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March 2007 Newsletter

Quotable Quotes


If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down.  –Mary Pickford


An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit.   –Pliny the Younger


When a company compromises its principles one time, the next compromise is right around the corner.  –Zig Ziglar


There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor.  –George Santayana


Cheerfulness is the best promoter of health and is as friendly to the mind as to the body.  –Joseph Addison


Your reputation is in the hands of others. That's what a reputation is. You can't control that. The only thing you can control is your character.  –Dr. Wayne W. Dyer


It is by loving and by being loved that one can come nearest to the soul of another.  –George McDonald


There is no such thing as a 'self-made' man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.  –George Burton Adams


Within every adversity is the seed of an equal or greater benefit.  –Napoleon Hill


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Software Development Process

Article:  The Bitter Truth About ROI

Even though vendors frequently tout ROI and most businesses pay lip service to the concept of measuring technology investments, this survey shows that actually evaluating payback is difficult.  However, some improvements may be on the way.



Article:  12 crackpot tech ideas that could transform the enterprise

This article presents 12 new technologies that might seem totally off-the-wall currently, but are likely to become widely deployed in the near future.  IT professionals need to get ready for these.



Article:  IT By Another Name…

Some pundits are suggesting that the "information technology" moniker needs to be replaced with something such as "business technology" to help emphasize their role at supporting the business and providing business solutions, not simply "cool" technology.



Article:  Managing Software Engineers

This classic, but still relevant and timely, article discusses some of the motivation techniques that are effective with technical and knowledge workers and how to build good teams.



Site:  Software Project Management Resources

This site is a well-organized and comprehensive portal for information about software project management.  It is based on a course from Columbia University and includes all of the class notes.  The site also has links to excellent examples of development project documentation.



Article:  Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Meta

Charles Simonyi, the "inventor" of Microsoft Office and Hungarian notation, discusses his ideas for improving software development and the software products created by the process.



Article:  Study: Less Chaos in Development Shops

The latest release of the Standish Group's annual Chaos Report shows improvements in software development effectiveness and success as measured by being completed on time, on budget and meeting user requirements.   Over 35% of projects were considered successful, up from 16% in the inaugural study in 1994.



Article:  10 Tips for Setting Realistic Deadlines

Estimating how long a project or its constituent tasks should take is probably the most difficult task in project management.  This article, while not specifically about software development, gives some good guidelines for realistic estimation.



Article:  Users Who Know Too Much (And the CIOs Who Fear Them)

This article explores the increasing technical savvy of business users, mostly due to consumer technology, and how to balance the needs of business customers and IT's mandates to protect intellectual property and data assets.  This article suggests that IT needs to resist the innate tendency to want to crack down and control technology.



Article:  Software is hard

Salon co-founder Scott Rosenberg discusses his new book about software development and why even small programming efforts can take a long time, why he sees pair programming as valuable, and the meaning of "Rosenberg's law".  Apparently, this book is creating quite a stir, as evidenced by this blog post.



Article:  The Open-Source Story:  From Free Software To Revolution OS

If you are interested in the history of free, open-source software, how companies make money from it, and the future of OSS, this article provides a comprehensive view with copious links to external resources.  Basically, it is a textual companion to the Revolution OS feature-length documentary on this topic.



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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  Five Questions With Brian Marick

The latest installment in this series of interviews with luminaries from the software testing world address Brian Marick.



Article:  The Trouble with Software QC

This brief article discusses the so-called Software Testing Maturity Model (S-TMM) which provides a roadmap for improving software testing from manual testing to full quality assurance discipline.



Article:  Software Test Case Design

Design good test cases is probably the most important task in test planning.  This comprehensive article gives good background and philosophy about test case design and a detailed example to help understand the concepts.



Article:  The Ultimate [Web] Testing Checklist

As many applications move from being standalone client type applications to being web-based, testers need to adapt to special constraints of web applications.  This article provides an extensive list of checks, most specific to web applications, that you need to consider.  Of course, you use risk-based testing, don't you?  So you won't use all of them.



Article:  Risk-Driven Testing / Risk-Based Testing

This article presents a very useful approach to prioritizing testing in a risk-based manner by dividing up the application to be tested along the lines of likelihood and impact of failure.



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Tutorial:  Building and Using a RSS Feed

This simple tutorial gives an introduction to how RSS feeds work and the XML schema behind them.  It gives step-by-step instructions for manually constructing an RSS feed for your site.



Site:  DataStructures.info

This excellent site in blog format provides visual examples of many common programming algorithms.  Most explanations, which themselves are excellent, are accompanied by videos that demonstrate the principles.  The site also includes some free ebooks as supplements.



