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September 2006 Newsletter


Quotable Quotes


We are closest to people when we help them grow.  –Milton Mayeroff


If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.  –Isaac Asimov


There are two ways to live your life:  one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.  –Albert Einstein


The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers.  –R. W. Hamming


For he who has health has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.  –Owen Arthur

Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man's growth without destroying his roots.  –Frank A. Clark


The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.  –Edward R. Murrow


Worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due.  –William R. Inge


Testing can show the presence of errors, but not their absence.  E.W. Dijkstra


Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.  –Will Rogers


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Software Development Process

Article:  The Ten Essentials of RUP

This excellent article provides a good structure to anyone who is trying to implement RUP (or really any software development methodology) and feels overwhelmed by the sheer breadth and depth.  This gives you an idea of the vital elements of any implementation.



Article:  Quick-Kill Project Management

This article presents some techniques that project managers and development leads can use to size up and plan a project quickly.



Article:  Has IT Become A “Dirty” Word?

Many times when a technology or systems project fails the blame falls squarely on the IT group and the failure is targeted as a technology problem.  However, this is rarely the full story.  This article discusses some causes of failure and can be done about it.



Article:  IT Plays Linchpin Role In High-Stake M&As

More and more companies are learning, some the hard way, that IT integration is the cornerstone of the successful overall company integration.



Article:  How to Be a Leader in Your Field

This article is geared toward students in IT graduate and professional programs, but it provides excellent advice to anyone in the IT world.  It includes some particularly salient questions to ask yourself if you are considering changing jobs or careers.



Article:  Ten Things to Learn This School Year

Despite the title, this list of a dozen things is good for helping anyone improve their skills in the workforce and help them in their careers, whether you are just out of school or an old pro.



Article:  Top 10 Stupid Things that Smart IT Pros Still Do

This simple slide show-style article points out a number of things that IT people continue to do, even though they should know better by now.



Article:  Personality Traits of the Best Software Developers

This author takes input from a variety of well-known sources and crafts his own list of the characteristics of great software developers, including:  being pessimistic, angered by sloppy code, long term life planners, and attention to detail.



Articles:  Software Development Estimation

This three-part essay discusses the challenges and pitfalls of accurate effort and duration estimation in software development projects.  The author presents some unique and original ideas about improving estimation and project planning.





Article:  A Project Management Primer

The premise of this comprehensive introduction to project management is that PM is not a mystical art, but a skill that can be learned and developed.  The author introduces 10 axioms of PM success and then elaborates on those.



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Software Testing & Quality

Article:  Foundations of Six Sigma Management

This article discusses the six sigma quality management concepts with their applicability to non-manufacturing industries, such as IT.



Article:  Error codes or Exceptions?  Why is Reliable Software so Hard?

In this article, the author examines some of the bad (negligent?) approaches to error handling (or mishandling) that result in application defects.  It provides some good food for thought for “negative testing” scenarios.  (Warning:  The article contains some non-family friendly language.)



Article:  SOA and Software Testing

As SOA and web services become more common, standard approaches to testing these technologies is required.  This article gives some ideas on the special testing needs for them.



Article:  Code Testing and its Role in Teaching

Brian Kernighan, creator of awk and C programming languages, looks at how considering testing makes developers write better code to begin with.  His view is based on 25 years of experience in maintaining and enhancing awk.



Article:  Better, Stronger, Faster Integration Testing

Integration testing is a “necessary evil” on all software development projects.  This article gives some techniques to simplify and make this testing more effective.



Article:  Testing Without Defined Requirements

One of the common scenarios that testers find themselves in is trying to test an application without good (or any!) requirements.  This article gives some great suggestions on how to approach testing positively in this situation.



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Tutorial:  Basic journey of a packet

This detailed, easy-to-read article explains just how a bit of data (a packet) goes from one computer, through switches, routers, etc. to another computer.



Online Tool:  JRX:  Real-time Javascript Regular Expression Evaluator

This AJAX-based online tool allows you to create and test regular expressions online in real time.  Great tool for quick checking of regex syntax.



Tutorial:  So how do you code an AJAX Web page?

This detailed, hands-on article helps to demystify the process for actually creating an AJAX-enabled web application.  Not only does it discuss the technical details, but gives some of the historical and architectural background.



