RAD Software Development – For when Management Wants it Bad

2013-02-14-13.06.17In an age where convenience and instant gratification are easy to come by, taking time to do things the right way often gets glossed over…and causes a lot of problems

I am a software QA professional. That means that I test software for a living and manage teams to do the same thing. I’m good at it; and one of the things that I’m really beginning to hate about some of the faster paced, quick turnaround software development and releases processes is that time for testing is either greatly reduced or bypassed entirely.

I’ve learned that when management wants it bad, they can usually count on those fast passed processes to deliver just that – bad, buggy software.

Here’s a very clear case in point – today The Verge reported that it had found a bug in iOS 6.1 that allowed anyone to bypass the iOS lock screen and view and modify contacts, listen to your voicemail, and browse your photos (by attempting to add a photo to the accessible contact list). It doesn’t appear as if the exploit grants access to email or the web.

The new exploit is similar to one that was discovered in iOS 4.1 that allowed access to contacts, call history and voicemail on a passcode-locked handset without knowing the numeric entry code required to formally unlock the phone. While the steps seem to be bit unusual and convoluted – a user needs to make and then immediately cancel an emergency call and then hold down the power button a couple of times – its bugs like this that completely destroy any confidence a smartphone dependent public has in a venerated company like Apple.

It also really chaps my hide.

Testing is something that many companies either bypass or greatly reduce time and resources on, as its seen as a road block to release. In fact, many modern day methodologies don’t carry a lot of support for the different types of needed testing.

System testing, or testing the entire (and just the) application as a whole, is usually supported. Integration testing, or testing the interaction of the application with other apps and systems, usually gets bypassed. Regression testing, or the reexecution of previously completed system and integration testing tests, rarely ever gets done.

…and case in point. The bug that’s referenced here seems to be some type or classification of regression bug that should have been squashed over two FULL versions ago. The fact that it’s come back, isn’t cool; and is something that Apple needs to deal with quickly.

I’ll be watching beta releases of iOS in the near future and if I find out anything interesting, I’ll pass it on.

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Run a guest OS on your PC with VMware Workstation

vmware-workstation-logoRunning the application you need on your computer isn’t always as easy as you might think. Yes, a native app may exist for your OS of choice, but if it doesn’t or if you need to keep your OS free of clutter, things get complicated. Getting access to the cloud can also be challenging. This is one reason why I like VMWare Workstation. It’s a virtual workstation manager for Windows.

VMware Workstation is cloud capable and cloud aware. VMware Workstation’s operating system support, user experience, feature set and performance will dramatically change the way you work with virtual machines. It’s one of the best companion apps for any technical professional as they move to the cloud.

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One of the most popular reasons why corporate customers use a virtual machine is to evaluate the next generation operating system.  With VMware, you can install, say, Windows 8 and give users access to it, without actually upgrading a specific machine or risking introducing an undesirable user experience into the enterprise.  The latest version of VMware Workstation is optimized for running Windows 8 on Windows PCs. Its Easy Install feature simplifies the task of creating Windows 8 virtual machines. Its Unity mode will intelligently scale windows with Metro applications and multi-touch support will ensure you get the true Windows 8 experience in a virtual machine.

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One of the BEST reasons why you’d use VMware Workstation is its new web interface. It allows you to access your virtual machines from a tablet, smart phone, PC or any device with a modern browser. No plugins or special add-ins are necessary. Now you can power on, off, or suspend your virtual machines and interact with them from almost anywhere.

Using a virtual machine on your computer is one of the best ways to use incompatible applications. It also makes it easy to keep your PC free from poorly written apps or apps that don’t uninstall cleanly. VMware wrote the book on virtual machines and is one of the BEST ways to accomplish these tasks.

