July 2004 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do.  –Henry Ford


When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.  –Helen Keller


A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.  –Mark Twain


The only people who find what they are looking for in life are the fault finders.  –Foster's Law


I had rather men should ask why my statue is not set up than why it is.  –Cato


The principal mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers.  –Arthur Koestler


Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work.  –William Arthur Ward


Return to top


Software Development Process

Articles:  Project Management FAQ

Many people don't get into IT project management intentionally, but are thrust into the role out of necessity.  This article is a beginner's FAQ about some of the common and more esoteric project management terminology, duties, and roles.



Articles:  What Works In Software Development

A collection of very brief articles based on one developer's experiences about "best practices" in software development.  Includes some very enlightening ideas.



Article:  Business Process Modeling:  A Model Student

A good understanding of how the business actually works is extremely important for building IT systems.  This article is a sort of "crash course" on effective business process modeling.



Article:  Get technology right

Executing and managing IT projects is still a very difficult task and is often as much art as science.  This article examines some of the important factors for success:  business-IT alignment, simplification of architecture, and more.



Article:  What is a Death March Project and Why Do They Happen?

Anyone who has worked in IT for more than a couple of years has probably been part of a (or more than one!) "death march" projects:  those that just seem to continue without any hope for success or progress.  Ed Yourdon, author of the book Death March, looks at the causes for these projects and how to break out of their downward spiral.



Return to top


Software Testing & Quality

Article:  After 20 Years TQM Still Fashionable For IT

Total Quality Management (TQM) was a methodology developed in the 1980s to emphasize quality in all aspects of a business' operations, instead of trying to test quality "into" products.  This article discusses how some companies have been successful at implementing TQM/Six Sigma in their IT operations and the value of trying prevent problems, instead of just reacting to fix them.



Article:  The art and science of software testing

This article gives a nice overview of the practical sides of a new technique that is gaining popularity called test-driven development (TDD), which is one of the core tenets of agile software development.



List:  Klingon Software Quality Assurance

And now for something completely different, the top 12 things likely to be overheard if you had Klingon programmers working for you.



Return to top



Quiz:  Java Question of the Day

If you are learning Java or pursuing Java programming certification, this site provides mock SCJP test questions.  A new question, with the answer, is posted each day.



Reference:  CSS Reference Table

This nice, hyperlinked reference table to cascading style sheet (CSS) attributes and syntax is an invaluable reference for web developers.



Reference:  GUIdebook

GUIdebook is a graphical user interface (GUI) gallery of many GUI systems that acts a sort of museum of GUI history and development.  One of the most impressive features of the site is the GUI timeline page which shows a year-by-year history of GUIs in the various system families (Apple, Windows, etc.).



Reference:  vi Cheat Sheet

If you ever need to use Unix (or one of its derivatives such as Linux), you'll eventually need to edit a file from the command prompt.  The de facto standard is the vi editor.  This handy cheat sheet can help you keep you sanity if you're an infrequent user of vi and just need the most basic commands.




Return to top


Career Development/Miscellaneous

Survey:  2004 Infoworld Compensation Survey

This annual survey shows that IT salary depreciation has stopped and indicates that the economic climate for IT workers is improving, even in the face of outsourcing and offshoring pressures.


http://www.infoworld.com/pdf/special_report/2004/24Srcompsurvey.pdf  (Complete printable report in PDF.)


Article:  Value vs. Values: The Organizational Split

This book excerpt discusses the divergence in modern business between values (standing for and on principles) and the voracious desire by shareholders for financial performance and stock price improvement.



Article:  How Team Leaders Show Support—or Not

Recent Harvard research based on feedback from 238 people in 26 project teams indicates 4 common traits (monitoring the work by giving timely feedback and reacting to problems with understanding and help; providing social and emotional support, such as helping team members deal with stressful situations; providing public and private recognition; and seeking employees' opinions about the work) of effective/supportive managers and 3 other shared characteristics of micromanagers.



