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March 2006 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  –John Fitzgerald Kennedy


Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.  –Margaret Cousins


Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.  –Franklin Roosevelt


Don't throw away the old bucket until you know whether the new one holds water.  –Swedish Proverb


One of the few things that can't be recycled is wasted time.  –Sean Covey


Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.  –Peter Drucker


At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.  –Albert Schweitzer


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Software Development Process

Article:  Methodology Design:  The Way We Do Things Around Here

This book excerpt discusses some of the important trade-offs that must be considered when developing your software development methodology, including descriptive versus prescriptive (guidelines or rules), schedule-driven or feature-driven, etc.



Tool:  Volere Requirements Specification Template

This site provides an adaptable template for documenting system requirements, along with detailed instructions for applying the template.  This template and methodology are very good starting point for gathering requirements and the style is applicable to both traditional and agile processes.



Article:  The IT worst case scenario survival guide

Almost 20% of IT projects fail outright and half of them are late and/or over budget.  It's easy to blame these as IT failures, but the true reasons are more complicated.  This article explores some of the causes and how to avoid such pitfalls on your own projects.



Article:  Thinking in Web 2.0: Sixteen Ways

This concise, but rich article gives some common-sense advice for how to develop and implement Web 2.0 (e.g., AJAX, etc.) applications that are useful and appealing.  Provides some good perspective on what makes good design for the Web.



Article:  Death by risk-aversion

Life is full of risks and risks are not all bad.  This article presents the problems with trying to play it too safe when it comes to developing applications.



Article:  Perils and Pitfalls of Agile Adoption

Are you considering adopting an agile methodology for your development projects?  As with any process, agile techniques have their own difficulties.  Read about how to avoid some of these problems.



Article:  Grady Booch on Developing the Handbook of Software Architecture

Booch gives an overview of his latest effort:  Creating a print and online handbook about principles for developing good software architecture.



List:  10 best practices for successful project management

Most of these are pretty standard practices, but this concise list brings them together in a nice fashion with just the right amount of commentary.



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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  Software Is Too Buggy and Unreliable

This article discusses some new techniques being researched to help eliminate bugs in software and to prevent them in the first place.  Some of these techniques include Whyline and anti-patterns.



Article:  A Bug Begets a Bug

Building on the principle that when code has one bug, there are often other ones in the same vicinity, this article provides some tips for how to isolate other problems and how to be on the lookout for them when you find one problem.



Article:  Quality Assurance: Much More than Testing

QA goes beyond only testing of an application/system to include also methodology and processes.



Site:  Association for Software Testing (AST)

AST is a non-profit professional organization dedicated to advancing the understanding and practice of software testing.  AST appears to be an organization founded by Cem Kaner, a well-known advocate for software testing.  It looks to be developing a journal about software testing.



Article:  Quality in an Agile World

In this article, Scott Ambler discusses the increasingly important role of testing in agile development methodologies.  In agile techniques, the difference for testing is that it is a tool that is used throughout the lifecycle rather than focused at the end.



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Article:  9 tips for running more productive meetings

This brief article lists some great ideas for how to organize and run meetings that actually provide some value for those who attend.



Online Tool:  reAnimator

reAnimator is a unique regular expression evaluation tool that not only validates an input string against the regex, but shows both non-deterministic and deterministic finite-state automatons for the expression.  A very helpful tool in understanding and 'untangling' complex regexes.



Site:  Online Software Tutorials

This site provides categorized links to dozens of tutorials in programming languages, web development and design, and databases.  The site is topically organized and quite well structured.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  Study says U.S. tech hiring grows

Even in the face of outsourcing, a recent study by ACM indicates that IT employment in the U.S. is higher than even in the dot-com boom era.  And apparently off-shore outsourcing is actually part of the reason for this increase.



Article:  No Fun at All

Most people would agree that working in IT today is not really all that fun.  This article looks at some technology leaders who make their workplaces fun and reap benefits of improved productivity as a result.



Article:  Writing Tips for Non-Writers Who Don't Want to Work at Writing

Even if writing is not a top priority for you, in most technology jobs, written communication is an extremely important skill.  This article has some excellent practical tips on how to improve your writing without much effort at all.



Article:  'Sleeping on it' best for complex decisions

New research indicates that subconscious contemplation (i.e., "sleeping on it") is helpful in making complex decisions and that "over-thinking" a problem leads to mistakes.



List:  8 types of meeting attendees

This author provides a humorous, but still quite true, look at the various personalities that come out in meetings.  Follow-up postings provide some additional common characters.



Article:  Technologist Manifesto…, or Things Everyone in IT Should Know

This succinct blog post offers some great advice to IT workers about their role in the organization and where they should focus their time and energy.



