How to fix #N/A errors in excel

Given: excel returns #N/A values in certain cells.

Solution:
It is just a matter of replacing #N/A with new data or applying the following:

  1. Select all data in spreadsheet (Ctrl +A)
  2. Find (Ctrl+F) and go to the Replace tab
  3. Find what should be ‘=’
  4. Replace with should be a single quote ‘
  5. Hit replace all

That’s it — easy as a charm! And works for me in Excel 2007.

There’s also another, more proactive way of fixing this, using the IFERROR function to evaluate the #N/A error upfront.

Coase is right

There was a very insightful post up on Harvard Business Review from the hands of Ronald Coase. ((Coase wrote a seminal paper in 1937 called “The Theory of The Firm“. He argues that the existence of firms is not because of their value proposition or their unique offerings. No, the real reason is that the transaction cost of coordinating production within a firm is lower than organizing the same through the market. Or in other words, the reals business of a firm is getting people organized.)) Basically, what he suggests that economics has gone a long way to become a theoretical approach of economization. Econometrics is a good example of this. One should not forget economics is not a hard science, and is largely influenced by society, politics, history and culture. This is so obvious to me. What is really matters today is transition and inclusivity. Anyway, so instead, economics should orient itself more on real-world issues and appeal to a broad audience. It should go back to its roots: the study of man and its wealth in order not to lose its face. ((There seems to be a general trend towards the loss of confidence in science. See this Dutch article in Belgian newspaper De Standaard for instance; it discusses how a scientist’ success directly correlates with the number of “controversial” academic papers. This leads to a loss of quality and fraud practices.)) Couldn’t agree more! Here a few thoughts.

Especially in times of an economic meltdown, or financial crisis, we are looking for answers. The newspapers are not lying. Just read the headlines. So why is it that more and more companies  are outsourcing their business processes to near- and offshore locations? How come an automotive company like Ford moves it manufacturing plants from one European country to another? Why do top-managers receive such exaggerated bonuses while its them who are responsible for a loss of jobs? The numbers don’t lie and Standard & Poor, Moody’s and Fitch keep on downgrading our credit ratings. It seems we’re inches away from misery. What I try to convey is this: it is important that we understand why things are happening and what we can do about them. hat’s why so many people today value philosophy books again, cause they lost confidence in the economy all together. But one should still keep in mind that there are still both bearish and bullish markets. Just look at the stock exchange: it shouldn’t stop us from investing. That’s one thing. Secondly, like Coase argues, governments are increasingly taking over and the situation is out of balance. I am just not convinced Keynesianism is going to settle our debts either, nor do I say a planned economy will. Entrepreneurs and business leaders are losing it too and it seems to them economics to offer very little practical insight for managers and entrepreneurs. That is why they fall back on their own business intuition, personal judgment and heuristics for making decisions. The fall of Greece was mainly due to mismanagement. Another example is the one-minute manager hype. Management by perception is just not right. You need to look at the numbers and rely on data to make decisions and solve problems. It shouldn’t be so hard to calculate the Net Present Value (NPV) in order to assess investments. A cost-benefit analysis will help you structure your thoughts. The Capital Asset Pricing Model calculates if a given rate of return of a certain asset in a portfolio is reasonable or not. These are just a few clear techniques that entrepreneurs and managers alike can directly use. Economics is not rocket science.

Today, the only constant seems to be change. We are much more interconnected, diverse but in order to deal with contemporary issues we need to keep empirically study both the past and present. Too much of government intervention can never be good and we should look for a new normal. What is broken can’t be fixed, right?  And frankly speaking: innovation and employment shouldn’t be left up to the government alone. My 2 cents!

Young wolf

I still got this ambition to run a marathon one day.

So today I pulled myself together again. I ran some 13 KM in total. If you look at the map below you will see the total distance is about 20 KM. Don’t wanna boast and just be honest: I simply didn’t make it. Too ambitious, but I am still proud of my hard work.

I am still using My Tracks and this Google Fusion tables is pretty neat actually. It really nicely renders the data created by My Tracks on Android. Just click on one of the red dots. One thing that I notice: my maximum speed seems to be always near 16.20 km/h (10.1 mi/h).

