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"XM Ready" Certification Testing

XM Ready Certification LogoThe “XM Ready” certification type approval testing program was implemented by XM to verify XM capable products conformance to the XM specification and to verify proper functionality of these devices.  Under this program, different vendors can submit their XM products for certification testing once they have ran their own self testing to insure that their products are ready for submission. Once vendors have established a certain level of confidence, they can then submit their products to the test house for the actual certification testing.

Upon completion of testing, reports are generated and submitted to the vendors as well as to the XM personnel. The actual XM TA “XM Ready” certification will be issued by XM if the certification testing was a success.  If the testing was a failure, vendors are expected to resolve the product’s issues and re-submit for testing (with a new firmware upgrade, for example) with fixes to the reported issues.

XM certification is yet another example of the “Trust, but Verify” mantra of certification programs.

MoCA Certification Program Overview

Coax Cable - MoCAMoCA (Multimedia Over Coax Alliance) is a standard that utilizes existing coaxial cable at homes for creating a home network for sharing digital multimedia contents among different location inside the home. The MoCA Alliance has established the MoCA certification testing program to insure the proper functionality of MoCA devices and verify their conformance with the MoCA specification.

There are three parts to MoCA certification testing:

  1. First, MoCA vendors run the self test on their own product and once they feel comfortable about their device’s performance, the vendor will submit their device to the MoCA test house for certification testing. If you’re a MoCA member you can download the MoCA Certification Test Plan from the Members Site.
  2. Second, the test house will then conduct the designated CORE testing, as outlined in the MoCA Certification Test Plan (MoCA-DEVICE-CTP V10 or V08 depending on if version 1.0 or 1.1 is being tested).
  3. Finally, upon the successful completion of testing, the results are sent to the MoCA Alliance for final verification and issuance of the actual certification.

In addition to the certification testing, the MoCA certification test house is also capable of providing the pre-cert (self test) testing. This works well for those vendors that are short on staff and resources, or those that aren’t familiar with the necessary self-test validation. The test house provides other MoCA related services (debugging, spot checking, etc.) to address any testing needs prior to the vendor submitting for certification to assist the vendors in getting their products to the market faster.

Using MSXML in your application? Double-check your installation.

Installing MSXMLJust a quick note, if you’re using MSXML (Microsoft XML Core Services), make sure you test and retest your installation routines. If your customers have upgraded to Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3, you may run into issues. As of SP3, Microsoft has placed MSXML under system protection so that applications/installations that try to update/remove MSXML fail. The most common occurrence of this has been with Microsoft SQL Server, and Microsoft has posted a work-around on their website. However, last thing you want to be doing is fielding support calls, emails, and tickets because of this issue. We just caught this testing another company’s product and thought we’d pass it along. Hopefully, Microsoft will help developers in handling this issue.

Virtual Machines – Lots of browsers, lots of operating systems

Virtual MachinesWhen you’re trying to test your website with many different web browsers, you often run into problems. In particular, Windows really isn’t designed to have multiple versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE) installed at the same time. You could setup multiple platforms and maybe use a KVM to save space, but most of us don’t have the room for all that equipment just sitting around all the time.

As we mentioned in a previous post, a good solution to the issue is to setup multiple “virtual machines” (VMs) on your computer. Each VM has it’s own operating system and storage so you can install a version of Internet Explorer in each virtual machine. We also have previously discussed how you use VMs to learn how to use Linux and try out the various distributions (distros). Many of the distros already have pre-rolled VMs available (via VMware’s site or various image sites like this one for Virtual Box), but sometimes there’s that one distro you want to try without a VM. What do you do? Easy – roll your own.

Rather than going into the details of setting up your own VM, however, Lifehacker has a great article on how to setup, configure and install operating systems into a virtual machine using Virtual Box. Give it a read – it’s a very well done article!

Carbon Copy Cloner – Ghosting for the Mac

Carbon Copy ClonerIf you’re performing testing on a Mac and looking for a simple application to ghost/image the hard drive, take a look at Carbon Copy Cloner. I know it seems like you should be able to just copy all the files to an external hard drive and just select it from the Startup Disk preference pane, but it doesn’t work in MacOS X. And, if you’re doing a lot of configuration testing, installation/uninstallation, etc., it would be really handy to have an identical copy of the hard drive, right? Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) to the rescue.

Just install CCC (or SuperDuper!) and you can clone a low-level copy of your internal hard drive to another partition or drive. It’s very handy, and if you really want a good backup, you can have it scheduled to update the cloned image so you’ll always have the latest version of all your hard drive files. When my hard drive suffered an unfortunate failure a few years ago, I had no worries – I had an identical copy of my hard drive all setup which allowed me to recover all my work on another Mac. It’s fast, accurate, and donation-ware so you can try it out before you buy.

Remote Access using RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol)

Remote Control Your Windows PCPreviously, we discussed using VNC to remotely control a test platform. Today, a quick introduction to Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Like VNC, RDP provides remote access to a platform, using an RDP server and RDP client, to control the keyboard and mouse of the platform as if you were sitting right in front of it. However, there are many differences between the two products:

  • While VNC is GPL’d software, RDP is Microsoft’s proprietary protocol. So, while both the VNC server and client have been ported to multiple platforms (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, etc.), the RDP Server is typically a Windows-based product.
  • Windows XP & Windows Vista ship with Remote Desktop Connection and Remote Assistance, both of which use the RDP protocol client & server protocols. While Mac OS X and Linux (Ubuntu, etc.) typically ship with VNC-based products.
  • Due to Microsoft’s low-level hooks in their software, RDP connections usually perform much better than VNC products.
  • Microsoft’s products use RSA Security’s RC4 cipher for encryption.

