Sysmod's PraxIS

Managing reality in Information Systems - Strategies for Success

Systems Modelling Ltd. Issue Nov 2000



Euro features

Our report on the IBAC "Euro phase C" presentation by AIB

8th FEE Conference: Paris 13 - 14 November 2000.

Did you know? 

Information Security

Sources: INFOSEC

Microsoft online break-in


The marketer's nightmare

e-Europe discussion transcript

Software Quality Events

Light Development Methodologies

"Software Productivity in a Changing World", Dublin

Tech stuff - file formats

On the lighter side

27 Web links in this newsletter

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Patrick O'Beirne, Editor


Euro Features

Euro Quiz Q's

Q1: How many designs of euro notes are there?

Q2: How many designs of euro coins are there?

The answers are at Euro Quiz A's below


"Euro phase C" AIB presentation to IBAC

The Institute of Business Analysts and Consultants [1] had a lunch time meeting in Dublin on November 1st on "Euro Phase C", the final changeover on 1.1.2002. Allied Irish Banks [2] provided two speakers: Terry Pender, the euro business co-ordinator, and Diarmuid Dunne, their euro IT Project manager. Terry began with a list of the challenges for the "change manager":

EXPLOSIVE CHANGE involving……hundreds of ATM machines….. thousands of point-of-sale systems….. tens of thousands of cheque books….. hundreds of thousands of customer accounts….. millions of notes ….. billions of coins…. trillions of IT conversions…..

RISKS: Balance Sheet Integrity; IT Conversion; Credit Risk Security; Operational Risk; Human Resources; Public Expectations; Branch Impacts; Advanced Customer Migration

c. 150m. Notes and 944m. IR£ coins to be replaced - coin weighing 7,100 tons…

Diarmuid covered all the usual IT issues: price points (a business issue too), rounding, historic data, and field expansion, but the main concern was "data pollution" - mixing up IEP and EUR data. "Eyeball" checks are no help because the euro is so close in value (0.787564) to the Irish pound.  Their total effort is 250 person-years over two years, the development component is more than twice that of Y2K. The biggest resource demand will be an unprecedented effort on testing and conversion rehearsal - they plan five rehearsals with increasing scope. He described the converter they developed which is run with a sampling stream and an independentcheck by a different team. They have a complete copy of production data sets. Just think for a moment about the hardware and storage requirements for a bank to do that. (And pity the user who mentioned at a recent SAP conversion seminar [3] that they have 8 terabytes of data.) ATMs will close at midnight for the changeover, and will not have cash loaded until 8am Tues 1st Jan 2002. So we will have a "cashless society" for 8 hours! 31/12/2001 is not only the end of a month run, and an end year, it's also the end of the first 12-month end-December tax year in Ireland, and the euro changeover too. They showed a chart prepared for the conversion weekend down to 15 minute intervals. The Irish Banking Federation [4] and retail organisations will have a software tool to predict retail cash float requirements over the critical first week.

It was noticeable that the conference centre had not installed the euro upgrade of Windows [5], as the euro symbol present in the AIB presentation did not show up on the display! Over lunch, I enjoyed the story allegedly from a bank branch manager of a business customer asking recently for a large supply of their specially printed cheque books with their logo, denominated in pounds; the order was equivalent to three years' supply.

We note that the theme of data integrity checks both before the conversion, for data cleanup, and after, for reconciliation is appearing more and more as IT managers get to grips with the reality of their data quality. Some pundits predict corporate amnesia as attempts to convert old data are abandoned and the decision is made to purge data warehouses that are found to be unreliable. In fact, this could give rise to even more demand for storage solutions as old data is archived along with the euro-incapable software that can access it.

8th FEE Conference: Paris 13 - 14 November 2000. [6]

The state of the preparation process from a European Commission perspective. Managing the supply chain changeover; How to avoid a 'big bang' changeover at 31-Dec-2001; Developing a Eurozone pricing policy: Euro conversion and IT migration experience; Will you be able to book an hotel room after 1-Jan-2002? ; euro project morale and contingency plans ; The euro and the audit process ; Banking concerns; Why database 'wrapping' is a dangerous IT solution; The cash changeover scenario and practical issues; The winners of the Eurotrophies competition. 

My presentation on "Thinking through the software facilities you really need for the changeover" will be on 14 Nov.


Did you know?…

If your organisation has a web site on the euro, you can provide your web site visitors with answers to frequently asked questions on EMU and the euro currency, by a link to our comprehensive FAQ. This list of Frequently Asked Questions and their answers is rated by EMU page [7] as the #2 "Related Web Site" after the European Commission itself: [8]

We maintain a constantly expanding directory of euro-related web links worldwide at  [8] which is also picked by Yahoo! as an important resource page.


Euro Quiz A's

A1: There will be seven, uniform across the eurozone: 5,10,20,50,100,200,500 euro. The designs are symbolic for Europe's architectural heritage. They do not represent any existing monuments. Windows and gateways dominate the front side of each banknote as symbols of the spirit of openness and co-operation in the EU. The reverse side of each banknote features a bridge from a particular age, a metaphor for communication among the people of Europe and between Europe and the rest of the world.

A2: There are eight coins with a common euro face for the value: 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, 1 euro, 2 euro. Each Member State will decorate the coins with their own motifs. A French citizen will be able to buy a hot dog in Berlin using a euro coin carrying the imprint of the King of Spain. The common European face of the coins represents a map of the European Union against a background of transverse lines to which are attached the stars of the European flag. The 1,2 and 5 cent coins put emphasis on Europe's place in the world while the 10, 20 and 50 present the Union as a gathering of nations. The 1 and 2 euro coins depict Europe without frontiers.