Article:  Solid Money, Worried Minds

Even though the economy is starting to recover, many IT professionals still worry about job security and the so-called "jobless recovery".  This article, based on Information Week's annual salary survey, indicates that IT folks have yet to regain hope about their careers and the industry.



Return to top


Telecommunications Industry

Article:  BT transforms phone network

British Telecom is preparing to completely overhaul their network to be IP based.  The plan is for the renovation to be complete by 2009.



Article:  SBC told to unhook phone from broadband

California regulators have rule that SBC must unbundle local phone service and broadband service in SBC's largest market.



Article:  A new route for telecom deregulation

This article warns that if too many constraints are put on incumbent local providers the impacts to the entire industry may be severe due to lack of infrastructure upgrades by the incumbents.



Return to top

Useful Utilities

Command Prompt Explorer Bar (Free – Windows 2000/XP – 118kB)

Command Prompt Explorer Bar (CPED) adds a Windows Command Prompt to the Explorer Bar options for Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer.  This provides a docked command prompt embedded within the Explorer window.  One of the handiest features is that when you navigate to different folder in Explorer, the command prompt path is automatically changed to the same path, which is a real timesaver.



Secretly (Free – Windows 2000/XP – 14kB)

Secretly is (yet!) another virtual desktop utility.  However, it has some distinct advantages, including a very small footprint (<1.5MB), no GUI or taskbar icons to clutter up your desktop, no installer, and efficient and easy-to-remember shortcut keys.  It's one of those utilities that does one thing and does it well without a lot of fluff.



Total Reflection (Free – Windows NT/2000/XP – 733kB)

Total Reflection (TR) is a utility to examine the contents of Windows executable modules (EXE, DLL, etc.).  It goes far beyond many other free resource examination tools and allows detailed viewing of all sections (code, data, resource, etc.) of the file.  In addition, it provides excellent interpretation of the values and the GUI is well organized and intuitive.



MinMaxExtender (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000 – 197kB)

MinMaxExtender (MME) adds useful buttons to the upper right corner of the title bar of windows that allow you maximize the window fully horizontally or vertically, "roll up" the window so that only the title bar is displayed, minimize the window to an icon in the system tray, or make the window stay on top.  It provides extensive customization options to allow you to disable these options for certain windows, such as dialog boxes.



Return to top


Productivity Tips

Navigate the MS Outlook folder tree with the keyboard

In Outlook, you can expand the folder tree with the keyboard by pressing the numeric keypad asterisk (*) key.  Each press will expand another level of the subfolders under the current folder.  To close up the tree to the current level, use the numeric keypad minus key.


Change default directory for new Windows 2000/XP Command Prompts

If you frequently open a new Command Prompt by entering CMD in the Windows 2000/XP Run dialog, the default directory for the new prompt is defined by the USERPROFILE environment variable (e.g., C:\Documents and Settings\username).  If this is not the most convenient starting place, you can change the default directory in the registry.  Run Registry Editor (Start | Run | regedit) and navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Command Processor key.  Create a new String Value named AutoRun.  Edit the AutoRun value to CD /D C:\.  Replace C:\ with the desired start directory.  Close the Registry Editor.  Now the next time you run CMD, it will open where you want it to.


Return to top

Just For Fun

Free the Gnomes

A humorous spoof of other sites, this one advocates the liberation of ceramic garden gnomes.  The creativity of the site is unique.



Dialect Survey

Why do we pronounce certain words the way that we do (e.g., "ant" vs. "aunt")?  This comprehensive survey (over 10,000 respondents) looks at how many common words that have various common pronunciations are typically spoken throughout the US.  Very interesting look at regional dialects.



XO Game

This is an online version of the classic Othello game where you try to get 5 X's or O's in a row.  The twist is that this game is written entirely in Javascript and the code is less than 5kB.  Do "View Source" on the web page to see it!



The Meatrix

This site has a hilarious Flash movie that might be subtitled The Matrix meets (or "meats"!) Home on the Range.  The site includes some additional funny Flash-animated short movies, too.



Return to top