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May 2006 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


Failure is not the only punishment for laziness; there is also the success of others.  –Jules Renard


Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.  –Horace Greeley


People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.  –Hermann Hesse


There are two ways of exerting one's strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.  –Booker T. Washington


Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.  –H. L. Mencken


When work is a pleasure, life is a joy!  When work is a duty, life is slavery.  –Maxim Gorky


Excellence in any department can be attained only by the labor of a lifetime; it is not to be purchased at a lesser price.  –Samuel Johnson


It is our responsibilities, not ourselves, that we should take seriously.  –Peter Ustinov


I believe the computer age favors the individual and that resistance to the individual work style is the last gasp of the dying industrial age. Many software companies put their faith in committees because they believe this is the way things have always been done. In fact, most unique modern achievements have been the product of individuals or very small groups, including relativity theory, the airplane, the laser and the computer itself.  Until now, individual achievement has been exceptional in a mass society, even though the exceptions often transform that society. The deliberate cultivation of individual creativity may end up being the most important social result of computer technology.  Paul Lutus


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Software Development Process

Article:  Project Management: Avoid these common estimating traps

While most of the tips are old hat to most IT professionals, it never hurts to be reminded again about some of the basic pitfalls of estimating project effort and duration.



Article:  Four Steps to SOA

Service-oriented architectures (SOAs) are all the rage in IT shops, but implementing them from scratch can be daunting.  This article gives some good tips on a reasonable approach to SOA (define SOA, train staff, establish governance, and think big/start small) and provides a nice explanation of SOA using an analogy with eBay.



Article:  Why IT and Users Hate Each Other

Alignment between IT and the business users that they serve is the hot topic in IT management circles.  This article looks at some of the factors, both overt and latent, that serve to make alignment and cooperation difficult.



Article:  Get out of the information technology reactionary rut

IT workers and management often spend an excessive amount of time "fighting fires".  This article shows how IT can be a proactive provider to business customers.



Article:  The Development Abstraction Layer

As any good developer knows, abstraction is a foundational concept to building good systems.  Similarly, the job of development management is also to establish and maintain an organizational abstraction layer to allow the developers to concentrate on the technical work and avoid distraction.



Article:  The Lazy Programmer's Guide

A season developer shares some tips to help make the time spent on programming most efficient and effective.  His concept of avoiding checking "lack of invalidity" is unique and very useful.



Article:  100 Rules for NASA Project Managers

While not specific to software development projects, this list from a highly-respected project manager at NASA provides great advice to anyone responsible for managing a project or team.



Article:  Evaluating Project Success, Failure -- and Everything in Between

According to a University of Virginia IT professor, judging the success or failure of a project depends largely on who you ask and the criteria used to measure it.  He emphasizes the importance of project retrospectives.



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Software Testing & Quality

Tool:  Selenium IDE

Selenium IDE is a Firefox browser extension that allows record and playback of tests (or other repetitive/automatable) tasks.  Tests are generated in Ruby, but it is not necessary to know Ruby unless you want to customize the scripts.  The tool is quite easy to use and could be deployed to end-users for creating business scenario regression or acceptance tests for web-based applications.



Article:  The Bad Code Spotter's Guide

This article provides 10 techniques that developers and testers can use to identify sub-standard code.



Article:  Embedded Experts: Fix Code Bugs Or Cost Lives

Attendees of a conference on embedded software provide examples on the costs–both financial and in lives–of poorly developed and tested applications.



Site:  Testing Post

This site features web forums on many topics in software testing and QA, including job interview techniques and tips, job postings, automated testing, and even testing jokes and humor.



Presentations:  CSTE Training

This site provides some excellent and comprehensive presentations (in Powerpoint format) on each of the domains of the Certified Software Test Engineer (CSTE) body of knowledge.



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Site:  Information Technology Education Supersite

This site provides links to dozens of free, online courses on IT topics, including programming, databases, operating systems, and business applications.



Reference:  The J2EE Architect's Handbook

This is the complete text of J2EE Architect's Handbook in downloadable PDF format.  The book covers a variety of topics for senior developers and architects who need to implement J2EE applications.  The site also has many other EJB-related books available online.



Reference:  Microsoft Word 2003 keyboard shortcuts

This two-page reference sheet provides a nice list of common and not-so-common keyboard shortcuts for MS Word to boost your productivity.



Tutorial:  What Is a Virtual Private Network?

This book excerpt gives a good introduction to VPNs and the basic components of them.



Reference:  Code Newbie

The Code Newbie site provides news, tutorials, forums, and examples for a variety of programming languages, including C/C++, Java, ASP, .NET, and many more.  The focus of the site is on new programmers and forum members are very gentle and helpful to those new to the profession.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  10 rules to manage your boss

This article provides 10 detailed tips on how to improve and maintain a good relationship with your boss.



Article:  Why Your Employees Are Losing Motivation

Research indicates that most employees start a new job with great motivation, but after just 6 months at 85% of companies, employee morale has deteriorated precipitously.  Thus, instead of focusing on motivation, managers need to spend time preventing demotivation on the part of workers.



Article:  Average IT Manager Makes $99,000, Staffer $73,000, InformationWeek Survey Finds

The annual InformationWeek salary survey shows that staff salaries rose about 1% over last year, but average bonuses were around 4% allowing workers to keep up with inflation.



Article:  Study:  You can lower the odds of being outsourced

A new study shows that gaining business and management skills is the best way to "outsource-proof" your career.  Business process management and project planning are two of the most important skills noted.



Article:  Beating Traffic

While Tulsa area traffic certainly isn't as bad as Houston's (I used to live there, so I know!), this article is interesting from the perspective of using observational data and statistical analysis to reduce your commute time and determine the optimal time to leave home or the office.



