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April 2010 Newsletter



Quotable Quotes


All good work is done in defiance of management.  –Bob Woodward


Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.  –Albert Schweitzer


You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.  –Jack London


We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.  –Douglas Adams


You are more likely to be successful, overall, if you participate joyfully with projects and goals and do not think your life depends on achieving the mark because then you will be better able to connect to people all around you… When you are oriented to abundance, you care less about being in control, and you take more risks… In a measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set a context and let life unfold.  –Rosamond Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, The Art of Possibility, pp. 21


For even as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so is it better to give to others the fruits of one's contemplation than merely to contemplate.  –Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae


For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.  –Vincent van Gogh


Accountability breeds “response-ability”.  –Stephen R Covey


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Software Development Process and Methodology

Article:  Achieving 'Agility at Scale': Top 10 Principles of Agile Software Delivery

Agile development methodologies, whether deployed entirely or in bits and pieces, can only succeed with support of top management, both in IT and business.  Likewise successful agile practice requires the ability to adjust appropriately for different organizational and project sizes.



Article:  The end of SQL and relational databases?

Over the past year (really actually less!), the NoSQL movement has really picked up momentum.  Even true believers in the relational model are finding uses for key-value stores.  And, significantly, the whole NoSQL concept confirms that the storage space is now a commodity.  In this three-part series, the author digs deep into some of the nooks and crannies of NoSQL.  His conclusion, not surprisingly, is that the SQL or NoSQL choice depends on each situation, although other pundits say that SQL/RDBMS isn’t right for the cloud.





Article:  Seven Qualities That Every Good Developer Possesses

Everyone wants to be a better programmer, right?  But what are the traits that the best developers have that makes them stand out?  This developer explains his view on what separates the best from the rest.



Article:  100 Things Good GM’s Know

Certainly, I recognize that this section is about IT process and technique, but we should not forget that IT is a service.  And the way that we provide good service to our business customers is to continuously work to better understand them and their needs.  This article looks at the questions business executives are interested it.  It’s notable that very few of them are about technology.  So our job in IT is to look at how technology can serve the other needs of the organization.



Article:  Why Software Really Fails And What to Do About It

Anyone who has worked in software development has experienced the frustration and disappoint of a failed project.  But, why does software development seem to fail so often compared to other engineering disciplines?  This author says that each system is like creating a completely new machine.



Article:  DevOps—Why Now?

One of the new roles in IT is called “development operations” (devops), which seeks to bridge the gap between application development and the deployment and operation of the applications.  This is widely seen is one of the key factors in improving IT agility.



Article:  Good code needs few unit tests

While many people tout the robustness of their code based on the plethora of unit tests, this developer makes the astute observation that simpler, more well-architected abstractions are evidenced by the small number of unit tests required.



Article:  Programming in the Mid-Future

While most of us focus on what needs to get done today, programming pundit Bruce Eckel presents his vision for how programming will be done in 25 years (about the time I retire!).



Article:  78 Things I Have Learned in 6 Years of Agile Coaching

This experienced agile practitioner offers some sage advice about how to successfully implement agile development.  Here observations are especially valuable in the area of doing agile with geographically distributed teams.



Article:  The Future of Java Revisited

Whether you use Java or not, there’s no denying that it’s had a significant impact on software development over the past 15 years.  However, many have recently raised concerns about its future, both for the technical reasons, as well as, around Oracle’s acquisition of Sun.  In this very good article, the author discusses his views on where the various “fragments” of the Java platform are going.



Article:  Improve Your Communication Skills To Create Better Software

While I probably sound like a broken record in this newsletter when it comes to the importance of good communication on projects, I truly believe that its significance cannot be overstated.  This short article offers three key points about good communication along with some links to additional resources on them.



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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  8 Tips To Create Complete Test Cases

Writing test cases is the creative part of testing (and TDD!).  Many times, testers (myself included!) struggle to write complete and effective test cases.  This article offers some ideas on how to check that your test cases are complete.



Article:  SMART Tests Outwit Bugs

Whether you are writing unit tests for test-driven development or preparing test cases as a tester, your goal is to write effective tests.  This author suggests applying the SMART principle to test creation to help.