Tutorial:  Database Normalization Process

This very well done tutorial provides an overview of the concepts and purposes of database normalization and then provides a detailed, step-by-step example of normalization through the various normal forms.



Reference:  Windows Server 2003 Command Reference Guide

This comprehensive guide covers most of the command-line utilities in Windows Server 2003 (of which many of the utilities also exist in Windows XP).  The guide shows syntax as well as great examples for each utility.



Tutorial:  How to use Subversion with Eclipse

The Eclipse IDE platform has built-in support for CVS version control system.  However, Subversion is starting to overtake CVS as the version control system of choice.  This article provides detailed, step-by-step instructions for getting integrated Subversion support in Eclipse.



Site:  AllSyntax.com

This frequently-updated site provides many tutorials and code samples from a variety of languages and technologies.  The site is oriented a little bit more toward web-based technologies, but it's scope is still rather broad.



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Career Development/Miscellaneous

Site:  Structured Procrastination

The author of this site presents an interesting argument:  You can't completely avoid procrastination, so you need to make your procrastination "productive", by not doing absolutely nothing, but by working on something that is really lower on the priority scale.



Report:  100 Best Places to Work in IT 2006

This 13th annual report includes the list of the top 100 companies as well as what makes a great working environment.  Oklahoma-based American Fidelity Assurance made the top 5 list.  And be sure to read this editorial on the secret to being a "best place".



Article:  Questions To Ask During A Job Interview

While certainly the main objective of the interview is for the hiring company to determine if you are a match for the job, it is also important for the candidate to determine if he or she is a good fit, as well.



Article:  Building the Perfect IT Person

While a single person with all of the perfect traits for IT probably doesn’t exist, this article outlines some characteristics that are important for future success in IT.  Not surprisingly, this person has a combination of business and technical skills.



Article:  18 Ways to Stay Focused at Work

With the many and often varying demands on technology workers, not to mention the distractions, it is frequently difficult to stay on task at work.  This application developer offers practical advice on how keep your concentration, including some very simple ones (close applications you aren’t using) to some more complex, but equally important (write out a list of items to accomplish).



Site:  NetMBA

Understanding business operations is a key skill for today’s IT professionals.  Most people don’t have time to take a full MBA course.  This site can provide you with a jumpstart on the common MBA topics.  The site is organized well into sections on all relevant topics, including accounting, finance, management, marketing, economics, and more.



Article:  August 2006 Survey: CIOs Put Out Help-Wanted Sign for Business-Savvy IT Professionals

Further solidifying the trend toward IT-to-business alignment, a new hiring outlook from survey of 400 IT executives shows that project managers and programmers/systems developers top the list of needed IT professionals.



Article:  To Get That Job, Bring On The Charm

A recent survey of senior managers, indicates that almost 2/3 of them consider likeability and personality as more important factors when selecting employees than skills or certifications.



Article:  What's The Greatest Software Ever Written?

While you may not agree with this author’s list of the greatest software applications of all time, it is definitely a well-researched and thoughtful look back at the history of development.  And check out the author’s list of 5 applications that almost made the list and where Windows fits on the scale of greatness.



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Useful Utilities

Quick Access Infobar (Free – Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP – 317kB)

Quick Access Infobar adds a simple, non-intrusive lookup box to Windows Task Manager that allows you to do a search of the ProcessLibrary.com site for details about any of the various processes running on your system.  ProcessLibrary.com will tell you whether this is a process that is safe to terminate or related to a service that you may be able to safely disable.



Folder2MyPC (Free – Windows 2000/XP – 354kB)

Folder2MyPC allows you to add a shortcut to any application (or file) to the main folder of Windows My Computer or the Control Panel to make accessing them convenient.  The shortcut can be set to be available for all users or only the current user.



Printer Anywhere (Free – Windows XP/2003/Vista – 1.21MB)

Printer Anywhere allows you to print to any printer via LAN, WAN, or the Internet.  Simply install the software on the host and client machines and share printers from the hosts.  Then the clients can print to any printer (local or network) shared by the host.



pycron (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista – 3.08MB)

pycron is Windows port of the Unix cron utility that allows you to run tasks automatically according to any schedule that you define.  It uses the standard crontab syntax/structure and even includes a handy GUI crontab editor.  The utility can be configured to run as a service, so that it will run even if you are not logged into the system.