Really exhausted now. Let’s get the new week started!

On log management solutions

Ok, so you know ITIL right? As I have been in day-to-day IT management for some time now, here some thoughts on IT service management from the angles of customer orientation!

ITIL is essentially a set of proven standards and methodologies in IT Service Management in order to be able to better align Business and IT. In short, it defines a number of processes across Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement. Many large organizations have embraced and adopted the framework. However, it is important to realize that ITIL is essentially a top-down and demand-driven approach. Built on best practices, who am I to contest its usefulness and benefits it may have on the inner workings of IT departments and operations teams. But apart from the framework, there is still much to be refined. In order to really achieve operational integrity, a bottom-up approach from the supply-side is vital too. By this I mean that vendors should be able to quantify the services they deliver. They should drive the car and become a strategic partner.

Here’s what an IT services company should strive for: productivity gains, operational effectiveness and higher margins.  Improving productivity is not so hard to achieve if done properly. For example, one can build an employee-effort tracking dashboard which enables managers to keep track of each team member’s contribution as well as to monitor overall work output. In terms of IT Service Management, one can impose stringent SLAs. So if incidents or service requests are not being dealt with fast enough, the vendor may get penalized.

Achieving operational effectiveness is a bit harder. I think it is more about becoming proactive from being reactive. Incident management and its likes are sort of event-driven. This is in essence running behind the facts. There’s nothing wrong with fire fighting of course. But what if you fight the fire leaving the gas valve open? Not good! What I am trying to say is this: if something goes wrong in the daily operations, you better know why before your client stands next to you. Fix it before it happens! Prevent incidents from happening. For example, assume someone applied the wrong steps in executing a batch job. Well, then you better know who ran the job, at what time and what the job does! You need operational accountability. If an anomaly occurs, you need to immediately pinpoint and mitigate the same. It is about measuring, analytics and log management. Then only you can better control IT and get visibility in what is going on.  Never underestimate the powerfulness of a log management platform: it done continuously and meticulously,  it will allow you to collect information from a variety of data sources and let you discover usage patterns, give you metrics that you can feed back in to other systems and better leverage on information in general. But remember that log management should be enforced organisational wide. And eventually, if the base line implementation works, it will result in economic benefits. You can do more with less! And then I didn’t even touch on the security and auditing drivers.

Pirate Cinema

Page-turner Pirate Cinema nailed it. It’s one of Cory Doctorow‘s latest young adult books that has recently appeared on Tor Teen. As usual, the story is about the art of remixing, copyright issues, authority and the misuse of the same. It is well laid out, concise, exciting and revolves around some happenings in the near future — right! Cory wrote it. One thing that I came to realize is that Cory is very apt in explaining very difficult networking/computing concepts such as raw sockets and MAC addresses in an extremely easy way to grasp for youngsters to understand. Here an excerpt of the same:

“Stop, stop! Okay. Raw sockets — that just means that you can run programs that do their own network stuff without talking to the OS. Very useful if you want to try to, say, inject spoof traffic into a wireless network. And it’s great for disguising your operating system: every OS has its own little idiosyncrasies in the way it does networks, so it’s possible for someone you’re talking to to tell if you’re running Linux or Windows Scribble or a phone or whatever. So if there’s something that won’t talk to you unless you’re on a locked-down phone, you can use raw sockets to pretend to be a crippled-up iPhone instead of a gloriously free frankenbox like this one.

“MAC addresses — those are the hardwired serial numbers on every card. They identify the manufacturer, model number, and so on. Get sent along with your requests. So if they seize your computer, they can pull the MAC address and look at all the logged traffic to a pirate site and put two and two together. You don’t want that.

“But with the right drivers, this card can generate a new, random MAC address every couple of minutes, meaning that the logs are going to see a series of new connections from exotic strangers who’ve never been there before. This is what you want. That’s all you need to know for now. Just follow the recipes to get the drivers configured, and look up more detail as it becomes necessary. It’s not like it’s hard to learn new facts about networking — just use a search engine. In the meantime, just do it.”

I am half way through this excellent read, loving the educational purpose it tries to accomplish, and can’t wait to finish basically.