  Which had much reduced functionality compared to the HVAC’s system.   Thus folks had to go back to manual systems in some cases.

Mind you, presumably the acquired corps owners made a healthy profit.   And I don’t blame the owners of the HVAC company either.  The owners were two brothers who wanted to get their money out of the business before they died so they could enjoy retirement.  They tried employee ownership but there wasn’t enough interest or funds available to buy out the brothers.

Still using VBscroll or Freewheel?

The problem is that the mouse scroll wheel doesn’t work in the VBA editor in Access 2003 and older.  VBScroll and Freewheel are the free third party solutions to this problem.   Note that this is fixed in Access 2007.   

MS now has a DLL fix for this problem.   See Mouse wheel events do not work in the Visual Basic 6.0 IDE

Now if you read the last paragraph you see how Intellipoint version 4.9 and later do not support the WM_MOUSEWHEEL Windows message.   I suspect the reason for this deprecation is that, with the exception of the above update in VBA for Office 2007, there has been no work done on the VBA IDE by Microsoft for quite a number of years.   Likely Access 2000.  

There are lots of “minor” things I’d like to see in the VBA IDE to make my life easier.  A few things that I can think off right now are:

- being able to collapse or expand code in loops, If or Select statements
- being able to select only events with code behind them in the drop down boxes at the top.  Those are quite useless right now as they show you all controls with all possible events.
- if I rename, delete or copy a control ask me if I’d like to rename, delete or copy the VBA code associated with that control.  

I should really make a page on what I’d like to see.  I’ll do that Real Soon Now.  (TM Jerry Pournelle, Byte)

Any more suggestions?

Minor milestone

According to my Google Groups profile I have a little more than 35,000 newsgroup postings.  Now they’re not all Access related of course.   But then I have some postings to the comp.databases.ms-access newsgroup under an older email accounts, ttoews@agt.net, so close enough.   (Google groups has some severe problems with postings from back then as they are missing many/most/almost all although the count is likely correct.)

Even at that I was asking and answering questions in the Access Echo (similar to newsgroups) on my Fidonet BBS (Bulletin Board System) before then even.  I first electronically met Larry Linson, fellow Access MVP, in 1993 or 1994 or so on Fidonet.  We finally met as MVPs at Redmond a few years back.

Moral:  I need a life.  <smile>

I should mention that other MVPs do have considerably more postings than I do.  For example John Vinson is incredible.   Over a thousand postings some months.  And he’s quite the punster.

Back to the basics – don’t forget to run a memory diagnostic program

A friend was having very weird problems with his PC.  Virus scans would halt on random files.  The system would slow down or stop at random intervals.  It would occasionally reboot with bizarre BSOD’s (Blue Screens of Death.)  I had no idea what the problem could be.

I decided to run the Memtest86 comprehensive, stand-alone memory diagnostic program.   After about an hour of running it came across some severe errors.   From what I could decipher it looked like a half Mb of RAM was bad.   Memtest86 identified the first RAM card as being bad.

I suggested he swap RAM chips just to double check that that was the problem.   Turns out that fixed the problem.   He now states that the PC is running better than it ever has.   And that it was slightly flaky right from brand new.

Note that you need to figure out how to burn an ISO image to your CDR/DVDR drive.   And you will need to set up your BIOS or temporary bootup settings to boot from your CDR/DVDR drive.

Must read – The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why

by Amanda Ripley

This book should be at the top of your *MUST* read list. Right after the Bible, Koran or other books important to your faith.

How did all the 309 passengers on Air France flight 358 which crashed in Toronto get off the aircraft in under 90 seconds? With fire blocking some exits? The flight attendants were trained to yell at the passengers to break their mental paralysis and hysteria.

One particularly sad story was of the couple, on a flight a few decades ago, who were among the few who successfully evacuated an aircraft because the husband read the safety placard. However their long time family friend was frozen in place and didn’t get out.

Read the safety placard. Every time. Count how many rows back and forward in your aircraft to the nearest exits. Do your absolute best to ensure your family sits together in an airplane. Much time is “wasted” when family members understandably insist on evacuating the aircraft together.

How did Morgan Stanley successfully evacuate 2,687 people from the World Trade Center on 9/11 with only 13 lives lost? Five of which included the security directory and four security personnel. Their security director insisted that annually everyone do the evacuation drill from the building. And management backed him up.

Note that the World Trade Center had quirks in it’s stair wells due to the height of the building. Also many stairwells have confusing exits at ground level. If you work in a high rise have you evacuated recently? Have you evacuated through all the possible stair wells?

Wear shoes that you can walk a mile. Discarded high heel shoes cluttered the WTC stair wells causing problems. Many evacuees had foot injuries due to not wearing shoes by the time they got to ground level and walking out on the debris.

How do you get from your hotel room to the fire exit? From your conference floor to a fire exit? A movie theatre? A bar? Has the bar blocked the fire exits?

