La rentrée

It has been some time since I posted. Quite frankly I was burnt out, and I finally realized that I needed a vacation. So, I decided to unplug and take the month of August off to catch up on chores around the house, tend to my gardens, and finally wrapped it up with a week of single-handed sailing down to Olympia and back. I love gardening because it gets my mind off computers and I love to work with my hands. But, the last week of my vacation I decided to sail alone and completely unplug from all electronics and get back to the basics of sailing and navigation.

This was my first voyage to Olympia (I usually head north from Seattle) so I was heading into unfamiliar waters, and decided to do so without the conveniences of GPS, the depth finder, autopilot, wind instruments, and other modern conveniences to refresh my basic sailing and navigation skills. I even kept my cell phone and VHF turned off, and used oil lamps inside the cabin at night as I re-read the first edition of Robinson Crusoe. The only luxury I would afford myself was using propane for cooking and taking a hot shower once securely anchored (I even used an oil lamp as an anchor light, but only because my masthead anchor light was burnt out and I didn't feel like climbing the stick to change the bulb).

So, I studied the charts and the tide and current tables, read through the Coast Pilot and the Waggoner Cruising Guide, and plotted my course. There are several channels where timing the currents are critical so, if my calculations were wrong I might not make it through a pass for at least 6 hours. The land masses also cause the wind to shift quite a bit, so tending to the sheets and trimming the sails meant there was little free time once the sails were raised. Despite the gray skies, pulling a shoulder muscle, ripping off part of a fingernail, and sustaining a rather deep gash near my right eye while reefing my mainsail the trip restored confidence in my abilities, provided me with peace and solitude to contemplate life, and prepare me for la rentrée (the return) back to the real world.

So, you are probably wondering what the relevance of my vacation is to software testing?

It's all about the basics. Without a solid foundation of basic skills and knowledge of the discipline then a person's ability to fully engage in all the tasks associated with professional software testing are limited. There are some who mistakenly assume that testing from an end-user's perspective is sufficient; and that may be the case in some limited situations. But, in highly complex or mission critical systems, or software products that must be maintained over several years require professional testers who possess a rich understanding the system and who are also proficient using basic skills and tools of the trade. Understanding the basics enables a person to better understand the how and why, and provides a base for approaching a problem from multiple rational perspectives given a specific context.