IS Department

The Links Have Built Up…Link Dump Time!

Posted in Network,Programming,Uncategorized by Brian Russell on June 19, 2008

The stared items in Google Reader have built up to a unmanageable level.  I star them because I want others in my team to read them.  Here are the ones that, after looking at them the second time, still seem worthwhile.

Everyone Links:

One in three IT staff snoop on colleagues – We need to be trusted since we hold the keys to the business.  How many lied and said they didn’t snoop in this survey – a question brought up on Slashdot.

Are you going the way of the Dinosaur? Not just for developers, it applies to anyone in the IT career field.  What are you actively doing to keep yourself up to date?

Question your work – I love reading the 37signals blog.  I have found myself recently working on things that are not in line with business goals.

Developer Focused Links:

Ruby and Excel seem like a match for some upcoming work

Pronunciation Rules for Programmers – We have had discussions on this in the past.  Nice to have a source to refer to when needed.  I still like using the word Squirrely Braces for { }.

Scrum in 90 Minutes Presentation – Might be handy…

Sending mail through gmail with Rails – Seems useful for some future home project

Database Links:

SQL Server FAQ Link Page


Question for Microsoft … Why?

Posted in Uncategorized by Brian Russell on May 27, 2008

So here are my questions to Microsoft:

WHY?  Why so many versions of Vista?

WHY? Why so many versions of Office?

WHY? Why so many versions of Visual Studio?


Your competitor makes it very simple:


How are you going to win me back?  Making me choose from a laundry list of products and feel like I am inferior by picking something a little cheaper isn’t going to do it. 

Find a good price point and make a single product.  This reduces your costs for manufacturing, training, programming, marketing, etc.  It also carries with it the added bonus of making your customers feel like they are getting the complete package for the price they pay.

Isn’t This Ironic?

Posted in Uncategorized by Brian Russell on May 20, 2008

So I navigate to a post about annoying software (as you can see in the title) and this is what I get.  Is IE trying to tell me something?

Take a Moment to Clean Your Desk Off

Posted in Uncategorized by Brian Russell on March 31, 2008

Over the last several weeks, I have been feeling buried in work.  The work came in faster than I could complete.  It is hard to explain the feeling you get when you have a ton of work on your shoulders, but I am sure most people reading this understand the feeling.

I needed to do something fast in order to get a handle on the stress I was feeling.  I started looking around my office and noticed that I have papers everywhere on my desk.  Each one represented some work to do or something I deemed important at one point in time.  It created this overwhelmed feeling causing me stress.  I didn’t recognize it at first, but the clutter was eating at my subconscious because I knew what it represented.  Furthermore, my virtual desktop had many files scattered all over it creating the same feelings as the real world desk.

I had two choices.  I could continue on and try to get as much work done as possible while still being stressed, or as I like to call it, working in a chaotic fashion.  Or the second choice was to take care of the two things I identified as creating added stress.  I chose the latter.

First up, I sorted the papers into 4 piles on my desk. 

  • 1. Things To Do – Everything that had action attached to it went in this pile.
  • 2. Things To Sort Through – This pile contained everything I wasn’t sure about.
  • 3. Things To Read Or File – I have a lot of sources of information coming in such as magazines, articles I printed out, training books, reports, memos, etc.
  • 4. Trash – You would be surprised at how much stuff makes it on your desk that was deemed important at the time, but now it is stale or no longer important.

Sorting is pretty easy once on establish how you are going to sort.  Of course, you always run into that one paper that seems like it goes in a few piles.  The best thing to do is stick it in the 2nd pile, things to sort through.  This allows you to continue with your process all the way through to completion while knowing you will be coming back to it.

Once I was done, I went through the 2nd pile slowly and moved items to the 1st or 3rd pile.  This is easier than you think.  Once you are done, your 2nd pile is gone.

Next, I went through the 3rd pile.  My first categorization had this pile rather large.  Magazines and articles I had printed long ago were in the mix.  For me, this was too large and I figured I sometimes just need to purge the backlog.  So I did, I went through the pile real quick and moved things over to the 4th pile (trash) that were not crucial to me completing my job effectively.  At this point, my 3rd pile is relatively small and manageable.  I could get through it in a few hours when I get to it.

After that, I pretty much created all my trash, so I recycled my 4th pile.  This is a stress reliever!

You should be left with two stacks now; things to do and things to read and/or file away.  I will leave it to you to figure out the process from here.  Personally, I grouped the action items and placed them in folders so that I wasn’t looking at a stack of papers.  I also am quickly able to reprioritize the folders based on business needs.

