Lights, camera, CG!; Hard work, but rewarding too; Let’s start at the very beginning; System attack starts with a ping sweep; Finance with the `e’ edge

Books2Byte – August 2004

**

Lights, camera, CG!

D. Murali

If you are keen on filmmaking, here’s help on using computer graphics with effect – from concept to completion.

 3ds

CG is centigram, centre of gravity, as also the two-character ISO 3166 country code for `The Congo’. But CG is also the hottest thing in moviemaking! Yes, we’re talking about computer graphics that enables stunt doubles in the Matrix to amaze us, or elevates Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers to “play an effective emotional lead”. If you’re keen on filmmaking, instead of going to Kollywood or Bollywood, here is Barrett Fox, `animator, teacher and journalist’ with his book 3ds max 6 Animation, from Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Co Ltd (www.tatamcgrawhill.com) to lead you “from concept to completion”.

The intro explains how CG filmmaking is a bunch of many disciplines, such as “scriptwriting, sound design, art direction, modelling, rigging and animating”. Think of this book as “a unified theory of CG animating,” exhorts the author. “Almost all the 17 chapters in the book represent entire disciplines that, in larger CG productions, have professionals dedicated solely to them.”

Keeping at the back of your mind Day After Tomorrow that you perhaps saw day before yesterday, you can engage yourself in creating a short animated film, titled “The Game to Save the World”, set in “a fictional multiplayer online videogame”. There Fox, through his three main characters, combines “expediency and pragmatism to strike a balance between creating rich, quality work and making practical choices so your project can be finished in a timely manner.” Story concepts are of two types, says the book: “Your stories and someone else’s stories”. How simple! But avoid clichés, advises Fox. Think twice, therefore, he says, before embracing dragons, dungeons, robots, dinosaurs, spaceships, Star Wars recreations and so on, because these categories are shunned by art directors and objective observers outside the industry.

A major pitfall to avoid is to bite off more than what you can chew. “A key point to remember is that you can make anything, but you can’t make everything.” What can cheer CG artists, however, is that these are good days because they can “focus more on artistry than on technology.” So, shall we say, `Lights, camera, CG’?

Make it an inviting portal

 Tourism

Computers are eco-friendly, one might argue, because you can save a lot of paper and so trees too. How about using the Net for promoting ecotourism? A recent book from Universities Press (www.universitiespress.com) discusses this question, apart from a host of others, in Tourism Management: The Socio-economic and Ecological Perspective. Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, notes Prof A.H. Kalro, Director of IIM, Kozhikode. “It generates around $4 trillion in gross output, employs about 260 million people and yields $700 billion in tax revenues to different governments.”

In the preface, the editors Tapan K.Panda, Sitikantha Mishra and Bivraj Bhusan Parida point out that ecotourism can balance sustainable development with commercial needs. “A study of Indian tourism Web sites shows that although some are visually appealing, the information provided in most sites is of very little value and often outdated,” observes the book. Requests for “approximate cost of non-standard tour” sent by e-mail to some of the sites did not elicit any response, add the authors. “Ecotourists are primarily interested in information related to places of natural beauty, and the history and culture of the destination they intend to visit,” is a clue for those in the industry. Also some `groundwork’ is required: “There should be a great degree of integration and cooperation among the entire chain of industries that contribute to the tourists’ overall experiences. These include tourism development corporations, travel agencies, tour operators, airlines, hotels, resorts, taxi unions and wildlife or forest authorities.”

Something that calls for networking, bottom up, before transforming the tourism site into an inviting portal.

Become Access-able

 Access

ACCESS needs no introduction. You know it’s there in the Microsoft Office suite, and perhaps use it too, though far less than Excel or Outlook, PowerPoint or FrontPage. May be you are good at using this database workhorse for your own limited use, “opening forms and printing reports directly from the database window, and you know what query to run before printing which report or exporting data to Word.” To make others use your databases with as much ease, “you have to do a lot more work, mostly in the form of writing Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code,” says Helen Feddema in Expert one-on-one Microsoft Access Application Development, from Wiley Dreamtech India P Ltd (www.wileydreamtech.com) . The book promises to teach you how to set up your tables and relationships to ensure that the database is properly normalised, and write VBA code to create the connective tissue that turns a bunch of tables, queries, forms and reports into a complete and coherent application.

