Rob Kraft's Software Development Blog

Software Development Insights

Archive for January, 2012

How to fix a black or blank RDP (Remote Desktop) Screen

Posted by robkraft on January 29, 2012

This is a repost of a post I made on Microsoft forums, but several people have found it useful so I’m spreading the fix.

My RDP screen was black.  So I tried CTRL-ALT-END.  Then I hit cancel, then I closed RDP.  Then I re-opened RDP and I had my desktop back! YAY!!!

Posted in I.T. | Leave a Comment »

Reduce Waste During Software Development by Increasing Communication

Posted by robkraft on January 16, 2012

Lean software development focuses on reducing waste. One source of waste is time spent implementing a difficult solution when the product owner would have been satisfied with a simpler solution. The likelihood that this source of waste occurs increases as the interactions between developer and product owner decreases. When the environment discourages frequent communication between product owner and developer, and the developer discovers some minor features will be more difficult than expected, the developer is likely to attempt to implement the solution as the product owner requested it. But when the environment encourages frequent communication, the developer is more likely to let the product owner know that a specific feature is more difficult than anticipated, but that the same feature goals could probably be achieved with an alternative implementation. This allows the product owner to decide if the alternative implementation is sufficient, or if he wants to pay the extra time to have the feature as originally envisioned.  A few of the factors that can contribute to an environment that discourages developer to product owner communication include:

  1. Physical distance. For several reasons, physical distance discourages communication. Developers don’t want to interrupt the product owner, and it is difficult to know if the product owner is currently in a meeting, or involved in other activities when the product owner is not visible.
  2. Personal perception. Developers don’t want the product owner to think they are unable to make decisions themselves, and may be concerned the product owner will gain that impression if the developer is frequently asking for product owner input.
  3. Unfriendly product owners. Developers quickly sense when product owners are getting annoyed with questions. Once a developer feels he has used his allowance of goodwill, he is more likely to just attempt to implement difficult solutions per the original spec rather than suggest an alternative.
  4. Introverted developers. Some developers simply prefer to minimize interactions with people they are not extremely comfortable with. When faced with the choice of interacting with a person they aren’t comfortable with, or trying to make the software work as originally requested, they frequently choose the latter.

It does not matter whether you develop software using Lean (Kanban), Agile, or Waterfall. If you can increase communication between the product owners and developers, you can probably reduce or eliminate this source of waste.  Product owners pay the price of this waste, and they are also best positioned to reduce the problems I mentioned above.  Product owners, at least the people that make the detailed decisions about how the software should work, should strive to make themselves constantly accessible to software developers.  When a developer comes with a question, the product owner should treat the developer as a welcome interruption, not as an inconvenience.  Product owners can also improve the relationship with the developer by engaging with the developers on social, non-work, levels.  This fosters a growth in trust between product owners and developers and increases the odds that developers will come to the product owner when the potential exists to eliminate waste.

Posted in Code Design, CodeProject, Coding, Process | 4 Comments »

Make note of FUTA Tax Filing Changes for 2012!

Posted by robkraft on January 15, 2012

I was unpleasantly surprised to learn today that the FUTA tax rate changed mid-year of 2011 and I didn’t know about it. Fortunately, this did not affect my 2011 tax filings in any way because I had no new employees and had already incurred the maximum unemployment tax for the year because my taxable earnings prior to July 1, 2011 exceeded $7,000 .
I learned this when I went to fill out Federal form “940 for 2011: Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return”. A google search brought me to a URL confirming the change mid-year
When you fill out this form, make sure to include 401k contributions made to the employee in line 3, then deduct those contributions in line 4. Regardless of your numbers, there is a good chance that line 7a will end up with a balance of $7,000.00 (if you are self-employed). And if you worked all of last year, it is likely that line 7b is $7,000.00, 7c is $56.00, 7d is $0.00, 7e is $0.00, and line 8 is $56.00.
Since I live in Missouri and do not have a payment to submit, I send this completed form to
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service
Ogden, UT 84201-0046
By February 10, 2012 (by January 31, 2012 if you need to send money) (form online) (instructions online)

Posted in Business, Taxes and Fees | 2 Comments »