Article:  Top Ten of Programming Advice to NOT Follow

A neat twist on the usual "top 10" lists, this author provides a nice list of ideas to improve your programming skills and effectiveness.



Article:  What Tech Skills Are Hot For 2006?

Surveys show that the job market is opening up in the IT arena.  Some of the skills in high demand for 2006 include developers with .Net and Java skills, business analysts and IT relationship managers who work with business managers to understand their divisions' requirements, security experts, and project managers.  Many of the needed skills are geography specific.



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Telecommunications/Networking Industry

Article:  Going Public: More Corporate Network Traffic Bypasses Private Paths

More businesses, including large organizations, are moving away from private data services, such as private lines, to using public Internet for transport.



Article:  The End of the Internet?

This author proposes that many of the changes being made by the large domestic US telecom carriers are moving toward a pay-to-play model for Internet access and usage, including content.



Essay:  Stupid Net Tricks

Robert X. Cringely decries Congress' attempts to reform the technology of the Internet via legislation. 



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Useful Utilities

xacc.ide (Free – Windows 2000/XP – 721kB)

xacc.ide is a free IDE written in pure C# focusing on .NET development.  It has support for other languages, including C/C++, XML, and Yacc.  The only external tools required are the .NET framework and SDK to develop C# .NET applications.



Unipage (Free – Windows 2000/XP and Firefox browser – 5.5MB)

Unipage is a new format that allows you to save an entire web page, including styling, images, and dynamic functionality, in a single file that can be viewed in a web browser.  Currently, it works only on Windows, but Linux and Mac OS support is planned, as well as a Firefox browser extension.  Also, Internet Explorer versions 6 and below do not properly display pages saved with Unipage.



Let'sPowWow (Free – Online/Platform-independent – ?)

Let'sPowWow is a free Internet conferencing platform/service, similar to Webex.  It allows up to 10 users (more for a fee) to collaborate and share desktops and files and includes free phone conferencing, as well.  The system is Java-based and so it can work on most any system, including Windows, Macintosh, and Linux.  Likewise, it uses TCP



Universal Extractor (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 1.8MB)

Universal Extractor is a handy archive extractor/decompressor that not only handles standard archive files (e.g., ZIP and RAR), but can also extract files from self-extracting archives, including Microsoft Cabinet files, Wise Installer executables, and ZIP SFX files.



TTCS OSSWIN CD (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 685MB)

This is downloadable complete CD-ROM (ISO format) full of freeware and open source applications for Windows platforms.  The selection of applications on this CD is excellent and includes many tools that I've recommended in this newsletter.  This is the perfect CD companion to have when building a new computer system.



ExpressPDF (Free – Online/Platform-independent – N/A)

While I personally recommend setting up PDF "printer" on your local machine (see Productivity Tips in November 2003 newsletter for details), sometimes you might not have this option (locked down PC, on the road, etc.).  In those cases, ExpressPDF will allow you to create a PDF file of a web page, MS Word document, or MS Excel spreadsheet.  You simply provide the file and the service e-mails the PDF document to you.



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Productivity Tips

Capture Windows message box text to the Clipboard

The text of most Windows message boxes can be captured to the Clipboard for use in error reports, etc. by pressing <Ctrl>+<Shift>+C while input focus is on the message box.  Then you can paste the contents into a text editor or other application.  This method captures the window title and button labels as well.


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Just For Fun

IT Manager Game

This online game, sponsored by Intel, is sort of a Sim City for IT folks.  This simulation game tests your skill in people management, resource allocation, strategic analysis and planning, as you try to run a virtual corporate IT shop.



How Things Work

This excellent site from a professor at the University of Virginia explains the physics behind many of the common phenomena of everyday life.



Desktop Earth

Desktop Earth is both an online tool or a downloadable Windows application that uses satellite images to render a image for use as your desktop wallpaper.  The image accurately represents day and night, even accounting for the day of the year.  The downloadable version runs in the system tray and automatically updates your wallpaper.



#1 Song on This Day in History

Want to know the #1 song on the day you were born, the day you got married, or just whenever.  This site lists the #1 song from Billboard magazine for any date from 1940 to now.



The Remembering Site

What legacy do you wish to leave for future generations?  While most of us consider what will happen to our earthly belongings when we die, what will people remember about you as a person?  The Remembering Site offers a unique opportunity to write your "life story" (an autobiography) and add to it as you go along (perhaps on each subsequent birthday).  You can share your story with others easily from the site.



How Products Are Made

This isn't a fancy site, but it provides tons of useful information about how many different types of products are manufactured.  The descriptions are in simple, plain language and a brief without leaving out important details.  This site is truly fascinating.



Pictures of US National Parks

Beautiful, high-resolution photographs from national parks across the US.  Desktop wallpaper images are available for download and prints of the pictures can be ordered from the site.  These are simply breathtaking.



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