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PraxIS April 2001

Managing reality in Information Systems - strategies for success

Systems Modelling Ltd.



Euro features

BASDA awards EMU accreditations
Legacy currency cross-border cheques best practice
FEE Euro conference Athens 3-5 May
Changing cash plans
The most difficult changeover problems
Euro rounding down
The Eurozone in action: changes and challenges
A single world currency?


Business Europe magazine "how to" guides
e-Marketplace difficulties

Information Security

PatchWork: A Tool to Test For Vulnerabilities
Unauthentic "Microsoft Corporation" Certificates

Software Quality

Testing Tales
Reservations about usability

On the lighter side

28 Web links in this newsletter

About this newsletter, Feedback, and Archives


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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 - it's free!

To help readability, hyperlinks in the text are given in full URL format at the end. Let me know if this does not work for you.

Patrick O'Beirne, Editor

Euro Features

BASDA Awards EMU Accreditations

At the BASDA AGM in London on March 27, Patrick O'Beirne of Systems Modelling Ltd. presented SquareSum plc and Exchequer Software with their BASDA accreditation certificates. For more information, see BASDA [4] > "Accreditations" > "EMU Accreditation"

Quotes from companies who have undergone our certification tests:

- "very helpful"
- "a number of very useful suggestions for improvements to our documentation and training programs that will help our users make better use of the Euro features"
- "testing, questions and comments were oriented towards practical use of the features in a working environment"
- "The end result is that we are much more confident about our conversion process being right, from the documentation through to the restated data."

Are you sure your software applications can support all the requirements for the business changeover to the euro? Get an independent assessment on their "compliance" or "euro-readiness" with our euro software certification service. [6]

On the other hand ... the following problems have been seen in a sample of other software packages which had not been tested by us before release:
Posting unbalanced transactions to the Trial Balance;
Creating many more rounding differences than they needed to;
A cash change-giving calculation that gave 1c too much in 10% of the cases, and 1c too little in another 10%.
A package released in 2001 that supplied test data dated
17/1/01 that it read as 17 Jan, 1901.
(It's well known among software quality circles that independent validation is needed for greater assurance. When told of the above problems, Dennis Keeling, CEO of BASDA, asked with a smile "Why am I not surprised?" )

Cheque them out

The Banking Federation of the European Union (FBE) has published European Guidelines for Best Practice Concerning Legacy Currency Cross-border Cheques (PDF,25K) [7] They state: "Banks are encouraged to take all means possible to raise customers’ awareness that cross-border cheques in legacy currencies issued before 1 January 2002 should be presented before 15 February 2002 and that such cheques, if presented after 15 February 2002, may be handled on a collection basis only."

FEE Euro conference Athens 3-5 May

Last month we listed the IQPC conference in Dublin for April 23-24. That conference has been cancelled, but don't worry, you'll get another chance to hear my presentation on "The euro software facilities you really need" at The Ninth FEE Euro Conference Athens 3 – 5 May [8] "Preparing for the euro – the only way to continue in operation".

The most difficult changeover problems

A new report from FEE is based on evidence from companies and their advisers (PDF, 21K) [9]. It emphasises that the opportunities for damaging error are substantial. Most of the companies who have gone through the process of changeover or who have been advising them indicate that unexpected errors are a real problem. These are largely caused by misinterpretation of euro and ncu currency data, and/or by having the correct currency but identifying the currency incorrectly. For example, suppressing an ncu currency indicator or by continuing to describe the currency amount in narrative documents as ncu.
The confusion of the customer can only be removed if the originating company is itself clear about its actions and policies and has trained its own staff so that they are able to communicate properly those actions and policies to customers.

This year is the last chance for companies to make the euro changeover, so we remind you of our consultancy services in euro training [5], euro compliance software testing and BASDA certification [3], and the book+CD on euro conversion [1], to help you succeed!

