Ramblings from the Warrior's Den
Saturday, October 30, 2004
A couple of mini game reviews

I figure I better do something to get all this dogblogging off the top of my page. Here's a couple of the XBox games I've picked up recently while waiting for the remaining holiday season releases I'm interested in (which right now are Halo 2 and World of Warcraft):

Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors

Otogi:Myth of Demons happens to be a favorite game of mine, so I had a pretty good idea what to expect (mindless hack-and-slash with plenty of stuff to smash up.) Otogi 2 does more of the same, with about half the regard for the laws of physics. It's not exactly what you would call a plotless beat-em-up (there's a plot there, but it's hard to follow. I imagine a knowledge of Japanese mythology would probably help) but it's still a lot of fun. Unless youplayed Otogi:MoD first and enjoyed it, you're probably better off waiting for the price to go down, but it's still a fun game to kill a few minutes with.

Out Run 2:

It's a bit hard to believe that it's been eighteen years since Out Run was released in the arcades. It's held up pretty well over the years, and Out Run 2 is definitely a worthy sucessor. The gameplay has changed basically none, although a lot of extra modes have been added , including multiplayer racing on Xbox Live. There are also eight different licensed Ferraris to drive. I was also reminded that I've had the music for this thing stuck in my head for about eighteen years now. A nice little arcade racer, which is also good for multiplayer (I don't think it has split screen, but it's got Live and System Link). If you can ever figure out how to get it, apparently the original OutRun is in there too.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004
I'm mostly not dead...

Hmmm... It appears that I have left my uncharacteristic act of dogblogging up as the top entry on the page for well over a month now. Perhaps I should come up with something else to put up here before I go completely insane and start waxing poetic about kitty cats or something... Unfortunately (or fortunately, dependong on who you asked) thanks to Yet Another Set of Circumstances I Have Yet to Fully Comprehend(TM), we have now ended up taking care of this puppy for an extended period of time (long story, I'll save you the coma.) So far I'm still sane, as is the puppy (although there seems to be an ongoing effort to give the poor thing a nice little identity crisis, as it currently has about three or four different names. My sister calls her Lilly, my other sister calls her Marzipan, and my brother calls her Monza, after the racetrack in Italy (needless to say, they're F1 fans. They're already planning their trip to Cancun in October '06 to see an F1 race that was just announced.) More later, when I'm coherent enough to write readable fluff.

Thursday, September 09, 2004
Mostly Harmless...

All things considered, I'm far from the type to engage in dogblogging (to be honest, I'm more a cat person myself, and even then, I've got a limit of 1, maybe 2 if the house was big enough. And I've concluded that I would have to be roughly half-insane in order to consider getting a dog at any point in time. That said, why the heck do I find myself dogblogging? It's a long story.

Alpine, a 9 month-old Beagle (pictured to the left) belongs to my sister and brother-in-law, and is basically a Grandpuppy, which means that she gets to come over and get spoiled, then (usually) goes home at night. Sure, like any puppy would, she occasionally chews up stuff (in my observation, owning a puppy is better than a garage sale for telling you that you need to get rid of some stuff. Fortunately, Alpine is starting to gro out of the "chew everything/everyone in sight" tendency common to Beagle puppies, and is actually starting to be fairly well-behaved. In spite of this, throughout the course of watching Alpine grow up, I've gained a newfound respect for the profession of animal photography. You wouldn't believe how many tries it can take to get a good picture of a dog. Invariably, 9 tries out of ten you end up with some unrecognizable tan and black blur, or the picture has something in the dog's mouth. After going torhough this for about the bazillionth time, you finally give up, photochop something and call it good. I suspect the use of those ultra-slo-mo high speed cameras might help somewhat, but modern technology can only do so much to keep up with a rambunctious puppy. Apparently I'm not the only one.

