Welcome to the QA Tech-Tips blog!

Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"   I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".  
Robert F. Kennedy

“Impossible” is only found in the dictionary of a fool.  
Old Chinese Proverb

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How To Get Comments Approved On This Blog
PLEASE Read This Article!

One of the onerous jobs one has when running a blog like this is "moderating" comments. I USED to have an "open door" policy about comments - anyone, including "anonymous", could post anything they wanted.

Unfortunately, some users abused this trust by planting "comment spam"on my site, so I had to take the unpleasant, (but necessary), step of forbidding any hyperlinks on my site(s).  For a more detailed explanation of this, please see my earlier posting We Interrupt This Blog For An Important Announcement.

I don't know why, maybe people don't read the BIG disclaimer prior to creating a post, or maybe it's a part of their signature, but I still get comments with embedded hyperlinks.  To make matters worse, Blogger will not let me edit comments.  Period.  Even if it's only to X-out a few %$#@!'s here or there.

This puts me in the unpleasant position of having to delete comments that might otherwise contain useful content, simply because they contain active hyperlinks.

So, please hearken to my plea:

If you want to get comments approved, don't include hyperlinks!

What say ye?

Jim (JR)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

OOPS! - When disaster strikes
Do-It-Yourself Anti Static Spray (Part 4 of a series)

Hello again!

As I am sure you all know, this is the time of year for snowy evenings, hot-chocolate by the fireplace, warm cookies, soft music, and Static Electricity!

I am also sure that anyone who has been within 500 feet of anything electronic knows that Static Electricity is a Bad Thing, for more reasons than three.

Likewise, there are a number of companies who make special "Anti-Static Sprays", all neatly bottled in colorful packaging, ready for your use.  No to mention that they use about five cents worth of materials and charge you Serious Bucks per bottle/can/whatever.

So, what's a poor sod supposed to do?  Make your own!

It's almost as easy as falling out of bed, and costs just slightly more than that - not counting the hospital bills. . .

You will need:
  1. A spray bottle of some kind.  An old Window Cleaner bottle, a small trigger-pump bottle, or whatever you have laying around.
    I bought a small, 12 oz plant spray bottle awhile back for a couple of bucks, and have been using it over and over and over again for years and years and years.  If you notice your bottle begins to collapse inward on itself as you use it, adding a couple of small pin-holes at the top will help prevent that.
  2. A jug of the absolutely cheapest fabric softener you can buy.
    The no-name, lemon scented, bargain brand is more than sufficient, so don't waste your money on the stuff with the fancy packaging, fluffy towels, and baby-bottoms on it.  You will probably end up with a gallon jug of the stuff, and depending on how much spray you make, it will likely last for a loooong long time.  If your "better half" already uses fabric softener for the laundry, mooch some of that.
  3. Some clean, (demineralized), water.
    If you have nice soft water where you are, tap water is just fine.  If your water has a lot of minerals in it, use cheap drinking water, or get distilled water.  You just don't want a lot of minerals/lime/rust/etc. in the water.
How to make it:
  1. Fill the bottle that you're using about 1/4 full of fabric softener.
  2. Add clean water to fill the rest of the bottle.  Don't forget to leave some "head space" at the top.
  3. Shake gently until well mixed.
  4. Set the bottle to a fine mist and spray to your heart's content!
Two additional things:
  • You will want to cover surfaces, (rugs, plastic chair mats, your chair cushions, etc.) with a fine mist until the surface is slightly damp.  You may have to repeat every few days at the beginning until a sufficient amount of anti-static formula has built up.
  • You will also want to be very careful if you use it on smooth surfaces, like chair mats, as this liquid can be slippery if you apply too much.

There you are!  You are now equipped to handle the Static Electric Demon, and do it on the cheap!

What say ye?

Jim (JR)

p.s.  No animals were used during the testing of this Tech Tip, and it is safe for the Ozone Layer too.

Monday, November 17, 2014

 "Acceptable" Defects 
The Fast Lane to Disaster

Many years ago, I was invited to an interview in Boston by a company who wanted to bring on additional QA staff.  After the usual back-and-forth banter of the interview, the interviewer paused and asked me this question:

What is an acceptable defect?

I immediately replied  "There's no such thing.  It's an oxymoron, something that is inherently self-contradictory."

The interviewer persisted, wanting to know what an "acceptable defect" was.  I replied that there is no such thing as an "acceptable defect" as once the defect becomes "acceptable", it ceases to be a defect.  Or, as one of my favorite snarky QA quotes says:  "It's not a bug, it's a feature!"

The interviewer continued to press the point; and yes, I understood that what he was asking was not about defects being "acceptable", but rather he wanted to know at what point does a QA effort say it's time to stop?  When have you reached the level of "diminishing returns" and decide to release anyway, even though there may still be some bugs left to be resolved?

I mentioned this understanding to the interviewer, said that this was an entirely different question; whereupon I proceeded to answer it.  However I persisted in my original position that there is not, and there should never be, such a thing as an "acceptable" defect.

Needless to say, I didn't get the job.  And quite frankly, I wasn't too upset about it either.  As far as I was, (and still am), concerned, the idea of an "acceptable" defect presents a warped and possibly disastrous mind-set on the part of any QA team.

Why is this a problem?

Now I can hear everyone saying that I'm being too picky and pedantic; that I'm splitting hairs.  And maybe that's true, but I don't think so.

And why not?

