Many Pies

Many Pies

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More automated web testing

I have progressed in my work with Selenium.

It now runs on a server, checks several of our websites hourly, and then emails me and sends a message to twitter if it fails. Twitter sends me an SMS message, so I can check it out if I'm near a PC (and my phone is on).

For the twitter bit I used this script, and hacked it a bit to remove the skype stuff.

Very sweet.

Lengthy computing job

When I worked at Logica I was told about a new project that I would be starting. The project was a Geographical Information System (GIS) for Anglian Water. My part on it was to be on the team that would write the software convert the (geographical) data from the old system to the new one. As it was described to me I thought "that's going to take days to run, maybe even a whole week". When it came to running it for real it took more than a few days, it was several months in the end.

The original data was organised in 1km squares, and we had several thousand of them. I can't remember how long it took to do a square, but I think it was between several minutes a couple of hours. At one point I suggested loading the whole database into memory, so we spent a large amount of money to get a massive 128Mb. They did it while I was on holiday and said it ran slower, but I wasn't convinced it had been done properly. The conversion process was as automated as I could make it, but it still took most of my time, 3 days a week to "feed" the two machines that were doing the processing with the next squares to do, and also to handle the results. (I can't quite remember why I couldn't just queue them all up and let them run.)

If only we had massive distributed computing power like we do these days, then we could have farmed the processing out to some servers in the cloud (for a price of course) and got it done in a few days maybe.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Automated website testing

I've been pondering for a while the best way to see if the various websites that I'm responsible for are up and running. When I researched this a while back, there were any number of companies that would test them for you, for a fee. However I couldn't find any tools.

Today I came across Selenium which seems to be a pretty powerful set of tools. There's an IDE for writing tests, a component for testing on your webserver (Selenium core), a component for testing on a given remote machine (Selenium RC) and a component for handing out tests to arbitrary remote machines (Selenium Grid). You need to have machines with your target browser on it somewhere, so if you want to test your site in IE, you need IE installed on a machine.

The software is at various 0.x versions, so doesn't look that mature, but on the other hand it has been adopted by Google: Google Open Source Blog: Selenium Users Event Coming Up, so that's a good recommendation.

Time to go and write some test scripts...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Using a wiki for procedures

A while ago I blogged about using a wiki for your procedures.

I've been using jumpbox list of wikis to evaluate some. Here are my initialconclusions (based on comparing the writeup with my requirements):

I particularly like two points from their philosophy:
1. Favor writers over readers
3. Avoid gratuitous features (or "creeping featurism")
TikiWiki is your Groupware/Content Management System solution with a long list of features to help you build a compelling web based community: Wikis, Forums, Blogs, Articles, Image Gallery, Map Server, Link Directory, Translation and i18n. And much more...

Too much

Looks promising.

twikiwiki (Watch the extra w)
TWiki is a flexible, powerful, and easy to use enterprise wiki, enterprise collaboration platform and knowledge management system. It is a Structured Wiki, typically used to run a project development space, a document management system, a knowledge base, or any other groupware tool, on an intranet or on the internet.

Too much

mediawiki, as used by wikipedia
Promising. Slightly too much stuff on the page, but can be configured away.

Specifically designed for creating documentation, however you can't get email notifications when a page changes, which is a showstopper for me.

So that's three to look at. I haven't evaluated them on ease of installation, or maturity of product, or how much support there is, or how widely they are used. More to come...

Live search bugs

I found a couple of problems with Microsoft live search. The first is when you click on the help link. You get a nice popup window with some slick looking help material. However there are a couple of typos:

Then if you actually try out you get:

After gloating for a bit I then decided to report it and I get a certificate error for
More gloating.
I did ignore the error and tell them about the problem though.

Friday, February 01, 2008

UK Computer Newspapers

For some of the time in my working life I've had free weekly computer newspapers, usually some combination of Computing, Computer Weekly and IT Week

For the past 6 months I've had Computer Weekly and cancelled IT Week. However I'm going back to IT Week. Although Computer Weekly had Dilbert cartoons, and they seemed to be good at hassling the government about its IT projects, there was nothing of relevance to me in it. IT Week hits the target much more often. It's probably because Computer Weekly is more for big organisations. So there's my recommendation for what it's worth. (I haven't seen Computing in a while - it used to be the one that you read ostentatiously if you wanted people to know you were thinking of moving on.)