VSJ – Feb 2002

Notice Board



Ratio Group, who provide object and component training and consultancy, have announced a new on-site training passport scheme. Targeted at smaller companies looking to get greater value for money from their training budgets, the scheme offers on-site training in subjects such as XML, C++, Java, EJBs, C#. Net, UML and VB.Net. Get further details by telephoning 020 8579 7900 or emailing info@ratio.co.uk.


In December’s issue, I mentioned the assistance that companies can receive from UKISHELP at www.ukishelp.co.uk when making bids for European Union finance to support new projects. The EASEL project is an example that already has such support. It is addressing the standards-based provision of online learning based on state-of-the-art repository technologies. The objective is to offer educators an environment in which they can readily combine existing learning objects to create new online educational offerings. The work involves the development of an XML metadata repository for storing descriptions of learning objects, assessment modules for interrogating objects, a web-based search gateway and a construction kit. See www.fdgroup.com/easel for more details.


The Brighton Conference on Web Site Development and Design takes place on 8 February. Ring 0800 968254 or fax 0800 892972 to register.

The Strategies for Successful E-Business Conference is at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London from 11-13 March. There’s also an exhibition during its last two days. See www.xmlwebservices.co.uk for details.

[Got an activity or event coming up? Email eo@iap.org.uk with the details.]


Sounding Board

Council member Paul Lynham, FIAP may not have a bee in his bonnet, but it sounds as if he’d like one….

Some studies have shown that people living in industrialised societies may spend up to 90% of their lives indoors. Okay, you may think, with the British weather that’s not so bad. However, the same studies have shown that increased exposure to indoor air pollutants correlates directly to an increase in the number of allergic reactions. A building whose air quality negatively affects those who occupy it suffers from Sick Building Syndrome.

Indoor air pollutants come from a number of sources such as carpeting, furnishings and synthetic building materials. However, electronic devices like photocopiers, printers and computer monitors also emit various compounds and can affect the amount of static electricity in the environment.

Many IT workers have been aware of health and safety issues concerning monitors – lighting, reflection, positioning, definition, radiation and so on – for many years. The effects of the pollutants released by such equipment on the environment and the workers in it have been less clearly understood.

While conducting research into the design of a breathable lunar habitat, NASA concluded that some common indoor plants could dramatically reduce the levels of toxic chemicals in poorly ventilated buildings. Certain plants can substantially decrease the levels of benzene, formaldehyde and trichlorethylene, amongst other toxins.

Benzene is found in many chemicals including inks, oils, paints, plastic and rubber. Formaldehyde is found in virtually all indoor environments and can be present in foam insulation, pressed wood products, consumer paper products treated with resins and many cleaning products. Trichlorethylene is an ingredient of inks, paints, lacquers and adhesives.

The following appear in NASA’s list of plants most effective in removing toxins from the air:

Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea Seifritzii)

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema Modestum)

English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera Jamesonii)

Janet Craig (Dracaena “Janet Craig”)

Marginata (Dracaena Marginata)

Moss Cane / Corn Plant (Dracaena Massangeana)

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sensevieria Laurentii)

Pot Mum (Chrysantheium  Morifolium)

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”)

Warneckii (Dracaena “Warneckii”)

Other plants that are effective include Weeping Fig, Golden Pothos, Aloe Vera, Heart Leaf Philodendron, Mini-Schefflera, Dwarf Date Palm, Rubber Plant, Boston Fern, Ficus Alii, Areca Palm and Peperomia.

Using plants to improve air quality makes sense, as they can clean the environment without using chemicals – chemicals that could themselves contribute to pollution. Plants are economical in that they can replace air filters, require no electricity and have the added advantage of enhancing the workplace both aesthetically and chemically. Also, in removing impurities, most emit oxygen.

Thus the overall effect of their use is that the risk of human sickness and stress is reduced, leading to increased productivity. Nobody can guarantee that having a plant next to your computer will improve your code, but you never know, with better air quality, it may allow you to think more clearly!

Something you’d like to get off your chest? Email me (Robin Jones) at eo@iap.org.uk.


Members’ News:

SCALE 21: The Next Phase

A Conference entitled “Building Britain’s Brainpower” will take place on Monday 11th February 2002 in the Faraday Theatre of the Royal Institution, Albemarle Street, London W1, starting at 10.30 a.m. It will bring together over 450 IT leaders and entrepreneurs to review the pathfinder research of the three SCALE21 working parties and propose recommendations to take this project forward. Douglas Alexander MP, Minister of State for e-Commerce and Competitiveness has agreed to give the keynote speech. Lunch will be provided by courtesy of the Office of Science & Technology, Department of Trade and Industry.

