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December 2005 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


When anger rises, think of the consequences.  –Confucius


The point of living and of being an optimist, is to be foolish enough to believe the best is yet to come.  –Peter Ustinov


You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.  –Buckminster Fuller


The power to command frequently causes failure to think.  –Barbara Tuchman


Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.  –Samuel Johnson


The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle it; but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake it.  –Madame De Stael


What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but, scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.   –Joseph Addison


The productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker but of the manager.  –Peter Drucker


Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.  –Mother Teresa


It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly.  –Mabel Newcomber


You can stand tall without standing on someone. You can be a victor without having victims.  –Harriet Woods


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Software Development Process

Article:  United IT Revamps Processes, Business Relationships To Help Drive Company Forward

This article discusses how after slashing IT, the business units at United Airlines realized that IT was actually the path to improve business performance.  The article discusses the transformation realized by business and IT cooperation.



Article:  Microsoft Lauds 'Scrum' Method for Software Projects

Microsoft credits use of techniques from the Scrum agile development methodology with quick turnaround on their updates to SQL Server and Visual Studio that were released recently.



Book Excerpt:  Unsustainable Software Development and Its Causes

One of the goals of agile development methodologies is to promote "sustainable" development, meaning that the team can maintain a reasonable level of productivity for the long term.  This article looks at some of the reasons that traditional development methodologies fail and how agile can help.



Book Excerpt:  How To Make Things Happen

This excerpt from Scott Berkun's excellent and practical book The Art of Project Management discusses the role that project managers have in motivating the team and ensuring that the priorities are properly set and carried out.



Article:  Services by Design

Services-oriented architectures are becoming more prevalent as a development "platform".  This article gives a view of the future landscape where systems are dynamically created by using interchangeable combinations of web services.



Article:  The one-minute risk assessment tool

This article provides some useful and simple criteria for assessing and mitigating project risk.  The list is based on extensive research involving interviews with senior IT managers.



Article:  Planning Trumps 'Rapid Results'

The unofficial theme from the recent Gartner Symposium/ITxpo was that slowing down and doing more rigorous planning in IT and running IT like a business are important in this era of uncertainty.



Article:  Agile Requirements

One of the most difficult tasks in agile development methodology is to obtain and manage/maintain a good set of business and system requirements.  This article looks at some practical techniques for "doing" requirements in agile environments.



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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  The Seven Basic Principles of the Context-Driven School

Context-driven testing emphasizes a testing process and methodology that is agile (even on standard development projects) with the objective of finding the problems that are most important to stakeholders.



Article:  How to End Wars Between Testers and Programmers

There is always a natural tension between testers and developers, simply because they have different objectives and perspectives on the project.  However, that tension doesn't have to (and shouldn't!) degenerate into conflict.  This article looks at how testers and developers can have the right views on their roles to make the project succeed.



Articles:  How to Decide What Bugs to Fix When

One of the realities of all software development efforts is that not all of the bugs/defects in the system will get fixed before the system is released.  In these articles, the author presents some sound, reasonable approaches to determining which problems should be addressed and which will have to wait.




Article:  History's Worst Software Bugs

This article provides descriptions of some of the most severe and notorious software bugs with some explanations about how they could have been prevented.  The article has some nice interactive explanations of buffer overflow and race condition errors.



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Site:  Tech on the Net

Tech on the Net is a nice resource site for a variety of topics including Unix/Linux, SQL, Oracle PL/SQL, MS Access, MS Excel, and Java.  It is well organized and provides good Q&A style information.



Tutorial:  File Systems Explained

Almost all of computer has a file system underpinning it.  But the file system doesn't get the kind of press that fancy graphics do.  So what really is the file system?  Read on to find out.



Excerpt:  Master the basic building blocks of an SQL database query

This book excerpt from Learning SQL provides descriptions with examples of the basic elements that make up all SQL queries:  select, from, where, group by, having, and order by.  This excerpt provides a good introduction to the basics of querying a SQL database.



Tutorial:  GNU find

The Linux/Unix find command is one of the handiest, but most often overlooked commands among Linux/Unix novices.  This article provides a brief, but good introduction to this diamond in the rough.  (And Windows users are not left out, as find is included in Cygwin and other Windows-specific ports of find.)



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  Effective Employee Communication Linked to Stronger Financial Performance

A new study indicates that companies that have good communication with employees results in more than 30% increase in total return to shareholders (TRS) compared to those with poorest employee communications.



Articles:  20 Years Of Windows

On Nov. 20, 1985, Microsoft released Windows 1.0.  This series of articles looks at the history and future of Windows and some of the highlights of the past 20 years.



