PraxIS July 2006

06-07 Contents: Security Breaches, BillG Design review, Galileo GPS project, IT Skills, Spreadsheet conferences

ISSN 1649-2374 This issue online at   [Previous] [Index] [Next]

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


1) Risk & Security
     Security Breaches Pandemic
2) Software quality
     Joel Spolsky talks about his first design review with Bill Gates
3) European affairs
     .eu domain land rush may pay off for some
     GGPhi, a Low-Cost, Low-Power Galileo/GPS Carrier Phase Receiver
     IT Skills Certification: EUCIP and SkillsCert
4) Spreadsheets
     Bonus materials for owners of  'Spreadsheet Check and Control'
     Eusprig 2006 Conference, Cambridge, UK, July 5-7
     London Excel User Conference July 19-21
5) Off Topic
     Singing in the heatwave
     The apt quote
17 Web links in this newsletter
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Welcome to PraxIS

This month, to coincide with the July conferences of Eusprig and Excel users, I am pleased to offer a free download of supplementary material exclusively for readers of my book on Spreadsheet Check and Control.

Patrick O'Beirne

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1)  IT Risk and Security

Security Breaches Pandemic  It hardly seems worth reporting on now, it's so common. So much education to do. My correspondent Al Macintyre comments "Remember that Security Breaches have been occurring for decades. The only thing, that is relatively new, is a legal mandate to report them, when this affects residents of some USA states, and that is assuming the breached outfits even know they been breached. For most of the world, this mandate does not yet apply. So what we have recently been seeing in the news, about security breaches, is just the tip of an iceberg.",1015,sid%253D1000%2526cid%253D121102,00.html Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu survey of 150 companies in technology, media, telecommunications. This year the survey highlights a surge in the number of security attacks, with more than 75 percent of respondents confirming external breaches, and almost 50 percent reporting internal breaches. Seventy-two percent of participants experiencing a breach estimate that it cost their organization greater than US$1 million.  The Six Dumbest Ideas in Computer Security  "Credit Suisse send out a huge Excel file with, what I (& they?) originally thought, was just one line to confirm a FX trade - in fact, if you simply changed the auto-filter, you could see about 15k other ones - and who did them all too... Despite telling them - they don't seem to change this..." UK university offers first hacking degree
Abertay University in Dundee will launch the UK's first 'ethical hacking' BSc course in September in a bid to train more white hat hackers to fight the growing threat of cyber-crime. The Wikipedia entry on Security Audits is asking for help.

Quote: Douglas, Helen Gahagan, 1973 "If the national security is involved, anything goes"


2) Software Quality

Joel Spolsky talks about his first design review with Bill Gates

"In those days we used to have these things called BillG reviews. Basically every major important feature got reviewed by Bill Gates. I was told to send a copy of my spec to his office in preparation for the review. It was basically one ream of laser-printed paper." Read the whole story online: "My First BillG Review"

Quote: Gates, Bill "The great thing about a computer notebook is that no matter how much you stuff into it, it doesn't get bigger or heavier."


3) Europe

.eu domain land rush may pay off for some  Cybersquatters who broke the rules when registering .eu domains can be stripped of them at any time, says .eu registry EURid. But if they manage to sell their domains before being caught, they can keep the proceeds, according to the registry. 


GGPhi, a Low-Cost, Low-Power Galileo/GPS Carrier Phase Receiver The Informatics Development Institute are involved in an EU funded project led by a team in the University of Leeds Institute of Satellite Navigation.  The GGPhi concept aims at making precision positioning attainable for applications that are constrained by environmental and cost issues. A network of Galileo carrier phase receivers, capable of detecting movements of the order of millimetres, could be an early warning system for incipient landslides.

Quote: Galileo, Galilei: Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.


EUCIP IT certification  EUCIP, the European Certification for Informatics Professionals, is an entry level IT Certification which was developed by CEPIS, the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies, for undergraduates and IT workers who do not hold official qualifications. The programme is being administered in Ireland by ICS SKILLS, the training and certification body of the Irish Computer Society.

Irish Computer Society promotes Skills Framework  SKILLSCERT incorporates the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) which was devised to classify job roles and skills in the ICT sector. It is now widely recognised in the UK and has become the definitive tool for communication and dialogue within HR and IT communities there. The framework is increasingly referenced and used in Ireland, not least because of its many practical applications within the HR function.

