Contents: Burnout, FP6, ICT for Development, Legal issues, spamtraps, risk & fraud, Linux, Project Mgmt, Software industry news in Ireland
This issue online at http://www.sysmod.com/praxis/prax0305.htm
Systems Modelling Ltd.: Managing reality in Information Systems - strategies for success
Strategies for coping with burnout
European Research Projects Mail List
ICT Development and Africa
Internet and risk management
Breakfast Seminars on legal issues with spam and online selling
Online Precedents for Domain Name Disputes
Honeypots reveal what attracts Spam
A free email address obscuring script
Tarpits for Spammers
Risk and Fraud Management of Internet Payments
Linux for Windows users
Disk usage charting utility
An old Word trick: the =rand() function
Local news for Ireland
Irish Computer Society (ICS) ICT Stakeholders Group
ICS Skills Framework for IT job descriptions
Software Testing free half day seminar
James Bach course on "Exploratory Testing"
Inaugural Agile Special Interest Group
On the lighter side
Y2K bug alive and working for Macdonalds (Risks Digest)
Stress causes strong language
"Thirty Signs That Technology Has Taken Over Your Life"
24 Web links in this newsletter
About this newsletter and Archives
Subscribe and Unsubscribe information
This month I'm straying off the hard technical topics to include some "soft" articles. Let me know how you like them. If you like this newsletter please tell me what you like, and pass it on to others you think may be interested. If there is something you don't like, please tell me what it is.
I'm always ready for your comments! Thanks for reading,
The Cutter consortium ( www.Cutter.com ) have been spending a lot of time recently on the topic of burnout for both executives and IT staff. One of their consultants, Tom DeMarco, in his book "Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency", (buy the book from Amazon: USA UK DE FR CA JP ) attacks "the infernal busyness of the modern workplace," writing that "Organizations sometimes become obsessed with efficiency and make themselves so busy that responsiveness and net effectiveness suffer."
The symptoms are a feeling of loss of control and a feeling of entrapment and inability to change the situation, irritability, exhaustion, crying, helplessness, hopelessness, and cynicism. Sufferers dread reading their email and avoid returning calls. Doug de Carlo in the 22 April 2003 Cutter article describes the "Quit and Stay" response - people stay at the job but just do the bare minimum, with the constant fear of inferiority and incompetence.
The results of getting more "work" from people by making them more accessible through pagers, company mobile phones, PDAs, and notebook computers may be counterproductive, leading to decreased real productivity, carelessness and accidents in the workplace, and health problems like broken sleeping patterns, headache and muscle tension, ulcers, putting on weight, worry, and depression.
Changing jobs may be a solution, but hasty jumps into unfamiliar territory can simply invite failure that reinforces a negative self-image. It needs careful self-examination to be sure that one is not bring self-defeating "victim" behaviour patterns to a new environment. The person may feel guilty at taking time off; usually a holiday ( weeks, not days ) is sufficient to show one is not indispensable. Therefore having vacation days accumulating is a danger sign; as is taking the manuals or laptop with you! Persons who measure themselves by their achievements may find it difficult to say "no"; they need to stop being self-sacrificial and take charge of their own mental and physical care. Individual solutions include coaching in assertiveness, time management, delegation, prioritizing "perfection" and "good enough", exercise and relaxation. Try working early rather than late!
Organisational solutions include building organisational cultural values (e.g. in managing conflicts), sympathetic interviews, realistic workload balancing, respect for lunch hours and breaks, personal rewards, celebration, and supports. An interesting aspect of the Agile methodologies is the respect for each partner in the contract, that for example the customer respects the time estimates of the developer rather than treating them as opening negotiation offers to be knocked down. The speed of the review and delivery process is such as to make the actual work completion rate ("velocity") obvious. Another tenet is the 40-hour week, to keep developers fresh.
The old clich้ is still true: nobody ever wished on their deathbed that they had spent more time in the office.
If you have participated in European research projects, may I ask you to share your experiences with others just starting?
I've set up new SmartGroup, a discussion forum for participants in the Sixth Framework Programme of EU research. (IST, Knowledge society, NEST, SME, INCO, etc) Objectives: to exchange tips in working with the European Commission, methods of project funding and management of multi-party cross-national consortiums.
My reason for starting the above SmartGroup is that I expect to be involved in an FP6 project as a continuation from an FP5 project to provide almost cost-free email for educational and research institutes in Africa. I referred to this in my Praxis newsletters of Nov. 2002 and Feb. 2003. Here are a couple of mail lists where these are discussed:
AFRIK-IT[at]LISTSERV.HEA.IE is a low volume list exclusively focused on ICT in Africa. The archives are at http://listserv.heanet.ie/cgi-bin/wa?LIST=AFRIK-IT
To subscribe to AFRIK-IT you send a email to LISTSERV (at) LISTSERV.HEA.IE with this command in the body of your mail: SUBSCRIBE AFRIK-IT firstname lastname
Another is Global Knowledge for Development (GKD) which covers all the developing countries. Archives of messages can be found at: http://www.edc.org/GLG/gkd/
To subscribe to GKD, send a message to: majordomo(at)mail.edc.org. In the first line of the message type: subscribe gkd
I noticed a very active GKD thread recently on the "digital divide" and the relevance of such concepts to developing countries. Here is the post that sparked the discussion. The web site given has "Sites for sore eyes", links to many organisations involved in these issues.
