So I was sitting in my office and thinking about what to write about life in the OneNote Testing organization when Mike Tholfsen walked into my office and proudly announced "I’ve got the latest build of OneNote installed on all four of my dogfood machines!" To us, "dogfood" machines are the machine(s) we use for daily work – answering email, using OneNote, updating Excel spreadsheets, etc… Since members of the test team use tablets and desktops daily, I expect most people on OneNote to have two dogfood machines: one tablet and one desktop. This is different than many other office applications since we have such a tablet focus. Most other teams usually only have one machine considered to be a "dogfood" machine. And on a related note, the dogfood machine is expected to be your lowest end machine for folks in Office. For instance, my desktop dogfood machine is a five year old Pentium 4 (single core) with 1 GB of RAM (133 MHz speed) with integrated video and that’s about it. I think the CD ROM broke about a year ago…
Getting people to use the absolutely newest versions is sometimes a challenge. In some cases, it is simply not possible to do this 100% of the time. For instance, we need some people to use previous versions to ensure we can work with both clients against shared notebooks. Other people may be assigned a configuration that simply doesn’t work for a build or two – sometimes this happens with screen resolutions. But in general, we need to have everyone using the new builds so that we can find and fix problems early in the cycle.
Anyway, I was a little surprised Mike had 4 machines he uses daily. I asked him about it and he explained he really needed all four configurations. He had some different operating systems (Windows 7, Vista, XP), different setup configurations (some machines set to "Install on Demand") and other miscellaneous tweaks. From a test point of view, this is great. Suppose you find a bug and get asked for more information after you file the report. I’ll make one: "The OneNote splash screen does not draw if you set the dots per inch to a prime number greater than 100." In the bug, suppose Mike would list that he was using Windows XP. When development goes and researches the bug, they may want to know if this also reproduced the behavior on Vista. Now Mike can just turn to a Vista machine already established in his office, tweak the setting and try it out. It makes him a much more efficient tester.
Plus, since OneNote syncs shared notebooks so well, he never gets caught in the dilemma of having a document only on machine 1 when he’s working on machine 3. He also gets to compare behavior between the different setups and operating systems to ensure we are delivering the same functionality on all platforms.
Lastly, he has bragging rights of being able to say he is 100% committed to dogfooding OneNote. He’s such a tester. This is critical to our success and it is always great to see people willing to live on the bleeding edge of our builds.
Questions, comments, concerns and criticisms always welcome,