Which one is best? That’s up to you. Both offer many functions. If you’re using Windows platforms and you want the greatest performance, grab a copy of an RDP-based application like Remote Desktop Connection. If you’re cross-platforms, VNC may be a better tool for you. Either way, get your remote connections setup so you can get out of work on time!

The Browser Parade Continues…

Web Browsers

We’ve previously discussed the various web browsers that are currently popular and should be covered when you’re testing your website. Just a quick update on the latest browser releases:

Don’t forget to test your website with the latest browsers as they come out! In particular, focus your attention on IE8. According to at least early estimates from Microsoft, a large number of websites (over 2400+) have problems with the new brower because it is MORE standards compliant, while many website expect the older LESS standards compliant browser.

Golden Unit Reference Logs for ZigBee

ZigBee Golden UnitMany of you who are trying to get your ZigBee product (Platform, Smart Energy, MSP or other) ready for certification might be confused with all the documents to read – the specifications, the appendices, errata, etc. All you want is to run the tests and make sure the behavior is what it’s expected to be before you go to get your product certified. In ZigBee, like in many other standards, the easiest way to do that is to emulate the Golden Unit (GU) behavior. They are, after all, the reference and they are what the tests run against so why not just do as they do?

Unfortunately, the GU’s might be a little hard to obtain. The manufacturers rarely give them out, and when they do, it’s usually at a pretty hefty price. Fear not! The Alliance has made available, through authorized test labs, the logs for those GUs. What does this mean to you? Well, now you can get these logs and just compare them to what you are observing on your own devices. Since the tests for ZigBee are conducted over the air, if you ensure that the behaviors are similar, your chances of success in certification will be pretty high. From there on, all that will be left to do is correct a few small glitches, if any, once you start your official certification testing.

Remote Access using VNC

Control Your ComputerIt’s 6 p.m. and that automated test script is still running on your test platform. It’s time to go home, but if the test stops for some reason when you’ve left for the night, you’ll have to start all over in the morning. What do you do? Well, if you’ve planned ahead, you can remotely access your test platform using any of a number of remote access/remote control software products.

One of the oldest and most popular remote control programs is VNC. VNC (Virtual Network Computing) provide two small applications, the server (which runs on the target machine) and the viewer (which runs on your local platform), which transmit the keyboard and mouse input from the viewer and return the display from the server as if you were sitting in front of the computer. There are several benefits to VNC:

  • It is is GPL’d software, many versions of which are available for free, including RealVNC, TightVNC, and UltraVNC.
  • It’s been ported to a wide variety of platforms, from Windows to the iPhone and everything in between.
  • Many operating systems use VNC protocols for their remote control (such as Mac OS X’s Remote Desktop and Ubuntu’s Remote Desktop), so you don’t even need to install the server on those platforms
  • VNC Viewer doesn’t require an installation, so you can run it from a USB stick. Plus many VNC servers provide a web interface as well so you should be able to get access from any web browser

However, VNC is not by definition a secure protocol (don’t forget to at least set a password), and is best used through a VPN or SSH connection for security purposes.  In addition, it will also typically require you to open a port in your firewall for access, usually port 5900.

But the benefit of being able to see/control your platform remotely can’t be measured.

Linux – Getting Your Feet Wet

LinuxIf you’re looking to expand your abilities/capabilities as a test engineer, Linux is a good way to become more familiar with Unix-based operating systems. Even if you don’t have an extra computer sitting idle to install Linux on, you can setup and install complete working copies of many Linux distributions (distros) without messing up your current Windows installation.

The easiest way to try out a Linux OS is to download a LiveCD. Many popular distros, including Ubuntu, provide downloadable CD images that can be downloaded, burned, booted up, and used to try out an operating system. Unfortunately, most of these LiveCDs don’t offer the ability to really customize or save your changes to the OS, and they suffer from slow performance due to the limitations of the CD. But you can at least learn a little about the OS, GUI, CLI, etc. Running a LiveCD is kind of like putting your big toe in the water.

If you’d like another easy way to try out different distros of Linux, you can also install VMware Player (free) and download one of the many pre-built virtual machines from the Virtual Appliance Marketplace, including openSUSE, Damn Small Linux, Ubuntu, Fedora, and Mandriva. Then all you need to do is run the VMware Player and select a virtual appliance to run. There is a performance hit running the operating systems in a virtual machine, but it’s very easy to get started – all you really have to do is download the VM you want to run. Everything is already setup and configured. Plus you’ll have the ability to save changes and gain a more detailed understanding of running Linux.

If you’d like to really get a good idea of how a popular distro like Ubuntu (or one of it’s flavors, like Kubuntu or Xubuntu) actually runs on your computer, you can download Wubi which provides an easy Windows based installer. It installs Linux like a normal application in Windows, configures a boot manager, and sets up a virtual hard drive for you to use. The great thing is you don’t have to worry about hard drive partitions or complicated setups. And, when you are done using the software, you can simply uninstall from within Windows and it will erase the virtual hard drive file and free that space back up almost instantly. It’s really a good way to jump into Linux without the configuration hassles, but with almost full-speed performance, and the ability to quickly revert back to Windows.