Networks & Computing Systems Integrity Group

Monthly Testing Newsletter -- July 2000


Software Development Process

Software Testing & Quality


Career Development/Miscellaneous

Telecommunications Industry

Useful Utilities

Just For Fun


Software Development Process

Article: Do a Reality Check on Project Estimates

A cautionary tale on how estimates are often based on wishful thinking and poor communication with both stakeholders and programmers.

You can't help but look on estimation as one more piece of annoying, bureaucratic paperwork obstacle placed between you and the joys of actually building the application. So you'll be sorely tempted to throw together some guesstimates based on past experience and a vague work-breakdown structure. And then you don't get around to revising the estimates until there's a surprise—and a crisis.

Article: Telecom: Competing In Turbulent Times

Technological advancements and government deregulation unleashed a whirlwind of new developments in the telecom industry. Companies best suited to withstand the storm provide some valuable lessons for any industry grappling with the overwhelming pace of change.

No one working in the telecom industry 10 or 20 years ago could have foreseen the changes that recently swept the industry. The government deregulation that occurred in 1997 completely turned the complacent and consistent world of the local exchange company monopoly upside down. Deregulation lead to a technological explosion that released consumers from copper wire chains, allowing them to get local calling features and Internet service over cable lines and wireless phones. And in the last three years, rounds of merger mania have brought new changes to every facet of the industry.

Feedback: Response to article on "clear specification language"

This is some feedback graciously provided by Chris Rosenbury in response to an article referenced in the May 2000 newsletter. Chris' response is very insightful and provides some added perspective on the intrinsic difficulties in defining system requirements.

Article: Special Delivery

Roll out as many tools as you'd like, but without understanding your Information delivery life cycle, they'll add only limited value

User-friendly reporting and analysis tools, Internet and intranet applications, server farms full of rich databases, and increasingly accessible mainframes are all making corporate data more valuable than ever. In fact, corporate information stores are often a company’s largest asset. But even with all the rich tools available, the process of delivering useful information still offers significant opportunities for adding value.

Site: Continuus Resource Site

An independent (not affiliated with Continuus Corp.) site dedicated to providing scripts, tips, and FAQs about the Continuus SCM tool. The site also includes question and answer forums.


Software Testing & Quality

Articles: Testing Maturity Model (TMM)

This is a series of articles and a site on a model of the software testing process called the Testing Maturity Model (TMM). The TMM is derived from the concepts of the SEI Capability Maturity Model (CMM) for software development as a whole.


TMM Home Page:

Article: A Pragmatic Strategy for NOT Testing in the Dark

A project manager strides purposefully into your office. "JB, this disk has the latest and greatest release of our software. Please test it." You say "OK, OK. What does it do?" The manager stops in his tracks and says "Uh, the usual stuff..." Sound familiar? We've run into this situation as employees and as consultants. We've seen testers take the disk, stick it in the drive, and just start testing away. That's testing in the dark. We think there are approaches that are more productive. When we test or manage testers, we plan the testing tasks to know what value we can get from the testing part of the project. Let's try turning on the lights!

Article: Requirements: Made To Measure

Requirements, if they are to be at all useful, must be measurable. That is, they must be given quantifiable characteristics so that testers can accurately determine whether the eventual solution satisfies a requirement, and so that the client can determine if the requirement's value is worth the cost of construction.



Tutorial: Performance Tuning NT 4.0

Found by Mark Stewart

One of Microsoft's original design goals for NT 4.0 was to eliminate the seemingly endless number of interacting parameters that you had to set to optimize your system. To accomplish this, Microsoft incorporated adaptive algorithms into NT so that it can change values for these parameters as it runs. This self-tuning reduces the need for manual adjustment, but doesn't eliminate it. As you manage your NT system, two powerful forces pull you in opposite directions. The first is your desire to optimize your system and make it perform better. The second is the common sense that reminds you that if it isn't broken, you shouldn't fix it. But with care, it's possible to balance these forces, taking precautions to avoid disaster while making small changes to boost performance.