Next up, I went to my virtual desktop.  This is pretty simple.  Throw things in folders, archive them, or delete them.  You can pretty much use the same process for the virtual desktop as you did for the physical one.

Hope this helps someone else get a feeling of control of their work environment.

SharePoint Conference

Posted in Uncategorized by Brian Russell on March 5, 2008

Two of us are attending the SharePoint conference being held in Seattle right now. The sessions are hit or miss with both of us, but for the most part we are getting our questions answered and learning a ton of new possibilities on how to use SharePoint.  Would definitely come again.

Tonight was Game Night and we hung around for a bit. While we were hanging out we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get our pictures with Master Chief.

Julene with Master Chief

Brian with Master Chief

The Wayback Machine – Helped Me Do My Job

Posted in Programming,Uncategorized by Brian Russell on November 19, 2007

I just had an incident today that I thought I would share with you, and expose you to a new resource if you don’t already know about it.  The Wayback Machine.  I have used it in the past for mindless fun.  You know, to look how Google’s main page barely changes, and Yahoo’s exploded into a unreadable mess.  This time, I actually had a work reason to visit it.

Our website was written by a third party, and when we first deployed it we didn’t have the complete source in our source control repository.  We noticed something that needed tweaked at one point on our job listing page (the wording caused confusion for people), and we went to the web server and directly tweaked the html on our job page since we didn’t have the source to update and deploy from.  This prompted us to get the source code in our repository, better late than never!

Anyway, here is the text before the change:

in-process 1

and here is the text after the change:

in-process 2

I know it wasn’t a huge change, but the wording was previously approved and delivered by HR and I didn’t remember it.

Fast forward past that change and a few revisions, we noticed that this text was no longer on the site.  I needed to put the text back onto the site.  The problem was, I didn’t remember what the exact text was that needed to be there and the HR rep was out of the office.  I went through our source control to look at the different versions of the file to find the text, but the initial upload and future changes didn’t include the wording because we tweaked it directly on the server itself.

I could go hunt through some backups, but I would rather pull my teeth out.  That was when I remembered the Wayback Machine (internet archive).  I ran our site through it, and was presented with a bunch of different versions I could easily look through to find what I needed.  Once I found it, I copied the text, pasted it in the source controlled file, deployed a new version of our site, and everything is now good!

Develop Better Habits and Stay Motivated

Posted in Uncategorized by Brian Russell on November 17, 2007

I was doing my normal Digg run through today and I came across this article which I thought was something worth sharing with the rest of you called 7 Habits of Highly Innovative People.

I like the idea behind the points of the article. Persistence is what makes success come about, not just a great idea. Of course, you can persistently go in the wrong direction while trying to achieve success, so you need to make sure you look up every now and then and make sure you still are on the right path. If not, make a course correction and get persistent again!

From point number 3 ‘Take Risks, Make Mistakes’:

I believe that part of the reason why we create self-imposed inhibition is due to our fear of failure. Expect that some ideas will fail in the process of learning. Build prototypes often, test them out on people, gather feedback, and make incremental changes. Rather than treating the mistakes as failures, think of them as experiment.

Of course, these habits are great, but you also have to stay motivated.  The article about Staying Motivated talks some more about this.  Here is the intro paragraph:

Whether your chosen medium is pictures or language, food or formulas, everyone has the capacity to be creative in their work. But we can often lose our motivation to create, making it difficult to stay focused and excited on a project. So how does one keep their creative well from drying up?

Take the time to read both articles, you should find at least something in them that applies to you and what you can do to make yourself better.

Good Rake Tutorial

Posted in Uncategorized by Kevin Colyar on October 12, 2007

“As a Rails developer you’re probably familiar with running “rake” to run your tests or maybe you’ve used “rake db:migrate” to run your migrations. But do you really understand what’s going on under the hood of these Rake tasks? Did you realize that you can write your own tasks or create your own library of useful Rake files?”

Your Skills Are Weak!

Posted in Uncategorized by Brian Russell on October 7, 2007

Your skills are weak if you can’t match this 6 year old!

Ruby Quiz, Redmine, Aptana, Free Mac Software

Posted in Programming,Uncategorized by Kevin Colyar on September 17, 2007

Ruby Quiz – A weekly programming challenge for Ruby programmers in the spirit of the Perl Quiz of the Week.

Project Management

Aptana – A free, open-source, cross-platform, JavaScript-focused editor and development environment for building Ajax applications.

 Bunch of Free Mac Software 

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