VCE IT Lecture Notes by Mark Kelly

Information Processing and Management

VCAA Exam Post Mortem

2004

VCE IT Exam Post Mortem

Post Mortem Notes

This is not a VCAA publication!
I do not speak for the VCAA, the IT examiners, or exam markers.
I was not involved in the setting or marking of this examination.
Extracts from exams are all Copyright © VCAA, and are used with permission. Thanks, VCAA!
Use these post mortems at your own risk.
I reserve the right to change my mind completely, at short notice, about anything I've said here.
Suggestions, discussions and corrections are welcome.
If any third-party copyrighted material has inadvertently been used, please let me know

Questions are in black.
My suggested answers are in blue.
My editorial ramblings about the exam are in blue italics.
Examiners' report comments are in red italics.
Purple shows the explanation of an answer.

 


EXAMINERS' GENERAL COMMENTS (paraphrased by me)

  • Some students rewrote the question before starting their response, which was not necessary.
  • Weaker students did not pay careful attention to the stem of the question and responded in a generic manner - especially Q11d, 12b and 13c. e.g. in 12B students tended to list rather than explain, e.g. ‘Training should be on-site’ rather than ‘I would recommend that the training occur at the library so staff are in a familiar environment’
  • Students should be familiar with terms such as list, outline, explain, discuss and justify. A useful strategy is to highlight key words.
  • Weaker students stood out in questions that required multiple responses, for example Questions 1b, 2b, 7, 10c and 13e. Some students only answered one requirement; others answered both requirements by just repeating the same response using slightly different wording. For example, for Question 13e, a common student response was ‘Difficulty one is that staff cannot easily find a client’s quote’ and ‘Difficulty two is that when a client rings up with a query it is hard to find their quote’.
  • Students should indicate their understanding of key study terms when using them in responses, e.g. don't use the words ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ without showing an understanding of those words. e.g. In Question 1b just saying a drop down box ‘is more efficient’ and ‘is more effective’ does not earn marks.

AN IPM POST MORTEM NEW FEATURE

Monumental screwups in questions are now marked by the new and exciting DOG'S BREAKFAST ™ icon.

In part B, when you see (X lines), it means the printed exam had that many lines provided for the written answer. It's to give you an idea of how much detail the examiners were expecting for the marks awarded.

Questions have often been paraphrased or summarised to save space - and because I'm still wary of the VCAA's copyright watchdogs. Really critical wording in questions has not been changed. Examiners' official answers are taken from the "Examinations - Multiple choice report for <school name> - Year 2004" document issued February 2005.

Jump to section B

SECTION A - Multiple Choice

* or grey-shading indicates the examiners' official answers.
Percentages under question numbers refer to the percentage of the students in the state who got it right.

1

84% of students got this right

A digital camera's image resolution is usually described in terms of <A*> dpi. (The closest thing to a correct answer)

'cps' is characters per second (printing speed, sometimes communication speed)
'bps' is bits per second (communication speed)
'ppm' is pages per minute (printing speed)

Thinks: There is some debate about the difference between dpi and ppi in reference to screen and print output. I won't give the dog a biscuit about that... just yet.

(12 November 2004) The question reeks of Shmackos.

There is considerable confusion and misuse of terms like "dpi" and "ppi" for screen graphics and print graphics. Try this for an introduction
http://graphicdesign.about.com/library/weekly/aa070998.htm

As for digital cameras, every site I visit says the same: "Digital camera resolution is measured in Megapixels." e.g.
http://www.digital-camera-buying-guide.com/digital_camera_pixels_resolution.php

This question is looking increasingly shaggy.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

1

84*

3

9

4

 

2

78%

Which set of diagrams best illustrates a bus and a star network topology?

O dear o dear. Not a good start for the 2004 exam. It sure isn't <A> (the star is way wrong), and in <B> the star looks more like a Hebrew topology. Can't be <D> because there's nothing at the hub of the star. That can only leave <C*> but... What am I going to say, kiddies? Yes!

HOW MANY SERVERS HAVE 5 NETWORK CARDS IN THEM?

Sheesh! I really wish people would NOT draw stars like that. Repeat after me: STARS MUST HAVE SWITCHES!

This questions earns the inaugural DOG'S BREAKFAST AWARD.

Other people have commented on the minuscule nature of the pictures, including the sardonic observation that students were required to have pencils and pens, but not magnifying glasses. One of my students reported he had trouble seeing whether the thing was a computer or a switch - or perhaps a Dog's Breakfast ™?

One contributor suggested:

If the network design is considered as the logical design and not the physical design then the diagram is probably correct.

But one wonders why the bus logical design would include something as trivial as terminators, while the star omits a core piece of equipment like a switch. All I know is that showing kids designs like that encourages them to present physical designs just like that - with no switch.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

2

6

3

 

78

 

13

 

3

95%

'Speed limit signs tell you the maximum speed you can drive in normal conditions.'

This statement's purpose must be to <A*> inform rather than to entertain, persuade or influence.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

3

 

95

 

0

2

3

 

4

55%

Asked for a characteristic of data, <B> 'structured' and <C> 'summarised' refer to information, not data.

