Friday, 15 March 2002

Newsletter Issue 41, March 2002

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 41, March 2002

Hi guys,

If you haven't heard of Linux, maybe it's time you did. Check out the alternative freeware OS in Is Linux for You? below.

Ever wanted to improve your Excel usage? I have a clever wee "if this, then that" function for you in Excel SumIf

Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Is Linux For You?

Not sure of what Linux is? Heard of it at all?

Initially developed by a Finnish University student, Linus Torvalds, Linux (pronounced Lynn-ucks) is an open source operating system (OS) designed to provide personal computer users a free or very low-cost alternative to Windows.

To complete the operating system, Torvalds and other team members made use of system components developed by members of the Free Software Foundation for the GNU project. 

Linux is a remarkably complete operating system, is very efficient and responsive. It includes a graphical user interface, an X Window System, TCP/IP, the Emacs editor, and all the other bells & whistles usually found in a comprehensive UNIX system. 

Although copyrights are held by the various creators of the Linux components, it is distributed using the Free Software Foundation's "copyleft" stipulations. This means that any redistributed modified versions must also be freely available. Linux is distributed commercially by a number of companies (like Red Hat, Caldera, Corel, SuSE and TurboLinux). 

Although it is is popular among UNIX users, Linux is still a long way behind the saturation level that Windows has reached. And why? Well;

  • Linux is nowhere near as straight-forward and user-friendly as Windows to install (the Linux user interface has not yet been developed to home user standard)
  • Too many companies making too many slightly different platforms to gain critical mass
  • You need to be a real power user and understand some (at least) of the underlying code to be able to problem-solve as you install
  • 90% of the world uses Windows so there is the advantage of using one major - and BROAD - platform for getting other applications software to work well without issues or modifications
  • Windows desktop applications can't be matched yet by Linux 

The Linux market is starting to resemble the cola wars, with Red Hat and Caldera having the most fizz, while other players like Corel, SuSE and TurboLinux are a bit flat. 

As major hardware vendors and corporates don't want to support multiple flavours of Linux, (too expensive and too much of a pain to deal with multiple OS vendors), there's some Linux market consolidation going on. Dell offers Red Hat Linux as a standard hardware option and IBM developing its Red Hat and Caldera Linux apps first (before moving on to support SuSE and TurboLinux). As Red Hat and Caldera continue to gain critical mass, look for the rest of the Linux providers to lose their pop.

While Linux is far more stable and far less prone to failure and hung sessions than Windows, it will still be a while before it can be used in home PCs. But if you have used Google or, then you have used Red Hat Linux applications. Additionally, your video camera may well be running on Red Hat Linux OS.

However, there is one technology trend that may make all this academic. With the rise of truly portable internet access devices and the storage of your personal files and user preferences in internet accessible data warehouses (instead of in your PC at home or at work), Linux will suddenly become far more usable; your data warehousing company may well choose to use Linux and it won't affect you, as an end-user, adversely; in fact, the use of a more stable and efficient platform will probably be a customer requirement.

Excel SumIf

This is a VERY handy little function that I thought you might like to share.

Here's a worksheet example: 

A   B  

        1  Location  Salesperson  Sales 

        2 Christchurch NNW 1715 .23

        3  Christchurch SXP 1605.00

        4 Dunedin  ASB  1854.72

        5  Christchurch ASB 975.47


=SUMIF(A2:A5, "Christchurch", C2:C5)



The formula in C6 (=SUMIF(A2:A5, "Christchurch", C2:C5)) will add up all the values in C2:C5 where the cell in column A states "Christchurch". The sum will return $2580.47 (1715.23 & 1605 & 975.47). In the cell below you could sum Dunedin the same way; =SUMIF(A2:A5, "Dunedin", C2:C5) to return $1854.72, or a salesperson; =SUMIF(B2:B5, "ASB", C2:C5) to return $2830.19.


CountIf is the same deal, & counts how many matching entries there are. 
You could do =COUNTIF(B2:B5,"ASB") and would return 2, or =COUNTIF(A2:A5,"Dunedin") to return 1.

