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March 2009 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


Never let the fear of failure be an excuse for not trying. Society tells us that to fail is the most terrible thing in the world, but I know it isn't. Failure is part of what makes us human.  –Amber Deckers


Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.  –Vincent van Gogh


Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.  Cicero


Experience is a dear teacher, but fools will learn at no other.  –Benjamin Franklin


Let us seek with the desire to find, and find with the desire to seek still more.  St. Augustine


Faith which does not doubt is dead faith.  –Miguel de Unamuno


Valor lies just halfway between rashness and cowardice.  –Miguel de Cervantes


One important key to success is self-confidence.  An important key to self-confidence is preparation.  –Arthur Ashe


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Software Development Process

Article:  How to Build a Business Case for Application Modernization

With the economic difficulties, most organizations will probably be cutting IT budgets.  This likely limits options for brand-new systems, but may be a good opportunity for updating existing applications.  Here's how to make the business case for such modernization efforts.



Article:  The Agile Rules in HP's Original Garage

Who were the original "agile" guys?  This list has the 11 rules supposed used by William Hewlett and David Packard when they started H-P back in 1939 in a garage in Palo Alto.  The precepts are succinct and profound at the same time.



Article:  IT needs a return to the art of architecture

The frequency of IT project failures got this authoring to thinking that the problem may be too much emphasis on the technologies and not enough focus on technique and architecture.



Article:  Deciding when it’s time to quit

A good project charter should define success criteria.  Nevertheless, while no one wants to anticipate failure, it is important to have an idea of what circumstances would lead you to cancel a project.  This article outlines the process for determining if it's time to end a project.



Article:  A Software Engineer’s Guide To Speaking With Non-Technical Managers

Communication is the fundamental key to project success.  And frequently this communication includes (or should include!) discussions with customers and stakeholders who are often non-technical.  Here are some great suggestions for how to successfully talk with them.



Article:  Agile development is more culture than process

This article points out the interesting fact that agile is actually a culture rather than a process.  Furthermore, it says that this fact is what causes there to be more resistance to adoption of agile, because changing culture is harder than changing process.



Article:  Use Cases Considered Valuable (but Optional) For Lean/Agile Requirements Capture

In agile development circles, there is often much debate on the role/value of use cases for capturing requirements.  In this article, a confirmed agilist explains how use cases can be used in larger/longer-term efforts to help elucidate the requirements in user stories and to document interactions.



Article:  Deadlines vs. Estimates

Development managers and project managers often have a tendency to want to "convert" deadlines into estimates for how long a project will take.  This article helps sort out the difference between the two and how they need to be used together rather than merging the two into one.



Article:  User Stories and Use Cases

User stories are one of the key basic requirements tools for agile development.  This excellent article explains the process for taking user stories and turning them into use cases that apply to the system being developed.



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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  "Quality Doesn't Matter That Much" -- Jeff and Joel

"Uncle Bob" Martin takes Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky to task for their flippant statement that "quality doesn't matter that much."  I think that Jeff and Joel's statement probably came out wrong, but perhaps this is just the spark the development world needs to take quality more seriously.  [Jeff Atwood responds.]



Article:  IT failures roundup: software bugs everywhere

If you thought that TDD, unit testing, and all of those other tools had mostly eliminated software defects, here's evidence that it's the personal attention to detail and quality that really matters.



Article:  Think like a hacker

It's frequently said that testers think different (malevolently?).  This article explains why those that want to be good security testers need to think like the bad guys and why, while this is a skill that can be learned, it is not for everyone.



Article:  If These Bugs Are Wrong, I Don't Want to Be Right

This article is an interesting look at how bugs in some popular games actually become beloved features.  It's definitely an out of the ordinary spin on what we usually consider as detrimental.  [And, because of the title of this article, I can't get that Barbara Mandrell song out of my head!]