<A> 'tabulated' means 'in a table' which does not apply to all data, so that leaves <D*> 'unorganised', which is certainly a characteristic of data. Organising data means processing (or manipulation), which turns it into information.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

4

4

17

24

 

55

 

 

5

63%

As part of the introduction of a new information system an organisation defines specifications for the input, processing and output requirements. Which stage of the Systems Development Life Cycle is occurring?

Well, according to the options, the closest one is <A*> design. The other options, development, implementation and evaluation all happen after the system has been defined.

But let me get onto my soapbox for a minute. Surely the given tasks happen during analysis when the logical design (i.e. system specifications) is created. The actual design phase is when the physical design is done.

I can hear the dog drooling nearby, but need some verification. I'd like to hear other people's thoughts on this one.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

5

 

63

 

21

11

4

6

71%

Part of a flow chart for creating a web page is shown below.

What would go in the diamond symbol? After importing a picture, the only option related to it is <C*> crop picture...

But <C*> is a process, not a true/false decision. How can "Crop Picture" lead to a "Yes" decision?

The other options, <A> Print page, <B> spell check and <D> test hyperlinks suffer the same problem.

In a flowchart, a diamond shape means a decision e.g. 'Is the page faulty?'

Processes (e.g. "Test hyperlinks") appear in rectangles.

How can "Crop Picture" - or any of the 4 options - lead to a "Yes" decision? They cannot. The flowchart is simply wrong.

The answer should have been "Does picture have irrelevant stuff in it?"

Woof.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

6

5

6

71

18

7

63%

An audience can be characterised by its <B*> culture.

Not structure, usability, or completeness. A trite question. A brain-damaged tomato could have guessed that one.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

7

15

 

63

 

16

6

8

58%

One of the key provisions of privacy legislation is best described as

  • A. restricting the illegal copying of software. No. This is copyright legislation.
  • B. controlling the rights of government agencies. No. Silly option.
  • C. restricting the collection of personal information. Only when data is sensitive or irrelevant to the reason it's being collected (see National Privacy Principles #1 and #10)
  • D*. controlling the use of information collected by organisations. Yep. That's it.

     

    A

    B

    C

    D

    Question

    %

    %

    %

    %

    8

    13

    3

    26

     

    58

     

9

84%

 

The best technique to test if a solution is meeting consumer needs is

  • A. survey staff the day after implementation.
  • B. survey clients the day after implementation.
  • C. survey staff three months after implementation.
  • D*. survey clients three months after implementation.

Point one: to test consumers, survey clients, not staff! That eliminates options A and C.
Point two: don't evaluate too soon. Wait until users have had time to adjust to the new system, so <B> is too soon.

The answer has to be <D*>.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

9

2

10

4

 

84

 

10

37%

The sales manager of a cleaning product company is ordering his monthly supply of chemicals based on the summary of daily sales reports he receives. Is the type of decision <A*> tactical, <B> strategic, <C> operational or <D> organisational?

Hmmm. I've never heard of <D> organisational decisions. Cross it out.
It surely can't be <B> strategic, which would be a long-term and big decision. Zap that.
The only real options are <A*> tactical and <C> operational.

Tactical decisions are characterised by a typical timeframe of months, and make strategic decisions come to life.
Operational decisions are day-to-day or week-to-week decisions to keep the organisation operating and working.

The fact that the manager is using summaries of daily sales implies he is middle-management, and the decision would probably be <A*> tactical.

These questions always give me the irrits. There are no clear dividing lines between the decision-making categories.

Thinks: Why, I wonder, would a sales manager be ordering supplies? Sounds odd to me.

Down, boy! No food here yet...

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

10

 

37

 

17

40

6

11

83%

An electricity supply company develops an information system to allow its customers to pay their bills over the Internet. The organisational goal most likely to be achieved by this system is

  • A. to maximise profits.
  • B. to increase market share.
  • C*. to improve customer service
  • D. to provide a safe working environment.

Cross out <D> because it's silly.
Put a question mark against <A> - it's a possibility.
Same for <B> - if competitors are doing the same thing.
But the goal MOST likely to be achieved is <C*> because paying bills over the internet would definitely improve customer service.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

11

8

8

 

83

 

1

12

71%

The table above shows the part-time employees' wages for an organisation for the week ended 29 October. Part-time employees can work a maximum of 20 hours per week. What type of data validation technique would be used on Hours worked?

  • A. rate check
  • B. date check
  • C. spell check
  • D*. range check

<B> and <C> are silly - cross them out.
<A> is a distractor and does not really exist.
Gotta be <D*> - you would check that the figures fell into the range of 0 to 20.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

12

19

9

0

 

71

 

13

58%

The introduction of privacy legislation caused changes in the ways that businesses operate. What type of impetus for change is privacy legislation?

It's <A*> social, not economic, procedural or technological.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

13

 

58

 

15

20

7

14

76%

Questions 14 and 15 refer to the table below.

