Headwired Wordle Art

Posted on May 19th 2011 by Joel Deutscher

I recently saw some very cool word art generated by articles on on Bish.co.uk and decided to produce one for Headwired. The tool used to create these artworks is a very nifty Java Applet called Wordle.

Headwired.com Wordle May 2011
So what is this magical Wordle you ask?

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends

So get out there an create your own!

A Journey to Automated Performance Test Execution Reports

Posted on April 5th 2011 by Joel Deutscher

A performance test execution report summarises the results of a single test execution. These reports are produced after each execution and usually contain varying levels of detail.

In my 10 years of performance test consulting, I have seen reports that are one-pagers, outputted directly by the tool with very little user interaction. I have also seen reports that go into significant detail and require hours of data manipulation to produce. Personally, I prefer the later.

Its not that I like am a stickler for documentation, its more that I believe that an execution report should tell me all of the interesting parts of a test, from response times to resource utilization, I want to know as much as I can about injecting a particular load level against an application. When I walk in to work in the morning, I want to be able to answer that question “How did last nights test go?”.

While working at a major bank, I had the opportunity of defining the test execution report templates for a major application. I worked closely with the production availability team to create a report template that provided everything that was required to determine if changes could result in performance degradation. The sign-off process involved a pile of execution reports that were analysed top to bottom and signed-off one by one. Needless to say, I learned a lot about which content was vital for these reports, and which could be ommitted.

Unfortunately, despite a very happy production support team, and a nomination by the client for a customer service award, there was one problem. The reports took too long to produce. Few elements of the report could be simply copied out of the customers performance tool (LoadRunner), and many took parsing raw results through excel to get the desired result.

After a successful release, I left the client and moved onto a new challenge. I wanted to find a way to maintain the quality of the reports while reducing the amount of effort required to produce them. I heard that after I left, the client had employed some automation for the excel processing parts of the report. While this had reduced their time, it was still a very hands on process. I knew there must be a better way.

6 months on, and I now recieve 95% of the elements of this original report in my inbox automatically after each test execution. I had reached a point where my team can now spend more time on analysis, and less time on producing graphs. It is now clear within minutes of an execution if there is a major problem or not. At last, I had my cake and was eating it too.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will document the journey from looking at the individual elements of an execution report to having an automated report in my inbox after each test.

Quick Tip – Fixing A Locked LoadRunner Results Directory

Posted on March 9th 2011 by Joel Deutscher

Everynow and then, Vugen will have a little episode and decide that its default results directory is locked, and you will be presented with an friendly dialog box like the one below.

The result directory is locked

If you have ever wondered what is going on, it turns out the culprit is mmdrv.exe. This executable is the Multithreaded Driver Command Line application that is used to simulate virtual users, and killing all instances from the task manager will remove any locks on your results directory, and you can go back to normal vugenning.

While most of us don’t mind using multiple directories, it seems that even in Vugen 11, the replay log window will always show the log of the first results directory after playback. This can be very confusing when debugging scripts.

This exe can also be used manually to execute vuser scripts from the command line. This can be handy for environment smoke tests. I will write more about some alternate uses for mmdrv.exe in a later post.

Quick Tip – Blank Parameters in LoadRunner

Posted on March 1st 2011 by Joel Deutscher

LoadRunner happily accepts blank parameters, it just that Vugens parameters screen doesn’t realise it yet. Web searches show this being a problem for people as far back as 2008 and there are all kinds of solutions posted.

The blank parameter in notepad

Even though our blank parameter does not show up in Vugen parameter window, it is recognised.

And heres your blank parameter.

Nothing new here, though for me, it was more of a problem than a solution. I was caught out with two blank lines at the end of a parameter file. When editing in notepad, be sure to only have one blank line at the end of your parameter files. The single blank newline must be there, as its used as an end of file delimeter, and is not used as a parameter.

Handling an overloaded site

Posted on March 1st 2011 by Joel Deutscher

Yesterday, Bankwest Online Banking (BOB) was having some serious performance issues. The site was painfully slow to use. After a few hours, I tried logging in again and was presented with the following message before I was allowed to logon.

Just before you log on...

I think this kind of information really helps set expectations for the customers, and I liked the tone of this message as opposed to some others.

Bankwest is lucky that it doesn’t have the media pull of its big brother, or cousins. For the rest of us, it’s a shame that it didn’t get more attention, we then might have seen a reason pushed out in the press release.

Fortunately for me, after braving the “Proceed to Logon” button, the site was back to full speed.