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July 2005 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.  –Carl Schurz


The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been kindness, beauty, and truth.  –Albert  Einstein


An invincible determination can accomplish almost anything and in this lies the great distinction between great men and little men.  –Thomas Fuller


Do not confuse notoriety and fame with greatness…  For you see, greatness is a measure of one's spirit, not a result of one's rank in human affairs.  –Sherman Finesilver


I never met anybody who said when they were a kid, "I wanna grow up and be a critic."  –Richard Pryor


One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.  –Arnold Glasow


Liberty means responsibility.  That is why most men dread it.  –George Bernard Shaw


You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don't trust enough.  –Frank H. Crane


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Software Development Process

Editorial:  IT Projects Need Yardstick

This author suggests that without a standard way to measure the impact and effectiveness of IT projects or IT will continue to lose relevance.



Article:  Can You Trust Your Data?

This article presents details of an 8-step approach to assessing and improving the quality of enterprise data.  It focuses on the business value proposition for better data integrity.



Article:  Requirements Are Like Pornography

Thought that title might get your attention!  J  Anyway, this article is not about nudity, but rather an extension of the Supreme Court's idea that pornography can't be easily defined beyond "you know when you see it".  By comparison, good software requirements are often difficult to describe except by example.



List:  11 critical success factors to be a top-notch developer

This brief list from veteran developers lists their ideas of skills that are important for successful software developers.



Article:  The End of Corporate IT? Not Quite

In 2003, Harvard professor Nicolas Carr famously posited that "IT doesn't matter".  Since then, a large debate has raged on both sides.  This article discusses how good spending habits on IT reap benefits for organizations.



Editorial:  IT May Have Become Too Invisible

Over the past decades, IT has actually done a good job of paving the way for more efficient operations.  This author says that maybe a too good of job, which has resulted in IT becoming a forgotten entity.



Article:  ITIL for the CIO: Answers to frequently asked questions

IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of guidelines for best-practice IT management, developed by the British government.  This brief article gives a good overview of what ITIL is and isn't.



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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  Define the client's view of quality and then manage to that level

Any successful effort to improve product or service quality depends on an understanding of the customer's expectations.  This article defines some criteria that can be used as more or less objective standards in defining and measuring quality.



Article:  Testing as a Development Paradigm

This article outlines the benefits and costs of using the test-driven development methodology.



Site:  Software Economics Council (SECO)

A group of software application vendors have organized the Software Economics Council (SECO) to improve software quality and focus on the intrinsic value that their products provide to customers.  In part, the SECO charter says "formulate and articulate opinions, research and recommendations around the availability, quality, and criticality of using, managing, maintaining and supporting software across the organization".



Article:  Software Reliability Engineering - An Overview

Reliability is a concept that is closely allied with quality.  This article discusses the basic concepts of reliability engineering for software and how the concepts from hardware reliability engineering apply to software.  (A longer, more detailed version of the article is available here.)



Article:  Software Testing Shouldn't Be Rocket Science

This author uses the failure of the Cassini space probe as an example of the importance of testing.  He associates commitment to testing with the pride that a developer takes in his/her work.



Article:  Why Software Quality Matters

Sometimes software quality (or lack thereof!) involves more than a little downtime or lost revenue.  Sometimes it's a matter of life and death.  As software moves from large business systems into every facet of technology, software quality becomes more and more important.  Likewise, the liability for bad software can have a major impact on organizations.  This article also provides a worksheet for calculating the cost of an error-prevention system.



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Text:  SQL:  A Practical Introduction

This is a complete text on the Structured Query Language (database platform agnostic) that can be downloaded in PDF format.  Author requires e-mail registration to download and unlock the archive.



Tutorial:  Pipes and Filters

This article introduces the use of pipes in filters in the Unix/Linux command shell.  It uses very simple, but relevant examples to demonstrate the power and utility of these features.



Tutorial:  Semantic Web

This brief article, which includes numerous links to related pages, gives a good introduction to the concepts surrounding the semantic web.



Reference:  Learn how to master processes in Windows, and let these scripts help

This excerpt from O'Reilly's Windows Server Cookbook gives you an overview of how processes are structured in Windows.  It gives some excellent Windows Scripting Host (WSH) script examples for how to interact with processes, such as stopping them and changing their priority.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Report:  Infoworld 2005 Compensation Survey

The 2005 compensation survey by Infoworld shows that salaries are finally on the rise after many years of stagnant and falling paychecks.  However, job dissatisfaction and concerns about uncertainty, particularly from outsourcing, paint a less than rosy picture.