In the table above the critical path consists of tasks

  • A*. 1,2,4 and 5
  • B. 1,3,4 and 5
  • C. 1,2,5 and 6
  • D. 1,2,4 and 6

The path from start to end that takes the longest time is <A*> 1,2,4,5.

Can't be <B> because tasks 1 and 3 are concurrent.
Can't be <C> because tasks 5 and 6 are concurrent.
Can't be <D> because task 6 does not lead to the longest possible path.

MAYBE COMING SOON: a fuller explanation in the hugely popular Gantt chart tutorial page.

Editorial: Do the examiners have trouble putting dependency arrows on their Gantt charts? It would really help students read charts if it were clear which tasks were dependent on which others. The dependencies are indicated in the names of tasks (e.g. "install XXX after YYY is done") which is satisfactory, but rather awkward. Why leave the dependency arrows out? Because they're hard to draw if using Excel to create the chart? Dependency arrows exist in Gantt charts for a Very Good Reason, and I think it would be nice if the examiners used them.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

14

 

76

 

13

5

6

15

61%

In the table above how many tasks can run over time without affecting the completion date? 1,2,3 or 4?

OK. Deep breath... Think...
Only tasks that are NOT on the critical path can possibly run over time without affecting the completion date, so eliminate the 4 tasks on the critical path (1,2,4,5).
This leaves 2 tasks (3,6), so the the answer must be 1 or 2 tasks.

Can task 3 run over time? Yep (5 days).
Can task 6 run over time? Yes (2 days).

So the answer is <B*> two tasks.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

15

20

 

61

 

14

5

16

71%

Which of the following would best test the usability of a solution?

  • A. test the information is readable
  • B*. test the solution is easy to operate
  • C. test the information produced is accurate
  • D. test the solution performance matches the design

Usability refers - duhh! - to how easily a solution can be used. That tends to suggest <B*> is the answer. Duhh.

Note that 2 options referred to the info and 2 referred to the solution. It can make a difference!

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

16

4

 

71

 

14

11

17

86%

Questions 17 and 18 refer to the diagram below.

In the diagram above an ' Encrypted tunnel' is used. Encryption is best described as sending data

  • A. out of order.
  • B*. in a coded format.
  • C. over a public network.
  • D. in small packets with headers.

Well, even my dear old grey-haired mum could've guessed it was <B*>.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

17

4

 

86

 

7

2

18

37%

In the diagram above the Virtual Private Network (VPN) firewall used by the Australian Taxation Office {ATO) is intended to...

  • A. block ATO staff from accessing the Internet. SILLY answer.
  • B. allow anyone to access the ATO's Ethernet local area network. SILLY answer.
  • C*. allow registered tax accountants access to ATO's local area network. Yep.
  • D. block viruses from entering the ATO's local area network. Firewalls don't block viruses.

I challenge any man, woman, dog, examiner or bald-headed baby to claim the answer is <D>.
Firewalls are NOT virus scanners! Firewalls block unauthorised packets, not files, entering or leaving any of the 65,536 internet ports. They stop hackers port sniffing and activating trojans. They stop trojans "phoning home" to hackers. They are not virus scanners!

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

18

4

4

 

37

 

55

19

77%

One advantage of a parallel changeover method is

  • A. it is the cheapest way of changing over to a new system.
  • B*. the old system is still available to use if problems are found in the new system.
  • C. any problems in the new system can be fixed before it is installed in the entire organisation.
  • D. the system is installed in parts, so that problems in one part can be fixed before other parts are installed.

Parallel changeover is not the cheapest - direct would be.
<C> is referring to the pilot scheme where a system is tried out in part of the organisation, not the entire organisation.
<D> refers to phased changeover.
So the answer is <B*> where the old system keeps running for a while after the new system is brought online.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

19

5

 

77

 

11

8

20

41%

A full backup of a company's file server is completed every Friday night. Partial backups are completed on the other week nights. A virus, which affected a variety of files, was downloaded and activated on Wednesday night. In which order must the steps be followed to restore the files?

  • A. remove damaged files. Update virus software. Restore Monday, Tuesday and Friday backups
  • B. update virus software. Remove damaged files. Restore Monday, Tuesday and Friday backups
  • C. remove damaged files. Update virus software. Restore Friday, Monday and Tuesday backups
  • D*. update virus software. Remove damaged files. Restore Friday, Monday and Tuesday backups.

This is a bit of a complex one, requiring a deep breath and careful attention to the options.

Two options (A and B) can be eliminated immediately because you would need to restore the Friday full backup before adding on the incremental backups from Mon and Tues. Otherwise you could be overwriting newer files with older ones.

So, what's the difference betwen the remaining options, <C> and <D>?
Should you remove damaged files before or after updating virus software?
It's not a hard question when you calmly think about it a little.

  • How are you going to tell which files are infected and need to be removed? Use a virus scanner.
  • Will the currrent virus definitions be able to find the virus in infected files? No, because they let the virus in earlier. The virus must have been released after the virus definitions were released.
  • What do you need to do to find the infected files? Update the virus definitions.
  • Now the virus scanner can detect the virus, identify the infected files, and remove or clean them.

