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Archive for August, 2011

Systems and programme building bits


An information system must do at least 3 things

Input data into the system

Process data within the system

Output resulting information from the system


A computer program is a solution to a problem

An algorithm is the logical design used to accomplish a specific objective (step by step instructions)

The two most commonly used tools for documenting the program logic (the algorithm) are flowcharts and pseudocode

Syntax is the structure used in coding, typos are a common source of syntax errors

Flow chart

A flow chart has a start, decisions actions and an end point

Input statements

An input statement takes data from a user and stores it in a variable

A variable is a storage location in memory (RAM) that can be accessed and changed by the code

Making decisions

Sample statements

Pay amount = Hours * Rate

Pay amount = 40 * Rate + (Hours – 40) * Rate * 1.5

40 hours are taken off the hours worked (Standard working week), any extra hours are paid at time and a half (Over time)

The IF statement

The most common decision structure is the if statement

A condition is a boolean expression that evaluates to either true or false (yes or no)

Conditions typically involve one of the 6 relational operators

Relational operators

Operation – Description – Expression

=  –  Equal  –  x = 2

<>  –  Not equal  –  y <> 5

>  –  Greater than  –  x > 1

<  –  Less than  –  x < 2

>=  –  Greater than or equal  –  x >= 2

<=  –  Less than or equal  –  x <= 6

Nested IF statement

An IF statement contained within the true or false branch of another IF statement

Compound conditions

A compound condition consists of two conditions within a parentheses joined by a logical operator

eg. a = b  AND c = d, if both are true then it is true

The four most common logical operators are NOT, AND, OR, and XOR  (A=5, B=8)

NOT = Returns the opposite of the condition




You and your intellectual property

Intellectual property is work which has been thought of by an individual before anyone else.

Intellectual property includes copyright, patents, confidential information, trade marks and registered designs.


The copyright act

The copyright act protects original expression and grants control over certain activities such as use of the works and dissemination of the works.

Copyright covers:

  • Literary works
  • Dramatic works
  • artistic works
  • Musical works
  • Sound recordings
  • Films
  • Broadcasts
  • Cable programmes
  • Typographical arrangements


Copyright requirements

Work must fall within the above categories, must be sufficiently original, the author must be a qualified person (???) and certain works must be ‘fixed’


Copyright does not cover government works or court judgements


With your own copyrighted material you can copy, publish, sell and issue the work to the public, play/show/broadcast the work in public, adapt or authorize others to use your work


The duration of a copyright

50 Years from the author’s death

50 Years from broadcasting

25 or 16 years from industrial application

After these times the work becomes ‘public domain’ which means anyone can use it


Permitted acts

These are exceptions to the copyright.

  • Fair dealing – Excerpts can be used for criticism or review etc
  • Limited copying for educational purposes
  • Limited copying/ dealing for librarians
  • Certain crown activities
  • Copying to braille
  • Backup of computer programmes
  • ‘Time shifting’ (recording for later viewing, like taping a show you may miss) or for complaints


Protecting your copyright

Your copyright comes into existence automatically when you create your work there is no registration system so you may want to keep dated proof and include a notice on the work. There is international protection (WTO) although only if the other country has the same laws and bothers to enforce them…


Your copyright moral rights

You have the right to be identified as the author, you have the right of integrity and you have the right to not have work falsely attributed to you, especially if you didn’t do it 😛


Copyright amendment act 2008

This was bought in to conquer the rights of technology and stuff

It generalizes some terms, allows educational storage and the expands archival rights, allows decompilation of programs under section 92a


The patent act

A patent is an invention or manner of new manufacture with a time limited right that is only valid in New Zealand (or the country which it is registered). A full description of the work is required


Patent rights

Your rights exclude others from making, using and selling your work while the patent is current.

The patent lasts 20 years with renewal fees being paid yearly for those 20 years. Patents are granted by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand.


International patents

These can be obtained either in each country or by using an international application


Trademarks act

A trademark can be a sign, it is something represented graphically, something which covers goods or services and distinguishes between persons or companies


Trademarks do not cover

Names in general, same or similar material to others, misleading, confusing or offensive material, generic or descriptive terms, superlatives and geographic material


A registered trademark provides

The exclusive right to use the trademark

The right to assign or license

Ten years protection

Right to renew after each ten years

No rights overseas


The design act

This relates to visual appearance only based on new or original features of shape, configuration, pattern and ornament

Can be registered for up to 15 years and needs to be renewed every 5 years within this time

This act doesn’t apply to methods or principles, sculpture (except casts or models), Wall plaques or medals, printed matter such as book jackets, maps and plans.



