Monday, April 06, 2015

Visual Resume Template

Some time ago I posted about my visual resume. I think visual resumes are a great way to show off things you’re proud of in your career, so I started passing mine around together with my traditional resume.
Jim Holmes Visual Resume
More recently, someone asked if I’d put my resume out as a template, so I did! It’s a Visio file, and you can find it here on GitHub. I released it under Creative Commons CC0 which means, I think, you’re fine to do whatever you want with it.
Just don’t plagarize my stuff as your stuff. Other than that, I wish you well!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Changing Cucumber Fonts in Eclipse Editor

Problem: You’re writing Gherkin in Eclipse and you can’t figure out how to adjust font size in your Feature editor.

Solution: It’s actually in the Basic text editor. Window -> Preferences -> Appearance -> Colors and Fonts -> Select “Basic” folder in panel -> Text Font -> Edit.

Bonus: Make sure you’re using the Eclipse theme color plugin plus the Cucumber for Eclipse plugin.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Three Months with the Surface 3 Pro

I’ve had a Surface 3 Pro now for three months, and I thought I’d share my experiences with it for those interested.

TL;DR version: I hate it BUT I have some very specific use cases I bought it for—and it fails horribly at those. I know others who love their S3s, and there are a few things I do like about the system.

First off: My needs

I bought the Surface to handle loads of content production, authoring, and training when I figured I was heading out as an indie. I didn’t feel I needed a high-horsepower dev system, as that’s not my area.

Specifically, I needed a system that kicked butt at:

  • Running smaller-sized VMs
  • Video production
  • Writing
  • Portability
  • Light dev work

I purchased a top-of-the-line i7 Surface 3 Pro with 8GB RAM and the 256 GB SSD. I also sprang for a docking station and a few other odds and ends. Total cost was somewhere around $2,200 I think. (I’m on the road and away from my receipts…)

The Good

There are some things I really enjoy about the S3:

  • Form factor. Small, very lightweight.
  • Keyboard. Except for the trackpad (see below), I like the keyboard. I take my MS Ergonomic full-sized board along if I’m doing workshops or sessions where I have to code, but for general authoring and every day usage the keyboard/cover works really well. Great feel, good responsiveness.
  • Docking / undocking ease. Holy crap. I’ve suffered through decades of Microsoft’s crappy docking mess. The Surface 3 plus Win8.1 makes it a snap, literally. It’s a joy to not have to deal with the drama from way back.
  • Stylus. Freaking. Awesome. Great feel, extremely precise, great use of buttons on the pen. Kills anything I’ve used on the iPad. Did I mention it’s awesome?
  • FreshPaint. I badly missed Paper on my iPad. I fell in love with it for doing craay craay slides for demos and presentations. FreshPaint is nearly as good, although there are several icons/buttons that are a total mystery to me. The help for FreshPaint is non-existent, apparently.

The Bad

Here’s where the wheels fall off. Completely.

  • VM perf over USB3 is unusable. I lose horrific amounts of time trying to run VMs off an external USB3 drive—the same model I’ve had on other systems. It’s horrible. It’s unusable. Which means some of my demos requiring multiple VMs turn into a complete cluster fill-in-the-blank. I had better performance on Firewire 800 on an older MBP.
  • Power management. I hope the crew that designed power management on the Surface 3 gets infested with bedbugs and fire ants. The power management options are stupid, such that:

    • I can’t tell the system to stay awake while on battery, but turn on the screen saver. Utter fail when I need to leave the system on for long-running renders and uploads.
    • Hook up the S3 to my Bluetooth speaker, start music playing, system shuts down and goes to sleep at the hibernate timeout period. Apparently that timeout doesn’t monitor background system activity. Sigh.
    • Battery life is pathetic, even when I’m not running anything. Apparently there are a bunch of registry hacks and deep system tweaks I can do, but WTF? Seriously? Yes, I know, I’m holding it wrong.
  • The screen driver is tetchy and causes issues when I’m working in VMs. It also won’t let me properly use Telerik Test Studio on the native S3.

