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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday at CAT15

Tuesday's activities at Connectathon is where real interoperability starts to happen.  Monday is about figuring out your network connections, getting set up, and starting to execute on your no-peer tests. On Tuesday you really start working with peer systems.

A couple of things could happen today which would impact your work.

You might discover that a peer you have been working with abandoned a test you had started with them to work on another problem.  This is a persistent problem at Connectathon, because much of the work is interrupt driven, and your stack (or their stack) can often overflow.  It's a good idea to keep a list of things you haven't finished, and check up on the peers you are working with to ensure that you and they are still on track to finish the test.  Never expect someone else to complete a test without checking on it.  It's a mutual responsibility.

The only way to fail (or succeed) fast, is to get the work checked out fast.  Don't forget to mark any tests you've completed as being ready for validation.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone groan because they discovered hours or even days after finishing a test that it didn't get validated because nobody marked it as being ready for that step.  The validation queues get longer as the week goes on, so finish that step as soon as you can.  Keep working after the monitors go home if you need to, but get that in the queue today if at all possible.

Next, you may very well discover a blocking problem.  This usually happens when you fail your first or second verification attempt on a profile.  You need to quickly analyze those failed verifications. I've seen teams which learned on Thursday or Friday that a test that they had completed failed validation, and so there is a mad scramble to fix whatever the problem in time to get the missing test validated.  So remember to keep track of the tests you've done and make sure they are getting validated.  If you wait until Thursday, it could be too late.

When fixing a blocking problem, you will often stop work on tests that won't be valid.  Abort them so you don't have to wade through the clutter to find the results you really need.  And tell your test partners why you are doing that.  And for those tests you simply put on hold, make sure to go back and complete them.

You may discover today that something needs to be rebuilt (and pray that it is today rather than tomorrow). If you don't have the code and compiler locally, make sure that your teams back home have a way to get you an update quickly. Don't count on the Connectathon network to enable you to access a 300Mb download quickly and easily.  Consider what is happening on this network - with hundreds of engineers testing messages. Sometimes a screen refresh to an external website can take several minutes, even for a 140 byte tweet.  FedEx might just be faster...

Late this afternoon, you will probably discover your first ATNA bug in your new HTTP or other stack. Check the ATNA FAQ for some of the best advice gathered by myself and others over the past decade.  You should already have Wire Shark installed.


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