Saturday, February 16, 2002

Milestones, Quality, Tools & a Promise. The milestone first: Happy birthday Marcia Hopkins! Marcia is one of those rare people who is skilled in instructing, process analysis, technical writing and web page design. She is also blessed with with the ability and talent to also produce sparkling prose in her creative writing endeavors. When was the last time you met an IT professional who could write, present and code?

The fruits of last night's research include manuals that will warm the heart of any SQA practitioner. I've also unearthed some amazing tools, and have gathered material that I'll dole out over the next few days.

Quality. On 19 April 2001 I reviewed a book on Amazon titled Software Error Analysis. The book is, in my opinion, outstanding, but that alone isn't remarkable. The reason I'm mentioning the book is because you can read it online as well as download a copy in PDF format. Isn't it nice to have choices?

That book came from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) High Integrity Software Systems Assurance Group. There are two more documents from that group that are worth their weight in gold to SQA professionals:

  1. Software Quality Assurance: Documentation and Reviews
  2. Quality Characteristics and Metrics for Reusable Software
I also came across an interesting MS Word document about test frameworks that has interesting ideas you may want to incorporate into your test process.

Tools. NIST has a collection of web tools that are publicly available for download. These tools are a part of the NIST Web Metrics Testbed, which is designed to explore the feasibility of a range of tools and techniques that support rapid, remote, and automated testing and evaluation of website usability.

Also available are a collection of web metrics papers developed by NIST and a comprehensive list of web usability resources.

Promise. Tomorrow I'm going to provide material and tools on XML conformance testing, including a test suite. In the meantime you can read the XML Conformance Testing presentation in PowerPoint format.

The sun has finally burned off the haze here in Tustin, California and I'm going to enjoy the sunshine, a good book and an espresso.

Friday, February 15, 2002

Less than two hours ago I posted an entry on risk management and auditing in this weblog's alter-ego, Postcards from the Revolution, and am extending the topic here. This weblog focuses more on software engineering, while Postcards from the Revolution is our soapbox for IT professional improvement, so the content here will be slanted towards software engineering risk management and its cousin, quality.

Two PowerPoint presentations that fit this topic are:

  1. Project Management & Software Engineering Techniques to Achieve High Software Quality
  2. Developing Software Quality Plans (a complementary PDF presentation you will want is Developing Software Quality Plans: A 10-Step Process)
The International Software Testing Institute has an article that drills down into the quality process: Modeling the Software Quality Assurance/Software Quality Engineering Process. This site has a large number of special interest groups, each with their own page and additional content, and an impressive collection of software testing articles that cover the full spectrum of QA.

The motherlode of artifacts, however, is the Department of Energy, which makes the following publicly available:

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

I just added a Search Feature to this page that returns results from both this page and Postcards from the Revolution (see links on the left side of this page). Thanks to Unmesh Laddha for suggesting this enhancement.
I just checked the latest OraPub whitepapers and was delighted to see the 4th draft of their masterpiece, Response Time Analysis for Oracle Based Systems. This draft is dated 11 February 2002 and is essential for any DBA, or capacity or performance analyst.

Their Oracle tools page contained a new entry for shops using EMC storage solutions: Oracle scripts for EMCLink Collector. There is also an 11 February 2002 update to the free OraPub System Monitor (OSM). This tool provides interactive information about an Oracle database system.

I received an email from David F. Rico telling me that Kim Caputo (who is a principal at Delta Business Solutions) referred him to the family of resource pages that Mike and I maintain. David's web site is an amazing repository of quality and CMM information. To underscore how small our industry is, it turns out that David is also a friend of another friend, Steve Page. Steve is the policy and procedures expert who has authored a series of best-selling books on the subject.

Looking at all of Mr. Rico's CMM material made me realize that SEI may be the official source of CMM information, but that there are other sources of CMM information on the web that augment and complement the "official" documents. Among the best, in my opinion, are:

If your primary job is service delivery see my latest entry in Postcards from the Revolution, which discusses the IT Service CMM.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

A Shotgun Wedding. In Linda's Postcards from the Revolution entry earlier today she mentioned ebXML. I agree with her that ebXML is an important consideration for electronic commerce architectures, but have a concern that this emerging standard is not coming from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Instead it's a standard that is sponsored by Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT).

A JavaWorld article titled ebXML: Not just another acronym sums up ebXML and the apparent disconnect between the W3C and OASIS. This disconnect is not a rivalry or competing effort. It's based on the fact that the W3C is not directly involved in an area that, in my opinion, should have their involvement. I have another opinion about this: there is an inevitable marriage between OASIS and W3C with respect to ebXML, hence, my theme:

Something Old. ebXML roots in XML can be clearly seen in Robin Cover's 29 January 2002 piece titled Electronic Business XML Initiative.