So, the answer must be <D*>.

Actually, this was a challenging and interesting question. Bonus points to the examiners.

 

A

B

C

D

Question

%

%

%

%

20

11

9

38

 

41

 

SECTION B

SM = state mean mark for that question

1

 

Shown below is a drop-down box for a field on a web page survey.

Age
0-10
11-20
21-40
41-60
61+

a. Identify the step of information processing in which this drop-down box would be used. (1 line, 1 mark, state mean=0.4)

Input.

No, not 'validation', dear firm-thighed and well-intentioned reader. Drop down menus are data entry controls. They incidentally happen to prevent invalid data being entered, but their main task is to enter data.
It annoys me when people claim that limited lists (such as drop-down menus) are validation devices. They don't detect invalid data: they prevent invalid data!

b. State two advantages of using a drop-down box. (2x3 lines, 2 marks, SM=1.1)

  • It prevents users entering invalid data.
  • It ensures data is entered in the format required by the system.
  • It's quicker for users to enter data.
  • It's sometimes easier to use for those with poor keyboard skills.

2

Many modern computers are being sold without floppy disk drives.

a. Explain the role of a floppy disk drive. (3 lines, 1 mark, SM=0.55)

It stores data to, and retrieves data from floppy disks. It allows data to be carried from one computer to another.

b. State two reasons why floppy disk drives are no longer considered necessary. (2x3 lines, 2 marks, SM=1.65)

  • Their 1.44M capacity is often inadequate for large modern documents, especially multimedia files.
  • They are unreliable.
  • They are slow.
  • Better, faster, higher capacity, smaller sized, more reliable storage devices such as USB FLASH RAM drives and USB hard disk drives are available quite cheaply.

 

3

A web page showing images of a company's products with appropriate descriptions is longer than one screen. Recommend and justify an appropriate technique the web designer could use to improve the navigation of this page. (2 marks, SM=0.7)

Technique (2 lines)

  • divide the list into smaller separate pages and have links that the user can use to jump to the required page
  • use frames so the product descriptions can scrolled up and down without affecting the rest of the page
  • sort the products alphabetically and put HTML anchors at the start of each alphabetical section (at the start of the "A"s, at the start of the "B"s etc). At the top of the list, have a series of links to each letter e.g. A...B...C...D so visitors can click a letter and jump to the appropriate section in the list.
  • put a "Go to the top" link at the bottom of the list that jumps to an anchor at the top of the list

Justification (6 lines)

  • Pages that are too large take too long to download and visitors will tire of waiting. It is also neater to gather related items on their own pages.
  • Frames are handy when you want to keep key items always visible while other parts are free to scroll.
  • Anchors let web authors jump to particular places within pages.

 

4

In the supermarket output shown, identify one example of each of a mandatory, optional and preferred convention by inserting the appropriate letter in the table below (3 marks, SM=1.55).

Convention Example
Mandatory A,C,F
Preferred D
Optional B,E

Mandatory conventions are required by law. The ATO website says...

A valid tax invoice for taxable sales that total less than $1,000 must contain:

* the words ‘tax invoice’ stated prominently
* the name of the seller
* the Australian business number (ABN) of the seller (item A)
* the date of issue of the tax invoice (item C)
* a brief description of the things sold
* the GST-inclusive price of the taxable sale, and
* the GST amount. This can be shown separately or, where the GST to be paid is exactly 1/11 of the total price, as a statement along the lines of ‘total price includes GST’. (Item F)

Source: http://ato.gov.au/businesses/content.asp?doc=/content/50913.htm

Preferred conventions dictate the way that most people really strongly prefer things to be done. Having the $ to show the units in the prices column (item D) is an example.

Optional conventions are those presentation decisions where you have freedom choice. While the ATO requires the "Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd" line, the decision to have the graphic COLES logo and slogan (item B) is a choice of the supermarket. Also optional is having the weight and cost per kg of the tomatoes (item E)- some shops would just list "tomatoes" and the price.

Note: the dividing line between "optional" and "preferable" is as variable as Britney Spears' marital status. You can sometimes successfully argue for one or the other. It's a shame one can't justify choices in the multiple choice section of the exam... some of them REALLY need arguing!

Editorial - one wonders why the examiner who went shopping didn't buy at least one taxable item, just to make the invoice typical...

 

5

Brittany wants to purchase a printer for her home computer to produce hard copies of the photographs she is taking with her digital camera. The computer salesperson says, 'The most important thing to consider is price - printers change so quickly that you should spend as little as possible.' Identify two capabilities of a printer that Brittany needs to consider and explain why she needs to consider them in her purchase. (4 marks, SM=2.75)

Capability one (1 line) - Be able to print with photorealistic resolution and colour depth (e.g. 600dpi or above)

Explanation (4 lines) - Photos need very high resolution and colour depth to be as satisfactory as traditionally-printed photos. Low resolution printers would appear dotty or faded.

