PraxIS July 2003                    ISSN 1649-2374

03-07 Contents: Software Patents EU law, Online VAT, Euro UK economics, $24m spreadsheet error, Eusprig, Paris apartment websites

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Systems Modelling Ltd.: Managing reality in Information Systems - strategies for success

1) Internet and risk management
    Patenting Software
    Online VAT

2) Euro & UK:
   '£700 per household gain by joining the euro'

3) $24-million spreadsheet "clerical error"
   Transalta's cut-and-paste cut $24m and pasted the shareholders
   Eusprig 2003 discusses methods and tools for auditing spreadsheets

4) Holiday travel
    Web sites to find an apartment in Paris

5) On the lighter side
    On the difference between Marketing and Spam  

20 Web links in this newsletter
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I'm always ready for your comments! Thanks for reading,

Patrick O'Beirne



1) Internet and risk management

Software Patents - EU law

"The EU Parliament have delayed the voting on a directive with regard to EU-wide software patenting. This proposal has caused huge opposition among the community of software developers and companies throughout Europe. The EU proposal is likely to affect small software producers while also having a negative effect on the general state of open-source software production and distribution among the member states. The main fear within the industry is that the proposed directive will adversely affect the development of software. Expensive patent legal battles could erupt within Europe, as in the US, where large patent-holding competitors have sued smaller developers. "

I received an email from a lobby group in Ireland asking me to email my MEP to protest, so there is some level of interest on this. "Patents: Commission proposes rules for inventions using software" includes downloadable PDF reports on studies.

Online VAT

VAT on digital services - 19 frequently asked questions

"Council Directive 2002/38/EC, in force from 1st July 2003, changes the EU rules for charging Value Added Tax (VAT) on the supply over electronic networks (i.e. digital delivery) of software and computer services generally, plus information and cultural, artistic, sporting, scientific, educational, entertainment or similar services. From now on, these services will be taxed in the country where the customer resides rather than where the supplier is located.

For the non-EU supplier whose EU customers are non-business individuals or organisations, there will now be an obligation to charge and account for VAT on these sales just as EU suppliers have to do.

As regards business to private consumers (so-called B2C) sales, the single place of registration introduced under the new Directive will provide the non-EU traders with the option of discharging all VAT obligations through a single administration.

The non-EU business will collect tax from their European customer at rates of between 15% and 25% depending on where they are located whilst European companies will charge taxes according to the rate where they are established, again between 15% and 25%."

Anybody in Europe who has bought from recently will have noted that they have already complied with this VAT requirement for some time.


2) Euro and the UK

From the EuroItemsOfInterest yahoogroup:

'£700 per household gain by joining the euro '

Maurice Fitzpatrick of Numerica ( ) argues the economic case for joining the euro. (   4 July 2003).

"Numerica estimates that, after the first 6 years of UK membership of the euro, ongoing UK GDP could have increased by the equivalent of some £700 per annum per UK household on average (or £13 per week), compared to the situation which would have subsisted had we stayed outside the euro. Last month on the Economics Experts Page, I argued that there was unlikely to be a referendum on joining the euro before the next election, whilst John Hawksworth of PricewaterhouseCoopers pointed out that the economic divergence between the UK and Euroland was growing. This month I set out the main findings in a Numerica report (shortly to be  published) regarding the potential benefits to the UK economy were we to join the euro when the conditions were right. Broadly, our analysis shows that the increased trade arising from membership of euro could boost ongoing UK GDP by the equivalent of £13 per week per household on average after 6 years in the euro, compared to the situation which would have subsisted had we stayed outside the euro. "


3) $24-million spreadsheet "clerical error"

June 03, 2003 TORONTO (Reuters) - TransAlta Corp. said on Tuesday it will take a $24 million charge to earnings after a bidding snafu landed it more U.S. power transmission hedging contracts than it bargained for, at higher prices than it wanted to pay.