Quote: Clinton, William What you earn is largely determined by what you learn.


4) Spreadsheets

Bonus materials for owners of  'Spreadsheet Check and Control' 

1) A 303K 11 page PDF: Understanding the recalculation mode, Lookup and Transition Formula Evaluation, Pie charts with negative data, Using Excel Scenarios for test cases, Comparing worksheets.

2) An expanded chapter on Data Validation, 16 pages, 468K PDF..

3) Bonus material outside the scope of the ECDL syllabus. Mainly VBA examples,16 pages, 320K PDF.

To download, please have the book to hand in order to enter a password from a page and then visit: 

Links to buy the book: Available worldwide from Amazon.  Our offer - free shipping to EU in July 2006.

Quote: Einstein, Albert: As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

Eusprig 2006 Conference, Cambridge, UK, July 5-7, 2006 The Sixth annual conference and AGM of the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group ( ) theme is Managing Spreadsheets: Improving corporate performance, compliance and governance. The venue is Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge UK.

Ray Butler, Louise Pryor, and I will be running a 'New Readers Start Here' session at 4pm on Wed 5th. My topic is a lighthearted The Devil's Guide To Spreadsheet Development, with a serious message inside.

The main programme now fills two days, with a strong emphasis this year on testing.

Spreadsheet Compliance is being addressed by Tulin Pledger of Mobius, Dean Buckner of the UK Financial Services Authority,  Don Price of the UK Revenue & Customs, Brandon Weber of Microsoft, Keith Bishop of Qtier/Rapor, and Simon Murphy of Codematic. Grenville Croll and Ray Butler reveal a disturbing picture of inadequate quality controls in the construction of spreadsheets used for medical and clinical applications.

Spreadsheet testing is addressed rigorously by Ray Panko of the University of Hawaii, and a test-driven approach by Alan Rust et al of the Dundalk Institute of Technology. Other speakers focus on documentation and development methodology, with a particular emphasis on the financial markets. Academic research into error types and quality improvement is well represented with speakers from Australia, the UK, and the USA.


London Excel User Conference July 19-21 

Excel users are gathering in the London, England this Summer - July 19-21, 2006 for the first UK Excel User Conference. The conference is coming to London by large demand. The UK conference has a great list of presenters: Martin Green, Nick Hodge, Simon Murphy, Patrick O'Beirne, Bob Phillips, Andy Pope and Charles Williams.

The event will be held close to the heart of London at the University of Westminster - Marylebone Campus. July 19th will be directed towards the intermediate users and July 20th will have topics for the advanced users. Add-on classes will be available for an additional fee.

Beyond the Basics - Wednesday, July 19th:

* Intermediate VBA by Bob Phillips
* Spreadsheet Design by Simon Murphy
* Building Custom Functions by Martin Green
* Intermediate Charting by Andy Pope
* Calculation / Optimization by Charles Williams
* Preventing Spreadsheet Errors by Patrick O'Beirne

Advance to the Next Level - Thursday, July 20th:

* Advanced Counting And Summing by Bob Phillips
* Building an Excel Add-In by Martin Green
* Converting xla add-ins to COM add-ins in VB6 by Simon Murphy
* Advanced Charting by Andy Pope
* Writing efficient and trouble-free VBA UDFs by Charles Williams
* Pivot Tables by Nick Hodge

2006 West Coast Excel / Access User Conference October 25-27th, 2006 Marina del Rey Hotel Marina del Rey, California USA Announcement soon!

Origin of the word "Algorithm" : ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi, ~790-~850 Iraqi Mathematician Name and description of mathematical processes as a variant of his name.


ScanXLS finds the links between a whole system of workbooks  SCANXLS is my Excel utility to scan directories and create an inventory of spreadsheets. It also builds a cross-reference of their dependencies, and helps assess their quality. It is one of the very few link directory tools in the marketplace



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

Thank you! Patrick O'Beirne, Editor

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5) Off Topic My wife Megan and I are taking some time off after Eusprig to take part in the Really Big Chorus performance of Verdi's Requiem in aid of charity in the Albert Hall on Sunday 9 July. Lost for words? : Eigen's Political & Historical Quotations has 12,000 people, 42,000 quotes by and about historians, politicians, and public figures. That's where the quotes above came from!


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