Editorial:  The tacit dimension of tech support

This opinion peace looks at the concept of tacit knowledge in the technical realm and how it relates to knowing how to do something, even if you can't explain how to do it.  The author examines how this ability in IT folks often causes a divide between their business customers and other non-technical people.



Article:  Survey: U.S. residents addicted to e-mail

Americans are so compulsive about e-mail that 60% check e-mail while on vacation and some even check it while in the bathroom.  The article provides some tips for dealing with e-mail addition.



Article:  Number Sense in Humans

Have you ever wondered why people have an innate sense of the number/quantity of things even before they are able to label or articulate them?  This fascinating book excerpt explains the concept of number sense.



Article:  The top ten IT management mistakes and how to avoid them

A long-time management coach and consultant briefly outlines his top 10 mistakes made by IT managers and offers some suggestions on how to prevent them.



Article:  When to lead and when to manage

Leadership and management are two very different things.  This article discusses the difference and importance of both and how to use both effectively.



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Useful Utilities

UnixTree (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 818kB)

UnixTree is an XTree Gold-style, text-mode file manager for 32-bit Windows systems.  It is very fast and flexible and maintains about 80% of the keyboard shortcuts from XTree.  Versions for other systems, such as Linux and Mac OS X, are also available for seamless use across platforms.



Itty Bitty Process Manager (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 26kB)

Itty Bitty Process Manager (IBProcMan, for short) is a small utility that shows all processes running on your system, including the full path to the executable.  You can kill any process from the list.  Another nice feature of IBProcMan is that it can optionally show all DLLs loaded/used by a particular process.



Watcher (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 419kB)

Watcher helps you keep your Windows system "clean" and running efficiently like the day the OS was installed by taking a snapshot of the key system configuration information and then "watching" for changes.  Each time a change occurs, Watcher notifies you of the change (the default is to notify you at system login).  Then, Watcher gives you some options about what to do about the change.



WikidPad (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 3.62MB)

WikidPad is a Windows text editor with a twist.  Instead of each file being independent, WikidPad includes Wiki-like functionality that allows linking between documents in a simple, natural manner.  The author describes WikidPad as "an IDE [integrated development environment] for your thoughts."



E-Mail Icon Generator (Free – OS independent/online)

The E-Mail Icon Generator allows you to create a nice-looking image file of your e-mail address.  This is useful to prevent e-mail harvesting utilities.  Can create icons for many popular e-mail providers, including Yahoo, Gmail, and Hotmail.



Mailinator (Free – OS independent/online)

Mailinator allows you to create on-the-fly an e-mail address when you are registering at a web site that requires a valid e-mail address and you want to avoid spam.  It is not necessary to visit the Mailinator site before hand.  Just make up an e-mail address with @mailinator.com suffix that you can remember and isn't likely to be used by others.  Then just visit the Mailinator site and put in the address that you entered to retrieve your message, no password required.



TabbedIE (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 60kB)

Microsoft plans to introduce basic tabbed browser features in Internet Explorer (IE) 7.  However, with this tiny background utility you can get simple tabbed browser support directly in current versions of IE.  Just load the utility and run IE as usual.  All IE windows will be grouped and tabbed for easy access.  (For more comprehensive, integrated tabbed browser support in IE, check out Maxthon or AvantBrowser.)



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Just For Fun

Why is the sky blue?

At one time or another everyone (or at least your kids!) ask "Why is the sky blue?"  This site provides a detailed, but non-technical explanation based on the physics behind the phenomenon.  And if you still don't understand and someone asks you, just say, "Rayleigh scattering."



Totally Off The Record (TOTR)

Totally Off The Record (TOTR) is a site where people anonymously post stories, mostly funny, but some profound and touching, about work and worklife.  The site bills itself as "the virtual watercooler".



AIM Manufacturing Videos and Virtual Factory Tours

Excellent Flash-based videos about how common products, such as candy bars, cars, bottles, and more, are manufactured and various manufacturing processes.  The site includes over 4 hours of video for technical and non-technical audiences alike.




Would you like to deface someone's web site?  Well, this fun little tool allows you to non-destructive do that.  Just enter the URL of the favorite (or most disliked!) web site and the type of virtual "disaster" to wreak on it and enjoy the destruction.  Disaster options include floods, spilled coffee, worms, a nuclear attack, and many more.



NASA – How Does This Work?

This site provides detailed, narrated videos of how various parts of spacecraft work.  The videos range from the more mundane, like the landing parachutes, to the incredibly complicated launch processing system.  Some very fascinating information about our space program.



JS/UIX Terminal

This is quite amazing!  This site provides an emulation of a Unix/Linux terminal entirely in your web browser using JavaScript.



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