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March 2008 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


Your actions are your only possessions.  –Lao Tse


Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.  –Leonardo da Vinci


Thank everyone who calls out your faults, your anger, your impatience, your egotism; do this consciously, voluntarily.  –Jean Toomer


There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.  –Colin Powell


Do not be afraid to make decisions. Decision-making is all important. The more decisions you make, the more accurate you will become.   –Thomas D. Willhite


No one is inspired by the negative.  –Robert Swan


Every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.  –James Russell Lowell


It is only imperfection that complains of what is imperfect. The more perfect we are the more gentle and quiet we become towards the defects of others.  –Joseph Addison


Don't aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue... as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.  Viktor Frankl


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Software Development Process

Article:  Agile software development: A tour of its origins and authors

This article explores the history and development of the agile development movement.  It includes an excellent reading list for those interested in both the philosophy and practice of agile development.



Article:  The IT department is dead, author argues

Nicholas Carr, of "Does IT Matter?" fame (or infamy!), predicts in his new book that utility computing will move businesses from the current model of independent IT to commodity IT managed by the business itself.



Article:  Open source and the future of vendor-free IT

Some evidence shows that use of open source applications is contributing to greater IT project success.  Likewise, IT shops are also more likely to internally support open source applications as compared to vendor applications which typically require outside consultants and vendor professional services.



Article:  Agile is Relative

Agile development methodologies are often surrounded by myths and mystique.  Scott Ambler tries to debunk some of this misinformation.



Article:  The Cost Of Bad IT Economics

Measuring the intrinsic or actual value of IT investments has always been a sticky business.  In this interview, Howard Rubin offers some suggestions for how businesses need to re-evaluate their metrics.



Article:  Software Craftsmanship:  Apprentice to Journeyman

This site provides an online version of the upcoming book of this title.  However, it takes the traditional book concept farther by allowing the audience to provide feedback and comments as the book is being developed in a wiki fashion.



Article:  Eight Tips on How to Manage Feature Creep

Feature (or scope) creep is often the death knell of software and web development projects.  Here are a few ideas for how to contend with feature creep.



Article:  How to Identify Bad CIOs in Their Natural Habitat

Bad CIOs leave a trail of tears behind them in staff turnover, poor project performance, and diminished morale.  Here are some tips for identifying and avoiding this destructive force.



Article:  Richard Feynman, the Challenger Disaster, and Software Engineering

This very insightful article discusses how Richard Feynman's independent analysis techniques from the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster investigation can be applied to solving problems with software development projects.



Article:  Wisdom for Building the Project Manager/Project Sponsor Relationship: Partnership for Project Success

This article might be properly sub-titled "The care and feeding of the project sponsor".  It explores the key things that project managers should do to ensure that the project sponsor performs their duties and responsibilities.  And don't forget to forge good relations with the end-user customers, as well.



Article:  How agile are you?

This 42-point quiz is a great primer on the principles of agile of development.  These are simply true-false statements that you can use to assess the level of agility in your development organization.



Article:  5 Reasons To Outsource

Robert Willett, the CIO of Best Buy, puts saving money as only the fifth most important reason to outsource.  What's his #1 reason?  To get new capabilities that your organization doesn't have.



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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  Detecting Bugs in Safety-Critical Code

When application functionality really is a life-or-death matter, how do you test and validate such an application?  This article discusses how to use static analysis along with other methods.



Article:  Exploiting use cases to improve test quality

Use cases are generally viewed as a method of documenting requirements.  However (or perhaps "additionally"), they are a valuable tool in testing for building test cases and validating test coverage.



Article:  Code complete doesn’t mean you’re done

This article gives a cautionary tale about testing with an appropriate set of data, particularly with respect to the size of the data set that will be used in production.



Article:  Automated GUI testing - Is it worth it?

Discussions about the merits, benefits, and costs of automated testing will probably never cease.  But this article gives some good insight into the important factors to consider when deciding if automated testing is appropriate for your situation.



