Category Archives: Retelling

Things which were not on my 2023 bingo card

  • I got a badge for a popular link on the Club. This means that a link suggested by me, was clicked at least 50 times.
  • And a a second popular link.
  • The last years I gained a lot of experience with Exploratory Testing. The elements used were also applicable for maintaining my mailbox settings. I might call it Exploratory Maintaining.
  • This summer I was on a fishing ship where a dragnet was used for educational purposes. The catch was discussed and thrown back in the sea. During the same trip I saw a seal.
  • This year I started to listen to the spoken books of Ranger’s Apprentice. It gave me something to talk about with my kids. I could ask about honey in coffee.
  • This spring I started to read two books at the same time. This led to the following coincidence. In an audio book Maddy is exploring hostile grounds, while Will Treaty is distracting people. In a braille book Mary Russell is exploring hostile grounds, while Sherlock Holmes is distracting a group of people. Both ladies accomplished their mission.
  • One moment I was reading a braille book and the next moment I was using a bow and arrow. My kids paid attention in case I missed something. I mean the right target.
  • This year I received my first braille letter.
  • This autumn I was invited to talk about accessibility. It was for board game developers during a board game developer meeting.
  • The post delivered one of the biggest books I ever ordered. It was more than 40 centimetres thick. Braille tends to take up a lot of space.
  • This year I got an invitation for a birthday party for a foundation. I was addressed as one of the founders. This might be something for my LinkedIn profile.
  • That founder story made me thinking. If I was a member of the first board, then I was a founder. I remembered another foundation with a first-time board membership from my side. So, I could update my LinkedIn profile with a double founder title. As a Dutchman I declined to do this.

Minimal Viable Authentication: usability versus security

Trigger warning: stalking.

For the following stories I am using the imaginary VIP Cinema again instead of the real app. This way I can freely write about my experiences without naming the actual app.

Usability is king

The VIP Cinema app offered his clients a discount for parking. This service appealed to me. So, I contacted the customer service and got a power of attorney number. On request I had to mention the number to get my promised discount of 50 percent on parking.

After a while I wanted to reserve my parking without calling the customer service. There was a simple solution: a parking app. I installed the app and had to register. The first thing I did, was to have my power of attorney number ready.

The next step was to enter my email address and a password. Then I had to verify it by clicking on a link in an email. A dialog asked for my membership number of the Cinema VIP App. Then I opened the app and found the number.

I received an email to verify my email address for the parking app. After clicking a link, I had to enter my VIP Cinema membership number. The next moment I could reserve a parking place for my car without entering my power of attorney number.

The registration was smoothless and it saved me an extra step of entering another number. I really liked this experience.

Security is pauper

”I want to show something to you.”, I told another computer software professional.
“Here is my mobile. The Cinema VIP app is open and shows my membership number.”
I got a nod.

“Now I am going to the website to register a new user id and password for the parking website.”
Another nod followed.

This looks familiar

Then I entered a new email address and password. After clicking the link in the mail to verify my email address I asked him for my membership number. While he was citing the number, I entered it in the requested text field in the dialog,

 “Let us see what kind of information we can get based on this single number.
You can see where I live. This information is needed for billing.“

Worth noting

“Let’s have a look at my parking history. This is the parking I used every other week. This is an interesting pattern. Last week I parked there. So next Friday I will probably park the car there at 7 pm.”

Let me guess

“There is a high chance, that I visit a cinema close to this parking. The discount is offered by the Cinema VIP app. Notice that no power of attorney number was asked. This would improve the security.”

All that being said

“Even worse: I did not get an email that another account was coupled to my parking account. I refreshed my inbox: no mail was found about the double registration.

Certain social media apps inform me directly, if my account is accessed from an unknown device. But this was not the case for this app.”

This time I did not get a nod, but an astonished face.

Signals of poverty

When I phoned the customer service of the parking service, no power of attorney number was requested.

During this phone call there was a check of my birthday, my zip code, and my house number. These can be obtained using social engineering or extracting private information without getting attention.

This I Learned

Authentication is about making sure that the right person gets access. Some shortcuts can have severe drawbacks.

Return of The Script

The last years Exploratory Testing has gained a lot of followers. In the world of Agile development fast feedback by testers is really welcome.

There are people who have doubts about the structure and knowledge transfer, because there is no script. For an experienced tester, a note about a data life cycle test is enough. Writing out tests for creating, reading, updating, and deleting data is boring for me.

Exploratory is about finding information and using it during the same activity. This can be achieved with a script. Let me tell you some Exploratory stories.

