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August 2005 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


Life is short. Be swift to love! Make haste to be kind!  –Henri Frederic Amiel


The person who sends out positive thoughts activates the world around him positively and draws back to himself positive results.  –Norman Vincent Peale


All human situations have their inconveniences. We feel those of the present but neither see nor feel those of the future; and hence we often make troublesome changes without amendment, and frequently for the worse.  –Benjamin Franklin


If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.  –John Quincy Adams


Worry is believed to be a major contributor to illness.  Every day people crucify themselves between two thieves:  one, the regret of lost opportunity; the other, the fear of what tomorrow may bring.  Worry never accomplishes anything.  –Thomas D. Willhite


Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.  –Samuel Johnson


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Software Development Process

Article:  Project management:  Overdue and over budget, over and over again

This article questions the wisdom of the continued reliance on project-based worked considering how frequently they are over schedule and budget.



Book Excerpt:  The Art of Project Management:  How To Figure Out What To Do

The excerpt from a new book on software development project management discusses in good detail the project planning process, how planning fits into the project, and how planning (good or bad) affects the project.  The entire books is written with an easy-to-read and approachable style.



Self-Assessment Quiz: Are you a strong project manager?

This brief 10-question quiz covering topics from planning to communicating to handling collaboration and risk management can help identify some shortcomings that could be hampering the success of your projects.



Article:  Usable GUI Design

While originally intended for developers of free/open-source software (F/OSS), this excellent article has general applicability to how to design GUIs for all types of applications.  The article helps you to understand the important aspects for GUI construction and how to view the application from the user perspective.



Article:  Get Requirements Right the First Time

This brief article examines the fundamental criteria for "good" requirements and presents an "action plan" for how to gather and maintain business requirements.



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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  If some software developers built houses?

This article uses the paradigm of a house to compare some of the poor design techniques that developers and designers use when writing software.  Although a little tongue-in-cheek, the article provides some good perspectives on good design principles for software.



Article:  Putting Software Terminology To the Test

This article tries to establish some standard definitions for acceptance testing and operational testing.



Article:  Buggy Software: Up From a Low-Quality Quagmire

This article discusses how some companies are addressing software quality problems by implementing quality assurance efforts throughout the development life cycle and by improving testing.



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Article:  The Process Model of Linux Application Development

One of the fundamental building blocks of the Linux/Unix systems architecture is the concept of the process.  This sample chapter discusses processes and how they relate to user permissions, file handles, communication, and more.



Article:  Cleaning up with AJAX

This article provides a nice overview of the new AJAX architecture for web applications.  It continues with a very easy to understand, but complete, example of how to use AJAX in your own applications.



Tutorial:  Learning PHP

This is an excellent 3-part series that introduces using PHP starting with a basic PHP script and moving on to using PHP for database access and streaming from the filesystem.  The series discusses the topics in the context of building a document workflow system.  (Requires free registration.)





Reference:  Quick Start:  C++

This download provides a good overview of C++, including the obligatory "Hello, world!" program.  In addition to the simple basics of C++, it gives some nice, non-technical background on the language and links to other C++ resources.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Report:  100 Best Places to Work in IT 2005

Annual report from Computerworld about the companies that provide the most innovative and enjoyable environments for IT employees.  Report includes profiles of the top 5, the criteria used for determining the best places and scorecards from the evaluations.  They also provide an editorial list of ways to make a company one of the worst places to work.



Article:  Managing for Creativity

The CEO of SAS, Inc. discusses the principles behind motivating technical and creative employees.  Some of the ideas include valuing the work (intellectual assets) over the tools (hard assets), rewarding excellence with new challenges, and minimizing administrative hassles.



Article:  Remain productive by honoring commitments

Without commitments, an organization would eventually come to a standstill.  This article discusses implicit and explicit commitments and how following through on them helps each of us.



Article:  Mental processing is continuous, not like a computer

After working with computers for so long, many cognitive scientists had concluded that computers were a good model for brain function, in terms of discrete processing.  This new study shows fundamental differences, particularly that the brain processes continuously (non-linearly).



Article:  Workers Waste More Time On Internet Surfing

A survey by AOL and Salary.com found that workers spend an average of 2.09 hours per day on non-work-related Internet activity.  This was more than twice the amount expected by managers.  Younger workers wasted more time online than older workers.



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Useful Utilities

Quality Assurance Agent (Free – Mozilla Firefox – 30kB)

Quality Assurance Agent (QAA) is an XUL Mozilla Firefox extension that allows scripted web site testing.  It even supports record and playback of test scripts.



CursorUS (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 8kB)

CursorUS is a small background utility that allows the mouse cursor to reappear on the other side of the desktop when it is dragged off of the edge (left or right and top or bottom) of the screen.  The wrap-around function can be temporarily disabled by double-clicking on the CursorUS icon in the system tray.



Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 1.58MB)

This electronic version of the 40,000-entry Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of American English includes clear, concise definitions, written pronunciations, and variant spellings.  (Requires installation of iFinger plugin engine.)



rcFTP (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 40kB)

rcFTP stands for "right-click FTP".  This handy utility adds an FTP upload option to the context (right-click) menu in Windows Explorer.  Just right-click on a file and choose Send To | Upload with rcFTP to upload your file.  Great utility for updating web site content.



Microsoft Calculator Plus (Free – Windows XP – 476kB)

This is an advanced version of the built-in Windows Calculator that includes unit conversion functionality.  The unit conversion functions include functions for currency conversions and current currency conversion rates can be imported from the Internet.



PHP Project (Free – Web-server based platform – 18kB)

PHP Project is a free (GPL) web-based project management tool based on PHP.  The system requirements are quite simple and the environment is quite easy to install and maintain.  Of course, it doesn't have all of the features of MS Project, but it's quite good for simply project management and tracking.



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Just For Fun

Top 10 Web Fads

CNet presents their top 10 fads from the Web for all time.  They range from the Hampsterdance craze to the Bush vs. Kerry JibJab election funny.



Honda Accord Advertisement

This is a truly amazing advertisement for the Honda Accord.  Even in today's world of effective computer-graphics animation, this advertisement was made the "old-fashioned way".  It required 606 takes to get it correct and took over 3 months of night-and-day work to complete.  Further evidence that in our virtual world, nothing takes the place of the real thing.



The Unheard Beethoven

While most of us are familiar with some of Beethoven’s works, such as his 5th Symphony, amazingly there are literally hundreds of his compositions that have never been recorded or performed.  This site aims to make all of Beethoven’s known work available via MIDI files.  You can judge for yourself about whether or not the great orchestras should perform these obscure works.



Neave Games

Online, Flash-based versions of classic arcade games, such as Pac-Man, Asteroids, Simon, Space Invaders, and many more.  Very retro and very fun!



The Onion 2056

The Onion humor news site images some headlines from 50 years into the future, with their classic tongue-in-cheek style.



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