Archive for January, 2008

But I Like My Solutions Better

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008 by The Director

This month (pdf) in Software Test & Performance, editor Edward J. Correia again takes on automated software testing. The intro paragraph led me to believe he might have become a joyous skeptic, like us:

Why, for instance, do we build software to test other software? This question has never before occurred to me, nor does it parallel such mysteries as people who are financially wealthy but short on values. But it does bear some discussion.

Does he then contemplate the possibility that trusting software to test software is something like telling criminals to police themselves? Nah, he just marvels at the beauty of it. As he should, since the automated software companies are the ones buying the ads in his magazine.

However, we at disagree with his conclusion:

Software is very good at automating things. So when automated testing is the need, why not use the best tool for the job? For the practice of automating software testing, the best tool happens to be more software. Sometimes the best tool is staring you right in the face.

Here at, we have found in our experience that the following are sometimes better solutions, especially when tailored to limited budgets:

  • Zombies. All you need are a recurring maintenance budget, i.e., brains. You can certainly find some unused brains on your development team anyway. So raise some dead and show them which keys to push, and wallah! Automated software testing using the undead.
  • Steam piston driven software appliances. All you need is a machine shop, some wrenches, and boiling water to build complex steam-driven keyboard punchers. Mouse-handling and pointing-and-clicking are less accurate, so you’ll have to work around that. Also, remember to calibrate the finger-rods correctly, or they will punch right through the keyboard instead of efficiently delivering the keyclick you want.
  • Monkeys. Just kidding. We use all our monkeys for new functionality testing.

Automated software testing is really only possible through the use of software, which comes with its own hazards which I’ll go into some other time.

Business-to-Business Browser Stunner

Monday, January 14th, 2008 by The Director

Apparently, hidden beneath the Firefox-pumping in this press release, we find something shocking about the browser market penetration in the business-to-business market:

Netscape was third, with almost 9% usage, in January 2008.

Keep that in mind when doing your compatibility testing for business application, I guess.

You should also infer the continued importance of testing in Internet Explorer (6 and 7) even though your developers swear by Firefox and your designers create their masterpieces using Safari.

That’s A Most Practice

Thursday, January 10th, 2008 by The Director

It’s not a best practice, but this Shark Bait entry finds a most practice:

“These users must learn not to use these special characters.”

Thus spake my boss, a seasoned professional developer working with databases and web application development for many years.

Yet again, one of our ‘bonehead’ users, who clearly had no attention for detail, had screwed up one of our applications and a database record. Someone had stupidly used an apostrophe. From the looks of the record, they were trying to type in an Irish name. Like I said, boneheads.

The aforementioned boss also finds out the proper ways to respond to someone who suggests fixing it. Yeah, we in QA have heard those excuses before.

Because Users Encounter Exceptions Inefficiently

Thursday, January 10th, 2008 by The Director

Good to see some outside the box thinking with this Web cast: Conquering the Billion Dollar Problem: Automate Your Business Process Exceptions to Save Time & Money.

Why wait for the users to find them when you can automate their occurrence?

(Actually, that’s not what it’s about, but that’s what I thought when I saw its title.)

Wherein The Director Channels Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008 by The Director

“Those who would give up Essential Quality to earn a little Temporary Profit, will see neither Quality nor Profit.”

Feel free to use that in your next status meeting, when someone is explaining why the team shouldn’t fix a large number of defects.

Whoa: The Rockford Register Star Double Modal

Monday, January 7th, 2008 by The Director

Congratulations to the Rockford Register Star Web site for doing something I had never seen before: it triggered an Internet Explorer error message atop the script problem dialog box in this story:

The dreaded double modal
Click for full size

An error so potent that Internet Explorer couldn’t even understand it to display it!

Note that if you go to the paper’s Web site following the above link, the error doesn’t happen that way every time (but it seems to spew JavaSpit all over everything all the time). But if you see it, enjoy it, for you may never see that again.

Sometimes, Automated Testing Is Folly

Monday, January 7th, 2008 by The Director

In the message from the editor in the November 2006 (pdf) issue of Software Test & Performance, Edward J. Correia expresses a basic belief in the magical potency of automated testing:

Repetitive tasks are bad enough—having to perform them repetitively is insane. If something can be automated, it should be. Even if it takes 10 times longer and costs a hundred times more than the original task itself, it pays in the long run to automate your tests.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gone into interviews and sales calls for projects where the other person across the table blurts out the benefits of automation and how the company wants to use automation to build a complex suite of automated tests to ensure 100% code coverage to run with nightly builds to ensure project success.

But the automated test evangelists, speaking in their tongues, are wrong. Sometimes automated testing is a bane.

ePrize and Prilosec OTC Channel Henry Ford

Sunday, January 6th, 2008 by The Director

You can select any country you like as long as it’s US:

Limited to US residents only, obviously.
Click for full size

I never understood the logic of putting in controls that were read only or allowed only one choice, but the smart ones on the project team would tell you I’m not paid to think, only to say, “Looks good to me, sir!” Which explains why I tend to move from team to team very easily.

Single Women Don’t Drive GMC

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008 by The Director

That’s what I infer from the available choices in the title field on this sweepstakes:

Like a sniper, they don't Miss
Click here for full size

No doctors, either, I suppose.

Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad. No, Wait, It Is.

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008 by The Director

On the new HGTV Dream Home Giveaway sweepstakes thank you page, the site provides you with a standard tell-a-friend sort of form so that you can send a link to one or more e-mail addresses. Easy as pie, right, and everyone does it.

Well, loses some style points because it doesn’t prepopulate your name and your e-mail address even though you’ve just provided them. It loses style points and more on the validation.


Trusting Your Explosives To An XML Parser

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008 by The Director

Actually, I have no idea what technology was involved, but a corrupt file caused problems at a Seattle fireworks display:

A computer glitch led to a delayed fireworks show at the Seattle Center on Monday night as partiers waited to ring in the new year.

The show started on time at 11:59, said Mary Bacarella, spokeswoman for the Space Needle, but in the last minute of 2007 the crew from Pyro Spectaculars realized that the computer file running the show was corrupted.

When you’re building the software, it’s okay to overlook validating and handling corrupt files because only system administrators would manipulate them, right?

Might as well save that little bit of development money; it will help pay for your last paycheck.

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