April 2004 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities, and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.  –Harry S. Truman


Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.  –Albert Einstein


Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.  –Marianne Williamson


Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.  –William Arthur Ward


Chaotic action is preferable to orderly inaction.  –Will Rogers


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Software Development Process

Article:  Poor planning is project management mistake number one

The single most common cause of project failure is lack of or poor up-front planning.  This article covers the items that a successful project manager must consider to ensure appropriate project planning.



Article:  Critical Path Analysis: The path to project enlightenment

Sometimes the simplest approach to project management is best.  This article examines the critical path method (CPM) to outlining a project's overall duration and defining dependencies.  CPM is a great technique for relatively simple projects and doesn't require complex tools.



Interview:  The Human Factor

An interview with a professor of engineering, who has just published a new text on user-system interaction design, indicates that IT folks make two faulty assumptions when developing (or updating) systems: (1)  They should automate more to remove human interaction because people cause problems; and (2)  That people want more features.  Complexity of systems is one of the main reasons that they fall into disuse.



Article:  Six "must-haves" for the creation of highly productive software teams

Tim Bigelow, CEO of Performance Software, outlines his six most important characteristics in putting together successful software development teams.  Most of the items shouldn't be surprises, but he emphasizes that methods and processes are the single most important.



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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  Mind Mapping for Test Planning

This article examines the use of the mind map technique to creatively develop a testing approach for a software system.  The article emphasizes use of non-linear relationships to develop a good test suite.



Article:  Smashing the Stack for Fun and Profit

In recent years, probably the most significant security vulnerability that hackers and virus-writers exploit is the buffer overflow.  This highly technical article explains in detail what a buffer overflow is and how they are exploited.



Article:  7 Pillars of Testing Wisdom

The author reviews seven key principles for successful software testing efforts, ranging from the concept that testing efforts need to start early to limited use of automated test tools.  Brief, but insightful, article.



Article:  Efficient Test Planning and Tracking

This detailed and comprehensive article provides some excellent ideas for making the test planning and execution tracking phases more efficient.



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Reference:  Learn the Linux versions of common DOS/Windows commands

Many folks are "transplants" for the DOS/Windows world into Unix/Linux.  This article provides the analogues of some of the common DOS/Windows commands in Unix/Linux, such as for directory contents listing, copying files, changing the environment variables, etc.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Site:  Email etiquette rules for effective email replies

Since e-mail is one of the primary forms of communication in the modern world, developing good skills in writing and replying to e-mail is very important.  This site provides some ground rules for effective replies to e-mail.  While it is focused mainly on marketing type correspondence, it has plenty of good general principles too.



Article:  5 ways to manage the prima donna

Prima donna employees are often star performers, but their negative characteristics sometimes diminish their value to the organization.  This article gives five tips on how to channel the best of these workers and minimize the destructive aspects.



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Useful Utilities

Siege (Free – Unix/Linux -- ??)

Siege is a free, open source web site load-testing tool.  With Siege, various loads on web server can be simulated and the tool provides a wide variety of metrics of the results of test runs.



ThroughClock (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000 – 549kB)

ThroughClock is a transparent analog desktop clock.  The clock has a small memory/resource footprint and many configuration options.  In addition, it supports multiple alarms, which can run other applications at a specified time.



HovText (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 751kB)

HovText allows you to paste text copied to the clipboard without any formatting into any application.  The compact utility can be configured to automatically strip formatting from text copied into the clipboard or you can specify a hotkey sequence to remove formatting and formatting will be maintained otherwise.  It can also be set to remove leading trailing spaces and/or line breaks.



Toolkit for Oracle (Free* -- Windows 9x/NT/2000 – 3.6MB)

Toolkit for Oracle (known as TOra) is a utility for Oracle database users.  It is similar to TOAD and allows you execute SQL queries and procedures, includes a PL/SQL editor/debugger, schema browser for looking at database structure, and even a session monitor.  (*Note:  Version 1.0.1 is free under GPL.  Later versions are commercial software with a 30-day trail period.  The 1.0.1 free version is very capable and powerful.)



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Productivity Tips

Improve text selection efficiency and accuracy in MS Word with keyboard shortcut

Selecting sections of text in a Word document is often a difficult and cumbersome task.  Often, when using the mouse to select text, Word will "wildly" scroll beyond the location that you wanted to select.  Fortunately, Word has the handy <F8> shortcut key to allow text selection without even moving your hands off the keyboard.  To use this feature, position the cursor at the start (or end) of the text to be selected.  Press <F8> which will activate text selection and enable the EXT indictor on the status bar.  Navigate normally in the document and Word will select all text.  Press <Esc> to turn off text selection mode (and retain the current selection).  Word also has a few additional text selection features to make selecting particular parts of the text simple:

To select the current …

Press <F8> ____ times.









Entire document


To "shrink" the selection by the same amounts, press <Shift>+<F8> the same number of times as noted above.


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Just For Fun

Tech Worker Challenge

In an interesting twist on the IT outsourcing boom, this site has adopted the Frogger model!  In this Flash-based game, you are an IT worker trying to cross a busy highway with trucks from IBM, Sun, Microsoft, and H-P.  The vignettes displayed when your character gets run over are hilarious.



The AOLer Translator

Instant messaging is starting to develop a whole new dialect of the English language.  This site provides a "translator" of regular English into how the AOL IMers would write.  It's hilarious and you might learn something to help you understand your preteen!




Devet is a highly-addictive logic puzzle style game.  It is similar to Tetris in that you have to use square pieces to complete the puzzle, but the possibilities are more numerous and the game play more interesting.




This site pokes fun at the Linux community.  Lately, they've been having all sorts of fun with the SCO intellectual property lawsuit.  You don't have to a Linux geek (but it doesn't hurt either!) to get some good laughs from this site.



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