mid-January Updates

Some random thoughts as I sit here at mid-January of the new year:

  • I’ve been reading Walter Isaacson’s newest book Leonardo da Vinci and it’s a fascinating look at how mastery in one discipline or craft such as painting can evolve and become better based on studying other disciplines.
    • Based on Isaacson’s own research including Leonardo’s own notebooks, we are presented with the breath and depth of Leonardo’s self teachings. For example Leonardo often considered himself a scientist, engineer, and weapons designer before a painter. He studied birds and flight, motion, water movement and also dissected animals and human cadavers to learn about muscle movement and skeletal structure. All to learn more about the world around him.
    • All of this cross discipline research influenced and improved his art. I highly recommend the book!
  • I have a Now page, be sure to check it out!
  • Late in December I posted on TestingConferences.org the 2016 & 2017 Conference videos that are free to watch. It was interesting reviewing all of those past conferences and then surveying which ones posted public videos. In the /past list we have a variable called “Event Videos” where we post these. For easy reference:
  • The State of the Testing Survey is now available. There’s a lot of room for interpretation of the results (and questions) but this is by far the best survey of the testing industry. I always fill this out and I hope you will to!
  • The first webinar I’m hosting for AST is coming up. Join us if you haven’t already!

MacBook Pro 2012 and 2015 Performance Benchmarks

Apple tends to make small improvements with each iteration of it’s laptop lines. Between my personal mid-2012 MacBook Pro with Retina and my new(er) mid-2015 work MacBook Pro with Retina I didn’t think there was a much of a difference. Visually they are identical. Most of the tech specs also line up such that I assumed they were equivalent in terms of performance as well.

tl;dr I was wrong.

Looking at the system information and/or the laptops themselves they appear to be quite similar:

From the specs I assumed my personal computer would have the better performance (but that would be odd given it’s age), although my work computer does seem to handle Docker better. To determine which was more performant I decided to use Geekbench to take benchmarks and compare.

Geekbench takes two benchmarks:

Here’s how the two computers compare:

 Score Type 2012 2015
Single Core CPU 3447 3914
Multi Core CPU 11631 13660
OpenCL 6499 27007

Both CPU scores are pretty similar but the massive difference is in the OpenCL compute power which includes the CPU, graphical processing, hardware accelerators, etc. The newer 2015 MacBook Pro is dramatically more powerful. This makes me wonder how much more powerful the newest MacBook Pros are..?

These benchmarks highlight that as consumers (and developers) we shouldn’t only rely on big feature advances when considering an upgrade. Especially with Apple devices where such big feature advances (like the Touch Bar) are few and far between. Instead we should look to the performance gains over time of less obvious features like compute power to make our decisions. (I think I’ve convinced myself!)

The Anti-Library

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others – a very small minority – who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb in the Black Swan

A Collection of Menacing Books

The more I attend conferences, interact with others and read blogs in the various software communities I take interest in (testing, entrepreneurship, technology, etc.) the greater the number of books I find I’d like to consume. It seems almost automatic these days to ask for books or references someone has found useful to solve problems or gain a wider (or deeper) perspective on a subject.

Yet a collection of books on a list or sitting on in Dropbox isn’t nearly as menacing and doesn’t call to me the same way as having those books sitting on my shelf where I have to watch them age.

No Clutter
I try to find balance between only owning those things I can and do use regularly and a more consumerist desire where I need to have lots of options. I’m more on the minimalist side where I want no clutter (of anything) so I constantly edit what I own. Part of this comes from wanting to be practical and trying to understand trade-offs between buying something now or something better later. Part comes from the fear of getting “behind” or having too many choices.

This manifests in many ways including trying not to accumulate too many books.

A Research Tool

When I first toured Cem Kaner’s personal library I fell into the first category of people from the quote above. I think I said, “Wow what a library”, as the size of his personal collection was more immense than anything I’d seen. Now it wasn’t comparable in size to Umberto Eco’s but it was impressive enough that I felt the need to tell him so. My parents have book shelves filled with books they read twenty years ago but Cem had bookshelves full of books he hadn’t read and those he kept around for reference. After my “impressive” comment, Cem made it clear the point of his private library was not built to impress but as a research tool.

Keeping materials around for research or reference makes sense. Some you might keep around because you feel a special attachment to or because they gain in value but most books don’t. They aren’t trophies either.

The Anti-Library

The anti-library (or antilibrary) seems like the logical compromise between acquisition and usefulness. Get rid of those books you’ve read and aren’t likely to reference again and keep the collection of books you haven’t. Don’t make it your library, make it your anti-library.

Building context like Thomas Jefferson

During a recent trip to Washington DC I got to view the library Thomas Jefferson sold to the Federal Government in 1815 for $24,000. The sale contained some 6,487 books which are now part of the Library of Congress.

Jefferson built his library over the course of his life, collecting books from every place he visited, in every category known to man. Anything he needed to learn or wanted to learn came from books. In fact Jefferson had so many books he had to come up with categories to place them:

  • Memory
  • Reason
  • Imagination
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Fine Arts

What does this have to do with testing? Testing like most things is about learning. In the context-driven school of testing (yes I used the word school) good practices come from context and the way we place things in context is to have a broad base of understanding. Just like Jefferson had (I’m assuming). When he would deal with problems in his private or public life his wide ranging education allowed him to frame problems and solutions.

Today we don’t have to learn just by reading, although books are our largest source for information, we have many forms of communication for learning to be better testers (I’m not talking about formal education) that haven’t existed for very long like virtual conferencing, conferences, blogs, etc. We (including myself) don’t really have an excuse for not using them!

Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar by James Bach

I recently finished reading James Bach’s book Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar. I purchased the book mistakenly thinking it was a book on software testing (I didn’t really read the synopsis before buying it) but was pleasantly surprised after having read it.

I’d heard Bach was an expert in software testing, checked out his blog and then found this book online:

At first I wasn’t sure what to make of this book but it gets better as it goes on. Just as the title says it’s about how the pursuit of Self-Education can lead to success based on the author’s (James Bach) experience doing just that in the field of Software Testing.

I considered posting a book review here but I found this review on Amazon with which I agree. Now all I need to do is read his book Lessons Learned in Software Testing.