[...] the company's computer spreadsheet contained mismatched bids for the contracts, it said. "It was literally a cut-and-paste error in an Excel spreadsheet that we did not detect when we did our final sorting and ranking bids prior to submission," TransAlta chief executive Steve Snyder said in a conference call. "I am clearly disappointed over this event. The important thing is to learn from it, which we've done."

As New York ISO rules did not allow for a reversal of the bids, the contracts went ahead.

This error, which cost the shareholders 11 cents per share, was also covered by:  (requires free registration)

EUSPRIG 4th annual conference, Dublin July 24/25

End-user and corporate developers, software testers, and risk auditors can discover best practices in managing spreadsheet risks by attending the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group (EUSPRIG) Fourth Annual Conference.

I am bringing this significant conference to Trinity College Dublin (TCD) on 24/25 July. The updated speaker programme is at including the pioneer researcher Ray Panko of University of Hawaii, Tom Grossman of the University of Calgary, and speakers from industry and professional services including Dean Buckner, IT control specialist of the Banking Division in the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in London.

Theme: "Building Better Business Spreadsheets - from the ad hoc to the quality engineered"

Sponsored by:

European Computer Driving Licence Foundation
Irish Computer Society
KPMG Ireland
The Information Systems Audit and Control Association ISACA(Northern UK Chapter)
Hosted by Systems Modelling Limited


Thu July 24:
Paper: ‘Research Strategy & Scoping Survey on Spreadsheet Practices’ T.Grossman, O.Ozluk
Management Summary: ‘Correctness Is Not Enough’ Louise Pryor
Paper: ‘The wall and The Ball’ Richard Irons
Paper: Reducing overconfidence In Spreadsheet Development’ Ray Panko
Invited Speaker: ‘Spreadsheet Risks in UK Financial Services’’  Dean Buckner, Financial Services Authority, London
Management Summary: Barry Pettifor, PwC
Management Summary: David Chadwick ‘A CobIT Approach To Quality’
Fri July 25:
Management Summary: Paula Jennings
Paper: Spreadsheet Debugging’ Yirsaw Ayalew
Paper: Audit and Change Analysis of Spreadsheets’ John Nash
Quality Engineering: Demos and Products; Code Tracer: M. Siersted; Atebion: B.Phillips.
Research Initiatives at UWIC
Panel: Quality Engineering: is it necessary, is it wanted, what does it mean?

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4) Holiday travel - Paris accommodation websites

We will be taking two weeks off in September, and decided to look online for an apartment in Paris for a week. Here are some sites we found useful. If they are useful to you, tell me; if you know of better, tell me that too! is a site that appears to have advertisements by property owners. It shows photos of the property, a description with appliances, nearby historical sites and activities. The rent and availability is shown by date bands and the site offers cancellation insurance. There is a space for reader testimonials but I could not see any for the properties I was looking at. They also have an email notification service as properties come on the market. All but one of the owners that I emailed replied promptly at the weekend.

The only improvement I would suggest is to give actual street names rather than just "Paris". Owners may not wish to publicise exact street addresses because it advertises that a property may be unoccupied and therefore a target for burglars, but at least a street name and nearby Metro station name would help location.

If you have a street name, you can look up a location at A shortcut for France is

You can get a list of more accommodation links from the Paris Tourist Office: from where I found the agency whose Paris address is:
They have a nice summary page with a set of icons for features and a star rating for neighbourhood quality that allows one to find the right specification quickly.

Another agency showing a well-developed website is (both NY and Paris) that gives address right up front, price, availability, features, description, photographs, and links to maps: is the general French Tourist Office guide to all of France.

I'll let you know which letting service we settle upon in the end. Any suggestions welcome!

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Simply send your comments to FEEDBACK (at) SYSMOD (dot) COM

Thank you! Patrick O'Beirne, Editor

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5) On the lighter side

"Marketing 101" on the difference between Spam and Direct Marketing, Advertising, Telemarketing, Public Relations, Brand Recognition, a Sales Rep, and Tech Support.


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Patrick O'Beirne, Editor

"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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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.

Copyright (c) SML 2003

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