The biggest problems with VMware are that it’s expensive and complicated to setup and use. At $250 for a single workstation license, you need to make sure you take advantage of its 30 day trial before you buy.  It’s also a very complicated application to setup and configure. Many consumer users will need to either seek assistance from the help file, printed documentation or support forums to insure that they get the best performance out of the app. Please note that I’ve given this app a low usability rating because of its level of complexity.

download VMware Workstation

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iOS 6.1 Update Released – Issues and Confusion

ios-6.11As with any OS update, confusion and issues are popping up with Apple’s release of iOS 6.1

As a member of Apple’s iOS Developer Program I was made aware of their rare weekend beta 5 release of iOS 6.1. The release, among other things was supposed to help resolve issues with Apple Maps as well as a few other issues. The update officially addressed the following:
LTE support for more carriers
Purchase movie tickets through Fandango with Siri (USA only)
iTunes Match subscribers can now download individual songs from iCloud
New button to reset the Advertising identifier
The full release notes can be found here. Where the API updates for Apple Maps, originally made available to developers on 28-Jan-13, one of the original components thought to be a part of this update are, no one knows. As you can see above, the official release notes make no mention of it. Though honestly, that’s a developer feature and not something that many consumers might understand the value in.

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Apple recently had said that “many updates” to Maps have already been “released.”  The reason why you haven’t heard anything about them is because the “updates” weren’t programmatic. They were data related.

So, you “got” the most recent Maps “update” when you downloaded the map data as you were navigating from A to B or searching for “X marks the spot”.  Apple doesn’t normally tout data updates like this, so you never would have known, if Apple Maps and its data wasn’t such a freakin’ train wreck to begin with…

iOS 6 also introduced the Advertising Identifier. This non-permanent, non-personal hardware identifier is used by advertisers to track users. iOS 6 gives you the ability to control this with an On/Off button at Settings-General-About-Advertising. iOS6 introduced the switch. iOS 6.1 introduced a way to reset the identifier. Its effectively the same thing as clearing out your browser history and cookies on your Mac or PC. It’s really as simple as that.

It seems as though iPod Touch users are also experiencing issues related to iOS 6.1 The latest report from Apple Insider indicates that “iTouch” users are having problems downloading the update. When they try to pull the update down, many are receiving an error message stating that their “iTouch” isn’t connected to the internet and the update “failed verification,” even though they appear to have a strongly connected device. According to Apple Insider, this issue was encountered during Saturday’s beta 5 release as well.

From what TeamBYTE sees out of this update, some of us aren’t entirely certain the update warrants a full point upgrade. There’s something going on over at Apple related to software development. They wanted to take a longer time with iOS 6.1, and they did. Beta 1 was released in November 2012. However, as a seasoned and experienced software development and testing professional, its clear to me that Apple needs to do more in this area; or at the very least needs to market the update a bit better.

The “need” for this update was the sucky release of Apple Maps. If Apple’s iOS 6.1 update didn’t resolve this, they need to say something about how and when they will address it. Appearing more proactive than they are here can only help them. Ignoring the issue – mashing it down into a hard, cold little ball in the pit of your stomach isn’t going to make you forget that the app sucks or that there’s a huge disconnect between what I’m searching for, and how I want my iPhone to take me there.

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Keep your PC safe with one of the best security app – AVG Internet Security

AVG Internet SecurityComputing is complicated these days. With viruses, worms, phishing and all other kinds of malware out there, keeping your PC clean and your private data private, isn’t easy. That’s why I really like AVG Internet security. It’s a PC antimalware and security app for Windows.

AVG Internet Security provides 100% virus detection. Its scanning engine has received numerous awards for its detection of previously unknown viruses. Its unique combination of detection methods provides full protection against viruses, worms and Trojans.

AVG Internet Security has cutting-edge anti-spyware technology. It uses the latest, state-of-the-art detection technology, so spyware, adware, DLL-Trojans, key loggers, and much more don’t live long on your PC. Malware hidden in data streams, archives, or the Windows registry are also detected. Its powerful Resident Shield provides maximum protection by scanning every file opened, executed, or saved. It also prevents the opening or executing of infected files. For your protection, files can be included or excluded from being scanned based on individual file extensions; and can handle exceptions for potentially unwanted programs such as adware.

