Rob Smyth

Sunday, 8 April 2018

What is an unstable build?

Software management build systems like TeamCity or Jenkins provide automated build and testing on software team commits. If it cannot build the code ... well the build has failed as there are no binaries to test or even install. A complete no starter. But what if the binaries are built but a test failed? Is that a fail, or is that something less? Some build systems report a build with failing tests as "unstable". A useful clarification or a damaging depreciation of the build process?

What does "unstable" mean? Go on ... "make my day"?

Unstable tells the team that the team that the thing that did not pass (aka failed), does not really matter ... go on ignore it. Sure ... I'm busy ... I'll ignore anything that is not a fail.

That the code can be compiled to binaries (or whatever) is great. It means that the team has complied with the coding language but does not give any indication of what the code does. Useful, necessary, but not sufficient.

If the tests fail, is it useful to indicate it as 'unstable' rather than failed? Useful clarification of status?

So what does a test failure mean?
  • System/application test failure

    • The application has failed to meet a specification and therefore a requirement.
  • Unit test failure

If the application does not meet specification/requirement - that is a fail, not unstable.

If a code element has been altered outside of intent then then that is a fail, the application, or the code's maintainability, is compromised. That is not unstable, a developer has lowered code health and may well have broken the application.

Treat your tests like your application. A failure is a failure. "Unstable" just means ... "you may may be able to ignore".

Recliner workstation

I like the look of this Altwork station. They describe it as "the world’s first workstation designed for high-intensity computer users".

Focus position.

I like the way it converts from seat to recline. If the base could be made a little less 'industrial' it would be perfect.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Grow up Java developers - there is space, it exists, and is empty

It seems every day I loose time inserting underscores for spaces and it seems every time to be a Java application .... what is the problem handling spaces?

This one is courtesy of Thoughtwork's GOCD. Come o.n guys ... give me a break ... spaces exist. Get over it.

Kinda related ... why do Java applications usually look and feel like Java applications? Is that an indication of a language/framework or culture attribute?

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Violet - A dog's life well lived and loved

Our 5th Airedale 'Violet'' died late last year. She was an awesome dog. From the start Violet had dignity and her own self-worth. An independent dog who, like most Airedales, obeyed when it suited her. But was always loving, if she got a pat!

When Rowan died, and she had a puppy 'Golley' to contend with, she finally to share her toys!

A wonderful dog with self-dignity. At 14 years her arthritis finally got to her (she never liked the cold).

A life well lived with dignity.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Magnetic buttons for magnetic persons

For the team status/task board you can create custom magnet buttons for team members on Zazzle. You an upload images whatever. I just created a few buttons for me ...


Zazzle's navigation is difficult. Look for keywords like 'round', 'magnet', 'custom'.

Team Pit Swarm Hub

Rather than mob programming or pair programming a team may setup a swam hub/desk in its pit for quick / ad-hock swarming. Not pair programming, not mob programming but a setup that allows for something in between.

In my case we have the classic corner desks. Nice for individuals but no so great for teamwork. So add a couple of TVs/monitors (so cheap now), a central team table, a wireless keyboard and mouse and you have a team pit swarm hub/portal.

To swarm a team member can slide to the central desk and remote desktop to their environment appears on the large team TVs/monitors. Now the whole team can discuss / collaborate / swarm. Quick, easy, ad-hock.

When done, close the remote desktop and the monitors return to their team status / virtual wall duties.

A way to turn up the volume on team collaboration? An ad-hock solution? A coaching crucible? An incremental step toward pair programming or mob programming .... dunno.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Magnetic custom team scrum sprint/story cards

A team's sprint board needs to radiate information about how the sprint is going. Fridge magnets for use on a team's magnetic sprint whiteboard can be custom printed. The trick is to print "business card fridge magnets" for only ~AU$10 for 10-20 cards. Vistaprint (I have no commercial benefit) provides a great service of uploading your card image (e.g PNG) and printing it.

I've found these magnetic card reusable using whiteboard markers. For magnetic tags like "BLOCKED" or team member names, create a card with many tiles and cutout the tiles when delivered (See example below).





Revitalizing Legacy Code - Properties returning concrete types

You have a legacy code base that has properties returning concrete types. This makes unit testing (UT) very difficult. To change the signature to use an interface requires lot or refactoring and therefore risk of an error refactoring. Here is an approach to incrementally refactor these properties out of the code base.

To provide an alternative add another property to the type with a suffix like "I" that returns the appropriate interface. This become the base property with the concrete property referencing this new property. This enables new or code being changed to migrate to the new property incrementally. Once the old property is no longer used it will be deleted.

Legacy code:

  public class WidgetA
     public WidgetB PropertyB
        // whatever stuff done here
        // does other stuff here

Testable (incrementally) legacy code:

  public class WidgetA
     [Obsolete("Use  PropertyBI instead")]
     public WidgetB PropertyB
      get { return (WidgetB)PropertyBI;  }
      set { PropertyBI = value; }

     public IWidgetB PropertyBI { get; set; }

The use of the ObsoletAttribute ensures that developers will see the property struck out in intellisense to promote useage of PropertyBI instead.

When the old, concrete type, property is no longer used it will be deleted and the "I" suffix property renamed to replace it.

Nice incremental refactoring of the code and allowing for incremental unit testing.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Automated application tests on active legacy applications - Team kickoff cost

How does a team get started with automated application tests on active legacy applications?

By that I mean tests for verification that the application does what it is supposed to do. Automated application regression tests. Like everything to do with software dev and testing teams there is the "change management". How does a team get the steam up to start running with automated application tests on an active legacy application.

By "legacy application" I mean any application that is out there, running, under on-going new feature development, but does not have any automated application tests. It may have developer unit and integration tests but no tests that assert the customer's required end behaviour (BDD?).

Such a team is under pressure to add new features and is experiencing "legacy" defects discovered during verification testing and, typically, the people on the dev team have changed so domain knowledge is not ideal (I do often think that a developer's domain knowledge is just poor code architecture migrator).

In these, common, scenarios to get automated application tests up and running to a point were a team can incorporate them into its culture is a big ask. There needs to be an investment in the framework, team training, and that means the business needs to understand the cost/benefits. So in the end it comes down to the tech/dev lead to identify and communicate the opportunity to the business.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Galafry's UX guidelines for time lords

When a user is performing an operation like opening a document/project they require a prompt result. That is, the think they want X within Y seconds but they are wrong! What they really want is a good experience in which they know the best is being done for their needs and software developers have control here over the space-time continuum.

For example, a user want to save a document/project as a new name. A copy really. So their data is big, I mean big enough to be annoying, so if we do a copy of files it is going to take long enough for the user's eye lids to start to close. But ... we software developers have control over time, we provide feedback that we really, really, are doing good stuff so what would otherwise be an "oh-dear I'm wasting time" to gosh "I've kicked off a really big processes that is doing stuff" so I'm, by inference, doing stuff.

This is real evident in code that needs to copy lots of stuff. Sure, copy it in the simplest way as there really is not much time difference in how we do it .... or is there?

We time lords (software developers) can not only take control of a user's time line but our own. Write lots of lovely progress dialogs or plug into the Windows OS time line. Go outside of the .Net framework's native stuff and enter the Windows Shell C# interop. Checkout C# does shell and SHFileOperation.

Why? It means you can jump into the future (save time) and use the OS's native UI. Don't write your own "I'm really doing good  copying these file" dialog. Check out the dialogs you get in Windows 8 ... this is for free.

Do the crime do the time? Na, do the crime and leave the time to others, I'm going home. C# shell rocks.