Article:  Robustness, the forgotten code quality

While robustness, defined loosely as resiliency in the face of errors or problems, is an important characteristic of all code, this author emphasizes that it should be one of the key traits for automated testing code.



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Tutorial:  .NET LINQ from Scratch

One of the good features of using C#/.NET platform is the availability of LINQ for doing queries.  This very good step-by-step tutorial shows you the basic concepts of LINQ and how to apply them in your application.



Tutorial:  Complete Beginner’s Guide to Information Architecture

Information architect is a relatively new role, which plays an increasingly important function in both web design and traditional application development.  This tutorial looks at the genesis and evolution of the IA concept and how it fits in the development milieu. 



Reference:  Visual Guide to NoSQL Systems

As we’ve discussed in previous newsletters, the NoSQL paradigm has really taken off and the number of platforms has blossomed like mushrooms.  This basic guide helps you compare the underlying principles of the different NoSQL implementations to help you decide which one(s) might be appropriate for your needs.



Tutorial:  Search Engine Basics

You use them every day, probably many times a day, but do you know how search engines do their magic?  This brief tutorial explains the basic concepts of search engine function in four areas:  crawling, indexing, query processing, and ranking.



Tutorial:  Map/Reduce – A visual explanation

You’ve probably heard of the map/reduce functional programming paradigm, but unless you are intimately involved in the FP world, you may not have understood what it’s all about or what it’s used for.  This excellent step-by-step tutorial explains how it all works using C#/LINQ.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  Want to know how to handle all of these?

Certainly, the title of this article isn’t very descriptive until you see the page graphic.  Nevertheless, this is an excellent, simple tutorial on how to give a speech or presentation that the audience will remember, using examples from some of the great orators of our time, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Margaret Thatcher.



Article:  Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload

Doubtless that most of you would say you are "drowning" in e-mail.  This excellent article explains how to properly triage your e-mail inbox and how to write effective e-mails that help others (and you!) handle e-mail better.



Article:  How to Become an Expert. The Effective Way.

Even if you don’t necessarily want to become an expert in your field, certainly everyone wants to improve their skills in some way.  This comprehensive article presents a useful process for improving your skills.  However, the key is to recognize that expertise takes time, practice, and dedication.



Article:  10 reasons you're not closing the deal in your job search

When looking for a new job, it’s the details (“little things”) that are so important.  Here are some tips for dos and don’ts that can help you get that job.



Article:  Typical IT Pro In 2010: No Raise, And $81,000 Salary

Not surprisingly, according to this annual survey of over 20,000 professionals, salaries for IT workers rose very little in 2009, with over half reporting salary freezes or decreases, but IT is still a good profession when it comes to salary, compared to others.



Article:  Talk Deeply, Be Happy?

Want to enjoy life more?  Well, according to some new psychology research, engaging in substantive conversation on a daily basis tends to make people happier, because it allows us to find meaning and context in a chaotic world.



Article:  The 22-minute meeting

While there are plenty of things that you can do to improve meetings, project management expert Scott Berkun recommends limiting most meetings to 22 minutes, both for psychological and practical reasons.  One of the most salient reasons for doing this is that it allows you time to change gears or even physically move between meetings and allows the meeting convener time to summarize the meeting immediately afterward.



Article:  Avoid Office Distractions With Time Blocking

While this article is essentially well-known common sense, it never hurts to be reminded.  To avoid distractions and concentrate on your work, you should block out time specifically for this.  The author has even gone to the extreme of scheduling meetings with herself!



Report:  TechRepublic 2010 IT skills and salary report

This comprehensive survey of almost 20,000 technology professionals from a variety disciplines shows that salaries rose very little in 2009 compared to 2008.



Article:  Eight Things Your Employees Want From You

While written for senior management, this simple list is valuable to anyone who has a leadership role in any kind of organization.  The key element of all of these points is that they are what set leaders apart from managers.



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Telecommunications/Networking Industry

Article:  Access to Open Internet Seen as Basic Right, Study Finds

In a broad survey of more than 27,000 people in 26 countries about Internet usage by the BBC, over half of the respondents said that government regulation of Internet should not be allowed.