Tutorial: Interactive Online SQL Course

An online, interactive course in SQL (structured query language). One of the unique features of this tutorial is that it provides a live database which you can practice with and actually run DDL commands and queries, inserts, and updates on. (Introductory topics) (Intermediate topics)

Reference: ASCIIcat

ASCIIcat is a standard Windows Help format "paperless book" with a cornucopia of useful reference information. Originally conceived as a quick reference to the ASCII character set, it has grown to include units of measure and conversion tables, English grammar and usage style guide, basic US and world geography guide, Windows color reference, and much more. This handy little (less that 250kB extracted) reference is fast and very well organized. You'll find it invaluable.

Tool: BlueJ

BlueJ is a freeware integrated development environment (IDE) for Java designed specifically for teaching and learning object-oriented application design using Java. It includes built-in graphical and text-based editor, compiler, VM, debugger, and class browser, including a graphical class structure display. The most important (from a learning perspective) feature is that it supports interactive execution so that progress and results can be examined.

Career Development/Miscellaneous


Telecommunications Industry

Article: The Microphotonics Revolution

Get ready for optical switching in the telecommunications network backbone, then an all-optical Internet, and finally optical integrated circuits. The amount of data we can get almost anywhere will skyrocket.

Article: Telecom shakeout could lead to merger frenzy

With the demise of Sprint and WorldCom's merger imminent, new telecommunications merger deals may be simmering. This time around, analysts say there may be more companies willing to put themselves on the block than telecommunications titans that are willing to buy. Many of the midsized companies in the market have already merged to the point where they're too expensive for any except the biggest international giants to acquire them, and the giants now have the chance to be selective.

Article: Williams moves up the food chain

$1 billion initiative aimed at putting carrier in the big leagues

If Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil was excited about $1 million, he’d be in awe over Williams Communications’ latest announcement. The company last week said it will spend $1 billion during the next few years to build several new data centers, expand its co-location facilities, scale its IP network and purchase additional transport and switching equipment.

Article: A Gusher of Technology in Downtown Tulsa

Found by Taylor Cottam

TULSA, Okla. -- A decade ago, Tulsa was a played out oil-and-gas town. Today, the town's boosters have recast it in the role of telecommunications superpower. The area has more than 54,000 high-technology jobs, which account for roughly 8 percent of local employment, a share that matches well-known technology centers like Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Dallas; and Stamford, Conn. In the next three years, a recent survey of area employers shows, the region is expected to add as many as 6,000 positions in telecommunications alone.

Article: Fiber network company formed

Gordon Martin, a former executive at Tulsa-based Williams Communications Group Inc., has been named chief executive officer of America's Fiber Network, a new super-regional high-speed fiber-optics network that will be based in Tulsa.

Article: Williams lift for start-ups

Found by Miranda Kindley

For many start-up makers of communications equipment, all roads lead to Tulsa. This is home to Williams Communications Group Inc., a new-era long- distance network that is making a name as a big buyer of innovative equipment. More than a half-dozen start-ups list Williams as among their first customers. In the tight-knit telecommunications world, a Williams purchase order has become a key reference for recruiting other customers and a big boost toward a successful initial public offering.


Useful Utilities

Quick Change Directory (QCD) (Free – Windows 9x/NT – 30kB)

QCD provides fast directory navigation (Windows NT only) and graphical drive usage statistics (Windows 95/98 and NT). With fast directory navigation, you no longer need to type in those lengthy paths to get to some far-off directory. Just type in any name or partial name of a directory anywhere on your entire drive and QCD will take you straight there... fast!. If there is more than one match, QCD will display a list of possible directories, allowing you to choose. The other great feature of QCD is the graphical drive usage display. With QCD, you can graph the usage of your entire drive in terms of bytes used, bytes allocated, file counts, or directory counts.

FastFolders (Free – Windows 9x/NT – 220kB)

FastFolders is an extremely useful system tray application that provides quick access to frequently used folders/directories. It allows you to select your "favorities", as well as providing easy access to "special" folders including Recent Documents and Startup and to all drives including network drives.

Pickup Window (Free – Windows 9x/NT – 40kB)

Tired of typing in all of the text from error message dialogs when testing? Pickup Window is a handy little utility that can help. Simply launch this utility and drag the "magic wand" over the desired window or message box. The edit field in the Pickup Window main window will contain the text including CR/LFs (if any). Just select it and copy it to the clipboard to paste into your problem report. Other features of Pickup Window include screen magnifier, window resizer, window color spy, and more. [Note: This program seems somewhat buggy (run-time errors, etc.), but it's still quite useful.]


