Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Breaking News

Tonight I finished reading "How to Break Software" by James A. Whittaker, 203 (C), ISBN 0-201-79619-8. I think the book is/was used as a text book on software testing at Florida Institute of Technology.

    There were a couple of things that stuck in my mind from reading the book.
  • Ultimately, and conceptually most accurately, all 'application software' interacts only with the Operating System. It is one job of the Operating System (OS) to provide access to various forms of I/O and other resources to the application software.
  • When this book was written, various special testing applications were used as wedges between the software under test and the Operating System to supply bogus I/O and envirounments to the tested software as part of the test program.

The time period since this book was written has seen the rise of OS virtualization in importance. Perhaps this has already been worked out, but it seems the ability to dynamicly inject I/O reactions and make arbitrary changes on demand to the the percieved environment of the application/OS system seems to be a logical developement to OS virtualization. By this I mean to literally dial in/make changes on the fly. This would effectively replace these 'wedge programs' with virtualized OS's, and would also extend the testing methodologies Whittaker documents to prepackaged app/virtual OS bundles.

Also I can't recall much in the way of specific web application testing information in the book. Sun proclaimed "The network is the computer", and the client is as much a part of that computer as the server and any intermediate routers are. One continually hears about the difficulty of testing web applications against all possible browsers the people out in user land may be using. An ideal client would of course adhere to all web standards strickly, but today no one is using such an abstraction in the real world. An ideal *test* client would be able to dial in the actual behaviour of all real world browsers as well as the ideal, perfect standard complient browser. Such a test tool would not only be a breakthrough in web testing, but the ideal chamleonic browser for the user, to deal with all the weird, poorly tested 'web apps' on the Internet.

Perhaps someone out there knows more about these subjects and can expand on these thoughts.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Let's be Frank

Continuing on about the Aloud talk, 13 March 2008, by Robin Wright. The moderator for the presentation made some mention that "some people think Rock and Roll brought down the Iron Curtain". This triggered a memory.

I was at a party some time in the late 80's. A woman asks if I've done anything important lately. My response, ~"I saw a Frank Zappa concert". Her response - eyes begin to bug out, face changing color, with a look of total outrage, "Well, I hope you *Rocked Out*....." and a tirade of abuse vented till it ran out of steam.

I want to go on record now, before the world, for all time. I not only glad I saw Frank Zappa while he was alive, I consider it at least on par with touring the Getty Museum or Rome/Vatican. I'd say the same for Carlos Santana, Wynton Marsaillis and Miles Davis, but those are other articles to be written. I understand there are college classes/symoposium to study Frank Sinatra and Madonna - Zappa is at least as worthy.

Producer Tom Wilson thought he'd latched onto an American equivalent of the Rolling Stones, some white guys forming a blues band, when he heard "Trouble Every Day" (about the Watts Riots of the 60's). This idea was greatly changed when he heard "Any Way the Wind Blows" and "Who Are the Brain Police". The list of ~"people who have made this possible. Please do not hold it against them" on one of their first albums was a cultural education most colleges barely begin to match.

Besides dealing with musicians from Edgard Varese, Zubin Mehta, Pierre Boulez to Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Zappa created satire on the level of Groucho Marx and H.L. Menken simply by singing about topics from the Illinois Enema Bandit to Senate hearings:

"Government is the entertainment division of the military industrial complex."

(rock journalism is) "people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read."

and on and on....

But just google "Vaclav Havel" and "Frank Zappa", and you'll get hundreds of hits. Zappa's "question authority" outlook, coupled with his free use of traditional and avant-guarde elements of Central and Eastern European music, putting it in a context of where freedom held sway, provided an inspiring alternative to the "Socialist Realism" the public was expected to buy into during the period between the 60's Czech crisis to the final fall of Communism in Europe. He was labeled "Underground" in the U.S.A. when the public noticed him, but fueled the real "Underground" in societies where the problems were much more serious then some of the silliness he lampooned.


One of the things I created this blog for was to discuss some of the "ALoud" talks given at the Los Angeles (City) Public Library sponsored by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. Today, Thursday 13 March 2008 I was at a talk by Robin Wright, who'd recently completed the book 'Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East'. A podcast of here talk should be up soon, I'll probably post an addendum when it is.

One of her goals in writing the book was to try and find the "Lech Walensas, Nelson Mandelas" of the Middle East. She gave some interesting stories about people committed to fighting the injustices of the area, getting out of prison only to return to the same kind of protests they did time for, but perhaps the most interesting aspects of the story was something she hit on early in the talk. This was referred to by one of the audience questioners as "Nerdistan". In most Western Societies, most people take it for granted that governments are generally benign, but this has largely been the exception in overall human history. (You might want to check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._J._Rummel) Basicly, people in the Middle East are using high technology to bypass government controlled media and organize public outrage against injustice and corruption. Wright discussed one example of people video recording government thugs trying to intimidate voters, blogging it, and eventually the videos making it's way to Youtube. In another case people organized protests texting messages by cell phone. As we've learned with things like the Rodney King video, the act of recording governments in action and showing it to the public can sometimes have explosive effects, for good or bad.

Sun Tzu, in the "Art of War"'s last chapter talks about the importance of information in armed struggle. Perhaps the most titanic historical event of my lifetime, the Cold War, while definitly having some real deaths by physical struggle, was largely fought at an abstract level with the Venona Decrypts, spy planes, satillites, submarines, signals intelligence, defectors, etc. We're beginning to see the implications of information getting into the hands, and control of the common man, the pen beating the sword into submission.