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Resource:  ReadySET

ReadySET is a set of free, open-source software engineering documentation templates.  They can be used and adapted for use with most any development methodology.  The templates include outlines, sample text, and checklists for artifacts such as project plan, use cases, QA/test plan, test cases, and more.



Tutorial:  Virtualization

This article gives a comprehensive overview of virtualization methods and history.  While focused on Linux, most of the discussion is OS independent.  Information Week named virtualization one of the top 5 disruptive technologies for 2007 and ACM Queue recently featured virtualization.



Tutorial:  What is REST, anyway?

This article gives a nice explanation of the REST (representational state transfer) model for interactive, web-based applications.  It uses great, non-technical analogies.



Reference:  101 Design Patterns & Tips for Developers

Design patterns are excellent ways to simplify and standardize your code, as well as to explain your application to others.  Here are simple explanations of many common patterns.



Tutorial:  The three pillars of Object Orientation

This brief tutorial gives a good overview of object-oriented programming from a language-independent perspective.  It focuses on the concepts without getting too technical or philosophical.  This author suggests that the most important concepts are behavior, message passing, and specialization.



Tutorial:  10 cool things you can do with Windows PowerShell

Windows PowerShell, the enhanced command line tool for Windows, is typically viewed as a shell for advanced scripting.  But this article gives you 10 simple, but powerful things that can benefit most anyone.



Tutorial:  A Quick Introduction to UML Sequence Diagrams

This brief and easily understand article will help you to understand UML sequence diagrams.  Sequence diagrams are very helpful for understanding system-to-user and system-to-system interactions, even if you don’t use a complete UML model for your application.



Tutorial:  Java Reflection in Action

One of the greatest features for dynamic programming in Java is its support for reflection.  This detailed article examples the basics of reflection, with examples of how to use it in your own applications.



Site:  Online Computer Science Books

This site has a nice directory of free computer science and programming textbooks that are available on the Internet.  Books on a wide range of topics, including algorithms, programming philosophy, and specific languages are included.



Tutorial:  Rhetoric for Engineers and Other Practical People

Interestingly, even in the technology world, strong written communication, such as e-mail, is still vital to success.  However, most technical people don't have much experience in this area.  This excellent and even fun tutorial will help you improve your technical writing and presentation skills.  And if this isn't enough, check out this list of over 50 online college writing courses.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  Small Team Collaboration: Seven Key Beliefs To Work As A Great Team

What separates great teams from the "also rans"?  This article outlines seven important differentiators:     clear and public accountability, trusted competency, give and take, total transparency, shared glory, meaningful mission value, and outcome optimism.



Article:  How to Develop a Sense of Scale

When you need to explain something to another person, it helps to have a common frame of reference.  When it comes to explaining things involving very large or small numbers, especially to non-technical people, a sense of scale is extremely valuable.  Here are some ways to relate these values to something that people already understand.  In addition to the resources mentioned in the article, be sure to check out this visualization, too.



Article:  Eureka! It Really Takes Years of Hard Work

Many of us are awed by the seemingly instantaneous insights that result in major breakthroughs.  However, a closer look usually reveals that slow, painstaking effort almost always leads up to the "Aha!" moment.



Article:  Resume tips for older job seekers

By 2010, one third of IT workers will be 50 years old or older.  And, let's face it, none of us is getting any younger.  Here is some good advice on creating a resume that focuses on your skills and experience.



Article:  Programmers at Work:  Where Are They Now?

Programmers at Work is an excellent book about the art and craft of software development.  Now, 22 years later, this guy has put together an update on where the folks profiled in the book are now.



Article:  Are You a Pyromaniac?

Are you the kind of manager who loves crises?  This author calls these people "pyromaniacs" and they can lead to loss of productivity and high staff turnover.



