Microsoft due to end Vista support on 11th April 2017

For the half-a-dozen people still using Windows Vista (for the love of all things good about computers, why?) I would like to draw your attention to CNET’s advisory that Microsoft will be ending support for Windows Vista on 11th April 2017.

Geekonomicon would like to apologise for any inadvertent flashbacks this image may cause.

Windows Vista – the logo was the only decent thing about it.

 

If you’re still running Windows Vista then, Microsoft will no longer support it. In practical terms, this means you will get:

  • no more security updates.
  • no more non-security hotfixes.
  • no assisted support options (free or paid).
  • no more online technical updates from Microsoft. The fiends.

For the hard of thinking, I’d like to point out that if you’re still using Windows Vista, it sucks to be you regardless. Every single day.

On the upside, I have even less reason to test on that particular platform anymore.  🙂

 

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Context-Driven Testing

People wonder what context-driven testing is, so I figured I’d liberate the text directly from the Context-Driven Testing website and lay it out below followed by a little contextual commentary from yours truly:

The Seven Basic Principles of the Context-Driven School

  1. The value of any practice depends on its context.
  2. There are good practices in context, but there are no best practices.
  3. People, working together, are the most important part of any project’s context.
  4. Projects unfold over time in ways that are often not predictable.
  5. The product is a solution. If the problem isn’t solved, the product doesn’t work.
  6. Good software testing is a challenging intellectual process.
  7. Only through judgment and skill, exercised cooperatively throughout the entire project, are we able to do the right things at the right times to effectively test our products.

I am of the firm opinion that there are no magic bullets.  “Best practise” in one case is not best practice in another, in much the same way as there no universal Truths or “One Truth Way™”.

Even though I am an introvert, I enjoy working in teams with fellow focused, often geeky individuals who also enjoy their job as much as I do. Anyone who has worked on even one IT project of any description (or watched one from the sidelines) will know that unpredictability is a common hallmark of them.

Coming from a science background I’m all for asking questions, seeking answers, drawing conclusions, testing them out and challenging myself and others. If you don’t find software testing to be an intellectual process you’re probably Doing It Wrong™.

Judgement, skill, careful thought and effort are all part and parcel of the process of shedding blood, sweat and tears that make up life in general, work in particular and testing quite specifically.

Who can test my site?

The above question appeared on Quora, a question-and-answer site that I’ve come to love over the last few months. Now given that I love testing stuff, I couldn’t possibly pass this one by, so here is my answer, reproduced below for posterity. I’ve tweaked it a little bit here and there, but it’s essentially the same answer.

 

cropped-the-coder1.jpg

Short answer: Me! I’ve worked as a Software Tester for years, mostly on websites, web applications and the occasional mobile app.

Longer answer: Define “test”.

My own definition is that:

“Testing is a process to gather as much useful information as possible for the stakeholders.”

So, by asking me to “test your site” do you want to know:

  • That it functions as intended?
  • Everything that it can do? (This is not necessarily the same as the above)
  • That it is usable?
  • That it is accessible to those with disabilities, be they mental, physical or both?
  • That it works equally well across different web browsers? (Some handle JavaScript better than others, HTML5 is less of an issue now.)
  • That it is equally usable across different web browsers?
  • That it looks the same across different web browsers?
  • That it functions well and looks good on a range of different mobile devices?
  • That any APIs in use function as they are supposed to?
  • That any information gathered, stored or transferred is secure and complies with relevant data security and privacy legislation (such as the Data Protection Act)?
  • That any databases connected to the site are secure, well designed and appropriately normalised?
  • That Cookies are delivered to users and behave as expected and intended?
  • That the site performs any functions quickly enough?
  • That the site can withstand increased loads of traffic? Incremented slowly up, spiked, or sustained loads?
  • That failover systems work correctly?
  • That data backups are being performed properly?
  • That the disaster recovery plan is effective and up-to-date?

All of the above will provide useful information, although some will be more useful than others.  All of those questions will involve testing the system but they will require a vast array of different methods, tools, techniques and skill sets. If you want Security Testing or Penetration Testing done, I’ll introduce you to a man I know who will do the job far, far better than I can. Likewise Accessibility Testing.

If you want your website tested for functionality, browser compatibility and to determine not just what it should do but what it can do than I can offer you my services as an experienced Exploratory Tester who uses context-sensitive testing methods to do the most testing with the least exterraneous processes and documentation, so you get the biggest bang for your buck.