Anybody can create a database but application is more than a database. An Access application consists of a database – or possibly several databases – “containing normalised tables with appropriate relationships between them; queries that filter and sort data; forms to add and edit data; reports to display the data; and possibly PivotTables or PivotCharts to analyse the data, with all of those components connected into an efficiently functioning and coherent whole by VBA code.” Access the book before you access Access.

Tailpiece

“Can you talk like an interactive voice response system?”

“Why?”

“Our machine conked off.”

Monday, Aug 02, 2004

http://www.thehindubusinessline.in/ew/2004/08/02/stories/2004080200160200.htm

**

Hard work, but rewarding too

D. Murali

Disc Jockeys don’t have to be the only people who are `in’. Database administrators or DBAs are `a special lot’ too. Here’s `a quick-start guide’ for those looking for success.

 Oracle

HELLO DBAs, listen to what Robert G. Freeman says in Oracle Database 10g New Features, from Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Co Ltd (www.tatamcgrawhill.com) : “King wasn’t a DBA (database administrator), but he might have been.” Why? Because DBAs are `a special lot’ having to understand all layers, viz. new OS, new software and so on. “It’s hard work, but it’s incredibly rewarding.” The author downplays the book as `a quick-start guide’ rather than `an exhaustive introduction’. It’s the wading pool for you to walk through before you dive into the adult pool, he would say. “It’s the escalator that runs you by the crown jewels before you actually break into the case and take the ones that appeal the most to you.”

G is for grid. But what does it enable you to do? Leverage components, load-balance across the enterprise, share info regardless of its location and schedule resources across. In Larry Ellison’s words: “Grid is capacity on demand made up of low-cost parts.” So, you’d first meet a babua called DBUA, the Database Upgrade Assistant, a GUI designed for “upgrading your Oracle database”, suggesting even to backup the database for you. Reserve some attention for SYSAUX tablespace – “a secondary tablespace for storage of a number of database components.”

There’re more new things, such as portable clusterware with “infiniband high-speed network support”, rolling upgrades “through the use of the opatch utility”, CRS or `cluster ready services’, and database assistants “to make the DBA’s job easier”. There are lies, damned lies and statistics, you know, but 10g makes statistics gathering easy, be they of database or its dictionary. Database sizes can be daunting, so 10g “allows you to manually shrink the overall size of a table, removing unused space.” Freeman adds: “This feature, combined with the ability to compact the segment and adjust the high-water mark all at the same time, can result in great space savings.”

DBAs get help from 10g’s ADDM (short for automatic database diagnostic monitor); it can “analyse the database workload and find bottlenecks”, identify problem areas and work through “a problem-resolution tree to attempt to eliminate areas that are not causing the problem and highlight areas that are causing the problem.” In the chapter on `business intelligence’ there is `Oracle Data Pump’. Hope your interest in 10g is sufficiently pumped up to go in search of Freeman.

Cyber law and crimes

 Legal

WHAT’S a law book doing in these columns? Good question, but here’s the argument why you could profitably browse the latest edition of Legal Language by Dr Madabhushi Sridhar, published by Asia Law House (www.asialawhouse.com) . It contains new chapters on cyber law and crimes.

“The so-called e-commerce is based on the e-contracts, which necessitate e-contract law, not much different from the non-cyber commercial law,” writes the author, before introducing one to terms such as cryptology, encryption, decryption, digital cash, electronic record and so on. So, you remember nostalgically how your mercantile law prof expounded cases such as Balfour vs Balfour and Mohori Bibee vs Dharmodas Ghose. It would be too soon to expect our law books to be citing cyber cases as much as they do with the ones inherited from the Privy Council.

Yet, a table not to be missed is about punishments in India for cyber crimes, under different sections of the Information Technology Act. Thus, for “damage to computer, computer system”, compensation can go up to Rs 1 crore. Tampering with computer source documents can put the culprit in jail up to 3 years. For “hacking with computer system with intent or knowledge to cause wrongful loss”, punishment is “jail up to 3 years or find up to Rs 2 lakh or both”. Add 2 more years for those caught publishing obscene material in an electronic form. Imprisonment up to 10 years awaits those securing or attempting to secure access to a protected system. Add some law-ware to hardware and software.

Laugh your way to UNIX

 Unix

JUST the book you’ve been waiting for! UNIX for Dummies, by John Levine and Margaret Levine Young, published by Wiley Dreamtech India P Ltd (www.wileydreamtech.com) .

“Although lots of good books about UNIX are out there, most of them assume that you have a degree in computer science, would love to learn every strange and useless command UNIX has to offer (and there are plenty), and enjoy memorising unpronounceable commands and options. This book is different.” With that begins the intro promising to explain everything in “plain, ordinary English.”

