And some of my favourite things in 2015, again (as last year), presented in no particular order other than that in which I thought them up. These are the things that have influenced me this year . . . .
In early October I bought a CodeBug, and you can read about my first week’s experience here. I have since used the CodeBug in a session to make a Fruit Keyboard, following the simple on-line tutorial. You can read about that experience here.
So why is CodeBug on my 2015 list?
Well, it is a complete environment. It is very easy to get going and achieve something. Google’s Blockly, which is used for the programming language, is very easy to learn, and use, and it is fun.
And the CodeBug has provided me with the most immediate and tactile feedback from any computer programming experience, and I have been coding a long time.
I currently have a CodeBug and Colour Tail attached to a Raspberry Pi and these are providing our Christmas lights this year 🙂 Read more and watch a video of the Christmas lights here.
Raspberry Pi 2
The first thing I did when I got my Raspberry Pi 2 was write a short program to count up to 100 million. A completely unscientific performance test. Details can be found here.The speed increase from a single to a quad core processor, the extra memory (512mb to 1024mb), and all round smoothness, makes the Raspberry Pi 2 a joy to use. Yes it is 18 times slower than my desktop, an intel i3770K, but it doesn’t feel much slower in many things. And in all things Pi it is much quicker, like making things and plugging them into the GPIO pins.
I have a Pi 2 dedicated as a home web server. This is connected to the new 7″ touch screen which has significantly reduced the keyboard footprint on my desktop.
We also have Jesse, the latest version of the operating system, which is another improvement. And this month, December, the Pi Zero has arrived. This has caused a lot of controversy. A genuine £4 computer. Yes, it is a compromise, but at £4, one that is very easy to live with, and has amazing maker or tinkerer potential. I expect to build a few devices based around this in the new year.
MQTT is a fantastically simple M2M (machine to machine) connectivity protocol, used as an extremely lightweight publish / subscribe messaging transport. It is ideal for Internet of Things (IOT) devices. I have been using an MQTT service to connect to and remotely control some of my IOT devices.
I have been building some Home Automation devices; temperature sensors, power switches, intruder sensors, etc, and MQTT is proving an excellent way of messaging between devices.
Using a Raspberry Pi I was able to generate a maximum of around 3,000 messages a minute, both sent and received. [The actual ‘in-use‘ message volumes generated by the devices are in the 10s (tens) per hour.]
The capability is fantastic. To do this on the internet 10 years ago was hard work. 20 years ago it was science-fiction. Now it is becoming part of the IOT tool-kit.
Bugs in Windows 10
Hands up if you are using Windows 10 and haven’t yet found a bug? Don’t worry, you soon will.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Windows 10. I absolutely hated Win 8.0 and the ineffectual patch 8.1. I still look back fondly to Win 7.0. But if you are really asking, what was wrong with 98, and 3.11? Yes, I know these days that computers have much more power, are doing vast amounts more behind the scenes, and are giving us far greater capabilities. But if Hubble can still run on 1980s technology; New Horizons went to Pluto on 1990s technology; I am just asking?
Change though, is inevitable, so onwards we go.
However, my experience with Windows 10 is that it is quite buggy. Many of the bugs appear to be superficial, but my machine is crashing fairly regularly! Once or twice a month since deployment in late July. And that isn’t including the nightmare that was the download and install process, which seemed to have just one or two deployment bugs.
Typical problems include; the need to reboot after automatic updates, having to reinstall manufacturer drivers after automatic updates, the Login screen background changes size from standard full screen to small, the mouse changes from left-hand to right-hand orientation on login screen which can be puzzling until you work out what is going on, Netflix stopped serving higher definition downloads because screen scaling was not minimised – Now this might be a Netflix bug, but hey, its a bug, in Win 10.
What worries me is that as a software tester I know that if you find bugs in areas of a system, (Updates, Login Screen, Display Scaling) then if you look more deeply, you are likely to find even more. I know there are more bugs in there – I just don’t want to find them!
If you are having negative thoughts about Win 10, and this is swaying you, then think again. It is way better than 8.0. And Win 10 will only get better as the patches and improvements arrive. Just be prepared for things not being quite as stable as Win 7.0.
And just why is this a favourite? Well, I am a software tester, and finding bugs is fun 🙂
MS Text To Speech
Earlier in the year I was writing something, probably a conference abstract, which I wanted to be correct. I know that when you review your own written work you never quite see all of the errors, but I wanted to do a better job. Bouncing around in the back of my mind was the knowledge that windows could do speech recognition, having used this a couple of times but never successfully, and also that it could read text, but I had never used that facility.
I did a quick search, and found links to MS Text to Speech. Within 2 minutes I had added an icon to the quick access tool bar in MS Word. When I select some text in a word document, and click on the Speak icon, the text is read out to me.
It was amazing. The previously self-reviewed and ok text, when read back to me, contained three glaring errors . Brilliant I thought. I then added the icon into PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook. And I now use it almost all of the time to listen to what I have just written.
Yes, it takes a little bit longer, because I still reread everything I write, but the overhead is worth it for the increase in quality of the output. (And yes, I used it to review this blog entry – that is called dogfooding!)
A note of caution though: there are one or two amusing pronunciations, but the overall quality of the spoken text is amazingly high. Try it the next time you write an e-mail. You won’t be disappointed.
Making an IOT Device
I co-presented a workshop and discussion session earlier in the year on Testing the Internet of Things . . . I thought it would be useful to actually have an Internet of Things (IOT) device to help people understand what one was, how to build one, and how to go about testing one.
So I built a Raspberry Pi Tweet Cam. It took 6 hours from start of build to working device. You can read about the Tweet Cam that I built here.
I know it looks a bit ‘Heath Robinsonish‘, but that is only because it doesn’t have a fancy case. I wanted to show all of the wires to help the delegates understand how the device had been constructed.
The only problem that we had, a minor one, was that on day 1 the Internet was not available. We were in a basement room and there was no phone signal.
No Internet = No Tweet Cam !!!
It worked perfectly on day 2, was fun to use, and the output can be seen here.
Solar Impulse 2
If you haven’t seen or heard about Solar Impulse 2, the solar powered plane that is flying around the world, then do please check it out at solarimpulse.com.I was able to follow much of the non-stop 6 day journey across the Pacific ocean from Japan to Hawaii. I thought the achievement was fantastic, even if it did break the plane, which is currently being repaired for the remainder of the round-the-world journey.
I was also amazed at the amount of real-time information that was being streamed ‘live‘ from the plane, including HD video.
I was so influenced it got me thinking about software testing and measures & metrics. As a result I did some work on software testing measures & metrics hierarchies, and ran a workshop at the London Test Management Forum, details of which can be found here.
I hope 2015 also gave you some favourite moments, and that 2016 is equally inspirational.