PraxIS April 2004                    ISSN 1649-2374

04-04 Contents: eVoting, Security awareness training, Ecommerce in Europe, IT contracting rates, Devil's guide to spreadsheets, Euro myths & stereotypes

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


1) Risk management
   Irish Computer Society submission to Commission on E-Voting 
   Security awareness and training materials 

2) Internet and e-business
   Eurobarometer Survey: Issues Relating To Business And Consumer E-Commerce

3) Contractors talk about rates
   What's the average rate for contract IT work? 

4) The Devil's guide to spreadsheet creation

5) On the lighter side
   Euro myths and European stereotypes 

14 Web links in this newsletter
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Welcome to PraxIS!


Patrick O'Beirne

_______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________

1) Risk management

Irish Computer Society submission to Commission on E-Voting

The Irish Computer Society ( ) has made its submission to the Independent Commission on Electronic Voting and Counting at Elections. It is available as a 120K PDF. In summary:
  • The ICS’s stance is that it is in favour of electronic voting in principle.
  • However, the proposed Nedap/Powervote system contains a fundamental design flaw which renders it unfit for use in elections and referenda, namely that it does not incorporate any means to independently verify the results it produces.
  • In the absence of an independent means of verifying every exercise of the Nedap/Powervote system, its accuracy in ongoing use, as distinct from occasional test, is undeterminable by design and therefore the accuracy of every result it produces will be unknown.
  • It is the unanimous view of the electronic voting committee of the Irish Computer Society that under no circumstances whatsoever should any electronic voting system be implemented which does not include a voter verified audit trail. Colm MacCarthaigh's list of the submissions.,1283,62655,00.html Kim Zetter, Wired News, 12 Mar 2004 tells a story related to this: One Sequoia Optech electronic machine used to count optical-scan paper absentee ballots in the 2 March 2004 California primary in Napa County failed to record votes on some ballots. This was detected by chance in a random 1% recount. Kim Alexander said the county was lucky that the problem occurred on a system with a paper trail. "If the problem had occurred with their electronic ballots or with the tabulation software (which sits on the County server), they would have been hard pressed to reconstruct their election. Or, they might not have ever known there was a problem at all."

    The Irish Times of 3 March summarised the submissions: "with more than 90 per cent of the submissions highlighting flaws, only 10 of the 157 expressed satisfaction with the Nedap-Powervote system. However, the Department said it was satisfied that the system would be ready for safe, secure and efficient use in June." Mr David Algeo, a retired businessman and academic, said the Government "seems to prefer an incontestable result of uncertain accuracy to an accurate result that risks being challenged because of known errors".

    The politician's mind is to have no choice, so you can't question the outcome. That point of view is that if there are problems, best not knowing about them, otherwise you have the "appalling vista" of the loss of public confidence. The engineer's mind is to have a cross check so you at least know when there are problems. That POV is that not knowing how bad something is, and therefore accepting an unknown risk, is always worse than knowing just how bad it is and accepting that known risk.


    Free Security Awareness and Training Materials William Uttenweiler posted to the security-awareness yahoogroup this link to 64 security awareness posters. "Are employees walking right past your security education bulletin board because your posters have been displayed for so long they have become invisible? " Melissa Guenther designed the presentations for a campus environment - very open and decentralized. Wireless Security (.ppt) Office Security (.ppt) Risk Assessment, Backups & Data Classification (.ppt) Introduction to Security Awareness (.ppt) Beginners Guide to Computer Security (.ppt) Blaster Worm and So Big Virus Campus Post Morte (.ppt) Email Threats, Precautions and Etiquette (.ppt) Identity Theft (.ppt) Internet Security, Use & Safe Web Browsing (.ppt) Password Construction and Management (.ppt) Phone Fraud (.ppt) Social Engineering (.ppt) Software Piracy and Copyright Infringement (.ppt) A Home User's Security Checklist for Windows "Most people don't secure their computers or act in a secure manner, and the main reason is that the average user just doesn't know what to do. Here is a checklist on security for home computer users that you can share with your friends, family, churches and clubs." By Scott Granneman Feb 13 2004

