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June 2007 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.  –John Wooden


You will find yourself refreshed by the presence of cheerful people. Why not make earnest effort to confer that pleasure on others? Half the battle is gained if you never allow yourself to say anything gloomy.  Lydia M. Child


Almost all our faults are more pardonable than the methods we resort to to hide them.  –Francois de La Rochefoucauld


Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.  Napolean Hill


Of all the "attitudes" we can acquire, surely the attitude of gratitude is the most important and by far the most life-changing.  Zig Ziglar


Laugh at yourself and at life. Not in the spirit of derision or whining self-pity, but as a remedy, a miracle drug, that will ease your pain, cure your depression, and help you to put in perspective that seemingly terrible defeat and worry with laughter at your predicaments, thus freeing your mind to think clearly toward the solution that is certain to come. Never take yourself too seriously.  Og Mandino


If you devote your life to seeking revenge, first dig two graves.  –Confucius


Great ideas need landing gear as well as wings.  –C.D. Jackson


The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.  –Abraham Lincoln


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Software Development Process

Articles:  Enough of Processes: Let's Do Practices

Ivar Jacobson, one of the creators of RUP, suggests that development needs to move away from the concept of software development processes and use "best practices" instead.  These insightful articles explore just what he means by this and how to apply the concepts in practice.





Article:  IT Departments Will Set Less Of The Business Tech Agenda, Survey Suggests

A new survey shows that business users will have a more proactive and direct role in introducing new technology in the future.  IT will need adapt to the increasing influence of business in technology decisions.



Article:  12 Things You Know About Projects but Choose to Ignore

Einstein has been quoted as saying that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  This article reviews common principles of project management that seem to continue to be violated resulting in project failure.



Article:  Requirements

This excellent conversational-style article discusses a variety of angles on software requirements:  what is a requirement, how are requirements managed, etc.



Article:  Examining the "Big Requirements Up Front (BRUF) Approach"

Scott Ambler talks about the dangers of traditional development and the emphasis on getting all of the requirements at the beginning of the project.  He suggests an agile evolutionary approach to development instead.



Article:  Renew Project Vigor In Five Easy Pieces

A project management expert provides 5 simple tips for restoring the direction and focus of project teams.



Article:  Yogi Berra, PMP

An IT project management expert says that many of Yogi Berra's malapropisms can offer insight into how to run projects.



Article:  Managing poor time managers on your staff

This article describes five personality types that are often bad managers of their time and offers some tips for how to keep them on track.



Article:  IT Attitude Check

IT needs to treat their business customers with more respect and the idea that the customer can go elsewhere to get their technology needs met, because more and more often they can.



Article:  Napoleon's invasion of Russia and the challenges of managing large projects

Even though Napoleon was a brilliant military strategist, he made a number of tactical (and strategic) mistakes with his Russian campaign.  Large projects are similar.  This article gives some tips about how to organize and manage large development efforts.



Article:  10 Key Principles of Agile Software Development

This article (actually a series) presents some of the primary tenets of using agile development methodologies.  It is nice because it is methodology independent and focuses on what things management needs to concentrate to make agile development successful.



Article:  Escape the software development paradigm trap

Most of us know of or have even participated in a failed development project.  But why don't we typically learn from our mistakes?  This article explores how to break out of the cycle of failure, particularly by reducing complexity in projects.



Article:  On Architecture: Goodness of Fit

Grady Booch interviews John Backus, the creator of FORTRAN, and ponders the question of whether or not an "ideal" software architecture is possible.



Article:  How to avoid IT project failure

This article discusses some interesting and not so obvious factors in ensuring the success of IT projects, particularly around the non-technical aspects.



Article:  Processes aren't all good

While processes are important for standardization in IT, they can be a two-edged sword.  It is important to not rely solely on processes and to have good common sense applied to an effort.



Article:  The Cone of Uncertainty

Estimating effort and duration of tasks in software development is still mostly a "black art".  However, many organizations are trying to improve their estimating processes.  This article explores techniques that can be used to reduce uncertainty in estimating and how iterative development helps.  And be sure to read the follow-up discussion.



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Software Testing & Quality

Site:  One Stop Testing

This site offers a wide variety of articles and other resources on software testing.  Most of the articles are introductory, but it has some excellent discussions on the various types of testing.



Article:  11 Ways to Improve Software Testing

Software testing often does not get the prioritization that it needs, sometimes until it's too late.  This article looks at how to improve testing from a senior IT management perspective.



List:  Software Horror Stories

If anyone ever tries to tell you that software testing and quality are not important, just refer them to this extensive list of over 100 failures caused by software problems that resulted in significant financial costs and, in some cases, loss of life.



Online Tool:  Test Run

Test Run is a hosted, online collaborative test planning and management tool.  It allows you to use the spreadsheets and bug tracking systems that you already have, but streamlines the coordination process.  It's free for a single user.