State of Testing survey

A shiny new State of Testing survey is now running on Joel Montvelisky’s excellent QA Intelligence blog; I must confess I’d not actually read any of it until recently, but I’ve skimmed through a couple of several articles and it is now officially on my “to-read” list of blogs and articles related to QA and Software Testing.   The survey itself is a collaboration between the guys at Tea Time With Testers (a monthly e-magazine also well worth reading) and QA Intelligence.

I’ll be extremely interested to see the results of this survey, but that hopeful statement comes with a caveat.  Survey results are only as good as the final data set.  The more Testers and QAs who answer this survey honestly from more countries and companies of all shapes and sizes, the better a picture those crunching the numbers will be able to provide.  So, if you work as a  Software Tester/QA/Grand High Poo-Bah of Bugs[1] then please do fill this out.  Admittedly, there are issues around a self-selecting survey sample, but I’m assuming that whoever ends up doing the data analysis and commenting on the survey results will be taking that factor – amongst many others – into account.

If you want to help make the survey a success, do take heed of the suggestions already made by Joel, which can be summed up as blog about it, mention it to all of your tester friends and colleagues and generally plug it all over whatever flavours of social media take your fancy.

In a similar vein, Cole Henley has been running a survey for the last three years with a focus on Developers rather than testers, focusing on freelancer rates.  An excellent breakdown and analysis of the 2012 results are on Cole’s blog here.   The results on the 2013 survey are on the Mud Blog, which covers how freelancers work as well as how they charge what their rates are.  I hope that the State of Testing survey will be as thorough in its approach.

The State of Testing survey can be taken right here.

[1] Delete as applicable.

Ada Lovelace Day and Women in Testing

“Society as a whole benefits immeasurably from a climate in which all persons, regardless of race or gender, may have the opportunity to earn respect, responsibility, advancement and remuneration based on ability.”

– Sandra Day O’Connor.  Source: Brainy Quote

Regardless that some will accuse me of Jumping shamelessly onto the bandwagon, it’s nevertheless well worth noting that today is Ada Lovelace Day.  As I sit and type this in my work’s Test Lab, there are three male software testers, including me, and two female testers.  Our (male) Test Manager doesn’t count for the purposes of this headcount, since he’s not doing any testing, but has instead the unenviable job of juggling the schedule as our clients keep moving the goalposts.

Given what I have gleaned from other testers online, attending meetups like the London Tester Gatherings and the excellent Test Bash 2.0, Software Testing has a majority of men in its workforce.  However, does Software Testing have any more or less representative a gender ratio when compared to the rest of the amorphous mass that is, for want of a better term, “The IT Industry”?  According to an infographic in the Metro paper today in print and online17% of Britain’s Information Technology workforce is female.  I wonder how that proportion increases and decreases when you compare software Testers with Developers, DBAs and Systems Administrators, between Open and Closed source projects, or large and small companies?

While I was doing my BBST Foundations course (which I will get around to posting about in more detail, honestly) we had a getting-to-know-each-other session at the very start of it.  At one point, this raced off headlong into a tangent on the gender ratios present in different Testing teams.  The general consensus on that discussion thread were guesstimates of 10/90 or 20/80 female-to-male gender ratio in the working environments of those testers on the course.  In my own experience, there were no female testers at the last company I worked at out of half a dozen in-house testers.  On the one occasion when we had contract testers in to meet high demand (needing to test an app over 57 mobile devices does that), the ratio was about 40/60.  Having said that, I think there is less of a gender disparity in software testing compared to software development; there was one woman in a team of 30-odd developers at the same company.

One fellow BBSTer reckoned there was a 60/40 split at the last testing conference he was at.  I think the split was 40/60 or maybe 50/50 at Test Bash 2.0; perhaps the organisers can provide a more definitive and accurate ratio than my vague approximations?  Then again, it’s worth taking the discussions we had with a pinch of salt, given that they come from a self-selected sample of 25 students (7 female) and 6 teachers (1 female).

If anyone can point me at any hard research that has been done on this subject, I will be genuinely interested to read it and cite it here.  The Huffington Post has an article on girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and a handy link to a graph showing women as a share of total researchers.  As an interesting aside, it shows percentages of over 70% in Bolivia and Myanmar – anyone know why?  However, that graph covers academic research rather than all STEM-related jobs, where I suspect the percentages will be higher for men and less for women.  Do higher proportions of women get jobs in academia than in business?

I am making the assumption as I write this – feel free to prove me wrong – that the majority of those reading my blog do some kind of geeky, techy job, or at least have a hobby or two in that sphere.  What is the gender ratio where you work?