Member Since: 8th Aug 2003
Stewart Twynham is an experienced information security expert and AccountingWEB contributor. He recently founded the independent cyber-security consultancy Brandfire (https://brnd.fr/) to help businesses in Scotland tackle these issues.
7th Feb 2005
re: Almost works
Hmm... David - you mentioned those horrible letters... A-O-L...
Actually, it does sound as though something's gone awry, but "taking 15 minutes" to cut and paste may just mean it's too big even for the script to cope with!!! If you copy and paste the whole of the error page, then that should give me an idea as to the problem.
If it's not too confidential, you can also email the spreadsheet to me and I'll get it working for you... or you can paste in dummy values into all the cells if you want to "hide" the figures.
...but back to AOL - the output of the script is a pure XML file which should just save as without a problem... on Internet Explorer it shows as XML fine, but it is possible that the AOL browser you are using doesn't support receiving XML as type text/html...
3rd Feb 2005
Re: IT Management
Like most professions, a combination of vocational training, transferable skills, plus some business acumen all help.
If you've already got a semi-relevant (e.g. technical / business) degree - then that's a good start because the "Management" part of IT Manager will necessitate a good foundation that a degree would give you.
For the nuts and bolts technical training, I would look at vendor-specific training as a good start. It's not expensive and certifications from Microsoft et al have become much tougher of late (and hence more respected) - and will give a future employer some confidence in your technical ability...
You've rightly identified the Internet / Networks as a key part - I would recommend looking at the Networking, Windows Server and SQL Server (Database) components in an MCSE course. These would go *extremely* well with your existing accountancy skills.
The reason is that most "techies" understand how to plug cables in and get PCs working, but when it comes to the underlying technologies (esp. databases, application development) they struggle. Add on the ability to read a balance sheet or understand how to derive an aged debtors report from the transactional tables in an accounting system and you'd be very employable by both end-users as well as software vendors / resellers / integrators.
Finally - join the British Computer Society (www.bcs.org). As well as massive reductions on software (incl. Microsoft / Macromedia) - members benefit from being part of a professional institution. If you want to genuinely pursue IT Management as a career, the BCS will give you the learning and CPD opportunities you need.
Hope this helps!
(PS - Welcome to the profession!)
Stewart Twynham BEng(hons) MBCS
Bawden Quinn Associates Ltd
1st Feb 2005
Okay, not perfect - but I thought this up last night whilst settling my six week old.
1. Go to...
2. Copy and paste the whole of the XML spreadsheet saved below into the box and press submit.
3. Resulting page will contain new global spreadsheet. Rows are calculated automatically, and regular expressions used to trim out the <row> tags.
Bugs: (a) cannot cope with different numbers of columns, first worksheet MUST have the most (or equal number of) columns of all sheets.
(b) First sheet becomes the placeholder for all sheets.
31st Jan 2005
Export as XML
Bit fiddly, and it's best using XSLT if you want to automate it... but if it's just a one-off try this method.
1. Save the spreadsheet as an XML file (Save As, XML spreadsheet).
2. Open the XML file in Notepad and manually remove the sections that divide the worksheets e.g.:
...lots of rubbish...
<Table ss:ExpandedColumnCount="3" ss:ExpandedRowCount="20" x:FullColumns="1"
...but don't remove the very last </Table>
3. Then set the number of rows in the first table tag to a number larger than total the number of rows e.g. ss:ExpandedRowCount="1000"
<Table ss:ExpandedColumnCount="3" ss:ExpandedRowCount="1000" x:FullColumns="1"
4. Save the file and open in XL - bingo, one big worksheet.
6th Jan 2005
Is it really webmail or POP3?
As I understand it, Demon's webmail service is simply a web-based front-end to a standard POP3 account (I stand corrected if this is not the case) - and EFS is designed to collect from a POP3 account anyway.
In *theory* then, tools such as Mailwasher should work if you point them to the underlying POP3 server (pop3.demon.co.uk) with the right account details. Mailwasher won't care who the mail is sent to - but should do a reasonable job of cleaning things up prior to your EFS tool logging in.
As for Norton (hardly an awe inspiring product at the best of times), there should be a way of turning off just POP3 anti-virus protection, and hence stopping Norton from stepping in (although you'll need to supplement this with A/V protection elsewhere).
Finally - the very best answer is to take up some form of subscription based email anti-virus / anti-spam service which operates at the Internet level. This will prevent viruses and much spam from reaching your ISP email account in the first place.
