Cracked Steals My Tone

October 15th, 2013 by The Director

Cracked (I put the name in italics because it was a magazine in my day, sonny, and I fancy myself the IT world’s Sylvester P. Smythe) has a piece entitled 5 Reasons Tech Companies Make Bad Gadgets (An Inside Look) that you might want to read.

It’s not about software per se, but it looks awfully familiar.

Thoughts to Keep QA Up At Night

October 1st, 2013 by The Director

A quote commonly attributed to Napoleon says:

Rascality has limits; stupidity has not.

I’m testing this application as rascally as I can, but I am only one member of the team, and the users are infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters and hammers and stone tablets.

Am I being stupid enough? How can I be more stupid?

Somebody’s Mama Made The Never Happen

September 20th, 2013 by The Director

Long-named US woman celebrates government climb-down:

A US woman has won a battle to have her full name put on her driving licence.

Janice “Lokelani” Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele’s name is so long – containing 36 letters and 19 syllables – that it would not fit on the documentation.

What is the lesson here?

The obvious lesson, of course, is that you need to consider names other than Mike Smith when building your applications. Of course, we’re pretty much past that now given our more worldly software development culture (people who build and alter government computer systems not included, of course).

But you’ve got to test those long strings going into the system, and you’ve got to test those long strings coming out of the system.

If you’re displaying someone’s name, does the name lie over other design elements on the page or, urk, the mobile app? If it’s printing out somewhere, is there room on the page or in the PDF for it?

You’ll never know until you try. Your developers will never know until you try, either, because they won’t try it themselves.

(Link via Tweet.)

Think of the Test Cases

September 11th, 2013 by The Director

Apparently, there’s an Android game called Send Me To Heaven that… Well, I can’t explain it any better than:

S.M.T.H. (Send Me To Heaven) is a sport game. Player throws his phone as high as he can. The higher, the better. The phone registers the height and uploads result to leader boards. World Top 10, Week Top 10 and Day Top 10 lists are available.

That’s about the funniest thing I’ve read all week.

Apple, though, rejected it.

QA Music – Elevator Music

September 9th, 2013 by The Director

Five Finger Death Punch, “Lift Me Up”.

Language warning.

That Particular Never Happened

September 6th, 2013 by The Director

Motorcyclist survives lightning strike while riding on freeway:

A motorcyclist riding on Interstate 5 survived a lightning strike Thursday as a tumultuous day of weather saw thunderstorms and rain roll through Washington on both sides of the Cascade Mountains.

The biker was riding through Chehalis in western Washington when the lightning hit Thursday morning, Washington State Patrol Trooper William Finn said.

Remember, remote chances of a bad thing occurring are not the same as no chance, and you need to assess your risk accordingly. Individually, people have a very remote chance of winning the lottery, yet someone wins the lottery every couple of weeks.

Make sure when assessing your risk, calculate in the severity of the problem and the number of users mashing the keys in addition to the remoteness of the possibility of that happening.

QAers Gonna QA

September 3rd, 2013 by The Director

The first step on software testing appearing in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 6: a scientific-sounding name for the QA mindset: negative dispositional attitude:

New research has uncovered the reason why some people seem to dislike everything while others seem to like everything. Apparently, it’s all part of our individual personality — a dimension that researchers have coined “dispositional attitude.”

People with a positive dispositional attitude have a strong tendency to like things, whereas people with a negative dispositional attitude have a strong tendency to dislike things, according to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The journal article, “Attitudes without objects: Evidence for a dispositional attitude, its measurement, and its consequences,” was written by Justin Hepler, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Dolores Albarracín, Ph.D., the Martin Fishbein Chair of Communication and Professor of Psychology at Penn.

Realism is an illness.

QA Music : Thrift Shop

September 2nd, 2013 by The Director

I was alerted via Tweet about a software test engineer getting noticed for his pipes:

It took only 45 minutes to change Michael Wansley’s life. The Seattle-based singer, known by his stage name Wanz, has found himself at the top of the charts with his bass-heavy credit on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop,” which has now enjoyed two weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100.

. . . .

Now, the former software test engineer is taking a shot at solo stardom. Having toured the country with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis over the past few months and performed with them on “The Ellen Show,” Wanz is building his brand on social networking sites and recording a six-track EP that he hopes to release before he joins the pair on their Australian trek next month.

Here’s the song the article talks about, “Thrift Shop”. I think it’s about quality assurance budgets somehow.

Warning: Hip-hop language. Might not be safe for your workplace.