Chapter 1 asks: “If a train stops at a train station, what happens at a workstation?”

That must be a real dumb question, but if you suspect that you may run into a dumb terminal, be assured that nobody makes dumb terminals any more because “Windows PCs have a natural ability to play dumb, so they’re commonly pressed into duty as terminals.”

On the history side, the Levine duo would give an analogy: “In the early days, every UNIX system was distributed with a complete set of source code and development tools. If UNIX had been a car, this distribution method would have been the same as every car being supplied with a complete set of blueprints, wrenches, arc-welders, and other car-building tools.”

Get bashed with BASH, the Bourne Again shell, check if `she sells C shells’ but find C was written by Bill, and read the warning `don’t turn off the computer if you make a typo!’ How silly! Okay, do you know the two basic types of files? “Well, er… ” you say, but here’s the answer: “Files that contain text that UNIX can display nicely on-screen; and files that contain special codes that look like monkeys have been at the keyboard.”

The first type of files are text files and the rest are everything else. `There’s no place like home’ is the subhead that discusses the sweet home directory – “where you work until you move somewhere else”.

Elsewhere, there is `gurgle, gurgle: running data through pipes’, on the process of redirecting output of one program so that it becomes the input of another program.

“This process is the electronic equivalent of whisper-down-the-lane, with each program passing information to the next program and doing something to the information being whispered.” Great fun to read even if you never plan to work with UNIX.

Tailpiece

Transcript from a chat:

“I wnat to delete file!’

“You’ve a transposing prolbem.”

“I want to delete life.”

“That’s bettre.”

“Boo… .m.”

Monday, Aug 09, 2004

http://www.thehindubusinessline.in/ew/2004/08/09/stories/2004080900340200.htm

**

Let’s start at the very beginning

D. Murali

It helps to start with the fundamentals. And if Oracle’s your goal, here’s the way to go about learning the basics.

 OracleStart

WITH simple truths such as, `database is a collection of interrelated data’, begins the book written by John Day and Craig Van Slyke, Starting out with… Oracle. Almost a thousand pages later, after covering SQL, PL/SQL, developer tools and DBA, in `advanced database topics’, the authors write: “a data warehouse is capable of pulling data from both internal and external data sources, transforming that data into a common format, consolidating and organising the data, and storing it in a form that supports managerial reports and analyses.” Well, that’s English and not some mumbo-jumbo one would normally expect from a book on RDBMS. A consistent feature in the book is thus reader-friendliness that you can’t miss, even if the discussion is about some esoteric topic. For instance, read this about `normalisation’: “Relational databases can be evaluated using a process of normalisation, which involves the determination of the optimal set of tables that minimise redundancy and maximise the integrity of the data being stored… Normal forms are a series of rules that can be applied to tables to ensure an optimal structure for a database.”

Or, when discussing advanced SQL queries and views, `correlated subquery’ is explained thus: in it, “inner query references a column in the table in the outer query”. The outer query is processed, and its results are used to perform the inner query, explain the authors.

Once you are up and running with Oracle, you’d learn, among other things, about creating a `multi-canvas form’ – “a way to break a complex application into separate tasks that are handled by separate canvases”; `matrix report’ a.k.a. crosstab report displaying information “in a grid with values from one column displayed across the top and another column along the left side, and values from a third column are used to fill in the cells of the grid”; and Oracle Portal that enables a user “to manage and use database applications without the need for any client applications beyond a simple Web browser, thus greatly simplifying the deployment of Web applications.”

Ready for one, two, Oracle?

Crack these questions

IF a cipher lock has a door delay option, what does that mean – pick one of the following: “(a) After a door is open for a specific period, the alarm goes off. (b) It can only be opened during emergency situations. (c) It has a hostage alarm capability. (d) It has supervisory override capability”? Tough?

Try some accounting math: “How do you calculate residual risk? (a) Threats x risks x asset value. (b) (Threats x asset value x vulnerability) x risks. (c) SLE x frequency = ALE. (d) (Threats x vulnerability x asset value) x controls gap.”

Perhaps there is a gap in knowledge about that, so give a shot to a different question: “If an attacker were to steal a password file that contained one-way encrypted passwords, what type of attack would she perform to find the encrypted passwords? (a) Man-in-the-middle attack. (b) Birthday attack. (c) Denial of service attack. (d) Dictionary attack.”

