January 2004 Newsletter

Quotable Quotes


Constant kindness can accomplish much.  As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.  –Albert Schweitzer


Don't tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.  –George S. Patton


Intellectuals solve problems: geniuses prevent them.  –Albert Einstein


Most people are bad programmers. The honest truth is that having a lot of people staring at the code does not find the really nasty bugs. The really nasty bugs are found by a couple of really smart people who just kill themselves. Most people looking at the code won't see anything ... You can't have thousands of people contributing and achieve a high standard.

–Bill Joy


When you do common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.  –George Washington Carver


Return to top


Software Development Process

Article:  Organizational culture and structure influence project management more than you realize

This article discusses the impact that "the way we do things" has on the likelihood of success or failure of projects and how to use your organizational knowledge to compensate.



Article:  Why Implementations Fail: The Human Factor

This article posits that in 9 out of 10 IT project failures, human failure, particularly related to decision-making, is the cause, rather than inherent problems with the technology.



Article: Warding off feature creep

This article proffers the interest concept that all changes to a defined set of requirements should include the costs, both in time and money, associated with the changes.



Return to top


Software Testing & Quality

Article:  Using the Cost of Quality Approach for Software

The "cost of quality" (CoQ) concept has been used widely in manufacturing in justifying efforts to reduce defects and rework.  This article is a good introduction some possible ways to leverage that concept in software testing and QA.



Article:  The Darker Side of Metrics

Metrics from the testing process are often abused.  Likewise, sometimes the actual process of collecting metrics causes unintended, and sometimes dangerous, side effects.  This article and presentation combination explores some of these issues and how to avoid them.  Actual case studies are cited.



Article:  Requirements and Testing:  Seven Missing-Link Myths

One of the greatest misconceptions about effective test efforts is that they can be successfully accomplished with a dearth of requirements.  This article emphasizes the importance of testing requirements (often called validation) in addition to simply checking the system against the requirements, if they even exist.



Return to top



Article:  Use referential integrity to enforce basic business rules in Oracle

Using the built-in referential integrity constraints in Oracle can help to simplify business rule enforcement and maintain enforcement consistency instead of relying on application code to do so.  This article explains the basics.



Site:  Regular-Expressions.info

This site is a clearinghouse for all things related to regular expressions.  (Regular expressions, often called regex, are a powerful pattern-matching tool.)  The site has an excellent introductory level tutorial on regex and references to how to use regex in various programming languages.



Article:  What Is Java?

This article is a nice, non-technical overview of the Java programming language and how it is used.  The article gives a nice comparison of a simple program written in C++ and the same program written in Java.



Site:  IT Toolbox

IT Toolbox provides a wide variety of resources for developers, systems administrators, and system users alike.  Essentially, the site a "web directory" of information useful to those responsible for back office systems.  Topics include many of the popular CRM/ERP applications, database systems, and infrastructure.  The best feature is that all of this is provided without a lot of fluff, just good useful information, such as database maintenance scripts and the like.



Return to top


Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  Job Satisfaction:  It's Highly Overrated

Fifty percent of the respondents to this year's survey about employee satisfaction disagreed that their employer did a good job of building employee loyalty.  Budget cuts, layoffs, outsourcing, excessive workload and other factors contribute to low employee satisfaction and morale.



Article:  Top 10 IT stories of 2003

Not to be outdone by David Letterman, Infoworld has listed their top 10 stories from the world of IT for 2003.  The list doesn't really include any big surprises, but it's a nice quick overview of what happened during the past year.



Article:  Computer viruses now 20 years old

The first computer virus, written as a college computer security experiment, was released 20 years ago.  Since then, more than 60000 viruses have been unleashed.



Return to top


Useful Utilities

Virtual PDF Printer (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000 – 1.38MB)

There are a number of free alternatives to Adobe's Acrobat product for creating basic PDF files.  However, none is as simple or lightweight as this one.  Wondersoft Virtual PDF Printer installs a simple printer redirector that creates a PDF file from any application that can print.  Just select Virtual PDF Printer as your "printer" and enter a filename and you have a regular PDF file as the output.



GLINT (Free – Windows NT/2000/XP – 122kB)

GLINT is a compact system performance monitor that can use any of the dozens of built-in Windows performance monitors (normally accessed via the PerfMon utility).  Nice features of GLINT include displaying multiple monitors simultaneously with both textual and graphical output and a "top" like feature that shows the processes using the most resources.  Likewise, GLINT is small and doesn't itself substantially impact system performance.



Xtail (Free – Windows NT/2000/XP – 1.71MB)

Xtail is a Windows GUI version of the popular Unix/Linux tail command to view the end contents of a frequently changing file, such as a log file.  Xtail is an MDI application which allows viewing/monitoring multiple log files simultaneously.  Likewise, the application has configurable refresh interval and you can specify certain text to be highlighted when found for quick visual analysis.



DialogMate (Free – Windows 2000/XP – 25kB)

DialogMate is very small utility that adds some handy features to Windows dialog boxes:  ability to minimize (via right-click on Minimize button) a dialog box to a floating icon or the system tray, a button for user-defined "Favorites" folders in Open and Save common dialogs, and making a window always on top.  Author has a number of enhancements slated for future releases.



Powerbullet Presenter (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 2.45MB)

Powerbullet Presenter is a free presentation graphics application (think Powerpoint!) that creates presentations in Macromedia Flash format, which is excellent for use on web pages.  Powerbullet features an excellent drag-and-drop interface and includes support for animation, sound file (WAV and MP3 format) embedding, and more.



Return to top


Productivity Tips

Stop Windows 2000/XP from updating Last Accessed date on folders

By default, whenever a folder (directory) is opened in Windows 2000/XP, the system updates the Last Accessed date.  Since most users are not interested in the last time a file was accessed, but instead when it was modified, you can squeeze a little more performance out of your system by disabling the update to the Last Accessed date.  To do this, open the Registry Editor (Start | Run ŕ regedit).  Navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem branch of the registry.  Add a new DWORD key named NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate and set its value to 1.  You must reboot your system for this change to take effect.


Return to top


Just For Fun


Etymologic is an online, multiple-choice word origin or definition game.  The game is quick and can teach you some interesting facts about the history behind or language.




SlashNOT is a satirical take-off of the wildly popular Slashdot web site, which features "news for nerds".  SlashNOT provides a light-hearted look at the world of technology, software development, and science.



Rubik’s Cube Art

This site contains photographs of pixilated artwork created with multiple Rubik’s cubes.  Who would have thunk it?



Return to top