It’s Not A Geek Company, So You Didn’t Hear About The Problem

August 27th, 2013 by The Director

If this had happened to Amazon, Google, or another company geeks love, you would have heard about it already: Computer Problems Leave Goods Stranded at New York Port:

Computer problems at one of the East Coast’s biggest ports have snarled the flow of cargo across the Northeast for weeks, delaying the delivery of consumer goods needed for back-to-school sales and the start of the holiday shopping season.

The problems at the Port of New York and New Jersey began in June, when Maher Terminals LLC, one of the world’s largest handlers of shipping containers, launched a new computer operating system, according to shipping, trucking, retail-industry and government officials.

. . . .

Maher Terminals and the operating system’s maker, Navis LLC, a division of Finland-based Cargotec Corp., said in a joint news release last week that “real-time interactions between the various system components deployed in the container yard were not operating as designed.” As a temporary solution, certain automated components of the system were scaled back, the companies said. They didn’t reveal the source of the problems.

Rest assured, it worked on a developer’s machine.

Meanwhile, even though it did not impact geeks directly, this bug had huge impact all down the logistical downstream.

Blackjack, Baseball, Software, and Startups

August 9th, 2013 by The Director

An article entitled An Important Life Lesson from Blackjack and Baseball: You gain more by not being stupid than you do by being smart has this brief takeaway:

The moral: You gain more by not being stupid than you do by being smart. Smart gets neutralized by other smart people. Stupid does not.

The gist: In some competitions, you can lose on purpose, but you can only try to win on purpose, so making the smart moves won’t necessary lead you to success and winning. But making stupid moves can and will thwart you.

In software development or startups, it’s easy to fall into that bad habit of pursing something new, neat, or smart and forgetting to take care of the little things like user experience and bounding your edit boxes.

That’s where QA comes in: We’re trying to box out some of the stupid.

Next, They Come For Comic Sans

August 8th, 2013 by The Director

Firefox 23 nixes support for outdated blink HTML tag:

Mozilla announced on Tuesday that Firefox 23, the latest version of its browser, will not support the HTML tag blink.

I would tell you to enjoy it while you can, but it’s already gone, and you never noticed it.

I’ve always used the blink tag to test whether edit boxes appropriately strip HTML formatting because it was a nice, obvious way to see if that failed. Oh, well, I still have the h1 tag, I suppose.

UPDATE: This post was originally entitled Fortunately, It Still Works in IE 6 until someone pointed out it does not work in IE 6. Deep down I knew that, but I was too quick with the quippy headline. Thanks, Jen. I have updated the headline with an alternate quip.


August 6th, 2013 by The Director

Xerox scanners/photocopiers replacing 6s with 8s? In some cases, apparently so:

In this article I present in which way scanners / copiers of the Xerox WorkCentre Line randomly alter written numbers in pages that are scanned. This is not an OCR problem (as we switched off OCR on purpose), it is a lot worse – patches of the pixel data are randomly replaced in a very subtle and dangerous way: The scanned images look correct at first glance, even though numbers may actually be incorrect. Without a fuss, this may cause scenarios like:

  1. Incorrect invoices
  2. Construction plans with incorrect numbers (as will be shown later in the article) even though they look right
  3. Other incorrect construction plans, for example for bridges (danger of life may be the result!)
  4. Incorrect metering of medicine, even worse, I think.

Who knew you had to test your printed outputs? I did.

Vintage Defect: Moons Over My Halo

August 1st, 2013 by The Director

Back in 2007, a developer caused a delay in a very large software launch for an Easter egg or a prank:

Microsoft reps have told Next-Gen the real reason for the Halo 2 Vista delay: partial nudity–specifically someone’s backside in the game’s map editor, the Entertainment Software Rating Board added today.

. . . .

Friday morning, however, the ESRB e-mailed Next-Gen a statement that said a “photograph of an individual showing his bare backside” is accessible within Halo 2 Vista’s exclusive map editor tool. Apparently, it pops up when an “.ass” error occurs….

Hijinks that cost the company millions.

Moral of the story: Always check your software for .ass errors.

Wiener’s Laws of Aircraft Automation

July 31st, 2013 by The Director

Earl Wiener was a former military pilot who became professor of management science and industrial engineering at the University of Miami and conducted a lot of studies on how automation in the cockpit affects the pilots.