The court system in New Zealand

Different levels of the court system

  • Tribunals and authorities – No appeal, appeal to district court, appeal to the high court
  • District courts – Civil, criminal, youth, family, (also on the same level is employment court, environment court, maori land court and courts-martial appeal court
  • High court
  • Court of appeal – Used to appeal decisions from lower courts
  • Supreme court

Supreme court

  • Established in 2003 to replace privy council and identify New Zealand as an independent country
  • This is the last stop in our justice system
  • It contains a bench of 5 judges

Court of appeal

  • Founded in 1862 to try to offset costs of going to privy court (which was in england, shipping lawyers etc.)
  • It became a permanent fixture in 1957
  • Deals with appeals from the high court and serious criminal charges from the district court

High court

  • Established in 1841 but known as the supreme court until 1980
  • Specialises in the legality of the cases and conduct of other inferior court

District court

  • This has general jurisdiction for jury trials (where the sentence is less than life imprisonment), all summary criminal matters and civil actions up to the value of $200k
  • Family and youth courts are subdivisions of the district court

Other courts

These include

  • Employment court
  • Enviroment court
  • Maori land court
  • Youth court
  • The tribunal


There are three types of research: market, scientific and economic

Epistemology is the study of the origin, nature, methods and limits of knowledge

Knowledge is a description of the state or operation of some aspect


Research process

Phase 1 Clarifying:

Clarifying the issue to be researched, selecting a research method


Phase 2 Data collection:

Collecting, summarising and organising data


Phase 3 Analysis and interpretation:

Relating the evidence to the research question, drawing conclusions, suggestions for further study



Research as a discipline

  • Requires clear thinking, careful observation
  • Must ask researchable questions


Research questions have two properties:

  1. They are limited in scope to certain times, places and conditions. A small part of a larger question
  2. Or they are observable, tangible, countable evidence which is collected is relevant to the question (empirical evidence based on, guided by or using observation and experiment


Researchable questions

  • Questions of right and wrong are not answerable by empirical research. Questions that ask opinion can’t be answered with facts.
  • Questions of aesthetics can’t be researched….


Honesty and accuracy….

To maintain the reliability of the research requires:

  • Objectivity (No emotion)
  • No bias in asking of questions
  • No bias in the selection of the sample population
  • Accurate recording and representation of data
  • Accurate ….


Record keeping

Research must be documented so that:

  • Someone else can see what you did and why you did it
  • The reliability of the process is safeguarded….


Assessing the limitations

  • sample size and representativeness
  • Conclusions drawn from the data must be limited to the research question or objective


Research is a disciplined process for relating theory and data


What is theory?

  • An idea about how something works
  • An idea about what difference will be made by doing or not doing something
  • An idea about how things relate to each other
  • A theory asserts a relationship between concepts
  • We use research to test theories



  • Information collected in the research process
  • Measures of specific thing as they were at a particular time
  • They only have meaning when related to theory



Quantitive – How much, how many, how often

Qualitative – Quality of events being studied, eg. images, feelings, impressions


Phase 1 Unpacking the theory:

  • General statement unpacked to produce a researchable question
  • Narrowing and clarifying the problem:
  • What are the main concepts?
  • What is happening here?
  • What are the issues?
  • Is one thing affecting or producing a change in something else?


Unpacking the problem

List the issues surrounding the problem

  • Use you own experience
  • Review the literature: Consult authorities, book, journals, the internet and previous research


What is a hypothesis

  • All theories begin with a hypothesis
  • It is a statement which asserts a relationship between concepts (cause and effect)


An idea that stands for something

An idea/thought process

Represents a class of things

Ethics and morals etc


Ethics are standards of conduct which are based on moral duties and virtues derived from principles of right and wrong. Ethics are your public beliefs.


Morals are your personal beliefs and ethics, your sense of right and wrong, they are principles based on your life experiences and values

Is and ought ethics

Is – Descriptive ethics, describes operational standards of behaviour

Ought – Prescriptive or normative ethics, discernment of and commitment to principles


Values are your core beliefs or desires that guide or motivate attitude and actions

Ethical values – Public values

Non-ethical values – Usually personal

Conflicting values –

Contradictory values – Do as I say not as I do


The six pillars of character

Trust worthiness – Honesty (but not all lies are unethical), integrity, reliability, loyal

Respect –

Responsibility – Accountability, pursuit of excellence, self-restraint

Fairness – Impartiality, equity

Caring –

Citizenship – Being part of a community

*Enemies of integrity include self-interest, self-protection, self-deception and self-righteousness


The process of ethical decision-making

Perceive and eliminate unethical options

Foresee possible consequences

Select the best ethical alternatives (you should always have more than one option, like a plan ‘b’)