However, there are limitations. SumIf & CountIf can't do multiple criteria, so next time we will look at how you can test for more than one criteria - like when you have heaps of data and you want to know how many sales have been made by ASB in Dunedin.

ULTra is coming...

Fed up with surly taxi drivers? Or taxi drivers that can't speak your language? Or taxi drivers that NEVER shut up when you are lagged to hell from an international flight? Well, read on. Your worries may be over...

In Wales, a mad scientist Martin Lowson and his company, Advanced Transport Systems Ltd, has just completed a prototype of a shiny white pod. He began road tests this month on the ULTra (Urban Light Transport), which looks like being the future mother of all taxis. 

The ULTra looks like it is going to make look-ma-no-hands automatic, driver-free transport REAL. 

The  battery-powered pod seats up to four passengers and has a top speed of 25 mph, ULTra will be designed to stop automatically if they sense an object in their path. They may not reach cosmic speeds but should still speed past cars and buses stuck in traffic. And operating on a single five foot track (under half the width of a single road lane) and recharging at every stop to keep their energy levels topped up, they are resistant to vandalism, snow, rain and ice. 

The first stage of the ULTra project will have 30 pods circling the Cardiff Bay area in Wales by 2004 if all goes according to plan. Next, the pods would move into the centre of Cardiff. 

The idea is that they work as an automated personal taxi system. You wanna cab? You  "hail" one at a designated stop, then select your required destination along the set route. When the pod pulls up, you swipe your smart card, plug in your the travel details and ULTra carries you directly to your stop. Rubber wheels ensure a quiet journey and security cameras at every stop increase passenger safety. 

Because at least 80 percent of the time, passengers are travelling to designated stops, they would be able to pick up a pod, spelling the end of taxi waiting times. There are also efficiency gains to be made from having a large number of pods in circulation, and by shortened journey times without being affected by (or adding to) traffic jams. 

Advanced Transport Systems estimate that building an ULTra network would cost about one-third to one-half of the amount needed for a light railway (ARE YOU LISTENING AUCKLAND????!). For the pilot project, Cardiff is having to stump up 45 million pounds ($65 million) to connect the city centre to the waterfront. Old car parks and shops will be converted into express stations for hospitals and other focal points in the city. Wherever possible, ULTra will run along the ground, but some routes might require tracks to be raised on pillars above roads, creating a truly futuristic look. 

The pods will be accessible to the disabled, as well as passengers with bicycles or prams, with lifts taking people up to high-rise stations. And the designers hope that the experience will cost about as much as an ordinary bus journey, or even less if passengers are prepared to share their pods. Howzat for a cost saving to Mr & Ms Public.

Well. I think we can really look forward to hearing more on this project. I will keep you posted.

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you;

  • TACACS  & , Terminal Access Controller Access Control System. A reinvented - and encrypted - remote access authentication UNIX network protocol. Uses the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). 
  • JAR, Java ARchive file. This is a file that contains the class, image, and sound files for a Java applet gathered into a single file and compressed for faster downloading to your Web browser
  • QPS, Queries-per-second (or the query-per-second rate) is a measure of how much traffic a particular query server is handling at a given time

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Short & Hot Keys... and now tips

All the Function keys for you - this time it's all you can do with Ctrl & F5 or Alt & F5;

  • Excel "Restore the active workbook window size" CTRL & F5 
  • IE "Refresh the current Web page, even if the time stamp for the Web version and your locally stored version are the same " CTRL & F5 
  • PowerPoint "Restore the active presentation window size" CTRL & F5  or ALT & F5
  • Publisher "Highlight the previous page in the page navigation control" CTRL & F5 
  • Word "Doc Restore" CTRL & F5
  • Word "App Restore" ALT & F5

Hot Linx

Don't forget to check out the Hooked on Seafood Festival to be held in Nelson on March 23. Check out the details at

Have you flashed through Marton on the way to somewhere else? Paint drying? Yawn? Well, here's your chance to see what the place is all about at 

For those of you who think that your reading list has got a bit tame lately, check out the hot and fringe literary reviews at 

Looking for photos? Then check out one of the largest collections of free photographs for non-commercial use on the Internet at 

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here