This is the introductory article to a series of occasional articles related to testing, from the perspective of a developer. These articles are intended to pass on some simple techniques to help a QA team to debug and test application application builds.
In many instances these will be the kinds of technique that might also be used by developers during development or even for debugging customer issues.
What we aim to do
Pass on examples of high bang to buck tips in the most digestible format.
In some cases this will be in the form of a case study that aims to illustrate a key concept; this kind of format helps exposition by having multiple "bites at the cherry" to get a key rule of thumb across. Everyone understands differently; the aim should be to try all the possible routes in.
In other cases what is required is a very simple exposition of a technique that is often overlooked or not handled imply enough to extract all the latent value. This may often be as simple as reading the manual of a well known tool with a focus on the task in hand. Some IT administrators would find these articles very familiar.
What we don't aim to do
To tell you how to test/debug/fault find.
What we aim not to do
Write test tools for you that you will use: the aim is to choose examples where the understanding is the key point: the simple technique to illustrate the point should be simple in case you need to modify it to fit your purpose or replace it with something else.
It is a fact of life that development teams and QA cannot explore every scenario during application development for a number of reasons. Quite often developers and internal users are on a homogeneous set of Operating Systems; some build processes only work with administrative rights and are incompatible with the customers' profile; influencing environmental factors are present only on the end users' machines.
In short, there will always be a role for QA and in the field fault finding, and this series of articles will be about boosting your arsenal of tools to help get to root of certain archetypal development issues as quickly and precisely as possible. The benefit of boosting the arsenal is that quite often what starts out as a field test for a problem can become a self-test or a regression test and thus the virtuous circle of improving the QA process can be completed.
In a number of environments there is a quite complete and consistent set of testing and diagnostic tools: Java is an excellent example of a field where there are tools that are both freely available and very accessible.
One of the areas that is somewhat inconsistently served for testing that of native code applications for Windows: the reasons for which might make of an interesting article. Nonetheless there are many many excellent tools which are typically much under-used.
In this series we will focus on issues affecting Native Windows applications: partially through necessity as the author's experience is primarily in this realm, and partially because we perceive a genuine and significant gap between existing capabilities and the take-up by users.
The tools presented will in general be compatible with a wide range of Microsoft operating systems: we aim to have some kind of support from NT4 to Windows Server 2008.
As it is our belief that testing is intimately linked to the development process, we will also focus on a number of tools that *should be* indispensible parts of the testing process:
There are many tools available to choose from, some of which can be an all-encompassing solution. However in these articles we will strive to either:
- source control
- configuration management
- continuous regular builds
- application instrumentation - internal and external
Hopefully the last recourse will be rare, else the fundamental premise of the series is in doubt...
- use built-in functions
- stick to open-source / free solutions
- provide the tool ourselves if nothing else exists
And without further ado: on to the series - hope to see you there!
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