XMLStarlet (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista and Unix/Linux – 1.4MB)

XMLStarlet is a set of command line utilities to transform, query, validate and XML data in a manner similar to the manipulation of text files using standard Unix tools like grep, sed, awk, etc.  XMLStarlet is quite flexible and full-featured and since it is command line based, it can be easily scripted.



ZuluPad (Free – Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista and Mac OS X – 1.5MB)

ZuluPad is a Notepad-style text editor which features some built-in Wiki capabilities for added flexibility.  When you enter text for a “Wiki-ized” topic, it is automatically turned into a link to that topic.  It even has a feature called ZuluSync that allows you store notes to a server.  Great for notes and even as a simple PIM.



True X-Mouse Gizmo for Windows (Free – Windows 9x/2000/XP/2003/Vista – 42kB)

True X-Mouse gives Windows users all of the common mouse functions that Unix/Linux X/Windows users take for granted:  input focus set by mouse hover, copy selected text on release of left mouse button, paste text with middle mouse button, minimize window by right click anywhere in window, and more.



GroupBar (Free – Windows XP – 612kB)

GroupBar is a tool for Windows XP that allows grouping of applications and windows according to any method that you like.  It behaves similar to the taskbar, but provides a free form way to arrange windows.  You can define tabs for related windows and drag and drop windows between various GroupBars.



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Productivity Tips

Speed up trips through airport security

I know that this space is usually used for application tips, but this one is useful too!  Next time you are going on a trip, take along a plastic zipper bag and put all of your belongings that usually go in your pockets into it.  Then, when you go through security, you only have one thing to put on the conveyor and to pick up at the end.


Add a shortcut toolbar to the Windows Desktop

One of my greatest disappointments in the evolution of Windows was Microsoft's decision to drop the Office toolbar in Office 2003.  I've searched for alternatives, but never found quite what I was looking for…  Until now.  And it's actually built in to Windows!  You can add a toolbar (actually up to three!) to your Windows desktop with shortcuts to your most-often used applications.  To do so:

(1)     Create a folder in Windows Explorer for the shortcuts.

(2)     Copy shortcuts from the Start Menu folder to the folder created in step #1.

(3)     Create a shortcut to the folder created in step #1 and move this shortcut to the desktop.

(4)     Drag the shortcut that you put onto the desktop to any of the desktop edges and release the mouse.  Windows will create a toolbar of the folder's contents.

(5)     Right-click on the toolbar title to modify options, such as displaying large or small icons, icon text, auto-hide, and always on top.

The toolbar will persist, even when you log off and back on.  Furthermore, you can delete the folder shortcut on the desktop (from step #3 above), if desired.  When you add new shortcuts to the folder (from step #1 above), the shortcuts will automatically be added to the desktop toolbar.


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Just For Fun

Dice Wars

This online, Flash-based game is similar to the classic Risk game in strategy, but the game play is quicker and simpler.  The object of the game is to win battles against adjacent territories by dice roll totals.  You can compete against up to 7 computer opponents.  The game is both addicting and fun.



Popularity Dialer

Want an excuse to get out of the dreaded meeting?  Or not sure that this blind date is going to work out?  Just enter your cell phone number and time of call at Popularity Dialer and it will call you with a pre-recorded message that sounds like an actual conversation at the designated time.



Virtual Garden

This cool online (or downloadable for Windows or Mac) tool allows you to design and layout a garden and view what it will look like in 3D.  You can save your creation and even view others' designs.



Board Dots

Board Dots is another one of those little Flash-based games that looks easy to begin with, but is actually quite challenging.  The premise of the game is to fill up the board with dots by placing dots.  You can only place dots adjacent to the last location and the row or column will automatically get filled until it’s blocked.



Revenge of the Demotivators

An all-new collection of those humorous, and sometimes oh-so-true, counterpoints to the common motivational posters.




If the pre-made Demotivator posters are not to your liking, just use this online tool to create your own using any of your own photos or the millions available on Flickr.  Choose the desired photo and enter your title and caption and you’re done!



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