Up to Newsletter Index

April 2008 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.  –Dr. David M. Burns


No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.  –Robert Southey


I don't care how much power, brilliance, or energy you have, if you don't harness it and focus it on a specific target and hold it there, you're never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.  Zig Ziglar


An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.  –Benjamin Franklin


Some people see things as they are and say "Why?" I dream things that never were and say "Why not?"  –George Bernard Shaw


To learn through listening, practice it naively and actively. Naively means that you listen openly, ready to learn something, as opposed to listening defensively, ready to rebut. Listening actively means you acknowledge what you heard and act accordingly.  –Betsy Sanders


I would rather try to persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.  –Dwight D. Eisenhower


The more you are willing to accept responsibility for your actions, the more credibility you will have.  –Brian Koslow


If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.  –Frank A. Clark


Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson


If you're never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances.  –Julia Sorel


Return to top


Software Development Process

Articles:  Why Scrum Works

Thinking about adopting agile development practices, but aren't sure which particular methodology to use?  Here is some background on Scrum and specific practices that it entails.





Article:  How to recognise a good programmer

How does a non-technical person identify superior developers?  This programmer lists his key skills for outstanding code jockeys.



Article:  The future of XML

XML has become the lingua franca of structured data today.  An XML expert ponders the changes on the horizon for XML.



Article:  How to Tap IT's Hidden Potential

Most businesses fail to get as much out of IT as the could and should due to misunderstandings between the business and IT and IT's failure to help the business to understand what IT is about.  This article discusses bridging the gap between IT and business for improved performance.  A lot of the problem seems to stem from the technical jargon used by IT.  And one of the key findings of the article is that the focus should be on IT strategy toward business goals instead of IT-business alignment.



Article:  IT-business alignment:  Avoiding the alignment trap

As IT attempts to align itself with business goals and objectives, a recent MIT study shows that they need to avoid the so-called "alignment trap", where IT becomes so "aligned" that it loses it's independence and actually becomes a drag on business performance.



Article:  Is IT becoming extinct?

Yet another pundit explores the concept that IT is going the way of the dinosaur as technology becomes more pervasive within the business realm.  I'm not sure that "extinct" is the right term (just yet anyway!), but there are some things that IT folks need to be concerned about.



Guide:  Software Architecture Document Guidelines

A sound architecture for your systems is key to success in maintaining and extending the platform.  However, there is very little in the way of standards for documenting an architecture.  This document provides some guidelines for such documentation.



Article:  Five Ways Generation Y May Reinvent IT

The post-Generation X workers are starting to wield influence and they may bring about some fundamental shifts in how IT is "done", many for the better, especially in the areas of bridging gaps between IT and business.



Interview: Johanna Rothman on Schedule Games and other Organizational Dysfunctions

Software development project management expert, Johanna Rothman, discusses the common fallacies that are applied to scheduling of software development and how to avoid these on your project.



Article:  Anatomy of a Failed Agile Adoption

While agile development methodologies are gaining mainstream acceptance, it's not a guarantee that agile will work for everyone.  Here's a case study of a grassroots agile implementation that went awry.



Article:  Coding Around the Campfire

This article is an interest perspective on how to improve software development processes.  The author advocates the point that development is fundamentally a communication process above all else.



Article:  Don’t fall prey to these false project requirements

Sometimes we receive requests from users that seem like requirements, but upon further review they really aren't (which doesn't mean that they aren't important!).  Here are some tips on how to recognize these "false requirements".



Return to top


Software Testing & Quality

Article:  Man and Machine

The best approach to software testing is to use both manual and automated testing together with the correct balance based on the project constraints.  In this article, Jonathan Kohl discusses how to determine this balance.



Article:  Tests reflect code quality

Sometimes the quality of code can be implicitly checked just by looking at the tests and testing framework for the application.  Good quality generally has atomic tests (each one tests one thing), the tests have good coverage, tests are easy to add, etc.



Article:  Automating tests vs. test-automation

This is a nice philosophical piece about the proper approach to test automation to ensure efficiency and maintainability.



Article:  Hiring Software Testers in an Information Age

As software testing has developed into a separate, complementary discipline to software development, this has resulted in the need to have separate criteria for interviewing and hiring testers.  In this article, a veteran tester and test manager discusses how to evaluate testing candidates.



Article:  Testing Without Requirements—Impossible?

Testers often find themselves in the unenviable position of testing an application without much information about what the system is actually supposed to do.  Here are some tips for how to approach testing in this situation.



Site:  DefectPrevention.org

Much of the software QA and testing efforts are focused on finding latent problems in an application.  But most people know that a better approach is to prevent problems in the first place.  This site, which is a companion to an excellent book, gives ideas about improving processes to eliminate problems before they even occur.



Article:  Model predicts chance of software flaws

A researcher at a German university has developed a technique to use historical defect data and static code analysis to predict which portions of an application that is being upgraded are most likely to have bugs.



Article:  'Testers Are Idiots'

Don't let the title scare you!  This article is about a one-man crusade to change developers' perception of their testing associates. 



