What are LinkedIn Applications?

Everyone knows LinkedIn is a professional social networking platform; we can find people and information, we can market our business, products and services.  But there is more!    Do you know LinkedIn also offers a wide range of applications with its partners?  These applications allow us to better collaborate with our connections.


by LinkedIn
image “The Polls application is a market research tool that allows you to collect actionable data from your connections and the professional audience on LinkedIn.” quoted from LinkedIn

Reading List by Amazon

by Amazon
image “Extend your professional profile by sharing the books you’re reading with other LinkedIn members. Find out what you should be reading by following updates from your connections, people in your field, or other LinkedIn members of professional interest to you.” quoted from LinkedIn

Box.net Files

by Box.net
image “Add the Box.net Files application to manage all your important files online. Box.net lets you share content on your profile, and collaborate with friends and colleagues.” quoted from LinkedIn

Company Buzz

by LinkedIn
image “Ever wonder what people are saying about your company? Company Buzz shows you the twitter activity associated with your company. View tweets, trends and top key words. Customize your topics and share with your coworkers.” quoted from LinkedIn

Blog Link

by SixApart
image “With Blog Link, you can get the most of your LinkedIn relationships by connecting your blog to your LinkedIn profile. Blog Link helps you, and your professional network, stay connected.”


by WordPress
image “Connect your virtual lives with the WordPress LinkedIn Application. With the WordPress App, you can sync your WordPress blog posts with your LinkedIn profile, keeping everyone you know in the know.” quoted from LinkedIn

SlideShare Presentations

by SlideShare Inc
image “SlideShare is the best way to share presentations on LinkedIn! You can upload & display your own presentations, check out presentations from your colleagues, and find experts within your network.” quoted from LinkedIn

Google Presentation

by Google
image “Present yourself and your work. Upload a .PPT or use Google’s online application to embed a presentation on your profile.” quoted from LinkedIn

Huddle Workspaces

by Huddle.net
image “Huddle gives you private, secure online workspaces packed with simple yet powerful project, collaboration and sharing tools for working with your connections.” quoted from LinkedIn

Projects and Teamspaces

by Manymoon
image “Manymoon makes it simple to Get Work Done with your LinkedIn connections. Share and track unlimited tasks, projects, documents and Google Apps – for free” quoted from LinkedIn


by LinkedIn
image “Find professional events, from conferences to local meet-ups, and discover what events your connections are attending.” quoted from LinkedIn

The list of LinkedIn applications is constantly growing, so I often come back and still find good applications that make my networking more effective,

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

We help you to make better and faster decisions!

Improving Calculation Performance in Excel–Final

There would be no final for performance tuning, as we always want faster models and I have enough tips to cover up to part 99.  But let’s stop here and I wish we learn the lesson that performance should be considered in the design on every Excel model.  Performance does not come by accident; we have to carefully craft it.  No one want to spend more than 10 seconds for the results and don’t even mention hours or days.  We don’t always need a faster machine and sometime even a faster machine won’t help a lot.  There are many useful resources that we can Google about and we would find most of them involve common sense.  We don’t have to have a PhD in computer science to understand the concepts; mainly remove unnecessary calculation and use a faster method if available.

How can we determine what method is faster?  We can use timer in Excel VBA but what about Excel functions?   There is a very useful set of macros that we can find in a Microsoft MSDN article, Excel 2010 Performance: Improving Calculation Performance written by Charles Williams, Decision Models Limited.  This article also discuss many great tips about performance tuning in Excel and you may want to visit Decision Models’ website because Charles has a wonderful profiling tools, FastExcel, to find and measure timing and memory bottlenecks in our workbook.

Let’s go back to the example in Improving Calculation Performance in Excel–Part 2 and illustrate how this macros can help us.

  • Select the range that we like to measure the performance, i.e. C2..C13


  • Press Alt+F8
  • Select RangeTime and click Run button


  • Now, we can see how long Excel took to perform the calculation.


