jenk: Faye (FayeAtComputer)
The code is checked into the server tonight
Not a tester to be seen.
The program is ready to release
And it looks like the build is clean
The PO’s howling that we must deliver on time
Didn’t test at all, but it’s not a crime.

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the Dev team you always have to be
Quality, no please, testing is slow
Well now we know.

Let it go, let it go, testing is a chore )


jenk: Faye (Default)
I was in Windows tech support on the day that some random asshole computer consultant got on the radio in New York and claimed that "NYC" in Wingdings was a Super Secret Special Anti-Semitic Message that Microsoft wants all New York Jews to be killed. Yeah....

I got called a liar on the first call because I hadn't even heard about it (obviously I was supposed to be listening to a particular New York radio station at work, in my cubicle in Bellevue, Washington, in 1992) and I didn't immediately admit my membership in the KKK. By the second call I'd been forwarded the MS press release denying it, so I read the official quotes from Brad Silverberg ... and was called a liar because obviously that name was "so Jewish" it couldn't be someone's real name much less a Microsoft Vice President. *headdesk*

I was also on the Windows 95 team when it had to pull the click-on-your-time-zone feature because of geopolitical issues.

So I guess you could say I'm a bit predisposed to consider Amazon might actually be dealing with an poorly-written algorithm or misrepresented "adult list" data-import or other sort of actual glitch, to realize that tech support isn't always the first people to be notified about anything (and in fact is often suffering from the corporate telephone game), and not expect a full accounting on a Sunday.

Update: No press release yet, but the PI quotes an Amazon spokesman:
This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.
Of course, as Kate Harding notes on Broadsheet:
[I]t's still not a real apology to all the authors and publishers affected, or the customers who had pretty good reason to wonder if Amazon had indeed instated a homophobic and misogynistic corporate policy, but "ham-fisted and embarrassing" is a surprisingly honest and accurate start.
I also note Women En Large is still unranked. And Essential Dykes is down to #2 in Lesbian Studies! oh noes!!

PM quotes

Mar. 26th, 2009 10:37 am
jenk: Faye (GeekGirl)
So I'm reading a book on project management by Scott Berkun.

"All successful projects are simply a long series of adversities that must be overcome. Far from it being unusal to face adversity, it is normal, and our business it to overcome it."
William A. Cohen

Scott then has a rough guide of how to address problems:

  1. Calm down. "Nothing makes a situation worse than basing your actions on fear, anger, or frustration ... Rule of thumb: the less aware you are of your feelings, the more vulnerable you are to them influencing you."
  2. Evaluate the problem in relation to the project (how bad is it really?)
  3. Calm down again. ("Now that you know something about the problem, you might really get upset")
  4. Get the right people in the room.
  5. Explore alternatives.
  6. Make the simplest plan.
  7. Execute - make it happen.
  8. Debrief - what are the lessons learned?
This is directed at software project managers, but it can be used by anyone who's working to solve problems. ;)
jenk: Faye (Kim)
(This is mostly for folks who are worried about browser compatibility.)

Microsoft has updated the test IE 8 virtual hard drive (VHD) for IE 8 beta 2. Using the VHD and Microsoft's free Virtual PC app lets you create a sandbox to play with IE 8 beta 2.

This site has VHD downloads for IE 6 on XP, IE 7 on Vista and XP, and IE 8 on XP:

The VHDs are "temporary", but so far they've been putting new ones up as the old ones expire.
jenk: Faye (Default)
[ profile] hollyqueen passed on this year's college freshman list.

The one that caught my eye? Windows 3.0 was released the year most of them were born.


Aug. 4th, 2008 10:05 pm
jenk: Faye (Default)
  • 13:35 SQL ... you don't forget how to use it, you just get sloppy on grammar.
  • 18:25 Cricket is a game with impenetrable rules and played solely for the purpose of confirming that Brits are superior to the rest of the world.
  • 18:26 Or so writes Bishop Robinson, in
  • 18:27 He also quotes Richard Harries, retired Bishop of Oxford: "Diversity is God's gift to us; division is what we've made of it."