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Tutorial:  A Crash-Course in Regular Expressions

When starting out in programming, one of the most powerful tools that you can learn, regardless of the programming language, is regular expressions (or regex).  But they are usually mystifying and esoteric (some sort of rite of initiation).  This excellent video tutorial peels away some of the obscurity.  After mastering regular expressions, you can join the interminable debate about whether or not to use them for e-mail address validation.  :)



Tutorial:  How The Kernel Manages Your Memory

Last month, we featured part 1 of this series about memory management by the operating system.  This article expands on that to explain how the OS actually stores and pages memory used by an application.



Tutorial:  Optimizing Code for Speed

One of the mysteries of development is how to take a working application and make it run faster.  This detailed, yet very readable tutorial gives some practical advice for how to optimize your code.



Reference:  Concise Principles of Object-Oriented Design

Software development expert Robert "Uncle Bob" Martin explains in simple language how to do object-oriented design correctly.



Tutorial:  RESTful Web services: The basics

Due to their simplicity and low barriers to entry, REST-based web services are starting to become more popular.  This tutorial helps you develop a structure and architecture for your web services and explains the basic principles.



Tutorial:  Fundamental Concepts of Parallel Programming

With the use of multicore processors becoming commonplace, parallel programming is going to become mainstream sooner rather than later.  This comprehensive tutorial explains what it's all about.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  How to Write a Resume That Will Land an Interview

With unemployment at a 16-year high, more of us are looking for jobs.  The key to the job search is setting yourself apart from the crowd and your resume is the first line of attack.  Check out these simple and great tips to a better resume.



Article:  Job satisfaction: It’s highly overrated

Technical career pundit Paul Glen says that, even though most people say that they want job satisfaction, what they are really looking for is motivation.  He makes an interesting point.



Online Tool:  Coder's CV

Coder's CV is an online site for posting and hosting developer and programmer resumes.  It is a relatively simple site, but it offers some unique features, such showing a time-line view of your experience, a tabular summary, and your own weighted list of your skills.  In addition, users can obtain a PDF version of your resume from the site.



Resource:  Blue Resume

In these newsletters, I often feature articles with tips on writing a good resume.  Well, here's a site that goes one better:  It has over 200 free resume templates for you to download.  You should definitely find some great inspiration for making a great, personal resume.



Article:  The best jobs

Even with the economic difficulties reducing job prospects for many in IT, perhaps surprisingly, two IT job titles ("software engineer" and "computer systems analyst") made the top 10 in CareerCast.com's recent survey of best jobs.  In this interview, the publisher of the report explains why.



Article:  10 ways CIOs can keep their jobs — and their sanity — in 2009

While CIOs are mentioned in the title of this article, these 10 brief tips really apply to workers at all levels of the IT organization.  And they seem to be applicable even when the economic factors are good.



Resource:  30+ Websites to Visit When You’re Laid Off

Of course, no one wants to even think about losing their job, let alone what to do about it, but it's simply a good idea to have a plan for what to do if it happens, just like having a little money in the bank for an unexpected expense.  This site gives you some great leads on online resources to help you get back on your feet in case you get a pink slip, especially concerning using networking.



Article:  IT Professionals See Salary Increase but Job Security Remains Top Concern

A recent survey by Dice shows that IT professionals saw salary increases of 4.6% in 2008, but 1/5 of them reported concerns about layoffs in 2009.



Article:  Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting

These authors suggest that goal-setting has become such an in-grained part of management culture that the dangerous side effects frequently outweigh the benefits and that most people aren't even aware of these unintended consequences.



Article:  Workplace Refrain: Do More With Less

Probably everyone has heard the phrase "Do more with less" more times than they care to remember.  This story traces the origins of the phrase back to Benjamin Franklin.  When Franklin coined it, the phrase had a completely different meaning.  Now, I'm waiting for a story on "Work smarter, not harder".  :)



Article:  Seeing Red: Tweak Your Brain With Colors

I guess you might call this the new red-blue debate.  Researchers at the University of British Columbia have reported that red tends to make people more risk-averse and to pay more attention to detail, while blue brings out a person's creativity.



