News from the World of QA — April 2016

QA plays a vital role in how software gets developed no matter the industry. Here is a look at a few interesting news stories from April related to software quality assurance. If you also want to check out last month’s news, take a look at the March blog post.

QA should have the Power to delay the Release of Video Games

The video game industry obviously depends on the QA role to release a product free of bugs and other gameplay issues. Considering the social media-driven gaming world, news about a buggy title spreads like wildfire within a day or two. The dustbin of video gaming history is filled with companies who gave short-shrift to testing.

A leader of a video gaming testing firm feels QA needs to have a say in when video games are finally released. Andy Robson of Testology spoke earlier in April at the TIGA QA, Localization and Customer Support Summit held in London. “QA should have the power to say this game isn’t ready. We’ve had times when there has been hundreds of issues still logged on our database – but the game has still been released. We need to be given the time to fix these,” said Robson.

Robson notes that marketing pressures ultimately force games to be released before they are properly vetted. It is an arguably unnecessary risk taken by major video game publishers. Many companies simply treat gamers as another QA layer; making final fixes to bug-laden software using post-release patches.

VR Gaming Interfaces complicate Quality Assurance

Ever since The Lawnmower Man hit movie theatres over two decades ago, virtual reality has been expected to enter the technology mainstream. Recently, VR control has reappeared in the video gaming world, and its presence is adding complexity to an already difficult QA role.

Because of these new controller requirements, QA departments have to redesign their testing labs to account for VR headsets and other associated hardware, which is slowing down the quality assurance process. “The VR testing space has been redesigned and rebuilt multiple times throughout the past 12 months and we expect that there will be more redesigning and reconfiguration throughout the next year,” noted VMC’s Kirstin Whittle. 

Considering the applications for VR outside of gaming — the military, surgical, and CAD use-cases are notable — expect QA shops in a variety of industries to consider adding VR testing capabilities to their toolbox over the next few years.

NASDAQ introduces New “Validator” QA Platform

When QA problems happen in the world of stock trading, the financial risks are paramount — an issue we previously noted on the Betica Blog. As one of the world’s largest stock exchanges, NASDAQ is taking the steps to ensure these problems are mitigated by launching a new API-independent QA platform known as NASDAQ Validator. The platform’s audience is expected to be various financial exchanges, clearinghouses, and depositories.

Validator includes a suite containing both manual and automated test tools suitable for the capital markets industry. It focuses on speeding up the manual testing process while also simplifying its use, allowing for validation by a larger stakeholder group. The system interfaces with different securities trading systems from NASDAQ and other providers.

Lars Ottersgård, NASDAQ’s Executive Vice President and Head of Market Technology, commented on the new platform. “By offering Nasdaq Validator to marketplaces worldwide, we are squarely addressing the absolute necessity for robust QA processes, while reducing expenditures and shortening the go-to-market timetable,” said Ottersgård.

Stay tuned for future looks into the wide world of software quality assurance in News from the World of QA here at the Betica Blog.

Vagrant makes the QA Professional’s Life Easier

Previously on the Betica blog, we talked about Docker, a software container application used to package programs with their dependencies. In short, it makes the QA process go more smoothly, especially when migrating applications between servers dedicated to development, testing, and production. It is a fine example of the maturing concept of virtualization throughout the IT industry.

As shops try to fit more virtual environments and software containers onto a server, managing them can become a headache. Enter Vagrant. This open source management software helps you to run and configure virtual machines of all kinds, ultimately making the software development task an easier one.

Vagrant supports the Entire Software Development Process

Vagrant serves as essentially a lightweight software container — similar to Docker. Instead of encapsulating a software application, however, Vagrant packages an entire development environment. It provides a simple to use workflow easily supporting the way software gets written today.

Working with most major virtualization frameworks — KVM, VMware, AWS, and more — Vagrant belongs in the toolbox of any software development shop looking to facilitate the management and portability of development environments. Considering its status as an open source project, expect continued updates as the overall development world evolves. The application is compatible with today’s most popular operating systems — Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.