AVG Internet Security

AVG provides full email protection and checks every e-mail sent or received. It can protect your computer from any and all e-mail-borne threats; and includes spam and phishing protection and filtering. AVG supports all leading e-mail clients, including MS Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, The Bat!, Eudora, and all other SMTP/POP3-based e-mail clients, such as Outlook Express; and supports encrypted connections using SSL.

AVG Internet Security is one of the best internet suites available on the internet today. If you’ve got a home network, you have complete control over all network access. Its built in firewall monitors all communication to and from your computer, blocking external attacks and preventing Trojans from stealing confidential data. Its configuration wizard automatically creates access rules for all popular software and can switch profiles automatically, based upon the current connection type (LAN to Wi-Fi and back), ensuring seamless changeover for notebooks. If you don’t have an internet security suite, this is a great choice.

Download AVG Internet Security

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Explore your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch files with i-Funbox

Apple has always advocated letting the OS and the device (computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.) manage where it wants to put files. Many Apple advocates continually ask me why I care WHERE the computer puts data as long as its, 1. Backed up, 2. Available to my programs. The Windows Camp, coming from a DOS point of origin, is exactly the opposite. Serious Windows users want near total control over where and how their data is organized. This is one of the reasons why many Windows users will appreciate i-Funbox. Its an iDevice tool for Windows and Mac.

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i-Funbox allows users to take Total Control of you iDevice’s file system. With it, you can manage files on your iPhone or iPad just like you do in Windows File Explorer. You can easily transmit files and folders to your computer with the app’s optimized file transfer and browsing. I-Funbox now fully supports iOS 6.x as well as Asian/ Long filenames.

You can install and backup all of your applications, This is especially important if you’ve got a custom app that you want to install, like something for work, which may be unsigned. You can also access an app’s sandbox area, giving you access to application created documents as well as the ability to upload audio or video to 3rd party players. You can also export iTunes managed content. The nicest part of all of this is that using the app doesn’t require an installation of iTunes.

The secret sauce is that i-Funbox makes your iDevice function like a USB storage drive. You get access to the storage you need when you need it, as well as all the other benefits. This is a great app and its free price tag, no jailbreak or iTunes required status make this a must have for just about any iDevice owner. Novice users need to take caution, however, as the average user isn’t meant to access the file system directly and you might move or delete something that you shouldn’t.

Download i-Funbox for WindowsDownload i-Funbox for Mac

 

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Turn your laptop into a WiFi hotspot with mHotspot

Getting access to the internet is increasingly important in today’s always on, connected world. This is one of the big reasons why I like apps like mHotspot. It turns any Windows 7 /8 laptop into a Wi-Fi hotspot; and it’s free.

mHotspot converts your Windows 7/8 laptop into a virtual Wi-Fi router and creates a secure Wi-Fi hotspot without installation of additional networking components. With it, you can share your single internet connection with multiple devices. You can share your existing LAN, Ethernet, Data-Card, 3G/4G, or Wi-Fi connection with devices like laptops, smartphones, PDAs, tablets etc. No additional router or external hardware is required.

mHotspot

If you’re out and about and have a mobile broadband capable laptop, this application is a must have. It quickly and easily creates a mobile hotspot that you can share with all of your internet capable devices. This can be very important to those that need to give access to friends using other devices. The only issue that may be encountered with this is that it uses bandwidth from your existing mobile data plan.

While this can also be great for those times when you need to access the company network from your personal laptop while at work, it does require an existing internet connection in order for it to work. The interface is simple and easy to use, and its free price tag makes it a must have for nearly everyone.

Download mHotspot

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Does a Jailbreak for Windows RT Matter?

RTThe latest rumor to hit the ethernets is a pending Jailbreak for Windows RT tablets; but does it matter?