Changing plans

In February we reported on the fears of chaos at the tills in the first days of the euro cash changeover - with exploding queue sizes reported by a Dutch Railways study. That study and a number of other research documents are now available at the E-Day 2002 web site. [11] These studies may have influenced shifts in cash policy we can now see happening.

EUBusiness [10] reports that Germany will let private individuals acquire loose change as well as starter kits of euro from mid-December this year. With the exception of Ireland, every country has prepared small starter kits of coins which consumers can purchase, but none had so far envisaged making coins available in loose form.

As you know, our company name is "Systems Modelling" named from our involvement in computer modelling. We applied those principles to our own euro cash simulation model which is available on a consultancy basis. Even without computer modelling, retailers will know that the bigger the difference between their average sale and the smallest notes available to consumers, the greater their float will have to be.

Euro Rounding Down

It's nice to be able to report that someone is actually rounding the conversions down [12]. On 5 February 2001 Mr Charlie McCreevy TD the Minister for Finance in Ireland published the Euro Changeover (Amounts) Bill, 2001 (PDf,126K) [13]. It relates to fees, charges etc. levied by Government Departments or bodies, or to certain thresholds, where the amounts are or may be paid in cash or need to be easily remembered. The Bill provides that the amounts affected will from 1 January 2002 be reduced to the nearest convenient euro amount below the exact equivalent of the current IR£ amounts, so as to favour the citizen. The threshold amounts will be increased to the nearest convenient euro amounts above the exact equivalent, again so as to favour the citizen.

The Eurozone in action: changes and challenges

In October 2000 the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) published this analysis of economic and monetary union [14]. The authors are Robert Cottrell, the Brussels correspondent for The Economist, and Gerry Blanchard, an independent consultant on European business. Besides analysing the performance and prospects of the euro itself, the report examines the broader context, including development of the European single market and the outlook for reforms in the way in which the EU is governed. A 1266K PDF download is made freely available by a group of sponsors.

A single world currency?

Interactive Investor International [15] reports a speech by Robert Mundell, 1999 Nobel prize-winner for economics: "Given the low inflation in the world's three main currency areas - the dollar, euro and yen zones - the conditions are starting to be ripe to consider linking them with a view to merging them into a single currency"

Many of the readers of this newsletter provide euro advice and services to business. Why not give yourself some heavyweight support by giving your clients a copy of my book+CD "Managing the euro in information systems: strategies for success" [1]


Business Europe magazine has a series of "how to" guides aimed at business managers with useful and practical business tips. Check out their Ecommerce guides [16]

A Digitrends article [17] has a nice short list of seven key elements e-firms should follow if they want to survive and be successful.

An Information Week article [18] says that tighter IT links among partners can equal savings in a cooling economy, but cautions "Don't underestimate the difficulty of integrating either with e-marketplaces or your business partner systems and choose any e-marketplace partner with care".


Hack Watch News [19], the acerbic Irish IT news agency, has been reporting on the reversal of fortunes in Internet ventures on this side of the Atlantic. Under " Auctions Closed" John McCormac comments "Buy and Sell magazine is a great idea but the problem that had was in translating that demographic to the web." In the article "Net Visionary Fails To Foresee Crash" he suggests the reasons why Nua, the Irish Internet consultancy that became world famous for its "How many online?" estimates, has gone into receivership. With reported debts of 1.3 million euros it had failed to attract new funding from either Eircom, which owns 20 per cent of the company, or outside investors.

Information Security

PatchWork: A Tool to Test For Vulnerabilities

On March 8, 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released information about a series of economic extortion attacks that had already hit more than 40 e-banking and e-commerce sites running Windows NT. More than a million credit cards have been stolen and the primary crime is extortion in which the criminals demand money to keep sites safe from "other hackers" and to keep the site's credit card information confidential. A description of the attacks is posted at the SANS (System Administration, Networking, and Security) Institute site [20]. Steve Gibson of Gibson Research [21] created Patchwork [22] to determine whether a Windows NT system is vulnerable to the attack and whether it has the files that indicate it has already been compromised.