The more thinking you do of how to get out of aircraft or building the less likely you are to freeze in place or waste seconds or minutes trying to figure out what to do. And it doesn’t take much thinking. A quick glance around as you move around the building look for those fire exit signs.

I could go on and on about the lessons in this book. However this would be unethical and take a number of pages. And I wouldn’t get all the tips either. I’d only get the tips that were relevant to my situation.

In my opinion one suggestion that was missing is a strong LED pocket flashlight. One which uses a AAA battery. Although not cheap at about $50 each they could be a life saver. And darned handy at other times too. I don’t trust the backup power systems which handle stairwell lighting. I have no idea when the last time those batteries were changed.

Read this book. Reread it a year from now. And hope you never, ever have to use the suggestions. If you’re paranoid like me you’ll visit her website at http://www.amandaripley.com and subscribe to her blog.

(I know I’d have severe survivors guilt if there was a disaster, lives were lost or severe injuries and I made it out. In which case I’d be looking for a counselor and talking about the situation as much as possible. But that’s another problem out of the scope of this review. Search on critical incident stress debriefing.)

Available from your bookstore, library or by inter library loan.

On Our Project, We’re Always 90% Done

On Our Project, We’re Always 90% Done   The first five paragraphs recommend a book and are off topic to my blog posting.  The meat of the blog posting starts “My problem is that I’m almost pathologically bad about writing things down.”.   I’d suggest reading the rest of the blog entry.  Oh, and consider reading that book.

I’m not quite that bad but I do type things down as I come across then.   Although I must admit some of those pesky details don’t get done as quickly as they should be.   Actually it’s worse than “as quickly” but we won’t go there.

I use a combination of techniques.   My own Access database, OneNote and Notepad.

I used to use the excellent open source system BugTracker.Net but I already had an Access database that I’d built and that was simply more convenient to use.  My database has many fewer features than the BugTracker.Net but it’s adequate for my requirements.  Also with the exception of doing work for one other clients I generally work by myself.  I tried using BugTracker.Net with a sales agent for features he wanted to request or bugs he wanted to add but he never used it.  He preferred phoning me.  Which is fine too.  So I just started using OneNote whenever he would phone.  Once I had organized his bugs and feature requests I would then add them as items to the Access database.

Jim at one of my clients uses BugTracker.Net with great success. But he also has minions doing work for him too.  One time Jim was describing how he got an angry phone call from a major client asking why, after two years, he hadn’t implemented some sort of computer interface with the client.   Rather than explaining in detail the many contacts he had made and roadblocks he had encountered on a very regular basis with a number of folks at the client Jim opened up the item in BugTracker.Net, typed in the email address of the angry client and emailed him the entire history including date and time, contact name, phone number and contact details.   The angry client now knew who the road blocks inside his own organization were and, presumably dealt with them.  Preferably in a harsh manner.

If I notice a problem or think of a minor feature and it’s something that I will get to within a half hour or hour or so then I use Notepad.   I also use Notepad to store variable names, form control names or lines of code that I know I’m going to need shortly.   However I run a bit of a risk using Notepad.  If my system crashes I loose that content.  So I should really be using OneNote.   Mind you my system hasn’t crashed for a few years now.

Now if I see a bug or minor feature that I want to add to whatever function I’m currently working on but can’t get to it today I will either add it to the my Access database or I will put it into a OneNote page.  Which one I use depends on how large the module is and what I feel like.   Once I’ve done the bug or feature in OneNote I use the StrikeThrough to cross that off.  Indeed I’ve added the StrikeThrough command to the Toolbar in OneNote.

If I notice a larger problem or think of a feature that isn’t relevant to my current task then it goes into my Access database. 

One thing that I like about my Access database is that it allows for sub tasks and prioritizing those sub tasks.  Last time I looked at BugTracker.Net it didn’t have that functionality.   Sub tasks allow me think about larger tasks and break them out into doable modules.   I also prioritize those items with a 1, 2, 3, etc up to 99.   

Don’t laugh but I ended up with too many 3, 4  and 5 priority items.  So I added a form and some code that would automatically add 10, 20 or whatever to all the items between x and y priority so I could move things down the list and insert higher priority items.   

As that list controls things in my life and long term ideas the reality is I’ll never get them all done.  Oh well, at least I have a list.    Now where’s that list of items for my memorial service?  <smile>

Malicious Thumb Drives

“Please be advised that two USB thumb drives were discovered on the 9th Floor of the Bicentennial Building. One was discovered in the Men’s restroom yesterday afternoon. Another was found this morning on a facsimile machine. The drives contain malicious code that automatically and silently executes when the drive is plugged into a system. The code captures certain system information and transmits it out of DOJ.”

Malicious Thumb Drives in Justice 

Thanks to Risk Factor Thumb Drive Security Peril at US Justice Department for pointing this out. 

Note that I’ve been given thumb drives at trade shows and such.  Including one that died four days later.