Return to top



Tutorial:  Getting from use cases to code

Use cases are frequently touted as an excellent tool for describing and documenting requirements.  (And they are!)  However, many people have difficulty "translating" the use cases into the code that implements the desired functionality.  This two-part series discusses how to effectively develop use cases that can be used for implementation.




Tool:  Codepad

Need to test out small slice of code, but don't have a compiler handy?  Codepad to the rescue.  Just paste in your code, select the appropriate language and Codepad will execute it.  It will even generate a unique URL for your code, so that you can share it with others.  A variety of languages are supported, including C, C++, Perl, Python, Scheme (Lisp), Ruby, and more.  To learn about how Codepad does its magic on the fly, see this article.



Tutorial:  The Most Common Database Design Mistakes

Database design is one of those things that seems simple at the start, but can become very complex and has great impact on the success and performance of your application.  Here are 10 mostly common-sense tips to keep in mind when designing a database.



Tutorial/Reference:  PMI PMP Preparation Blog

Preparing for the PMI PMP exam?  This excellent blog frequently posts references and tutorials on various topics from the PMBOK and links to other online resources to help you study for the exam.



Tutorial:  How to document use cases

Good use cases are an excellent tool for documenting and communicating requirements.  Here are some outstanding tips for writing great use cases.



Article:  Using the Singleton pattern in Java

The singleton pattern is useful for cases where you want to ensure only one instance of a particular object.  This article discusses the details of how to do this in Java.



Article:  Java Worst Practices

This article includes some classic "anti-patterns" for avoiding errors and unmaintainable Java code.  Each example is brief, but insightful.



Return to top


Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  10 Golden Lessons from Albert Einstein

Although Einstein was a physicist without peer in the 20th century (and beyond!), he was also a first-rate philosopher too.  Here are 10 great lessons that he left us.



Article:  Why Feigning Infallibility Is Easier Than Learning

Why is it that some people just won't admit to making a mistake?  New psychological research indicates that this is a type of delusional behavior.



Article:  The Delegation Boomerang

One of the hardest things for technical people who move into management is to confidently delegate tasks and responsibilities to subordinates.  Here are some tips on the mindset changes required to accomplish this cornerstone of good management.



Article:  11 Solid Ways to Improve Your Time Management Skills

Most everyone wants to improve how they manage and use your time.  Here are some great and practical tips for how to make the most of that one resource that everyone has the exact same amount of.



Article:  MBA Nearly Doubles IT Pros' Salaries

Notwithstanding that the math in the article headline is incorrect, a recent study says that IT professionals with advanced business degrees are able to break down communication barriers with business counterparts because they can speak a common language.  Furthermore, MBAs earn 46% more than IT workers with only a bachelor's degree and 37% more than those with other master's degrees.



Article:  Happy 40th birthday, cubicle! Now die

It was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper told the band to play…  Oh, sorry…  Anyway, believe it or not, the bane of workers everywhere, the office cubicle, is now 40 years old. 



Report:  TechRepublic's 2008 IT skills and salary report

Annual salary and skills survey that includes breakdowns by region, job title, industry, and experience.  Also, includes reports on job outlook and high-demand skills.



Article:  Busy vs. Productive

This article gives a nice comparison between those who are busy and those who are productive.  Some good tips on being the latter.



Article:  Does Judgment Trump Experience?

Management gurus investigate whether experience or good judgment are more important in making good decisions.



Article:  36 Beautiful Resume Ideas That Work

Thinking about revamping your resume?  Here are some examples to use for inspiration to help you come up with the best structure and layout.



Online Tool:  VisualCV

VisualCV is an online resume (a.k.a. "curriculum vitae", hence the "CV") tool.  Beyond the standard resume features, VisualCV allows you to include images and multimedia, including videos where you can discuss your experience and skills, even a "virtual portfolio" of examples of your work.  Furthermore, you can set permissions to determine who can view your resume and whether or not to share it with job boards and create custom versions for different audiences.



Article:  Is There Really an IT Labor Shortage?

Evidence is mounting that the panic over a domestic U.S. IT labor shortage may really be a myth.



Article:  Microsoft Launches Comic Featuring Superhero Techies

While most of us IT folks probably aren't treated like heroes very often, Microsoft's latest marketing pitch is a series of comics created by a DC Comics veteran who brought back Batman.



Article:  Marissa Mayer's 9 Principles of Innovation

As part of an article about the 50 most innovative companies, Google's VP of search products explains her ideas about what makes Google a hotbed of innovation.  Every organization can adapt these ideas to improve innovation.



Article:  More companies realizing the downside of outsourcing

Most (94%) of CIOs surveyed do not outsource IT outside of the US and 6 in 10 who do have said that they are starting to bring jobs back inside due to management challenges.



Return to top


Telecommunications/Networking Industry

Article:  Zettabyte flood predicted for 2015

One telecom industry pundit (a protégé of George Gilder) has suggested (not actually "predicted") that Internet traffic may exceed a zettabyte (that's 1021 bytes!) per year by 2015.  Before you get too excited, this would mean that US Internet traffic alone would need to increase 50-fold over 2006 levels.