Automatically copied from via LoudTwitter cause it's easy :)
jenk: Faye (FayeAtComputer)
Joel on Software posted this a while ago, I just stumbled on it today via Raymond. Joel details quite a few reasons for why the 97-03 formats are complicated and how to avoid having to read/write them directly. But I1 thought this quote was particularly telling:

Every checkbox, every formatting option, and every feature in Microsoft Office has to be represented in file formats somewhere. That checkbox in Word’s paragraph menu called “Keep With Next” that causes a paragraph to be moved to the next page if necessary so that it’s on the same page as the paragraph after it? That has to be in the file format. [...]

A lot of the complexities in these file formats reflect features that are old, complicated, unloved, and rarely used. They’re still in the file format for backwards compatibility, and because it doesn’t cost anything for Microsoft to leave the code around. But if you really want to do a thorough and complete job of parsing and writing these file formats, you have to redo all that work that some intern did at Microsoft 15 years ago. The bottom line is that there are thousands of developer years of work that went into the current versions of Word and Excel [...] A file format is just a concise summary of all the features an application supports.

Now, I'm not used to thinking about the .doc and .xls files in those exact terms m'self. Most of the apps I work on these days are a lot smaller and have a lot less code than Word or Excel. And yet, every one has some field or feature that isn't used much now, but is around (if only so the app will work if you pull up the older records that used it) and they do tend to trip up devs who are trying to maintain the app. Especially new devs who don't know it's even there! (Smart testers will, of course, feature these things on the regression test. ;)

Backward compatibility headaches are everywhere in software. The longer your app has been around and the more users it has, the more headaches you have.

1Speaking as someone who did not work on Office but did work on such backward-compatible concerns as DOS and Windows. I did work with the Office 97 team during IE 5, which enabled me to learn how different the Office team processes/methods were from the IE team (and from the Windows team of which IE was a part).


Jun. 18th, 2008 10:00 pm
jenk: Faye (Default)
TG Daily: Computer virus loaded state worker’s laptop with porn.

PC Mag put it more bluntly: Guy Gets Fired and Ruined for Having Virus On His Notebook.

How did this happen? Massachusetts employee Michael Fiola was issued a laptop by his department's IT group in November 2006,
but apparently it wasn’t properly configured for the agency’s server-based software and security maintenance. Plus, the Symantec Corporate Edition antivirus software on the laptop was never operating correctly while Fiola used the machine.

“For three-and-a-half months, IT never once communicated with that laptop, so it had nothing to monitor or maintain it,” says Tami Loehrs, the forensic expert who investigated Fiola’s laptop and concluded that there was no evidence he had engaged in the activity nor knew the files were on his machine. [...]

There were no signs of Fiola himself actually typing in a URL to one of the sites or directing his browser there. Instead, the malware on his machine as well as a possible remote attacker were doing the dirty work and storing cached images of child porn, according to Loehrs. Another indication of Fiola’s innocence, according to Loehrs, was that there were no files actually stored on his computer, which true child porn criminals typically do. “All of the files were cached in his temporary Internet files” in his browser, she says. “We would log into his work Website... and things would appear on his temporary Internet cache.” - Dark Reading
The problem was discovered when IT noticed that Fiola's laptop was using four times as much bandwidth as his coworkers. Did they check for malware? Did they find the viruses? No. But they found porn (including child porn) in the browser cache.

Did management investigate how the porn got on the machine? No. They fired Fiola in March 2007 and called the cops. The police's initial examination of the laptop confirmed the porn and charges were filed in August 2007. Fiola's wife and immediate family did stand by him. The Fiolas hired Loehrs to do a month-long independent forensic examination, and two forensic examinations conducted by the state Attorney General’s Office for the prosecution concurred with her that malware was at fault, not Michael Fiola. Charges were dropped recently.

In the meantime, the Fiolas have been ostracized, and are planning to sue his former employer - a state agency. Not that I blame them; he was fired for IT's incompetence and effectively framed for child porn, even if it was (I assume) unintentionally.

