My Digital Life #12,768

The last few weeks have been interesting, digitally, as a software tester.

Part 1: NHS Kiosks

NHSKioskRecently I went to a local hospital for a check-up, a regular planned visit, so nothing to worry about 🙂

When I arrived I headed to the self-registration check-in kiosk. I entered my details, as I have done many times previously. The terminal seemed to have a problem, and looped back 3 times to the same questions – The dialogue checks all of your details, presented in the form of ‘Yes’, ‘No’ options for changes. I pressed ‘No‘ to all of the change options, but after three times around I was presented with the message:

An unexpected error has occurred. Please use one of the Kiosks either side.

I was in a rush, being tight on time for the appointment, so didn’t get my camera phone out and take a picture, which is usual practice when encountering an error like this in the wild. I was also a little in shock. As a tester my mind was racing. So the terminal either side might have a better chance of success? Really? And what was actually wrong? An error message might be helpful, so I don’t make the same mistake again – although I couldn’t work out what I had done wrong. But settled on the thought that making a helpful suggestion might actually be, err . . . . helpful. Maybe ‘Use another Kiosk‘ was actually the most helpful suggestion?

I was successful in using the kiosk to the left (there wasn’t one to the right!)  And made a note not to use that specific kiosk again. Maybe it didn’t like me. Maybe I pressed the screen too hard or something?

Part2: Google Chrome

ChromeI really do like Chrome as a browser and have used it for many years. Yes I know that Google are (allegedly) stealing all of my personal information for their own gain, but Chrome works well, is smooth, looks good, and just, err, works.

Well in the last few days it hasn’t. Worked that well that is. About a week ago, subconsciously I noticed that my laptop battery life had taken a dip. I seemed to be recharging it more frequently. It was low on power when I thought it would be ok. That sort of thing. After about 4 or 5 days I heard the fan kicking in and wondered what was going on.

First stop is Task Manager to see what is actually consuming all of the resource. It turned out to be Chrome, and an .exe called nalc64.exe. Hitting 30% plus cpu, when Chrome was loaded.

So problem identified. Now for the cause? A quick internet search identified nothing of use – there were lots of sites offering me a ‘download‘ tool to fix my problem, ‘Yeah, Right!‘.

I resorted to my backup in these cases, which is to use another browser. IE and Edge seemed fine (btw I am using Win 10.) I quickly imported my latest Chrome favorites and continued as before. The hope being that Google will identify the problem and sort it quickly.
(I also ran a full virus and malware scan, just in case, even though these run in the background as a matter of course.)

I checked every day, and four days after I stopped using Chrome the problem is magically fixed. My personal view is 50/50 that: either Google messed something up and have now fixed it, or Microsoft changed something, which messed up Google, which Google have now fixed.

Part 3: GlowBugs

GlowBugContinuing my adventure with CodeBug, I bought some GlowBugs to connect to my CodeBug. “GlowBugs are full colour LEDs (with over 16 million possible colours!). They are really easy to control and use in your projects and this activity will show you how to use them with a couple of simple blocks.” – CodeBug

Programming the CodeBug is immense fun. Try it sometime. So the GlowBugs must be just as fun?  I wired up the 10 GlowBugs, each connected with 3 croc clip wires.  Then downloaded a simple program to find out how to address the LEDs.

I then started to write my own program, a simple little thing, that would light up the LEDs in sequence, depending upon which CodeBug button I had pressed. Some 4 hours later, when I had ironed out the subtleties of Blockly, we – for Chris had joined in the fun – had a working version of the program.

Along the way I encountered a bit of a problem with web browser, Chrome, running Blockly. At one point all of my blocks just disappeared. My code went AWOL! Fortunately I had saved frequently. I was also getting spurious results from counter settings.

I put this down to the fact that I hadn’t refreshed my browser for a while, and that there was a memory corruption, of some sort that Testers don’t understand. Fortunately, when I reloaded the browser the code had been saved to my account, was still there, and worked just fine.

It was like computing in the 1980s and 1990s. Save a little and often. So, if you think the browser has corrupted, then don’t carry on, but reload from your checkpoint.

ZX81My first computer was a ZX81, way back in . . . 1981. a 1K computer, with a 16K ram pack on the back, secured with blu-tack. Plugged into a portable 14″ TV, and a cassette recorder, for saving and loading programs. I had been coding away for several hours one afternoon. It had gone dark. So someone else came along to turn on the light. Unfortunately I had unplugged the light to connect, ZX81, Tape Recorder, and portable TV. Well the inevitable happened – bang – the TV went off, the ZX81 stopped dead, and my code disappeared into the ether, never to be seen again. Only back then there wasn’t an always on, instant Internet, Cloud Save option available . . . . .  I learn’t that lesson the hard way.