At some point, he put together a pithy list of things about automation and going more to fly-by-wire systems. These are known as Wiener’s Laws:

(Note: Nos. 1-16 intentionally left blank)

17. Every device creates its own opportunity for human error.

18. Exotic devices create exotic problems.

19. Digital devices tune out small errors while creating opportunities for large errors.

20. Complacency? Don’t worry about it.

21. In aviation, there is no problem so great or so complex that it cannot be blamed on the pilot.

22. There is no simple solution out there waiting to be discovered, so don’t waste your time searching for it.

23. Invention is the mother of necessity.

24. If at first you don’t succeed… try a new system or a different approach.

25. Some problems have no solution. If you encounter one of these, you can always convene a committee to revise some checklist.

26. In God we trust. Everything else must be brought into your scan.

27. It takes an airplane to bring out the worst in a pilot.

28. Any pilot who can be replaced by a computer should be.

29. Whenever you solve a problem you usually create one. You can only hope that the one you created is less critical than the one you eliminated.

30. You can never be too rich or too thin (Duchess of Windsor) or too careful what you put into a digital flight guidance system (Wiener).

31. Today’s nifty, voluntary system is tomorrow’s F.A.R. [Federal Aviation Regulation]

Because it’s got the word automation right in it, you’re probably looking at it in terms of test automation, but computer software itself is an automation of other processes, so the lessons therein apply more broadly.

You can read more about Wiener in this Aviation Week archive, and I’ll daresay we can learn a lot.

QA Music: Triggering Flashbacks, And Not In A Good Way

July 15th, 2013 by The Director

You damn kids think everything about the 1980s was the cool things you revel in calling retro. But this is not always so. The early parts of the eighties included pieces of the 1970s that grimly hung on. Like Discoification of everything.

Like this bit from Meco, “The Empire Strikes Back (Medley)”:

This particular effort reached #18 on the Billboard charts. Which is not as well as his rendition of “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band”. Which reached #1.

I hope I haven’t triggered too many flashbacks amongst you old timers.

Updating Your Tests Might Be A Bit Premature

July 12th, 2013 by The Director

Aussie restaurateur Paul Mathis invents new letter of the Alphabet:

WOULDN’T it be easier if the word “the” was just simply a letter?

Well at least one person seems to think so.

Aussie restaurateur, Paul Mathis has invented a new letter of the alphabet to replace the word “the” because he thinks it is more efficient.

The letter looks like the Cyrillic letter ‘Ћ’. If an upper case T and a lower case h were to have a typographic baby, this is what it would look like.

I’ll wait for the unicode character before I take this seriously.

But how would your app handle a new letter of the alphabet or a new glyph of some sort? How closely do you pay attention to these things?

Off By 180 Degrees Error

July 11th, 2013 by The Director

Gimlet passes along the news story "Chrysler recalling over 280k minivans because airbags may deploy on wrong side:

Chrysler has issued a recall for some 2013 Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan and Ram C/V Tradesman vans built between May 10, 2012 and June 7, 2013. These vehicles may have a software error that would cause the wrong side (opposite side) airbags to deploy in a crash. With this defect, a left-side impact would cause the right-side airbag to deploy, etc.

You know, I have a lot of respect for embedded systems testers. You and I got to worry about browser and device compatibility, but we get to try these things in a number of real-world situations given that our ‘real world’ is the Web and computer systems.

When you’re testing out the embedded systems, it’s mostly testing tools and simulations. It’s not like those guys get to pop off the airbags in cars a hundred times a day and sometimes more when they’re trying to recreate an issue. Poor lads.

I Guess You Can Remove One Item From Your Compatibility Testing Matrix

July 10th, 2013 by The Director

WebTV, now MSNTV, is going away, and not just in a press release:

Microsoft said that its MSN TV service will be closing down at the end of September, in a post on its Web site and in an email to users.

It’s not that anyone was testing compatibility of Web sites any more for it, but its users were still calling the help desks of consumer products companies whose Web sites did not support their preferred browsing method.

But before you cheer too loudly, consider how many of these people will be upgrading to recycled and donated PCs running Windows Me and IE 6. The answer will be…. more than you’d like to think.

(Link via.)

What QA Decants

July 9th, 2013 by The Director

Six Sigma Wine.

No, really. I mean, no, really, it exists. But, personally speaking, I don’t so much decant as debox.

QA Music: Everybody Knows

July 8th, 2013 by The Director

Leonard Cohen, “Everybody Knows”, featuring scenes from the film Pump Up The Volume (although the version on the soundtrack is a cover by Concrete Blonde):

One might suspect the film influenced your humble Director a lot as a young man. And one might be right.