Pass all the Breakpoints

When modifying a system without adequate tests, I found it helps to include debugger breakpoints in my manual testing checklist:

For each change I¬†make, I add a breakpoint after the modified line, and won’t remove it until the interpreter has passed through it exercising the logic¬†to my¬†satisfaction. Before committing the changes I can pull up the list of breakpoints to make sure I’ve hit them all.

This is probably most valuable when I’ve made¬†a lot of changes at once, or if temporary delusion is making me¬†think I¬†don’t need to test everything.

Caveat 1: I suppose, if there’s any parallel operations, you should also test everything with the breakpoints gone, lest the code relies on losing a race condition.

Caveat 2: In no way is this a substitute for automated tests!

Character Encoding Bug of the Day

Today I had one of those bugs that starts out looking simple and keeps going deeper and deeper. Video service Kaltura has a plugin for Moodle, that just stopped working one day (no changes on the server).

  • It’s throwing an exception because an expected element isn’t in the page.
  • Oh, the element’s supposed to be delivered by XHR from the plugin.
  • But the plugin’s code is generating correct markup…
  • Why is Moodle’s function to serialize an array into a JS function call returning null for that markup?
  • json_encode is converting the markup string to null?
  • Because¬†json_encode¬†is choking on invalid UTF-8.
  • Because the markup has a right single quotation¬†encoded in¬†Windows-1252 :(
  • And that string is coming from the Kaltura API.

So over 2 years ago someone named a video player Jim’s Test Player and over the weekend Kaltura’s API started returning that single quote in Windows-1252. We removed the quote from the name and the problem disappeared.

Simpler API for Zend’s built-in Firebug Logger

Zend Framework has functionality to send messages to the Firebug console (via Firefox’s FirePHP addon), but if you’re not using the ZF front controller, the API is a bit of a pain. Besides your instance of Zend_Log, you must keep track of a few additional objects just to manually flush the headers after all your logging calls. Since I knew the old FirePHP class didn’t need this follow-up step, I figured I could just flush the headers after each send.

The result is FireLog. On the FireLog instance, calls to methods like log(), info(), warn(), etc. are proxied to an internal Zend_Log instance, while the methods send(), group(), and groupEnd() are proxied to the static methods on Zend_Wildfire_Plugin_FirePhp. In both cases the headers are set immediately using some simple ZF subclassing. Continue reading