Capability 2 (1 line) - It should be compatible with her computer's output ports (e.g. parallel, USB)

Explanation (4 lines) - If she can't plug the printer into her computer, it's useless to her.

You could also use these capabilities:

  • the printer should be able to communicate with her camera (e.g. PictBridge) to make printing easier and quicker.
  • colour cartridges should be able to be replaced individually rat February 14, 2013 2:07 PM >it should be able to print quickly enough to avoid frustrating waits
  • it should be able to use quality photo paper stock or regular paper
  • it should be able to print on the face of CDs
  • it should have readily-available sources of consumables (paper, ink)
  • it should be able to be repaired locally

6

The following tasks have been identified for the development of the new information system. (3 marks, SM=1.75)

Complete the chart below so that all tasks are entered (answers added in red)

 

7

A communications company provides both on-line support and queued telephone support services to its customers. Choose one of the support services offered and explain one advantage and one disadvantage for the company and one advantage and one disadvantage for the customer. (4 marks, SM=2.9)

Service chosen (1 line) ONLINE SUPPORT

Company - Advantage (4 lines)

  • Saves money by informing many people without needing to talk to them individually

Company - Disadvantage (4 lines)

  • Cost and effort involved in collating large amounts of information to suit as many needs as possible
  • Need to constantly update and expand the online support materials

Customer - Advantage (4 lines)

  • Can get help at any time, from any place in the world
  • Cheaper than phoning long distance

Customer - Disadvantage (4 lines)

  • May not have their problem addressed by the online help
  • They may not understand technical matters and need further help
  • Downloads may be large, slow and expensive

Service chosen (1 line) TELEPHONE SUPPORT

Company - Advantage (4 lines)

  • Can personalise their service and address customers' needs directly (helps public image)

Company - Disadvantage (4 lines)

  • It's expensive to maintain help lines
  • It's often awkward trying to diagnose computer problems over the phone

Customer - Advantage (4 lines)

  • Can get personalised help addressing their particular problem and circumstances

Customer - Disadvantage (4 lines)

  • Cost - organisations often charge for phone support
  • Cost of calling long distance if a toll-free number is not available
  • Help is often only available during business hours

 

8

Identify two items of hardware from the list below which would be used in a Wide Area Network (WAN). Explain the role of each item selected. (4 marks - each role has 3 lines, SM=1.85)

ITEM ROLE
fibre optic cable. optical communication medium to carry network data at high speed over long distances without suffering electromagnetic interference or electronic eavesdropping
print server allows a standard printer (without a NIC) to be plugged into a network point so it can accept print jobs from a file server
hub an obsolete technology that allows the interconnection of UTP cables. It typically allows a single incoming cable to be divided into multiple outgoing cables, as in a star topology. Switches have now replaced hubs, except in IPM exams, apparently.
router directs IP packets from source to destination. Also can be programmed to logically divide networks into protected segments, and to guard LANs from the outside world by preventing forbidden packets entering or leaving the LAN.
microwave transmitter transmits data at high speed and high bandwidth to a microwave receiver which must be in line-of-sight

twisted pair cable

electric communication medium to carry network data over relatively short distances (100m maximum)

Editorial - when will the examiners get over hubs? They are dead, gone, old technology and the examiners should get over them! From now on, let's all talk switches, shall we?

 

9

An employment office has 3 different types of computers on its network.

  • Counter computers - these are located in the public area and are used by clients to search for jobs
  • Office workstations - used by staff to assist job seekers and to access the central files containing clients' records
  • File server - this computer stores the central files and allows employees to print.

For each type of computer, recommend one physical and one electronic security strategy that could be used to secure the data stored. You must provide a different example for each type of computer. (6 marks, 3 half-lines per strategy, SM=3.3)

Type of computer Physical security strategy Electronic data security
Counter
  • HD Sheriff, Zero card or similar hardware or software equivalent that resets any changes made to a PC's hard disk when it is restarted.
  • Kensington cable, or similar, to tie the PC down so it can't easily be stolen.
  • Disabled USB ports
  • Locked computer cases
  • Password protected BIOS.
  • Video surveillance of computers
  • Router to separate public and staff PC segments of the LAN
Office
  • Swipe-card access to the staff area
  • Security guard at entrance to staff area
  • Username and password needed to log into network
  • Biometric identification of staff
File server
  • Bars on windows
  • Locked door
  • Lockable device in floppy disk drive to prevent insertion of disks

 

  • Weekly full backups and daily incremental backups, stored off site
  • Encryption of sensitive documents
  • Transaction auditing to track users' activities
  • Infra-red burglar detection

10

Flirting with Disaster

Australian firms are putting their faith in disaster recovery plans that may not work. .. Most businesses relying heavily on IT have a recovery plan - usually some form of systematic backup ... but has it been tested? ... Big banks now have their data warehouses located at least 20 kilometres outside the metropolitan areas ... Hewlett-Packard operates 44 data recovery centres worldwide, including two in Sydney. Known as hot sites, they are housed in anonymous buildings, in undisclosed, locations, away from city centres ... They depend on clients maintaining a strict data backup regime, with tapes produced at regular intervals and stored away from their data centre.

