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Promoting eWork in Remote Regions: Lessons from FlexWork

Promoting eWork in Remote Regions: Lessons from FlexWork. Wilson, F., Grene, M., Stewart, H., & Rogina, D. 2003. eChallenges e2003, Paul Cunningham, Miriam Cunningham, & Peter Fatelnig, eds., IOS Press, The Netherlands.

eProcurement project gets the go-ahead

By: Margaret Grene
Public sector spending is big business these days. In fact, spread right across the public service from Healthcare, to Education, to Communications and a variety of goods and services it is worth approximately 9 billion euros worth of business annually.
In April 2002 the Government’s eProcurement strategy was launched. Local Authorities, Health Boards and Government bodies are forging ahead, getting ready to do business online; and this poses an opportunity and at the same time a threat to SMEs. It is an opportunity to expand or continue their business into the public sector arena but it is also a threat for those who do not do business online.
On November 26th last Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce hosted a one-day seminar for SMEs, Local Authorities and all those interested in the topic of eProcurement. Speaking at this event, Margaret Grene from the TSSG warned that eProcurement cannot exist outside of the broader context of eBusiness and SMEs who fail to embrace eBusiness will also miss the opportunity that eProcurement promises.
There is also the issue of the process – a large unwieldy process may prove prohibitive to the SME.
The eProc project, which has just been approved for European Regional Development Funding under the INTERREG IIIB North West Europe Community Initiative on Territorial Planning, will address these issues. The Irish partners, the Telecommunications
Software & Systems Group (TSSG) at Waterford Institute of Technology and the South Eastern Regional Authority (SERA) (on behalf of 6 Local authorities in the region), together with lead partner Antur Teifi Cyf of Carmarthenshire (Wales)and other partners in Cardiff (Wales), Stuttgart (Germany), Mulheim an der Ruhr (Germany) and Utrecht (Holland) have identified the following work plan for this three-year project.
1. Investigate eProcurement policies and strategies across North West Europe and solution developments.
2. Evaluate and benchmark the SMEs (in agreement with the Local Authorities) in respect of their use of ICT, eCommerce and eProcurement.
3. Investigate methodologies in use for eProcurement.
4. Devise a suitable methodology with step-by-step guides for all.
5. Participants in the process
Pilot this methodology and evaluate.
With the benefit of transnational collaboration between each of these partners and the sharing of knowledge and experiences from each country it is envisaged that this EUR1.2 million project will take the North-West European region to the vanguard of the eProcurement arena.
For more information about this project please contact mgrene@tssg.org.

Spam – it doesn’t just come in a can!

By: Jonathan Brazil
Undoubtedly the Internet and e-mail can be hailed as one of the great success stories of our time. However, no success has come without some trailing leeches. The leeches of the Internet come in many shapes and sizes, from computer viruses to computer hackers destroying and accessing sensitive information. Closer to home is something that every e-mail user across the globe is familiar with, “spam”.
Put simply spam is unwanted, unsolicited e-mail sent from a wide variety of annoying companies and individuals. Spam will offer you everything from pre-approved credit cards and loans to tempting business ventures and other corporate ideas. More worrying is that spam doesn’t stop here; it extends further into the realm of unwanted correspondence. Not all the e-mails received from spammers are simply annoying offers of business deals, the vast majority are of a more explicit adult nature. Spammers are indiscriminate in who they send unsolicited e-mail to; this raises an even more worrying problem of young children becoming the recipients of this type of e-mail.
Why do we get spam? How do these people know my e-mail address? I’m sure that these two questions have already come to the forefront of your mind. Well the reasons are various and it is probably difficult to narrow down exactly why. Some of the known reasons are:
1. Chain mail where large volumes of e-mail addresses are forwarded on along the chain allowing anyone on the chain to extract a list of potential victims
2. e-mail addresses being displayed in plain text on web pages allowing specialised programs known as “trawlers” to poach the addresses from the pages
3. Companies whom you register your e-mail address with, passing on your details to other not so legitimate companies.
Most spam e-mails come through a complex network of servers using false accounts so that it is very difficult or almost impossible to trace back the e-mail to its source. For this reason alone if you reply to an e-mail from a spammer it will probably be rejected as the account you are trying to reply to does not exist. Reporting the e-mail to your Internet provider will most likely do no good either as Internet providers are usually too busy to deal with such small issues and do not have the resources to track down every spam server sending e-mails to their clients.
All is not lost, even though spam will probably continue to plague us all in some small capacity there are steps we can take towards helping to eliminate this unwanted scourge:
1. When passing on jokes or other information to a large body of people using e-mail only put one address in the To field and put all the other addresses in the Bcc field. This will prevent any recipient of your original mail seeing and passing on all the addresses originally included.
2. Take measures to conceal your e-mail address on your webpage so that it cannot be trawled, there are several ways to do this and a little research will help you on your way.
3. Never reply to a spam e-mail or follow any links that ask you to submit your e-mail address to unsubscribe. Chances are that you will only succeed in telling the spammer that your e-mail account is active and you are available to receive more unwanted mail from them.
4. Set up rules in your e-mail client to reject or disallow e-mails from addresses that you notice as being replicated more than once. This won’t stop the spam being sent but at least you won’t have to look at it.
5. Always check the box to disallow companies from passing on your details to other parties when registering with them online. Most companies provide this feature if you can bear to live without the exciting special offers you may forego.

What is the worlds fastest computer?