It has always been my opinion, and my position within the greater QA community - not just "software" QA, but any kind of QA effort - that "defects" must never become "acceptable".  Because once a defect is categorized as "acceptable", it ceases to be an annoyance or an irritation in the back of our minds.  That nagging irritation goes away and we don't give it a second thought.

I have seen this time and time again, in hardware QA, software QA, process or manufacturing QA, or any other QA efforts I have been involved in.  And it has always, invariably, been the fast lane to disaster.

I go into the consequences of this kind of complacent, devil-may-care attitude in another article I wrote called The Cost of Complacency.  Go read it.

Again and again I return to the idea of defects never becoming "acceptable".  It is the responsibility of the QA community to ensure that defects, even seemingly small defects, never get "lost in the sauce", so to speak.

Even if we need to push on toward an ultimate release date, these defects should always "get in our craw", or be that annoying little pebble in our shoe.  They should always remind us that they are there, and we should continue be on the lookout for ways to mitigate them now, or if that's not possible, ways to avoid these issues in the future.

It's only by letting the seemingly "little things" get to us that we remain vigilant.  It is only by this continuing attitude of eternal vigilance that we in the QA community earn the respect of those around us.

By doing this, by always letting the "little things" bother us, we ensure that the people we work with, and those that depend on us, never sink into that abyss of complacency that has been the graveyard of those who have not heeded this call.

What say ye?

Jim (JR)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We Interrupt This Blog
For An Important Announcement!

Well, hello again!

If you have been following this blog, you know that I have some pretty big plans for this blog's future!

Part of those plans have been for me to build a WordPress "sandbox" server here in The Dungeon, try to migrate my blog to it, and try to do it in some semblance of order.  The idea being that if I'm going to make a complete balls-up of everything, (and I will, trust me!), I'd rather do it down in my basement where I can control the damage, instead of on a live production blog.

Of course, these things are much easier to say than do, and I am sure that the Wright Brothers had the same sense of angst:  "Hey!  If it's so easy for birds to fly, it should be a real snap for us too, right?"


It's taken days, and days, and days, and days, and. . . .  Oh futz!  It didn't crash, again?!!

Needless to say, it's been a real learning experience, in more ways than one.

One of the resources I have been using is WordPress for Dummies (3rd edition) by Lisa Sabin-Wilson, and if you're even thinking about messing with WordPress, you can do far worse than to read her book.

One of the things I learned about was something called "comment spam".

Comment spam?!  Of all the. . . . ! ! !

And yes, it had me scratching my head too.

Here's the deal:
We all know about e-mail spam.  That endless stream of scams, frauds, and phishing attacks; not to mention the never-ending advertisements for "Penile Enhancement", Viagra, Cialis, and God Only Knows what else.

This is the "plain 'ole every-day" mail-type spam that we all know and love.  It's designed to get us to do something that will compromise us, so that we give away important personal information about ourselves, send money to someone via Western Union or MoneyGram, or open up our systems to being attacked, root-kitted, and perhaps used as a zombie to hack the Pentagon.

Comment spam is a horse of an entirely different hue.  And it's even nastier.

Comment spam is a way of getting MY BLOG to help the baddies clobber someone else.  The way they do this is by hiding vicious hyperlinks inside innocuous messages, masked in such a way that you don't really know what you're clicking on until after you've done the dirty deed.

An even more vicious form of comment spam is a comment that has, (what appears to be), a perfectly innocent hyperlink that leads you to a seemingly innocent site that will re-direct you to somewhere evil.

You like my blog.
You read my postings.
You read the comments.
You click on what appears to be an innocent hyperlink in a comment.
YOU get hammered, and MY BLOG set you up for the kill.

The real epiphany was when I did a trial-import of all this blog's content and comments into my sandbox server.  Unlike Blogger, WordPress lets me see, (and do), anything I want with a message or its comments.  Nothing is hidden.  Nothing gets squirreled away.

Within WordPress, I could actually see the vicious bulldogs hiding behind the pretty flowers within some of the comments left on my site.  And it was scary!  Needless to say I was PISSED.

As a result I have had to do two things that I really did not want to have to do:
  1. I no longer allow "anonymous" comments on either of my blogs, since virtually all the nasties were hidden in anonymous comments.
  2. All comments, without exception, are now moderated.
    As unpleasant a task as it may be, I have no choice but to require every stinkin' comment to be quarantined until personally vetted by me.  And because I can't create a "white-list" of trusted posters, it's an all-or-nothing deal.
Additionally, I have to be really strict about embedded hyperlinks in comments.

If the comment has an embedded hyperlink, it get's trashed.  Period.

Because I just spent the last half-day-or-so going through every single message on this blog, comparing every single comment here with the nasties I found when looking at the comments on WordPress there, and removing, one-at-an-effing-time, any suspicious comments that I found; sanitizing the comment stream so that no one who comes to my blog gets hammered.

And why is that necessary?
Because Blogger won't let me edit comments or view hidden content.  And because I can't view hidden content, I can't see what might be hiding behind an embedded hyperlink without clicking on it, and I won't risk what loyalty my blog may have for the sake of a few hyperlinks.

One potential exception is the plain-text in-line hyperlink that is visible to everyone.  I might be convinced to allow in-line hyperlinks that are plain-text, after I have personally tested them and verified that they are not harmful - if they are germane to the topic of the post.

It's a sad day when I have to spend more time babysitting the few baddies out there, then I spend actually creating useful content.  However, I'd rather do that than see those of you who read my blog get hammered because I'm asleep at the wheel.

What say ye?

Jim (J.R.)