Are You Updating IE Today? You Should!

Around 1:00 PM EST today, Microsoft will release an emergency patch for all versions of Internet Explorer.  They’re issuing the patch today instead of on their usual timeline because of the recent security issues involving Google.  It seems that hackers were able to target a previously unknown bug in IE as part of their attack against several accounts with Google.  ZDNet quotes a spokesman from Microsoft saying:

(W)e will be releasing MS10-002  (on) January 21, 2010. We are planning to release the update as close to 10:00 a.m. PST as possible. This is a standard cumulative update, accelerated from our regularly scheduled February release, for Internet Explorer with an aggregate severity rating of Critical. It addresses the vulnerability related to recent attacks against Google and a small subset of corporations, as well as several other vulnerabilities. Once applied, customers are protected against the known attacks that have been widely publicized. We recommend that customers install the update as soon as it is available. For customers using automatic updates, this update will automatically be applied once it is released.”

If you run Internet Explorer (and statistics say that 62% of you do) run Microsoft Update a little after 10:00 AM PST and make sure you grab this update.  And if you run an IT department, you should consider deploying the patch to your users as soon as you can.

Two Phrases That Don’t Belong Together: Software Bugs and Airplanes

Flight DeelaayyyyyyyyysThe mere thought of air travel during the holidays is annoying enough to send most people running to their nearest bus or train station.  The crowds, the lines, the delays, the zip-lock bags and 3 oz bottles of shampoo… but wait, there’s more!

Late last week, a five-hour computer glitch caused flight delays across the U.S. that were still rippling through the transportation system for most of the day.  The problem was made worse by the fact that the National Airspace Data Interchange Network failed at both its locations — Atlanta and Salt Lake City.  (Ed. note:  I’ll try hard to avoid using the word “crash” in this post.)

Bloomberg.com had this to say:

The Federal Aviation Administration blamed a four-hour software failure for causing airline delays and cancellations across the U.S.  The shutdown lasted from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET after “a software configuration” malfunction today in Salt Lake City.

And The New York Times chimed in with this little bit of sunny news:

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uTest CEO Presents at Google Test Automation Conference (GTAC)

As promised, Google has made the slides and video presentations from GTAC 2009 (Google Test Automation Conference) available on the GTAC website and on YouTube. This year’s GTAC was a huge success! The theme was “Testing for the Web,” and now anyone can watch these leading thinkers discuss test automation strategies, tools, and the challenges desktop and mobile environments present when creating web apps.

Doron was among a select group of speakers chosen to present at GTAC, including Microsoft, smartFOCUS Digital, Sauce Labs and of course Google, where he examined the complimentary role a community of professional testers plays in mobile testing.

Check out Doron’s presentation below! All other presentations can now be seen on YouTube.

Danger in the Clouds

Zot!Do you own a Sidekick mobile phone (AKA the Danger Hiptop)?  Then please accept my condolences while I describe the pain and suffering you’ve experienced over the past few days.

The Sidekick is made by Danger, a company acquired by Microsoft in 2008.  As one of T-Mobile’s flagship mobile phones, the Sidekick was one of the first and most popular consumer smartphones.  Featuring a real keyboard, it offered an instant messaging application at a time when many phones were still figuring out SMS.  For IM and SMS addicts, the Sidekick was THE phone to own.

One of the Sidekick’s key features was that it kept all of your important stuff “in the cloud.”  That meant it stored all of your contacts, messages, photos, and just about everything else on a server managed by Danger.  This made it easy to recover your data in case your phone lost power or failed.  What nobody anticipated was the cloud server itself failing.

In what the BBC calls “the biggest disaster yet for the whole concept of cloud computing,” that very thing happened this past weekend.  A failed upgrade to the server managing the data for all Sidekicks resulted in the loss of everyone’s data at once.  Microsoft is now warning Sidekick owners not to turn off their devices, thus permanently deleting what little data they might have cached locally.

Anyone building an app on the cloud should be worried,  because what happened to Microsoft could just as easily happen to you too.  With that in mind, here are a few lessons for cloud computing app developers:

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Mobile App Market Blowing Up (in a good way)

By now, it’s painfully obvious to all of us that the market for mobile apps is BOOMING and shows no signs of slowing down.  But I was still amazed by the stats/news that back up the hype. Within the past few months, GigaOmsomanyapps has reported the following mind-blowing proof points:

  • Apple users downloaded 2 billion apps
  • Android’s Market will come pre-loaded on Verizon phones
  • Microsoft launched its Windows Marketplace for Mobile
  • Apple will hit shelves in China, the world’s largest market
  • Research In Motion (RIM) expanded with its new App World
  • Palm introduced premium apps for its webOS
  • Verizon is opening its own app store later this year

And the list goes on and on…

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In Search Of The Q3 Bug Battle

In the past, we’ve brought you the Browser Brouhaha (Q408), a Social Networking Skirmish (Q109) and Twitter App Apocolypse (Q209).   Well it’s that time again, so we’re going to be kicking off our Q3 Bug Battle later this week.  For this quarter’s competition, we’ve chosen to turn our testing community loose on the most popular search engines:  Google, Bing and Yahoo!