  • Sound output managment. Every time I plug in headphones I have to reconfigure the default playback device to play over my headphones. Same if I want to use an external Bluetooth speaker W.T.F?!? Crazy usability #EPICFAIL with much profanity.
  • My device died a horrible death a month after I bought it. Best Buy Geek Squad guy wrote “BIOS screwed up” on the RMA. BTW, this is the second Surface 3 we’ve had die. My wife’s bricked a couple months after we bought hers.
  • Wifi and bluetooth are tetchy. Dropped connections are far too frequent.
  • Touch screen experience inconsistent. Sometimes I click a finger into a field and it won’t recognize that I want to type.
  • Weird stuff when rotating (keyboard disabled, touchscreen weird)
  • Apps (other than FreshPaint) are meh

Do keep in mind my very specific use case. I know other folks who love their Surfaces. Good for them, and frankly I see some good use from this when watching Netflix or reading while on the road.

That said, for ME this is worst tech purchase ever. Over $2,200 with docking station and extras. Wish I’d gone with a completely different platform. :-/

Monday, March 02, 2015

My First Day with Pillar!

It’s another new chapter for me today: I’m joining Pillar Technology as an Executive Consultant!

I’ve known folks at Pillar for years in many different roles. They were instrumental in helping us sponsor CodeMash, and they’re deeply involved in the Heartland region’s active developer community. When we were struggling during the first CodeMash and knew we were tight on budget, Bob Myers, Pillar’s CEO, personally wrote me an extra check for $2,000 just in case we needed it. I was happy to be able to return it to him, but wow, what a great gesture!

I’ve talked with Pillar several times over the years about coming on board, and I always respected their team, but things weren’t ever quite right for one reason or another. Pillar’s Matt Van Vleet’s probably bought me as many breakfasts as he has key clients…

When I came back on the job market in December Pillar’s Don Abney immediately reached out to me and I had a great chat with him. I was extremely impressed with the extreme focus Pillar’s showing now, and I was very intrigued by the serious change they’re making in the organizations they’re working with.

Today I’m onboarding over at Pillar’s Forge in Columbus, and tonight I’m driving up to Detroit where I’ll start at a huge enterprise helping some of their teams build up their testing and delivery competencies. And automation. Go figure. I’m excited because I get to roll up my sleeves and do work, as well as help coach others along—which always ends up transforming me as much as those others.

It’s an exciting future, and I’m looking forward to the journey!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Don't Start With Automation

I’ve lost track of the number of times new testers have asked me some variant of “I’m new to testing. What automation tool should I start learning?”

I really appreciate their excitement about automation—especially since I’ve made automation my wheelhouse—but it’s not the thing new testers should focus on!

Testing’s a craft with a whole lot of tools, most of which are between one’s ears. You need to focus on developing your skills as a craftsperson, not just jumping on the automation bandwagon. (Please, do join me on board, though. It’s a great wagon to use for parts of your testing ride!)

As a newcomer, there are a tremendous number of things you can use to build up your testing skills. In no particular order, here’s a few things I’ve pointed people to over the various years.


  • Elisabeth Hendrickson, aka @TestObsessed on Twitter. Funny, wise, calm, extremely thoughtful tester. Her Test Heuristics Cheat Sheet is caramelized unicorn bacon drenched with awesomesauce.
  • Michael Bolton (@MichaelBolton) is a great thinker and writer in the testing space. He’s strong coffee and very opinionated, but I’ve gotten a lot out of reading his material. Much of Michael’s writing is at DevelopSense.
  • James Bach (@JamesMarcusBach) I’m really not a fan of James’s personality, but he’s done a lot of great thinking about what testing’s really about. Read with an open and skeptical, questioning mind. His deck on test cases is a great read.
  • Lisa Crispin (@LisaCrispin) and Janet Gregory (@JanetGregoryCA) are both smart folks who you should follow.

