Archive for the ‘work’ Category

The third option

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Jerry Weinberg’s rule of three came into play today.

I went to the kitchen at work to get a cup of coffee, but all the coffee pots were empty. So I set up the machine to brew more coffee, but I mistakenly pushed the “brew a half pot” button instead of the “brew a full pot” button. And I didn’t notice that fact until the coffee stopped flowing out of the machine and the pot was only half full.

Option 1: ignore it. Just pour a cup of coffee from the half-full pot, and remember next time to push the full pot button.

Option 2: start over. Pour the half-pot of coffee into the sink, toss the grounds, and start from scratch, which would result in a full pot of coffee sitting at the machine.

View from the New Office

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

Taking mass transit to work – check.

Smart co-workers and interesting challenges – check.

Nice view from my desk – check

looking east

looking south


Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Karen Johnson has a cool post about numbers she likes to use when testing. I’ve found bugs with “017″ (octal), “0×11″ (hex), and “999″.

Free Mac OSX Plotting Program

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

As a tester, I’ve always had a few data visualization tools in my toolbox. I’ve mostly used Microsoft Excel regular and pivot charts, and gnuplot. Now I’ve found a nice plotting program for my mac when I have some raw data I’d like to see in a chart.

I’ve been playing with Plot to display a chart of weights for our CCI puppies. I like it over gnuplot 4.0 + aquaterm because I figured out how to change line colors for each column of data, and it’s easier to zoom. Here’s the sample output (click on image to view full-size):


and the zoomed view:


I use a short script of Plot macrto commands to import the data from a flat text file and set the color options.


Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

From the “picture is worth a thousand words” school . . .

I created two screencasts to demonstrate how I updated the SHAPE forum while I was guest-moderator. I thought they might be useful to the next moderator, and I’ve wanted to try my hand at creating screencasts.

Here’s what I used on my mac:

I did a little bit of planning, rehearsal of some of the trickier bits, and I think the screencasts came out generally ok. I also think I’ll get better at them the more I do them.

But I’m much better at doing tasks like this if I have a real-world problem to solve.

So, does anyone want a particular screencast from me?


Thursday, December 28th, 2006

If a mentor demands Timidity (“Don’t question my advice”), Obedience (“You must do what I say”), and Respect (“You know I’m smarter than you”), then they are a TORmentor.

Cool test stuff from sayrer

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Take a look over at bug 357523 to see what Robert Sayre is doing with the MochiKit testing framework. He’s extended it to log results to stdout or a file, and quit the app when the tests are done, both of which are implicit really-nice-to-have’s for running in an automated manner.

Cool stuff! Thanks, Rob!

The tests themselves are very similar in structure to the jsunit based tests I wrote a while ago as proof-of-concept efforts, which is also cool in case we have to pick one harness over another. But having both options available right now is a win, in my opinion.

On an unrelated note, can anyone recommend a web forum package that supports moderated posts where the posts can be edited and re-ordered by the moderator?

Pacific Northwest Software Quality Conference – Trip Report

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

I’m sitting in the Portland, Oregon airport, laptop out, free wi-fi network joined, coffee at my side, waiting for my flight, and thinking about the great time I had attending PNSQC. This was their 24th year, and having attended once before (22nd?), I’m looking forward to attending the 25th anniversary session next year.

Monday night, I attended the kick-off dinner at Old Town Pizza, where I chatted a good long while with David Anderson and Jon Bach about lean, missions, stories, and kids. And I went on the tour of the “Shanghai Tunnels”.

Tuesday, I enjoyed Andy Hunt’s keynote/overview of learning styles, and one way to embark on professional development. And it made me wonder: how many tech folks who think about learning are married to health-care professionals?

I listened to the first half of Jean Tabaka’s talk on Lean, then headed on down to hear John Lambert from Microsoft talk about stuff testers can do when they are not writing or running test cases. It’s nice to hear someone else’s take on the stuff I’ve been doing for years, which is also stuff that the Mozilla testing community does almost naturally.

The Wacom guys I spoke with at lunch were very interested in how we at Mozilla handle configuration testing, which led nicely into my paper (slides to follow shortly) about how the project uses the feedback from the community. My presentation focused on three lessons I thought might apply to other contexts:

  • Make it easy to send in feedback
  • Make it easy to track what happens as a result of that feedback
  • Make it easy for new folks to find useful feedback to send in

After my talk, I caught the second half of Michael Bolton‘s talk on first-to-market and systems thinking. Then I ended up talking with Cem Kaner and Kathy Iberle for the remainder of the afternoon about open certification, testing large systems, and extremism.

That evening, while meandering through LLoyd Center to grab a bite to eat, I watched folks doing curling at the indoor rink.

Tuesday morning’s keynote by Karl Wiegers on software quality cosmic truths was predictable yet entertaining. I ended up chatting with Karen Johnson during the first block of talks, then caught Jon Bach’s talk on exploratory testing as a competative sport.

Jon is a passionate, compelling speaker on exploratory testing, and I’m glad he’s folding in the idea of stories and storytelling into his presentations. I’ve long believed that testers need to be good storytellers, and Jon pointed me at some promising references I will be following in the next few weeks.

The panel discussion at lunch was a bit of a disappointment, mostly because I could not see the faces of the rest of the folks in the room. The topics were ones I agree with

  • Most commercial certification of software testers is not worth much, except to the people running the certifications and charging for review courses
  • Many software testing techniques lauded as “current best practices” are 30 years old, designed to effectively test the kind of software that was developed 30 years ago, and actually hinder effective testing of the kind of software developed today

I chatted with a small group of folks after lunch, then went back to the hotel before going out to dinner with a MoCo QA member who lives in Portland.

All in all, I consider this a worthwhile trip.

Updates on the testing front

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

Axel Hecht posted in some good ideas about extension-based test harnesses. I especially like the logging to the console and registering a console listener idea. I hope someone, maybe even me, can work on these ideas soon.

dietrich and rsayre are working on porting places test cases to the xpcshell-simple test harness. See bug 354401. I heard they were discussing the philosophy of naming test functions, too.

waldo took the simple http server functionality that was embedded in the necko tests, fortified it, and packaged it to run as a stand-alone extension/component. He’s in the process of landing the changes in bug 342877. He packaged a spike of it for me to try with jsunit. It works fine, and I’m looking forward to seeing other cool uses of this server in testing.

rhelmer checked in a bunch of enhancements to the update checker script (see bug 346013). But he’s not done – more changes are coming to add additional automated verifications to the build process. This is really cool, since problems detected during that process are problems QA won’t trip over (forcing a respin and a restart of testing).

Thanks to some cribbing from config files created by bhearsum at seneca, I got buildbot running as a master on my MacBook Pro, and a buildslave running on WinXP (on Parallels, on my MBP) building firefox on trunk. AND running “make check” with log-file scanning to detect test failures. I’m planning to get jsunit, dbaron’s reftest, and some of the extension-based test harness stuff running as well.

Why buildbot? Well, I wanted to learn more about it. And I wanted to get something running without waiting on tinderbox machine config or tinderbox client code changes. And all I really want is to turn a tree orange if a test fails (which buildbot can do). And it’s shiny.

Beginnings of a simple xul-based test harness

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

A few weeks ago, I wrote a set of scripts to check the search engine plug-ins packaged with localised Firefox 2 builds. Last week, I got around to cleaning up the docs.

I used a number of lessons learned (recently documented here), including profile creation, cross-platform quit, and the super-secret unattended mac installation mechanism.

Fell free to try it out, or even better, look over the to-do list and work on one of the issues.