Q3 Bug Battle

The Q3 Bug Battle will begin on Friday, August 7th and end on Friday, the 14th.  We’ll be awarding more than $3,000 in prize money to the top testers, based on:

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Testing the Limits with James Whittaker (part one)

Once a month, we’re going to “test the limits”, interviewing a leading thinker in the world of testing and quality.  It james_whittakercould be a journalist, an industry analyst or an exec from a top software company.  To kick this program off, we could think of no better person than our good friend, Dr. James Whittaker.  So we recently interviewed James by bouncing emails back & forth over the course of a few days.

Several of these questions came directly from our community of testers.  The whole exchange is fairly lengthy, so we’re splitting it into two posts.  Come back and check out the 2nd half later this week.

uTest:  So the news is out about your move to Google. What prompted you to make this move?

JW:  I didn’t so much leave Microsoft and I did join Google. I was attracted by all the Googlers I met at conferences and what I read on their blogs about the way they test. When they offered me the opportunity to be a part of it, one might even argue an important part of it, I found it impossible to decline.

uTest:  Is there something about Microsoft you’ll miss the most?

JW:  Yes, the breadth of both products and expertise. You literally have every type of software imaginable and a chance to collaborate with the people who make that software. From an intellectual standpoint, Microsoft is mind-blowing.

uTest:  What specific work at Microsoft did you enjoy the most?

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Which Search Engine Is REALLY Your Fav?

pepsi_challenge1As consumers, we’re loyal to our brands.  Whether it’s Mac vs. PC, Nike vs. Adidas, or Starbucks vs. Dunkin Donuts, we like what we like.  And it’s tough to convince us that some other product/service/website is as good as our favorite.  Companies go to great lengths and expense to try and alter our preferences (who could forget the Pepsi Challenge?), but all too often, we walk away feeling marketed to (read as: manipulated).

Last week, Microsoft launched it’s new search decision engine – Bing – amid great fanfare.  And one enterprising MSFT employee named Michael Kordahi launched an app that he calls BlindSearch, which offers a “taste test” of the top three search engines.  Simply enter in a search term and BlindSearch will pull the results from Google, Bing and Yahoo into one interface… then you can vote for your favorite based only on the quality of the search results.

As Michael notes, this isn’t a perfect test… after all, we choose our search engine based on more than just the results (speed, overall user experience, number & placement of ads, other filters and features).  But when we search, we’re generally looking for the most accurately matched results.  While there are a lot of ways to perform user preference and usability testing — surveys, focus groups, A/B analytics — this is an interesting and entertaining experiment and a cool way to test your own preferences.

Take the BlindSearch Test and then come back and tell us which search engine you actually prefer!

Winning Hardware for Testing Software

We capped off our week with another exciting piece of news — uTest has been named a finalist in the 2009 MITX Technology Awards.

In their own words, “The MITX Technology awards recognize emergent and innovative technologies developed in the New England area, as well as the individuals and companies responsible for driving these advancements”.

We submitted our written application last month and uTest was stacked up against scores of other New England-area companies.  Last week, we were notified that we’d made the cut and were invited to present to an impressive group of judges at Microsoft’s offices in Cambridge, MA on Thursday night.  And on Friday afternoon, the news came in that we’d been selected as a finalist.

This is our first year participating in the MITX awards and we’re excited to be recognized among this exclusive list of finalists. Apparently, the word’s getting out on crowdsourcing and uTest, because we’ve been on a bit of a roll when it comes to awards and speaking at high-profile events.

Check out our recent announcements about presenting at Under the Radar, Star East and Information Week’s Startup 50 award.  We wouldn’t be able to tell this powerful story of crowdsourced QA without our testing community. As always, we thank you.  More to come!

Revolutionize Your QA!

James WhittakerI just did my second webinar for uTest: “5 Ways to Revolutionize Your QA”.  Thanks to uTest for hosting this series on my behalf and thanks to all my testing colleagues at Microsoft who listen to my ideas enough to try them and report back the results! In this webinar are 5 insights that have proven very effective at Microsoft. I hope you find them as useful where you work.

I got a lot of great questions as a result of the webinar. Of all the concepts I introduced, the idea of ‘testing tours’ for exploratory testing seemed to resonate very well with lots of people asking for more information. I’ll work with the uTest folks to arrange the next webinar around this concept. In the meantime, uTest is supplying an e-book with a little more information about tours than what was in the webinar. There will be much more to come.

[Note: You can find both the webinar and the e-book here.]