Article:  Year of the Laser

Where would communication and networking technology, not to mention entertainment, be today if not for the laser?  This article celebrates the 50th anniversary of this amazing device.



Article:  Scientists Strive to Map the Shape-Shifting Net

New peering arrangements are moving routing from Internet backbone to the network edge, which ultimately takes traffic away from the larger providers.



Article:  IEEE 802 Committee Looks Back And Forward At 30 Years

The key standards committee for networking technology celebrates its 30th anniversary in March 2010.  Take a look at some of what they see coming up.



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Useful Utilities

Ubucompilator (Free – Ubuntu Linux – 170kB)

If you compile applications from source code on Ubuntu (or any Debian-based distribution), Ubucompilator will help you to create a .deb file, which you can use to package the application for use on other Ubuntu systems.  Ubucompilator is a essentially a wizard that takes you through the configure + make + make install process followed by generating the .deb archive.



TidyRead (Free – Firefox/Chrome/Internet Explorer – Varies)

As web sites become more complex, the ability to read the actual textual content becomes more difficult.  TidyRead, which is also available as bookmarklet for any browser, allows you to remove a lot of the fluff and distractions.  You can configure and choose any number of personal styles for the page, as well as adjusting the text size and page width.



MyLastSearch (Free – Windows XP/2003/Vista/7 – 54kB)

If you frequently find that you need to re-run a web search that you’ve done, MyLastSearch is very handy.  It reads the browser cache of most of the popular web browsers (Internet Explorer, Opera, Google Chrome, and Firefox) and finds searches from a variety of search engines, including Google, Bing, Wikipedia, a variety of social networking sites, and more.  And it has some incredible customization capabilities via command-line parameters.



jsFiddle (Free – Online tool – N/A)

Test your JavaScript, including code using various versions of popular libraries, such as MooTools, YUI, and jQuery, along with your HTML markup and CSS entirely online.  The results are displayed in window along with the source, so you can make changes on-the-fly.



Code Bubbles (Free – Cross-platform Java - ???)

The academic research project aims to provide a Java IDE, based on Eclipse, that focuses more on the code base as a whole with each “atomic” element in the GUI build around the objects, including their member variables and functions, instead of the common paradigm of today’s IDEs being file-based.  Looks like a very intriguing idea.  You can download a beta version of the tool at the site.



Foxit PDF Preview Handler (Free – Windows XP/2003/Vista/7 and Microsoft Outlook 2007 – 1.9MB)

If you use the great, lightweight Foxit PDF Reader, then you’ll definitely want to check out this dandy tool.  It is a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook 2007 that allows you to open (“preview”) any PDF message attachments directly in the message, without opening another window.



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Just For Fun

Photographer Loves Math, Graphs Her Images

Math is everywhere!  I’m sure you had a teacher somewhere along the way that said that (or something similar).  The fantastic photographs by this artist really prove it.  She embeds the curve and its formula into the photographs themselves.



Paris 26 Gigapixel

This site provides an absolutely stunning 3D panorama view of Paris including virtual tours of some it’s famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.



Crazy Impressive Rube Goldberg Music Video

By now, everyone has probably seen the music video for the song “This Too Shall Pass” by OK Go, but, if not, you absolutely must see this.  And this site also features four videos about how the music video was made.  Or you can hear OK Go songwriter/guitarist Damian Kulash talk about it here.



Repairing the world with LEGO bricks

Now this is a kind of performance art that geeks can enjoy.  German artist Jan Vormann is traveling the world and “repairing” decaying buildings with Legos and photographing the results.



Why It's Better To Pretend You Don't Know Anything About Computers

Probably most of you have been the “go to” person in your family at one time or another about computer problems.  Here’s a humorous look at why you should play dumb about your computer knowledge.



The Difference between Nerd, Dork, and Geek Explained by a Venn Diagram

Having trouble figuring out which social group you belong to?  Just consult this diagram to understand.  :)



My Greatest Weakness

Everyone dreads those “canned” interview questions like, “What is your greatest weakness?”  This person provides a totally logical answer to the question that is quite humorous.



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