Something New. If ebXML is a new term to you read Romin Irani's 11 July 2001 article titled An Introduction to ebXML (Collaborative Electronic Business is here to stay), and also go to the source: OASIS. If you've been following my entries on security in Postcards from the Revolution, then you'll certainly want to examine the XML-Based Security Page on the OASIS site.

Something Borrowed. The open source folks have initiated Open ebXML projects and an Open ebXML Laboratory.

Something Blue. When IBM gets into the picture you begin to take things seriously. Big Blue's XML Zone has a well-written article from June 2001 titled Understanding ebXML Untangling the business Web of the future that fully describes ebXML.

... and a silver sixpence in her shoe. Welcome back Linda!
I've been on vacation in Hawaii, so imagine my surprise to discover that, in addition to hundreds of messages, Mike has been turning this weblog (and Postcards from the Revolution) into a diary on steroids. I'll keep this entry short and share artifacts that fit within the themes of Mike's recent entries.

The Southern California SPIN is one of the most active among the Software Process Improvement Network local groups, and for no small reason: it's located in the heart of the aerospace and high-tech industry in Southern California. The quality of presentations given at their meetings is evidence of the membership and the leadership of this particular SPIN. Here is a sampling of presentations that I found useful (all are in PowerPoint format):

MBASE (Model Based (System) Architecting and Software Engineering) is a forward-thinking approach to architectures, and the presentation consists of 130 slides. If the presentation inspires you to learn more about MBASE download MBASE Guidelines v2.0 from my server directory. These guidelines are in MS Word format and get into details.

About Dr. Boehm: The fact that he presents at the Southern California SPIN evidences the quality of their program. One of Mike's favorite books is Dr. Boehm's 1981 book titled Software Engineering Economics. This book remains a classic according to Mike, but I suspect that Dr. Boehm's newest book, Software Cost Estimation with Cocomo II is the one to get since the first one introduced the constructive cost model (Cocomo) and the newest is about Cocomo version 2.

I'll end this so I can attempt to catch up on email and action items that accrued while I was on vacation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

NOTICE: CERT® Advisory CA-2002-03 Multiple Vulnerabilities in Many Implementations of the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) was issued today (12 February 2002). See also: Network World article titled CERT warns of SNMP vulnerability with widespread impact for a quick summary of the impact and scope of this problem.
eXtreme Programming, RUP & Refactoring. I just finished reading a short paper titled LIPE: A Lightweight Process for E-Business Startup Companies based on Extreme Programming, which is one of the more sensible approaches to blending development processes with business realities that I've read in a long time.

In my opinion XP (eXtreme Programming) is a viable way to quickly implement applications to meet business requirements. I am not comfortable with the way XP treats design documentation, and certainly do not believe that large-scale systems should be built using XP. However, for iterative projects designed to quickly deploy systems and applications to achieve business competitive advantage, it is sound and effective. In many ways it's a mini-RUP (Rational Unified Process). As an aside, if you're interested in the RUP I have a set of presentations in PowerPoint format that gives a complete picture of the basics.

William Wake's Software Design and Development page is a starting point for XP information because it contains links to all of the major web resources, and has additional articles, papers and information that I haven't come across before. His 158-page whitepaper titled XP Explored is an interesting dissertation on both XP and refactoring.

If you're interested in refactoring and patterns (two topics of previous entries here), Joshua Kerievsky's Refactoring to Patterns is a paper any developer will love.

Miscellaneous Short Topics. I love sharing, and today am in a particularly generous mood. Here are some documents and presentations on miscellaneous topics that I rediscovered when I was cleaning up duplicate files:

If you don't receive The Data Adminsitration Newsletter you're missing one of the best resources on the web. This newsletter is not just for DBAs - it's for IT professionals in every discipline.

If you're interested in SCM the ACME Project (Assembling Configuration Management Environments) is the web resource to visit. The purpose of the ACME project is to gather together successfully used "best practices" and "lessons learned" for software configuration management (SCM), as well as other useful information about SCM. Brad Appleton, the initiator of the project has, in my opinion, fulfilled the purpose in all respects.

If you're like me you want to thumb through a book before you buy it - and you probably buy many technical books online because bookstores don't carry a large selection of technical and business books these days (at least not the interesting ones). BRINT Books-to-Click has a large number of full titles online that you can read for free. Reading online is not the same as reading words on a printed page, but you'll know what's in a book before you buy it.

Ending Note: I dug up an old graphic that Linda and I did ages ago titled Life Cycle in a Nutshell. It somehow fits with the theme of this entry, so I thought I'd share it.

Monday, February 11, 2002

Capturing Knowledge and Practices. I'm a patterns advocate because they lend themselves to capturing best practices and lessons learned. These, in turn, are a form of knowledge management that facilitates knowledge transfer, not to mention process improvement.