Exploring while scripting

The search

Laptops are light and small compared to desktop computers. On the other hand, for the same price I get more RAM and hard disk space in a desktop computer.

SSD or Solid State Disk is a hard disk, which is used frequently in computers. I needed an extra hard disk for my data. The challenge was to prevent my SSD from overflowing of data.

I opened a text editor and noted all kinds of information. My SSD was my default drive to store my information. I had to redirect all data to my HDD or Hard Disk Drive.

In the past I had changed this in the Windows registry, but I did not like this. It could lead to errors. I preferred to change the direction of the data using a command or a dialog.

Like a lot of programmers, I searched on the web. I found some articles and blog posts. In the meantime, I was copying links and making notes how to reproduce the steps.

The script

The first time I executed the script, I was about to copy all the steps in my notes. This is a waste of time, so I just added my observations in the script.

For personal reasons I changed the script on a few places.

network cable out
[current PC] copy all files in Kid on external hard disk
check on Appdata 08:25
[current PC] make a copy of the mail program and game subdirectory in the subdirectories of Appdata of Kid.
[current PC] remove all stuff from the mail program (after check?)
network cable in

Network cable out of new PC
[new PC] check %APPdata%
mklink does not work properly.

environment variables => no appdata found/
[New PC] old files app data
[New PC] copy all mail program and game program subdirectories to app data.
[New PC] make extra copy of files
[open Thunderbird] remove all files.

Network cable in new PC
check game
check mail program
network cable out of new PC

In case of problems:
- restore old files of mail program and game.

The details

There are some parts which need some explanation.

network cable out

So long the current PC is connected to the internet, the mails will be downloaded all the time. During the move of the files  of the mail program I might miss emails.

[current PC] copy all files in Kid on external hard disk
check on Appdata 08:25

The reason I chose an account of one of my kids is the small amount of data, which is used by this account. This is easier to restore than the huge bulk of data on my personal account. Hoarded as charged.

Appdata is a specific place for Windows. In this subdirectory there are subdirectories for programs to store information. E.g. for a mail program the address book and the mails are stored over here.

At the end of the line, I wrote down the time of the action.

network cable in

Network cable out of new PC

During my review I noticed that this was quite confusing. I added new PC in the last line. Looking at my script, the problem of downloading mail on my current PC was back. I remember that I left the network cable out.

[new PC] check %APPdata%
mklink does not work properly.

environment variables => no appdata found/

There was a step missing in this script.  The precise use of mklink was not included.  I had used this command and described the following steps in this script. However there is still enough information to reconstruct the process.

Here things go wrong, because appdata could not be found., I did not note the time, but the message is clear.

[New PC] old files app data

This is short for copy files from the old PC to on the HDD on the new PC.

check game
check mail program
network cable out of new PC

The most important thing of changing stuff is testing whether this went right.

In case of problems:
- restore old files of mail program and game.

This was my contingency plan.

While blogging I noticed that the other files to be copied were not mentioned. I forgot to include this step. Probably this was  too obvious at that time.

Debriefing or telling, what I did, is a way to discover what went wrong.

Who said: “You cannot change the script”?

Exploring while debugging

The command mklink was not the proper solution for my problem. I removed the created account and all files. This time I switched my search results to video.

After a while I got a script to make the proper redirection: when I saved the files, then they would be saved on my HDD. My first steps went right and then nothing happened. It did not work.

Time for my clean up again: remove the created account and all files. Then I could start in a clean environment.

There was a bug or error in my script which I had to remove. But what went wrong?

I opened the video to the browser and watched it again. All the time my thoughts were like “Yeah, it is in my script”. Imagine me nodding all the time.

Then something was mentioned in the voice over: I had to wait. Imagine me saying: “Oh”.

I only watched the first part of the video and stopped. I assumed that the change in my configuration would be immediate. Computers are fast. In this particular case the change took seconds.

The next time I repeated the steps in my script. I waited long enough at the crucial step. Then my files were saved on the HDD instead of the SSD.

You should always listen to the end of the message.

Exploring while planning

Years ago, I was a test coordinator for several projects. Several components would be changed and the question was: can you test whether everything went right?

I had serious doubts about the number of actions and their consequences. My goal was to explore the deployment. Less surprises means less tests.

It took me little effort to convince the project manager to have a meeting about the deployment plan. I volunteered for the chairman. Some of the questions about this meeting are answered in thhee Q&A.

You do need think about the implications of the things you create.
– Jemma Simmons