Monthly Testing Newsletter -- December 1999

Software Development Process (requirements, project management, methodology, etc.)

Article: How to Avoid Use-Case Pitfalls

Whether your system boundaries are blurred or you've tangled your use cases in user-interface screens, you'll soon find that the first time you model it's easy to fall into some fairly predictable problem areas. Luckily for you, it's also easy enough to avoid them.

Site: The ACME Project: Assembling Configuration Management Environments

Web site with lots of information (and links to other sites) about software configuration management (SCM).

Site: The Data Warehousing Information Center

Site has extensive and very useful information about data warehousing concepts, development, and testing.

Article: The Matrix: A practical method for planning a data warehouse

Over the years, I have found that a matrix depiction of the data warehouse plan is a pretty good planning tool once you have gathered the business requirements and performed a full data audit. This matrix approach has been exceptionally effective for distributed data warehouses without a center. Most of the new Web-oriented, multiple organization warehouses we are trying to build these days have no center, so it is even more urgent that we find a way to plan these beasts.

Article: Data Warehouses, Ad Hoc Query Tools And Other Ways To Destroy Your Company

Data warehouses are threatening to become the most overrated hype in the history of the computer industry. Not since the failed promises of the CASE tools of the 80's have we seen so many products and so many experts leap into a field with so few skills, so little training and so little expertise.

Software Testing & Quality

Editorial: Demands of e-business pressure IT to cut quality in moving software to market

In my last column, I mentioned the two key elements needed to succeed in electronic business: tight data integration and merging traditional and online customer service organizations... But there is a third area, software quality, that also should have a place high on your priority list.

Article (vendor whitepaper): Quality on Time

How is it that a group of talented, highly motivated, hard working software engineers consistently produce low-quality software, late? It is the author's view that schedule management and quality management go hand in hand. This paper discusses the notion that schedules are probability distributions, and presents several, practical quality and schedule management techniques.

Editorial: On Component Strategies: Quality

Quality is a word that gets a lot of attention. Everyone wants it in their work. Al Reis, in his 1996 book Focus, stated that a survey showed that "80 percent of U.S. managers thought that quality would be a fundamental source of competitive advantage in the year 2000."

ADT Magazine Editorial on Quality 121999

Article: Classic Testing Mistakes (Brian Marick)

It's easy to make mistakes when testing software or planning a testing effort. Some mistakes are made so often, so repeatedly, by so many different people, that they deserve the label Classic Mistake.

Article: Web apps have unique testing requirements

Although specifically focused on testing web-based applications, this article has some good principles related to testing any application which frequently changes/evolves.

Article: The Impossibility of Complete Testing

Practical perspective on why it's not possible to "completely" test an application. Not necessarily directly useful, but it points out some interesting concepts for consideration when preparing test cases and deciding how to go about testing something as thoroughly as possible with limited resources.

Editorial: What price quality?

Corporate it executives today face ever-increasing demands to show a return on information technology. In cost-benefit analysis, however, the cost of quality is seldom considered. But this is changing as the cost of quality (CoQ) principles applied routinely and effectively in manufacturing emerge as important factors in the application value equation.

Article (Humor, kinda): Careless Code Recycling Causes Killer Kangas

I don't know about the validity of this, but it is a great software development story.


Mutant Marsupials Take Up Arms Against Australian Air Force

The reuse of some object-oriented code has caused tactical headaches for Australia's armed forces. As virtual reality simulators assume larger roles in helicopter combat training, programmers have gone to great lengths to increase the realism of their scenarios, including detailed landscapes and - in the case of the Northern Territory's Operation Phoenix- herds of kangaroos (since disturbed animals might well give away a helicopter's position).

The head of the Defense Science & Technology Organization's Land Operations/Simulation division reportedly instructed developers to model the local marsupials' movements and reactions to helicopters. Being efficient programmers, they just re-appropriated some code originally used to model infantry detachment reactions under the same stimuli, changed the mapped icon from a soldier to a kangaroo, and increased the figures' speed of movement.

Eager to demonstrate their flying skills for some visiting American pilots, the hotshot Aussies "buzzed" the virtual kangaroos in low flight during a simulation. The kangaroos scattered, as predicted, and the visiting Americans nodded appreciatively... then did a double-take as the kangaroos reappeared from behind a hill and launched a barrage of Stinger missiles at the hapless helicopter. Apparently, the programmers had forgotten to remove that part of the infantry coding.

The lesson? Objects are defined with certain attributes, and any new object defined in terms of an old one inherits all the attributes. The embarrassed programmers had learned to be careful when reusing object-oriented code, and the Yanks left with a newfound respect for Australian wildlife. Simulator supervisors report that pilots from that point onward have strictly avoided kangaroos, just as they were meant to.

