Category: Testing

After Updating to macOS 11.0 Big Sur

The Context

In my current project, we’re using Apache Tomat and Eclipse as the IDE. The Java Platform is Amazon Corretto 11. I’m using macOS and the working setup before upgrading was this:

  • Tomcat is installed using Homebrew:
    brew install tomcat
  • Java was installed by downloading the package (see link above) and running the installer.
  • I have set
    export JAVA_HOME=/Library/…/amazon-corretto-11.jdk/Contents/Home
    in .zprofile so the right Java version is used.
  • I’d start Tomcat from the command line and our tests from inside Eclipse.

This worked nicely.

After The Upgrade

The upgrade went smoothly for most of the software I am using: Other IDEs, installations of Ruby, Elixir, databases, REST clients, git, etc. all continued to work nicely.

The tests however failed in an interesting way: While basic REST calls worked (e.g. a GET request to retrieve version info), the tests that were using the actual functionality were receiving a plain “Internal Server Error” from Tomcat and the application logs showed some getContext method that ended up receiving null instead of the expected object.

Running the same tests on the same machine using the way the tests are started in CI still worked well. The difference between running from within the IDE & the command line: The command line starts Tomcat and runs the tests against that (and then stops Tomcat), while the IDE uses the already running Tomcat. — Aha!

The Solution

Tomcat logs several environment variables it’s using when it starts, among them JRE_HOME.

And this environment variable pointed to another Java environment, that came from a different source, had a different Java version, and furthermore was (obviously) incompatible with the Java environment set up in JAVA_HOME.

Pointing JRE_HOME to the same Java environment solved the problem and tests are running just fine again. Phew!

The documentation has a section about this (docs can be so useful!):

(3.2) Set JRE_HOME or JAVA_HOME (required)

These variables are used to specify location of a Java Runtime
Environment or of a Java Development Kit that is used to start Tomcat.

The JRE_HOME variable is used to specify location of a JRE. The JAVA_HOME
variable is used to specify location of a JDK.

Using JAVA_HOME provides access to certain additional startup options that
are not allowed when JRE_HOME is used.

If both JRE_HOME and JAVA_HOME are specified, JRE_HOME is used.

The recommended place to specify these variables is a “setenv” script. See
below.

…/tomcat/9.0.39/libexec/webapps/docs/RUNNING.txt in my Tomcat installation

Furthermore, there are comments explaining what to expect with respect to JAVA_HOME & JRE_HOME in catalina.sh:

# JRE_HOME Must point at your Java Runtime installation.
# Defaults to JAVA_HOME if empty. If JRE_HOME and JAVA_HOME
# are both set, JRE_HOME is used.

…/9.0.39/libexec/bin/catalina.sh. lns 61 ff

It’s still not entirely clear what caused this behaviour.
If you have an idea or ran into a similar problem, I’d definitely like to known about it.

Agile Testing Days 2020 (and 2009)

These are some insights I had today, posted as Tweets:

And last, but certainly not least Miroslava Nikolova made me (re?) post a message on a piece of cardboard that circled around at the Agile Testing Days 2009.

I think it is still valid and covers the spirit of this very conference and the attitude of everyone taking part so well.

Here’s the plain text (and if you know who’s the original author, I would really like to know who they are):

We are a community of professionals. We are dedicated of our own continuing education and take responsibility for our careers. We support each other in learning and advancing our craft. We certify ourselves.

— Unknown author(s?) at the Agile Testing Days 2009

I thank everyone who made this day so great!

Following log files and other output

In many situations, especially when testing, I like to see the log file content (or other system output) on one of my open command line windows.

Most of the time

tail -f <log-file-name>

is just fine. However, sometimes I like to have more control of what displayed. In these cases, I use less (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Less_(Unix)):

less -F <log-file-name>

is more convenient (and powerful): I can navigate the whole file, search for specific content.

Note, that while tail uses a lower-case ‘f’ to follow the file as it’s being written to, less uses an uppercase ‘F’.

Physics And Testing

At a number of conferences I attended in the past, people connected several fields to software development in general and testing in particular, which (at first) seem unrelated.

Since then, I pondered this for a while (read: more than 4 years). With my background in physics, I see a number of parallels to software testing. This is also a great opportunity to answer a question I get asked frequently: How did you enter software testing, given your background in physics?

Physics

Let’s start with a definition for physics:

Physics is an experimental science. Physicists observe the phenomena of nature and try to find patterns that relate these phenomena.

— Young, Freedman. “Sears and Zemansky’s University Physics: With Modern Physics”. Pearson Education.
Also see the wikipedia article on physics.

The patterns that relate those phenomena are the theories (or laws) of physics. They are models that describe an aspect of reality. None of these models is complete, in the sense that it describes everything. There is no one physical theory that explains everything. A nice view of the landscape of physical models is shown in the image by Dominic Walliman (see sciencealert.com for details):

The landscape of physical theories, see
Dominic Walliman’s ‘Domain of Science’ video on YouTube

In physics (as in science in general), experimental results and predictions  created by models are compared, in order to find out how a model does not match observed behaviour. This is important: Experiments can only ever invalidate a model, but not generally confirm its correctness.

Software

To me software systems are models, too: Even though they may represent reality closely, a software system is not the thing it represents.
Peter Naur described the relationship between theory building and programming in his paper ‘Programming as Theory Building’ (Microprocessing and Microprogramming 15, 1985, pp. 253-261).

Testing

My mental model of software testing is very similar to the one of physics: I see software systems as partial implementations of aspects of a real expected behaviour. In my view testing a system means it and comparing observed results with expectations.
The expectations may come from requirements (written or otherwise), previous experiences with similar systems (i.e. another web application from the same company) or other sources.

There are many approaches to testing, in a similar way to the many approaches to physics. Some of them work good in one area but not so well in another. What kind of testing is done, heavily depends on the kind of the software system: Testing embedded software used in medical devices is drastically different from testing, say, a text editor.

Science

It is interesting to go one step further, from physics to science. The Cambridge Dictionary defines science as

the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/science

With a different wording, this seems to fit software testing as well:

Software testing the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of software systems through observation and experiment.

The definition with a different wording

To me, many very basic principles of scions in general and physic in particular apply to software testing, too. And that’s why I think that my physics background is very helpful in software testing.

Now, I interested in this: What is your background and how does it help you in software testing (especially if your background is not in computer science or software engineering)?

Looking For A New Project

It’s time to find a new project!

What I’m looking for is a role as an agile software tester in a team that really strives to improve on agile techniques in both, testing and programming. I’m interested in learning more about DevOps, continuous delivery and automation, including but not limited to test automation.

Travelling in Northern Germany or Denmark is fine and a possibility to work (partially) remote would be lovely.

Technically, a project using Ruby and/or Rails would be fantastic. In case the team is working on steps to also use Elixir, that would be a bonus.

More about my previous work is available over at ‘work with me‘ as well as on my Xing profile.

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