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August 2007 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for.  –Peter Drucker


Make service your first priority, not success, and success will follow.  –Unknown


Worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due.  –William R. Inge


To do any thing, to dig a hole in the ground, to plant a cabbage, to hit a mark, to move a shuttle, to work a pattern, --in a word, to attempt to produce any effect, and to succeed, has something in it that gratifies the love of power, and carries off the restless activity of the mind of man. Indolence is a delightful but distressing state: we must be doing something to be happy.  –William Hazlitt


If you want something really important to be done you must not merely satisfy the reason, you must move the heart also.  –Mahatma Gandhi


Any necessary work that pays an honest wage carries its own honor and dignity.  –W. Kelly Griffith


I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.  –Unknown


The Creator has not given you a longing to do that which you have no ability to do.   –Orison Swett Marden


Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.   –Maya Angelou


The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.  Blaise Pascal


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Software Development Process

Article:  IT’s Role in Creating Rogues

One of the banes of IT is users who introduce technology or systems outside of the IT process.  IT calls these "rogue" or "shadow" efforts and they are both annoying and dangerous.  But in many cases, IT itself is responsible for these efforts because of their lack of responsiveness to the business users' needs.



Article:  Project Failure Prevention: 10 Principles for Project Control

Tom Gilb presents 10 concepts that will help maintain control and structure to a development project throughout its life.  Gilb emphasizes delivering value across the life of the project and using early customer satisfaction (principle #8) to build confidence and support.



Article:  Will My Software Project Fail?

Software development projects are notorious for failure.  This author suggests that perhaps the better perspective is not to do everything right, but to avoid doing anything wrong.



Article:  From project sluts to strawmen:  An interview with Tim Lister

Tim Lister discusses his upcoming book and patterns that help determine software development success or failure.  Interestingly, he says that "best practices" are dangerous and that projects need to be tailored to an organizations individual strengths.



Article:  How to prioritise quickly and intuitively

This article explains a simple technique for visualizing tasks based on importance and difficulty to determine which ones should get the highest priority.



Articles:  How to Spot (and Fix) a Failing Project

Everyone in the IT business is keenly aware of project failure.  However, it's not always simple to identify and correct a floundering project.  These articles help you assess your project and provide some ideas for how to revive it.




Article:  Why Model with UML?

This article gives the philosophical motivation for using UML to model and document you systems development.  Furthermore, it has links to in depth descriptions and tutorials on the various elements of a UML model, such as use case diagrams, sequence diagrams, class diagrams, etc.



Article:  What motivates programmers?

The success or failure of many projects rests on how well the developers perform.  Development managers need to understand that programmers are frequently motivated by different things than other groups, particularly by having challenging work.



Article:  Alistair Cockburn on what's agile, what's not

Agile expert Alistair Cockburn talks about how the principles of agile development have evolved over the last 5 years since the Agile Manifesto was conceived.



Article:  19 Eponymous Laws Of Software Development

Here are brief explanations of some of the common "laws" of programming named after their originators.  They give some good insight into many of the pitfalls of development and some good food for thought about effective project management.  For more on this topic, see also this article.



Article:  How to Write an Effective Design Document

Many projects move straight from requirements to implementation.  This article discusses the value and importance of a design document and how to prepare a good one.



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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  Requirements for Effective Fuzzing

"Fuzz testing" has become one of the most effective methods of security testing for browser-based applications.  However, construction of the test regime is very important to ensure that observed failures can be replicated and isolated.



Article:  QA Teams—Underappreciated, but Seldom Understood

Test and QA groups often get little respect and support from the larger IT organization, but frequently this is because others don't understand the importance and value they provide.



Site:  Testometer

Testometer is an online tool for evaluating your testing skills by using puzzles, some of which are frequently used in tester interviews, to evaluate your approach.  It focuses on class partitioning and boundary value analysis.



Online Tool:  Test Everything

Test Everything is a collection of dozens of free, online web site testing tools.  Simply enter the URL for your site and specify the tests, including CSS and HTML validation, SEO rankings, web proxies, and much more.



Article:  How can you possibly test modern software fully?

New research shows that most software errors/faults are the result of a bad combination of only two input values.  This leads to the concept that sufficient test coverage is the result of testing only pairs of input values, rather than all possible combinations of input.



