Archive for August, 2008

When The Recruiter Doesn’t Understand The Job

Friday, August 29th, 2008 by The Director

A posting on craigslist in the Software Jobs section:

Working in manufacturing, working in software, who cares as long as I get a warm body?
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This is a quality assurance for manufacturing, not software quality assurance, but one wonders if the recruiter knows the difference or cares as long as he or she gets a warm body and the percentage off the top.  Manufacturing quality deals mostly with established processes and procedures designed to help manufacturing large numbers of the same things day in and day out.  SQA, as you know, deals with a single SNAFU evolving over a long period of time using unproven technologies wielded by hubris-riven kids out of a four year program in learning Visual Basic.

Some of the skills can transfer over in the abstract, I’m sure, but I canceled my ASQ membership because it was so manufacturing and pharmaceutical intense and I did not get much insight I could apply to SQA except maybe some terminiology to impress my boss and to throw around statistically-based meetings, if I cared to throw them.

To do an SQA job effectively, you’ve got to be rat-mean and weasel-devious to figure out how to go outside the lines that the business analysts and developers have drawn.  You’ve got to suss out crazy alternative workflows and incomplete paths and intermediate states to try to grab as many of a practically infinite number of points of failure.  It’s a little different from looking at a graph and thinking, “Hmm, maybe we should lubricate the punch press every 16 hours.”

Also, when contacting the recruiter, remember not to call their contractors “Kelly Girls.”  That violates their trademark, which instead of being violated is mostly forgotten in the 21st century.  Way to protect a trademark!

Subject Line Failure, Or Threat To Tell Your Mother?

Friday, August 29th, 2008 by The Director offers good advice with its latest e-mail’s subject line:

Don't wait too long to adjust to ma
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If I waited too long to adjust to my ma, I got a whuppin.  Frequent whuppins led me to a career in QA, where one can abuse others and get paid for it.

Gallery of Stack Traces: If QA Wrote The Stack Trace Messages

Thursday, August 28th, 2008 by The Director

Okay, this one does not occur in nature, but man, if only:

A stack trace, if QA wrote the messages
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The Tester’s Vocabulary: Zool

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 by The Director

Today’s term: a zool.

Zool: a row in a database, added via an INSERT command, or rendered in the presentation layer (client application or Web interface) that is expected to contain information, but because of defective behavior of the software does not.

In context:  “There is no data, only Zool.”‘

It’s best said in a demonic voice, but that’s sort of redundant, since any QA communication is best spoken hellishly.

A sample of this vocabulary word below the fold, sort of. (more…)

Just Like An Old Friend, Kick Yahoo! When It’s Down

Monday, August 25th, 2008 by The Director

g33klady sends a screen capture of another integration problem with Yahoo!  Apparently, some character is showing as broken on its news pages:

Yahoo! has another character problem

You know, Yahoo! gets a lot of play on these pages, and I’m not even a disgruntled employee or former employee.  Maybe they had word that, since Microsoft was going to acquire them, to mesh quality standards.

UPDATE: I suppose a bigger problem is that this story still displays on the front page of the Classic Mail page.  The story not only displays the characters, but is 3 days out of date.

Close Counts In Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and Electronic Voting Tabulation, Electronic Voting Machine Maker Insists

Friday, August 22nd, 2008 by The Director

The company formerly known as Diebold but changed its name when Diebold became a bad word due to poor quality in electronic voting machines admits that its voting machines might have lost a couple votes here and there:

 A voting system used in 34 states contains a critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point, the manufacturer acknowledges.

The problem was identified after complaints from Ohio elections officials following the March primary there, but the logic error that is the root of the problem has been part of the software for 10 years, said Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Premier Election Solutions, formerly known as Diebold.

Acknowledged, but not before running through the gamut of excuses:

As recently as May, Premier said the problem was not of its making but stemmed from anti-virus software that Ohio had installed on its machines. It also briefly said the mistakes could have come from human mistakes.

But the important thing, I suppose, is that Diebold met its deadlines and had the faulty software up and running in time for the elections and in time to cash the government contract checks.

Is Unit Testing Doomed?

Friday, August 22nd, 2008 by The Director

Andrew Binstock asks, Is unit testing doomed?

I ask, was it anything more than a myth to begin with?  Even in the largest companies I worked for, I didn’t see any sort of developer testing processes in place.  They’re too busy updating the Wiki to waste time writing tests to check themselves.

That Cancel Link Ought To Do Something, Boy

Thursday, August 21st, 2008 by The Director

If you’ve got a control on a subform, you really ought to make it do something, even if it’s a link.

Take, for instance, the little Add an Application subforms available on the home page of (note you have to be signed in to see them in the right sidebar).  To get this subform, you mouse over the Add an Application link and then select a subform type, such as the jobs form:

You may not cancel.