Too much attack, so let’s talk about a commonsense topic: “When is the emergency actually over for a company? (a) When all people are safe and accounted for. (b) When all operations and people are moved back into the primary site. (c) When operations are safely moved to the off-site facility. (d) When a civil official declares that all is safe.” Or, this: “If sensitive data is stored on a CD-ROM and it is no longer needed, which would be the proper way of disposing of the data? (a) Degaussing. (b) Erasing. (c) Purging. (d) Physical destruction.”

 CISSP

To crack these and 800 more questions, hunt out Shon Harris’s CISSP Certification Exam Study Guide, second edition.

Designer Dummies

 Autocad

DUMMIES series is always inviting even if the title were about Martians. So, here I have Mark Middlebrook’s AutoCAD 2005 for Dummies, though I’m sure it would be tough for me to displace engineers busily designing parts, or edge out architects leading their clients through dream plans. But the author, who I learn is an engineer teaching literature and philosophy, promises in the intro: “With this book, you have an excellent chance of creating a presentable, usable, printable, and sharable drawing on your first or second try without putting a T square through your computer screen in frustration.” Don’t be baffled by DWG file format. It’s no wily dog, but the way AutoCAD saves drawings. As in any dummies book, there are catchy subheads, such as: Looking for Mr. Status Bar, sizzling system variables, delicious dialog boxes, weighing your scales, defending your border, and lost in paper space.

The chapter titled `where to draw the line’ hand-holds the reader to `toe the line’; instructs that polyline or pline (rhyming with beeline, though “it sounds like the place you stand when you’ve drunk a lot of beer at the ball game”) is different from line; delves into `arc-y-ology’ and ellipses; talks of splines, the sketchy, sinuous curves; and creates donuts, the circles with a difference.

Often, the author comforts the hassled user, with lines such as: “If you’re new to AutoCAD, its wide range of precision tools probably seems overwhelming… Rest assured that there’s more than one way to skin a cat precisely, and not everyone needs to understand all the ways.” Go, get a CAD to skin!

Books courtesy: Wiley Dreamtech (www.wileydreamtech.com)

Tailpiece

“We have a new assistant in the EDP.”

“Send him off to number all the machines with inventory stickers.”

“But we already finished that work last month on overtime.”

“Hmm… we’ve to first peel off the old ones then.”

Monday, Aug 16, 2004

http://www.thehindubusinessline.in/ew/2004/08/16/stories/2004081600100200.htm

**

System attack starts with a ping sweep

D. Murali

Technical attacks on machines are much like a pickpocket swooping on his prey in a crowded bus. But you can defend yourself intelligently. Here’s the full picture on network security.

 Security1

THE first step in the technical part of an attack is to determine what targets are available and active. A step, you’d agree, that is as predictable as how a pickpocket identifies his prey in a crowded bus, or a boy or girl picks up company in a party. Only, in the world of computers, this takes the form of `ping sweep’, a sort of mating call that machines are programmed to recognise. If the machine responds to the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) echo request, “it is reachable.” Next what? “Find out where the pockets are,” you’d say. No, it’s ports, because we’re talking about machines. “Perform a port scan. This will help identify which ports are open, thus giving an indication of which services may be running on the target machine.”

Network hardening is not one more stage in the attack sequence but is a countermeasure. “Network devices should be configured with very strict parameters to maintain network security.” For this, use patches and updates, and add “an outer layer of security” in the form of “firewall rules and router access control lists.”

The book in my hand is one of Dreamtech Press’s `Information Assurance & Security Series’, titled Principles of Computer Security by Wm. Arthur Conklin and his team (www.wileydreamtech.com) . At the end of chapter 1, there are questions such as: “Criminal organisations would normally be classified as what type of threat? (a) Unstructured (b) Unstructured but hostile (c) Structured or (d) Highly structured.” Another question: “An attacker who feels using animals to make fur coats is unethical and thus defaces the Web site of a company that sells fur coats is an example of: (a) Information warfare (b) Hacktivism (c) Cyber crusading or (d) Elite hacking.”

Topics covered have in view the `Security+ exam’ offered by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). What’s interesting is that the Security+ certification does not expire, very much like a CA qualification, so you don’t have to take the exam periodically. A secure read, as long as you can insulate yourself from the `pings’ of other booklovers.