Most ISPs offer this including Demon, and cost from zero to a few pounds per user per month depending on your Intenet access package. Either way, it's much cheaper than your hours of lost time.
Hope this makes some kind of sense - please drop me an email if it doesn't!!
17th Dec 2004
Rings a bell (no pun intended!!)
Yes... in advising a few clients I have come across a number of "we are the UK's leading / fastest growing / best" type phone companies offering seemingly great deals, and I was recently asked to sit in on one such meeting.
This was a "we can reduce your call costs so much that it will fund a replacement phone system" type of deal. The trouble was:
1) It was a 7 year lease agreement!!
2) The phone system was actually less well specified than the one that was already in place (the bullet points of the presentation included unheard of features such as being able to transfer calls between extentions and Direct Dial In!). The car has doors, windows AND a steering wheel...
3) They were extremely cagey about the exact details of the call charges and savings
4) The salesman's knowledge of phone systems was non-existant (this only encourages me to discuss in depth the more subtle differences between the older DASS vs I.421 ISDN30 standards...)
The final nail in the coffin (if one was needed) came when I sat down with the client and we did the maths against an alternative telecoms supplier that I had worked with for many years. They were able to save the client so much on call charges that (a better) replacement phone system could have been funded outright in just 11 months...
I would agree with you... be careful what you sign!!
18th Nov 2004
Oops... sounds like the old "write to the company telling them they're using illegal software" ploy... Normally only the office juniors fall for that one :-)
Seriously, *their* legal rights ceased being an issue the moment they were invited in to carry out this "audit".
The question is now, as Alastair explained, what they now intend to do with the information they've uncovered...
Can... Worms... You get the picture!
15th Nov 2004
As we all know, using unlicenced software is a form of theft, and hence there are a number of organisations which exist to eradicate this illegal use of software. Unforunately, their methods vary considerably!!
FAST has historically been one of the less aggressive, whilst The Business Software Alliance (BSA), which has used some pretty draconian measures in the past, has recently doubled it's bounty for staff to report illegal software use in their workplace to £20,000!
It all very much depends on (1) what triggered the audit in the first place, and (2) whether or not you are using software illegally. Ultimately, there is a world of difference between "not meeting numerous regulations" and actually breaking the law. Do they mean (for example) that your record keeping is poor - this might make it a bit harder for you to prove that you're compliant, but may make it even harder for them to prove that you're not!
Still, plenty of organisations have opened their doors to be audited only to be taken to court once significant evidence of software mis-use has been discovered!
Email me (in confidence!) should you wish to discuss this further...
15th Nov 2004
Another option, particularly if you are wanting to run "very" incompatible products in the future, is to use something called "Virtual PC" from Microsoft which should set you back around £100, plus you'll need plenty of RAM.
It's extremely easy to install and lets you run multiple "virtual" machines as a window under Windows 2000 Pro / XP Pro / Windows 2003.
Because the "virtual machines" are completely separate (although you can drag and drop between them and share using networking) - anything you do on one can't disrupt the other.
Virtual machines can be almost any operating system from DOS / Windows 95 to 2003. On my XP laptop I've even got a copy of Windows 2003 Server / Microsoft Exchange / SQL Server Enterprise & Exact Globe 2003 all running in a window!
Using Windows 98 as the "virtual" O/S should be fine for your requirements and not demand too much of your laptop's resources!
8th Nov 2004
re: What to back up
It's a valid point you raise about "what to back up", and one that's probably best answered by some form of risk assessment. The idea is to balance the cost of backing up (time / costs / etc) with the cost of any downtime.
Taking our client base as an example: at one extreme we have a sole trader who is very computer literate, has simple computing needs, is happy restoring software from a CD and would have the time to do this. Risk there is fairly small, so a simple "back up the relevant directories" type strategy is more than adequate.
Alternatively, at the other end of the spectrum we have several clients which run very demanding applications that have taken several years to "tune", and who would incur costs in excess of £50,000 for each day they are "down". Clearly, in these cases a "belt and braces" solution is a no-brainer.
The difficulty comes somewhere in the middle, especially where the client has never actually experienced a major failure / fire / theft / flood before and sees backup as yet another "IT expense"... In this case a risk assessment can be used to good effect to prioritise any investment on the components that matter most for the survival of that business - after all, 85% of businesses that suffer a major disaster cease trading within 18 months (source: IoD).