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QA ! = Testing

Reading Stuart Feldman’s article, “Quality Assurance: Much More than Testing” (February 2005), I thought, “Oh good, someone who shares my views is writing about this.” Later, however, I found that of the four articles in the QA special report, only Feldman’s was actually about QA. Only he seems to know that QA does not equal testing. You should study his ISO 12207 definition. It says QA is about process. It is about providing confidence. The other three articles were mainly about testing techniques and only superficially about QA. Testing is only one of the possible QA activities.

Having said that, I have to add that the articles in the February issue are well written and worth reading for the testing techniques they describe. My concern is that the illusion that QA = Testing will persist after this issue. Based on past research, I do not think it is going to help much in reducing the industry’s chronic software-defects sickness.

Philip Burgess, Basel, SwitzerlandThe February issue of Queue, focusing on QA, was great. We are having discussions at work on how to test and what kind of testing to require at different stages (development, verification, and validation). Several people have read and copied the articles. Keith Stobie’s “Too Darned Big to Test” really hit the spot for our product.

Miriam Amos Nihart, Bothell, Washington

More Common than You Think

In From the Editors (December/January 2004-2005), Edward Grossman writes, “I would be willing to bet the number of VB/ASP/.NET folk who are also Linux users approaches zero.” Nope! There are more split-brainers like these than you might think. Take me: At work I’m writing Web applications using ASP and ASP.NET, and sometimes I’m suffering from DLL hell when using COM+. At home I’m writing nifty little tools using Perl (my favorite IDE is Komodo, running on my Windows machine) that will run on a BSD box. My Xbox runs Linux (among other things)—a cheap file server. And don’t forget the Mono people migrating the .NET framework to Linux, and those people who write and use Wine/WineX.

Manfred Berndtgen, Düsseldorf, Germany


In his Queue interview (December/January 2004-2005), Alan Kay shared a revelation he had in grad school that a Lisp interpreter could be written in a half page of Lisp. This reminded me of a similar inspirational moment I had. In a Programming Language Principles class I took at Indiana University, the professor had us write a Scheme parser and interpreter. What really stuck in my mind after all these years is that, boiled down to its essence, the Scheme interpreter would easily fit on a 3-by-5 note card. In fact, the professor recommended that we write it down that way, keep it in a shirt pocket, and periodically take it out and study it! As an undergrad, I laughed at how silly that was. But in retrospect I wish I’d done exactly as he had suggested, and kept it to this day.

I checked Dr. Kay’s reference to the Lisp 1.5 manual and found the evalquote function, which is part of the example to which I presume he was referring. To my joy, that function looks a lot like the Scheme interpreter that I wish I’d kept from my undergrad years. There is one big difference, though. I think the Scheme interpreter we wrote is much more elegant than this old Lisp one!

Dan Griffin, Seattle, WashingtonYour interview with Alan Kay was extremely fascinating, even though I’m too young to have any perspective on what things were like before C++, Java, and Perl. I haven’t done enough functional programming to really wrap my mind around solving complex problems with it, so I’m not qualified to comment on the state of today’s languages. I do think, however, it’s inevitable that most programmers go only as deep as the “pop culture,” because that’s what corporations demand. They want solutions to business problems coded in the trendiest language. Technology has now been taken over by marketing, so unless a corporation with clout decides to put engineering first and still do a major marketing push, we will never see a cutting-edge language go mainstream again.

Gabe da Silveira, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Originally published in Queue vol. 3, no. 3
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