    | |


    2) Internet

    Eurobarometer Survey: Issues Relating To Business And Consumer E-Commerce

    Fieldwork: September 2003, Publication: March 2004
    Special Eurobarometer 60.0/ Wave 201 - European Opinion Research Group EEIG European Commission
    83% of EU15 consumers had never bought anything on the Internet; 57% of this group simply do not have access to the Internet. On average used by 16% of EU citizens, there is a substantial North-South difference, with 3% of Greeks and 4% of Portuguese using the Internet for transactions, contrasting with 36% of Danes and 37% of Swedes – a factor of ten dividing these two groups. Ireland at 17% is about average.
    While only 5% of those educated up to age 15 had made purchases through ecommerce, the figure rises to 28% of those educated to age 20 or beyond. Only 6% of people aged over 55 had bought in this way compared with 25% of those aged between 25 and 39.
    Security of payment was still an important concern for 48% of EU15 respondents. 38% of those who had bought something using the Internet were worried about the ability to get a warranty or refund from a ‘virtual’ retailer.
    More than one-third (36%) of Europeans who had bought something on the Internet were concerned about delivery aspects (damaged goods, delay, actual failure to deliver, etc.).
    The Irish were the least concerned about this aspect of e-commerce and only 21% of them worry about this issue compared with 46% of the Portuguese.
    Cost ranks just behind convenience as a reason for buying on the Internet with a support level of 47% amongst EU consumers. 58% of Portuguese and 56% of British and Irish Internet purchasers cited this as a prime factor. In Ireland, this figure was more than twice as high as the 22% who cited convenience.



    3) Contractors talk about rates

    One of the most popular threads on the Irish Developer's Network ( ) is "70K is the average wage". Not many agree...

    "From my experience I know of a number of [] contractors taking €400 a day. A number of organisations paying as little as €200 a day. Plus a number of high-skills imports not accepting below €550 a day."

    "Ah, those were the days. I had a short 6 week contract in [] 18 months ago on 375 p.d. Now to even get to the interview I've had to drop it to c.200 p.d."

    This was discussed in the Open list recently, and here a few pithy comments:

    "And after a few years, the whole 'being your own boss' thing fails to make up for the fact that you haven't earned as little cash as you are now since you were just out of college."

    "The real danger with entrepreneurship of any description is not that we will go bust, but that we will not. That we will live from hand to mouth indefinitely, never realizing that were we to do the maths we would be better off working a MacJob." 

    "The Average Industrial Wage in Ireland in 2001 was eur24,490 or 120/day (200 day year) - an employer's cost for this *average* employee would therefore be around 200/day. So, if you're charging e200/day you're just about covering your costs on the basis of the average industrial wage."

    "Plumber 1 Full days work 200 including 2 follow up visits Carpenter for fitting solid wood floors 200 per day x 4 days Different Carpenter for fitting kitchen and doing some plumbing and electrical work 200 per day x 7 days Spark for wiring 250 per day"


    4) The Devil's guide to spreadsheet creation

    1. Just do it. Jump in and do it. The users will have to accept whatever you produce anyway.
    2. Fire, then aim. You know what is really needed without having to ask.
    3. Never simplify (that just makes it easier for other people to get your job); just keep adding bits without removing old stuff.
    4. Deadlines live on.
    5. Documentation is for wimps; specifications are for the timid.
    6. Don't obtain test data; whatever the spreadsheet result is, is right.
    7. Don't protect the sheet; that restricts the users' right to improve your formulas by typing in what they want.
    8. Don't fill in the properties sheet, they'll find out you were the author.
    9. VBA (Very Buggy Application) debugging is easy; just keep making changes until something appears to work, then your responsibility is finished.
    10. Never use in-cell comments or help text on the page; users should just know what to do.
    11. If you know what units of measure are used, you can safely assume everybody else does too.
    12. Mix input data with calculation cells to keep the users on their toes.
    13. Never mix absolute and relative references, it can shorten billable time.
    14. Hide some data in cells so that when users trip over it, their respect for your cleverness increases.
    15. If asked to do a test run, ask "Don't you trust me?"
    16. Format with as many decorative colours and styles as possible, to relieve boredom.
    17. Don't keep backup copies of different versions of a spreadsheet, the latest is always the best.
    18. Hardcode constants in formulas; after all, they don't change.
    19. Cross-tot checking is merely redundant calculation.
    20. To test a spreadsheet, you only need to check whether the answers look reasonable.

    The consequences for falling for some or all of the above temptations are described in more than thirty spreadsheet problems at 



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    Thank you! Patrick O'Beirne, Editor

    _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________

    5) On the lighter side

    Euro myths and European stereotypes
    Euro-myths? Most of them are just plain bananas... By Stephen Castle in Brussels and Andrew Grice for the London Independent, 25 March 2004. "Exit the Queen,  The United States of Europe,  EU army,  Straight bananas,  No more UN for UK,  Taxation,  End of car boot sales,  Justice,  Foreign affairs,  Tax-free shopping,  No more brandy butter,  Britain's borders,  North sea oil,  Identity cards,  Migration,  Condoms,  Designer goods,  Welfare,  Straight cucumbers,  The super-EU."

    Just to perpetuate some myths a bit longer, here are links related to national stereotyping:   "The perfect European should be..." cartoon 
    "Cooking like a Brit; Discreet as a Dane; Available as a Belgian; Sober as the Irish; Humorous as a German; Generous as a Dutchman; Talkative as a Finn; Famous as a Luxembourger; Driving like the French; Organized as a Greek; Humble as a Spaniard; Patient as an Austrian; Controlled as an Italian; Flexible as a Swede; Technical as a Portuguese."  Intercultural differences – a psychological analysis of French versus American stereotypes of each other.



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