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All posts in Tip of the Day

Daylight Saving Time

Love it or hate it here in Israel we just changed our clocks and our computers seem to have handled it okay, so do our Smartphones.

After twiddling with our analog clocks and watches those are fine too.

The recurring problem here that most people forget about is how Daylight Saving Time can do unfortunate things to our web calendars.

Daylight Saving Time - Calendar

Panic In The Streets

Whether it’s CalDAV or ActiveSync doesn’t seem to matter, every year at some point in the days after the change to Daylight Saving Time we notice that the appointments are scheduled wrong and for those of us with good memory we laugh it off and change it to the right time. Most of us have a real Khaaaaan moment and hunt for the original email about the appointment.

Seamlessly made with Picotale in Microsoft
It gets better:

  • If an appointment is sent between platforms e.g. I invite someone using GCal from my Calendar then the actual appointment time maybe an hour off.
  • If I sync appointments between my phone and my web calendar then this Daylight Saving Time bug can occur too.

Basically for several weeks there is a level of uncertainty whether we can trust the time our appointments are set at.

The beauty of calendar appointments is they are easy to make and easy to approve so what do we do to sort this out?

This is where common sense comes in to the picture…

The Warptest POV

I’m blessed with being married to a smart, sensible and beautiful wife. She came up with a great way to make sure you aren’t late for that important meeting or interview:

When you add an appointment to your web calendar write the time in the description as part of the text. Don’t just rely on the time field which is where the problem can lie.

The basic test is send a dummy appointment to a friend and ask them to check after they approve it whether the times match.

Keep an eye on your calendar and if after a few days you see the problem isn’t occurring then you are probably safe but double-check after your phone and web calendar sync.

Good luck and have a great weekend.



How can eSATA Help You?

Suddenly you are looking at your laptop and recalling the time you wouldn’t run out of USB ports. Most laptops today have two, if you are lucky three USB ports and between wireless mouse dongles and external hard drives suddenly you can find yourself wanting to sync / charge your Smartphone but having to safely remove a device first.

What Do You Do? What Do You Do, Hotshot?

I was putting my laptop away and resigning myself to buying a USB Hub when I noticed something called an eSATA port. At first I didn’t pay attention to the USB symbol adjacent to the port.

The hard drive in your computer is likely connected via SATA. eSATA is the external version.

eSATA laptop port

I decided to see if I could find an eSATA adaptor for my external Hard Drive. My local computer store confirmed that eSATA will take a USB plug and should work in most cases but an adaptor doesn’t exist.

To date my external Hard Drive worked, my Disk on Key did not (Windows informed me that the file system was not recognized but that I could format it) and my Windows Phone both charged and sync’d seamlessly. The thing to keep in mind is to be careful when plugging and unplugging the USB devices, it’s a snug fit.

The Warptest POV

Using eSATA as an additional USB port is a really useful hack and this is something 99% of people may not know. Props to Computer Online of Country Center, Modiin, Israel for confirming this.

Hopefully this may help some of you.

The New Windows UI

The Windows 8 revolution has begun …

I don’t believe that it’s empty hyperbole to describe the launch of Windows 8 as a revolution. This is the Operating System as it should be.

Windows has evolved and as a result the most important preparation you can make before upgrading to Windows 8 is to prepare yourself.

It doesn’t really matter what OS you have used until now …

Whether it was Windows XP, Vista or 7, a flavor of Linux or Apple’s Mac OS X, the UI / UX for Windows 8 is something different; as is the seamless integration of Microsoft’s Cloud Services.

Your Windows Login can be set (opt-in) to use your Microsoft Account (formerly your Live ID) as your login and this brings with it a holistic sync of these services with the relevant apps:

You will find your Hotmail /, Contacts, Calendar and Skydrive all sync’d and accessible and if like me you are a Windows Phone user then the experience is even sweeter. You don’t have to have a Microsoft Account to use Windows 8 but the truth is, that is the way to maximize your investment in the OS.

Windows 8 is a cloud integrated OS at its very core and with this you are called on to embrace Apps versus Desktop Apps and perhaps more controversially the disappearance of the Start Menu.

Apps versus Desktop Apps …

Apps are Metro UI in design and the desktop for these utilizes Live Tile technology. We got our first taste of this in Windows Phone to a degree; Live Tiles are large, boldly designed icons that may display dynamic information regarding App related content e.g. Mail’s Live Tile may display the number of new / unread emails waiting for you, People’s Live Tile shows you the latest messages from your Contacts in the different connected Social Networks:

The New Windows 8 UI Desktop

This means that your Desktop is now a source of as much Real Time information as you see fit.