Most IT professionals, and probably all developers, have some familiarity with patterns, amd the first introduction probably came from reading Design Patterns. That 1994 book introduced the powerful technique for capturing best practices, lessons learned and solutions in object-oriented development. The concept was borrowed from the building industry and was inspired on a 1977 book by Christopher Alexander titled A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction.

Patterns have even spawned a growing body of knowledge of what not to do, called anti-patterns.

Because I am such an advocate (and a passionate one at that) I want to share what I consider to be the best patterns resources on the web:

I previously touched upon anti-patterns. Sometimes an example of what not to do is as powerful as a documented best practice. Linda reviewed AntiPatterns in Project Management on 24 April 2001. I thumbed through the book and found it interesting. I have also thumbed through the related books: Anti-Patterns and Patterns in Software Configuration Management (a wonderful resource for CM specialists) and AntiPatterns: Refactoring Software, Architectures, and Projects in Crisis (the book that introduced anti-patterns).

A good place to start for understanding anti-patterns in context is the design patterns page on the anti-patterns site. Follow up with anti-pattern viewpoints as an overview, then drill down into the three views:

  1. Development.
  2. Management.
  3. Architecture.
Ending Note: Shifting gears - I'll end with two sites that I recently discovered and want to share:
  1. SCHEMA.NET. This site is part of a family of pages: XMLINFO, XSLINFO and XMLSOFTWARE. The goal of this family of sites is to provide well organised information and resources on XML.SCHEMA.NET provides DTDs and schemas for practically every business domain and vertical imaginable.
  2. Functional Programming and XML, which is an article on O'Reilly's that makes a compelling argument in favor of using functional programming techniques instead of OO for XML development. It's worth reading regardless of your views on OO vs. functional development.
Related topics are in today's Postcards from the Revolution: Activity-Based Cost and Value-Added Assessment, eXtensible Business Reporting Language and Reference Software Quality Profiles.

Sunday, February 10, 2002

Important. I haven't authenticated this, but it comes from a source whom I trust. The warning is:
The IRS Criminal Investigations Division recently sent out an alert to law enforcement agencies regarding this scam. PLEASE READ and FORWARD to others, so they might not be a victim of what could seriously damage you financially.

Some taxpayers have received e-mails from a non-IRS source indicating that the taxpayer is under audit and needs to complete a questionnaire within 48 hours to avoid the assessment of penalties and interest. The e-mail refers to an "e-audit" and references IRS form 1040. The taxpayer is asked for social security numbers, bank account numbers and other confidential information. The IRS does not conduct e-audits, nor does it notify taxpayers of a pending audit via e-mail.

That e-mail is not from the IRS. Any e-mail received of this nature should be saved so that a computer forensics investigation can be conducted to determine the originator. Law enforcement personnel should remain cognizant of this latest identity theft ploy. And this social engineering exploit is not limited to the U.S.A. A criminal in your country can also pull a scam like this. Be Warned! More info at: - Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

I did do a quick Google search and discovered that this scam is also being pulled over the phone.
Late Note: I just finished adding an entry to Postcards from the Revolution that provides technical resources for security, including source code references and whitepapers. If my comments in my 9 February entry about security testing piqued your interest then this material is something you'll want to read.
Surviving Projects. I've been skimming through some of my favorite books lately and got drawn into Steve McConnell's now classic Software Project Survival Guide. Linda reviewed this book on 6 July 2001 on Amazon; I've had a copy since 1997. The value of the book is enhanced by the companion web site, which is rich in content and artifacts that keep this 5-year old book up-to-date. Among the more valuable of these are:In addition to the materials that directly support the book, Mr. McConnell also provides a free tool called Construx Estimate that will add structure to your estimation process. Another free tool that is available from this site is CxOne Basic, which is a tailorable, modular, and scalable software engineering framework. The basic version is a subset of the enterprise version, which is a commercial product. The artifacts included with the framework are linked to industry best practices.

CxOne Basic is also tied to the Software Project Survival Guide with a cross-reference between the book and the product. There is also a comparison between CxOne and eXtreme Programming with comparisons between the CXOne framework and the Rational Unified Process and the CMM slated to be provided in the future.

More on Architecture. Architects (and technically-oriented project managers) should be familiar with the Reference Model for Open Distributed Processing (RM-ODP). An excellent starting point is the Distributed Systems Technology Centre (DSTC) RM-ODP page. They also sponsor other projects that you may find interesting, including:

Ending Notes. If you haven't been to Software Dioxide, you're missing one of the best multi-discipline resources on the web. This site, which requires free registration for full access to an incredible array of resources, is divided into eight domains:
  1. Project Management.
  2. Product Engineering.
  3. Knowledge Management.
  4. Software Reuse.
  5. Quality Assurance & Models.
  6. Measurement.
  7. People & Management.
  8. Contracting & Acquisition.
This is one of the first places to which I look when I'm researching a topic, and I have it bookmarked on my Netscape personal favorites toolbar.

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