Tutorial:  Quick Tips to Find Files on Linux File Systems

For users starting out with Linux (or Unix), one of the items that comes up early for which their does not seem to be a simple answer is how to find the location of a particular file.  This gentle, but thorough, tutorial discusses the locate and find commands and gives some good background on how they work.



Tutorial:  Unix Load Average

The Unix (or Linux) load average is frequently used as a measure of current (or historical) performance of servers.  But do you really know what those three numbers mean?  This brief series tries to demystify the load average and help you use it effectively to diagnose performance problems.






Tutorial:  Voice over IP (VoIP)--The basics

While VoIP has been around for a quite a while, it is just now gaining wide acceptance.  This brief tutorial explains how it works.



Site:  thePeoplesToolbox

This site is a directory of programming tools and resources that it is well-organized around programming language or technology.  You can create your own virtual "toolbox" of the resources that you find most useful.



Tutorial:  How to Avoid Colloquial (Informal) Writing

With the advent of e-mail, IM, and text messaging, most people have adopted a very casual writing style.  This is fine for informal occasions, but in business your reputation, and maybe even your career, can depend on appropriate communication.  This brief tutorial gives you some simple tips on formal writing.



Tutorial:  Getting Started with Python

Python is moving from niche scripting language into a full-fledged development platform.  This tutorial introduces the language with the basic constructs using some relevant and understandable examples.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  The Rise of the Business Analyst and Other Emerging IT Roles

Many business segments, particularly the financial services industry, are emphasizing the role of business analyst as the key position in ensuring good alignment between IT and business.  This is reaping benefits such as improved customer satisfaction and shorter development cycles.



Article:  Software Engineering Proverbs

This page presents some encapsulated wisdom on the craft of programming from a variety of sources.  It provides some good perspective on how to approach development.



Report:  Engaged Employees Inspire Company Innovation

A study shows that over half of American employees are "disengaged" or "actively disengaged" (i.e., undermining the work of engaged workers) and this accounts for over $328 billion annually in lost productivity.



Article:  Study notes link between IT sabotage, work behavior

In another twist on the importance of "work engagement", new research shows that, in almost all cases, workers who destroy IT systems are those who are disgruntled, have poor work habits, argue with colleagues, and have generally poor performance.



Article:  One 'Bad Apple' Really Can Kill the Company

Ever wonder about the impact that a bullying, slacking or negative co-worker has?  Some researchers have found that even one negative influence can have significant consequences not only for other workers, but the entire business.  Read the full research report here.



Article:  Don't ask employees to be passionate about the company!

This author recommends that instead of focusing on slogans and such to motivate employees management needs to build an environment that makes workers passionate their job and work and enthusiasm for the company will follow from that.



Article:  32 IT Salary Negotiation Rules

Technical workers often make less than they could, because of their tendency to be introverted.  Here are a collection of tested tips for how to negotiate for higher pay.



Site:  Salary Search

Search salaries from over 50 million jobs by job title/description and location.



Article:  Ex-PARC chief urges shift in engineering schools

The former director of Xerox's research division is recommending that technical education in the US change from teaching specific skills to training students to be lifelong learners.  Another recommendation is to focus on working in small groups and teams.



Article:  11 ways to motivate geeks

Technology and knowledge workers are typically motivated by different things than other workers.  This article presents 11 ways to focus them.



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Telecommunications/Networking Industry

Commentary:  Information Super Traffic Jam

A new study shows that the increase in the number of Internet users and the emergence of online video is pushing the Internet to its capacity limits.  And this has great implications for the "net neutrality" debate as it relates for who will pay for improvements to the Internet infrastructure.



Article:  The year we consolidated

This article summarizes the M&A (mergers and acquisitions) in the telecom hardware and provider markets for 2006.  Even though the profile didn't seem as high as in 2005, there was a lot of activity.



Article:  25 Most Interesting VoIP Startups

There's a lot more to the VoIP landscape that just Skype and Vonage.  This article looks at 25 lesser-known (for now!) players.



Article:  Google and VoIP:  The Story So Far

A brief retrospective on Google's adventures with VoIP, using the Google Talk platform, provides some hints at how Google plans to try to dominate the VoIP market in a cunning way.



Article:  When It Comes To Broadband, U.S. Plays Follow The Leader

While many, both inside and outside the country, see America as the preeminent leader in technology, in terms of broadband adoption, the US lags behind much of the world.  This article explores some of the reasons why.



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Useful Utilities

Microsoft Time Zone (Free – Windows XP/2003/Vista and .NET Framework – 779kB)

This handy utility puts an icon in your system tray that will show date and time for up to five locations around the world.  You configure and customize it to your own locations.  Great tool for those who work with globally dispersed teams.