Now that she's mellowed out (some) I actually don't mind having Alpine around the house every once in a while.Of course, just when I was starting to get used to the idea, my sister now suddenly decides tha they need another one of the blasted things. I will admit that I've often questioned the sanity of those people who own multiple dogs. In fact, I've been known to use the term "Disturbing Per Person" (abbreviated as DPP)to describe this type of person. Most often I apply the term to people who people who own three or more dogs and no children, but it can be also applied in cases where inordinate attention is placed on one's dogs. The fact that a lot of these people I've known have a tendency to be baby boomers who delude themselves into thinking that the Sixties never ended adds to the whole personality of the DPP. In particular, I find the term "pet parent" which has sprung up in pet store advertising as of late especially ridiculous. I don't care what the bumper sticker on the back of your eco-friendly hybrid econobox says, your dogs are NOT people. Stop trying to pretend they are. (Are you done yet? -ed. Probably, just don't get me started on Crazy Cat Ladies...)

Nonetheless, in spite of the fact that I question the sanity of my sister for having two Beagle puppies (in an apartment, no less) I hesitate to apply the label of DPP, mostly because she occasionally exhibits signs of sanity. This isn't one of those times. It is through A Set of Circumstances I Have Yet to Fully Comprehend(Copyright 2004 warriorsden.blogspot.com, all rights reserved) that we have now ended up in charge of taking care of this roughly eight week-old puppy for most of this week, while my sister and brother-in-law travel somewhere. I suppose that on one hand, it is one of the miracles of Nature that a creature this young and this tiny can manage to bark loud enough to quite possibly drown out the smoke alarm for hours at a time, usually while I'm trying to sleep (Note to ABC News: Duuuuuuuuuh.) But given some further consideration, my pro/con list for dog ownership looks something like this:


  • The thing is dang cute.
  • It might stop chewing on everything in sight at some undisclosed point in time.
  • Readily identifies items that you probably no longer need, and promptly mangles them beyond recognition to make sure.

  • It might not stop chewing on everything in sight (including your fingers) at some undisclosed point in time.
  • It makes messes in rather inconvenient places and at rather inconvenient times.
  • It seems to make a hobby out of sleep deprivation.

Needless to say, the choices aren't exactly tipping in Fido's favor. Yet somehow, we manage to end up with dogs anyway, some of us more willingly than others. I just have to keep telling myself that the puppy (who, by the way, remains unnamed currently, although Nero is starting to sound appropriate) will go home in a couple of days. And that it'll eventually grow up, hopefully without any glaring psychological issues. And that if I'm lucky, no permanent scarring will result from my newfound employment as a convenient chew toy. I just have to keep telling myself that...

Thursday, August 26, 2004
More administrivia
othing earth-shattering, but I added a new blogroll to the site, including a list of some of the sites I read on a daily basis. There doesn't seem to be a way to do much more than a random list of links though, so this will have to do for now.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
The Deadly Tunnel of Furniture

For years now, the Den from whence this Blog gets its name has had furishing consisting primarily of two folding tables and some wire racks which are used for food storage(except for the roughly one year from which it was being written in the Warrior's Dining Room, although to be perfectly honest I can't recall if I actually posted anything here during that period of time. Either way, I was too lazy to change the name.) This was partially for lack of a better solution to the problem of having three frequently-used computers in the same room, and partially for lack of funds for anything much better. Given the fact that these situations hav now been rectified, I have for a while now believed that it was time to look into the possibility of getting a real desk in here. On that note, I am now proud to inform the gthree of you reading this that I have now graduated from gratuitous utilitarianism to mass-produced eurocentric particle board, courtesy of the fine folks at IKEA (I don't know why it supposed to be capitalized like that, but I figure someone might get mad if I don't, so I better make sure it's there.) In place of the former folding tables is a new GALANT desk along with an EFFEKTIV storage unit, BENNO media storage shelf and a BILLY bookcase (You know, maybe if I KAPITULYS random words and misspell them badly I can make it sound just like I bought a whole bunch more stuff there. It would provide an excellent IKSKYUS for the fact that I'm still trying to get used to the changes in ergonomics RIZULTN from this change in desk height.)

For those of you unfamiliar with IKEA, it's a giant blue monolith on the outskirts of town (the one here is in Renton, where all the cool kids seem to be opening their stores these days) with approximately twelve acres of home furnishings and half an acre of parking. Once you get your car parked in the Middle of NOVER, you can make the long treacherous hike to the front entrance... and that's where the real adventure begins. It then becomes your task to navigate through a seemingly endless maze of home furnishings, armed with only your wits, a golf pencil and some sort of cheesy paper measuring tape. If you're lucky enough to be able to get to IKEA on a Saturday, you get for no additonal cost the thrill of being nearly trampled to death several times.

