The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Why does “Enterprise Software” universally suck?

I work in the QA Department of The Corporation. The majority of the team is stationed in the Seattle Office whereas I am the only member of QA in The Ft. Lauderdale Office. The Seattle Office tests the actual cell phones, whereas not only do I test call processing (and even though I might complain about the Protocol Stack From Hell™, I can automate my tests—muahahahahahaha!) but I am the only person who tests call processing in The Corporation.

I bring this up because the QA Department is now using Gusty, a “Real-Time Test Management System” as it calls itself. And so far, I am seriously unimpressed with it. It's written in Flash and tries its darndest to imitate a Microsoft Windows interface, but it's a far cry from Microsoft Windows. And because it tries to imitate Microsoft Windows, it's quite Microsoft-centric.

But, because it tries so hard to be cross platform, it's almost, but not quite, cute. It screams that it was a Visual Basic application ported to Flash to sell to non-Microsoft shops. There's no way to change the font (which is borderline too small, even for me). It's hard to resize the windows. The scrolling is wonky. It's just an overall clunky user interface.

And that would be fine if it actually helped with my job. But it falls down there too. There are two main objects—requirements and testcases. A test case can have multiple requirements, and a requirement can apply to several testcases. You use different windows to create requirements and testcases.

Now, when you view the details of, say, a requirement, you can get a list of testcases it applies to, but it's a tool-tip like element—meaning, it pops up a small text window with a list of testcases. Can you click on one to go to the testcase? No. Can you select one? No. Can you copy the text with mouse? No. Does it remain up for any length of time? No. Is this list in anyway useful? No. Well … okay, you can memorize the ID before it goes away. So if you want more details on the a particular testcase for a requirement, you have to go to the testcase window and manually search for it.

Oh, there is a search facility (it was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the leopard”) but searching by ID doesn't work. You see, it's a text only search, and IDs being numbers, aren't text …


And the Microsoft-esqueness of the program means that this is really geared towards manual tests. Oh, they pay lipservice to automation and in theory, you can run automated tests, but in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice …

In practice, you install some Java client on the machine to run the tests and somehow get this tool to run the tests. And okay, that's fine.

Only my test program runs eight programs (which spawn like a bazillion processes) on four computers, and the programs need to start in a particular order, with particular data. Somehow, I don't think the Gusty tool was built with that type of testing in mind (and when I said the tests I run are automated? Yes. They are. But the setup isn't, as there are a few steps that have security implications involving root).

Now, I'm sure that Gusty is a fine tool within certain limitations (large testing teams manually testing software using Microsoft Windows) but for what I do, it doesn't work at all.

Thankfully, I can continue with my job without having to use Gusty, as I'm practically my own department.

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