Other people who I’m not taking enough time to describe their awesomeness, but simply list. All are easily discoverable on Twitter, Google, etc.

General testing folks

  • Matt Heusser
  • Michael Larsen
  • Alan Page
  • Trish Khoo
  • Paul Carvalho
  • James Lyndsay

Automation geeks (who are also great testers, btw)

  • Adam Goucher
  • Richard Bradshaw
  • Dave Haeffner

Please keep in mind: these folks are a starting point! Many are folks I know personally and respect, and they’re pals. Expand beyond this list!

There are plenty of great books to read; these are a few titles that really stick out:

  • Beautiful Testing
  • ExploreIt!
  • Agile Testing and More Agile Testing
  • The Art of Agile Development
  • The Art of Unit Testing in .NET
  • Specification By Example
  • A Practitioner’s Guide to Software Test Design
  • ATDD by Example
  • Lessons Learned in Software Testing
  • Experiences Of Test Automation

Find testing groups near you, or start one! Look to some of the various online testing communities. Weekend Testers is a great start!

Some conferences are great, so are a waste of time and money. But I’m slightly opinionated…

  • CAST
  • EuroStar
  • STP Conference

Branch out to good developer conferences where there’s a welcoming, encouraging atmosphere. I’m biased, having been on the Board of Directors, but CodeMash is one of the best conferences you could hit for cross-polinating.


  • Elisabeth Hendrickson’s blog Test Obsessed. She’s stopped posting since moving out of the consulting space; however, her writing is gold. Just. Plain. Gold.

Don’t Stop Here

Testing is about curiosity. It’s about sharing information with your team, organization, and customers. It’s not about “assuring” quality—you as a tester simply can’t do that. You can be part of a team that delivers great quality.

Go out. Explore. Learn.

THEN go get started in automation.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fixing Slow/Hanging VMWare Guests

Problem: Your VMWare guests may be incredibly slow or all together hang.

Solution: (One potential one) Check if your VMs disks have become corrupted. Repair them if so.


Do the following with your VM powered off!

  1. Find the logs for your VM. They’re usually in the VM’s root directory, eg


  2. Open the latest logfile in that directory, eg vmware.log

  3. Search for “repair”
  4. If you find hits similar to the example below, you’ll need to run the disk repair utility.

    2015-02-13T14:00:06.102-05:00| vmx| I120: DISKLIB-DSCPTR: Opened [2]: “Virtual Disk-s003.vmdk” (0xa)
    2015-02-13T14:00:06.107-05:00| Worker#0| I120: DISKLIB-SPARSE: “E:\VMs\2012R2\Win2K8R2.vmwarevm\Win2K8R2-s001.vmdk” : failed to open (14): Disk needs repair.

  5. Open a command prompt and navigate to your VMWare install directory. On my system it’s:

    C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\VMware Workstation

  6. Run the following command, where “” is the folder containing your VM’s disk—likely the same folder you found the logfile in above.

    vmware-vdiskmanager.exe -R

  7. Start your VM back up. Once it’s back up and stable, check the latest logfile and search for the same “repair” error. If “repair” isn’t found, search for the same file opening entry just before you ran the utility:

    2015-02-13T14:00:06.102-05:00| vmx| I120: DISKLIB-DSCPTR: Opened [2]: “Virtual Disk-s003.vmdk” (0xa)

  8. Verify there aren’t any errors.

Hopefully this will get you up and running!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fixing Outlook Search Issues

Problem: Outlook’s “instant search” isn’t returning any results, or search isn’t returning results unless you change the scope from its default Current Mailbox to something else.

Solution: (Well, more accurately One Potential Solution) Run scanpst.exe, found in the same folder as Outlook.exe. On my system that’s C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office15.

Point the utility at your PST or OST files. It will scan them. If it finds errors, you’re offered the option to back them up (Duh!) before repairing.

Fixed up my search problems that had been nagging me for a bit too long…

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