Ethical decision-making requires

Ethical commitment

Ethical consciousness

Ethical competency

Kants Categorical Imperatives

The moral character of an action is determined by the principle upon which it is based – not upon the consequences it produces

No exceptions, no excuses


The golden rule

Don’t do things to others that you don’t want done to you

Five steps to principle reasoning


Determine what must be decided

Devise a full range of alternatives


Evaluate facts and assumptions

Distinguish facts from beliefs, theories and opinion


Make a judgement

Evaluate the viable alternatives

These three ‘ethic guidelines may help

the golden rule




Develop an implementation plan

Avoid a judgmental or self-righteous attitude

Monitor and modify

Monitor the effects of decisions

Revise a plan if necessary

It is inevitable that some decisions will be wrong

The ethics double standard

We judge ourselves by our best intentions, our most noble acts and most virtuous habits

We are judged by our last worst act

Ethical issues in IT

The assault on life

  • Social structure

– Citizenship

– City states

– Neighbourhoods

– Family units

  • Transportation

– Teleworker

The assault on reality

  • Fantasy theory analysis

– False realities

– Living fantasies

  • Virtual reality
  • Global village

The assault on education

  • Education distribution used to be based on local centres (physical location)
  • Virtual education

– The assault on institution

The assault on information

  • Information that was contained about ourselves use to be restricted to what we wanted other people to know
  • Electronic devices
  • Smart cards
  • Databases
  • Hacking
  • Information distribution

The assault on the individual

  • How information has disturbed our rights to individuality
  • Spam
  • Big brother

– Microsoft XP


– Listeners

  • Personal information

Freedom of speech

  • The reality

– We have the right (in NZ) to say what we want how we want

  • Books
  • The internet

New Zealand Legal System tidbits

New Zealand has two types of law common and statute. Common law is based on England law while statute law has been created here.

A bill can be put forward by any member of parliament

A select committee is a cross section of parliament

There is no single constitutional document in NZ

Explaination of the program life cycle and its components

The program development life-cycle has 6 phases

  1. Define the problem
  2. Design the solution
  3. Code the program
  4. Test the program
  5. Document the program
  6. Implement the program

In this post I will further define these phases

Define the problem

  • Determine the program requirements – What should it do?
  • Usually this means meeting with analysts/users
  • Identify the program components – Input, processing, output (IPO)

Design the solution

  • Design an algorithm for a solution to the problem
  • An algorithm is a series of logical steps required to solve a particular problem
  • Design tools help to break down the problems and describe the solution

Design tools

  • Flow charts to show the steps in the algorithm
  • Structure charts to show program flow
  • Desk checking to validate the solution


  • A flow chart is a graphical representation of an algorithm
  • Each step is represented by a symbol and the arrows indicate the flow and order of the steps
  • The shape of the symbol indicates the type of operation that is to occur
  • Flow charts may help the more visual students learn and understand logic

Structure charts

  • Structure charts like flow charts are graphical
  • They show the order in which each step in the algorithm should be performed – the program flow
  • They also show the logic that determines the order

Desk checking

After designing a solution, make sure it is going to work before coding it by desk checking it.

  1. Develop sets of test data (inputs)
  2. Determine the expected result (output) for each data set without using solution algorithm
  3. Step through solution using one set of test data and writing down actual result obtained (output)
  4. Compare expected results with actual results
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each set of test data

Code the program

  • Translate the solution algorithm into a programming language
  • Enter program code into a programming development tool using the correct syntax

Test the program

  • Remove the syntax and logic errors
  • Syntax error – when code violates the programming languages rules
  • Logic error – when the program does not generate expected output when using the test data
  • Logic errors are also called bugs, so finding and fixing bugs is referred to as ‘debugging’
  • Debugging tools – some errors are difficult to find so programmers use a debugger that allows them to walk through the as each statement is executed

Document the program

Programs should be documented so that others can easily understand and change them

Details include:

  • A narrative description of the program
  • Comments in the program that explain what is happening
  • Flow charts, IPO charts and structure charts
  • Testing procedures

Implement and maintain the program

  • The program(s) are installed on the clients system
  • Training, user manuals, user upgrades and conversions must be taken into consideration during the implementation
  • Eventually programs may need to be updated due to mandatory updates such as government regulations or changes in the way the business operates
  • Programs may be enhanced to add new features or functionality
  • Programs may become obsolete when changes become too difficult or new technology becomes available. When this happens, the program development life cycle starts again

Input, Processing and Output (IPO charts)

Many programs use three steps:

  1. Gather input data – from the keyboard, from files on disk drives
  2. Process the input data
  3. Display the results as an output – Send it to the screen, write it to a file.

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