VSJ – Feb 2006

Notice Board

The IAP Annual Symposium is at Trinity House, Tower Hill, London on Thursday, 16 March. Tickets are £70 per delegate (members) and £100 (non-members). Contact the Office on 020 8 5672118 for reservations. See Work in Progress for detailed information about the presentations.

LegalIT 2006 is at the Business Design Centre, Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 0QH on 8 and 9 February. See www.legalitshow.com for details.

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

———————————————————————————————————————–Employment Exchange

Darren Brook, MIAP is an experienced software developer. He has experience in systems analysis, database design and software development. Latest technical skills include .Net, VB, SQL Server, Crystal Reports, ADO, HTML, XML and COM. He is currently available for work and can e-mailed at darrenbrook@btconnect.com
[Want your entry printed here? Email eo@iap.org.uk with the details.]


Sounding Board

As Council member John Weller has revealed before, he has a longstanding interest in the history of computing. Here, he reviews James Essinger’s ‘Jacquard’s Web’.

Arguably the first programmable machine was a loom built by the son of a French silk worker in Lyons. Lyons was the capital of the silk industry in France and produced much fine fabric; amongst their products were fine tapestries showing detailed pictures of landscapes and portraits. These were very laborious and hence expensive to produce. Jacquard determined to design and manufacture a better loom that would produce as good a quality product but with much less effort. The result of his efforts was a loom controlled by punched cards; cards that could be re-used and transferred from one loom to another – in other words, the first program.

Jacquard’s work was greatly appreciated by an English mathematician, Charles Babbage, who was working on a project of his own to automate repetitive tasks. This was the production of mathematical tables, a far cry from woven portraits but with the underlying similarity of predictable, repetitive actions. Babbage was sufficiently impressed by Jacquard that he visited Lyons and bought a woven portrait of Jacquard produced on a Jacquard loom at a cost, in today’s money, of £2500.

This book explores the chain of links that led from Jacquard, through Babbage, to the first programmer – Lord Byron’s daughter, Ada Lovelace. It goes on to Herman Hollerith who produced the punch card machine for data analysis. Hollerith found that the US census was taking so long to analyse that the next census was being made before the data from the previous one was available so he developed the machine initially to analyse census data. It was later further developed to extraordinary levels and was a mainstay of business until it was superseded by the next link in the chain, the digital computer. The final links in the chain are Howard Aiken who was largely responsible for the Harvard Mk 1 and subsequently Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.

The main focus of the book is the early days with Jacquard having 70 pages out of a total of 280; Babbage gets 45 pages and Berners-Lee a short paragraph. This is probably quite reasonable, as there are many books currently in print about the birth of the Web but very few about Jacquard and how his loom works.

Overall the book is a fascinating run through the very early history of IT with much background detail of the individuals who had such an impact on our lives today. It is obviously well researched leading to a very readable book without too much technical detail in the main body. There is an appendix with the technical detail of how a Jacquard loom works. I can highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the origins of computing.

Jacquard’s Web by James Essinger, published by Oxford University Press, ISBN 0192805770


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


Members’ News:

Nominations for the Council of the IAP

The Institution is a democratic body governed by a Council elected by and from its members. Five members of the 15-strong Council retire in rotation each year. Nominations for the 2006 election, accompanied by the nominee’s manifesto (in electronic form and not exceeding 150 words, please) must be received at the Institution Office by 21 February. Contact the Office (020 8 5672118 or admin@iap.org.uk) for further details or an informal discussion if you are interested in playing your part in the governance of the Institution.

Craig Golby, MIAP, managing director of Dignitas Ltd, tells us that his company has recently formed a new alliance with iOpus Software GmbH to supply its Web Testing Software, iOpus Internet Macros, to the UK market. Find out more at www.dignitas.ltd.uk and www.iopus.com.

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

Work in Progress

This month, we’re previewing the Annual Symposium (see Notice Board). As usual, the speakers are experts in their fields and their chosen topics fascinating and current, as you’ll see from the résumés below. Trinity House is a beautiful venue, as the photograph suggests, but it isn’t huge. So make your reservations fast!


Designing and Building Business Driven IS Architectures: Allen Woods

Increasingly, in a standards driven information world, organisations have to report progress towards business objectives using performance indicators. Organisations are also expected to prove compliance with an increasing number of management best practice standards like ISO 9000 and the European Foundation for Quality Model (EFQM). It is often the case that the standards chosen are done for ‘tick the box’ purposes, with little or no joined-up thinking applied. Using case studies and tools developed by JIT Software it will be demonstrated how, by combining a number of standard management planning techniques, any organisation can design and structure an information systems architecture that is founded on its key information needs. Using the approach described can go some way to eliminate one of the perennial problems of IT, the communications gap between the systems designer and the business user.

