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January 2009 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes                                                                                         1

Software Development Process                                                      2

Software Testing & Quality                                                                14

Tutorials/References                                                                           15

Career Development/Miscellaneous                                          19

Telecommunications/Networking Industry                             31

Useful Utilities                                                                                           31

Productivity Tips                                                                                       41

Just For Fun                                                                                                  43




Quotable Quotes


A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson


It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.  –Ursula K. Le Guin


Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson


In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.  –Bertrand Russell


Most people plot and plan themselves into mediocrity, while now and again somebody forgets himself into greatness.  –E. Stanley Jones


To be nobody but myself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.  –E.E. Cummings


The game of life is the game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later, with astounding accuracy.  Florence Shinn


The more you say, the less people remember. The fewer the words, the greater the profit.  Felelon


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Software Development Process

Article:  Creating an Agile Environment

Successful implementation of agile development requires a number of fundamental shifts in paradigm and mindset.  This article gives excellent explanation of how to cultivate the agile culture.



Article:  Zeroing in on the Right BI Business Requirements

Reporting and business intelligence requirements are special animals and require (no pun intended!) their own approaches to successful elicitation and documentation.



Article:  Execs Really Want 40% Of Spend For IT Investments

Even in the down economy, top business executives want IT to boost spending on initiatives to improve competiveness from 20% to 40% of IT budget, according to a new McKinsey report (free registration required).



Article:  Should an Architect Write Code? Yes -- And No

This is one of those debates that never seem to die.  This author's position is that it's mostly a matter of organizational expectation in terms of answering the question.  Furthermore, he says that the level of architecture will also drive this, as well.



Article:  10 Ways to Cut Down Web Development Time

While this article is somewhat specific to web design, it really is a set of good ideas and practices for most any development or programming effort.  Plus, it provides evidence that web design is a development discipline.



Article:  Handling Requirements Effectively on Agile Projects

One of the common misconceptions about agile development practice is that it ignores requirements.  This is far from the truth and this article explains a practical requirements gathering and management strategy for agile development, including detailed examples of the various deliverables.



Article:  Tending Your Software Garden

Software design and development is replete with a cornucopia of metaphors.  Jeff Atwood suggests that perhaps farming or gardening is an apt image, because of the on-going aspects of tending the process.



Article:  11 “Laws of IT Physics”

This article points eleven interesting "laws" (immutable principles) about IT that are key to success of IT projects and operations, or you'll end up among the estimated 68% of IT projects that fail.



Article:  ‘IT has no inherent value’

Seemingly borrowing from Nicholas Carr's proposition that "IT doesn't matter", a new report says that IT itself does not provide any contribution to the business except that of the projects delivered.  Whether you agree with this results or not, this article does list seven questions that should be addressed when deciding to do a project or not.



Article:  The Other Half of "Artists Ship"

Paul Graham describes that as organizations mature, the policies and procedures that they develop as protective mechanisms against costly (and sometimes insignificant!) mistakes not only make developers less productive, but that these constraints and checks actually reduce creativity because the "costs" to explore new opportunities become too high.



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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  That's Not a Bug, It's a Feature Request

Developers and testers often have different views about whether something is a problem (bug) or a request for new functionality.  Here are some ideas for establishing reasonable criteria for differentiating.



Article:  The ultimate guide to testing your website

Web site testing is just as important as stand-alone application testing.  This site provides a guide to testing principles for web sites, with a focus on usability aspects.



Presentation:  A Tutorial in Exploratory Testing

This is a great presentation on exploratory testing that compares and contrasts it with scripted testing and explains the benefits and pitfalls of the exploratory approach.  It also emphasizes that exploratory testing is not unintentional or ad hoc testing.



Article:  Agile Testing Strategies

Agile development practices have become mainstream in many organizations.  Here's how to adopt agile in your testing approach, even if the rest of the organization is still using more traditional methodologies.



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Tutorial:  Building/Installing an application from source in Ubuntu Linux

In starting out with Linux, one of the most difficult things is to figure out the intricacies of how to compile an application from source, when a distribution package is not available.  I've created this step-by-step tutorial for how to build an application along with how to resolve the common errors in this process.



Tutorial:  Threads Basics

Programming with concurrent threads is one of the new frontiers in development, especially as multi-processor and multi-core systems are becoming more prevalent.  This excellent tutorial gives programmers a detailed introduction to thread programming in C, C++, and Java.



Tutorial:  HTML and CSS Tutorials

There are many great tutorials on HTML and CSS independently on the Internet.  This excellent tutorial gives a detailed explanation of how to use them together to achieve great web site designs.



Tutorial:  C++ Inheritance and Polymorphism

This article helps understand two of the cornerstone principles of object-oriented programming for C++:  inheritance and polymorphism.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  The single most important thing you must do to improve your programming career

What do you think is the most important thing to do to advance your technology career?  I'll give you a hint:  It has nothing to do with technology itself.  Read on to learn what it is!



Directory:  Career Toolbox:  100+ Places to Find Jobs

Mashable is well known for their "toolbox" features and this is an excellent one for helping you find your next job.  It includes resources as well as job posting sites and covers a variety of career domains.



Article:  A Business Is Not A Family

Lots of businesses have good intentions when they draw parallels between their organization and a family, but this is a mistake.  A business has the sole purpose of making money for the owners and it should not be mistaken for a family.



Article:  10 Essential Steps to Take BEFORE You're Laid Off

Nobody like to think about getting a pink slip, but it's important to prepare before it happens.  This author even indicates that everyone should expect to be out of work once every 5 years for 3-6 months.



