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December 2004 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.  –Barry LePatner


He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill.  Our antagonist is our helper.  –Edmund Burke


The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.  –John E. Southard


However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.  –Winston Churchill


Patience is also a form of action.  –Auguste Rodin


Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone.  Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking.  –Tim McMahon


Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.  –Phillips Brooks


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Software Development Process

Article:  Father of the Wiki Talks Programming Practices

Ward Cunningham, who created the wiki, discusses his recommendations for development.  He makes some interesting analogies between programming activities and finances.



Article:  Blame it on the users

Typically, when a system project fails, blame is placed squarely on IT.  This writer posits that perhaps the users are more often responsible and that difficulties in IT projects are really just a reflection of increased complexity of the business operations and reliance of the business on technology.



Article:  The top 20 IT mistakes to avoid

This list of common mistakes in IT is based surveys of IT organizations.  Each vignette includes some tips on preventing these mistakes yourself.



Article:  Admitting Uncertainty

Tom DeMarco discusses the key elements of a successful risk analysis and mitigation strategy for software development projects.



Article:  Hearts & Minds

Interview with John Kotter, a leadership guru, about how corporate culture impacts, both positively and negatively, efforts for alignment between business units and IT.



Article:  Language Oriented Programming: The Next Programming Paradigm

This author posits that software development is still stuck in the "Stone Age", because all programming is based on the premise that the programming think like the computer.  He suggests a model for reversing this paradigm using what he terms language oriented programming.




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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  Giving Bugs the Boot

Many researchers have conceded that "defect-free" software is likely unachievable.  New efforts are underway to allow systems to recover from failure without losing system availability or data using so-called "micro-reboots".



Article:  Using Bugs To Bring Developers and Testers Closer Together

This article discusses how testers and developers can work more effectively together.  As with most such tasks, the key is communication centering on clear, concise, and timely sharing of information.



Article:  Open Source Java and Web Testing Tools

This article gives brief reviews and comparisons of some free, open source Java and web testing tools available via the Freshmeat site.



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Article:  Process Fabrication:  How a CPU is Built

The entire computer world is based on microelectronics.  This brief, non-technical article describes how raw silicon is converted into CPUs and other electronic chips.



Text:  C++ GUI Programming with QT 3

This is a full online copy of a new text on developing GUI programs in C++ using the QT cross-platform GUI toolkit.



Site:  Software Engineering Reference Library

This companion site to Roger Pressman's classic text Software Engineering: A Practitioner's Approach provides links to hundreds of free, downloadable resources on a variety of software development topics.



Reference:  Windows NT/2000/XP Command Line Reference

This comprehensive online reference provides details on all of the command line commands in the Windows NT-based operating systems.  (Note:  Some commands listed are only available in later OSes, such as Windows 2000 or XP.)



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Site:  WorldWideLearn

WorldWideLearn is a very well organized categorized listing of online learning resources, including online degree programs, personal and professional development, and free online courses and training.



Article:   From Dilbert to Da Vinci

This article explores what companies and managers can do to foster creativity among technical employees.  The basic premise is that challenging work, not "perks" are what motivates technologists.



Article:  Software Metrics (humor)

Lots of folks spend a good deal of time trying to measure the software development process.  Here are some metrics that you might not have heard of.



Speech:  Carl Eller on Being a Winner

Carl Eller was a defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings in their glory days of the '60s and '70s.  In this transcript from his speech at his induction to the pro football hall of fame, he talks about what separates winners from losers.



Site:  I-resign.com

This is a job search site that doesn't take itself too seriously.  While it offers practical advice for the job hunter, it also has some tongue-in-cheek sections, such as the popular funny resignation letters.



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Useful Utilities

Windows Virtual CD Control Panel (Free – Windows 2000/XP – 60kB)

This simple tool allows you to mount CD-ROM images in ISO format as additional drives on your system.  While indicated for use only on Window XP systems, this tool works fine in Windows 2000, as well.



FreeQueryBuilder (Free – OS Independent/Java – 189kB)

FreeQueryBuilder is a graphical SQL query builder that is compatible with any JDBC-compliant database, including Oracle, MySQL, MS SQL Server, and others.  It queries the schema structure and allows you to graphically create joins in a point-and-click fashion and then execute the query.



Hide Windows (Free – Windows 2000/XP – 40kB)

Hide Windows places an icon in your system tray.  To use it, simply set focus (make active) the window that you want to hide and click on the tray icon.  The window will be hidden and removed from the task bar.  Right-click on the icon to display a list of hidden windows and select the window to unhide.



NetDrive (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 5.5MB)

NetDrive allows you to connect to an FTP or HTTP (including HTTPS) server like it was another network drive mapped on your system.  This allows drag-and-drop file transfers via Windows Explorer and simple management of server file systems.  The tool is highly-configurable, but quite intuitive as well.  (The site implies that the utility works only with Netware, but it really works on any Windows platform that supports TCP/IP.)



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Productivity Tips

Show full path to file in title bar of MS Word

By default, MS Word shows the filename of the file that is being edited in the title bar.  However, when you work on multiple documents simultaneously, it can be confusing about which directory a particular file is in.  With a couple of simple macros, you can have Word show the full path prepended to the filename in the title.  Here's how:

(1)     Select Tools | Macro | Macros… from the main menu in Word.

(2)     In the Macros window, choose Normal.dot from the Macros in list, enter the name AutoOpen in the Macro name field and press Create.  This creates the new macro in your Normal (global) template, so that it is available in all Word sessions.

(3)     In the Microsoft Visual Basic editor, modify the shell of the AutoOpen macro to be:

Sub AutoOpen()

ActiveWindow.Caption = ActiveDocument.FullName

End Sub

(4)     Add another macro with the definition:

Sub FileSaveAs()


System.Cursor = wdCursorNormal

ActiveWindow.Caption = ActiveDocument.FullName

End Sub

(5)     In the Microsoft Visual Basic editor, select File | Save Normal from the menu and close the editor to return to MS Word.

Now, whenever you save or open a document in Word the full path will be displayed in the title bar.


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Just For Fun

Robot Hall of Fame

The Robot Hall of Fame established by the robotics institute at Carnegie-Mellon University pays tribute to robots, both from science and science fiction, and their contributions to society.  One of the 2004 inductees is Star Wars' C-3PO.



The Rule of Threes

One IT veteran's humorous look at how the number 3 comes up in many interesting ways in the software development process.



The Postmodernism Generator

This crazy site takes bits of text from post-modern literature and tries (actually quite successfully!) to string it together into a coherent discourse.  The results are really quite humorous.



Dilbert Performance Review Generator (recommended by…  Well, I better not say!)

Why waste time actually evaluating an employees performance when this one-stop shop can auto-generate a review for anyone with just a few simple questions?!



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