November 2003 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes

Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.  –Booker T. Washington


The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress.  –Joseph Joubert


Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambition.  Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.  –Mark Twain


Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.  –Earl Gray Stevens


Studies indicate that the one quality all successful people have is persistence. They're willing to spend more time accomplishing a task and to persevere in the face of many difficult odds. There's a very positive relationship between people's ability to accomplish any task and the time they're willing to spend on it.  –Dr. Joyce Brothers


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Software Development Process

Article:  That's Crazy Talk

Learning lessons about the importance of requirements gathering and management from Dilbert.


Article:  Guide to Running Software Development Projects

According to The Standish Group over 80% of IT projects are classified as failures and 30% are cancelled before completion.  This article has 10 tips from a veteran project manager to help improve a project’s chances of success.


Article:  Don't confuse motivation with measurement in project success

Most project managers plan to avoid failure rather than planning for success.  This article looks at how focus on "win/win" situations.


Article:  The Making of Oracle Database 10g

Although this article contains some marketing hype for Oracle’s next database version, it does provide a good inside look at the development and test processes they use.  One of the most interesting parts of the article deals with their test automation and that they have a less than 5:1 ratio for developers to testers.


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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  Chasing bugs away

This article provides a general overview of some new techniques and tools for preventing, finding, and removing bugs in software applications.  The article emphasizes methods for preventing bugs and how developers can get their business customers on their side in buying tools to help do better testing.


Article:  Future Watch: Software bugs on the march

A look at some promising new technologies and processes that may help reduce the incidences of problems in software systems.  One of the interesting concepts is the push for standard, objective metrics for measuring "quality".,10801,86403,00.html


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Tutorial:  The Signaling System 7 Information Center

This site provides extensive information about Signaling System 7 (SS7), including a good overview, architecture details, explanations about the various signaling equipment and SS7 standards.  Excellent resource!


Tutorial:  Advanced Bash-Scripting Guide

This guide is a comprehensive tutorial on Unix/Linux shell scripting.  Don’t let the "advanced" name deter you, because the tutorial starts out with the basics.  It provides hundreds of clearly documented examples to get you started.


Tutorial:  Practical SQL: Tuning Queries

Some helpful tips on making SQL queries more efficient from the performance standpoint.  While easily understandable, the article goes into a good deal of detail for each of clause of the SELECT statement.{866E6AC5-B40F-447C-94C1-E5D9167BFD3C}


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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article:  Don't explain an idea to a deer in headlights

One of the most important tasks that IT folks have is to explain technical concepts to non-technical business users and sponsors.  This brief article gives some great tips on this matter.


Article:  Report: IM Abuse Is Rampant In Workplace

New research from Blue Coat indicates that the majority of instant messaging (IM) use in corporate settings is not for business purposes.  The article notes the lost productivity and possible legal implications of such unregulated use.


Article:  Advanced chip opens door to software choice

A new project, code-named Vanderpool, underway at Intel aims to develop a processor capable of running multiple operating systems simultaneously without the current excessive overhead of virtualization software.


Article:  IT Pros Get High Marks For Ethics

IT professionals are ranked up with physicians in a survey of "most ethical" professions.  Lawyers and investment bankers brought up the rear.


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Useful Utilities

Windows Taskbar Commander (Free – Windows 2000/XP – 630kB)

This little freeware gem allows you to move and re-order the buttons on your Windows taskbar.  This makes switching between applications quicker, because you can set them side by side even if one was launched long after the other.  Also, allows you to hide a running application from the taskbar to give more room to work with other applications.  (Note:  Requires Microsoft .NET Framework to run.)


wcd (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000 and Linux/Unix – 100kB)

wcd is a freeware Norton Change Directory (ncd) clone.  It allows you to switch directories from a command prompt by just specifying part of the directory name and even allows wildcards in the directory specification.  If more than one directory matches the specified criteria, it prompts you with a list of choices.  Full C source code is available.


WinDIZ (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000 – 880kB)

If you have a large collection of ZIP archives that you've downloaded, you know how difficult it is sometimes to figure out just what a particular archive is.  That's where WinDIZ comes in.  It allows you to peek inside your archives and shows you the contents of FILE_ID.DIZ information file, README.TXT, or a text file that has the same base name as the ZIP archive.  The utility also has built-in basic two-pane file manager and an integrated ZIP/UNZIP utility.


Windows MultiEnhancer (Free – Windows 9x/2000 – 100kB)

Windows MultiEnhancer (WME) is a freeware utility that allows you to specify a user-defined size for the Windows common dialogs such as the File Open and File Save dialogs.  Changes apply to all instances of these windows in all applications.