And I wonder: The IT folks who didn't notice the viruses and Trojans, or that the antivirus software wasn't running properly or that the laptop wasn't getting updated: How are they feeling? Did it ever occur to them that the porn might be related to their (in)actions? What happens when user support fails the user? And how did our society get so freaked that being a malware victim can result in criminal charges?
jenk: Faye (Testers)
  • 16:43 Downloading yet another IE 6 VHD. Bonus: IE 8 beta VHD.
  • 16:52 Fyi - IE VHDs -

Automatically copied from via LoudTwitter cause it's easy :)
jenk: Faye (daria esteem)
Faulty character set for text messaging results in misunderstanding which results in assault and death.

Because of course if an insult is on a computer / cellphone screen, it must have been deliberately sent and cannot have been a bug or typo. And of course an insult cannot be mended with an apology.

There are days when I really do not understand humans.
jenk: Faye (Testers) that often the metrics aren't what you really wanted. In tech support, "shorter calls" were a big metric. Shorter calls meant more customers were served and problems were solved more efficiently, right? Right?

Some calls, yes. Perhaps even the 50% or 80% most common calls. But not the less common calls. Not the troublesome calls. Those took longer, and one 1/2 hour call would screw up your stats for the day.

"Of course you should take the time to do the job right, just not more time than necessary," management would chirp. And yet the rewards went to those who did the job quickly - and not necessarily well. Since people repeat the behavior that gets rewards, this led to less service.

In testing, focusing on bug counts can be a similar problem1. My first test lead didn't look at how many bugs were reported by each individual on his team. Instead, he read every bug reported by his team. He found it was very clear who was breaking bugs into tiny little bits so's to inflate bug counts (often a habit acquired elsewhere), who was sloppy in figuring out repros, who was noticing that two different symptoms had a common cause and reporting it as such, who was mostly finding bugs in areas other than their own (which if a conversation determined their area just didn't have many bugs to find could be a good thing) and so on.

Of course, it was expected that a test lead would read and know all the bugs for the areas covered by his team. And my first test lead did so. Among other things, this made him aware of what was being reported by those not assigned to test the area. (Often these were bugs on areas that weren't officially released for testing yet and such. But sometimes it was a clue that tests needed revising.)

Sometimes the focus on bug count goes beyond using it as a measure of tester productivity. The Defect Black Market relates just one example. This Dilbert shows a slightly less, er, subtle approach.

1The problems with using bug counts as a measure of tester productivity are discussed in-depth in Testing Computer Software by Kaner et al.
jenk: Faye (daria esteem)
Oklahoma sex offender registry exposes and executes SQL statements in the URL, enabling downloads of social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, et cetera. Who knows, maybe their site executed INSERT statements too.

Nobody accessing sensitive government databases should assume that users don't know SQL. And yet.
jenk: Faye (GeekGirl)
...from The Wall Street Journal:
Talk to your information-technology department before you post naked pictures of Lindsay Lohan on your business’s Web site. The latest reminder of this ironclad rule comes from New York Magazine, which posted photographs of the 21-year-old actress recreating one of Marilyn Monroe’s more scandalous shoots on its site yesterday. (Sorry fellas, the link is to an article.) The site, which was promptly overwhelmed by art-photography fans, ground to a halt. It’s a classic Internet-age problem: The marketing department has some promotion that is bound to drive traffic to a site, but never bothers to tell IT. So the site crashes. In a testament to human nature, these incidents often involve scantily-clad women, such as the famous Victoria Secret online fashion show that nearly brought down the Internet in 1999.
I've been on both sides of that equation - both times involving that little low-traffic domain called ;)
jenk: Faye (GeekGirl)
Giving this a try ;) I may be pleasantly surprised that I'm not the only one on my flist who's done some of these.
  1. Been handed a bottle of nitroglycerin while student driving.
  2. Changed from "drag king" to femme in a classroom without anyone noticing.
  3. Read programming textbooks to a room full of smalls as a "naptime story".
  4. Rebuilt DOS boot sectors and partition tables over the phone using debug.
  5. Found and fixed a bug in CHKDSK.
  6. Written a device driver to test another device driver's initialization routine.
  7. Written code for the Windows 95 Plus! Setup program.
  8. Purchased front-row Springsteen tickets in a charity auction.
  9. Led documentation for a Windows Service pack.
  10. Purchased original Dykes To Watch Out For art from Alison Bechdel.
I'm surprised there's that many msft memories on that, given all the current & former msfties on my flist (particularly [ profile] stealthcello :)
jenk: Faye (GeekGirl)
I haven't run the Windows debugger (or the Windows debug kernel) since I quit being paid to do so in 1999. But when I did, I made use of crib notes created by Raymond Chen, a Windows dev who also opened a wide variety if interesting and useful bugs.