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Telecommunications/Networking Industry

Article:  Broadband stimulus passes, but many questions linger

The massive (I think "ginormous" is a better word!) economic stimulus includes some money to improve broadband Internet access.  This article is a good and relatively balanced look at what it really means.



Article:  Broadband Gains Don't Necessarily Mean Landline Losses - AT&T and Verizon's take

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Verizon and AT&T aren't seeing increases in broadband subscriptions taking away landlines, even though the economy is bad.  There strategy seems to be to repurpose the existing copper lines for other services.



Article:  Enterprise VoIP slowing due to economy, says In-Stat

Business metrics company In-Stat says that 1/3 of businesses that were considering moving to VOIP have begun reassessing this option in view of the economic downturn. 



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Useful Utilities

Net-C (Free – Cross-platform/Java – 1.0MB)

Net-C is a simple, free cross-platform LAN instant messenger.  It is peer-to-peer (no server required) and includes individual and group chats, emoticons ("smilies"), customized status messages, and does not require any installation.  It should run on any system that has Java installed.



Taekwindow (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – 122kB)

Taekwindow is an add-on for Windows that makes it behave more like X11 window managers (X/Windows).  Specifically, it allows you to move a window my clicking anywhere within the window (not just on the title bar), it allows you to resize the window by clicking anywhere in the window and holding down the <Alt> key, and you can use the mouse scroll wheel on the window under the cursor, even if it doesn't have focus.  (Requires .NET framework.)



Wabit (Free – Cross-platform/Java – 13.3MB)

Wabit is a cross-platform ad-hoc database querying and reporting tool.  It supports any database that has JDBC driver support, including all of the popular platforms, such as Oracle, MySQL, and MS SQL Server.  It has intuitive drag-and-drop for database tables and allows you to easily refine your queries to drill down to the result you want.  In addition, it provides built-in formatting of query results to save time in report generation.



MaxTo (Free – Windows XP/Vista – 167kB)

MaxTo helps you manage the windows on your desktop more efficiently.  Simply configure a set of (non-overlapping) regions on your screen and then MaxTo will allow you to "maximize" your applications only within that region.  This allows you to have multiple windows tiled on screen in your own manner.



f.lux (Free – Windows XP/Vista and Mac OS X – 539kB)

This tool is so cool you'll wonder why someone didn't think of it before.  You simply set up a profile of the lighting conditions during your work schedule and f.lux works in the background to automatically adjust the screen brightness on your computer to match.  No more midnight headaches from a screen that is bright as the sun at 3 o'clock in the afternoon!



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Just For Fun

AOL Search Data Slip-up Inspires "I Love Alaska"

AOL accidental release of search queries in 2006 has been taken a couple of Dutch film makers and turned into a series of short online videos.  It's quite interesting to see what some people come up with.  Kind of reminds me of Twin Peaks.



The Bacon Explosion

OK…  So first, apologies to my vegetarian friends!  But I just couldn't pass this up.  The bacon explosion is the Internet hit recipe of 2009 (so far!).  It's kind of like beef Wellington (ok, not really!) but made with bacon and sausage.



A Veteran Songwriter's 'Old Man' Music

Tulsa hometown boy made good, J.J. Cale, just released his latest album, Roll On, at age 70 (can't believe it!).  In this interview, he talks about the new album and how it feels to be an "old man".  And listen to two tracks from the new album here.  Cale is a true classic!



Galaxy Zoo 2

Science needs you!  Yes, you!  On this site, you can participate in classifying galaxies based on their shape from pictures taken by telescopes.  Astronomers are using this data to determine which sections of the universe we should take a closer look it.  And the cool part is that you don't have to be a rocket scientist to contribute!



The Stories Behind 20 Muppet Favorites

Most of us grew up with the Muppets.  Here's the back story about where 20 of them originated.



Will Rogers Talks to Banker's Convention in 1924

If you didn't know better, you'd think this speech was given just this year!  When it comes to "high finance", truer words have never been spoken.  :)



Save The Words

Oxford's project to save old words from being lost forever.  You can even adopt a word (or two or three!) as your own to preserve.



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