Source for the commentary: European Commission web site [9]


Information Security

Sources: INFOSEC

If you're looking for a regular review of information security topics, check out INFOSEC, a joint monthly publication of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) [10] and the CERT® Coordination Center (CERT/CC) [11] at the Software Engineering Institute. Subscription [12] is free. Recent articles, with links to technical reports and resource pages, included:

Defending Yourself: The Martial Arts of Intrusion Detection
Sign of the Times: Electronic Signatures and Identity Theft
Securing Extranets


Hackers Break Into Microsoft

The PR coup of the year for hackers was the intrusion into Microsoft at the end of October. The New York Times [13] reported:

"There's no evidence that the unauthorized intruder gained access to source code for our major products," said Microsoft spokesman Ricardo Adame. "It appears the hacker was able to view some source code under development." Adame emphasized that while the hackers were able to view the source code, "there were no modifications or corruptions" and "no source code was downloaded." [...] Investigators believe a Microsoft employee received email containing a common hacker program known as a Trojan horse, which he or she unknowingly launched. The program then attempted to spread to other computers on Microsoft's network and pilfered passwords that were later sent to a Russian email address, said sources familiar with the investigation.

What lessons can we draw from this? Obviously, employee education is important, and the publicity attached to this event must have reached everybody through the news media. What is less palatable for MS is that it's not really a good idea to use MS Outlook. In a kinder, gentler world, its openness to VBA automation would make for great co-operation and information sharing. In the real world, it's too much a target for every script kiddie, so I use Eudora (now that the buffer overflow problem was fixed in 4.3.2).

It also appears, from later reports [14], that MS had early signs from their auditing and logging, which is more than many other big companies have. So the final lesson is to be vigilant.



The marketer's nightmare

The dream of the TV "ad zapper" has come to the web, claim [15] "AdSubtract PRO speeds up your web browsing by blocking web advertising banners and pop-up windows. AdSubtract also protects your online privacy by blocking cookies used to create online profiles of your web habits."

e-Europe discussion transcript

The transcript of the EUbusiness online discussion [16] "e-Europe - preparing for the digital economy". Wednesday October 11th is available on the web site.

The workshop discussed how the EU's programme to create a "digitally literate and entrepreneurial Europe" through accelerating e-commerce, smart cards for secure electronic access and risk capital for high-tech SMEs.

The Gartner Group reports that the European internet economy will increase to $1 trillion by 2004. This number will grow by a compound annual growth rate of 87% and will ultimately equal almost 15% of Western Europe’s current GDP. The biggest chunk of revenue generated will result from e-commerce increasing from a current $40.8 billion to $1 trillion by 2004. Germany will produce the most e-commerce transactions by 2004 with $317 billion, followed by the UK with $235.6 billion and finally the Netherlands with $91.6 billion. (Source:E-Marketer [17])


Project Management Proverbs

The most valuable and least used WORD in a project manager's vocabulary is "NO".

The most valuable and least used PHRASE in a project manager's vocabulary is "I don't know".

Software Quality

The Software Process Improvement (SPI) eGroup [18] is an open forum for exchanging info on Software Process Improvement (SPI). If you like using the Capability Maturity Model for Software (SW-CMM(r)), this is the right place. To subscribe, send a blank email to spi-subscribe(at)egroups(dot)com . The file area ("vault") contains some heavy (mil-spec) software standard documents.

Light Development Methodologies

Software Productivity Center Inc. of Canada have a free biweekly e-newsletter [19] with how-to's for successful project management and practical software development.  Ed Yourdon wrote for them recently tackling the dilemma of IT managers trying to maintain standards and meet "internet time" deadlines. He says:

Unfortunately, many of the RAD ("rapid application development") and prototyping projects in the 1990s were so "light" in their methodological approach that they were almost non-existent; in retrospect, such projects often degenerated into hacking exercises, with virtually no documentation at all. Perhaps the most popular "balanced" methodology today is "XP", as explained by Kent Beck in his book, "eXtreme Programming eXplained". Another is the SCRUM methodology developed by Ken Schwaber.

To learn more about this, the CSE annual conference would be a good place:

Software Productivity in a Changing World [20]

Tuesday 14th November 2000 Great Southern Hotel, Dublin Airport.  eXtreme programming (XP) guru Kent Beck will be presenting "Fred Taylor, Making Software, and Conversation". 

For other software quality links, see [21]

Tech stuff

What's its file format?

Wotsit's Format [22] for programmers contains file format information on hundreds of different file types and all sorts of other useful programming information; algorithms, source code, specifications, etc.

My File Formats [23] is a  new entrant on the scene, still a bit thin.


The lighter side has topical spoof stories. Warning: do not visit this page [24] if you are sensitive to jokes about the value of the euro.

Check out the "Ballyhoo examiner" [25] for an irreverent look at internet life in the style of the local country newspaper. Be warned: the site owner's name "" [26] comes from the name of the official form given to an employee on termination. Does your company monitor surfing habits?

Check out our own fun stuff page [27] where we reveal the "hidden settings" in popular software and retell some hoary programmer's jokes.

Quotes: on experience

You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck.

Good judgment comes from experience. Unfortunately, the experience usually comes from bad judgement.










[9] (note: no www.)



















Patrick O'Beirne

Copyright 2000 Systems Modelling Limited, . Reproduction allowed provided the report is copied in its entirety and with this copyright notice.



"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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