Article:  Writing sensible email messages

Abuse of email is probably one of the biggest drains on productivity in modern business.  This excellent article gives some brief and practical ideas for appropriate use of email.



Article:  Study Says Workers Wasting More Time

A 5-year study of work habits of over 1000 workers at 30 companies shows that they are spending more time handling e-mail (up 220%), attending ineffective meetings (up 300%), and dealing with interruptions (up 37%).



Article:  Keep your writing sharp and professional with this list of pointers

This brief list of pointers will help anyone improve his or her writing by making it more concise and readable, whether you are writing an e-mail or a big report.



Survey:  Robert Half Technology 2006 Salary Guide

This is Robert Half's annual salary and job outlook survey for IT jobs.  Overall, they see improvement in the hiring picture, but nothing radical.



Article:  Survey: Most Companies Are Dysfunctional

A recent survey by Booz Allen Hamilton shows that 2/3 of workers believe their own organizations are dysfunctional and a US and Japanese companies showed that only 19% were "healthy".  The main aspect is that healthy companies are able execute on actions and dysfunctional ones can't.



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Telecommunications/Networking Industry

Editorial:  Whitacre:  Threat or Menace?  You Tell Me

Industry observer, John Dvorak, rebuffs recent comments made by Ed Whitacre, CEO of SBC, about content providers paying for Internet transport services.



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Useful Utilities

wTicker (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 4.1MB)

wTicker is a free RSS aggregator that can also be changed into a small scrolling ticker bar.  The ticker bar can be embedded in the Windows task bar for convenience.  Likewise, it is a full-featured standard RSS aggregator.



MoreFunc.XLL (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP and MS Excel 95/97/2000/2002/2003 – 951kB)

This Excel add-in provides dozens of new functions to Excel in a variety of categories.  Of particular interest are the regular expression functions that allow you to parse cell contents using regex.



MyJavaPack (Free – Platform-independent/Java 2 – 1231kB)

MyJavaPack is a platform-independent installer for 37 free, open-source Java development packages.  You must have JDK/JRE already installed to use it.  Some of the popular included packages include Eclipse, Ant, Poseidon UML, Struts, JBoss, Tomcat, MySQL, MySQL Administrator, Webmin, NetBeans, and many more.



kAlert (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP and MS Outlook 2003 – 546kB)

kAlert is an MS Outlook 2003 add-on that allows you have an SMS text message sent to your cell phone if an Outlook reminder is not dismissed within a user-specified amount of time.  This is handy for reminders when you are in a meeting or out of the office.  Support for most US wireless providers is included.



Access to MySQL (Free – Windows 2000/XP – 2.3MB)

This tool is a wizard-based utility to convert Microsoft Access databases (.mdb) to MySQL databases while preserving the data in the database.  It migrates the table structure and, optionally, indexes and default column values, as well as the data.



CopyText (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 55kB)

CopyText allows you to grab text from most windows and interface widgets, including listboxes, buttons, and window captions.  In addition, CopyText can search for text strings within the copied text and paste the found text to the clipboard.  It also provides



Prio (Free – Windows 2000/XP – 221kB)

Prio allows you to save the desired priority for processes in the Windows Task Manager.  This means that for certain applications that you need to run at different that regular priority, you can "set it and forget it".  Prio will automatically change the priority for all instances of that process in the future.  This is very handy for virus scanners that are a little too aggressive.



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Just For Fun

Word Search Fun

With Christmas breaks just around the corner, the kids will be hanging out at home for a few extra days anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus.  This site is a nice diversion that is educational at the same time.  This site has over 3500 word search puzzles in dozens of categories.  And if you can’t find one that suits you, just create your own.  Each puzzle can be printed for off-line fun.



Discovering Sherlock Holmes

Starting in January 2006, Stanford will be re-releasing the original Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty stories in serialized fashion on successive Fridays, just as they were originally serialized a century ago.  Here's a good way to keep your new years resolution to read more of the classics.



Audio Books for Free

To me, one of the most enjoyable things is to read a good book.  But sometimes with all of the activities in life this just isn't possible.  Audio Books for Free provides books (in MP3 format, typically one file per chapter) in dozens of categories and genres.  The site has over 800 books available.




This neat little online Java applet allows you to create standard US road signs, including interstate markers, exit signs, and many more with your own customizations.  You can put together your own official exit from the information superhighway.



Patently Silly

This site has weekly updates on strange and humorous items that have actually received patents from the US Patent and Trademark Office.  You will be amazed at the things that people dream up and might even be mortified by what can actually be patented.



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