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Productivity Tips

Use <Insert> key to paste text in MS Word

Although most users are accustomed to using <Ctrl>-V to paste text in Windows applications, in some cases, a single keystroke shortcut is useful.  To use the <Insert> key in MS Word (only) to paste, select Tools | Options… in the main menu.  In the Options window, select the Edit tab and enable (check) the Use the INS key for paste option.  Press OK to save your changes.  Enabling this option, disables using the <Insert> key to toggle between "Insert" and "Overwrite" modes when editing.  However, you can still toggle these modes by double-clicking on the OVR "button" in the status bar.


Create PDF output for free from any application that can print

There are many commercial applications that will allow you to generate Adobe Acrobat PDF files from Windows applications that can print.  But why pay for a bunch of features that you don’t need?  With a little work you can set up your system to generate PDF files from any application that supports printing.  Here’s how:

1)       Install Ghostscript, a free Postscript interpreter.

a)       Download the latest version of Ghostscript from the Internet:  Either the AFPL or GNU versions are acceptable.

b)       Install Ghostscript.  The remainder of these instructions assume that the Ghostscript is installed to the default folder:  C:\gs.

2)       Install RedMon, a free port redirector.

a)       Download the latest version of RedMon from the Internet:

b)       Extract the downloaded file and install RedMon by running SETUP.EXE.  Installation runs automatically; you won’t be prompted for any information.

3)       Create a plain text "response" file called PDFWriter.rsp and place it in the Ghostscript install directory (C:\gs by default).  The file should contain:


where VerNum is the version number of Ghostscript installed in step #1 (e.g., 8.00).

4)       Create the PDF output "printer".

a)       Open the Printers Control Panel applet:  Start | Settings --> Printers.

b)       Run the Add Printer Wizard (double-click on Add Printer).

1)       In the Local or Network Printer window, choose Local printer and disable (uncheck) the Automatically detect and install my Plug and Play printer option.  Press Next.

2)       In the Select Printer Port window, choose Create a new port and select "Redirected port" (i.e., RedMon) in the Type list.  Press Next.

3)       In the Add Redirected Port dialog box, enter the desired name.  Default value of "RPT1:" is fine (and is recommended).  Press OK.

4)       In the window displaying lists of manufacturers and printer types, choose an appropriate Postscript printer.  Lexmark Optra Color 45 PS works well for both black-and-white and color output.  Press Next.

5)       In the Name Your Printer window, choose an appropriately descriptive name, such as PDF Writer.  Press Next.

6)       In the Printer Sharing window, choose the appropriate option.  You can share this "printer" if you want others to be able to print to PDF files remotely.  Press Next.

7)       In the Print Test Page window, select No and press Next.

8)       After checking the settings press Finish to complete the initial configuration.  The wizard will copy the necessary files and drivers to your system.  You may be prompted to insert your Windows setup disk.

c)       Return to the Printers Control Panel applet and open PDF Writer (or whatever name you used in step #4b5 above) "printer" that you created. 

d)       Choose Printer | Properties from the menu to display the Properties window.  Select Ports tab and press Configure Port… button. 

e)       In the RPT1: Properties window, enter the following parameters.

1)       For Redirect this port to the program, enter C:\gs\gsVerNum\bin\gswin32c.exe, where VerNum is the version number of Ghostscript installed (see above).  Ensure that you select the c version of the application; this is the command-line version.

2)       In the Arguments for this program are field, specify @C:\gs\PDFWriter.rsp -sOutputFile="%1" -c save pop -f -.  Ensure that you include the trailing space and dash (-) at the end of the line!

3)       Set Output to Prompt for filename.

4)       Change Run to Hidden.  (This is optional, but "Hidden" prevents cluttering up the task bar when creating a new PDF file.)

5)       (Optional)  Press Log File button and specify the name and path of a log file.  This is useful in helping debug, if you have problems.

6)       Press OK to save changes and then press OK again to close the Properties window.


5)       Test out the new printer.

a)       Open a document (MS Word, web page, etc.).

b)       Print the document as usual.  In the Print dialog, choose the PDF Writer printer and press OK.

c)       When the Save As window is displayed, enter the appropriate name of the output with the .PDF extension.  (You must use .PDF extension in order to open the file automatically in Acrobat Reader.  Also, using .PDF extension prevents you from accidentally overwriting your original file.)

d)       Press Save.  The "printer" will generate the specified file in PDF format.  The PDF Writer window will show the printing progress as normal.

e)       Locate the file created and double-click on it to open it in Acrobat Reader.


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Just For Fun

SkyHigh Airlines

A tongue-in-cheek look at the foibles of air travel.  This professional and realistic-looking site will have doing a double take about whether its real or not!  Hilarious!


Word Pirates

Politicians and marketers have "stolen" many words and phrases and put them to their own use.  This (only partially!) tongue-in-cheek site invites you "take back what’s rightfully ours" with regard to language.


The Ig Nobel Web Page

Everyone is familiar with the Nobel Prizes, but not many have heard of the Ig Nobel Prizes.  These are annual awards to honor those whose achievements "cannot or should not be reproduced."  These are awards for real scientific endeavors that no one knows what possible value they can provide.  Very funny!


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