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May 2007 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.  –Wayne Dyer


It is not the greatness of a man's means that makes him independent, so much as the smallness of his wants.  –William Cobbett


A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain.  –Samuel Johnson


Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.  –John Petit-Senn


If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look into your present actions.  –Chinese Proverb


Look for the opportunities in the difficulties, not the difficulties in the opportunities.  –Victor Fiorelli


I love men who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.  –Thomas Paine


You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.  –Leo Aikman


Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. In those transparent moments we know other people's joys and sorrows, and we care about their concerns as if they were our own.  –Fritz Williams


A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.  –John C. Maxwell


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Software Development Process

Article:  Devil in the Detail

Developing strategy is easy, but executing is hard.  And IT is becoming the linchpin to successful strategy execution.  This article explores the key role of IT in the process.



Article:  The Essence of Agile

This book excerpt gives a good, general introduction (not methodology specific) to agile development techniques.  The excellent diagrams really help reinforce the concepts.  The presentation is based on a comparison of agile principles to the common development methodologies, like waterfall, and it emphasizes the project management aspects.



Article:  Gartner Calls On IT Heroes

A new report from Gartner indicates that, in general, IT organizations are not doing a good job of innovating to add business value.  The main reason for this is that IT has too much of a "control" mindset. 



Book Excerpt:  Software Project Secrets:  Why Software Projects Fail:  Why Software Is Different

Running a successful software development project seems like the "holy grail" of IT.  This book excerpt explores why projects fail because software development doesn't follow the normal project management paradigms.



Article:  From Liability to Advantage

This discussion with John Graham-Cumming and John Ousterhout, the founders of Electric Cloud, looks at what organizations can do to remove the bottleneck in software development in the production/construction processes (such as build, test, package and deploy).



Article:  Business modeling with UML: Understanding the similarities and differences between business use cases and system use cases

When starting out with RUP (or one of the related "unified process" methodologies), one of the more difficult and esoteric points is the difference in purpose and content between business use cases (BUCs) and system use cases (SUCs).  This excellent article compares them and explains the type of content that belongs in each.



Articles and Analysis:  Gartner Analyst Says US IT Managers Are Mediocre and Lack Vision

Senior analysts at Gartner Group told an audience at their recent conference that American IT managers are mediocre and don't have vision.  In particular, IT needs to become more focused on their customers and how to provide business value.





Article:  Dynamic languages: More than just a quick fix

Dynamic languages, such as PHP, Python, and Ruby, which historically have been relegated to a scripting role are finding wider acceptance as primary application development languages due to the ability to develop applications quickly and to their ease of use in integrating applications.



Article:  Spreadsheets: Can’t Live Without ‘Em, So Learn to Live with ‘Em

As much as spreadsheets tend to be a headache for the IT organization, they do provide real value to business users.  This article explores some options for how IT can best manage and integrate with the spreadsheets that the business will inevitably use.



Article:  Corporate Agile Software Development

Development manager for Fortune 500 financial services firm discusses some of the techniques that they have successfully implemented for agile development.  The article provides detailed examples from the various phases/stages.



Article:  Building Communicating, Cooperating Teams to Foster Successful Agile Projects

This article discusses how to foster healthy communication within development teams and some of the negative group dynamics to watch out for.



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Software Testing & Quality

Site:  The Kaizen Software Manifesto

Borrowing from the principles of manufacturing quality improvement, including kaizen ("continuous improvement"), poka-yoke ("error-proofing") and binshou ("agility"), this site presents some practical ways to apply these concepts to software development and quality.



Article:  The Right Stuff

Performance testing is one of the key factors in testing web-based software.  However, you can't wait until the end of the project to do performance testing.  This article offers an interesting approach to including performance testing throughout the development cycle.



Article:  Building a Framework for Quality

With all of the pressures on IT, sometimes quality takes a back seat to other matters.  This article discusses how an IT organization can build quality in as an integral part of the overall development process.



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Tutorial:  Java Generics 101: Mastering the Fundamentals

Sun introduced generics, which improves type safety, into Java in version 5.0.  However, many people believe that the effort to learn generics outweighs their benefits.  This article introduces generics and shows that they can be both useful and not too difficult.



Tutorial:  Regex Tutorial

Learning regular expressions can be quite difficult.  This excellent tutorial takes a great approach to simplify learning and help retention of the techniques.