I read on Computerworld that a jailbreak for Windows RT has been discovered that will allow unsigned applications to run on Surface RT and other Windows RT based tablets.

The big question is – While this is cool, what does it matter?

A jailbreak would only be relevant and important if there were a market for unsigned apps. Windows RT barely has a viable market for SIGNED applications, let alone unsigned apps.

Computerworld is siting a developer who was able to get an unsigned, compiled for x86 .NET app to run without recompiling the source, but again, who cares? The big need for this or similar jailbreak is to get legacy applications from previous versions of Windows to run on Windows RT. Since Windows RT doesn’t run on an x86 (or Intel compatible) platform, having apps like any of those available in Soft32′s vast Windows software library run on a Surface RT or similar Windows RT tablet, is unlikely.

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What is interesting about this whole discovery was that there’s little to no difference between Windows RT and Windows 8. It really amounts to nothing more than a security bit that was set to require apps to be signed in order to run on Windows RT. While the discovery – or really validation – of this was important (Microsoft already told us they were effectively the same OS), it doesn’t get the latest version of running on a Windows RT tablet.

Most applications that run on Windows 8 won’t run on Windows RT without some serious tweaking to account for the differences in microprocessors. As such, the jailbreak, while interesting and somewhat exciting, doesn’t mean much – yet. Again, there’s not much Windows RT compatible software in the Window RT software store; and zero unsigned or “forbidden” software that Microsoft has refused to put in the Store.

Until MS can court enough developers and interest in non-jailbroken software, this jailbreak, while interesting, really amounts to nothing more than an interesting, but irrelevant story.

There’s nothing to see here people… This isn’t the development you’re looking for…. Move along.

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Microsoft Should Focus on Innovation

Recent MS Survey Wants to Ask Users How it can Improve Customer Support…

Sorry… I’m not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, but I really just can’t let this go.

I recently agreed to take a Microsoft survey on TechNET satisfaction. I’m a TechNET Pro subscriber and have been for about three years. It’s a great value, especially if you use MS software and have more than a couple PC’s to install it on.

One of the questions near the end of the survey asked – “To provide a better Customer Support experience, who could Microsoft best learn from, and why?”

My answer is below; but the point is not the first part of the first sentence – “Apple; but MS’ problems aren’t customer support, its relevance in the industry. Surface is a good start, but its WAY overpriced. MS should have taken the financial hit and priced Surface RT & Pro tablets for volume, not margin.”

The question came near the end of the survey; but it really didn’t sit well with me. I give MS high marks for being concerned about customer support; but they have bigger fish to fry than that. They need to figure out how to get back in the game.

Their Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets are significantly over priced. Similar partner products are not going to undercut the base level prices MS has set for both tablets at $499 and $899 respectively; and regardless of how awesome they may or may not be, this is a problem. MS Surface tablets should be priced to compete with 3rd party Android tablets – the Kindle Fires, the Galaxy Tabs/Notes which are low to high end respectively. Surface tablets should top out at $499-$599. Not start there.

Microsoft’s approach is to compete directly with Apple in both feature and price sets. They can’t afford to do that. Not at this late date, not with their late to market products in a market place that’s saturated with better established, competitors with more mature products. They need to come in low priced and fight the volume/low margin battle before stepping it up a notch. By pricing things where they are, I’m afraid that Microsoft has priced themselves right out of the market, and possibly, right out of business.

Windows 8 is likely the company’s last big (relevant) hurrah if it doesn’t take. While many enterprise customers will likely stick with Windows XP and Widnows 7 for a number of years to come, once support for both finally sunsets, moving business users to Windows 8 may be problematic.

In my opinion, the best thing that MS can do is push Windows 8 with all of the tools they have. This includes both Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets, and having them available at a much more attractive price point could have been huge for them. They chose to hit their margin targets on individual units rather than via volume.

It was a choice to make. I think it’s the wrong choice, but honestly, only time will really tell there. We’ll have to wait and see.

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