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Tutorial:  What kind of language is XSLT?

This introductory-level article explains what XSLT is and how it is used to transform XML data into a format that can be used for display, such as on a web page.




Tutorial:  Learn Haskell in 10 minutes

Interested in learning about functional programming, but don't know where to start?  This simple introduction to the Haskell programming language helps introduce some of the concepts in a clear and concise way.



Tutorial:  DNS Complexity:  A journey into the sublime complexity of the domain name system

While conceptually simple (e.g., a domain name = an IP address), the domain name system (DNS) has grown in complexity and importance over the years.  This article explains the details and how DNS works and its future.



Tutorial:  Get started with the Eclipse Platform

Eclipse has become the premier platform for Java (and other language) development.  But for the beginner, Eclipse can be daunting.  This excellent article introduces the platform and some of the core concepts for using it to do Java development.  It has been completely updated for the Eclipse 3.3 release (part of the Europa release).



Tutorial:  Revealing the Secrets of Microsoft Project

The book excerpt covers the basics of how to use Microsoft Project to build a project plan/schedule and some of the quirks of how Project works.



Tutorial:  How to Read and Write RSS Feeds

This article gives the basics for how to format and structure an RSS feed using XML.  It uses Java to show how parse the XML for both reading and writing RSS feeds.



Tutorial:  Oracle: Introduction to Oracle SQL and PL/SQL

This comprehensive video based tutorial covers dozens of topics related to SQL and PL/SQL on the Oracle database platform.  The tutorials are well organized and are easy for even the beginner to grasp.  Be sure to check out the site home page for many other tutorials on technology and other topics.



Tutorial:  An introduction to Yahoo Pipes

If you are looking to create your own mashups or RSS feeds, Yahoo Pipes is one of the simplest ways to go.  This excellent tutorial teaches you the basics.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  Workers Rarely Jump Ship Over Pay Alone

Only about 10% of workers move to another job simply due to pay.  However, 90% of executives surveys believe that pay is the only factor.  Most workers leave for other reasons such as security, benefits, and job satisfaction.



Article:  Small Firms Win Over IT Talent

Although mid-market (smaller) companies don't have the deep pockets of the bigger employers they have annual IT staff turnover of 6%, which is the 3% below larger firms, because of long-term dedication to employees, including training and better work/life balance.



Article:  Lead, Follow, and Get Out of the Way

We are surrounded with lots of discussion about leadership, but what does it really mean?  What is a leader and what sets him/her apart from the followers?  This article explores the common characteristics of good leaders.  And being a manager does not necessarily mean you are a leader.



Article:  How To Talk To Your Boss:  Corporations and Small Companies

This article offers some excellent advice about the difference in how large and small organizations are run and how issues are handled.  In particular, the author discusses how to get support/help from your boss.



Article:  19 Battlefield Tips to Survive Stress at Work

Excessive stress is probably the major contributing factor to poor work performance.  Here are some great tips for how to deal with and reduce work-related stress.



Online Tool:  Amiko

Amiko is an online resume tool.  You can create your resume in WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) application and then export the resume into PDF or text format.  You can include graphics on your resume and it even supports templates to allow customizing your resume for specific instances.  You can even link to your Amiko resume on popular job sites.



Article:  IM users to get etiquette lessons

What is the proper use of instant messaging (IM) in the business setting?  This article has some tips, including using IM for simple requests requiring immediate response and e-mail for items that need more discussion and consideration.



Article:  Why You Can't Get Any Work Done

Distractions in the workplace are one of the most significant drains on productivity.  One of management's main jobs should be to remove distractions from workers' days so that they can get their work done.



Article:  Managing Emotions in the Workplace: Do Positive and Negative Attitudes Drive Performance?

How do people's attitudes affect their own work and the work of others?  This article also discusses how understanding and using emotional intelligence can enhance your work experience.



Article:  How to Win at Office Politics

While I personally don't like office politics, they are part of life in most organizations.  Here are some good tips for how to handle them in a reasonable and professional manner.



Article:  12 IT skills that employers can't say no to

Here are a dozen IT skills that almost guarantee that you'll be able to land that new job. 



