May 2003 Newsletter



Quotable Quotes


When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.  –Alexander Graham Bell


Think as you work, for in the final analysis, your worth to your company comes not only in solving problems, but also in anticipating them.  –Tom Lehrer


Thought not committed to action is like a sun that never shines.  –Thomas D. Willhite


Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you're doing the impossible.  –St. Francis of Assisi


To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes may be the biggest mistake of all.  –Peter McWilliams, Life 101


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Software Development Process

Article:  Authorizing Questions: Does IT Really Make Us Productive?

An MIT researching is embarking on a long-term study of whether or not IT initiatives and tools make people more productive or not.  This article gives an overview of the planned review.


Article:  Why IT business alignment veers off track and how you can keep it on course

Many organizations talk a lot about how business and IT strategies are aligned and they do much planning to ensure that.  However, following up and verifying that alignment continues is more difficult.


Article:  Study: Data Warehouses Are Still High Risk

A new Cutter Consortium study shows that most data warehouse projects either fail to meet expectations or are abandoned before completion.  Both process and technology maturity were identified as leading factors for failure.


Site:  Software Quotes

This site has a wonderful collection of quotes from the “heavyweights” of the history of software development (Dijkstra, Ritchie, Stroustrup, et. al.), as well as some less well-known figures.  Most of the quotes are insightful and motivating.


Article:  Scale it back: Controlling a project gone awry

This article is packed with good advice on getting a project that is out of control back on track.  It includes five salient points to consider in gaining control.


Article:  Project Scheduling According to Dr. Goldratt

Schedule overruns are more common than meeting projected dates. What can be done to improve? Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt provides insight as to how a great amount of schedule safety is incorporated into project plans, yet teams succeed in wasting the safety until they experience schedule overrun. By eliminating or minimizing the causes of schedule waste, the probability of achieving the originally planned project completion date increases.


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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  Good testers know when to quit

This article discusses one of the primary conundrums of software testing:  When are we done?  It also examines the importance of doing a variety of testing types to ensure the best quality.


Reference:  Software Testing Dictionary

A good reference to terminology used in software testing culled from a variety of well-known and respected sources.


Article:  Spread of buggy software raises new questions

Mainstream media review of problems with defect-laden software, particularly in embedded applications, such as ATMs.  Lack of testing is cited as major cause for problems.



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Tutorial:  UNIX Tutorial for Beginners

This eight-part tutorial on Unix is an excellent introduction (or refresher!) for those who have little or no Unix experience.  The tutorial starts out with comparisons of commands between DOS (or the Windows command prompt) as a gentle start.


Article:  Relational databases: The inspiration behind the theory

This article gives a nice overview of Dr. E. F. Codd’s development of the relational model for data and some non-technical tips for how to think of data relationally.


Site:  PC Lube and Tune

Although the name belies the fact, this is not one of those sites that promises to fix all of the problems with your system automatically.  Instead, this site has some excellent tutorials about a variety of topics related to the inner workings of PCs and networks.  The articles are well organized and approachable without (needlessly) getting too technical.  Some topics include an overview of the basic components of all PCs, how the modern GUIs are designed/implemented, and an introduction to TCP/IP.


Reference:  FCC Glossary of Telecommunications Terms

Formally known as Federal Standard 1037, this site includes the full FCC glossary of telecom terms.  A good primary reference for telecommunications technology information.


Site:  Tek-Tips

Tek-Tips is an excellent site for all topics about software development technologies and processes and networking.   Site includes a variety of forums and what sets this one apart from the plethora of others is that most of the forums stay on-topic and the enquirer receives succinct responses quite quickly.  (Site requires free registration to post.)


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Career Development/Miscellaneous


Article:  Businesses Increasingly Face IT Worker Burnout

Due to the prolonged recession, many IT workers have abandoned moving from job to job every few months or years.  The increased stress is causing a likely long-term backlash due to stagnation.


Series:  Overview of The Fifth Discipline and Application to Project Management

This series of articles gives an overview of each of the five core disciplines identified by Peter Senge in his seminal work on the “learning organization”, The Fifth Discipline:  personal mastery, shared vision, mental models, team learning, and systems thinking.  The articles focus on applications to project management.


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Telecommunications Industry


Article:  WilTel Emergence Provides Early Glimpse Of MCI's Task

Article discusses some of the backoffice system changes made by WilTel since coming out of bankruptcy.  Specifically, discusses Open CI and Siebel.