Attempts to bridge the 'digital divide' could lead Africa down a costly path
"Poor planning, expensive software and under-utilisation make computers a costly mistake for some African schools. Research published by id21 Insights Education shows that the yearly cost of supplying and maintaining one African school with 10 second-hand computers, software and technical support could be as high as the cost of 2000 text books or 3.6 teachers. Good planning and utilisation - such as making computers available for community use outside school hours - and free 'open source' software however, can lower costs dramatically."
Seen on http://www.irishlaw.org/
Masons are running two free seminars (08:30-09:30) in May in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dublin. To book, see:
1. Spam, the law and on-line marketing; This seminar will look at the legal issues behind marketing by e-mail, mobile phone and on web sites.
2. How to sell on-line; The E-commerce Directive, The Distance Selling Regulations, Distance Selling of Financial Services
The Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution and the Markle Foundation have announced the launch of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy Database, which "provides Internet users worldwide with free access to precedents regarding disputes over Web addresses."
The "Center for Democracy and Technology" report, titled "Why am I Getting all this Spam?", is based on a six-month experiment involving email honeypots - bogus email addresses established to see how much spam various kinds of behaviour would attract. I am pleased to see that my method of expressing addresses as a "human readable" form like name (at) domain (dot) tld is a good practice to reduce the likelihood of spam attacks.
Here are two of their conclusions:
E-mail addresses harvested from the public Web are frequently used by spammers. By an overwhelming margin, the greatest amount of spam we received was to addresses posted on the public Web.
But none of the addresses that were obscured, whether in "human-readable" or "HTML-obscured" form, received a single piece of spam, leading us to conclude that e-mail address "harvesters" are not presently capable of collecting such addresses.
I'm making available for free download a little Visual Basic Script to obscure mailto: addresses as encoded HTML. You can encode an address with one click and then copy & paste the encoded version into your HTML source. You can download it from this link :
It's a text file, so it should get past script filters on your browser; just save it as a .vbs file to make it a script. If your version of Windows does not already have the Windows Scripting engine, it's a free download from www.microsoft.com.
This is a proposal for a fascinating idea called "TarProxy". "Early detection of incoming spam could be used to create an artificial scarcity of bandwidth experienced only by spammers. If enough of these dynamic tarpits were in place the spammers' mail software would bog down, reducing the rate at which they can send messages... If these tarpits were ubiquitous, they could completely change the economics of spam...
Probably the best-known tarpit program is LaBrea, which uses the technique of providing incredibly slow connections to remote servers with no business connecting to it, such as those that have performed a port scan to find open mail relays or to infect other machines with Code Red."
A tarpit in this sense is similar to the approach some people adopt when repeatedly called by telemarketers at home ... they say "hold on, please" then walk away leaving the phone off the hook.
The Internet Council of NACHA has two new publications that help organizations understand and identify the types of Internet payments risk and fraud that pose threats to their businesses and addresses methods to mitigate them. "Risk Management for Consumer Internet Payments" identifies the risks specific to Internet-initiated consumer payments, such as credit card, Automated Clearing House (ACH), offline and online debit cards, and person-to-person payments. And "Internet Payments Fraud" focuses on and catalogs the varying types of Internet-related fraud, including merchant-level, transaction-level, and identity theft fraud. The publications are available at
Fred Langa has a discussion of "Linux-Inside-Windows Options" (items 1 and 2 in http://www.langa.com/newsletters/2003/2003-04-14.htm ), and especially Knoppix ( http://www.langa.com/newsletters/2003/2003-04-14.htm#2 )
Knoppix is a Linux boot CD that enables one to get into any machine, quickly, easily, bypassing the security measures of NTFS and Windows. Even setting passwords for single files, one can print those "secure" files in minutes and make changes to the system, with no passwords or any type of authentication.
You know how Windows can show you a pie chart of the total free space of a disk drive? I had a call from a client who wanted to know what specifically was using up all their disk space - they wanted to delete some files. DiskPie is a nice free tool that gives you a pie chart of directory usage:
Do you have a favourite freeware or shareware utility? The other readers of this newsletter might like to know of it too - just drop me an email at feedback (at) sysmod (dot) com to tell me about it.
Open any document, in any version of Word and on a new line type
then hit Enter. Word will create ten paragraphs, each paragraph consisting of five sentences of "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." The text varies with the installation language. The original Word 1.0 developers built this in to easily create a quick document for testing.
In case you thought IT projects had a bad reputation for overrunning, take a look at these road construction projects in Ireland - five times overruns!
"M50 Dundrum bypass - a 22 million estimate has doubled to 44 million.
M50 southeastern motorway via Carrickmines - from 193 million estimate in 1996 to 595 million current NRA estimate. A compensation claim for 150,000 a week by construction company Ascon will dramatically inflate the costs of this 10-km stretch of road at Carrickmines Castle.