  • And let’s repeat it on Col D


Only 12% gain?  Not a lot!  Well, it is because we only sums up 12 records.  Let’s see the performance gain when we have 1000 records.  It is 2.4 times faster!



What if we push further and review 5,000 records, then you can see the HUGE difference, i.e. 12 times faster!



How about the maximum limit of Excel?  1,048575 records.  Col D returned the results in less than 2 seconds.  How about Col C?  I went out to do 30 minutes jogging, came back to have a quick shower and breakfast… Excel is still very busy doing calculation, so I stopped it after an hour.


Col C is not scalable nor sustainable.  Initially, it may work and give us the correct results but as we have more data, the processing time would increase exponentially.  The fix (Col D) is very simple and effective that any Excel user can understand.

There may be time that we have to involve an IT consultant who can optimize our Excel model.  But if we do our homework then we may find ways to significant improve the performance of our Excel models.

Wish you all the success in performance tuning.  But if you need any help then please don’t hesitate to contact me at 416-804-6878 or chan_a@algconsultings.com

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

We help you to make better and faster decisions!





2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2010. That’s about 24 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 84 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 660 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 44mb. That’s about 2 pictures per day.

The busiest day of the year was December 6th with 146 views. The most popular post that day was Connect SkyDrive Folder as Network Folder.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were linkedin.com, ca.linkedin.com, accountingweb.co.uk, actuarialoutpost.com, and lmodules.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for how to wish merry christmas in business emails, excel+nelson-siegel, powerpivot excel compare, scan tags, and powerpivot create relationship.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Connect SkyDrive Folder as Network Folder December 2010


Create Excel Pivot Table from SQL Server October 2010


Nonlinear interpolation with Excel to construct US Treasury bond yield curve September 2010
2 Likes on WordPress.com


Import data into SQL Server (without any programming) October 2010


VBA vs. VS – Part 1: Performance Review September 2010

Use Excel to handle flaw of average (FOA) – Data Table

What is flaw of average (FOA)? Before I discussed FOA, let’s make sure we understand what average is. Some people call it expected value, mean, median or mode. It has many definitions but generally, it is a single value that corresponds to the "middle" of the dataset. In the following diagram, the middle line is the average (mean) of the dataset which has a normal distribution.

We use average to do a lot of forecast, planning and projection, e.g. cash flow projection, project planning, inventory planning…etc. They are often wrong! Why? Let’s go back to look at the diagram. Average (mean) is only a very thin line, i.e. 50% of the data is bigger than it and the other 50% is smaller than it. So if our estimation is based on average, the chance to have a correct expected value is very thin. This is the flaw of average! We cannot do planning based on a single value because we would lose sight of the whole picture! We have to evaluate a spectrum of scenarios for our planning to make sure we understand the full picture!

Excel provides a number of advanced scenario features and I am going to discuss one of them today.

Data Table

I want to find out how much I need to save for my retirement at 65 that can support my living for 20 years.. I am 45 (I wish) and I need $60,000 per year. My best estimate for inflation rate and discount rate are 3% and 4% respectively. The Excel spreadsheet is very simple and I need over 2 million dollars.

But what if the inflation rate is 5%? Or 10%? How about the discount rate? I want to test more scenarios to answer my "what-if" questions. I can change the input cells D2 and E2 and record the result F2 but there is an easier way in Excel which is the Data Table.

Setting up Data Table in Excel is very easy.

  • In cell G4 (the upper left-hand cell of the Data Table), enter ‘=F2‘.
  • Specify the range of Inflation Rate as the column header (H4.. U4), 1% to 14%.
  • Specify the range of Discount Rate at the left most column (G5..G18), 1% to 14%.
  • Highlight the whole data table
  • Select Data Table… under What-If Analysis in the Data ribbon.