Article:  Software Test Metrics:  A Practical Approach

Test metrics can aid in the software development process by providing an objective view of the status and progress.  This article looks at how to get started with a metrics program.



Article:  The Poka-Yoke principle and how to write better software

Poka-yoke means "foolproof" and it is principle adopted by Japanese manufacturers in their efforts to improve quality.  This article explores how to apply this principle to software development and testing.



Article:  Effective Code Reviews Without the Pain

Peer code reviews have been substantially documented as a successful technique for eliminating errors.  This article examines how to do code reviews with the least intrusion.



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Simulation:  Death Star Designer

While this may look and seem more like a game, it is actually a good simulation of project management concepts.  As the lead engineer for building the Death Star, you must properly organize and deploy personnel, manage resources and budgets, and deal with political minefields.



Tutorial:  Visit Java's Relatives: Jython and Groovy

If you want to take advantage of the JVM platform, but don't want to become a full-fledged Java developer, the Jython and Groovy languages may be just what you need.



Tutorial:  Type Online

Touch typing can really improve your productivity and efficiency at working at the computer.  If you still use the old hunt and peck method, Type Online is a free, five-lesson online touch typing course.  It includes speed tests and lessons on using the numeric keypad, as well.



Tutorial:  Analyze Data in a Cinch

Excel Pivot Tables are one of the hidden and esoteric gems in Excel.  But sometimes it seems like you need to use mystical incantations to get them to work.  This step-by-step tutorial helps to learn and understand the details of Pivot Tables.



Tutorial:  C++ Inheritance and Polymorphism

Learning C++ (or any other object-oriented language) requires you to grasp the three basic concepts of encapsulation (data-hiding), inheritance, and polymorphism.  This article gives a detailed look at inheritance and polymorphism in C++ with some good examples.



Tutorial:  Getting Started with Derby

Derby is an open-source embedded database built with Java that is included by default with Java 6 (J2SE 1.6) JDK.  These introductory articles helps you get started with this tool, including startup, loading the Derby driver, database and connection creation, statement creation, table creation, table access and shutdown.




Tutorials:  CSS Tutorials for Web Designers and Developers

This site features some excellent, comprehensive tutorials for learning about how to use CSS for modern, flexible web design.  Topics include lists, floats, selectors, and more.



Tutorial:  Roadmap: Becoming an Enterprise Java Developer in 2007

This article covers the concepts and technologies that developers need to be successful J2EE developers.  The article doesn't cover the topics deeply, but gives the basic concepts for further study and investigation.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  The Average Tech Manager Makes $105,000, Our Salary Survey Finds. Have Tech Jobs Bounced Back?

The Information Week 2007 salary survey shows increases at the upper end of the scale, but also a dip in salaries for entry level workers.  Hot jobs are in enterprise application integration and business intelligence.



Article:  How To Deal With Negative People

Negative people can simply sap the energy out of other team members, as confirmed by research.  After a while, people start avoiding the negative person.  This article lists ten excellent suggestions for confronting the purveyors of negativism in a productive way.



Article:  Minimum Human Bandwidth

Tom DeMarco considers why the workplace is becoming a place of less and less face-to-face, direct interaction with most communication done through "narrowband" channels.



Article:  20 Procrastination Hacks

This article contains some great tips for beating procrastination and energizing and motivating yourself to accomplish things.



Article:  The Quiet Leader—and How to Be One -- Quiet Leadership: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing

Sometimes the most powerful leaders are those who don't seek the limelight, but work in the background to get things done and lead by example.  This interview with a Harvard Business School management professor talks about the qualities and values of such leaders.



Article:  The Other BPM: Being Productive in Meetings (recommended by Dave Smith)

With all of the focus on automation and process improvement, one thing is still a fact in most organizations:  lots of meetings.  This article contains some great advice on how to make meeting more productive and effective.



Article:  Building the Perfect IT Person

What are the most important skills for sustaining a career in IT?  This article identifies these:  working outside your comfort zone and with different teams, passion for and ability to learn, thinking globally, strong business knowledge and skills, and adaptability.



Article:  Delegation

One of the most important skills of a leader is delegation of tasks and responsibilities.  This excellent article discusses the process of successful delegation using the "SMART" methodology and the various levels of delegation.



Article:  CIOs: I.T. Workers Need Better Tech Skills

A survey of over 1400 CIOs shows that better technical and project management skills account for almost half of the CIOs top areas for improvement.



Article:  10 ways to get a grip on your e-mail

If you handle 100 e-mails a day, that means you probably spend almost 100 days a year on e-mail alone.  If e-mail has you overwhelmed, this article has some good, practical tips for how to manage it.



Article:  Seven Things the Boss Should Know About Telecommuting

IT workers who telecommute share their experiences about how to be successful when working from home, including the process, technologies, and attitudes.  And make sure to check out the tips for telecommuters.