Suppose you change your mind and don’t want to add this “application” to your sidebar.  What do you do then?  Click Cancel?

Hah!  Fool!  You do not; apparently, LinkedIn GUI wizards expect you to click the X to close the application which you have not yet added.

What they’ve done is gone cheap and made the Add form look exactly like the Edit form because it’s easier that way.  Instead of altering the behavior of the Cancel link to make it behave like the Close button during the edit operation, they have just made it do nothing.

Poor form, Peter; you should never offer controls that do nothing, and especially you should not do it because you’re too lazy to write a little bit of branching logic.

Also, I might add that allowing users to open more than one Edit/Add form at one time is sort of, well, dumb.  I’ve seen this behavior in applications I’ve had to test, and sometimes instead of an AJAX subform, the application refreshes the page entirely, which either abandons or saves changes in the other subforms (where the user did not click Save) according to the developer’s behavioral preference (or accident, but I repeat myself).  Crikey, how about expecting the user to make one change at a time and guiding him or her to do it in a logical fashion?

Nah, let’s go willy-nilly and get it out the door on time so we can get in line for Halo VIII.

Book Report: How to Break Web Software by Mike Andrews and James A. Whittaker (2006)

Thursday, August 21st, 2008 by The Director

This is the third book in the trilogy (How to Break Software, How to Break Software Security, and this book).  This book, as you could guess by its title, focuses on applications written for the World Wide Web.

As with previous books, this one uses an enumerated list of “attacks” you can perform on the software you’re testing.  However, the “attacks” motif is a little misapplied, as the last chapters of the book are broadly constructed, including a chapter on “Privacy” and another broad overview of Web Services.

However, by focusing on differences between Web applications and regular applications (the stateless nature of the Web as well as exposed underlying technologies in the Web server and database server) that can help you transition if you’re used to working on desktop applications to the Web.  Heck, even if you’re already testing Web applications, you might find something in here to add to your repertoire.

However, read the book and apply the “attacks” in a triage fashion.  Sure, your pages’ source code might reveal something, but brothers and sisters, reviewing page code is the first attack (“Panning for Gold”) presented in the book.  It is not the first thing in my test plans.  As a matter of fact, given the projects I’ve worked on, reviewing source code has been spotty at best and falls in the test plan somewhere beyond spraying the Web server with a hose.  But if you have timeline enough and time, it is a good idea.

I bought these books for my team, so can expect I’d recommend them to you.  Go forth, buy them, and learn from them.

Books mentioned in this review:

Failed Boundary Checking

Thursday, August 21st, 2008 by The Director

A poster to the ComputerWorld Shark Bait forum discovers why 214-748-3647 is such a popular phone number.

The answer, of course, is lack of quality assurance.

The Roberta Scenario

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008 by The Director

Unlike some rock star developer types who live in an isolated world of geekery and smug coolness amongst their peers, I dwell among actual citizens from time to time.  This gives me perspective of what life is like outside the IT world.  For example, let’s talk about Roberta*.

Because I’m the IT guy in the family and among the family’s circle of friends, I get to be the guy to set up new computers and to look at computers when something goes wrong.  So how could I refuse when my sainted mother shanghaied me and took me to Roberta’s home to set up her new computer.  Roberta is 80 years old, and apparently fell prey to the peer pressure, wherein the peer in this case was her 15 year old grandson.  She decided to join the late 20th century by getting access to e-mail, instant messages, and the World Wide Web.

So I got to fire up her hand-me-down PC.  Upon it, Windows ME ran Internet Explorer 6.0.  I got her DSL hooked in, downloaded an IM client, and managed to find a copy of Norton 2001 to help provide some protection.  Then, I set up her bookmarks to a set of television stations (Discovery, the History Channel, and so on) and National Geographic.  I set her home page to her DSL account dashboard page and explained some basics about e-mail, such as how to send it using the Web interface and what a contact list is.

I showed her how to use the little mouse to move the little arrow.  There, in the corner, watch it move, now see how the arrow turns into a hand, that’s called a link, you click it: that means press the left mouse button.  If you take your hand off of the mouse, you move the arrow a little, so the button does nothing.  Here, try with your hand on the mouse.

I mean, she lacked all of the basics of computer and GUI use that we’ve taken for granted for the last decade, including the vocabulary such as operating system, window, browser, e-mail, application, double-click.  She’d heard some of them, but she had no idea what they were.  To her, Web sites were extensions of things she saw on television.  Browse, Google, Web searches, blogs, and so on.  She’s been online for a couple of weeks, sort of, and when she asks me to add a URL to her bookmarks, she has it written down on a piece of paper as she’s seen it on a product or on television.