Excerpts from The Age, Next, p5, Tuesday 14 October 2003

a. Why should a backup or recovery plan be tested? (3 lines, 1 mark, SM=0.6)

If you back up and never test that the data can be restored, the time you finally really need to recover lost data, it may not be possible. e.g. the wrong data may have been backed up, the backup media are faulty, or the backup software cannot read its own backups.

b. Explain why a hot site is located in 'an anonymous building' and 'away from the city centre'. (8 lines, 2 marks, SM=1.1)

To prevent attack or theft of valuable and sensitive data. City centres may more likely to be subject to large fires, riots etc.

c. Outline two reasons why tapes are recommended backup media. (2x4 lines, 2 marks, SM=1.35)

  • They can hold very large quantities of data (e.g. 20-80GB) at a low cost per gigabyte
  • Quarter-inch cartridges (QIC) DAT tapes are physically small and take little storage space
  • Tapes are very reliable - far moreso than floppy disks
  • They are industry-standard and well-supported by hardware and software manufacturers
  • Tapes can be purchased easily

d. A large company which operates six days a week from 7.00 am to 7.00 pm completes a full backup every Saturday night after closing. An incremental backup is completed at midday on Tuesday and Thursday. Tapes are stored on site in a fireproof safe. Would you consider this to be a 'strict backup regime'? Justify your answer. (11 lines, 3 marks, SM=1.45)

It's a flawed backup regime.

  • Doing the full weekly backup is good, and doing it after hours is a good idea.
  • Incremental backups on only two days a week is a failing because data can easily be lost from days that are not backed up (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).
  • Doing the incremental backups at midday is a bad idea. The backup will slow down the network, and any files that are in use will not be backed up because of file locking.
  • While a fireproof safe is better than a desk drawer, backup tapes should be stored off-site.

Did anyone else find that the 'Flirting with Disaster' article just did not make sense? I mean - read it! The numerous ellipses -which indicate deletions from the original text - portend the possibility of significant corruption of the sense of the original article...

Australian firms are putting their faith in disaster recovery plans that may not work... Most businesses relying heavily on IT have a recovery plan - usually some form of systematic backup ... but has it been tested?

OK. So far, so good. Get down, doggy!

Big banks now have their data warehouses located at least 20 kilometres outside the metropolitan areas ...

Does this have anything to do with testing their backups, as foreshadowed in the previous sentence? And what are data warehouses, exactly? Do they store backup tapes? Servers? What?

Hewlett-Packard operates 44 data recovery centres worldwide, including two in Sydney. Known as hot sites, they are housed in anonymous buildings, in undisclosed, locations, away from city centres ...

What do these data recovery centres do? This is where I have real problems with this article - it simply does not say what these centres are for! Do they recover data lost on servers' hard disks? Do they pull DAT tapes apart and recover data from them? Do client companies use these centres to store the backup tapes they generate? Do companies back up their data directly to these remote HP data centres? Give me a clue... please!

They depend on clients maintaining a strict data backup regime, with tapes produced at regular intervals and stored away from their data centre.

"They" refers to HP - keep that in mind: it's important later. So HP depends on clients doing good backups - why? What does HP have to do with their clients' backups? The article does not say.

Finally, the backups must be stored away from "their data centre". Whose data centre? The "they" at the start of the sentence refers to HP, so HP is the subject of the sentence. Logically, the "their" should also refer to the previous subject - HP. So clients' backups should be stored away from HP's data centre?

It's like "Bill fell over Tom and hurt his head" - whose head? Bill's or Tom's? It's hopelessly ambiguous.

So, the article began by asking if businesses test their backups. It then leaps, for some unknown reason, to discussing big banks' data warehouses, and finally HP who perform unnamed obscure services for companies in dark alleys.

I mean - what the...?

Can kids, especially ESL kids, be expected to make sense of this? I did an English major at Melbourne Uni and have been working with IT since 1978 and this mangled article still confuses the hell out of me.

Sorry folks, I'll calm down sometime next year, but OOOH, this makes me annoyed.

 

11

Riverview Restaurant plans to replace its handwritten meal ordering system with a system using hand-held wireless PCs (iPAQs) linked to a server. Waiters will enter the client's food and drinks order on to the iPAQ at the client's table and the order will be sent to the server for processing in the kitchen and bar. The new system is also capable of identifying stock used and calculating the customer's bill.

a. Identify the impetus for change. (1 line, 1 mark, SM=0.5)

Choose from social, technological or economic. I'd say it would have to be economic: aiming at greater efficiency in taking and processing orders.

b. What type of network is described? (1 line, 1 mark, SM=0.55)

It's a LAN - limited to a small geographical location (one restaurant, not a whole chain)

Thinks: I wonder if the examiners will also give a mark if kids said "Client/Server"? It's just as correct.

c. Identify one printed and one electronic output produced by the system. (2 marks, SM=1.4)

  • Printed: the bill
  • Electronic: LCD display on the iPAQ

You would not count the wireless transmission as "electronic output" - it's communication, not display for humans to observe.