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Telecommunications/Networking Industry

Article:  New faces on software leader board

OSS Observer released their survey of the top providers in the 16.5 billion OSS provider business.  Amdocs remained at the top with Oracle making the top 5 for the first time, with its acquisitions of MetaSolv, Portal Software and Siebel Systems.  Subex Azure looks like the up and coming player.



Article:  Municipal Wi-Fi Networks Run Into Financial, Technical Trouble

The rate of adoption of municipal wireless networks is much lower than expected.  Likewise, technical problems are affecting many of the installations, which is probably contributing to low uptake.



Article:  ARIN:  It's time to migrate to IPv6

With predictions that the pool of available IPv4 addresses will be depleted by 2010, ARIN, the organization responsible for IP address allocation and assignment, is urging Internet providers to hasten the introduction of IPv6.



Article:  Breaking Network Logjams

New research into networking technology shows that rather than routing packets from point A to point B, a scheme called network coding that sends information about the packet instead of the packet itself can substantially reduce network congestion.



Article:  A quarter of under-30s now go cell-only

Younger and lower-income people are accelerating the abandonment of traditional landline telephone service in favor of cell phone only.




Article:  Net Neutrality: Not the American Way

No matter which side of the "net neutrality" debate you are on, this author uses some relevant and salient analogies to frame his perspective.



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Useful Utilities

Pitaschio (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista – 55kB)

Pitaschio is an interesting conglomeration of Windows utilities and tweaks.  Some of the unique features are window snapping/docking, locking window within a certain region of the desktop, disabling the window control buttons (Close, Minimize, Maximize, and Restore), and many more.  Some of the defaults are a little quirky, but this is a really a gem of a utility.



Graysky LogWatcher (Free – Cross-platform – 288kB)

Graysky LogWatcher is an Eclipse plug-in that allows you to monitor any file, inside or outside of Eclipse, similar to the Unix tail utility.  However, it improves on tail by allowing you to monitor multiple files, in a tabbed interface, and to set "watches" for certain strings in the files and even define filters that highlight certain lines or execute actions based on text patterns.



QT Tab Bar (Free – Windows XP/Vista and .NET Platform – 418kB)

QT Tab Bar adds tabs to Windows Explorer, similar to tab browsing in Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox.  It supports tab groups and has built-in search functionality that supports regular expressions.



CurrPorts (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista – 48kB)

CurrPorts displays a table view of all open TCP/IP and UDP ports along with the process/application that is using the port.  It includes the local and remote IP addresses and port numbers.  For well-known ports, it includes the service type.



TOPCASED (Free – Cross-platform – 33.6MB)

TOPCASED (Toolkit in OPen source for Critical Applications and SystEm Development) is an Eclipse-based software development "workshop" that focuses on end-to-end development.  It includes the base Eclipse environment plus plug-ins for modeling such as UML 2, ECORE, and AADL.  Since it is based on Eclipse, it can be extended with other plug-ins, as well.



Data Browser (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista – 2.2MB)

Data Browser is a desktop (client) database browsing and querying tool for various databases, via ODBC.  You can run SQL queries from the tool and it even includes a graphic query builder tool with various SQL syntax types, including ANSI SQL 92, Oracle, MS SQL Server, and more.  Results can be exported to CSV, Excel, and HTML formats.  The tool supports an unlimited number of simultaneous connects with one-click switching between them.



KatMouse (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista – 332kB)

KatMouse is a simple enhancement that allows you to use your mouse scroll wheel with any window on your desktop, even if the window does not have input focus.  It can even be configured to set focus (bring to foreground) the window that you scroll in, if desired.  This tool may not seem to be all that useful, but once you try it, you'll wonder how you did without.



Findview (Free – Cross-platform – 1.5kB)

Findview is a bash shell script for Unix/Linux or Cygwin under Windows that can save the results of running the find command as a directory for easily using the results.  It uses symbolic links to minimize disk usage.



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Just For Fun

100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know

Think your vocabulary is pretty good?  Then check out this list that book editors believe are important for everyone to know.  I think that I did pretty good:  I knew 77 of the 100 words.



Poly9 FreeEarth

This awesome 3D globe of the earth allows zooming in and out and rotation of the globe.  It even features a full-screen mode.  (Requires Flash 9 player.)



Factor Clock

I know that only math geeks like me will probably appreciate this one, but I couldn't help myself!  This site displays the current time (using 12- or 24-hour clock) and then shows the factors of the time, if the time were an integer (e.g., 2:23 PM is 142300).  Pretty cool use of Javascript, if nothing else!




LoudLit.org brings you classic, public-domain literature in both text and audio formats.  You can follow along as the text or read or simply just listen.  The audio productions are first rate and include recent selections of classics like Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.



30 pieces of trivia about Star Wars

Here are some interesting tid-bits about Star Wars that you probably didn't know unless you are a true die-hard fan.



100 Years Ago Today

Read the headlines from this date 100 years ago.  Some of the stories are amazing and inspiring.  Regardless, they will certainly give you and appreciation for how much things have changed in just 100 years.



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