We’ve reported on SCALE21 (chaired by Charles Ross, FIAP) before, but just to remind you, the working parties’ briefs are:

  • 1. To produce an inventory of the myriad IT courses, qualifications [nearly 1000 and counting!], examining bodies and initiatives. This will form the basis for a “One-Stop Shop” Web portal to help people who are considering IT as a career to investigate the professional opportunities open to them.
  • 2. To identify the underlying skills that have made members of the IT profession successful. Calibrand, Reed in Partnership and Computer Weekly are directly involving some 150,000 IT professionals in this process, making it the most comprehensive study of its kind ever undertaken.
  • 3. To make it easier for the next generation to create the new, innovative businesses that will underpin the economy in the future by bringing together a large number of successful entrepreneurs to identify the barriers and impediments they have experienced in the education system and in industry. It also considers the various tax and financial measures that discriminate against entrepreneurs, accumulated unintentionally over the years.

To ensure a reservation, visit www.scale21.org, fax 020 7592 9138 or write to SCALE21 Reservations, 1 Castle Lane, Victoria, London, SW1E 6DR.

Don’t forget to email eo@iap.org.uk with items of news about you or your company.

Work in Progress

Ken Haynes FIAP has been involved in systems design and development for PCs for 21 years. He is currently developing in Dephi 6. Here, he writes about Microsoft’s Product Activation system and asks, ‘Is it a passing phase or a future standard?’

Windows XP is arguably the most significant release of Windows since Windows 95, but will Product Activation deter new users?

What is Product activation and how does it work?

Product Activation (PA) is the latest weapon from Microsoft in its war against software piracy. Many new Microsoft products including Windows XP and Office XP have this feature incorporated into their set-up processes. The concept of PA is a simple one. It prevents products from being used on more personal computers than is intended by the software’s licence. Most software installations require a Product Key (sometimes called a serial or licence number) to be entered during the installation phase. PA takes this key and transforms it into an Installation ID. The Installation ID is derived in part from the Product Key but – most controversially – also from a checksum derived from the configuration of the PC itself, thus providing a unique reference to that particular machine.

The Installation ID is then given to Microsoft, either automatically via the Internet or manually by contacting Microsoft on a freephone number (initially available 24 hours a day in most regions). Microsoft then provides the user with a Confirmation ID that is used to activate the product. Initially, you will have 30 days in which you can use the product without activating it. No personal information is sent to Microsoft during the PA process, as product registration is a separate issue.

Why the fuss?

PA is a simple operation and seamless via the Internet, so why the big fuss? The problem lies in the fact that if the configuration of the computer on which the software is installed changes significantly, as will occur when expansion cards are added or removed, the product “thinks” that it is not on the computer on which it was originally installed. So it requires reactivation.

At first glance, this seems to be an unthinkable imposition to place on the end-user. In reality however, the number of hardware changes needed to cause reactivation to be required appears to be between four and six. Should you be in the position of having to reactivate your software, according to Microsoft, you will be allowed four activations without having to telephone them. It seems that the real problem will be for those people in the business of evaluating or reviewing hardware for whom constant hardware / configuration changes are a necessity. For most home users, should activation be required, it will be nothing more than a minor inconvenience.

Why the need for Product Activation?

Corporate users who participate in a volume licensing agreement with Microsoft will not be required to activate their products. Microsoft’s main concern is casual copying, as they call it, which, by and large, is more of a problem in the domestic market.

According to last year’s BSA Software Piracy Report, it is estimated that in the year 2000 software piracy cost the computer industry almost $12 billion (£8.3 billion). The software industry has to absorb this loss. As a result there are fewer jobs, less research and development and higher costs to consumers than would otherwise be the case.



Many anti-software piracy methods have been tried over the years without much success. The main reason for the failure of most of the systems was the potential inconvenience to end-users. People were simply not prepared to tolerate such high levels of “policing” and the subsequent inconvenience. Microsoft appears to have struck a fair balance between protecting its interests and the needs of the end-user. I believe PA will become a fact of life in Microsoft products and I am sure it will not be long before other software vendors follow with similar methodologies.

As for the take-up of Windows XP, I can’t see there being a significant reduction in the number of copies being sold owing to the incorporation of PA once people understand the mechanism behind it. Let’s face it, sooner or later, most personal computer users will be using it, whether they like it or not.

Interesting project or development? Let us know at eo@iap.org.uk!

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