Article:  Comfort with meaninglessness the key to good programmers

Commonly, people are divided into two groups when it comes to programming:  those who "get it" and those who don't.  However, some new academic research shows that there is actually a third group:  people who are able to abstract the concept of "meaninglessness" (and, no, not the work itself!  <g>) and not worry about it.  Very fascinating reading.



Article:  Bjarne Stroustrup on Educating Software Developers

Creator of the C++ programming language talks about the challenges of software development education (or perhaps mis-education!) and the growing divide between the "practical" coding skills and the "pure" computer science disciplines.  He emphasizes that coding is only part of the equation.



Article:  When Bad Resumes Happen to Good IT People

Maybe one of your new year's resolutions is to find a new job?  If so, here are some simple tips to fix up your resume so that it gets results.  Most of these are common sense, but they are good reminders about things that are easy to overlook.



Article:  What Makes Great Companies Great?

Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter says that the answer is fundamentally balance.  For example, they both standardize and innovate and leverage control by empowering employees.  Essentially, great companies are good at combining philosophy and IT into clear, transcendent values and standard platforms and processes.



Article:  What If You Said Hello to Everyone In Your Path for a Month?

This guy tried an interesting "experiment":  He said "Hello" to everyone he ran into for a month to observe its affect on him and others.  The results are quite interesting and I think that this something that everyone should try!  Start spreading happiness!



Article:  Five things your manager could be doing better

Most people have something that they'd like their boss to do differently.  This list emphasizes the often-touted, but rarely implemented fact that people are intended to be led, not managed.



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Telecommunications/Networking Industry

Article:  FBI: Copper thieves jeopardize US infrastructure

With copper prices at record highs, copper theft from telecom and electrical sub-stations, vacant homes, and other places is putting US infrastructure at great risk.



Article:  U.S. Cell Phone-Only Households Keep Climbing

According to US CDC report, in the first half of 2008, US households without landlines increased from 13.6% a year earlier to 17.5%.  Some providers have reported that the weak economy is pushing the trend faster as consumers try to save money by disconnecting their home phones.



Article:  Google Wants Its Own Fast Track on the Web

The commitments to and alliances around net neutrality seem to be rather flexible.  One of the most interesting items in this story is the chart of Internet bandwidth growth over the past decade.  Google says that this is all just a big misunderstanding.



Article:  A Fairer, Faster Internet Protocol

This article introduces a new protocol for IP transport that is intended to reduce network congestion through a mechanism called refeedback.



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Useful Utilities

AutoPager Firefox Add-on (Free – Firefox 3.x – N/A)

AutoPager is a handy add-on for the cross-platform Firefox web browser that automatically pages multi-page web sites, such as Google search results.  It works with many popular web sites and generally does a good job of preserving the original content formatting.



Appetizer (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – 1.2MB)

Appetizer is a free Windows application launcher/dock.  It includes some unique features such as supporting multiple icon sizes, ability to configure launchers from existing shortcut locations, such as Start Menu, PortableApps, and others, hotkey for hiding/showing the launcher, horizontal and vertical layouts, variety of skins, ability to minimize to the system tray, and much more.



Lunascape 5 (Free – Windows XP/2003/Vista – 8.6MB)

Lunascape is a new web browser (really a web browser shell) that can render web pages using any one of the three most popular browser engines:  Trident (the Internet Explorer engine), Gecko (the Firefox engine), and WebKit (the Apple Safari engine).  Lunascape even allows partial on-the-fly switching between the browsing engines, so you can compare how your site looks in each one.



Notes/Tasks (Free – Cross-platform Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista, Mac OS X, and Linux – 7.8MB)

Notes/Tasks is a combined desktop and online note and task manager based on the GTD model.  It has desktop clients for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (including Debian package that is compatible with Ubuntu).  Notes support rich-text formatting and can be tagged with a category and/or project.  Notes can even be exported to PDF or text.  After registering, you can sync your notes to the NotesTasks.com website. You can even create RSS feeds of notes and tasks based on project or category on the website.  And since the client is cross-platform, if you create notes or tasks on Windows at work and use Linux at home, you don't have to worry about converting them.



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Productivity Tips

Turn off Search Assistant in Windows XP

If the new Search Assistant in Windows XP (from Service Pack 2 and later) is annoying to you, here's how to turn it off.  Open the Registry Editor (Start | Run | regedit) and navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Search Assistant key.  Change the Actor value to an empty (blank) value and change UsageCount value to 0.  Then add two new DWORD values:  SocialUI with value 0 and UseAdvancedSearchAlways with value 1.  Close the Registry Editor.  The next time you open the Search window, you will be greeted with the traditional search pane.


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Just For Fun

Quilled Snowflake Ornament

Just in time for the holidays, here's a fun and beautiful paper craft ornament that you can make using a process (that I'd never heard of!) called quilling.  I made one of these myself and, while it wasn't as beautiful as the one on the website, it actually turned out pretty good.



I Used To Believe

Remember those things that you thought were true as a kid?  This very interesting site lets anyone post those beliefs online.  Now I don't think imaginary friends are all that strange any more.



NY Times' The Year in Ideas

The NY Times Magazine presents their eighth annual "The Year in Ideas" interactive feature that covers some of the big ideas from the past 12 months.



Scottish Vernacular Dictionary

You never know when you might find yourself in Scotland, so it's best to be up on the modern slang.  :)  Or maybe you could just learn how to insult someone with a brogue.



89 Useless Facts

I don't think I'd call these factoids (love that word!) "useless", but maybe more like curious.  Anyway, you've probably seen some of these before, but it's always fun to think about some of the mysteries in life.



The Agrippa Files

Fans (and even those who aren't or don't know him) of cyberpunk novelist William Gibson will want to check out this site which revives the intended one-time only Agrippa poem.



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