Desktop Apps are the classical Windows styled programs that will display in the Desktop. In some cases the

TIP: Your best friend in a non-touch enabled device is the Windows Key:

Used by itself it will toggle between Metro Desktop and Classical Windows Desktop.

Used in conjunction with the X key on your keyboard you get the Main Menu.

Windows 8 Desktop

Alternatively for the early adopter types, the power move is to use the Charms Menu. Swipe down from the top right with the mouse (if touch enabled with your finger)

The Windows 8 Charms Menu

The Warptest Perspective …

  • Prepare yourself: expect some degree of ramp up time in getting used to Windows 8. Revolutionary can be a bit hard to cope with if your mouse hand keeps straying towards the missing Start Menu.
  • I will deep dive the Charms Menu in a later post. This is a power feature that deserves more detail; Search alone is multifaceted, killer app.
  • The Metro UI Desktop: be aware that you can easily remove Live Tiles (right click the Tile you don’t need and a menu will open at the bottom of the screen)
  • Live Tiles and Cognitive Dissonance. Too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. So if you find it distracting or confusing to have too many Live Tiles dynamically refreshing information then thin the herd.
  • I’ll say it one more time. Windows 8 is revolutionary and adjusting your mindset about how you are used to doing things will make for a stress free transition.

One thing is certain, the revolution is waiting for you too. Are you going to join?

The Missus and I have been discussing the need for some rearranging in the house.

I have been shifting boxes and discovering undiscovered pockets of dust and pollen in our storage shed. However, my allergies aside we decided that some of our rearrangement would require a visit to Ikea.

Ikea is like a trip abroad for me but not just because Ikea in Netanya, Israel looks the same as Ikea in the North of England (Warrington if I remember right). For me the whole Ikea visit is a pleasure.

If you haven’t guessed let me tell you a secret I love flatpack. Not just the concept or the idea of it but the whole process of choosing, buying, getting it home and then assembly. The coffee and muffins at Ikea are just an added bonus.

I have been known to drop everything an pop over to assemble something for a friend once in awhile. However, I do understand the frustrations some feel with flatpack. The instructions can be poor and Ikea has a graphic concept for their instructions that doesn’t always make it easy for the end user to see what connects to what.

Yesterday, I saw a case of this online which led to me tweeting my top 10 Ikea tips. I decided to blog them too (in reverse order, copied from my tweet feed): –

My #Ikea tips: 10. On completion do bask in the feeling of a job well done and the admiration of your family and most important enjoy

My #Ikea tips: 9. Ikea is like #Microsoft once u get your head around the 5-10 types of screws and bolts and flatpack philosophy u r golden

My #Ikea tips: 8. Ask at the store for advice or tips for assembling the product u r buying. Ikea has great customer support

My #Ikea tips: 7. Don’t start if u don’t have all the tools they recommend u need 2 get the job done

My #Ikea tips: 6. Another pair of eyes helps. Don’t be afraid to ask for help the instructions ARE confusing #asinlife

My #Ikea tips: 5. Keep the catalog open so u always have your end result in sight

My #Ikea tips: 4. as in life if u really have to force something it might be wrong

My #Ikea tips: 3 (should have been 1) When u r at Ikea take a close look at the display model and see how it’s put together

My #Ikea tips: 2. Open instructions and see which parts belong to which stage

My #Ikea tips: 1. Layout all the parts from the flatpack and check everything is there

#1 Is probably one of my favorites. I used to do this with those airplane models and then take a few moments just to see if I could understand how everything fit together.

One extra I remembered right now is bolts and screws don’t over-tighten them but also don’t close them until you absolutely are ready to move onto the next stage.

I think that this whole methodology is probably an extension of my professional philosophy in testing, QA and Project Management.

Anyway, happy flatpacking. Enjoy.

