February 2003 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


Furious activity is no substitute for understanding.  –H. H. Williams


The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.  –Martin Luther King, Jr.


Blessed is he who has learned to admire but not envy, to follow but not imitate, to praise but not flatter, and to lead but not manipulate.  –William Arthur Ward


In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.  –Thomas Jefferson


We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.  –Aristotle


It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis.  –Margaret Bonnano


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Software Development Process

Article:  Make requirements-gathering interviews less stressful for users

Even with the best project management and team efforts, a project will fail without proper requirements.  This article gives some practical tips for eliciting clear, concise requirements from users by focusing on understanding the tasks the users do.



Site:  Software Reality

This site provides a light-hearted, yet foundationally sound look at some of the pitfalls and difficulties experiences in the software development realm.  Many of the articles focus on practical solutions to problems without a lot of the fluff.



Article:  Project management pop quiz

A true/false quiz about attitudes that make or break a project manager.  The questions give some good insight into critical success factors for managing projects.



Article:  Check your project for these four warning signs

Even though a project may be on schedule, there may be some warning signs that indicate potential trouble down the road.  This article looks at four key questions to assess some of the intangibles about the project status:  Are you falling behind early in the project?  Are you identifying more and more risks?  Has client participation faded?  Is morale declining?



Article:  Invest in IT capabilities, not just IT

This article says that understanding the fundamental capabilities of a company's IT organization are as (or more) important than the simple analysis of the ROI proposition for a particular project.  For an IT organization to add value, the senior management must understand the underlying value of the IT group.



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Software Testing & Quality

Editorial:  Let Users Swat Bugs

Columnist Frank Hayes makes the case for enlisting user help in finding problems with systems.  He gracefully points out that the QA/testing function can’t find all of the problems and that the business users are uniquely qualified to find problems because they know the ins and outs of their jobs.



Article:  Users Losing Billions Due to Bugs

If you don’t think that software problems are a big drain, then consider a recent 309-page report from NIST (National Institute for Standards and Technology) which indicates that bugs cost businesses $59.4 mostly by the business users that the systems are intended to serve.



Articles:  Testing Patterns

Patterns are popular in software development.  Basically, they are “best practice” methods that can be applied to a wide range or variety of problems to be solved.  Patterns are also useful in software testing:  using what you know to test something that don’t know.  This site provides a group of testing patterns based on a wide range of criteria.




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Article:  Learn about Perl statements with this script walk-through

This article is a nice introductory discussion of Perl which uses an example of manipulating a text file to explain some of the basic syntax of the language.



Tutorial:  SQL for Web Nerds

Don’t let the title fool you.  This tutorial is a good introduction for anyone interested in learning the basics of SQL.  The tutorial has a good set of Oracle-specific references.



Site:  Beginners’ Tutorials

This site contains hundreds of tutorials on a variety of IT and technology topics, ranging from basic TCP/IP networking to Visual Basic to SQL and Unix.  Most of the tutorials start at the beginner level (hence the name!) and so are useful to anyone regardless of prior knowledge or experience.



Tutorial: How Firewalls Work

A nice introductory article to the concepts of both software-based and hardware firewalls for networks.  Includes links to more detailed and technical articles.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  What Should I Do With My Life?

Many people are unfulfilled by their current jobs.  This article looks at some practical techniques to assess your motivations, skills, and wants from life and how to align your work life with them.  The author’s central premise is:


Companies don't grow because they represent a particular sector or adopt the latest management approach. They win because they engage the hearts and minds of individuals who are dedicated to answering that life question.


The author, Po Bronson, also did an interview on NPR, which you can listen to online, concerning his book from which the Fast Company article is excerpted.



Article:  How to Ruin American Enterprise

A tongue-in-cheek, but nonetheless on the mark, look by comedian Ben Stein at how American’s sense of entitlement and self-centeredness is leading us down the path to economic and moral ruin.



Primer:  Diffusion of Innovation Theory

The theory of diffusion of innovation investigates the social patterns and norms that affect the adoption or rejection of new innovations into an organization.  Understanding this theory is very helpful to making sound judgements in IT when considering new systems or changes to existing systems.


http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/SOS/InnDiffISW.html (annotated resources list)


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Useful Utilities

Hekko Virtual CD (Free – Windows 2000 – 1.14MB)

Hekko Virtual CD (HVCD) is an application that allows you to make an image of a CD-ROM on your hard drive and map a drive letter to reference it.  This permits you to run an application from CD-ROM without having to swap out the physical CD-ROMs.  Furthermore, since access times for hard drives are typically much better than for CD-ROMs, this speeds the performance of applications that have to frequently read from CD-ROM.



PDFCreator (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000 – 3.7MB)

PDFCreator is a free utility that allows you to output from any Windows application to a PDF file.  PDFCreator is a much easier to install alternative to the FreePDF system and replicates very well the functionality of standard Adobe Acrobat application. 



AIDA32 (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000 – 1.7MB)

In the case of AIDA32, it is not an overstatement to say that it is the ultimate system information utility.  The depth of analysis of your Windows system and hardware that this utility does is incredible.  The layout and structure of the utility is excellent, as well.  And best of all it’s free!



WinBar (Free -- Windows 9x/NT/2000 -- 274kB)

WinBar is a small, unobtrusive system monitoring utility.  It docks to the top of the screen and stays on top, but can be minimized to regain screen real estate.  In addition to standard monitoring tools, such as CPU usage, memory usage, and system uptime, WinBar includes a host of other useful tools, including a Google search engine bar, integrated Winamp controls, screen resolution changer, quick launch bar, and much more.



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Productivity Tips

Quickly show document summary or preview in MS Word Open dialog

In the MS Word Open (File | Open… or <Ctrl>+O) dialog, quickly display the document summary and document preview views by pressing <Alt>+6.  Pressing <Alt>+6 will cycle through the list, details, properties, and preview views and back again.  This feature is available in all of the MS Office applications, including Excel and PowerPoint.


Edit or add options to the mouse right-click context menu

This pages provides detailed instructions with helpful screenshots for modifying the right-click context menu to provide additional options, such as adding an “Edit” option for all file types.



Some handy keyboard shortcuts for any application

Applications such as MS Word have extensive support for including symbols in your text.  But sometimes you want to include symbols in non-Word files.  Here are some keyboard shortcuts for common symbols that you can use in most any application.



Keyboard Shortcut*

– ("n dash")


— ("m dash")


° (degree symbol)




² (superscript 2 - square)


³ (superscript 3 - cube)


† (dagger)


‡ (double dagger)


™ (trademark symbol)


© (copyright symbol)











*Numbers must be entered from numeric keypad.


For more, open the Character Map application (Start | Run | charmap) and select the font that you are using.  In the list of characters, click on the desired character.  In the lower right corner of the window, the keystroke shortcut will be displayed.


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Just For Fun

Javascript Battleship Game

Remember playing Battleship when you were a kid?  This is a nice, bandwidth-friendly version of this classic game written in Javascript.  You play against the computer!




Newzoid bills itself with the subtitle “headlines from parallel worlds”.  It’s actually an interesting application of artificial intelligence that creates humorous headlines by combining parts of real news headlines.  Some of them will have you in stitches.




Copernica is an interactive showcase of art produced by NASA scientists as a by-product of their space exploration efforts.  The whole system itself (in Java) is well done and fun to use.  Plus, you just might learn something during your explorations of the universe!



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