Tutorial:  Securing Wireless Networks

Wireless networks are becoming ubiquitous for both home and business.  And security is extremely important for them.  This multi-part series gives you a step-by-step tutorial on how to reasonably secure your small network.  (See Part I article for links to subsequent articles.)



Reference:  Project Management Guidebook

This free guidebook outlines a typical project management process for software development.  While intended to get you to buy their templates, the guide is still useful as roadmap for the project management process.



Reference:  ASCII Chart

When doing development or web design work, having a handy reference of ASCII characters and their corresponding HTML character entities is helpful.  This chart is a one-page PDF file that you can print out and hang on your wall.



Tutorial:  SQL Joins Explained

Understanding how to combine data from multiple tables in a relational database is the key to success with them.  This excellent article explains the various types of joins using Venn diagrams to help understand the concepts.



Tutorial:  JDK Tutorial

This series of tutorials explores some of the more difficult parts of the Java language to learn for beginners, such as collections, network programming, using sockets and datagrams, XML parsing, and encryption.  The tutorials are straightforward without leaving out important details and use great examples.



Tutorial:  An Overview of Cryptography

As application security becomes more important, understanding the principles of cryptography has increased in priority.  This comprehensive tutorial is also very understandable, even for beginners.  It covers most of the common cryptography techniques, as well as specific algorithm implementations of them.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  Top 10 reasons why happiness at work is the ultimate productivity booster

Excellent article that discusses the motivational effects on workers who enjoy their work and workplace.



Article:  Make the Most of the White Space in Your Business Day

Almost everyone is pressed for time during their work day.  This article explores how you can use the "white space" (time between meetings, etc.) to get some real work done.



Article:  10 things you should know about developing soft skills to advance your IT career

Technical workers tend to be very analytical, but to succeed in most jobs, you need to hone your "soft" skills as well.  Here are 10 suggestions for improving them.



Article:  Are you a slob?  Good, you're more productive

New research shows that people with messy desks are actually more productive, often because spending time tidying their work area takes away from productive time.  I guess A. A. Milne was right:  One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is always making new discoveries.



Article:  Loutish users scupper collaborative technology

Forget technical limitations and costs as the limiting factors in using collaborative technologies like web conferencing and video conferencing.  The main problems facing these are socially inept and ill-mannered participants.



Article:  Want inspiration in the workplace? Then you'd better get to work on it

Creativity and innovation are considered in the pinnacle of intellectual capital in organizations.  But experts say that innovation doesn't "just happen" and management needs to nurture it.



Article:  The Myth of High-Tech Outsourcing

A new report from the American Electronics Association trade group indicates that technology hiring is at a level not seen since the boom of the 1990s.  Almost 150,000 new technology jobs were added in 2006.




Slide Show:  Mr. C's Top 15 Current IT Buzzwords

Here are 15 recent technology buzzwords that will make you grin, scream, or reach for your thesaurus.



Article:  Tech Pros Fret over Their Business Skills

A new report from headhunter Dice shows that over 25% of technology professionals feel that they business savvy is weak and that this is holding them back.



Tool:  Cool Million

Want to know about how much money you'll have at retirement?  This simple calculator has you enter your age, desired retirement age, current savings, monthly savings rate, and expected rate of return.  Then it graphs how much money you can expect to have each year until retirement.  Unlike other tools, it also takes into account inflation.  The depressing part of the chart is how much inflation takes away, as it shows the expected and inflation-adjusted amounts.



Article:  Boss Science

Many people have difficulty with their boss.  Are there some common characteristics among supervisors that make this so?  This article dissects the characteristics of difficult bosses.



Article:  Study Finds You Don't Have To Be Smart To Get Rich

A new study shows that people of below average, average, and above average intelligence, based on IQ, have about the same levels of wealth.  However, the study did find that those with above average IQ tended to get paid more.



Article:  52 Proven Stress Reducers

Stress is simply a part of life and, remember, stress in and of itself is not bad; it's how you react to and deal with stressors.  This site provides a great list of ways to reduce stress.



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Telecommunications/Networking Industry

Article:  FCC Takes Another Stab at Net Neutrality

The FCC has announced that it will again review how providers are behaving with respect to providing equal access to content.  It is not clear what action, if any, will result from the inquiry.



