Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Did anybody test this? Caffeine withdrawal and why we need to test with realistic scenarios

I entered the break room at the office this morning, looking forward to that first cuppa joe, only to find a uniformed gentleman disconnecting the coffee machine. Fear not, he assured me, he was just swapping out the old machine for a newly refurbished one. 
Rather than stand around watching, I headed back to my desk to burn some time checking email.

A few testy minutes later I returned to my quest for morning caffeination. The newly refurbished Keurig single-serve coffee machine stood ready to dispense its liquid black magic. I lifted the handle, inserted a single serve package (aka K cup) of Breakfast Blend, and closed the lid, prepared to press the blinking button with the icon of a large steaming cup. 

Instead, the small text display sneered at me. "No K cup detected. Continue anyway?"

A colleague standing nearby chimed in. "It did that to me too. Just hit continue and it will brew."

I asked, "The guy just installed it. Didn't he test it?"

"He made sure it powered up okay. And then he checked that it would dispense hot water."

"But he didn't actually try making a cup of coffee?"

So the technician had run the smoke test and unit test and was satisfied. This seemed reasonable to my colleague (a developer :) ). But the tech had not tried the machine in the environment it was intended to run, in the manner in which customers were likely to use it. Nor, apparently, had the technician who refurbished it.

As the long-awaited caffeinated liquid lubricated my brain, I could not help but relate this incident back to my own role as a software tester. We increasingly mandate that testing, particularly system testing, be done with realistic customer scenarios and data. Why? Not only is this effective at finding bugs, but it finds the bugs that would be most problematic to our customers.

And bugs found before morning coffee are evil.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Family Favorite Irish Soda Bread Recipe

It's that time of the year again, when foods that shouldn't ought to be green - like bagels and McDonald's milkshakes - are, and you can't swing a shillelagh without hitting a leprechaun decoration. Yes, St. Patrick's Day draws nigh.

I have been asked again for my Irish Soda Bread recipe, so I have copied it below. For my full treatise on all things soda bread and corned beef related, see my original post at the following link:
St. Patricks Day classic cuisine - recipes and a little history

Irish Soda Bread

Here is my family's favorite recipe for a classic Irish Soda Bread (with raisins). Simple ingredients, easy to make, customize as you please.

Irish Soda Bread recipe

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour (plus a little extra for dusting)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 stick (1/4 pound) butter (cold)
  • 2 1/2 cups raisins
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk*

*you can substitute regular milk with 3 tablespoons of white vinegar added; wait 10 minutes for the milk to curdle

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter. Mix well. Stir in the raisins.

Add the buttermilk and egg while mixing using a large spoon - or your hands! Mix well enough to get everything well moistened with no dry pockets; adjust milk amount if necessary. Don't overmix or you can make the bread chewy.

Turn the bread out onto a board dusted with flour. Dust the dough, knead lightly, divide in half, form into two rounds, and place them onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Use a knife dipped in flour to score a cross on the top of each loaf. (Helps the center to cook evenly.)

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees, until the outside is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Cool on a wire rack.


  • You can bake it in loaf pans, a cast iron skillet, cupcake tins(!), or (my brother's idea) angel food pans.
  • A few tablespoons of caraway seeds. (Not my cuppa tea.)
  • Those who prefer a less rich soda bread can cut back on the butter, raisins, and especially the sugar.
  • For a heartier (and healthier) texture, substitute whole wheat for up to half of the flour.
  • A few teaspoons of grated orange zest gives a nice flavor. (credit Ina Garten from the Food Network.
  • Makes a great scone. Partially flatten a softball size mound and cut into even slices like a pie. Or just make small rounds. Bake as above.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Windows 8 Cheat Sheet

My last post, Windows 8 QuickStart, was an introduction to Microsoft's new operating system intended to get you over the hump of the paradigm change that is causing so many experienced Windows users to stumble. Here are a couple of other references that might be useful.

  1. New York Times Technology columnist David Pogue offers his introductory reference of "all of the most important touch/mouse/keyboard shortcuts for Windows 8." http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/25/a-windows-8-cheat-sheet/
  2. Here is a very handy visual reference for the Windows 8 touch and keyboard shortcuts. You'll soon outgrow this, but until then you might want to print it out and tack it up near your monitor. (found here)
  3. Finally, the Ultimate Shortcuts Guide at this link, http://docs.com/IOLP, concisely provides keyboard shortcuts as well as mouse and touch equivalents for a rather comprehensive set of actions. You'll want to download this chart and keep it handy.