Canonical Plugins in WordPress

We’ve discussed WordPress’s plugins before.  Like many pieces of software, WordPress has implemented a plugin mechanism to make customization easier.  But as we’ve discussed before in our post about the problems with plugins, the downsides of plugins written by random people can include more security problems, integration issues, bugs, and more.

That may change if WordPress adopts a new proposal for what they’re currently calling canonical plugins.  In their words:

Canonical plugins would be plugins that are community developed (multiple developers, not just one person) and address the most popular functionality requests with superlative execution. These plugins would be GPL and live in the WordPress.org repo, and would be developed in close connection with WordPress core.

Of course, picking the right canonical plugins to support relies on something else WordPress does well: plugin rating and reputation.  The next step will be integrating all of that information, support, and functionality in a future version of WordPress (maybe 3.0?).  With all of these features, WordPress is rapidly shaping up to be a strong role model in plugin architecture for platform developers everywhere.

Which E-Tailer Do You Trust? (Battle of the E-Tailers in the News!)

Breaking news! This week, we officially announced the results of our Q4 Bug Battle – Battle of the E-Tailers – along with a few prominent media outlets, including USA Today, Fast Company, Mashable! and eWeek.

Curious about the results? Check out the articles below:

So, the battle begs the question: Which e-tailer do you trust the most?

Safari Bug Actually Costs You Money

Tap to waste money.Mobile bugs are becoming a bigger and bigger problem, and iPhone users are the latest to be affected by buggy software.  Techcrunch reported yesterday that a bug in Safari causes it to consume bandwidth even when it’s closed.  The problem arises with the use of Motion JPEG (or M-JPEG), a video standard that is built off of the JPEG images standard.  When an iPhone user visits a page with an M-JPEG video, Safari will download continuously, even if the user pushes the Home button to end Safari and go back to the home screen.

What makes this problem really terrible is that many mobile users are charged for their bandwidth usage.  Even AT&T users, who are used to having unlimited data plans in the United States, can be charged for data consumption while traveling internationally.  That can mean big bills when they get back home.

Cellular service providers aren’t immune either.  Networks around the world are struggling to keep up with the data demands of the iPhone, and providers certainly don’t need to deal with unnecessary data consumption caused by broken software.  That means companies like AT&T are building out extra infrastructure to support buggy apps – something that costs you and me money in our phone bills.

For the security researchers who uncovered this bug, one hour of testing resulted in $3,000 worth of data charges. That is serious money, and anyone developing mobile apps should take heed.  Your broken app can cost enough money to buy 10 iPhones, and that’s a great way to get some bad press.  Further proof that mobile application testing needs to catch-up to the standards of web and desktop testing.

New in WordPress: Easy Plugin Reputation

Plugin CompatibilityPlugins have long been a double edged sword for software.  On the one hand they make software more flexible than it would be otherwise.  On the other hand, plugins can be poorly maintained and full of bugs.  That second issue is so much of a problem that a little while back I wrote a post describing several methods to better manage the plugins for your favorite piece of software.

Now WordPress has gone one better with their new Plugin Compatibility Beta.  Blog owners can now vote on how well a plugin works with different versions of WordPress, making it easy to see if a plugin is well maintained or dying.  The new feature is already available within the WordPress plugin directory, and anyone with a WordPress login can vote.  Here’s an example with WP-Polls.

And the future looks even brighter.  According to the development team:

Eventually, we’d like to gather this compatibility feedback from within WordPress, allowing you to vote directly from your plugins admin screen. The ultimate goal is to use this information to inform you of plugin incompatibilities with a new version of WordPress during the upgrade process. For that to be useful we need a large set of high quality compatibility data. Start voting!

Hopefully, selecting the right plugin for your needs will become even easier and more reliable.

Tomorrow’s Software – Creating Bugs Since 1983

Why can't the LHC tell me the winning lottery numbers?Most bugs are never so terrible that they call into question the very nature of causality in the universe.  But for engineers working on the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, it may be necessary to rethink their assumptions about cause and effect.

For those who don’t know, the LHC will soon become the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world.  Using 180 megawatts of power, the LHC will propel two subatomic particles at 99.9999991% the speed of light around a 27 kilometer tunnel that passes underneath the borders of both France and Switzerland.  Once the particles reach full speed – making the round trip through the tunnel 11,000 times per second – they will slam into each other with a combined output of 14 TeV of energy.

The goal of all this destruction: to find the Higgs Boson.  Physicists have been chasing the Higgs for decades, but it has always remained elusive.  Now, two physicists are speculating that there’s a reason the Higgs hasn’t been found – it could be so abhorrent to nature that finding it would end the world as we know it.  If that were true, then from our point of view any attempt to find the Higgs would end in a series of bizarre failures – almost like the experiments were sabotaging themselves from the future.  Oh, and the LHC has certainly experienced its fair share of bizarre failures.  Originally planned to begin testing in 2007, it is now scheduled to start-up in November of this year.