Article:  10 ways to be more persuasive and win your case

Having a great idea doesn't matter much, if you can't "sell" it to others.  Here are some tips for how persuade others about the merits of your concept.



Article:  25 Questions to Think About Before Your Next Job Interview

Preparing for a job interview can be a daunting task.  How do you know what they will ask, etc.?  Here are 25 common interview questions with some suggestions for how to prepare to answer them.



Article:  Stop Procrastinating — Right Now!

According to some research, more than 95% of people procrastinate and many of them spend inordinate amounts of time avoiding certain tasks.  Interestingly, those who make time for leisure activities are less likely to procrastinate.



Article:  10 Tips to Retain More of What You Read Online

Information overload is a fact of life today.  So you need to make all of the time that you spend reading count.  While these tips are oriented toward reading online content, they really apply to almost anything that you read.



Article:  Want Success? Learn to Listen

Most people will say that the opposite of talking is listening.  But the fact is that in most conversations the person not talking is simply waiting to talk.  You need to be a true listener in order to get make the most of verbal communication.



Article:  Patrick Lencioni on the Signs of a Miserable Job

A management expert on teamwork and organization development says that three key signs of a bad job are anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement.



Article:  35 Things To Avoid At Your Job Interview

A job interview is the single most important step to landing your new position.  Here are some simple tips for how to make a good impression in the interview.



Article:  Can't get no outsourcing satisfaction?

One of the greatest lessons that businesses are learning about outsourcing is that the objectives of outsourcing need to go beyond cost cutting and need to align with business strategy.



Article:  Managing Information Overload

It's true.  This is the information economy.  But what do you do when you do when you feel like you're drowning in a sea of information?  Here are some tips to maintain a sane perspective on all the information that comes your way.



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Telecommunications/Networking Industry

Article:  Looking Toward the Future

On the occasion of his departure as head of ICANN, Vint Cerf outlines his view of the future of the Internet. 



Article:  Bandwidth on Demand

Internet2 is the proving ground for many of the new technologies that will find their way into the mainstream telecom infrastructure.



Article:  TIA study: Economic downturn won’t deter telecom

The Telecom Industries Association (TIA) expects worldwide telecom providers to fare better in the 2008 recession than they did in 2001.  Increased bandwidth demand for entertainment and multimedia should be the drivers.



Article:  Corporate Phone Bill To Hit $133 Billion This Year

A new report says that wireless services will account for 39% of business phone service costs, driving wireless service revenues to increase 13% annually.



Article:  Vint Cerf on why TCP/IP was so long in coming

The father of TCP/IP notes that marketing of technology as just as important (or maybe more) as the technology itself when it comes to which ones last.



Article:  The LAN turns 30, but will it reach 40?

ArcNET, the first commercial LAN product, was implemented 30 years ago.  Now, the question is what are the future of LANs.  Some pundits are predicting that in the near future all nodes will be connected to one large WAN at gigabit speeds.




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Useful Utilities

PartedMagic (Free – Cross-platform Live CD – 36.2MB)

Why spend lots of money on commercial disk partitioning tools, when PartedMagic can do it for free?  PartedMagic is a Linux live CD for performing disk partitioning, based on the free, open-source Parted tool.  It includes both GUI and command line tools and supports creating new partitions, resizing existing partitions, deleting partitions, setting partitions active, and more.



Putty Connection Manager (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista – 1.8MB)

If you use the excellent Putty Telnet/SSH client, one feature that you probably pine for is the ability to group multiple Putty sessions into a single window with tabs.  Putty Connection Manager fixes this deficiency and much more.  It even allows you to tile your Putty windows in a single frame and to manage settings for multiple sessions.



Redmond Path (Free – Windows XP/2003/Vista – 122kB)

Editing the search path (the PATH environment variable) in Windows is difficult, because the built-in edit box is small and cumbersome.  Redmond Path addresses this problem, by allowing you to edit the user and system PATH by specifying each portion of the environment variable and to adjust the ordering of the elements of the PATH.  Likewise, it will display the combined user and system path, so you can see which directories will be searched first.



