Archive for January, 2009

You’re On My List, Buddy

Thursday, January 29th, 2009 by The Director

Added to the blogroll: Scary Tester.

Someone else who understands that QA should not be Meek Tester or Happy Not To Be Working As An Insurance Salesman So I’ll Go Along To Get Along Tester.

Legacy of Zune: My First LY366 Bug

Monday, January 26th, 2009 by The Director

Following my own advice, I’ve added a new standard test case to my quiver: checking to make sure that December 31 works on leap years.

Last week, I encountered a date range with a maximum of one year; you enter a start date and an end date, and the two cannot be more than a year apart. January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009 passed. But that’s no longer enough. And sure enough, January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012 failed as being longer than a single year.

It could have gone undiscovered until late in 2011 when actual users began entering that range of dates. And it would have, if not for the legacy of Zune.

Maybe You Can Negotiate Up To $70,012 An Hour

Friday, January 23rd, 2009 by The Director

Ever wanted to commute to a QA job in your own Gulfstream? This Craigslist-found job opportunity is for you!

That compensation ain't market.
Click for full size

That’s a lot of extrinsic value, friends.


PM vs QA Epistemology: A Metaphor

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by The Director

This scene from Hot Shots! reminds me of many status meetings towards the end of projects:

Maybe I will title a book Project Managers Are From Washout, QA Is From Topper.

It’s Just Compensation

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 by The Director

Allow me to sum up the latest column in Inc. Magazine by Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software:

  1. Intern comes up with an idea that nets Fog Creek Software $1 million in 99 and 44/100% pure profit.
  2. Spolsky rewards intern by doing nothing but offering him a job.
  3. Intern goes to work somewhere else.

In it, Spolsky concludes that paying out good bonuses is bad practice, because people intrinsically want to do good work, and giving them an extrinsic motivation (reward) for doing extra, million dollars we found good, is a bad precedent.

Let me give you guys a little heads up about the intrinsic vs. extrinsic rewards and a little dash of compensation thoughts.


Low Hanging Fruit Just As Sweet

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 by The Director

Joe Strazzere sends an e-mail:

I happened to come across this site, saw the obvious bug, and thought of you.
Aren’t you honored?  😉

Check out:

Look at the rolling banner images at the top.  One ( is “missing”.

Perhaps they simply outsourced the testing?

Even though Mr. Strazzere often errantly favors poor sports teams, he’s right about this:

How do you say
Click for full size

Jeez, Joe, did you stop there?  Put your back into it!


In Soviet Russia, Internet Poll Tells You What You Think

Monday, January 19th, 2009 by The Director

James Lileks finds a banner ad with an interesting problem with its controls.

Perhaps this banner ad is particularly effective if it wants certain, erm, energized members of a political stripe to click through in outrage.  However, I doubt that was its intent.

Regardless of your political affiliation, we can surely agree that Yakov Smirnov‘s genius is sadly missed in the popular culture.

An Acronym Begging For Use In Meetings

Friday, January 16th, 2009 by The Director

CBA, short for can’t be arsed.

British readers know that this means can’t be bothered, and it’s unclear whether its use in a professional setting would raise eyebrows based on the inclusion of the word arse. However, there’s enough residual Anglophilia in America that you’ll not only get away with it, but score style points from those hipsters who prefer to watch an hour and a half of men kicking a little soccer ball in the middle of a field that’s a nautical mile long instead of honest, hardworking running behind the fullback and getting tackled.

Bonus style points if you can make it sound like an affirmative military-ish acronym or slang, like five by five, and use it as a response to a request in a meeting.

Project Manager: I need your team to do a comprehensive regression test on the whole Web site in the stage environment before lunch.

The Director: (nodding) CBA.

10,000 Testers Apparently 1 Short

Thursday, January 15th, 2009 by The Director

I see this all the time with my Windows Live!!!! account. The inbox menu item on the left has shows how many unread messages you have; through the use of the <title> attribute, this value will display when you mouse over the menu item, too.



Microsoft Sticks With What Works

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 by The Director

The first Blue Screens of Death have been spotted in Windows 7.

(Link seen on

Symantec’s Own Lingua GUI

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009 by The Director

Yeah, I know, it’s a bloated bit of processes bogging down my PC at all times, but I’ve got a brand loyalty to Norton products going back more than a decade.  He said, justifying finding the problem he notes below.

So it runs one of its automated update processes and pops this little monologue box up on the screen:

Symantec sez....

So I foolishly simply click the X at the corner of the dialog box designed to dismiss the dialog box; however, this is a monologue box.  Suddenly, all of my application windows start closing.  Symantex has chosen to rewrite a commonly understood piece of GUI standard behavior and has turned this close button to an Apply button.  I supposed if I’d lost some actual data instead of just a collection of tabs I’d opened in an Internet browser, I’d be a little more upset.

I’ve seen a pile of that sort of thinking in actual design, not just in stupid bugs.  Designers and developers build out a GUI where the moving parts don’t behave like other applications or Web sites.  They think it makes a nice little stamp of their individuality upon it, much like they think the Apple stickers on the back of their cars identify them as individual thinkers.  But in the case of building applications and sites useable by normal people, it falls flat.

Listen, guys, I could come into the next meeting spouting hipster beatnik slang straight out of a 1950s coffee shop, complete with bongos, and give a status report that will make me feel individual but won’t do any good to anyone else.  That’s what you’re doing when you do incomprehensible or unexpected things with controls or buttons.  You make the user feel foolish or worse make a mistake of varying cost.

So, for Pete’s sake, do it like everyone else is doing it.  And me, I’m going to continue giving my status reports in gritty 1990s urban slang.  For the authenticity.