  • Data Table Dialogue would be displayed.
  • Enter $D$2 (Discount Rate) and $E$2 (Inflation Rate) to Row input cell: and Column input cell: respectively.
  • Click OK button.

  • Excel would automatically populate all the results in the Data Table.

I can now see a better picture on how much I need for my retirement. Data Table is a very handy tool if we want to find out about other "what-if" scenarios. However, it has a very serious constraint; it can only support up to 2 variables. So if I want to find out how much I need when I live 25, 30, 35 years after my retirement instead of 20 years, then we need other "what-if" tools.

Please stay tuned for my next blog!

Wish you to improve productivity and make better decisions in 2011 with Excel!

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

We help you to make better and faster decisions!

Do you have any excuse NOT to back up your files?

Hard drive is not built to last for ever! Soon or later, it would fail. When it fails, it may cause us a big fortune to restore the data; or we would never be able to recover all our critical business information, e.g. all billing information, customer records, email… etc.

We can buy a 1 TB portable hard drive for $60 and Windows 7 comes with a FREE Backup and Restore utility and I am going to show you how to use it in this blog step by step. Do you have any exceuse not to backup your files?

  • To launch Backup and Restore utility in Windows 7, we click the Start button, then Control Panel, click System and Security, and then click Backup and Restore.

  • Click Set up backup.

  • Set up backup dialogue would be displayed.

  • Select the backup location and click Next

  • I let the expert (Windows) to choose what files I need to backup, and click Next

  • Again, I accept Windows’s recommendation and backup Every Sunday at 7:00PM, and then click Save setting and exit.

  • We can choose to start the backup now.


Of course, it would be much better to consult your IT guru what your best backup option is. But anything is better than nothing and I just showed you a very simple procedure to back up your data files in Windows 7. So if you haven’t never backup your computer, please buy a portable hard drive at Boxing Day and follow my 7 steps backup procedures. This is my Christmas gift to everyone who has a computer but never back it up.

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

We help you to make better and faster decisions!



Solving problem? Fixing Symptom?

It may sound obvious!  But most of us are actually fixing symptom rather than solving problem.  I met a nice gentleman in a networking event and he complained about the high IT maintenance cost.  He said he had over 10 PCs but over time, the PCs became so slow.  His IT consultant could fix the problem but the problem came back every 4 – 6 months.

I couldn’t hold my smile because this is not the first time that I heard about similar story and I don’t think it would be my last time as well.  Well, I went to his office a few days later and confirmed what the problem was.  I looked at one of his slowest machines and discovered during startup, there were over 100 applications launched and the machine only has 1 GB memory.

His IT consultant fixed the problem by rebuilding the machines, i.e. installed Windows, Office and other software that came with the PC.

So what is the problem?  Too many applications installed?  No, this is just another symptom!  The root cause is leak of IT management!  After spending couple hours talking to a few people including the accountant; I discovered more issues:

  • Everyone is administrator on their own computer, so they can do whatever they want without any control.
  • They don’t have file server for central storage; so everyone stores their own documents on their own PC.
  • There is no central backup policy; the accountant has 2 USB memory sticks to backup all critical documents.

I can go on and on but the bottom line is all these are only symptoms.  The real problem is that they do not have any PR0PER IT MANAGEMENT! I have to tell the gentleman that he was very lucky that the only problem he experienced was poor performance of his machines.

He is not alone; most SMB and entrepreneurs do not have any IT strategy.  They are reactive; i.e. they call their IT consultant whenever there is any IT problem; they are looking for simple tactical fix; even if it means similar problems would come back every 3 – 6 months.  This can be expensive in long run.

Do you want to find a solution that can permanently solve your problem?  or do you just want a quick fix?  Discuss with your IT consultant to understand where the real problem is; especially if the same problem occurred only 3 months ago!

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

We help you to make better and faster decisions!

Gmail Web App is coming to your iPhone or Android

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

We help you to make better and faster decisions!