Setting up a Vagrant virtual machine is a breeze. Simply tell the application the desired machine type, any software to be installed, and the means for accessing the VM. After a single command line entry, the new machine is installed and configured, and most importantly, the process is easily replicated on the desktop computer of every team member — software engineer or QA.

Even though Vagrant is written in Ruby, the tool is compatible with projects leveraging many other popular programming languages, including C#, Java, Python, PHP, and JavaScript. The application also provides an architecture that supports plug-ins, which means enterprising developers can add their own functionality to the software. Over Vagrant’s six-year history, many enhancements have been developed as plug-ins, which is another testament to the usefulness of the open source community.

Vagrant as a Compliment to Docker

While some feel Vagrant and Docker are competitors, essentially performing similar virtual functions, many shops leverage the two tools in a complimentary fashion. The infographic on this website clearly illustrates how to use both applications together to streamline the configuration and management of virtual machines as well as the virtual environments containing the application (in addition to its libraries and dependent components) to be coded and tested. Depending on the specific scenario, choosing one tool over the other is also warranted.

As the software development process continues to operate at an increasingly faster pace in this era of Agile and DevOps, smart shops need the tools that allow them to make enhancements and bug fixes at the speed of business. Vagrant is another application worthy of further exploration for those involved with software development and the QA process.

Keep tuned to the Betica blog for additional insights into the wide world of QA and software development.

A Device Lab helps the Mobile QA Process

Mobile QA can be a convoluted and complex process, as we’ve noted before. Mobile platforms, especially the ubiquitous Android, typically contain a multitude of devices and operating system versions. Even the relative “walled-garden” of iOS isn’t immune to this issue.

While emulators help QA professionals somewhat deal with the differences in device types and OS versions, they really aren’t a replacement for the real thing. Testing on an actual piece of hardware remains the best way to truly benchmark a mobile app’s performance. Any mobile QA shop would benefit from setting up a device lab to handle app and website testing on hardware.

With better mobile software testing in mind, let’s take a closer look at building a mobile QA device lab.

Acquiring Mobile Devices for Hardware Testing

It is important to acquire a wide array of devices for your mobile QA lab. Obviously the underlying platform plays a big role in device procurement — an iOS-only shop probably doesn’t need a host of Samsung or HTC smartphones and tablets. Also, try to leverage any analytics data to see what kinds of devices are accessing your mobile website or using your apps.

A good cross-section of screen dimensions, processors, and manufacturers (for Android) helps to ensure your team is able to test apps and websites in as many different hardware configurations as possible. Checking for overall performance on older devices is vital as well.

Use everything from eBay and other online vendors, to a local smartphone store offering used gear when sourcing devices. Trying to get as many different devices as possible while staying within a reasonable budget should be your goal.

Additionally, assume each device will be reset to factory defaults; using one common lab account for activation purposes helps make that process go smoothly.

Building the Lab Itself

Having a dedicated area for a mobile device lab is a must. Trying to accomplish significant testing on multiple devices using individual cubicles adds too much confusion and clutter. Spend enough on power strips and USB hubs to sufficiently run every device, but remember that testing mobile apps in low-power situations can be useful as well for software validation.

A cart or two for the lab helps move devices around when necessary, and consider using stands so your QA professionals don’t spend too much time hunched over while testing. You may want to contemplate setting up a separate WiFi network to keep device lab traffic separate from the rest of your office. Additionally, if lab energy consumption is an issue, timed power strips help to save on costs over time.

Finally, be sure to keep enough spare cables on hand — USB, power, etc. — since you never want a faulty cord to adversely impact the testing schedule. Soon enough, the mobile device lab will be making a positive contribution to software quality at your organization.

If you need any additional insights on creating a mobile device lab for your company, check out this detailed website and eBook on the topic authored by two engineers who work for the arts and crafts eCommerce site, Etsy.

Keep an eye on the Betica blog for future posts on this and other topics of interest to the QA world.