Dublin Port Tunnel - 1996 estimate of 165 million estimate up to 625
million. Among the list of missed items:
* detailed design not included in the initial tender accounted for a further 8.8 million
* a further 38 million for the removal of a clause from the contract for unforeseen obstructions - up from 14 million in the initial tender "
A new group has been formed to cooperate and share diary dates / host joint events etc. Those already confirmed include; Enterprise Ireland / Institution of Engineers of Ireland / Irish Computer Society & the Irish Software Association. If you know of any non-commercial ICT groups who run events (Associations / Institutions / SIG's / Usergroups) who may be interested in joining this group then please email frank (dot) cronin (at) ics (dot) ie with ICT Stakeholders in the subject field.
"The ICS Skills Framework is the model which will be used by all industry stakeholders to describe the job roles and skills in ICT. It will enable individuals to plot career paths and plan continuous professional development activities appropriate to their needs. Education and training providers will map their programmes to the Skills Framework and show which programmes are appropriate to each skill area and skill level. The Skills Framework will also assist non-IT professionals understand the profession and identify a suitable career entry point. ICS Skills Cert is a programme that offers independent verification and certification by the ICS of the individual's Skills Profile as defined by the ICS Skills Framework."
SoftTest Ireland are please to announce that James Bach and Dot Graham will speak at the 2nd SoftTest mini-event which takes place from 14:30 to 17:30 on Monday May 19th 2003 in Dublin. James Bach's topic is 'Exploratory testing explained' and Dot Graham speaks on 'Measuring the value of testing'. Subject to final numbers the venue is the Holiday Inn, Pearse Street, Dublin. Delegates must register in advance for this event at http://www.softtest.ie/events.htm
I'm looking forward to James Bach's course on "Exploratory Testing" in Dublin on May 20-22. (More info at http://www.newellandbudge.com ) The focus of the three-day course is on "rapid testing" and is aimed at experienced testers, but new recruits to the Quality Assurance world will welcome it too. The course brochure uses fancy words like "epistemology" and "abductive inference" but basically they mean scientific guessing. That doesn't sound as impressive as "heuristics" but the key qualifier is "scientific" - that is, informed by a sense of the context, what's important, knowing what you are looking for, asking the right questions, and favouring accurate observation over unstructured guessing when choosing explanations. The aim of thoroughness is confined by the practical need to avoid the trap of thinking one needs all possible tests, the combination of which tends to infinity. The practical focus of the course is on risk analysis and what "good enough" means.
James Bach ( http://www.satisfice.com ) is the author (with Kaner and Pettichord) of Lessons Learned in Software Testing: A Context-Driven Approach. Dorothy Graham is co-author with Tom Gilb of "Software inspection" (1993) and co-author with Mark Fewster of "Software Test Automation" (1999) Addison- Wesley.
eXoftware and Best Outcomes, with the support of the Agile Alliance and the DSDM Consortium have organised the inaugural Agile Special Interest Group (SIG) to be hosted by IONA. This is a merging of the XPSIG and the DSDM Regional Interest Group (RIG). Thursday, 15th May at 600pm, beer and pizza provided:
"Putting the Agile SIG in context" Hugh Ivory, Managing Director, Best Outcomes
"AIB and Agile Methods supporting Business Goals" Paul Verjans, Snr Manager, Development Support and Quality Assurance, AIB Bank
"The Story of a Story" Seแn Hanly, Managing Director, eXoftware
Simply send your comments to FEEDBACK (at) SYSMOD (dot) COM
Thank you! Patrick O'Beirne, Editor
"Last week my elder daughter had her 7th birthday. The party was held at a local Macdonalds. (NOT my choice.) One of the things they provided was a cake. On the box, there was a use-by date. It was a day in July 1903. Makes me wonder how many Y2K bugs are still lurking in dark corners."
In the light of the article on the effects of burnout and stress on people, here are the unwritten rules from the highly over worked, but highly under paid technical support staff at an Internet service provider near you. I can't reprint this because of the strong language, but it's typical of BOFH humour. If you don't know what BOFH means, I can't spell out that here either, but see http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/30/ and http://bofh.ntk.net/
No, I'm not going to list them all here, you can find that much-reposted list via Google. I'll just quote these:
3: You need to fill out a form that must be typewritten, but you can't because there isn't one typewriter in your house -- only computers with laser printers.
11: You sign Christmas cards by putting :-) next to your signature.
26: You are so knowledgeable about technology that you feel secure enough to say "I don't know" when someone asks you a technology question instead of feeling compelled to make something up.
30: You understand all the jokes in this message.
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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".
To read previous issues of this newsletter please visit our web site at http://www.sysmod.com/praxis.htm
This newsletter is prepared in good faith and the information has been taken from observation and other sources believed to be reliable. Systems Modelling Ltd. (SML) does not represent expressly or by implication the accuracy, truthfulness or reliability of any information provided. It is a condition of use that users accept that SML has no liability for any errors, inaccuracies or omissions. The information is not intended to constitute legal or professional advice. You should consult a professional at Systems Modelling Ltd. directly for advice that is specifically tailored to your particular circumstances.
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