Productivity Tips

Quick access to "dotcom" sites in Internet Explorer

In Internet Explorer (IE), it's not necessary to type the entire URL for a "dotcom" site (i.e., if the URL is in the format Simply enter the domain portion in the Address bar and press <Ctrl>-<Enter>. IE will automatically fill in the remainder of the URL and open the page.

Speed up Windows NT performance on systems with more than 64MB of RAM

Windows NT performance on systems with more than 64MB of RAM (certainly, most WCG machines) can be enhanced by configuring the system to prevent swapping the kernel (the core operating system files) and drivers to disk. To do so, launch the registry editor (RegEdit.exe) and navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management registry key (note the space between "Session" and "Manager"). Locate the DisablePagingExecutive DWORD value. Set this value to 1 (the default is 0). Reboot the system for the change to take effect. For more information, see

Power down Windows NT automatically at shut down

One of the annoying things about Windows NT is that you must manually power off your system when you shut down. An updated version of the HAL.DLL ("HAL" stands for "hardware abstraction layer" although it's probably an intentional play on the name of the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey!) corrects this problem. To make this change:

  1. Rename C:\WINNT\System32\HAL.DLL to HAL.DLL.SAV.
  2. Download the updated HAL.DLL file here and save it (as HAL.DLL) to C:\WINNT\System32. (Alternately, the Softex HAL.DLL can be extracted from the latest Windows NT Service Pack using the /x switch.)
  3. Launch the registry editor (RegEdit.exe) and navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon registry key.
  4. Locate the PowerdownAfterShutdown string value and set it to 1 (the default is 0).
  5. Close the registry editor and reboot the system for the change to take effect.

Warning: Ensure that you have a backup boot disk before attempting this modification.

Quickly indent text in MS Word

Formatting documents in word can sometimes be tedious, especially when it comes to indenting text. MS Word offers several ways to add a left indent to text, such as using the ruler, Paragraph dialog box, or the Increase Indent toolbar. The following keyboard shortcuts to indent text can save time and effort.





Left align


Right align


Left indent


Remove left indent


Create hanging indent


Reduce hanging indent


Define custom sort criteria lists in MS Excel

Often it's useful to be able to sort a spreadsheet by some custom or non-standard sort criteria. For example, you may wish to sort an RTM spreadsheet by Priority or Requirement Validation Status or a trouble ticket summary worksheet by Severity. Excel allows you to define custom lists for sorting. To define a custom list:

  1. Choose Tools | Options… from the main menu.
  2. In the Options window, select the Custom Lists tab.
  3. Enter the List entries edit box, enter the sort items in the order you desire to sort by. For example, to sort by trouble ticket severity, you would enter Low, Medium, High, and Critical. (The order that you specify the items in the list will be the "ascending" order for that list.) Each sort item should be entered on a separate line. Alternately, you can select a group of cells that have the desired sort items by pressing Import button and selecting the desired cells in the worksheet.
  4. Press the Add button to save the new list.

To use the new custom list:

  1. Select the region of the worksheet to be sorted.
  2. Select Data | Sort… from the main menu.
  3. In the Sort window, choose the column with the sort items in the new custom list for the first criteria (Sort by).
  4. Press Options… button.
  5. Select the new custom list from the First key sort order drop down list and press OK.
  6. Adjust the sort order (Ascending or Descending), if necessary, and specify any additional secondary sort criteria.
  7. Press OK to execute the sort.

Copy a hyperlink URL from browser quickly

If you need to copy the URL for a hyperlink on a page that is being displayed in the browser, simply right-click on the hyperlink and select Copy Shortcut from the context menu.


Just For Fun

Site: Book-A-Minute

You want to be educated in the ways of the world. What better way than to read some of the classics. But you're awfully busy, too! You don't even have time to read the Cliff's Notes. Well, here's the solution: Book-A-Minute. It has entire classic literature condensed into just a few lines. This is truly a funny site!

Site: The Computer Museum History Center

This site is an online history of computing. It features both hardware and software advances. The site offers some unique, unbiased perspectives on the evolution of computing and "how we got here" in the Information Age.