Article:  Inventor patents ‘Layer 1 packet switching’

A prolific inventor of telecom technologies has a received a patent for technology that allows switching at Layer 1, which he claims provides promise for improved real-time video and high-performance data transmission.


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Useful Utilities


JBSQL (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000 – 304kB)

JBSQL is a light-weight, but feature-rich, replacement for Oracle’s SQL*Plus utility.  JBSQL presents output of SELECT statements in an easy-to-read tabular format (similar to SQL Navigator) and provides table and column completion dropdown lists to save typing.  [JBSQL requires version 8.1 of the Oracle client.]


Visual REGEXP (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000 – 828kB)

Visual REGEXP is a “graphical explorer” for regular expressions (regexp).  It allows you to build a regexp and immediately see it applied to a user-specified input example.  The utility provides quick access to common regexp components and color highlighting for flexible feedback.


Synergy (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000 & Linux – 498kB)

Synergy is a utility that allows you to share a single keyboard and mouse on multiple computer systems, each of which has it’s own monitor/display, without extra hardware.  It works by creating a “virtual desktop” comprised of all of the machines and then allows you to seamlessly drag your mouse from one desktop to another.


Junction Link Magic (Free – Windows 2000 – 701kB)

Junction Link Magic (JLM) is a utility for any NTFS 5-based OS (Windows 2000 and Windows XP) that allows you to create symbolic links (called “junction points” in the MS vernacular) to another drive/volume as a directory on your local system.  This essentially allows you to break the 26-drive-letter barrier on your system by mounting other drives as directories.  JLM makes the task of defining these links simple.


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Productivity Tips


Increase (or decrease) the number of items in the Recent Documents menu

The Recent Documents menu (Start à Documents) can be a real time saver in Windows 2000.  By default, Windows puts that last 15 non-application documents accessed in this menu.  However, using the Group Policy (GP) editor, you can increase (or decrease) this to any number that you want.  Launch the GP editor by entering gpedit.msc in the Run dialog.  In the Group Policy window, navigate to the User Configuration à Administrative Templates à Windows Components à Windows Explorer branch.  Locate the “Maximum number of recent documents” Policy and change it to Enabled and specify the desired number of documents.  Press OK and close the GP editor.  [Note:  You must be a local administrator to use the GP editor.]


Quickly navigate to the top or bottom of a “section” in MS Excel

In MS Excel, you can quickly navigate to the top or bottom of a column or row “section” (contiguous cells which have contents) by double-clicking on the appropriate edge of a cell.  For example, if you double-click on the top edge of a cell, Excel will move the cell pointer to the top of the list of cells above the current cell.  If you double-click on the edge of an empty cell, Excel move the cell pointer to the appropriate edge of the “empty” region (e.g., the “last” cell before a cell that has contents.)


Use company address book as “home page” for MS Outlook Contacts

If your company has a web/intranet address book or directory, you can set the default display of the MS Outlook Contacts folder to display this page.  To do this:

  1. Find the URL of the company address book and put it into the Clipboard.
  2. Right click on the Contacts folder and select Properties from the context menu.
  3. In the Contact Properties window, select the Home Page tab and paste the address book URL into the Address field.  Select (enable) the Show home page by default for this folder option so that the address book page will display be default.
  4. Press OK to save changes.

Now, when you open the Contacts folder the address book web page will be displayed.  To view the standard contacts list, choose View | Show Folder Home Page from the main menu in Outlook.


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Just For Fun


Outside Of Society Flash Games

This site features a variety of classic arcade games programmed entirely in Macromedia Flash.  Some of the games include Pacman, Zelda, Super Mario, and many more.  Site is very well organized and games are small and easy to use.


Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes

The Museum of Hoaxes presents their favorite 100 April Fool’s Day hoaxes foisted upon the public by a variety of otherwise reputable organizations.


Flash Miniature Golf

This one is incredible!  It’s a Flash-based miniature golf game, with all the realism of the real thing.  Be careful; this one’s addictive!


Mental Floss Daily Quiz

The Mental Floss (fantastic in it own right!) provides a daily trivia quiz on a wide range of topics.  The quiz usually has a theme and the questions increase in difficulty.  See how much you remember!  (Archive of past quizzes is available, as well.)


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