Last week I was tamping the coffee grinds into the portafilter cup … the aluminum cup with a black insulated handle that holds the grinds and the heated water passes thru under pressure to make the espresso; I had been a little ill and not paying attention to how I was applying strength to things.
I placed the filled portafilter cup and rotated it and a rather loud snap left me with the handle in my hand and the rest of the aluminum part locked in place.
Had I been alone my first response would probably have been to let rip with a string of vernacular to make a sailor blush but my Mrs and the little guy always seem to help me control that urge just by being there. One brief visit into the laundy room later I was expletive free and of a mindset to resolve this issue until I could get a replacement part.
Oh sure, just manage without the coffee machine until the part arrives. Wait who said that? I’m not sure if my MacGyver like skills come from a natural ability, inherited from several generations back or simple necessity.
First attempt was to repair the handle using epoxy resin. Aluminum apparently is no great friend of this compound. The Mrs was ecstatic I didn’t glue my fingers together in a caffeine withdrawal frenzy. After she managed to stop guffawing, sorry it was more of a giggle, she’s way to lady-like to guffaw (especially at me) she reminded me that in the Sparta-like society that is Israel the ER woul probably just hacksaw my fingertips apart and better to find another solution.
I wrapped my cerebellum around several other trials with less than success until I arrived at an almost perfect solution: an adjustable locking wrench from my toolbox.
This was one of my earlier purchases for my toolbox and as such it was cheap. It’s a tool I have been meaning to replace when I have the chance with one that works better. I can use the espresso machine now but once in awhile the wrench springs open of its own volition to a hearty and poorly timed crash.
Oh well until I get the replacement part.
As a manager an consultant one of things I frequently encounter when I am hired to increase productivity in the test lifecycle is conflict.
Now there are contructive ways for conflict to flourish but with respect to QA/ testing one of the most common occurences in the Start Up arena is the need to get deliverables out of the door compromising the test cycle. Or unrealistic expectations on R&D creating a need for them to borrow testing time in the lifecycle which creates friction between the R&D teams and QA.
In a previous Start Up the VP of R&D would allow me as QA Manager to borrow back Developers to help with end-run testing. Whilst not optimal the extra hands did help but, there are a few things I learnt to do from this and other occurences:
1. Getting more hands to help if they are not guided doesn’t necessarilly produce good results.
2. Developers shouldn’t (except for Unit Testing) test their own code; the corollary to this is pairwise review which works well for testing too; you can team the developer with a QA tester or another developer.
3. Have the test cases mapped out and ready to distribute/ accessible to the extended testing team [yes, this is why we love Microsoft Team System] and ensure the same for the Bug Tracking.
4. Make it fun! Use Best Bug Awards and a big wall chart in the QA Lab; if the company will spring for it even have a small cash prize/ meal out for the absolute best showstopper.
5. Don’t let this become habit. It’s not healthy for QA to continually compromise the test cycle and R&D testing means they aren’t developing and Developer hours are costly.
When I did Best Bug Awards I liked to use a wooden plaque with a gold painted big bug stuck on it. We would ceremonially review the bug and award the plaque (to be held until the next contest) at our weekly meeting; the person who found the bug would receive the award and then be responsible for explaining the process of how they tested and found the bug.
The most common phrase I used to hear from R&D when we found a bug was “I can’t reporduce this.” so make the QA Lab accessible (even by Remote) and encourage the Developers to feel at home to use the Test environments to see how the bug occurs in the wild.
All of this is part of a greater process with an underlying philosophy of marketing QA as valuable but also ensuring that other teams don’t see QA as an interference in their progress.
A lot of this boils down to something my Grandpa told me,”You can draw more flies with honey than vinegar.” This especially holds true for the sort of work done by QA/ Testing.
There are many different organizations, start-ups amongst them where the transfer of knowledge between teams or individual can be akin to pulling teeth; difficult, messy and painful.
The classic example in development is when the QA or Test team has to begin defining tests for the next release but has no clear idea beyond terminology on a Gantt or various emails what they have to test.
Getting documentation at this stage can be frustrating and even ultimately counterproductive in terms of the conflict or friction it raises between the person who has to produce the documentation (in our case specifications) and the person who needs the documentation to continue working and not become a bottleneck.
In SCRUM during the daily meeting this issue would be raised as an impediment to the testing progress and the Scrum Master would help the team in resolving this.
However as an experienced QA Manager I can state that this issue is a function of corporate culture. Normally this occurs where VP of R&D and or the CTO continues to make statements committing to full knowledge transfer but actually the real concept being maintained is that writing code comes first and if you are lucky we might get to writing spec down the line.
This truly demonstrates a Waterfall methodology regardless of the methodology that the organization claims to be using.
How do we resolve this? Perhaps this is something you just have to live with and realize that this is an organization that will never embrace Kanban, Lean, Kaizen, and Agile – SCRUM or any variant thereof without a true management commitment.
There are different personality types depending on which theory of psychology you adhere to; I’m a tools and techniques guy, I try to identify the problem and knowing it will recur find the correct tool or technique that allows everyone involved to keep a smile on their face and get the job done.
I encountered this kind of problem myself several times and it occurred to me that if the core of the problem is finding the time to write stuff down, then why make people write at all? The written medium is tiresome to create an often just as difficult to read and learn from. So why not use a different medium?
Ideally, you would introduce the use of Digital Audio or preferably Video recording and get the relevant knowledge owner to speak freely explaining the (in our example) spec. Diagrams, charts and slides could be added later making this “living document” or work in progress. (I re-heard this idea at the Israel Scrum Users Conference, earlier this month; many of us confirming that a good idea is something others thought of at the same time as you).
This is the easy part; there will still be a need for post-processing, review/ approval, document control and much larger storage/ backup than if these were simple textual documents.
Users would have to learn to be comfortable with being filmed, cameras would have to be readily available and seated on a stable platform. The video files would need some form of tagging which could be used for creating a searchable index in the Document control database but ultimately the ROI would be enormous in terms of reducing the friction and frustration in dealing with this impediment.