Netlicious (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – 3.7MB)

If you use del.icio.us to keep your Internet bookmarks, you know that it's a great tool to have your favorites available from any machine.  However, using the online tools to maintain and review your bookmarks is often cumbersome.  Netlicious comes to the rescue.  It allows you to review your bookmarks, including displaying previews of the linked page, modify tags, including mass updates, and more.



ResizeEnable (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – 39kB)

Ever wish you could make one of the dialog boxes in Windows bigger, but it's not supported?  Well, ResizeEnable can help.  Basically, it sets the "resizable" flag for any window simply by pointing and clicking, so that you can resize it to any size you want.  Of course, some windows will look strange when they are resized, but it might just help in your situation.



DateInTray (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – 95kB)

DateInTray is a simple utility that displays an icon in the system tray that shows the day of the month.  You can hover the cursor over the icon to display the full date and it even includes a simple pop-up calendar.



QuickImage  (Free – Eclipse 3.x – N/A)

QuickImage is a simple plug-in for the Eclipse platform that allows you to use Eclipse as an image viewer.  It can display thumbnails of a directory of images as well as individual images, including scaling.  It supports most common image formats, including GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP, and ICO.



XCDE (Free – Eclipse 3.x – 1.2MB [client plug-in] and 106kB [server])

XCDE stands for eXtreme Collaborative Development Environment and is an Eclipse plug-in that allows real-time collaborative editing of source files over the Internet.  It supports any number of simultaneous editors and the host user can control which files are shared for editing.  In addition, XCDE can use a MySQL database to log all of the edits for analysis or replay.



TiddlySticky  (Free – Any web browser that supports Javascript – 250kB)

TiddlySticky is a local, browser-based sticky note utility.  You can create as many sticky notes in your web browser as you like and save them on your machine to recall later.



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Productivity Tips

Obscure but powerful shortcut keys for formatting text in MS Word

MS Word is a powerful tool, but sometimes its power seems to be shrouded in mystery behind a maze of menus.  Here are a few obscure but useful shortcut keys for text formatting that will save you a lot of time.

Shortcut Key Combination


<Ctrl> + <Shift> + D

Double underline the selected text

<Ctrl> + ]

Increase the size of selected text by 1 point

<Ctrl> + [

Decrease the size of selected text by 1 point

<Ctrl> + <Shift> + A

Make selected text all caps

<Ctrl> + =

Toggle subscripting for selected text

<Ctrl> + +

Toggle superscripting for selected text

<Ctrl> + <Shift> + Q

Apply Symbol font to selected text

<Ctrl> + <Shift> + N

Apply Normal style to current paragraph

<Ctrl> + <Alt> + 1

Apply Heading 1 style to current paragraph

<Ctrl> + <Alt> + 2

Apply Heading 2 style to current paragraph

<Ctrl> + <Alt> + 3

Apply Heading 3 style to current paragraph

<Ctrl> + <Shift> + L

Apply List Bullet style

<Ctrl> + 0 (zero)

Apply or remove space above current paragraph


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Just For Fun

The Nerd Test

C'mon, face it that if you read this newsletter, you've got to be a little bit nerdy.  Take this test to find out just how much and what specific kind of nerd you are.



Double-Tongued Dictionary

This site describes itself as "a lexicon of fringe English, focusing on slang, jargon, and new words."  It's a great way to say just how lively and ever-changing our language is.



The Evolution of Tech Companies’ Logos

This site provides the history of some of the most popular and enduring brands in technology through a look at the changes in their logos.  Very interesting to see the roots of some of these companies.



50 Weird Science Tidbits & Oddities

In the "truth is stranger than fiction" category we offer this list of interesting scientific facts.  Who knew that there were more insects in a square mile of ground than people on the entire planet?



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