Allen Woods CISP, MBCS, MIAP, Managing Director of JIT Software Limited, has been writing software systems for a variety of national and international organisations for the last 20 years. Specialising in developing management reporting systems designed to support performance management techniques including the Balanced Scorecard, Allen has developed a number of management planning tools designed to support a systemic approach to organisation design and structuring. Currently Allen is assisting the UK MoD Defence Supply Chain and the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture to implement ‘joined-up’ strategic planning tools.

e-Crime-Down to Business: Ian Walker

e-Crime is an issue that can affect us all, whether we’re software developers, hardware engineers, computer users and even if you don’t use a computer at all. Somewhere, at any one time, everyone’s personal information is stored on more than one computer. Ian will expand on the themes of his series of articles in VSJ. He’ll look at some of the issues we must address – not just as an Industry, not just as computer users, but as a society – if we are to continue to reap the benefits that IT has to offer.

Ian J. A. Walker, FIAP has been in the IT profession since the early 1980s, working in the railway and, latterly, construction industry before forming his own consultancy business in Wales in early 2005. Snowdonia Design & IT Services couples traditional IT consultancy with a graphic design business and, in conjunction with partners, supplies consultancy, software and hardware to the film and TV industry. It is also looking towards building on a successful track record in Data Recovery, expanding into IT Security and combating e-Crime. Snowdonia has recently launched an online IT e-Shop, IT 4 Wales (www.it4wales.co.uk). Ian has been a wheelchair user since a car crash 14 years ago.

Linux: Kevin Groves

Linux provides power and platform scaleability previously unavailable in such a neat little package – and for so little cost. Kevin will outline the Linux/GNU project, then explain why it is better (or not) than other platforms. Being privy to a range of projects/products in his role as Chair of the Kent Linux User Group and a part-time Linux consultant, he will be able to give some real world examples from the point of view of a developer. Points covered will include Web and server side development and Open Source projects such as the Karoshi school project in which he is involved.

Kevin Groves, MIAP is IT Supervisor for a Kent-based pharmaceutical company, managing and developing internal systems. In his spare time he runs a Linux consultancy serving the county of Kent. He has been Chair of the Kent Linux User Group since it was reformed five years ago. Personally, and through the LUG, Kevin is working to promote the use of Linux in business, charities and the home. His consultancy kSoft Creative Projects produces custom applications based on mini-ITX hardware and, of course, Linux.

Managing the Needs of an Offshore Client Base: Tim Benest

Tim will explain the challenges of servicing a client base that is both geographically and culturally disbursed. It is not just about technology but about managing the needs of the people who will use the software and solutions that analysts and programmers have developed. Tim will describe some of the techniques he uses to support his client base remotely, both from Jersey and from hotel rooms around the globe. Communication is key – understanding clients’ needs and being able to put yourself in their shoes.

Tim Benest, MIAP formed Taskforce Systems Limited about 15 years ago having previously worked in the financial sector as a programmer/analyst. His wealth management software, designed for the offshore finance community, is now used by major banks and private wealth management organisations in the Channel Islands, the Caribbean, Switzerland and Singapore.

The Institute of Continuing Professional Development: Jonathan Harris

A qualification is like food – it goes off after a few years! Many professions are imposing on their members a requirement to keep up-to-date. Continuing professional development is the systematic maintenance and improvement of knowledge, skills, competence and enhancement of learning, undertaken by professionals throughout their working lives. CPD and the wider concept of lifelong learning are vital in our increasingly networked world, where the growth of information and communications technologies dissolves distances. But to motivate busy people to really take CPD seriously is not easy – hence the founding of the Institute of Continuing Professional Development. The Institute promotes the values of lifelong learning and encouraging networking and partnership among individual professionals and the groups with which they are associated.  It also provides a real reward to those who take CPD seriously with a Fellowship of the Institute and a right to display the distinguishing letters FInstCPD after their names.

Jonathan Harris, CBE has long been an active member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He was instrumental in formulating the policy and driving its change from a UK based profession to a global one. He was its Millennium President (2000/01). Outside the RICS, he has a long-standing commitment to education. He was a Governor of the University of Westminster and was a member of the Professional Working Group of the Council for Excellence in Management and Leadership, set up by HMG. He is a Trustee of, and has chaired, Business Dynamics. 25 years ago he formed the Continuing Professional Development Foundation (an educational charitable trust that provides wide-reaching and economical CPD to busy professionals). More recently he established the Institute of Continuing Professional Development.

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

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