-- From June 15, 1999 Defense Science and Technology Organization Lecture Series, Melbourne, Australia, and staff reports

Site: Microsoft DLL Help Database

Microsoft has a database of the various versions of the common/shared DLLs that are shipped with their products. The database is searchable by DLL file name or product and it provides a list of the products which distributed a particular version. This may be a useful resource for resolving those frequent DLL conflicts (a.k.a, "DLL Hell").


Tutorial: What is SS7?

Tutorial: Series on Windows Scripting Host

The Windows Scripting Host (WSH) is scripting environment that can be used to automate tasks within Windows using JScript or VBScript languages. It is actually even useful as a basic automated testing environment for simple repetitive tasks. It's built in to Windows NT 4.0 and is available as an add-on to Windows 95 ( Windows NT Systems magazine has been running a series of articles on some very practical uses for WSH.

Career Development/Miscellaneous

Article: Use clear writing to show you mean business

TO BE EFFECTIVE, IT professionals have to communicate technical information to people who aren't as immersed in technology as they are. Much of this communication is written, in the form of e-mail messages or memos.

Site: Institute for Business, Technology & Ethics

Non-profit web site with information about ethics in business and technology industries. Has bi-monthly newsletter online with editorials and articles about ethical issues. Topics mesh very well with Williams' Core Values and Beliefs.

Article: Before you send e-mail, think of the reader

FOR IT PROFESSIONALS at all levels, communicating effectively via e-mail can be a challenge. Some messages go to other technical staff members; others go to non-technical users. And it is all too easy to fire off an e-mail message in anger or to convey the wrong impression based on the words you use or omit.

Telecommunications Industry

Article: Beyond the Information Revolution

Article by Peter Drucker from the Atlantic Monthly.

The Industrial Revolution altered our mental maps, gave rise to industries that could not have been predicted, and created a new class of technological workers whom wise societies took pains to nurture. Are we about to go through this process again? A renowned social analyst and management philosopher looks to history for insights.

Article: Next-Generation Network Voice Services

The success of next-generation networks depends on their ability to deliver new enhanced services. Chief among these is voice that is carried on IP data networks. IP is simply more economical and flexible than delivering these services over the current PSTN.

Useful Utilities

Printkey 2000 (free!)

Very useful utility for doing screen captures. Allows you the save your screen capture in a variety of formats (GIF, JPG, BMP, etc.), to change the color depth (to minimize file size when e-mailing a screen capture), print the capture directly to the printer, or save just a portion of the capture.

EditPad (free!)

Excellent replacement for Notepad with great features such as minimizing to the system tray so it's easily accessible, tabbed interface to allow more than one file at a time to be edited, selectable screen and printer font, printing header information, such as file name, and it's all in one simple executable file with no install program!

TClockEx (free!)

A fully configurable replacement for the system tray clock in Windows 9x/NT. It allows you to change the time display format (including seconds!), font, background, and even display the time and date. It even has CPU and memory load graphs, ability to copy the current date and time to the clipboard, and a popup monthly calendar.

Registrar Lite (free!)

Super replacement for Windows 9x/NT registry editor (RegEdit). Some great features include cut, copy, and paste just like Explorer, background search and replace, and bookmarking for frequently visited keys/values.

sDesk (free!)

Nice virtual desktop utility with capability to define as many desktops as you want and to move windows easily from one desktop to another. The taskbar still shows all open windows regardless of desktop. The desktop manager autohides so that it's easily accessible, but not in the way of your work.

Productivity Tips

Use Windows File Manager in Windows NT.

Windows NT (but not 9x) File Manager (WINFILE.EXE) supports long file names. It's very handy to use File Manager instead of Windows Explorer when you need to copy (or move) files between different drives/directories because it allows you to have multiple windows open without having to move Explorer windows around.

Quickly search for a forwarded message or reply in Outlook.

If you have a message in your Inbox that you have forwarded or replied to, you can quickly search for the forward or reply by double-clicking on the "Information" bar (that reads "You forwarded this message on..."). Outlook will launch the Advanced Find window and search for messages with the same Subject in the Inbox and Sent Items folder.

Don't display desktop in Windows NT until logon script has completed.

If you use Windows NT, it is somewhat annoying when the desktop appears before the network logon script has completed and the network drives have been mapped. To prevent NT from displaying the desktop until the logon script has finished (as in Windows 9x), edit the registry and add (or edit) a new DWORD value named RunLogonScriptSync in HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Window NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon. Use the following settings:

0 = Don't wait for the logon script to complete before loading the desktop.

1 = Wait for the logon script to complete before loading the desktop.

Tim Jones