It's not revealed what output occurs in the kitchen - it could be electronic or printed, so it's better not to guess that the kitchen used one or the other.

d. Discuss three ways that the new system will improve the efficiency of running the business. (12 lines, 3 marks, SM=1.75)

Remember... Efficiency = saving time, money and effort or labour. So...

  • bad handwriting will be eliminated, so time will not be wasted deciphering or double-checking illegible orders
  • waiters will not have to waste time carrying orders to the kitchen
  • inventories are updated automatically, in real time, so reordering is far easier and quicker
  • time and effort required to calculate bills will be reduced

Do not mention that fewer errors will be made when entering orders or calculating bills - accuracy is effectiveness, not efficiency.

e. The manager plans to use the data gained from the iPAQ to determine how individual staff are performing. Identify and explain one ethical concern you would have about this use of the data. (8 lines, 2 marks, SM=0.55)

Management have a right - even a responsibility - to monitor staff performance. The new system would give real-time and detailed performance figures based on numbers of orders taken, money taken, hours worked etc. It would not, however, record how well staff communicated with customers, so a staff member could take time to charm and delight the customers but the collated statistics would only register slow customer turnaround.

Managers could mis-use the data to victimise staff who appeared not to be performing, and the ability to monitor staff actions in real-time may be viewed as unreasonable interference in staff's lives (e.g.counting how many apparent toilet breaks they've taken.)


Thinks: I didn't much like this question. I'd appreciate it if anyone could suggest neat ethical issues.

As one notable correspondent said, this question was paraphrased directly from a NSW computer science question found at their website. I hope the VCAA sought copyright permission to use it :-)

Georgia, a student, suggested: an ethical concern might be that the data from the iPAQs is being collected for one reason known to staff, which is to make order processing easier and to keep track of stock levels, etc, but then being using for monitoring their performance. So whilst not illegal b/c companies have a right to monitor their employees' performance, unethical b/c staff not aware that collected info will be used in this way.

12

Freshwater Ponds DVD Lending Library opens from 10.00 am to midnight, seven days a week, and plans to introduce a new cataloguing system called EasyCat. The library's four full-time and eight part-time staff will need to be trained in the use of the EasyCat program.

a. EasyCat makes the following recommendations for training the library staff.

For each recommendation, explain one concern you would have if it were implemented. (3x3 lines, 3 marks, SM=1.8)

Recommendation 1: all library staff undertake training at the same time

Training all staff at the same time will mean there will be no staff available to serve customers and conduct normal business while the training goes on! In effect, the organisation will cease operations for a time - hardly a desirable state of affairs.

Also, it may be hard to find a time when all full-time and part-time staff are available. Part-timers might have to come in during their non-working time, which woulld be inconvenient to them, and/or expensive because of having to pay them overtime.

Recommendation 2: the training be conducted three weeks before the new system is installed

Training too soon before implemementation may well mean that staff have forgotten their training by the time they have to use the system for real.

Recommendation 3: all staff be provided with a technical manual

Training should only be given to staff who need it. Most staff would not need any detailed technical knowledge, and providing it to them would be a time-consuming and expensive waste of time.

b. Explain your recommended training strategy for the library. Your strategy should cover location and timing, and provider and method of delivery (16 lines, 4 marks, SM=1.5)

Remember: There are 4 full-timers and 8 part-timers.

It would be best to train them in-house, if possible, for the sake of convenience and realism because they're training on the actual system they will later use.

They should be trained shortly before the system is implemented - probably in the preceding week.

The provider should preferably be an expert, such as the system's creator or distributor, or at least someone skilled in its operation. If the content of the material is relatively straightforward, it may be possible to train just the full-time staff and get them to train the part-timers in a "train the trainer" strategy.

Because there are so few people to train, a small-group hands-on tutorial would be best. It would allow the tutor to talk to all the people, but also allow time for answering individual questions and solving individual difficulties.

c. The chief librarian has indicated the following two areas she considers essential to be covered in the user manual. Justify the inclusion of each of these areas in the user manual provided to staff who hire out videos. (2x4 lines, 2 marks, SM=1.0)

i. How to accurately calculate the hiring fee when hiring multiple videos to a client

If staff cannot do this, they will may overcharge the client, resulting in ill-will and loss of future business, or they may undercharge the client, resulting in reduced profit - or even a loss.

ii. How to save, backup and exit the system at the end of the day

If staff cannot save data safely, data would be lost. This would result in uncertain financial and borrowing records.

If staff cannot backup effectively, later recovery from data disaster (e.g. equipment failure, fire, equipment theft, virus attack) would be impossible. If unable to restore vital borrowing records, financial information, client lists, stock lists etc, the library would not likely be able to do business, and would probably collapse, or at least greatly suffer financially while operations were restored.

Correct system shutdown procedures ensure files are closed properly and data in RAM is committed to permanent storage. Exiting improperly can lead to corruption of data, or damage to system files.