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Telecommunications/Networking Industry

Article:  A neutral 'Net needs up to twice the bandwidth of a tiered network

Recent research from AT&T shows that "dumb" (neutral) networks frequently require twice as much peak bandwidth as managed networks which prioritize traffic.  However, this conclusion does not necessarily imply that running managed networks is cheaper.



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Useful Utilities

Skylight (Free – Windows XP/2003/Vista – 573kB)

Skylight is the Windows answer to the Macintosh's popular Quicksilver application and file launcher.  Skylight makes it quick and easy to locate and launch programs and files, but it does even more, including allowing you to choose alternative actions, such as showing the object in Windows Explorer.



MAKEMSI (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista – 6.2MB)

MAKEMSI is a free Windows installation builder/packager.  It will create an MSI-based installer from your files that can be used to install your application on any Windows system.  It uses a simple, XML-based language for specifying the installation directories and parameters.



Hotwire (Free – Cross-platform – 8.6 MB)

Hotwire is an interesting combination of shell/command prompt and GUI file manager.  It combines the nice features of each and allows you execute commands via a command line and list and manipulate files graphically.  It is based on GTK and Python and, therefore, runs on Linux and Windows (including Cygwin).



WinTabber (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – 1.65MB)

WinTabber allows you to group windows of most any application together into a single window with tabs for each of the original windows.  You can turn multiple command prompts or terminal sessions into a single window and reduce the clutter on your desktop and task bar.



RSSPopper (Free – Microsoft Outlook 2003 – 0.5MB)

RSSPopper is an excellent RSS feed reader add-on for Microsoft Outlook.  It integrates seamlessly with Outlook by putting feed results in a separate folder in your mailbox.  Each feed item appears like a standard e-mail message.  Configuration is easy via the RSSPopper toolbar and the toolbar even includes a button to quickly turn feeds on and off to prevent updates when you don't want them.



Desktop Drape (Free – Windows XP/Vista – 99kB)

Desktop Drape blanks the screen except for an area or window that you specify.  This allows you to concentrate on one particular window, such as a video or editing window.  The blanking transparency and color is customizable and you and easily resize the focus (displayed) area.



Sizer (Free ­– Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista – 17kB)

Sizer is a handy utility for resizing windows to a particular size.  While it is mainly intended for web browsers to check how a size looks at particular screen resolutions, it is also useful for wide screens.  You can specify your own collection of "standard" window sizes.  Just right-click on the window title bar to choose the desired size from the choices.  Sizer can also be added to the window menu and even adds a handy tool tip to the standard resize function to dynamically show the size of the window during resizing.



Folder2MyPC (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – 417kB)

Folder2MyPC lets you create shortcuts to most any item (application, documents, etc.) in your My Computer and Control Panel folders.  This allows you to quickly launch your most frequently used items from one common place.



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Just For Fun

This virtual road leads to Rome

Researchers from the US and Italy have painstakingly created a virtual reconstruction of Rome in the year 320 AD.  Think of it as a Google Maps for the 4th century!



Science's 10 Most Beautiful Experiments

This site presents their suggestions for the most intriguing experiments from the history of science.  They are based mostly on the keen insight and simplicity of the originator.  Each one includes great animations of the particular experiment.



Origin of Familiar Phrases

Ever wonder where some of the figures of speech that we use come from?  This cool list gives you the story on 18 common ones.



Poodwaddle World Clock

This interesting Flash-based world clock shows the current time along with some interesting and often startling statistics about the state of the world, including deaths by various causes, current population, oil production and much more.  It really kind of puts things in a fascinating perspective.



Tartan Maker

This fun online tool allows you to create your own Tartan plaid image.  You can adjust all of the colors and even the yarn size!  Very cool for creating a custom background for your desktop or web site.



Boneless Pig Farmers Association of America (BPFAA)

Help support the way of life of the boneless pig farmer that is endangered due to McDonald's discontinuing the McRib sandwich.  ;)



Newton's Secrets

This online exhibit (coinciding with a regular museum exhibit) includes some recently discovered and archived papers of Isaac Newton that give new insight into his personal and professional life.  It includes writings involving alchemical experiments and his interest in ancient history and apocalyptic prophecies.



Top 18 Skylines in the World

Here are fantastic pictures and descriptions of some of the most famous and interesting city skylines from around the world.  The ones you would expect (New York, Hong Kong, etc.) are there, but so are a few surprises.



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