By: Shane Dempsey
Mankind is obsessed with speed. I mean mankind in the generic sense but most women would agree that part of the male condition is an unhealthy preoccupation with making things, anything, go faster. The world of computing is no different with ever more expensive and powerful machines being constructed by teams of gifted engineers around the world to tackle computational tasks involving massive ‘number-crunching’ and data storage. Examples of such problems include mapping the human genome [1], analysing geological data, theoretical physics including cosmology and that old chestnut; predicting the weather.
It is clear that these tasks are beyond ordinary desktop machines, which gives rise to the term ‘Supercomputer’. A supercomputer is a broad term for one of the fastest computers currently available. For many years, the speed of computers was measured by how many millions of instructions per second, or MIPS, they could execute. This measurement would be a suitable barometer of system performance, were it not for large differences in the instruction sets that different families of machines use. For example Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC ) machines, like Apple’s G4 computers, have an instruction set that is radically different to Intel’s Complex Instruction Set Computing (CISC ) processors found in most PCs. Hence there can be large differences between these processors in the number of instructions necessary to carry out any particular task. Supercomputers are primarily number crunchers so their performance tends to be measured in Floating point Operations Per Second ( FLOPS ). Current supercomputers’ performance is measured in billion FLOPS (Giga-FLOPS) and trillion FLOPS (Tera-FLOPS).
The secret to this performance normally consists of breaking up processing tasks into sub-tasks that can be executed concurrently across multiple dedicated processors, potentially using a single communications ‘bus’ or over a very high-speed network backbone. By simultaneously executing tasks on high-speed, bespoke processors or even clusters of standard PC processors and, by cleverly managing how memory and communications resources are ‘shared’ between these processors; massive number crunching capabilities can be realised. There are a few schools
of thought on how best to realise these number crunching capabilities. In general these depend on whether the computer will be built from a large number of off-the-shelf processing units or from a smaller number of custom, very high-powered processing units. The Intel processor in most home PCs is an example of a processing unit. Parallelism is achieved using software together with hardware. To provide a real-world analogy, a business needs a management function to enable the employees to collaborate towards the business goals in a focussed and structured fashion. The operating systems and programming languages for parallel machines are analogous to and fulfil this role. For this reasons it is possible to use many standard PCs on a network as a supercomputer using cluster-computing software such as that developed by the Beowulf project. [2]
The fastest computer on the planet is the ‘Earth Simulator’ developed by NEC Corporation. This machine is housed in the Earth Simulation Centre in Kanazzawa, Japan. Its peak performance exceeds 35 Teraflops (trillion floating point operations per second). More information can be obtained from the ‘Top 500′ website [3], dedicated to providing information about the top 500 supercomputers every year since 1993. Earth Simulator or ES as it’s affectionately known contains 5120 processors, 10 Terabytes of memory (about 40,000 times the memory of the average home PC) and occupies the same area as 4 tennis courts. Its performance is staggering as its computational capabilities are greater than the sum of the other 19 fastest computers on the planet.
For further information or reading on the subject of supercomputing you can take a look at the following sites listed.
[1] Human Genome Program
[2] The Beowulf Project
[3] Supercomputing Top 500

Mobile Phones – where’s the harm?

By: Jesse Kielthy
No industry has had such an impact on our daily lives as that of the mobile phone industry. In the industry’s short history, the number of mobile phone users in the developed world has increased exponentially. It’s little wonder then that debates are raging about the health implications that these devices will have.
Electronic devices, such as phones, emit electro-magnetic radiation. Using these phones implies that such radiation will, in some way, have an abnormal effect on our health and our lives. Furthermore, holding the phone to our head, where the radiation will be in close proximity to such vital organs as the brain and our eyes, does little to lessen the anxieties feared by some.
Phones emit what is known as non-ionising radiation, where some heating effect will occur, but usually not enough to cause any long-term damage. At high levels, the radio frequency (RF) signals used by phones to transmit voice signals across the network can heat human tissue, but mobile phones operate at power levels well below the point at which such heating will take place. Guidelines are set in place by the World Health Organization (WHO – www.who.int/peh-emf/en) to avoid all identified hazards, from short and long term exposure, with a large margin of safety incorporated into the limit values. Significantly, the main conclusion of reviews commissioned by the Organization is that exposure to electro-magnetic fields within the limit recommended by it do not have any known consequences on health. Also, the Federal Communications Company (FCC – http://www.fcc.gov) in America, which regulates the licensing and use of radio transmitters in the States, has concluded that “the available scientific evidence does not demonstrate any adverse health effects associated with the use of mobile phones”. No study to date has provided conclusive evidence that cell phones can cause any of the feared illnesses.
However, the mobile industry is relatively young. While the timeline of wireless phones will date back to the mid-twentieth century, it is only within the last decade or so that cellular phones have become commonplace and an integral part of our lives. Because of this, studies into the long-term effects on our health have been somewhat limited.
For those who are more apprehensive, there are ways to actively combat radiation levels. The further the phone is from the user, the weaker the level of radiation. Therefore, hands-free sets are available, which increase the distance between the user and the phone. Placing the antenna as far away from you as possible is something else that can be done. If it’s possible to extend the aerial on your phone, do so. Also, the longer people expose themselves to radiation, the greater the risk that they are taking. If someone is regularly using mobile phones from a young age, then it follows that they are at a greater risk. Therefore, limit the use of phones by children.
It’s clear that using mobile phones does not pose a danger when used in moderation. For those who seem to be constantly on the mobile however, be a bit more careful. Show a little caution and use technology to your advantage – that way, possible long-term risks are reduced.

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