When I left her the first time, I realized I had not shown her how to close a window with the little x in the corner; surely enough, when I visited her again, she had 16 instances of IE open on her taskbar, and her underpowered machine was crawling.

What’s my point?  If you’re developing consumer applications or work at an interactive marketing agency, you’d better remember that people like Roberta are your target audience.  Not the people at the next agency who are going to look at your portfolio when you try for the next level of title.  Not your circle of friends where you try to one-up each other in cool things you do.  You’re designing and developing for civilians, and many unsophisticated civilians at that.

* Not her real name because she’s on the Internet now, and I don’t want her to know I’m talking about her.

Another Installment of Image Filename As Alt Text

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008 by The Director

Courtesy of this e-mail from

That's an enlightening alt text, Brody.  I notice you've stopped stuttering.
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As a reminder, also, Internet Explorer displays the value of the alt attribute on mouseover, but Firefox, Safari, and the other cool kids’ faves use the value of the img tag’s title attribute.  So if you’re going to check it, you have to check either in the source code or in both browser.  I prefer both browsers, of course, since it’s faster to mouse over the image in two browsers than to view the source code and look through it for the values of both attributes for each image.

No 99 Cent Pizzas For You

Friday, August 15th, 2008 by The Director

Pizza Hut has more trouble with its new technologies as it blasts test e-mails to actual customers:

Talk about making an offer that we then refused
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I didn’t get the e-mail myself; instead, one-time commenter The QA Slayer passed it on.  I understand that the test e-mail offered 99 cent pizzas.

Remember, this is not the first time Pizza Hut’s interactive agency has rolled 1 on its hit roll (that’s a critical fumble to those of you too good to have played D&D).

Code 404 Means No Resuscitate, Right?

Friday, August 15th, 2008 by The Director

A page on the Telegraph Web site throws a JavaScript alert box with a passed-through error message:

Code 404!  Code 404!  Page down!
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It’s a problem with a content rotator or ad server, I suspect.  On the other hand, maybe I got lucky and it didn’t serve me the malware its hackers intended.

Gallery of Stack Traces: Squeezed by the Python!

Thursday, August 14th, 2008 by The Director

Here’s something you don’t see often in Windows shops:

Maybe they should have gone with Anaconda
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I think you need to recompile your colonel.

I love the last line which asks me about the network configuration.   If only there was a little Y/N for real fun.

Flash Fails To Break Out Of Firefox

Thursday, August 14th, 2008 by The Director

I don’t know if I’m repeating myself here or not, but Primera Technology, Inc., has a problem with its current sweepstakes promotion for the Bravo SE CD/DVD duplicator.  If you use Firefox, you might get the impression you cannot enter the sweepstakes due to a flaw in the program.  Well, that’s not entirely true, but it’s close enough.


Cheer Your Co-Workers With Another QAHY Maxim

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008 by The Director

The fruit always smells the best right before it’s completely rotten.

Feel free to use that in your next project status meeting when your dev leads and project managers rain sunshine about the project’s imminent success right before turning the project over to QA, whose timeline has been cut from two weeks to one and a half days.

I’m a True Believer

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008 by The Director

Larry O’Brien in his SD Times column:

I have a new client experiencing 500% annual growth and just going through 100,000 transactions per month. The folks there brought me in to take a look at their stability and scalability. When I contacted their development team, I discovered that not only did they lack a load-testing plan, but they also had no automated testing. They didn’t even have production, staging and development deployments; the programmers develop on the live site. The first words from their IT guy when I asked about the deployment architecture were, “You aren’t going to believe this….”

Alleluia, brother!  I believe!

Miss Print? I Hardly Aimed At Her!

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 by The Director

G33klady will like this one: It’s a problem with the print run of the August issue of Software Test and Performance magazine:

You should read the article more than once, apparently.
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As you can see by the folded-over pages, the article and subsequent pages appear twice within the magazine.  At first, I thought I was crazy.  Then, I thought maybe it was some sort of viral thing about the Crazy About Testing conference they’re hawking.  Then, I realized, it was probably a problem at the print shop, that the pages were laid out on duplicate plates.

You know, when you discover a problem like this, the printer often gives you the choice of running it over or giving you a discount.  When I founded a magazine in the middle 90s, even before I was the surly QA guy you see before you, I took the option of running the thing over.


Train Your Eyes For Bad Photo Editing

Monday, August 11th, 2008 by The Director

If you work QA at a Web shop and particularly an interactive agency, you ought to train your eye or eyes to recognize poor photo editing and image creating.

Here’s a site to help you: Photoshop Disasters.  Or maybe you’ll just want to go there for the snark.  I do.

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