February 2004 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


That you may retain your self-respect, it is better to displease the people by doing what you know is right, than to temporarily please them by doing what you know is wrong.  –William J. H. Boetcker


An optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out?  –Rene Descartes


Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.  –John F. Kennedy


Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.  –Tom Landry


As I grow older, I pay less attention to what people say; I just watch what they do.  –Andrew Carnegie


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Software Development Process

Article:  Notes on the Role of Leadership and Language in Regenerating Organizations

These notes are a summary of concepts developed by Sun's Developer Web Services team about the importance of common language and leadership adaptability in an environment undergoing rapid change.

http://www.sdmagazine.com/supplement/leadership_and_languages.pdf  (Free registration required.)


Essay:  Technology and Courage

Somewhere in each technology person's career he or she will encounter a situation which calls for stepping out to use technology that is new or unfamiliar.  This essay by Ivan Sutherland, VP of development at Sun, discusses how technical people should approach risk and develop the appropriate level of courage for taking chances.



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Software Testing & Quality

Site:  Open Source Testing

The Open Source Testing site provides links to over 100 open source tools useful for software testing.  Categories include functional testing (record/playback), web page link checkers, test management, bug tracking, performance testing, and unit testing frameworks for a variety of languages/frameworks.



Site:  Quality-Oriented Programming

This site aims to organize concepts and best practices to improve the software development process in order to provide quality end-product applications.  The site is tool- and methodology-agnostic and states it's goal as "Quality is the first requirement of any project; therefore, every development effort should be quality oriented."



Article:  Interview with James Bach

A recent interview with software testing expert James Bach, the founder of Satisfice.  Bach makes some interesting observations about context-driven testing and exploratory testing.



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Reference:  Defining the Basic Elements of .NET

This is Microsoft's overview (and sales pitch) for its .NET web services architecture.  This article gives a basic structural description of the pieces that make up a .NET application system.



Article:  Database normalization starts with the keys

This article discusses the basics of normalizing an initial data model to eliminate redundancy and improve data integrity.  Good introductory treatment of the process.



Tutorial: Inheritance in Java

Sample chapter from introductory computer science book based on Java.  This chapter looks at the concepts of inheritance, which is one of the three pillars of object-oriented programming, as it relates to Java.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  Technology Predictor Success Matrix

This is an introductory article (more to come in the future) about the key factors that determine the success or failure of a new technology.  The nine factors include both the technical and abstract aspects of a technology.  Very interesting and thought-provoking ideas.



Article:  To Tell The Truth

In a recent survey of employees, over 90% said they could handle the truth from senior management about the company, but less than half said they thought that management actually provides it.  This is truly a sad commentary about the level of trust and confidence in corporations today.



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Telecommunications Industry

Resource:  Telecommunications Technology Pocket Guides

This site provides a set of brief, but relatively comprehensive, primers on various telecommunications technologies, including SONET, DWDM, ATM, SDH, and POS.



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Useful Utilities

Hard Disk Indicator

Nowadays, most people don't have their PC sitting on their desk where it is easy to see the hard disk activity light.  This little gem puts an indicator "LED" in the system tray for easy monitoring of hard disk activity.  It supports multiple hard drives in a single system and can be configured to use a different color for each.



ClocX (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 740kB)

ClocX is a very nice Windows desktop analog clock.  It is skinnable (site has dozens of additional background packs) and supports transparency (in Windows 2000 and later).  Some of the other nice features include ability to "click through" to the window underneath, "pin" it to the desktop to avoid accidentally moving it, and unlimited number of alarms.



Ram2Free (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 460kB)

There are many free RAM memory "cleaners" available, but Ram2Free is one of the best because it is both simple and effective.  This application does not run in the background and monitor free memory.  You run it on demand.  It simply allocates pages of memory to force Windows to unload unused modules thereby freeing memory.  Then it frees its own memory to make that memory available.  It includes good information about available memory (physical, virtual, and paging) and a nice graph of each type.



Virtual Dimension (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000 – 229kB)

Virtual Dimension is a virtual desktop manager with some nice extra features.  Besides being small, it allows you to minimize any window to the system tray, windows can be maximized either vertically or horizontally, each desktop can have its own wallpaper, and transparency (in Windows 2000) can be set on any window.  The features of this handy utility are too many to list here.  Check it out!



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Productivity Tips

Create tables from the keyboard in MS Word

In MS Word, you typically create tables by using the Table | Insert | Table… feature from the main menu and specify the dimensions (rows and columns) of the new table.  Fortunately, Word provides a quicker way that doesn't even require you to lift your hands from the keyboard.  To use it, simply use the "+" to designate the start of a column and multiple dashes ("-") to specify the approximate width of the column.  (Word will convert the actual width, regardless of font size, to a column of that width.)  For example, "+-------------+-------------+" followed by <Enter> will create a two-column table with column widths of about ¾" each.  Adding additional rows is easy:  just hit <Tab> in the rightmost column.  Likewise, Word automatically resizes the column widths (up to the width of the page) to accommodate the entered text.  (If this technique does not work, make sure that you are in the Normal or Print Layout view and that Tables option is enabled (checked) in Autocorrect | Autoformat As You Type (Tools | Autocorrect…).)


Using good e-mail Subject lines to ensure appropriate actions and responses to your missives

We’re all familiar with spam e-mail Subject lines like "Save thousands" and "You may already be a winner", but the importance of a concise, well-formed Subject cannot be overstated.  You should think of the Subject line like the headline in a newspaper.  The objective of the headline is to summarize and invite interest in the article.  Likewise, the e-mail Subject should briefly, but clearly inform the recipient of the general nature of the content of the message.  It should help the user decide if it is important that he/she read the message now, if some action or response on their part is necessary, and what the message pertains to.  Use patterns or templates for e-mails of similar content that you send, such as periodic reports.  The Subject should also include "keywords" that the recipient (or you!) can use later to search for the e-mail after it has been moved to the recesses of your saved mail.  Searching through the Subject is much more efficient than trying to search the entire contents of messages.  Also, if you change the topic of an e-mail thread, make sure to update the Subject accordingly.  One technique is to put the old Subject in parentheses and prepend the new subject.


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Just For Fun

Mr. Picassohead

If Mr. Potatohead is a little too juvenile for your tastes, then maybe Mr. Picassohead will fit the bill.  This Flash-based site, uses shapes directly from Pablo Picasso's artwork to allow you to create your own masterpiece.  In addition, you save your creation and view other's works in the "gallery" of over 80000 entries.



Shakespearean Insult Generator

If you want to sound cultured when you offend someone, consult this insult generator that uses language directly from the Bard’s plays to create a random slur.  This site even provides the list of phrases, so you can roll your own custom assault if the random ones are not to your liking.  Of course, it’s all just for fun!



Seinfeld Videos

Complete archive of DIVX format videos of old Seinfeld episodes, plus 100 short video clips.  The site could also be classified "everything Seinfeld" (or maybe it should be "nothing Seinfeld" <g>), as it includes scripts, biographies, photos, and more.



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