Subtle Sign You’re Doing PointRoll Ads Wrong

Monday, January 12th, 2009 by The Director

Here’s a little indicator that you’re doing PointRoll ads wrong.  No, I won’t mention that this Sprint ad seems to roll out before the Hotmail inbox finishes loading:

The Sprint ad in question.
Click for full size

No, that’s now what really cheesed me off.


We’ve All Had This Meeting

Friday, January 9th, 2009 by The Director

The Daily WTF details a meeting wherein a security consultant encounters a group of developers and technical stakeholders who don’t mind problems in their application for the financial industry:

“All I had to do was modify the cookie and the lock file, and…”

“That’s stupid. Why would anyone ever do that?” His boss, Paul, shot a glare at him.

“I don’t know,” Jim said, “curiosity? Ignorance? Malice?”

“We can’t guard against malice.”

“We can’t guard against malice?!” Jim’s jaw dropped. Guarding against malice was the whole point, and the entire reason that the company existed. This would’ve been excusable if it came from a PHB, but this was a very experienced engineer.

“Guarding against malice is exactly what we’re here to do! If we’re not going to guard against malice, we might as well just put post-it notes on the data that say ‘Please Don’t Look.’”

A young developer scoffed. “You can’t put post-it notes on data!” Several people around the table exchanged smirks.

Jim exhaled deeply and could feel another wrinkle forming near his eye and another tuft of hair turning gray. “Look, this is what hackers do. They dig around and find all the loose threads and try to use those to exploit the system. If I’m capable of doing it, then certainly a professional hacker paid by a government or well-funded competitor can.”

“But if they wanted to get to the database, they’d just have to do ‘psql –d xxxxxx-db-name’ and they’re in. Like I said, we can’t protect against malice!”

Jim briefly wondered if he looked half as horrified as Mike did at that moment. “You… didn’t encrypt the database?!”


Our epilogue, unwritten in the linked piece, is that resultant failure is then QA’s fault.

Culture of Corruption, QA Edition

Friday, January 9th, 2009 by The Director

If you’re testing file uploading or attachment capabilities, don’t forget to try empty files and corrupt files to see if your application can handle them appropriately.

Here’s a handy tool called File Destructor that creates invalid files with different extensions of determined size that you can use when running your corrupt file tests.

It’s designed to create files you can send to teachers to support a “the computer ate my homework” excuse, but we in QA can subvert that, can’t we? We can subvert anything.

Turning Off “Flash Cookies”

Thursday, January 8th, 2009 by The Director

Have you heard of “Flash cookies”? Flash uses Shared Data Objects to perform functions similar to Web browser cookies.

This page on tells you more about how to work and test with them in Flash.

(Link seen on Chuzumatic.)

What Does My Golfing Ability Have To Do With My Insurance Rates?

Thursday, January 8th, 2009 by The Director

Nothing, actually, but this banner ad might lead me to the mistaken conclusion:

Assumes I par at all

Other sizes of this particular ad have the word park spelled correctly; however, the “designers” in this particular instance didn’t see that their text box was truncating a letter. Obviously, it would have not been cost effective for this particular company to have someone look at the freaking things before launching them in the wild, the margins being so low for these sorts of things.

Understanding Your Dev and Project Management Team

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 by The Director

Story in the New York Times: Some Protect the Ego by Working on Their Excuses Early:

Every ugly exam score, blown deadline and failed project provides the opportunity to try out new excuses. It was a blowup at home. A sick cat. An emergency at work.

Not to mention the roadways: if only they hadn’t been so icy.

This kind of talk is so familiar that most people quickly dismiss it, even when it comes out of their own mouth.

This is one reason that genuine excuse artisans — and there are millions of them — don’t wait until after choking to practice their craft. They hobble themselves, in earnest, before pursuing a goal or delivering a performance. Their excuses come preattached: I never went to class. I was hung over at the interview. I had no idea what the college application required.

You know, dev teams and companies I’ve worked with often have this sort of self-limitation built into them.  You get hours and hours ignoring good quality practices like tight specs, proper communication, reasonable timelines, and tolerable levels of testing, and then they make up that time with lessons learned meetings at the back end compiling useless rationalizations for one-time events and confluences of circumstances that caused this failure, this time.

Then they’ll do the same thing the next project.  Or the next company will only do as much as the last company, because the other companies seem to tread water with known issues in their products.

On the plus side, they all get paid for the self-defeating, and will get paid in their next, higher, positions of self-defeat.

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

The F:ail Directory

Monday, January 5th, 2009 by The Director

I shouldn’t fault a site that looks like it was designed in 1996, but the Web site of the PC Cowboys band does teach us a valuable lesson again:

That's the F:ail Directory, right?
Click for full size

Remember when you test your links, whether manually or using a link checker tool, that the link will work if your workstation can reach the file in question.  That might not be the case for the rest of us on the Internet.

Either test it from a machine not bound tightly to your development or staging environments, or use the reporting features of your automated link checker to search for local, dev, or stage environments.

Lesson Learned: Sometimes Leap Year Bugs Occur After February 29

Friday, January 2nd, 2009 by The Director

Microsoft Zunes have a problem not with February 29, but the 366th day of the year:

Microsoft has issued its official statement and an FAQ on the forums. After “the technical team jumped on the problem immediately,” there appears to be a bug in the 30GB Zune’s internal clock driver related to the way the device handles a leap year. Microsoft recommends allowing affected Zunes to run down their batteries, and come noon, GMT on January 1, 2009, it will be safe to plug in, restart, and once again rock out with the Zune.

Well, that leads to an interesting need for a test case, does it not? If your application works off of calendar days, you need to test February 29 in a leap year; if it does not, or you don’t know how it works, you should check what happens on December 31 in a leap year in case day 366 in a year causes an uh-oh.

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