Should you happen on something that you want to buy, your long and treacherous journey continues. First of all, you'll need to find the item in question, which can be located in any number of places, all of which you'll first need to find your way out of the showroom area for. About halfway past the kitchen section, the end is in sight. It is at this point that you reach the snack bar, selling all manner of Swedish delicacies. My brother, who accompined me to purchase the new desk earlier this week, had apparently not been to IKEA before this, and wondered why they would have a snack bar in the first place. To be honest, I don't know why this is the case, but I know that if I had been lost in the children's bedreoom section for three days, I'd be hungry too. But there's no time for meatballs now, we've got furniture to buy. Onward we press, the checkouts in sight... Or so we think. First, we need to find yhur way through another twisty maze of housewares. You might want to bring a MUSHETI for this part. If you manage to make it through this part, you'll finally reach the self-serve warehouse, where some of the actual furniture for purchase is located. If you're lucky (and you had the sense to use that golf pencil you got earlier to write the location down) you'llo be able to find the stuff you're looking for here, most of it packed in impossibly flat boxes. By the way, did I mention that you've got to figure out how to assemble all this stuff too?

Should you be fortunate enough to find what you're looking for, the checkouts are in sight, and all you have left to worry about is the 12-mile hike back to the car carrying a 40-pound box full of furniture parts. On the other hand, there's a good chance on a lot of items that you will need to pick stuff up at the OTHER warehouse, across the street. As far as I can tell, this is where they put all the stuff they couldn't fit into one box, so they stuff it into lots of boxes instead (if I recall correctly, the pieces for this desk came in eight different boxes, nine if you count the separately purchased cable management stuff.) Oftentimes when you reach this stage, it will be necessary to wait for some time as the highly trained staff scramble around the warehouse trying to locate part 600.449.30 and 600.449.31 on opposite sides of the warehouse.

So now that we finally have all our various bits and pieces (assuming that we managed to actually have room in the car to get them all home), it's time to put the thing together. Having stores in 37 different countries means that all of your purchases come with simple, easy-to-understand instructions that just happen to have no words to them. Instead of providing vague, difficult-to-understand instructions in all of the various languages, it's a lot easier for them to just provide vague, difficult-to-understand pictures and call it good. There's a right way and about sixteen different wrong ways to put together a given piece of IKEA furniture, and chances are pretty good that you'll find at least five of those wrong ways somewhere along the line when you're putting stuff together. Add to that the fact that you're generally using the tiny little tools they provide for assembly, and IKEA furniture can be explitive-laden fun for the whole family (unless, like me, you have a healthy supply of power tools in the garage, at which point all you need to worry about is deciphering the directions.)

When all is said and done, however, assuming you managed to get through the build process without mangling too much beyond recognition, the end result is good solid (if occasionally somewhat outlandish) furniture that'll usually not crumble to dust at inopportune times. And with all the extra desk space I now have over the old folding tables, I now have the minor problem of fighting off the urge to go multi-monitor. And it's not a bad deal either. You can probably find nicer stuff than IKEA, but you probably aren't going to find it any cheaper. And I can think of worse places than an IKEA store to be hopelessly lost...
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Just how well is your software being tested anyway?
Part 1: It runs, ship it!

Recently at work, several people were having a discussion regarding a new test bench being set up for some upcoming localization testing work on the project I'm working on. Assuming I didn't get totally lost in the back-and-forth conversation of exactly what sort of site heirarchy was needed for this effort, my role in all this is to set things up, but the numbers of servers needed, and exactly where these are supposed to come from varied wildly throughout the conversation. At one point, the number of servers required had reached as high as eighteen, before cooler heads (and presumably the available budget) prevailed. Fortunately for me and my my office mate, we managed to convince the test lead that this whole setup probably should be placed in a lab, rather than my office.

