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Methods & Tools - News, Facts & Comments Edition - February 2005

*** Products ***********************************************************

* New Versions for Open Source Databases

Postgres has recently launched the version 8.0 of its database. New features include Windows native execution, savepoints, point-in-time recovery and tablespaces management. MySQL, currently running version 4.1.9, has already its version 5.0.2 in alpha testing. Among improvements provided by release 5, you will find stored procedures and cursor handling. A Forrester report predict that more than 30% of enterprises will use open source databases in production by 2008. More than 52% of large companies polled by Forrester already use or plan to use MySQL.

Open source databases have been very successful in gaining customer base. MySQL with its dual licensing mode, free and commercial, has particularly become a de facto standard for open source applications. It has also gain commercial respectability after building alliances with SAP for instance. It is currently evident that open source products are not suited for heavy-loaded transactional applications like established competitors (Oracle, Sybase or IBM), but they are providing good performance/price value to small and mid-size companies or applications.

In the Spring issue of Methods & Tools, you will find an article with more information on open source software and particularly the different licensing schemes used by open source projects.

For more info:


* Product News

You can view the last product press releases from software development tools vendors on our forum

*** Companies **********************************************************

* Company News

You can view the last company press releases from software development tools vendors on our forum

*** Numbers ************************************************************

* Training for Testing

Our last poll question was: How many weeks of training on software testing have you completed in your professional life?

None 43%
Less than one week 19%
One week (5 days) 7%
One to two weeks 7%
Two weeks to one month 6%
More than one month 18%

Number of participants: 240

As you can see, a large majority of the participants received none or few testing related training from their employers. I think that this situation is typical of the importance given to the testing phase in many software development projects. The time is often limited and there are few processes, tools and infrastructure available to optimise the efforts of the developers. The lack of training is just another factor that limits the efficiency of testing efforts.

At the other end of the spectrum, you see an important percentage with more than one month of training. This result should be connected with the activity of M&T readers. Around 20% of them are working in the software quality area and people working in this area should have more testing related training than the average developer.

*** Read for You *******************************************************

* Software is Human

Rotten wood cannot be carved, nor are dung walls plastered - Confucius

Any construction project begins with raw material, and as Confucius suggests, the nature of the raw material is critical to success - so much that you shouldn't even begin if the "wood" is poor. Even if you have sharp, finely honed tools, your project will still fail if the raw material isn't sound.

And what, might you ask, is the raw material of software development?
People. We are only raw material of consequence in software development. [...]

So how do we prepare this material? Obviously, we don't want it to be "rotten", but how can we tell? How can we tell if hidden voids lurk beneath the surface, just waiting to ruin the project once we start carving?

When you lack the right material, you'll keenly feel its absence. For example, warning signs might include

  • The developer who only uses one favorite solution for every problem
  • Folks who don't learn from mistakes - or worse, are too afraid to make any.
  • The developer who can't be bothered to tell anyone what he's doing or why

Fortunately, unlike real wood, we can repair our personal wood if the spirit is willing. [...]

Have a pragmatic outlook

The best solution is the one that works well for the particular problem at hand, in a timely and cost-effective manner. No two software projects are ever alike: just because a technique or product work well once, you can't guarantee that it will work as well in a different context. [...]

See multiple perspective

Always look beyond the immediate problem and try to place it in its larger context; try to be aware of the bigger picture. After all, without the big picture, how can you be pragmatic? How can you make intelligent compromises and informed decisions? [...]

Take responsibility

Painful as it is to admit it, for most people, most of the time, the problems that come up are our own fault not the compiler's, not the OS's, not the database vendor's, not our bosses', and not our coworkers'. Yet many people and teams, when facing a disastrous problem, first embark on a search (aka witch-hunt) to fix the blame.

It goes somewhat against human nature, but you should always try to fix the problem, not the blame. Remember, we all write software in our heads, so it makes sense to go ahead and take responsibility for it. "The cat ate my source code" just doesn't cut it anymore - when problems come up, we need to invent options, not excuses.

Communicate well

Programmers are information hubs. We communicate with everyone and everything, from customers, end users, and teammates to the machine itself. John Donne's pithy "No man is an island" holds especially true for software developers. We must communicate well for effective results. [...]

Learn continuously

On a par with communication is continuous learning, which means learning about more than just the technology involved. The technology alone poses a huge challenge; it's like taking a sip from a proverbial fire hose. But the need for learning extends to the problem domain, about how the team works together (or how it doesn't), and about ourselves.

Source: Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas, "Preparing the Raw Material", IEEE Software, September/October 2003

Some organisations and managers should recognise that to produce good software they have to work with good developers and respect them accordingly.

*** Conferences ********************************************************

* 3rd Canadian Agile Network Workshop: "User Interaction in Agile Teams"

The Banff Centre Banff, Alberta, Canada, March 13-14, 2005. Building on the success of the first and second Canadian Agile Network Workshops, this workshop will examine Usage-Centered Design and testing in the context of Agile Methods. Feedback and evaluation from participants will be provided on the CAN-RAC website following the conference. See you in Banff!


* SPA2005 - BCS Software Practice Advancement Group Conference

Spa2005 - The annual event of the BCS Software Practice Advancement. Group will run from 10 - 13 April 2005 in Bedfordshire, UK. Spend 4 days with some of the software industry's leading practitioners. Visit for information, or call +44(0)870 760 6863. Registrations from just 799 + VAT include accommodation and meals.


* European SEPG 2005: 13 - 16 June, London

You are warmly invited to join Europe's Process Improvement event of the year, where practitioners and gurus from Europe and around the world gather to exchange experience, knowledge and latest thinking. More than 80 presentations, tutorials and workshops paint a global picture of process improvement in action: techniques and approaches, return on investment, people issues and business focus. The event provides four days of learning and networking - equipping you with practical advice and inspiration that will directly benefit your process improvement initiative. Rapid growth in European expertise will be demonstrated, and the Software Engineering Institute will discuss developments with the CMMIR v1.2 and related technologies. You will also have the opportunity to meet some of Europe's leading process improvement support organisations, in an exhibition showcase.


* Call for Papers - Agile Business Conference, September 27-28, London

Presentations and Workshop Submissions welcome for this two days conference focused on addressing the issues surrounding the introduction and use of Agile Methods to meet dynamic Business Needs. Free admission for speakers.

*** M&T News ***********************************************************

In the Spring 2005 issue published at the end of March, you will find articles about:

* Test Driven Development

* Agile Unified Process

* Open Source for Enterprise

* A Systematic Approach to Specification

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