So the next time you’re testing software, be thankful your bugs aren’t bad enough to rip apart the fabric of space time.  Or else you too might have to deal with bugs from the future!!!!

Bug vs. Plane… Bug Wins

When does a bug beat a plane (or in this case, dozens of planes)?  CNN has the answer.

Dozens of trans-Atlantic flights from the United Kingdom were delayed Saturday after a glitch in an air traffic control system in Scotland, but the problem was fixed a few hours later and authorities were working to get the flight schedule back to normal.Engineers found a malfunction Saturday morning in the system that controls the airspace across the Atlantic Ocean from Scotland, a statement from the National Air Traffic Services said.

The agency said it had reverted to back-up equipment as engineers worked to fix the system. The agency said the problem did not create a safety issue but could cause delays in flights that could last hours.

We usually associate software glitches with apps that we interact with every day — No more bugs!operating systems, social networks or mobile apps.  But it’s easy to forget about the software apps that now run our air traffic control, our automobiles, our hospitals and our financial systems.

With that in mind, what are the scariest software bugs you’ve heard of or read about?  Two of my un-favorites are Denver Airport’s baggage handling system and the FBI systems upgrade that never made it off the ground.

Anyway, let’s hear your biggest, baddest, scariest, hairiest bug stories.  And here’s to our shared goal of a bug-free future!

A Bug of a Different Kind

Gabe and Tycho of Penny Arcade are normally hilarious.  Their thrice weekly comic is a must read for anyone who loves gaming, and their yearly logo PAX conference has grown to be one of the most influential gamer gatherings in the world.

While games are prone to having bugs, this year’s conference (which ended Sunday) also featured a bug of a much scarier kind: H1N1 flu.  Over one hundred gamers have been diagnosed with the virus, many of whom have since traveled back home carrying it with them.

So as a reminder – get to know the symptoms of H1N1 flu and see a doctor if you feel ill.  Stay healthy everyone!

The First Famous Software Bug

I’m sure many of you are familiar with this story from back in the days first software bugwhen a computer took up two parking spaces, but Todd Dailey over at Wired ran a great piece today about this date in 1947.  It was on this date 62 years ago that the operators of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator discovered the first computer bug (ok, it was a moth, but I still say that good testing would have found it!).

Wired commemorates this special date by listing a few of the more software slip-ups from years past.

1988 The Morris internet worm, the first widespread worm, shuts down thousands of Internet-connected computers due to a programming error on the part of Robert Morris. Morris was attempting to map the internet, but an error caused the worm to crash the computers it connected to instead.

1993 The Denver Airport’s automatic luggage handling system fails to launch on time, leading to its eventual full shutdown in 2005. The failure of the software led to a lot of deep thought on how software is created.

Continue Reading

The Boston Test Party

Last night, uTest co-hosted our second Boston-area tester meetup with our UK pest_2realpartner, TCL, at The Kinsale. About 25 of local software testers showed up ready for some testing games, pizza, beer and networking fun at this P.E.S.T. (Pub Exploration Software Testing) event.

pest_1Attendees got a sneak peek at a soon-to-be-released version of the uTest platform and went at it to show off their web testing skills. Those who discovered the most creative and valuable bugs were awarded an iPod Touch, an iPod Nano and an iPod Shuffle.

We had a great time networking with Boston’s testers, developers and students.  We hope to see you soon in the uTest community reporting showstopper bugs for the biggest software companies in the world.

Great to meet you all in person and we look forward to doing it again later this year.  Stay tuned for details on our next P.E.S.T. event.

Check out the uTest Flickr page to see more pics from this event and other uTest gatherings.

A New Way That Bugs Can Bite You

Catching up on my reading and came across an interesting article on the App chess-21Store from Jason Kincaid over at TechCrunch.  Ostensibly, this piece is about Apple’s overly strict and seemingly random App Store approval process and a high-pressure NSFW rant from a high-profile developer, Joe Stump, whose popular app has a new version that is on the outside of the app store, looking in.

Stump outlines a problem that he had with Chess Wars, the Facebook Connect-enabled chess game that came out in July. After catching a show-stopping bug soon after the initial release, his company Blunder Move promptly issued an update. Soon thereafter they noticed another bug, which they quickly released a fix for. Unfortunately, this second update has sat in App Store purgatory for many weeks now, and Apple has gone silent on when it will be approved.

What struck me — other than the string of bad press that Apple has earned via the lousy treatment of its developers — is that THIS is a new cost of bugs.

Not to lay blame at Stemp’s feet.  We, of all people, know that bugs happen.  Plus he mentions utilizing 50 beta testers and 200 unit tests, so they’re doing more testing than many.  But IF these showstopper bugs had been caught in the initial version or even in the 2nd version of Chess Wars, then Chess Wars wouldn’t have its nose pressed up against the window of the App Store, waiting for the powers-that-be to bless the new version.

Chalk it up as another real-world reason to achieve maximum professional testing coverage to eradicate all quality, security and privacy defects before your app goes live.  Have other stories of software bugs causing havoc in interesting, scary or funny ways?  Drop us a comment and tell us about it.