Xtranormal: Text to Movie

I've stumbled across a number of videos in the past few weeks with text to speech voice acting.  All of them looked quite similar and I wondered why.  The reason?  They were all created with Xtranormal's software.  Free offerings exist and I made use of them to learn more.  Watch the Xtranormal video below for my impressions.


Website Design Melody

I'm just going to let the video speak for itself.

Google's Instant Gratification

You're probably already aware of Google's instant search feature.  http://www.google.com/instant/  This is a really neat idea of giving you results as you type, helping you key in on search terms or just save time.  Unfortunately, it just doesn't seem to click with most people.  I admit I have only begun to really feel some benefit.  It doesn't help on every search, but when I can simply redefine my search before refreshing the page on a more niche query it does save me time.  It also helps me get a better conceptual idea of the keyword web space.

I just learned about keyboard navigation on Google Instant, which I think might make this product even more useful for me.  http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/fly-through-your-instant-search-results.html

A new instant feature from Google is now out though, one that I think could be more useful than either of the other projects similarly branded.  Instant preview (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/beyond-instant-results-instant-previews.html) gives a snapshot of the page in the search results, no need to go the page.  A picture is worth a thousand words and this can easily help me skip the results I'm not interested in.

I do however wish they had made the snapshot show up automatically as you hover over the links by default, instead of having to turn it on the first time by clicking on the magnifying glass.  Also, the need to actually perform the search (i.e. leave the instant search function) is also aggravating.  Just show me a preview of the top result and let me use the arrow keys to exit and return to instant search without finalizing my search.

Thoughts on Software Testing

Less test coverage <==  ==> More test coverage
Y increases with cost
This is partly a response to the blog post by Derick Bailey linked below.  It is mostly an effort to help articulate my understanding of testing strategies that I am woefully unexperienced in.


Each type of testing covers a different class of bugs, which combined only add to 100% of error cases coverable by testing.  Yes, there is some overlap, but that brings me to my next point.  

Different types of testing also have drastically different costs associated.  If we could afford true 100% end to end testing, maybe unit testing wouldn't be required.  In reality, we rarely ever do.  100% end to end testing is too expensive in terms of time and money.

We do unit testing and integration testing because each is much cheaper than end to end testing.  This is in no small part do to the fact that it is agile.  We get a cheaper bang for our buck, but we also get it during early development.  Sure end to end could handle a working system, you get no help from end to end testing when building a system bottom up or developing a new slice from the middle.  

So why not skip end to end all together?  Well we have some diminishing returns.  Your first end to end test is going to be more productive than your unit tests at some point.  It doesn't matter if all your code is unit tested if you have a show stopper that an end to end test would have caught.

Overlap certainly is waste, but is not alway economically avoidable waste.

Consider a car.  We can install a roll cage, air bags, and a seatbelt costing 1000, 100, and 10 dollars respectively.  A roll cage may reduce the chance for injury in certain crashes just as effectively as an air bag or seatbelt, but it may do nothing in other cases or it may be vital.  In reality, car manufacturers provide a combination of techniques which provide a sweet spot between economy and safety.  They focus on those efforts which give the greatest return, even if they necessarily create overlap in function.

Risk is not easily compartmented into each category of testing.  Sometimes you need both belt and suspenders.

Modal Style Boxing Day

I've seen a plenty of websites that use modal style windows particularly for photo galleries.  They can be used for a variety of other content as well, giving a clean looking UI.  A little bit of polish, that give a fair amount of bang visually.  Unfortunately, the javascript behind it has always been a bit arcane.  I stumbled across a few snippets of code that claimed to handle it, but I was worried about continuing cross platform compatibility.  Luckily, a smattering of jQuery based projects have been developed to solve that problem.

One you might look at is FancyBox (http://fancybox.net/).  I haven't been able to take a chance to use it, but if the landing page for the project is any indication you can make some smooth UI with it.  Definitely something I will use in my next personal project.  Almost makes me want to write something sooner rather than latter just for the cool factor.