October 2014
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My books on kindle

Third parties are Evil

There’s no way around this. Any software project where you have to interface with Someone Else’s Software you will run into untold suffering because Third Parties are Evil. They might be the nicest people in the multiverse. They might make the most wonderful software in several different realms of existence. But the moment your software has to talk to their software they immediately transform into eldritch horrors the likes of which H.P Lovecraft gibbered about before trailing off into the dreaded ellipsis…

This micro-rant brought to you by the discovery that customers using a third party that my company’s software talks to neglected to set a crucial item to be required on the third party’s software. As a result, it wasn’t there when our software pulled their changes. Because it wasn’t there it caused errors down the way because our software requires this one little item. And of course, since shit flows downhill, guess who gets the blame. Yup. Us. This, children, is why testers are such cynical people.

It’s also why I don’t write about the things I run into in my work life. No matter how I translated them into books, nobody – but nobody would believe it.

Everything is up to date

Well, not exactly. I still need to clean things up here, but at least my theme and plugins are all updated and backed up.

Next challenge: update the static pages.

About Weekends

One of the first things you learn after you start work in a corporate environment is that weekends are never – ever – bloody long enough. This revelation is often followed closely by the discovery that Dilbert really is funny. It’s a remarkable dividing line. People who have worked in a corporate environment laugh at Dilbert. People who haven’t don’t. And all of them agree, weekends are never long enough.

Which is why today was phenomenally unproductive. Some things got done, but none of them are things that actually matter in any way. Well, apart from the small and rather dismal amount of writing that happened.

Tomorrow I need to finish updating the site – the theme update needs to happen and isn’t simple because this particular theme has a nasty habit of overwriting the header images with its defaults. I still prefer it because it lets me set things up with the layout I like, but upgrading the thing is a pain. I also need to write a lengthy rant for my next guest post on According To Hoyt and do a few other bits of general maintenance around the house and computer. I should have done some of this today but somehow, it just didn’t happen.


Nothing much happened today

Not that this is surprising or anything. I was falling over at work so I left early (thanks to yesterday’s uber-long day I only needed to be at work for 5 minutes to clock up a 40 hour week. I was there a bit longer than that), then slept for an hour or so when I got home. I’d probably have slept longer except the Bugger-cat was determined to have his good food and he wasn’t letting anything stop him.

Yes, I lead such an exciting life.

Long Day

I go to work early. Partly because I start to fade around 2 or 3 even when I sleep disgustingly late, and it makes sense to get in as much that needs thinking and a functioning brain before my body decides “hell no”. Unfortunately that means if I’ve got to stay late – like today when a release went out after 5pm (gotta love live web stuff. Can’t take it down when someone will be using it. Even if the “someone” is the company’s internal people who could work around things so long as we did it in a quiet time) so I didn’t get home until nearly 7. Yay for 12 hour workdays. Not.

It’s also my Mad Genius day. This means I write a post a day or two before and set it up to post early in the morning. When I get home in the evening I respond to comments. Today’s effort was a bit of an expansion of my thoughts on three of the panels I was on at Ravencon. Next week I’ll probably ramble about one of the other panels I did, unless someone in the writing world does something spectacularly stupid that I can rant about.

And on that note, it’s time I went to bed.


Quiet Day

Quiet day at work today – I spent a good chunk of it decommissioning my collection of Windows XP virtual machines and setting up a series of Windows 7 virtuals to replace them.

Why do I need so many, I hear you ask? Well, if you want to test a website properly, you need multiple versions of Internet Explorer, and that means multiple systems. So now I have a system with IE 8 (third largest slice of the employer’s customer base), one with IE 9, and one with IE 10. My machine is now on IE 11 (largest slice of the customer base), and also runs Firefox and Chrome. Then there’s the Macbook that lives on my desk to test Safari. Chrome/Safari is the second biggest slice of the customer base, so Chrome and Safari need to get tested as well.

It’s quite remarkable how many bugs are specific to one or two browsers. Even more fun are the “bugs” which are actually the browser working as designed, but our software exploits a fault in the IE family…

Oh, yes. Browser compatibility testing is fun. I am so grateful I don’t have to test for IE 7 compatibility as well. And I am terrified by the users who are still running with Windows 2000 and IE 6. If they ever report a bug they’re probably in for a very nasty shock.

Little Things Matter

Also known as “Fun with testing software, episode the infinity-somethingth”.

Today at work the helpdesk calls were coming in fast, all from the customers using the venerable (but stable and more importantly usually working) PC payroll program, complaining that their new FTP passwords (they’re reset periodically for security reasons) to our systems weren’t being accepted. The plot thickened with the discovery mid-morning that pasting the new passwords worked just fine. Keying them failed. By late afternoon, the truth was discovered (and with it, the list of who had not moved over to the newer fully-encrypted FTP module)… The venerable software, written to work with an equally venerable mainframe system that does everything in all caps naturally uppercased everything that went in. Including – ta-da! – the FTP password. Which is – of course – masked, so users couldn’t see that it was busily uppercasing itself.

Such a little thing, and such angst it caused. Yes, now everyone in the programming and test team knows why our passwords were always in all caps in the past.

Lesson learned: do not neglect the little things, for they shall trip you when you least expect it and you shall spend much time going “WTF?” before you figure it out.

Progress, and a realization

The FTP problem is solved. For reasons known only to itself, the software that runs the backend of my hosting provider decided it would cache the error message. Once I cleared cache, I reset my password and all is happy.

This brought about a rather unwelcome realization. It is not the case that there are some software companies whose secret (or not so secret) goal is to tear the fabric of reality asunder and summon the Great Old Ones. This is in fact the stated or unstated goal of all software development. And I test it for a living – complete with the unstated goal that the software does not in fact warp reality to the point that Cthuloid tentacles curl around the straining edges of the space time continuum-thingy. Aside from anything else, it takes a boatload of LOX, several tons of brimstone, and a spit that would put skyscrapers to shame to properly cook the things, and then you need to find the brave souls willing to actually eat several tons of Cthulhumari.

No, much better to keep the gate between dimensions firmly locked. Padlocked. With extra thick chain and bonus spiky bits.

Now you know why software testers have a kind of graveyard humor about them. We only hope we’ll get to enjoy one when the time comes.


So, after realizing I hadn’t posted anything here in forever (well, over a year), I figured I needed to get back to this.

Yeah. Right. Hello, life! My FTP access isn’t working (as in, the saved password is getting rejected) so I can’t finish updating (and ye gods the updates that are waiting on this thing…) or clean up my themes until that gets sorted. I tried to reset my password and the web host is telling me everything I do (even plain vanilla numbers and letters only) contains invalid characters. Support ticket created, and we’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, here goes a super-short post about absolutely nothing. Isn’t that nice…



I have, after much delay, finally entered the modern world of telephony. Yes, I’ve finally retired the antique PDA (dead) and cell phone (dying) in favor of a shiny new smartphone.

Of course, being me, the first thing I did was load Temple Run 2 on it. That game is a very effective way to waste large amounts of time while giving yourself RSI issues. Fun though.

The second thing I did was load Kindle for Android. I still need to port over the spreadsheet containing all my lists that used to live on the PDA, but I have a phone that won’t crap out after a couple of calls. Go me.