PraxIS Oct. 2008

08-10 Contents: See no risk, Euro Slovakia, Bleak Vista, Recession, What do you look for

ISSN 1649-2374 This issue online at http://www.sysmod.com/praxis/prax0810.htm   [Previous]   [Index]   [Next]

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

IN THIS ISSUE

1) IT Risk
    See no risk...
    Euro conversion in Slovakia Jan 2009

2) Quality
     Bleak Vista

3) Spreadsheets
     Recession bites
     Auditors: What do you look for first

4) Off Topic
     US Presidential Candidates and spreadsheets

7 Web links in this newsletter
 
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Welcome to PraxIS

The focus on risk today is on the financial markets. Still, these desperate decisions are being taken not just with political intent but based on models of the economy; so I hope these are not just double-checked but quadruple-checked at every stage from requirements specification, building, and testing.

Patrick O'Beirne

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1)  IT Risk

See no risk...

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/18/how-wall-streets-quants-lied-to-their-computers
"The people who ran the financial firms chose to program their risk-management systems with overly optimistic assumptions and to feed them oversimplified data. ... Wall Street executives had lots of incentives to make sure their risk systems didnít see much risk. "

Euro conversion in Slovakia Jan 2009

http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/1220152623.0
"Slovaks struggle to get to grips with euro prices"
The government has pushed through a law threatening fines of up to 166,000 euros and the blacklisting of those who take advantage of the currency switch to push up prices unjustifiably. The average Slovak monthly wage last year was just over 660 euro.
I hope their converters are correct. I saved one administration from approving a calculator that gave incorrect answers because of my knowledge of boundary cases in software testing.

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2) Quality

Bleak Vista

No, not the economy this time but the current target of WTF expressions from users of Windows Vista. Back in December 2006 security researcher Peter Gutmann detailed how Vista is intentionally crippled by DRM, to protect "premium content".
http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/24.53.html#subj5

I (re-)discovered that last weekend when I tried to burn some MIDI files to CD. In XP with iTunes 2005, that was simple. From version 6 on they removed that feature so I stuck to iTunes 5. Now using Vista, I could not installed that MSI package - it displays an error message that I should run setup.exe directly. But  there is no setup.exe in that package, as revealed by Less MSIťrables (a tool to extract the contents of an .msi file)
http://blogs.pingpoet.com/overflow/archive/2005/06/02/2449.aspx
I tried the msiexec command to extract the files to a temporary folder, but it foiled that saying that I need ISSsetup.exe. I tried three versions of that before giving up.

So, I thought, I'll simply play the files in Windows Media Player, and record them in Audacity, save as WAV or MP3 and burn them. No,Vista does not present the Wave In device to Audacity. Clicking "Enabling disabled devices" in the Sound driver does not reveal it or "Stereo mix". Dell support tells me that the Sigmatel card only allows recording from the microphone - of course,  Dell did not disclose that limitation at the time of purchase. In fact, there is evidence that that statement is fudge:
http://direct2dell.com/one2one/archive/2008/08/15/stereo-mix-record-functionality-and-dell.aspx
There are various workarounds  posted including registry hacks and installing drivers from XP or another PC, but I'll postpone trying them. It looks like I'll have to do the old analog workaround of playing on one PC and recording on another via a phono cable. What a crock.

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3) Spreadsheets

Recession bites

Apparently Compassoft folded in July. What a pity, I really liked the products. I knew ExChecker before they bought it, and was impressed by Byron Baynham's work. I met Libby Koehn and liked the AI approach to identifying risk elements in an inventory of spreadsheets. Still, these people are now not just clever, but more experienced, so expect to see more of their work emerging later. In fact, I see http://www.excelauditor.com is now up!

Auditors, what do you look for first?

http://smurfonspreadsheets.wordpress.com/2008/04/18/first-thing/
Simon Murphy asks "Whats the very first thing you look at/for when you open a workbook from someone else? " and Harlan Grove posts some good observations on good and bad smells, some of which are catered for by my upcoming XLTest addin.

Spreadsheet Check and Control: 47 best practices to detect and prevent errors

http://sysmod.buy.ie/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=188  Our offer - free shipping to EU .

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Thank you! Patrick O'Beirne, Editor

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4) Off Topic


This is the only link I can find between spreadsheet research and a Presidential Candidate. McCain questioned in 2004 whether it was wise to fund the OSU research project:
http://www.friendsofmccain.net/news/dspnews.cfm?id=115
January 22, 2004
Statement of Senator John McCain On The FY '04 Omnibus
"I also am concerned about funding for the Scientific and Technical Research and Services account the National Institute of Standards and Technology. [...] I would ask my colleagues to ask themselves if it is more important to fund a spreadsheet engineering initiative at Dartmouth University, or research to help our beleaguered manufacturing sector. [...]In the long run, it will be considered a great tragedy that we have wasted our nation's scientific potential on meaningless parochial projects. "


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