Sysmod's PraxIS
Managing reality in Information Systems - Strategies for Success

Systems Modelling Ltd.                  Issue: SEPTEMBER 2000

http://www.sysmod.com

IN THIS ISSUE

Welcome

The Euro features
Still time to enter Eurotrophies competition
Accounting and Financial Software Issues for SMEs
Why is database wrapping a 'dangerous IT solution'?
Glossary of EMU
Quarterly review of the use of the euro
Are you ready for the euro ? - a FEE survey

Information Security
COSAC 2000 11-14 Sep, Killarney
A free personal firewall
How to subscribe to the Risks-Forum Digest
Hack Watch - Eircom

Internet Features
E-Commerce and e-business
Web Site Design - Top Ten Mistakes and Usability Guidelines

About this newsletter

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WELCOME

Welcome to PraxIS! We appreciate any feedback or suggestions for improvement. If you have received this newsletter from anybody else, we urge you to sign up for your personal copy at http://www.sysmod.com/
Patrick O'Beirne, Editor        

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EURO FEATURES

Euro Quiz(1)
How many countries are there in the euro zone?
The answer is at Euro Quiz(2) below.

Still time to enter Eurotrophies competition
Small and medium-sized businesses have until October 15 to participate in the Eurotrophies competition.  This will reward companies which have been models in their preparation for the euro. The winners' stories will be widely disseminated so these companies can serve as role models for other businesses.
For more details, see http://www.eurotrophies.org

Accounting and Financial Software Issues for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) http://www.euro.fee.be/brochures/SMEsoftware.PDF
This brochure [89Kb pdf] is in two parts. The first is intended for the advisers to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), although many managers will find the document useful to them. The second is designed as a leaflet which can be printed separately and handed to the clients of advisors or others wishing to distribute information to help companies with the change to the euro. I was closely involved in the production of this guidance note, which will help many users of mainly packaged software who do not need individual consultancy for a systems review or a euro project audit.

Why is database wrapping a 'dangerous IT solution'?
This has been a topic of great interest in our euro conversion training courses. The problems of "vertical" and "horizontal" rounding errors should be more widely known. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) provides guidance on this at
http://www.abi.org.uk/theEuroArea/position/EMUWrapper.asp

Resource pointer: Glossary of EMU
This 306K multilingual glossary of euro-related terms is at:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/translation/euro/euenfram.htm
Or start at the home page http://europa.eu.int/euro and select "Glossary of EMU"

Quarterly review of the use of the euro
http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/economy_finance/document/misc/eurouse3_en.pdf
The take up of the euro is still very slow and is regarded with some concern. "Experience shows that the results of all the sample surveys carried out on the preparations for the euro tend to be overstated."

Are you ready for the euro?
(If you would prefer to read this call in French, German, Italian, or Spanish, let me know and I'll send it to you. This is a survey questionnaire from FEE that I am forwarding to readers on their behalf)

Concern is growing that preparations for the euro are falling behind and that some companies do not appreciate what they need to do and by when.  Having a clear understanding of the true situation is very important. FEE will use the information from this questionnaire to encourage national governments, the European Commission and the European Central Bank to make more information available and to clarify issues over which there is misunderstanding or uncertainty. No information about individual companies will be published.

The questionnaire is available on the FEE web site in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The questionnaire has only 9 questions. It takes about 2 minutes to load and a further 3 to complete. All you have to do is click to make yo
English         http://www.euro.fee.be/Survey/Q2000_en.asp
French  http://www.euro.fee.be/Survey/Q2000_fr.asp
German  http://www.euro.fee.be/Survey/Q2000_de.asp
Italian         http://www.euro.fee.be/Survey/Q2000_it.asp
Spanish http://www.euro.fee.be/Survey/Q2000_es.asp

If you have any queries or comments or would like to know more about the activities of the FEE euro project please contact Noel Hepworth at 00 44 20 8667 1144 or by email at Noel.hepworth(at)ipf(dot)co(dot)uk


Euro Quiz(2)
Answer to Euro Quiz(1): It depends on what you count as the euro zone. Currently, there are eleven countries (BAFFLINGSIP) with the euro as their national currency, thus fully in the eurozone. There are twelve countries in ERM2. Greece was judged to have met entry criteria on 20 June 2000 and will join the eurozone on 1 Jan. 2001. Now for a follow up question:
What is the fixed conversion rate for the Greek Drachma?
(The answer is at the end of this document. If you know this and are not Greek, you have achieved what John Downe (IBM's Mr Euro) calls "anorak" status, roughly equivalent to the USA "geek".)