IT is a complex wild animal

 ITbiz

INFORMATION technology ranks highly among most companies’ top five expenditures. How good to read that from the blurb ofManaging IT as a business, by Mark D. Lutchen, and published by Wiley (www.wiley.com) as `a survival guide for CEOs’. But the next line could be shocking: “IT continues to be one of the least understood and most poorly managed areas in business.” So, the author, a former CIO of PricewaterhouseCoopers, offers advice “on how to unleash the full potential of this critical function” with a `proven plan’ to bridge the gap between CEOs and CIOs – something that has impeded their ability “to work together in order to craft objectives, establish budget guidelines, and develop metrics for measuring IT value and success.”

In the foreword, Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT writes: “For every dollar spent on IT hardware, up to nine dollars go to complementary investments, including organisational and human capital.” These investments can create real, if tangible, assets, Erik adds. Thus, to focus only on IT spending that occurs within the IT budget is to miss all but the tip of the iceberg. “While many of these intangible assets go unmeasured on typical corporate balance sheets, they should not go unmanaged.” Thus, there’s a world beyond numbers; so, don’t toe your management to munshi’s line.

The intro speaks of the constant tension between CIOs desiring more `toys’ and CEOs looking at IT as being expensive and, therefore, ripe for cutting. Result: IT gets subjected to “endless, frustrating cycles of stop-and-start investment” and gradually a layer grows between the two Os. “IT projects often become captive to the business cycle when, in order to capture the advantages of new technologies, they should be continuous.”

Lutchen is categorical: “IT is a complex wild animal.” An analogy that techies may find tough to digest. But the animal can be tamed, assures the author, and that happens only when you manage it the same way as any other successful business. “CEOs, board members, other executives, and financial buyers must learn to be `animal trainers’.” Else, you would only be lingering outside the cage, not knowing what to do about technology.

Get into the cage with Lutchen at hand!

Black holes in cyberspace

Anyone

THE virtual world has its own blind alleys from where people never return. Cyberspace has black holes that suck in victims. Chat rooms can lead the vulnerable out and away. Anonymity on the Net can end up in blood spill. Things are getting dirtier and here’s a cautionary tale “set in a virtual world where relationships are established without the benefit of physical contact”: Anyone You Want Me to Be, by John Douglas and Steven Singular. A shocking true story of sex and death on the Internet, as the subtitle of the Pocket Books (www.simonsays.co.uk) says. The culprit is John Robinson, “a harmless, unassuming family man whose criminal history began with embezzlement and fraud”. Arrested for “the savage murders of six women and his suspected involvement in at least five disappearances”, his hunting ground was cyberspace where he “seduced his prey”. The book is educational, notes the intro.

“In the off-line world, you can pick up on the physical signals coming from people who could do you harm. You can use your intuition, your survival instincts, your senses, and your common sense to know when trouble is near.” Not so in cyberspace, where you’re cut off from your senses and some of your instincts.

So, here’s the advice: “When you operate in such a place, you need to be keenly attuned to who you are and what you’re doing, as well as what possible predators are doing. Had the women in these pages been more discerning about such things, they might be alive today.”

Go offline to read this, for your own sake.

Tailpiece

“Our systems chief is dumb, I guess.”

“Why do you say so?”

“I told him GTB and he said, `Giga tera byte!'”

Monday, Aug 23, 2004

http://www.thehindubusinessline.in/ew/2004/08/23/stories/2004082300160200.htm

**

Finance with the `e’ edge

D. Murali

Banks and financial institutions wanting to improve the quality and scope of the services they offer might want to log into this book.

 Efinance

BANK failures, non-performing loans and unattractive deposit rates are all enough to demotivate when one thinks of our financial system. But V.C. Joshi happily logs in to the future with his book e-Finance, published by Response Books (www.indiasage.com) . There he talks about the potential that banks and financial institutions have “to improve the quality and scope of the financial services and products that they offer.”

Joshi describes the `online value chain’ where customers access through various devices and banking services are delivered through a network. He points out that banks often host Web sites but find them not to be of much use. “A financial institution must make its presence felt,” says the author.

A chapter is devoted to e-finance products and services such as Cyber Gold, E-charge, Ipin and Millicent. That e-finance lowers costs and increases availability is something for the CFO to factor in when considering investments in IT. Joshi points out that not much attention has been bestowed upon the development of Internet platforms to trade and pledge electronic warehouse receipts; “this may reduce the need for government to purchase commodities for stock piling.”

The book anticipates that more investors would make use of e-trading, though “unfortunately online trading coincided with the market meltdown.” The e-thing has the potential to make markets more transparent, Joshi would add. “It is not restricted to information about price alone, but the user has the full log of the transaction behaviour.”