A correspondent pointed out:

A lending library has no hiring fees, to my knowledge, but rather overdue fees.
If there is a chief librarian, then you are really talking about a public library, not a business such as Video Sleazy.
But then again, I may not know enough about our public library system.

13

Top Shades makes and installs sun blinds for windows and needs to provide accurate quotes on company letterhead to clients. Currently, Top Shades sends the supervisor to measure the windows on which the blinds will be installed. Then the supervisor estimates the cost, adds $100 to ensure the company makes a profit and provides the customer with a handwritten quote. Top Shades wants a more precise solution that allows any of the staff to complete a quote. They will all be sharing a laptop computer with an ink-jet printer connected.

a. Identify two items (other than the clients' name and contact details) of input data that would need to be collected by the staff member to prepare the quote. (2x1 lines, 2 marks, SM=1.2)

  • size of windows
  • type of blind desired (e.g. what material it's made of, optional extras needed, such as installation)
  • colour choice
  • date of order and when the blinds are required by
  • who took the order
  • total cost of materials, based on size and type
  • profit margin to be added

b. List one constraint on the solution (3 lines, 1 mark, SM=0.5)

  • It must be able to run on a laptop computer
  • It must be able to output to the ink jet printer
  • It must be easy enough for any staff member to use it accurately
  • It must be affordable to create and maintain

c. Select any two of the steps of the problem solving methodology listed below. Explain what occurs in each step and provide and example of what Top Shades would do in the selected steps to implement their quoting system (4 marks, SM=1.35)

Steps : Design, Develop, Test (Each step has 7 lines for explanations and examples)

STEP EXPLANATION AND EXAMPLE
Design

The solution's specific hardware and software requirements are identified to meet the specifications devised during the problem analysis (which ended with a logical design).
Data structures may need to be created, programming code is written, ongoing informal testing is carried out to ensure that system components work correctly in isolation.
Validation, testing, and training and documentation requirements are planned.

Develop Software and hardware are acquired (built or bought). The system is assembled. e.g. the organisation may hire a programmer to create a custom database to produce orders.
Test The testing designed earlier is carried out to ensure components, and the integrated system, work as expected. e.g. deliberately difficult data may be entered to test the system's validation routines. Job orders with known costs may be entered to test the system's calculations.

d. Top Shades intends to install the following folders on its laptop

Using the diagram above, identify the folder into which you would store each of the following files. (2 marks, SM=1.45)

i. the solution - client database folder (1 line)

ii. the individual quotes - clients folder (1 line)


This question has produced more debate that most of the others. People are very unclear about it... e.g.

Nothing in the question implies that the solution is a database. It could be a dedicated program or, perhaps the easiest solution, a spreadsheet macro. Why should either of those go into a folder called "client database"? By default I would be placing the solution (non-database) in the "Top Shades" folder but I could make a case to place the spreadsheet in the clients folder with its output (perhaps in a sub-folder). In fact, why is there both a "clients" folder and a "client db" folder? Are they keeping client info in two different places? Surely that is highly inefficient and a potential problem for data integrity.

and

13d is not clear at all. My kids interpreted that as the solution created for the quoting system which is similar to what they did for their outcome. This was saved as a template and then copied for each quote.  I don't understand how the solution would go into a database folder when it sounds more like a spreadsheet solution. Wouldn't final quotes go into the client's folder? Guess it is how you interpret 'solution'.

I interpreted the solution as a dedicated program that produced some sort of electronic document output - Q13e says that quotes are produced as separate documents (quote1, quote2, quote3 etc). It won't be a real database because databases keep their records internally, not as individual documents. I think the "templates" and "stock" folders are irrelevant to the question. It seemed clear that quotes would need to be stored in the 'clients' folder. The logical place to store the quote-producing software was the 'client database' folder, for want of something better.

I didn't see anything really peculiar when I did Q13 - but I agree it is an odd beastie upon closer examination.


e. The manager has suggested that files be named consecutively; for example, Quote 1, Quote 2, Quote 3. Explain two difficulties staff will have with this suggestion and recommend a more appropriate file-naming system. (3 marks, SM=1.85)

Difficulty 1 (4 lines) - it would be impossible to find quotes for a particular client without opening and reading every quote!

Difficulty 2 (4 lines) - hmmm - when sorted by name, the quotes would soon be all over the shop because they are sorted alphabetically i.e. quote1, quote 10, quote 11 ... quote 19, quote 2, quote21

Recommendation - the filename should contain vital information e.g. client ID, job number for that client, version number, e.g. Quote-SMITH01-job003-v2.doc

 

All in all - sorry to say, but the dog was getting pretty fat after all of those breakfasts.

I think the exam should be better tested and reviewed before issue in future.
It had its good points, some challenging and inventive ways of asking old questions,
but silly avoidable errors really shouldn't find their way into official exams.

But I'm allowed to make silly and avoidable errors - of course

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Created November 9, 2004

Last changed: February 14, 2013 2:07 PM

Original Content © Mark Kelly 2004

VCE IT Lecture notes © Mark Kelly 2001-