Friday, March 28, 2008

STUDY TIP & MATERIAL - Audio and Podcasts

AUDIO - When I was studying for the PMP exam last year, I would record a bunch of information from notes and books into my computer (using a free program called Audacity), and then burn CD's (using InfraRecorder [free]). I could then listen to and review the material almost anywhere.

As an alternative to burning a CD, I could also import the audio files into iTunes (also free from Apple Computer) then download into my iPod (absolutely not free).

For me, this was a good method of review while driving to/from work each day. I can't say that this was an exciting way to handle the commute, but it made the dead time much more productive. Don't worry about falling asleep, somebody will honk their horn at you when you veer into their lane.

I think that's called a "control".

But think about it: An hour commute each way would translate to two hours of study time each day.

I could play the audio files while doing other work on my computer or playing games like Guild Wars. Repetition, repetition, repetition ...

PODCASTS - Anyways, while searching the iTunes store, I found a bunch of podcasts relating to software quality, including:

Quality 101
Software Quality Engineering -and-
QA Podcast - Conversations about SW Quality Assurance

You don't need an iPod to access these, or audacity or InfraRecorder, but you will need to download and install iTunes, which as indicated above, is free. However, you might need to put in a credit card number just to access the iTunes store, where the podcasts are at. There are no charges to view the store and many podcasts, including the ones above, are free.

Here's where you can download this free software:

Get iTunes here ***** Get audacity here ***** Get InfraRecorder here

Thursday, March 27, 2008

JOURNAL: Class #1 Notes

Our CSQE class began last night.

Class 1 – Notes

We are using the Quality Council of Indiana’s CSQE Primer as the text for the class. This version of the text will be modified and re-released prior to December, 2008.

Gail is the instructor for the class. She is incredibly laid back. This is a perfect style for an after-work study session. Having a high-strung intense instructor after 9 hours of work would be "painful". She has a nice style of presenting information.

The first class is really more of a kick-off, but a couple points Gail made:

- When you see Spiral Method of development, think Risk

- When you see Object oriented, think Reusability

- Quality programs MUST have upper management support

- Audits are never used as an input for employee evaluation

We will be focusing on one chapter per week with the suggestion to read the chapter prior to the class.

Gail's Tip: For the second chapter (the first one is overview), don't spend a lot of time focusing on the various ISO standards. They are worth minimal points on the exam. Read and move on, you'll have them as reference material that you can bring to the exam.

The toll-free number for the ASQ is (800) 248-1946

Update 4/7/08 *** Note: Since Bruce is updating his flashcard list with class information, I probably won't be posting additional class notes.

EXAM: Class #1 - Exam Info

Class #1 Summary - Exam

Exam Information presented in the first class:

- The exam is offered twice a year
- It takes place 8:00AM on a Saturday morning
- It is 4 hours long
- 160 questions.
- (Average 90 seconds per question)
- The exam varies, usually you need approx. 70% to pass
- You can bring any reference material except for question&answer sheets
- Palm Pilot/Blackberry/PDA’s not allowed
- A calculator is recommended
- The exam is proctored
- It is not online – a scantron-type sheet is used
- There are a lot of negative questions (“not”).
- Often, the deadline to sign up for the exam is extended.

Gail’s Tip: Multiple answers may be right, pick the best “right” answer

There is no penalty for selecting wrong answers, so answer every question.

Gail’s tip: (1) go through and complete questions you are certain of. (2) in the question book, cross out obvious wrong answers (3) On the second pass, complete those questions you need to look up. (4) Keep an eye on the time. At approximately the 5 minute mark, go through your unanswered questions and select the same letter for all remaining answers (e.g. mark them all “B”).

Friday, March 7, 2008

Mnemosyne Flashcard Program

I have found that an effective way to remember information (once I understand it) is to use a flashcard program. These programs use the principal of spaced repetitions - as the person continues to recall information successfully, that information is presented for review less and less frequently. On the other hand, information that is not recalled correctly is presented more frequently. The goal is to commit information to long term memory as effectively as possible, allowing time for new information to be included in the learning process.

For a while I was using SuperMemo, which is a good Windows application. It uses a complex algorithm to determine when to present material and has many features. It's a commercial application; however older versions are available for free.

I am now using Mnemosyne, which is an open-source application. The program is available for Windows (download the Windows installer from the website), for Ubuntu (from the Ubuntu repositories) and possibly from other Linux repositories as well. The source is also available on the site.

As I go through the CSQE preparation course, I intend to organize the key information into question/answer pairs that can be loaded into Mnemosyne. As I create these question/answer pairs I will post them here (I make no promises, however.) My goal is to add information to Mnemosyne after every class and review the material that Mnemosyne presents every day, so that by the end of course all the information is already committed to memory, and I don't have a long review session before the test.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

GENERAL INFO - listserv

There are a couple CSQE message groups at

With 320 members in this is the largest.

Click to join CSQE_CN

The way this works is that whenever anyone posts information here, you will receive an email with the message posted. You can post questions or provide information as well.

Previously, I subscribed to the PMP listservs which also provided a fair amount of spam. You need to decide if you want the good postings (lessons learned, tips, etc.) along with the crap.

To subscribe, click on [Join this Group]. You will probably need a yahoo account. A superficial look shows there's a lot of unrelated info (spam) posted.

I subscribed and will provide an update in a week or two as to how this is working out.

I also tried to sign up for the CSQE Taiwan group, but that requires moderator approval. This could be a good thing. I'll let you know if I get in.

3/25/08 Follow-up after 3 weeks *** In the 3 weeks that I've been a member of this group, I've received 19 messages. None provided any value to the CSQE program, but I did receive posts from "Hot Biker Chicks". I can only imagine what those look like. Additionally, my request for membership in the CSQE Taiwan group expired before anyone approved or denied my request. BOTTOM LINE: not much value here, but since there's less than 1 spam email a day from this group, I'll remain active in the event something of value turns up.

4/7/08 Follow-up *** Still absolutely nothing of value and the spam appears to be increasing in frequency.

04/30/08 Follow-up *** Well. I finally found something of value here. Check out the "files" section of the board [link here]. "Solution Text 2000" and "" both have some useful material.