TagSEA (Free – Cross-platform Eclipse – 1.48MB)

TagSEA is an Eclipse plug-in that provides the ability to tag, like in social networking tools like del.icio.us, lines or portions of your Java source code for organization, navigation, and visualization purposes.   For example, you can tag areas that are not completed, have bugs that need to be corrected, or code that has questions about implementation or requirements.  (Requires Eclipse 3.2 or later and JDK 5.0 or later.)



Get Eclipse! (Free – Windows 2000/2003/XP/Vista, Linux, Mac OS X – varies)

This online tool allows you to select the desired Eclipse development tools and third-party plugins and creates a single package of them for download and installation.  A wide variety of options and plugins are available and the tool even looks like the Eclipse GUI itself.



Intype (Free – Windows 2000/2003/XP/Vista – 658kB)

Intype is a new text and source code editor for Windows that is patterned after the popular TextMate utility from Mac OS X.  While it is still early in its lifecycle, Intype has garnered lots of attention.  Some of its unique features are intuitive scripting functionality using things called "bundles" that allow you to quickly expand text snippets ("abbreviations"), extremely fast response time, and extensible syntax highlighting.  You can even define your own bundles.  While this may not be ready for primetime yet, Intype is an editor to watch.



Amnesty Generator for Vista (Free – Windows Vista – 4.7MB)

This nifty tool allows you to specify the URL to any of the thousands of web-based widgets that are available (see here and here for a couple of large collections of them) and turn the widget into one that can be used on the new Vista sidebar.



JkDefrag (Free – Windows 2000/2003/XP/Vista/XP64 – 262kB)

JkDefrag is a free (GPL) Windows disk defragment utility.  It includes both GUI and command line (for automating via script or Task Scheduler) versions and supports floppy disks and USB memory sticks, as well as standard hard disks.



Jello.Dashboard (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista and MS Outlook 2003/2007 – 117kB)

Jello.Dashboard is a "getting things done" add-on to MS Outlook.  You set Jello.Dashboard as your start page in Outlook and then you can track and update your tasks easily using the GTD method.  (If you prefer a standalone GTD solution, then please check out ThinkingRock.) 



Telelogic Modeler (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – ???)

Telelogic Modeler is a free UML 2.1 modeling environment.  It supports advanced modeling features and allows all of the model elements to be easily integrated into a single output document.



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Productivity Tips

Adjust the number of instances of program that must be running before grouping icons

Windows XP's taskbar icon grouping function is very handy in keeping multiple application windows from needlessly cluttering the taskbar.  However, sometimes it's nice to have icons for all windows or to always group icons no matter how few you have.  You can control this via a simple setting in the registry.  To do so, launch Registry Editor (Start | Run | regedit).  Navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced key.  Add a new DWORD value named TaskbarGroupSize and set it to the desired number of windows/icons before grouping.  Setting it to 2 will always group.  If you want to disable grouping altogether, simply change the value of the TaskbarGlomming value to 0.


Move the Internet Explorer 7 menu bar to the normal position

In Internet Explorer 7, by default, the standard toolbar is hidden.  You can easily restore it via the Tools menu.  However, the menu bar is placed under the Address bar by default.  You can easily move it to normal position (under the window title) via quick registry change.  Here's how:  Launch the Registry Editor (Start | Run | regedit).  Navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Toolbar\WebBrowser key.  Add a new DWORD value named ITBar7Position and it to a value of 1.  Close the Registry Editor and restart Internet Explorer for the change to take effect.


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Just For Fun

The Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary

Having trouble understanding the vernacular in your office?  This might be just the reference that you need.  It is a broad glossary of modern business slang.



Construction of the World's Highest Bridge

Features some incredible pictures of a bridge in the French countryside that is almost 1000 feet tall (taller than the Eiffel Tower!).  My acrophobia started to kick in just looking at some of these pictures.



777 Flight Deck

Most of us will never actually get a chance to fly the big commercial jets.  But this online, interactive site shows you almost everything that you would want to know about the instruments and controls of the Boeing 777.



Flickr Sudoku

This mashup site combines images from Flickr with the popular Sudoku game to add a little flair to the game.




This interesting Flash-based game uses the concept of Lorenz strange attractors and dynamical systems to control the motion of objects.  You move circles to change the equilibrium of the system.  The game doesn't specifically have an "object" other than to observe the results.



Langston Hughes at 100

This amazing multimedia sites celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet Langston Hughes.  Explore his life and works in a variety of ways.



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