Thursday, September 09, 2010

A suggestion for Apple's Numbers app

I totally love Numbers as a spreadsheeting app. Sure some people moan about a lack of pivot tables, whatever the hell they might be, but for me it's perfect and works the way I like to think, that is, all over the place and visually.

I used to love Excel but could never go back.

But more and more I find I'm building a lot of spreadsheets where I need to be able to show various scenarios based on various changes in prices outside of the control of my model. (eg exchange rates). This is not uncommon and more that once my colleague Ross and I have moaned about the absence of probabilistic range fields in spreadsheets. And today, as I hit the same issue again, I finally did something about it and sent the following Numbers enhancement request to Apple. I have no idea if they'll read it, or even care, but if they did adopt this idea I'd be thrilled as for me, and for many others, this feature is a missing killer feature in spreadsheets.

Dear Apple,

I'd like a cell that let me input a range (optionally with a probability curve) and any formula that linked off of that cell then also displayed things as a range (it could be coloured, or ignored like a quantum property and be in a superimposition of all states in the range, and only revealed when observed)

No spreadsheet system allows for this right now and I end up resorting to very clumsy workarounds for what, in an uncertain world, would seem a totally obvious feature.

Add that as a feature to the next iWork and you could advertise it as "Spreadsheets for an improbable world."

It's certainly thinking differently.

I hope you see fit to adopt this suggestion as I think it would be a totally killer-app feature for many many people trying to model uncertainty.

Cheers Dave

Wish me luck friends.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Let's be Frank (Sinatra)

I've got some spare time these days and my wife has, graciously, agreed to support me while I learn some new stuff. Namely Objective C and Ruby. More on my Obbjective C and iPhone ambitions later however, for now I want to introduce a little project called Frank.

How awesome is Ruby! And how amazing is the Sinatra web application language built on top of Ruby? It took me two days, starting from hardly ever having coding any Ruby, but I have a working micro-web app framework with user login and some unit tests built on Sinatra and Active Record.

I've opened a project in GitHub called Frank and now aim to round this out to be a well documented canonical example.

Frank is intended to be a very simple but feature complete web-app built on top of Sinatra that provides simple user login, password reminder, and user email verification with support for simple roles. It is intended to be used by other developers as both a well documented example of Sinatra in use, and a starting point for others wishing to implement simple web apps very quickly.

If this sort of thing interests you, and you'd like to contribute to the project at all, please get in touch via GitHub.