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Published by: M_Computer on Nov 13, 2011
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Those configuration bugs can bite hard. Remember the Disney Lion King bug described in
Chapter 1? That was a configuration problem. The software’s sound didn’t work only on a few,
but very popular,hardware configurations. If you’ve ever been playing a game or using a
graphics program and the colors suddenly go crazy or pieces of windows get left behind as you
drag them,you’ve probably discovered a display adapter configuration bug. If you’ve ever
spent hours (or days!) trying to get an old program to work with your new printer,it’s probably
a configuration bug.

Applying Your Testing Skills



The sure way to tell if a bug is a configuration problem and not just an ordinary bug
is to perform the exact same operation that caused the problem, step by step, on
another computer with a completely different configuration. If the bug doesn’t occur,
it’s very likely a configuration problem. If the bug happens on more than one config-
uration, it’s probably just a regular bug.


Assume that you test your software on a unique configuration and discover a problem. Who
should fix the bug—your team or the hardware manufacturer? That could turn out to be a
million-dollar question.

First you need to figure out where the problem lies. This is usually a dynamic white-box test-
ing and programmer-debugging effort. A configuration problem can occur for several reasons,
all requiring someone to carefully examine the code while running the software under different
configurations to find the bug:

•Your software may have a bug that appears under a broad class of configurations. An
example is if your greeting card program works fine with laser printers but not with
inkjet printers.

•Your software may have a bug specific only to one particular configuration—it doesn’t
work on the OkeeDoKee Model BR549 InkJet Deluxe printer.

12 1983-7 CH08 10/12/00 2:15 PM Page 132

•The hardware device or its device drivers may have a bug that only your software
reveals. Maybe your software is the only one that uses a unique display card setting.
When your software is run with a specific video card,the PC crashes.

•The hardware device or its device drivers may have a bug that can be seen with lots of
other software—although it may be particularly obvious with yours. An example would
be if a specific printer driver always defaulted to draft mode and your photo printing
software had to set it to high-quality every time it printed.

In the first two cases,it seems fairly straightforward that your project team is responsible for
fixing the bug. It’s your problem. You should fix it.

In the last two cases,things get blurry. Say the bug is in a printer and that printer is the most
popular in the world,with tens of millions in use. Your software obviously needs to work with
that printer. It’s a good bet that your team will have to make changes to your software,even
though the software is doing everything right,to work around the bug in the printer.

In the end,it’s your team’s responsibility to address the problem,no matter where it lies. Your
customers don’t care why or how the bug is happening,they just want the new software they
purchased to work on their system’s configuration.

Configuration Testing








Of Purple Fuzz and Sound Cards

In 1997 Microsoft released its ActiMates Barney character and supporting CD-ROM
learning software for kids. These animatronic dolls interacted with the software
through a two-way radio in the doll and another radio connected to a PC.

The PC’s radio connected to a seldom-used interface on most sound cards called a
MIDI connector. This interface is used for music keyboards and other musical instru-
ments. Microsoft assumed the connector would be a good choice because most peo-
ple don’t own musical devices. It would likely not have anything plugged into it and
would be available for use with the ActiMates radio.

During configuration testing, a typical amount of bugs showed up. Some were due
to sound card problems, some were in the ActiMates software. There was one bug,
however, that could never quite be pinned down. It seemed that occasionally, ran-
domly, the PC running the software would just lock up and would require rebooting.
This problem occurred only with the most popular sound card on the market—of

With just weeks left in the schedule, a concerted effort was put together to resolve
the problem. After a great deal of configuration testing and debugging, the bug was
isolated to the sound card’s hardware. It seems that the MIDI connector always had

12 1983-7 CH08 10/12/00 2:15 PM Page 133

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