Hotmail + Calendar + Messenger + Facebook + Linkedin + WordPress + More…

We are very busy; we have to check our email, event, MSN Messenger, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media to make sure that we don’t miss any business opportunity.  Instead of checking them one by one; we now have Windows Live Home page to consolidate our email (not just Hotmail, but other email accounts as well), events and over 75 social media sites. 


Add Social Media to Live Home Page

Click the Add link at the Messenger social section and select Find more services…


And we would be able to select the social media that we want to add to our Live Home Page.


So now our Live Home Page is our central social media hub and we see all our social media in 1 single page.

This is one of many things that can improve our productivity; especially if you have multiple social media to take care.  Do more with less time!

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

We help you to make better and faster decisions!

BE AWARE–LinkedIn Invitation?

I received the following LinkedIn invitation yesterday and I like to bring it to all your attention. 

Why is this one so special?  My first LinkedIn invitation?


I have used the Sweep function to automatically move all my LinkedIn emails from my Inbox to another email folder; so I don’t expect to see any LinkedIn email in my Inbox.  Great!  Hotmail has a bug!  But after I closely examined this email, I noticed that Hotmail did what is was supposed to do because this email was NOT from LinkedIn.

BE AWARE!  Next time when you receive an invitation from LinkedIn, make sure it is from LinkedIn!

p.s. I don’t dare to click the confirm button, so I don’t know what it would do!

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

We help you to make better and faster decisions!

Is your business ready for the winter?

Every year, billion dollars’ worth of productivity is lost due to severe weather.  Last week, major cities in US and England experienced their first snow in the winter.  Is there any way that we can minimize our productivity loss?  Snow falls down from the cloud and our answers may also come from the cloud – cloud computing!

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing includes a wide spectrum of online services.  Let me just name a few of them:

  • Online storage,
  • Productivity suites, and
  • Business applications. 

Once we move our data, documents and applications to cloud, we can work anywhere, anytime; no matter what the weather conditions are.

Online Storage

There are many commercial online storage providers, e.g. Box.net, Dropbox, and Egnyte.  My favorite is SkyDrive which is powered by Microsoft.  It gives us 25 GB FREE online storage and also:

  • Sync 5 GB of data from your PC
  • Shares documents with people we choose
  • Integrates with Office 2010, e.g. anywhere, anytime access from the browser, edit documents together in real time, version history and lot more.

We would never forget any document when we visit our clients’ office because all my documents are accessible with a few mouse clicks.  And we can share our presentation if our clients want a copy.

We may also want to consider online backup to protect our critical business data.

Productivity Suite

The most popular cloud productivity suites are Google Apps and Office 365 (formerly Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, BPOS).  They include email, calendar, contacts, to-do list, website hosting, online documents with real time collaboration, plus a lot more.

Our office is wherever are!  We can check our email, schedule a meeting, look up our clients’ contact information, prepare our presentation or work on our next year budget with our accountant no matter where we are.  We can be in our office, home, airport or even on the bus.

Microsoft Office Live Meeting also allows us to have online meeting or conduct online training.  It is a great tool when there is 50 cm of snow on our driveway.

Business Applications

We can find all types of cloud business applications, e.g. Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Finance, Human Resource Management System (HRMS)… etc.  Let me just name a few CRM cloud applications:

And if we can’t find the applications that fit our business needs, we can always migrate our existing applications to Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), e.g. Google App Engine, Windows Azure, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.


Cloud computing allows us to access our application and data anywhere, anytime!  We can have enterprise grade software with a lower IT budget; SkyDrive is free, Google Apps is only USD $50 per year, and Salesforce starts at USD $5 per month.

Don’t forget about security and disaster recovery!  Do you think Amazon, Google or Microsoft is in a better position to handle security and disaster than us?

Do you want to take the risk to go back to office when there is 50 cm of snow?  Or do you want to head to the cloud now?

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

We help you to make better and faster decisions!