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Information Security

COSAC 2000 - The Seventh International Computer Security Audit and Control
Symposium 11th - 14th September 2000
http://www.cosac.net/home.htm
Denis Kelly of the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) in Ireland writes "As a former speaker at the conference I can recommend this conference strongly for IT, IT audit and security professionals. Whitfield Diffie of Diffie-Hellman PKI fame
There may be a group discount if we can get 4 or more people to book together.
Please reply to me in good time for more information if this is of interest.

The Risks-Forum Digest
The newsgroup "Forum on risks to the public in computers and related systems" (comp.risks) is worth subscribing to for general news on insecurities.
To subscribe, send direct e-mail requests to <risks-request(st)csl(dot)sri(dot)com> with one-line, SUBSCRIBE (or unsubscribe) [with net address if different from from:].
For example, here are some of the contents of the last couple of issues  archived at http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/21.03.http://www.zonelabs.com) and many times when I'm online I see it rejecting an attempt to probe a port on my PC. Here is another one: Sybergen Networks have released free, for personal use, a personal firewall - Sybergen Secure Desktop at http://www.sybergen.com/free/ssd/ssduser.htm. Details are on the web site, and the firewall is also available for download from ZDNet

Hack Watch
The recent access to 30,000 accounts on the ISP Eircom.net (reportedly by a 17-year old) has brought this to the fore in Ireland. A sceptical, not to say dyspeptic look at the embarrassing side of the Internet in Ireland is John McCormac's http://www.hackwatch.com. The pun in the title is that not only does he report on computer, satellite/cable and smartcard systems hacking but he also satirises media hacks, or journalists with a less than desirable grasp of the facts.

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Internet Features

Not that Eircom needs that much bad news when it can generate enough itself. Eircom has blocked mobile users from accessing data services through special, low rate Internet phone numbers, the 1891 numbers. This could be just another reason to avoid WAP (Where's Any Point?).  Old skills for maximising information density had been threatened by Internet bloatware, graphics, and multimedia. The challenge of the 4x40 character screen means that they are coming back.

Equally, the "old economy" skills of customer service and making profits which had been threatened by dot-com upstarts, are coming back into fashion with the demise of boo.com and dressmart.com, and delays in IPOs as reality sets in. Yes, it was fun while it lasted, but the shareholders paid the price of funding the information age equivalent of perpetual motion machines (which output more energy than they input). The technology is not the point; delivering what the customer wants is. On a small scale, for example, some companies take advantage of the preference of 18-24 year olds for SMS messaging to use that technology to deliver instant updates on the availability of requested apartment accommodation.

E-Commerce
The European Union directive on Electronic Commerce came into force on 17 July. It includes provisions covering the exemption of ISPs from liability for content; transparency requirements for senders of unsolicited commercial communications ("spam"); and information requirements for traders using web sites. The Directive is available at http://www.ispo.cec.be/ecommerce/legal/documents/2000_31ec/2000_31ec_en.pdf


Web Site Design
http://www.sysmod.com/internet.htm
Our own page of "Top Ten Mistakes of Web Sites" describes these common faults:
1.      No consistent message
2.      Not respecting user's concerns
3.      Lack of promotion
4.      No closure and followup
5.      Not providing a feedback method
6.      Visual fatigue
7.      Being too demanding
8.      Making navigation confusing and unclear.
9.      Being static and boring
10.     Not learning the culture

How do you think our web site rates on those criteria? Feedback is welcome!

Amazon.co.uk customers give Jakob Nielsen's book top marks in customer reviews. "Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity" by Jakob Nielsen, whose web site is useit.com Here are links for the book at Amazon in USA, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Japan.

Yale provides another source of style advice:
http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/contents.html
Web Style Guide: Basic Design Principles for Creating Web Sites.

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Answer to Euro Quiz(2)
The fixed conversion rate for the Greek Drachma is EUR 1 = GRD 340.750 from 1st January 2001. Source:
http://europa.eu.int/euro/html/page-dossier5.html?lang=5&dossier=290&page=5&nav=5
Proposal for Council regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 2866/98 on the conversion rates between the euro and the currencies of the Member States adopting the euro.


Patrick O'Beirne

Copyright 2000 Systems Modelling Limited, http://www.sysmod.com. Reproduction allowed provided the report is copied in its entirety and with this copyright notice.

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ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER
"Praxis" means model or example, from the Greek verb "to do". The name is chosen to reflect our focus on practical solutions to IS problems, avoiding hype. If you like acronyms, think of it as "Patrick's reports and analysis across Information Systems".
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