A hearty cheers to my brother in law who just returned from the US of A and offered to bring me a few goodies back.

Knowing that space and weight are an issue I was somewhat restrained in my purchasing but I am gleefully eye-ing: –

  • James Rollins latest novel, The Last Oracle. I can’t get enough of his writing as one of my favorite authors and never get to put the book down once I start reading it.
  • Cynthia Shapiro’s best selling career guidance book as recommended by Penelope Trunk.
  • The Columbia River Get-A-Way Driver. I have been after this forever since I read about it online somewhere. This is a totally useful toolfor anyone who constantly needs a screwdriver/ flashlight etc but wants it super small and due to travel constraints can’t carry a tool with a knife on. 
  • Tadgear have been having this T-shirt online and sold out several times. I’m going thru a period where having a couple of neat or funny T-shirts in the closet puts a small smile on my face so I figured why not? Oh yes, the image appeals somehow too.

  • – Probably the smartest marketing idea I have seen in a while; Joffrey’s offered to beta testers the chance to receive samples of coffee and to give suggestions for their ultimate brew if they blog about the bean. Tomorrow morning we shall meet for some serious testing. Results to follow but confidence is high.

Well now to finish preparing for my interview, get some sleep and enjoy my swag tomorrow.

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If you haven’t guessed it I’m a tools guy. Not gadgets but tools. Like the blog name says, it needs to be practical.

I’ve written in the past about folding tools like Leatherman, SOG et al and different tools for the PC but I was at the tool store, Home Depot the other day to pick up a few things with my wife and I took my nearly 3 year old son for a trawl around the tools section.

It’s never too soon to explain to the little guy what each tool does; when I was just a little older than him I started running around the house trying to take everything apart to see how it worked. This was probably the starting point for my career in QA.

As we looked at Drills, Hammers, Screwdrivers, Spanners etc and I tried to teach him how to say each thing I was struck by a memory from childhood; my late grandfather was a very hands-on guy, he built his own house, had a factory and in his split level garage had a large workshop in the lower level.

As a kid this place was the magic kingdom to me; work benches, real cast iron clamps and an assortment of tools and projects he was always working on. One tool stuck in my memory, he had this beautiful, yes beautiful ratchet screwdriver about 60 cm long with a red varnished wood handle and chromed steel parts. I was forever hunting loose screws everywhere just so I could borrow the ratchet screwdriver and pump away at the handle and watch mechanism turn and rotate the screw back into its hole.

A couple of years ago I was on Route 17 in New Jersey near Paramus and I saw an old style tool store, after horse trading with my wife that I would gladly go round Nordstrom with her she agreed to stop, no doubt fearing that I was going to either start drooling over every tool in the shop or want to buy stuff that I would have to schlep back home to Israel.

We walked in and I roamed the aisles taking in everything and I went to chat to the ubiquitous old guy behind the counter. Remembering my grandfather’s ratchet screwdriver I asked him if they had such a thing in stock to which he replied just a little sadly that no-one makes tools like that anymore and if they do then the are made with plastic not wood. If they did make tools like that they would simply cost too much for him to hold in stock and frankly these days everyone uses a Cordless Drill/ Screwdriver.

He was kind of surprised that a guy my age would prefer mechanical over electric and we got to talking about the underlying philosophy of the sheer pleasure of using a tool like that even when an easier option might be available.

Empty-handed but cheered up from the conversation we drove on to Nordstrom where thankfully at least the coffee was superb (frankly they have some of the best Espresso ever); and yes I had a good time shopping with the Missus.

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