HDFC Bank is a model that can be emulated, says the book, because the bank’s policies are not only technically superior but also highly profitable. “Its treasury, corporate and even retail activities are mostly automated with a strong focus on online connectivity and e-commerce.”

The book discusses topics such as risk, crime, law, security and so on. You need to engage in not just system development but survivable system development. To survive in e-finance, it would be advisable to log in to Joshi first.

Byte is not Dracula’s favourite pastimemisspelled

Cdemys

AFTER C comes D. Wrong, it’s C++. Mystified? Clear up the cloud with Jeff Kent’s C++ Demystified, a self-teaching guide from Tata McGraw-Hill (www.tatamcgrawhill.com) . “C++ was my first programming language,” writes Kent in his intro. He’s learned many other languages but he thinks C++ is the best. Why? “Perhaps because of the power it gives the programmer.” But, remember, that this power is a double-edged sword. Also, “knowing C++ makes learning other programming languages easier.” What’s the best way to learn programming? “Write programs.”

Let’s say, you ask, what’s a programming language? The author begins with an analogy: “When you enter a darkened room and want to see what is inside, you turn on a light switch. When you leave the room, you turn the light switch off. The first computers were not too different than that light switch.” From there you move on to `Hello World,’ and before you dump C++ and say `Cruel World’, the author would lead you to the innards of the language, all the while keeping you in good humour.

For instance, to explain bits and bytes, he writes: “While people live at street addresses, what is stored at each memory address is a byte. Don’t worry, I have not misspelled Dracula’s favourite pastime.” Similarly, the chapter on variables begins thus: “Recently, while in a crowded room, someone yelled `Hey, you!’ I and a number of other people looked up, because none of us could tell to whom the speaker was referring.” So? “We use names to refer to each other. Similarly, when you need to refer in code to a particular item of information” call it by name.

“Variables, like people, have a lifetime,” Kent would write in a different chapter. “A person’s lifetime begins at birth. A variable’s lifetime begins when it is declared. A person’s lifetime ends with death.

A variable’s lifetime ends when it goes out of scope.” That’s some philosophy demystified, shall we say?

Test at all costs

 TestingTools

WANT to get into software testing as a career? Go for Dr K.V.K.K. Prasad’s Software Testing Tools, published by Dreamtech Press (www.wileydreamtech.com) .

“Many software engineers have a wrong notion that software testing is a second-rate job,” notes the preface. For them, what’s first rate is development. “These engineers tend to forget that testing is a part of development.” How?

Because only through testing can you deliver a quality product. Prasad lists the four criteria for a software project’s success: “Meet all quality requirements; be developed within the time frame; be developed within the budget; and maintain a cordial relationship among the team members.”

Testing is detested because it is tough. Testing process is iterative. So, test the software in the lab, and also in actual working environment (called beta testing). Any test creates stress for those who are tested; and `stress testing’ is to test the software “at the limits of its performance specifications”. You accept that testing is important, but `acceptance testing’ is the most important testing, the author would emphasise. It decides whether the client approves the product or not.

Oracle is a popular name in software, but test oracles are people or machines used for checking the correctness of the program for the given test cases, explains the book. “Human test oracles are used extensively if the program does not work.” In ancient times, when people had a problem, it’s said they’d go to a priest or priestess, called an oracle. He or she would act as a medium for divine advice or prophecy. The word is derived from Latin oraculum, from ovare, speak.

The book covers Mercury Interactive’s WinRunner, Segue Software’s SilkTest, and IBM Rational SQA Robot. There are case studies that illustrate the use of LoadRunner, JMeter, TestDirector and so forth.

As in hospitals where the severity of the problem determines whether the patient will be in a ward or ICU, software defects are classified depending on their impact on the functionality of the software.

“Critical defects result in system-crash, while major ones may result in some portions of the application difficult to use.” There are also minor defects; these “can be tolerated” as in the case of “lack of help for some functionality, spelling mistake in an error message and so on.”

For IT managers, it would be a critical defect to be ignorant of how software is tested; that would be a flaw with a potential to cause a career to crash.

Tailpiece

“I have an IT plan for our company.”

“Is it top-down or bottom-up?”

“I think I put it in the second drawer in my desk, from the top.”

Monday, Aug 30, 2004

http://www.thehindubusinessline.in/ew/2004/08/30/stories/2004083000130200.htm

**

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