In addition to this discussion, This recent post by Chris of the Software Test Engineering @ Microsoft Blog, have led me to give some thought to the subject of exactly how well the software we put out is being tested. I'm probably going to do a series of posts on this subject, assuming I stop being lazy enough to write stuff every once in a while.

If you're familiar with the process of software testing, you know that the testing effort that goes into a typical piece of commercial software is extensive. You also know that there is only so much testing that you can do. Chris touched on this subject in his post:

This is one of the key problems of testing big software like this. You can test and test and test, but it's a bit frustrating to know that even with all your work someone, somewhere will have a problem with your stuff. I had a great conversation with two developers at lunch today about this. Once your software stabilizes testing becomes a low-yield game (tangent: at this point one of the developers cheerfully said “not when you're testing my stuff!”) You test a lot of surface area, and don't find many problems. This is one of the hardest times for testing, the temptation is to say “yep, it's done!”

This is a key dark art for shipping successful software. Everyone wants to be done, but someone has to have a good idea of when done actually happens. Ship too soon and you've got a buggy product out there. Ship too late and diminishing returns has kicked in so your quality isn't much better, but you just lost a lot of money by not being out in the marketplace. Every time software ships someone, or hopefully a group of someone's, thought about these issues an made a trade-off.

While this is true, it's not always quite that simple. Sure, the omnipresent spector of the schedule looms over your head, and you don't want to be the one who has to explain to the VP in charge exactly why you just slipped the ship date by six months, but it's not just a matter of popping out of your office one day and yelling "Ship it!" down the hall either. As a software tester, for the most part you're going to have someone (probably your lead, based on a schedule prepared by a Program Manager) telling you what to do at any given time. The process of getting a product to market is very structured. While this ensures that the basic functionality and features of a given product get tested thoroughly, it does also have the effect of having the testers spend quite a bit of time running through the same tests repeatedly. Depending on the way things are scheduled and the amount of test cases (and how much of it is automated,) some groups opt to run through a test pass on a weekly basis, especially as they approach a major milestone, which generally requires zero active bugs, followed by a period of escrow, in which no major bugs are found, before that particular milestone can be considered complete.

Of course, along the way, bugs are going to be found. Lots of them. Actually, I should probably back up a second here, and point out that in terms of the software development process, "Bug" is something of a generic term. What most people would think of as a bug is generally referred to as a "code defect". The term "Bug" is used to refer to just about any issue with the product that needs attention, be it a code defect, a string that needs to be fixed, a doc issue, s DCR (Design Change Request) or any number of other issues that may crop up. Just because you've filed a bug against the product doesn't mean that it'll be fixed either. Dev resources are lmiited (in fact, a lot of teams have less devs than testers, although I've heard it recommended that for ideal coverage a 1:1 ratio should be maintained.) If you sent all the bugs directly to the devs to fix, you'd be more likely to end up with your dev team barricaded in their office and surrounded by the SWAT team than you would to end up with a quality product. Therefore, you need what's known as a triage to sort things out.

To a lot of testers, the triage is some sort of mysterious process where bugs go in to get chewed up and spit out, often with great force. To be honest, having only recently worked on a team where more than 3 or 4 people attend the triage, I actually think I might prefer that the process remained a bit more mysterious. Getting your bugs tossed back in your face with a big "Postponed" or "Won't Fix" stamp is one thing, having it happen while you're sitting there watching is another. I can now see why it is that it is generally recommended that triage be left to the test leads and the PMs. Of course, even if you are going have half the bugs you file thrown out or punted (especially as you're getting close to shipping,) triage serves a vital purpose. in order to keep things on track, you need to make sure that the major issues get taken care of first, and also that they get to the appropriate people to take care of them. In the end, this is also going to leave a significant number of Won't Fix bugs in the product that didn't meet the criteria for being fixed. These are generally left to the tester's discretion as to whether or not they want to push back on them and try to get a fix. For the most part, these are going to be relatively minor issues anyway, and often have little effect on the end user experience.

Next time: Some discussion about the environments in which software is tested.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

OK, so that was a little less than a month from one post to the next. Anyway, primarily for the purpose of convincing myself that someone actually reads this thing, I added a counter.

This fine post of content-free fluff is brought to you by Yee! No, it's not a laundry detergent. Figure it out yourself.

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