Article:  25 Most Difficult Job Interview Questions (and their answers)

This list helps you know how to answer some of those tough questions, mostly around "soft skills", that come up in many job interviews.



Article:  Angry/negative people can be bad for your brain

Neural science shows that negativity has both mental and physical impacts.  This article explores some of the details around this and promotes the idea of hanging around with happy and positive people.



Article:  How to Squash Negative Thought Patterns

As noted above, negative thoughts and attitudes are detrimental.  This good article talks about some practical techniques to do away with those negative ideas.



Survey:  Best Jobs in America

Software engineer tops this list of the best jobs based on salary and future prospects for the job.  And computer/IT analyst makes the top 10.



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Telecommunications/Networking Industry

Article:  Engineers Demonstrate Revolutionary Photonic Technology

UCSD electrical engineering researchers have developed a technique to transmit optical signals using existing fibers at 10 times the current modulation rate of the 1550nm transmission standard.



Article:  Net Neutrality Not An Optional Feature of Internet

This article examines efforts by some of the large carriers to require fees from content providers to provide access to customers.  (More information here.)



Article:  Prying Open the Cable Market

Interview with FCC chairman Kevin Martin discusses efforts by FCC to allow traditional telecom carriers provide video services to consumers.



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Useful Utilities

ZoomIt (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 36kB)

ZoomIt is a handy utility to zoom in on (magnify) a certain section of your display, such as when doing a demonstration.  It even allows you to scroll and annotate (write on) the magnified area.



CHM Encoder (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 329kB)

CHM Encoder allows you do "decompile" CHM (Windows Compiled HTML Help) files into their constituent individual files for browsing/editing purposes.



Folder Jockey (Free Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 598kB)

Folder Jockey provides quick access to your commonly used folders/directories in Windows.  You can define any number of shortcut keys to open particular folders with a couple of keystrokes.  New folders can be added to list via right click in Windows Explorer and you can use the Folder Jockey tray icon to navigate to any of the saved folders, as well.



CapturePad (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 760kB)

CapturePad is a great screen capture utility that can capture your screen, a particular window, or region of screen to AVI, series of JPG images, or Flash SWF file.  In addition, you can even choose a video input to convert webcam or video camera input.



Taskbar++ (Free – Windows NT/2000/XP – 434kB)

Taskbar++ is a simply utility that allows you to drag and drop the application buttons on your Windows task bar to rearrange or reorder them.

http://www.geocities.jp/chihiro718/LZH_ZIP/TaskbarPP12.zip (direct download)


TrueCrypt (Free – Windows 2000/XP – 1380kB)

TrueCrypt is a free, open-source disk encryption program for Windows and Linux.  It allows you to encrypt an entire volume or to create a virtual encrypted volume (i.e., a file) and mount it as a disk volume.  Encryption is automatic, on-the-fly (real time), and transparent and performance impact is minimal.  Many popular encryption algorithms are supported.



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Productivity Tips

Disable/turn off Windows XP error reporting

Starting with Windows XP Service Pack 1, Microsoft automatically enabled the Windows error reporting functionality that displays a message when an application crashes/abnormally terminates and provides the option to send a report to Microsoft.  While this might be useful in some cases, after a while it becomes annoying, especially if you aren't interested in sending the reports.  To disable/turn off the error reporting, open the Registry Editor (Start | Run à regedit) and navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PCHealth\ErrorReporting key.  Change the values of ALL of the values in this key to 0.  Close the Registry Editor.


Stop the Windows Automatic Updater restart prompt

Windows Update is a useful tool for keeping your system running smoothly and reducing security vulnerabilities.  However, after the updates are installed you are nagged every 10 minutes to "Restart Now" or "Restart Later".  To turn off the prompt, simply open a command prompt (Start | Run à cmd) and execute this command:  net stop wuauserv.  You should see the following responses:

The Automatic Updates service is stopping.

The Automatic Updates service was stopped successfully.

The automatic update service (wuauserv) will automatically restart the next time you reboot.


Change size of image file thumbnails in Windows XP

By default, in Windows XP, the thumbnail view of a directory in Windows Explorer displays images as 64 x 64 pixel images.  However, you can easily change the thumbnail size to suit your preferences.  To do so, open the registry editor (Start | Run à regedit) and navigate to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer key.  Add a new DWORD value named ThumbnailSize and set its decimal value to any number 16 - 256 inclusive whose value is a multiple of 16 (e.g., 16, 32, 48, etc.).  Close the Registry Editor.


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Just For Fun


WebSE is an amazing Flash-based emulation of the Macintosh System 7 desktop that was popularized with the Macintosh SE many years ago.  You can play games in this emulation and even browse a static web site with links.



Burnout Prevention and Recovery

This page takes a satirical look at the common remedies for avoiding and resolving feelings of job burnout.  While oriented toward academic institutions, the concepts are universal (and universally funny).



Mighty Optical Illusions

Optical illusions are a very fascinating topic to me.  They seem to intersect math and psychology in a interesting way.  This site provides some interesting and unique illusions, including some animated 3D artifices.



Code Monkey Song

Here's a hilarious song about working as an IT employee.  "Code Monkey like Fritos!"  LOL!



Hello Kitty Psychological Profile

Take this non-linear psychological test to find out what Hello Kitty thinks about your personality.




Planarity is a fun and fascinating (for math geeks, anyway!) online game.  The object of the game is to arrange a set of vertices (nodes) so that none of the lines connecting them overlap or cross.  It sounds easy, but it can be quite challenging.  A nice diversion from Sudoku.  J



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