A few days ago, Raymond reviewed the book Advanced Windows Debugging, stating that "Even the section with the "Oh come on every moron knows this already" title Basic Debugger Tasks has stuff that I didn't know."


So if you're doing Windows programming and stepping through the code in the IDE isn't enough to figure out what's going on ... if you're dealing with, say, a deadlock or heap corruption ... this might be the book for you. :)
jenk: Faye (GeekGirl)
Seattle Weekly article on the day labor side of testing, games testing in particular. Reading the article, it's not clear if the writer thought this was a "slice-of-life" article or an exposé.

As exposés go, well, maybe I'm jaded. Sure, it's not a job I would want. On the other hand, it sounds better than other jobs I've had. In the late 80s, I got $6/hr for kid wrangling at a non-profit. According to the BLS, low-level child care a median wage of $8.25/hr now, comparable with the low-level games testing discussed in the Weekly.

Duties? I would keep 10 preschoolers engaged and safe. I also tied 8 or 9 pairs of shoes at a time; cleaned kids (with wipes) and cots (with Lysol) after "napping accidents"; made lunch or snack for 100; cleaned tables, chairs, and the floor after 100 kids had lunch; held a screaming kid under the sink while washing sand out of his eyes (had bruises for a week after that one); carried upset or sick kids; read out loud a lot; organized; cleaned; turned jump ropes; et cetera.

And, of course, there's also the bit about how screwing up as a games tester means a support call, maybe a recall, or being fired. In a day care, negligence can cause a child's death.

Not that child care is the worst job in the world, either. Yes, you deal with bodily fluids (and yes, waste solids) fairly regularly, but they are pretty well contained. Working in a center meant I had other adults for comradarie and assistance. As jobs go, it was steady, had flexible scheduling, and included vacation, sick time, and health insurance.

But I can't help wondering if an article on how day care isn't all hugs around the knees and experiencing wonder through the eyes of children might be a nice companion piece to the one on how low-level games testing isn't the happiest job on earth.
jenk: Faye (GeekGirl)
This ridiculous esoteric programming language was designed as an unpronounceable satire of FOTRAN and COBOL (yes, it's old). Everything about the language is absurd. From the form of the manual, which contains a "tonsil," as explained in this footnote:

"4) Since all other reference manuals have Appendices, it was decided that the INTERCAL manual should contain some other type of removable organ."

The language also uses modifiers such as "PLEASE," which if not used frequently enough is rejected by the compiler as insufficiently polite, and if used too much is rejected for being excessively polite. More frustrating still, was the fact that despite the existence of this feature, it was undocumented in the manual.

As a practical language, INTERCAL is Turing-complete, meaning it actually works. But if you're planning on actually trying to use INTERCAL you should first check your sanity, and you should be prepared to wait a long time. A Sieve of Eratosthenes benchmark, computing all prime numbers less than 65536, was tested on a Sun SPARCStation-1. In C, it took less than half a second; the same program in INTERCAL took more than 17 hours.
- from Ghosts in the Machine: 12 Coding Languages That Never Took Off
jenk: Faye (GeekGirl)
"A busy CPU is a happy CPU. Leave it running [pseudorandom tests] all weekend, it'll be happy to see you Monday." - Harry Robinson from Google, talking on "The Bionic Tester"

"I am certified to practice law. This means I can be sued for malpractice. I like this." - Cem Kaner

I start posts on this and then get busy and abandon them. A few folks who have posted are here.


jenk: Faye (Default)

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