December 2003 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


We should seize every opportunity to give encouragement.  Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.  The days are always dark enough.  There is no need for us to emphasize the fact by spreading further gloom.  –George M. Adams


In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.  –Bill Cosby


Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.  –Abraham Lincoln


Brasington's Ninth Law: A carelessly planned project takes three times longer to complete than expected; a carefully planned one will take only twice as long.


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


Character is what you are. Reputation is what people think you are.  –Unknown


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Software Development Process

Interview:  Why IT projects fail

This is a discussion with Sue Young of ANDA Consulting about the factors that contribute to project failure.  She focuses on problems of subjective status reports that indicate everything is going fine even though it isn’t and other common pitfalls.,10801,84266,00.html


Article:  What is a user requirement or specification?

This article looks at software requirements from the user perspective and gives some good advice on how to portray the importance of good requirements to the system end users.


Article:  First Principles of Interaction Design

This article provides an excellent introduction to the concepts of good user interface design.  Not only does it provide some good ideas, but the motivation behind them.


Article:  Manage client expectations with a project scope document

This article provides an overview of the contents of a good project scope document and includes a sample template to help get started.


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Software Testing & Quality

Editorial:  Send in the Exterminators

This commentary discusses the push-pull between software vendors and their customers and the impact that such interactions have on software quality and the responsibilities of each.,10801,86392,00.html


Article:  Writing Effective Defect Reports

One of the "make-or-break" tasks of software testers is the ability to clearly and concisely report problems found in the course of testing.  This article presents 10 key factors in writing problem reports.


Article:  Troubleshooting Risk-Based Testing

New article by James Bach that reviews four common problems associated with risk-based testing and how to resolve them.


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Article:  How Computer Viruses Work

On the 20th anniversary of the creation of the first computer virus, this article gives a nice overview of the types of computer viruses, how they propagate, and some tips on avoiding infection.


Tutorial:  Introduction to Perl

This is a very straightforward, well-organized, and "gentle" introduction to the Perl language, which is the de facto standard for Unix/Linux scripting.  The tutorial includes an excellent section about common problems experienced by new Perl users.


Article:  C++: In search of the perfect convert-to-string function

This article presents a novel approach to using the C++ STL to develop a reusable function for converting any object type to a string.


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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  U.S. tech job losses slow in 2003

Although the technology sector still suffered significant job losses this year, the rate of loss has diminished.  A survey by the American Electronics Association (AEA) shows that about 6 million high-tech jobs were lost (so far) in 2003 compared to 6.5 million in 2002.


Article:  Japan team reports quantum computing breakthrough

A team of Japanese scientists has reported that they have successfully demonstrated one of the two major building blocks, called a Controlled NOT gate, for a real quantum computer.


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Telecommunications Industry

Article:  Building a better business one customer at a time

Recent research indicates that telecom companies could improve revenue by 85% simply by retaining 5% of their customer base.


Article:  Why the Bells Should Be Very Scared

A look at the impact that mainstream use of voice over IP (VOIP) telephony will have on traditional telecom carriers.  For example, IBM hopes to have 80% of its employees using VOIP by 2008.


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Useful Utilities

Kkopy (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 2008kB)

Kkopy is a free Microsoft Word add-in that allows easier selection of large chunks of text via the mouse without Word scrolling wildly up and down through the document.


MyExplorerBar (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 729kB)

MyExplorerBar is an add-on for Windows Explorer that adds some handy features includes file mask selection, shortcuts to frequently used applications and folders, and integrated Internet search capability.  MyExplorerBar supports drag-and-drop, so setting up shortcuts for often-used items is simple.


Enhanced Virtual Desktops (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 12kB)

Enhanced Virtual Desktops (EVD) allows you to have 9 virtual workspaces on your machine.  This is very small and quick virtual desktop application.  Switching desktops is accomplished via the icon in the system tray.  EVD allows you to move windows from one desktop to another and designate certain windows to exist on each desktop.


CopyMessageBox (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 473kB)

CopyMessageBox is a handy utility that allows you to quickly extract the text messages displayed by Windows or applications like error messages.  In comparison to similar utilities, CopyMessageBox has some nice features such as keeping the history of captured text, displaying a thumbnail image of the message box from which the text was captured, and a user-configurable hot key for capturing text.


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Productivity Tips

Speed up shutdowns in Windows NT/2000

When shutting down Windows NT or 2000, by default the system waits 20 seconds (20000 milliseconds) for services and applications to stop before proceeding with the shutdown.  You can reduce this wait time (12 – 15 seconds is usually safe), by doing the following.  Open the Registry Editor (Start | Run --> regedit) and navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control registry key.  Edit the WaitToKillServiceTimeout value and set it to the desired number of milliseconds (default is 20000).  Close the Registry Editor and restart your system for change to take effect.


Shortcut keys for more efficient work in MS Excel

Make editing and modifying the contents of an MS Excel worksheet more efficient and simplier by using these keyboard short cuts.




Insert cells.  If an entire row or column is selected, a new row or column will be inserted above/before the current selection.


Displays the Format Cells window.


Insert today’s date.


Insert the current time.


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Just For Fun

Typewriter-to-Keyboard Conversion

This site includes real, complete instructions for converting an old manual typewriter (Remember those?!) into a keyboard for PC.


Comic Viewer

This one might actually belong in the utilities category, but it's really a fun tool.  This is a little utility that downloads a variety (dozens are supported) of popular comic strips from the Internet and "packages" them into a single local web page for viewing.  Now you don't have to visit dozens of web sites daily just to keep up with your favorite strips.


2004 Geek Calendar

A monthly calendar from TechRepublic which includes a load of geeky trivia.  Suitable for papering the walls of your cublicle.  (A weekly planner version is also available.)


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