Verily it is Microsoft .. but check the date

CERT Advisory CA-2001-04 Unauthentic "Microsoft Corporation" Certificates

Verisign [23] issued a Class 3 Digital Certificate to someone who purported to be from Microsoft Corporation [24]. Only they weren't. Web pages with ActiveX controls with certificates cause the browser to pop up a dialog about Digital Certificates. This one will appear to be signed by Microsoft Corporation and vouched for by Verisign. But unless you actually check the date on the Certificate you won't know whether or not it is one you can trust. The false one will bear the date of January 29 and/or January 30, 2001 if you view the details of the supplied Certificate.

This issue presents a security risk because even a reasonably cautious user could be deceived into trusting the bogus certificates, since they appear to be from Microsoft. Once accepted, these certificates may allow an attacker to execute malicious code on the user's system.

Project Management Proverb

The conditions attached to a promise are forgotten, only the promise is remembered.

Software Quality

Testing Tales [25] that British Airways' reputation suffered when a software problem in BABS brought down the links between various systems, such as baggage handling and the main departure control system. Check-ins had to be done manually; flights were cancelled; passengers experienced delays of up to three hours. The airline's problems began after a maintenance upgrade of the passenger departure control system failed, according to an anonymous posting on - an airline pilot chatroom. Hmmm, some more testing on that software upgrade might have saved some money.

Reservations about Usability

Aer Lingus recently launched their new flight reservations web site [26]. It looks very nice. As the Ryanair(*) [27] plain vanilla (but fast) web site has been up for a year or more now, you'd think that would give the state airline a chance to raise the bar. But when you try to book, you find that it does not help you with price comparison as Ryanair does. You have to choose an outward/return pair of flights before you're told how much it costs. And to check another pair, you must start from the beginning. You can't just use the "Back" button to quickly go back to try another schedule; if you try, you get a warning that "it will cause an unstable condition in the database engine". What a techie message to expose to a consumer. Just as well they didn't refer to it as their Jet engine ;-) And if you try to tell them about all this and make helpful suggestions for some other minor gripes, the feedback form tells you "Please limit your comments to 500 characters (50 words approximately". Those dang gabby customers, keep them away!

(*) That doesn't mean I want to fly Ryanair for business. Email me privately if you really want to hear my own airline customer service horror story.

The lighter side

Does your musical sense suffer from the corporate anthem, something played at office parties, conferences and secretly through headphones before they stride confidently into meetings? Chris Raettig [28] has a "compendium of corporate cringe" available online from the funny to the awful.


[1] Managing the Euro in Information Systems: Strategies for Success

[2] Euro & EMU index page

[3] BASDA approve SML as software tester for EMU Accreditation

[4] Business Application Software Developer's Association.

[5] Euro IT Workshop

[6] Euro compliance software certification service

[7] Legacy Currency Cross-border Cheques

[8] FEE ninth euro conference Athens

[9] Common changeover problems

[10] German plan to issue loose change (only subscribers have access to the archive)

[11] Euro Day 2002, retailers' campaign for more consumer frontloading of small notes and coins.

[12] Announcement of Euro Changeover in Irish government fees and allowances.


[14] EIU report: The Eurozone in action: changes and challenges

[15] A single world currency?

[16] Business Europe Ecommerce Guides

[17] Seven Key Factors for E-Business Success

[18] The B-To-B Integration Equation

[19] Hack Watch News

[20] SANS institute

[21] Steve Gibson's site

[22] Patchwork downloadable from the Centre for Internet Security

[23] VeriSign Security Alert Fraud Detected in Authenticode Code Signing Certificates

[24] Microsoft Security Bulletin MS01-017 "Erroneous VeriSign-Issued Digital Certificates Pose Spoofing Hazard" (Patch available)

[25] IT news site

[26] Aer Lingus flight reservations

[27] Ryanair flight reservations

[28] Corporate Anthems

Patrick O'Beirne

Copyright 2001 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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Last updated June 22, 2004