Interview:  Reed Hundt Interview

Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt talks about current developments in telecom, including "net neutrality", warrantless wiretapping immunity for telecom, 700MHz spectrum auction, and more.



Editorial:  Darwin And The Big Telcos

Are the big telecom carriers destined for extinction or can they re-make themselves to compete in the new economy?  This editorial offers some interesting perspectives.



Article:  New Technologies Challenge FCC to Evolve

Media convergence is putting pressure on the FCC to change along with the telecom technology landscape.



Article:  Wi-Fi Hotspots Are Doomed

According the Ericsson chief marketing officer, Wi-Fi hotspots like those in Starbucks have already have "jumped the shark" (love that phrase!).  He says that high-speed wireless broadband will make hotspots obsolete, but that carriers need to more widely implement 3.5G technologies (which, of course, is to Ericsson's advantage).



Article:  A Lesson in Internet Anatomy: The World's Densest Meet-Me Room

The telecom meet-me room at One Wilshire in Los Angeles services over 250 ISPs.  Here are some pictures of just what it looks like.



Article:  Google Buys Into Undersea Cable

As further evidence of Google's plans to get into telecom business, they will buy into a 6200-mile trans-Pacific cable between the US and Japan.



Article:  FCC Head Says Action Possible on Web Limits

Kevin Martin has indicated that the FCC would be willing to enforce "net neutrality" by preventing telecom providers for filtering traffic based on type.



Article:  Researchers transmit optical data at 16.4 Tbps

Alcatel-Lucent researchers have demonstrated a platform intended for 100 Gbps Ethernet with transmissions of over 1500 miles.



Return to top

Useful Utilities

Free Project Viewer (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – 16.1MB)

If you often receive MS Project files, but don't have MS Project installed, it is difficult to view these files.  Free Project Viewer allows you to view MS Project 2000, 2003, and 2007 format files and view most project details, including columns, resource views, and Gantt charts.  You can even filter on various fields and criteria.



GNUstep for Windows  (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – 25MB [system] and 9MB [core])

If you don't like the standard Windows GUI structure and prefer something a little more retro, there is now a full installer for the free GNUstep platform for Windows.  GNUstep is based on the revolutionary (at least at the time!) OpenStep GUI used on the NeXT, which was the foundation for Mac OS X.



AnyClient (Free – Cross-platform Java online tool – N/A)

AnyClient is a free online FTP, FTPS, SFTP, and WebDAV GUI client built from a Java applet.  It runs directly in your browser and doesn't require you to download or install anything (assuming you already have Java!).  A downloadable, installable version of the utility is available from the web site, as well.



Sudo for Windows (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – 460kB)

Safe computing revolves around the concept of "principle of least authority".  So it is good practice to not run using an administrator account in Windows.  But what if you need to launch an application that requires administrative privileges?  Using "Run As" is one alternative, but Sudo for Windows (based on the Unix/Linux sudo command) is better, as it preserves your current user account environment and ownership of objects, by using a private password.



Alt Tab Mouse Shortcut (Free – Windows XP/Vista – 212kB)

Alt Tab Mouse Shortcut is a small utility (written with the excellent AutoHotKey tool) that allows you to use the Windows Alt Tab function to switch between open applications without using the keyboard.  Simply hold down the left mouse button and simultaneously click the right mouse button to cycle through the list of open windows.



KDE4 for Windows  (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – Varies)

KDE developers have created a native port of the platform for Windows.  It's still a work in progress and you can't (yet!) replace the Windows shell with KDE, but it includes a great selection of KDE applications that can run natively in Windows (instead of via an emulation layer like Cygwin).  Some of the applications include Umbrello, Konqueror file manager and web browser, a whole passel of games, and much more.



Return to top


Just For Fun

The Naked Violin

Before you get any strange ideas, no, this is NOT musical pornography!  Instead, this site features free downloads of some truly incredible violin solos from great classical and modern composers.  The site is intended to introduce those who don't normally listen to classical music to take another taste.  For more information about the project, listen to this NPR profile.




Have dreams of being a rogue dictator and squashing anyone who disagrees with you?  Well, you probably can't do that in real life, but you can in NationStates.  It's a free, online role-playing game (RPG) which you create and run your own country.  You get to make all of the decisions.  You can invade other countries, make treaties, plot world domination, etc.



Is China's Great Wall Visible from Space?

Chalk this one up to the category of "myth".  Astronauts and remote-sensing specialists say that the Great Wall of China is, in fact, not visible from earth orbit or the moon.



The Next Twenty Years

Where do you think our society and world will be 20 years from now?  Visit this excellent portal to see the predictions of the pundits in a variety of categories, including economics, technology, medicine, environment, and even humor.



Audubon's Birds of America

If you never seen John James Audubon's bird paintings, you are in for a rare treat.  These are incredible images for their detail and lifelikeness.  Even if you are not a bird lover, you will be truly awed by these.



Simple Truths Inspirational Movies

Looking for a little motivation or inspiration?  Then check out this collection of free, online movies.  Most are based on books and cover such topics as leadership, teamwork, etc.



Return to top