Alvin Alexander | Java, Scala, Unix, Perl, Mac OS X

For strange humor and maybe true confessions -- and nothing to do with programming -- has become a favorite site lately. Almost makes me want to write something of my own, like "I hate to admit it, but I am an SCO Advanced Certified Engineer (ACE) and Authorized Instructor." If nothing else, at least that was in the days when SCO was just a slow-moving technical company, and not just a group of lawyers trying to make money.

Nothing major here, but there's an interesting story in the MIT Tech Review this month about three jobs they must do at the same time, but most developers are only qualified for one of the three. According to the article, the three jobs they must perform are:

My definition of "CFO Disease"

Every CFO that can create a spreadsheet thinks they are a programmer.

As you might guess, this had to do with a long conversation with a CFO today about how to do my job, and how programming seems so easy.


Java URL download FAQ: Can you share some source code for a Java URL example, specifically a Java class to download and parse the contents of a URL?

This example is a little weak, but it's a program that downloads and parses the contents of a given URL. The purpose has nothing to do with URLs ... it has a lot more to do with the parsing that I am trying to achieve. The parsing code is actually going to be used in an anti-spam program that I am working on.

A couple of web sites related to requirements gathering:

Check these links out if you're at all interested in the art and science of requirements gathering.


I often use the Lynx character-based web browser, but can never remember or find their obscure commands. Two that I really need are how to create bookmarks, and how to access them.

To create a bookmark in Lynx, just go to the page that you want, then press the letter 'a'. When Lynx brings up a prompt, select the letter 'd' (for Document). That's all.

Here are two references to JLint programs that help to find potential logic problems in Java code. On a small project where you're the only develop working on the code this may not be too necessary, but on a larger project with multiple developers ... it can be most helpful, especially if some of the developers don't have much experience.

Here's an inspirational little story about developing a large software project, the ATAMS that was built for NORAD. Large software systems don't always have to be late and over budget.

With the craziness that has become my life, I have created a diagram that defines a software development process that I am proposing for a large project I am currently working on. We have been plagued by a combination of incomplete requirements, poor technical detail, and changing requirements, so I am trying to develop a formal process to minimize these problems. We need something like this to help everyone keep their sanity and to help reduce/control costs. I never thought I would be "Mr.

Well, on my "day off" yesterday, I spent a little time getting some LaTeX code samples out here so I could find them more easily. Here's a list of the examples I created:

LaTeX PDF Example: Here's an example of how I learned to control line spacing in lists when creating PDF documents with LaTeX.

The reason I use this LaTeX PDF line spacing technique is that I'm writing some requirements specifications for software applications, and by default the LaTeX line spacing for lists and enumerations is too large. It appears that the items are double-spaced, and I really want them to be single-spaced.

Like everything else with LaTeX right now, I won't say that this is a perfect solution, but it does work very well.

This one may be my favorite LaTeX example yet. It shows how to create a table/grid, where the labels of the columns are rotated at a ninety degree angle, so they run straight up and down. This way, I can have very narrow columns, which is extremely helpful when trying to build a "house of quality" table for my current Six Sigma effort.

Without any further ado, here is the LaTeX code:

This is a collection of LaTeX example tags. I'm in the process of creating one super-LaTeX example file to show how to do many things with LaTeX that work with both pdflatex and latex2html, and this is part of that super-file.

In the example content below I'm showing:

Here is the code I use to create a list of descriptions in LaTeX. In this example, I'm creating three descriptions that deal with the subject of Six Sigma. (My apologies to Greg Brue for the blatent copy/paste action here. I was just trying to find a simple example, and his book was the first I found.)

My latest research delves into the application of Six Sigma to software development. On a related note, this has taken me further into the world of Function Points. To that end, here are a number of links to Function Point resources:

Today I ran into a situation where an old program I wrote is useful once again, but this time in a different context than the original need. At first I needed this utility method to convert extended characters to their ISO Latin equivalents for the HTML world, but today I need it to convert things in the XML world. I can't say I ever anticipated this need, because XML was but a dream back then, but it's good to know that it's still useful.

Here's the source code for a Java method that converts a given String into an equivalent new String, where characters that cause problems when rendered as HTML have been converted to their ISO Latin equivalent:

Ahh, benchmarks and performance, a fun game. Here are two benchmarks that I needed to use today to help demonstrate the difference between platforms:

  1. SciMark 2.0, from the NIST folks.
  2. The VolanoMark benchmark and report.

The SciMark is nicely configured as an applet, so it's very easy to test the speed of client systems. The VolanoMark is more difficult to set up, but may give you a more accurate read when it comes to server side apps.

I just learned that Mozilla has found a new home at the Mozilla Foundation. According to their web site, the foundation will "... promote the distribution and adoption of our flagship applications based on that code." As long as they keep Firebird going I'll be happy. It's a quick little browser that doesn't suffer from (a) being tied to Windows and (b) having gaping security holes.

I needed to see a list of all changes to a certain portion of code in a CVS repository. Here's how I did that. First, move to the desired directory. Then, issue this command:

cvs -z9 log -d >2003-8-14