Article:  Broadband over powerline is ready to explode

Internet service at up to 3Mbps via simple adapter plugged into a wall outlet is set to take off.  Use is expected to rise to 2.5 million customers by 2011, especially in rural areas not served by cable or DSL.



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Useful Utilities

Universal Viewer (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/2003/XP/Vista – 750kB)

Universal Viewer is an excellent file viewer that supports a variety of file formats, including text, RTF, images, HTML, and multimedia files.  It integrates with Windows Explorer, so you can simply right-click on a file and display it in Universal Viewer.



vimplugin (Free – Cross-platform – 281kB)

vimplugin is an Eclipse plug-in that allows you to use the Vim editor from within Eclipse.  If you prefer good old Vim (or vi) editors, this tool can greatly improve your productivity.



WiPeer (Free – Windows XP and .NET 2.0 – 4.2 MB)

WiPeer allows you to set up ad hoc peer-to-peer wireless networks that don't require any access point or router.  Two (or more) PCs with wireless adapters can communicate directly.  Some uses for this are file sharing, instant messaging, and even playing multiplayer games.



StarDict (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista and Linux – 1.2MB)

StarDict is a handy standalone, offline dictionary tool.  It allows you to lookup words and get definitions and other information, including synonyms, from a variety of sources.  It includes a "scan" feature that will display the definition (using the default/primary dictionary) when you hover over a word in most any application, including web browsers.  In addition to the program itself, you must "install" the desired dictionary files into the /dic directory under the main program directory.  (Note:  Requires GTK+ toolkit.  Most Linux distributions include GTK+.  Check here for latest version of Windows run-time GTK+ libraries.)



EclipseSQL (Free – Cross-platform – 1.48MB)

EclipseSQL is an Eclipse (version 3.2 or later) plug-in for querying and browsing databases from within the Eclipse environment.  It is compatible with any database that supports JDBC, such as MS SQL Server, MySQL, and Oracle.  You can run queries and other SQL commands directly and the results are displayed in tabular fashion.  Likewise, you can browse the database objects in a tree view.  A standalone version of the tool is also available, if you don't want to use it as an Eclipse plug-in. 



Visual Tooltip (Free – Windows XP/Vista – 400kB)

Visual Tooltip adds functionality to Windows XP to show a thumbnail image of an application on the Task Bar by hovering over the icon with your mouse.  It also includes a "dock bar" that you can attach the thumbnails to for easy access.  Likewise, you can drag the thumbnails to any position on the desktop.



Let Me Type (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP/Vista – 592kB)

Let Me Type (LMT) runs in the background and learns as you type.  Then, when you type the first few letters (typically just two or three), it displays a drop-down list of suggestions.  It works similar to Intellitype in some Microsoft applications, but works in all programs.  You can even edit its vocabulary lists and set thresholds for the range of number of letters before it displays choices.



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Just For Fun

The Hex Clock

This site presents the concept that, instead of using a combined decimal-duodecimal system for time keeping, we should use hexadecimal (base 16).  It's an interesting idea, but I think that hundreds of years of tradition will be hard to break!



Random Wikipedia Entry

Here's a great time-waster and distractor!  :)  This link will take you to a random page on Wikipedia each time you click on it.  Give it a try!  Who knows?  You might learn something you didn't know or find something interesting.  (Note:  Wikipedia is much maligned, but I find it useful as a starting point for doing research.  Just like with anything, always check your sources and facts before accepting information at face value.)



Listening To Words

This site is an excellent directory to audio lectures from across the Internet.  It features presentations on a wide variety of topics and lectures are topically tagged for easy searching.



Weekly Word Quiz

This quick, 5-question weekly quiz can help you build your vocabulary.  Who knows what kinds of interesting new words you might learn.



Medieval Help Desk

What if they had help desks before the technology age?  :)



The Male Brain vs. the Female Brain

Some interesting facts about the differences between men's and women's brains.  These explain a lot of the differences between how men and women act and react.



301 Useless Facts

Here's a collection of many little-known bits of trivia in a wide variety of topics.  Who knew that the king of spades in a deck of cards represented King David from the Bible?



Maurice Bennett:  Toast Artist

OK.  So you know that I like to feature some off-beat links in this section.  But I think that this one might take the cake.  This guy creates artwork out of toast.  It's a little bit (or maybe a lot!) weird, but some of the works are quite interesting.



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