Streamline unit testing: A Q&A with Typemock’s Eli Lopian

We had a chance to talk unit testing with Eli Lopian, CEO of test company Typemock. Here are this thoughts on that and other matters:

SD TIMES: Unit testing has been compared to going to the gym in the sense that everyone knows it’s good for them, but the time and effort to implement seem daunting. How do companies prep themselves to overcome that initial hurdle, especially when implementing unit testing in legacy code?

ELI LOPIAN: This is a great point, as developers are typically hesitant to touch legacy code. Most developers want to work on the shiny new code and they still see legacy code as a threat and work in “survival” mode – minimal changes and therefore limited growth and innovation.

As you are probably aware, 70% of software costs are attributed to working on legacy code (I personally think that the number is higher). Many don’t know that 60% of the work on legacy code is actually code enhancements, which means that features added in legacy code exceed those added in greenfield by more than 140% (!).

The fun fact is that the better engineered the code is (i.e. has unit tests) the more maintenance that code gets, as developers are not scared to modify it and add new features.

Therefore, in order to get over that initial hurdle, leading companies do the following:

  • They celebrate covering their legacy code and declare: “We touch legacy code” as most of the features go there. It should be on the table, as for many developers it is convenient to set this subject aside, and it is the organization’s duty to shed light on this in order to remove the technical debt.
  • They figure out what the correct legacy code is to unit test. It is the classic 80-20 paradigm; figure out what the 80% is that can be done in 20% of the time, find the areas that get the most changes, those that are prone to bugs and are critical to the system.
  • Getting the right tools for the job also helps, be it the build server, the unit test framework or the isolation framework. Suggest solutions.
  • Last but not least, these companies take it all in small bites and don’t try to do it all in one go. They take it slowly, get one team up and running and then expand to a zero technical debt policy.

 

SD TIMES: Are Typemock customers more frequently those looking to streamline preexisting unit testing and TDD practices or are they hoping for a way to ease themselves into the practice?

We see a mix of both. Many companies use our tools to ease themselves into unit testing without any need to modify their existing code, with powerful tools that allow them to get unit tests running. We also see others that use our tools to fill in gaps that were not covered in a streamlined way.

We are actually witnessing a different segmentation between those who think only developers should write the tests as opposed to those who let the computer write it for them. We cater to both. Tools such as mocking, to test a code that uses objects that are neither yet created nor require a slow and complex setup, without constraint to your design, as well as Suggest that writes the tests for you just like a compiler. 

We put in a lot of hard work so that developers can make their own choice. They can either accept all tests provided by our solution or they can choose to review each test and either accept, reject or even modify them.

SD TIMES: What sort of research was done before setting out to write the AI model in Typemock Suggest?

We have been working with unit tests, extreme programming, Agile and DevOps for over 15 years now and have accumulated vast experience, data and know-how. Our experience showed us that AI is not enough for creating the correct tests that are also readable, easy to maintain and built for future enhancements. We needed something else… a little bit of “magic.

Several years ago I held several meetings with customers from which I understood that I haven’t yet solved the problem of unit testing. I then met with my employees and was frustrated as I didn’t have any way of helping them out with our product development.

I went to the beach, looked at the sea and tried to think of how I can really solve the unit testing problem. I decided that in order to clear my mind I would go out for a swim.

I was in the sea, breathing slowly, seeing the shore line between the waves every few strokes, and while I was swimming I suddenly had a thought – I remembered thinking about how I would write a program to solve Sudoku – I wouldn’t teach it the same methods that I use – I would simply let it fill in numbers systematically – until it reaches an answer. I suddenly understood that I was trying to automate writing tests the human way instead of the computer way. I was trying to get the computer to understand the context.

Once I grasped that, we managed to come up with the breakthrough and create Suggest — an innovative solution that learns your code base and builds unit tests to cover it, using Fuzzy Logic and patented algorithms to create and rate tests without the need to ‘understand’ the context.

SD TIMES: What methods were used to train the model?

Our goal is getting to at least 80% coverage, within a reasonable time frame, with no false positives.

In order to do this we built the engine’s algorithms using our accumulated know-how. Like in an Agile mindset, we first started with tests that helped us witness whether we reached our goals. We then went on to perfect the results by analyzing millions of lines of code and letting the engine operate on dozens of open-source and private-source code bases. It generated tens of thousands of unit tests which we reviewed and rated, in order to tweak the algorithms and achieve better results. This process is ongoing, and Suggest gets better with every new version we launch.

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Chinese government admits collection of deleted WeChat messages

Chinese authorities revealed over the weekend that they have the capability of retrieving deleted messages from the almost universally used WeChat app. The admission doesn’t come as a surprise to many, but it’s rare for this type of questionable data collection tactic to be acknowledged publicly.

As noted by the South China Morning Post, an anti-corruption commission in Hefei province posted Saturday to social media that it has “retrieved a series of deleted WeChat conversations from a subject” as part of an investigation.

The post was deleted Sunday, but not before many had seen it and understood the ramifications. TenCent, which operates the WeChat service used by nearly a billion people (including myself), explained in a statement that “WeChat does not store any chat histories — they are only stored on users’ phones and computers.”

The technical details of this storage were not disclosed, but it seems clear from the commission’s post that they are accessible in some way to interested authorities, as many have suspected for years. The app does, of course, comply with other government requirements, such as censoring certain topics.

There are still plenty questions, the answers to which would help explain user vulnerability: Are messages effectively encrypted at rest? Does retrieval require the user’s password and login, or can it be forced with a “master key” or backdoor? Can users permanently and totally delete messages on the WeChat platform at all?

Fears over Chinese government access to data held or handled by Chinese companies has led to a global backlash against those companies, including some countries (including the U.S.) banning Chinese-made devices and services from sensitive applications or official use altogether.

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TimeXtender Discovery Hub is now Microsoft Azure certified

TimeXtender, a recognized global software company enabling instant access to any type of data in the organization to support advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), today announced that its Discovery Hub solution has been tested, approved and certified for readiness and compatibility to run in  Microsoft Azure environments. With this certification, Discovery Hub is now a trusted application that is available in the Microsoft Azure Marketplace.

The Azure Marketplace is an extensive catalog of products from independent software vendors (ISVs). Azure Marketplace allows IT professionals and developers to confidently search for products and solutions that are Microsoft Azure certified.

“To be published in the Azure Marketplace, a solution goes through a number of certification steps to validate the platform, solution and software,” said Heine Krog Iversen, CEO at TimeXtender. “Given these requirements, we’re pleased that Discovery Hub has been certified to run on Microsoft Azure.  This achievement provides TimeXtender and our global partners with a real competitive advantage. And for business users running Discovery Hub in Azure, knowing that their cloud-based, self-service analytics environment is a trusted platform that has been pre-tested and certified to run on Microsoft Azure, provides them with a level of assurance and peace of mind.”

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Majority of U.S. adults still think the internet is ‘mostly’ good for society – but that number is falling

A growing number of U.S. adults no longer view the internet as a largely “good thing” for society, according to a new report from Pew Research Center out today. To be clear, a sizable majority –  70 percent – continue to believe the internet’s development has been mostly good. But that number has dropped by 6 percentage points since 2014, the study finds. Meanwhile, more adults now perceive the internet – perhaps more accurately – as something of a mixed bag. That number has climbed from 8 percent in 2014 to now 14 percent, Pew says.

However, the group of those who believe the internet is mostly a “bad thing” for society hasn’t changed much over the years. Those who can’t see the upside to global connectivity, has gone from 15 percent in 2014 down to 14 percent in 2018, which isn’t a notable difference, statistically.

Pew attributes the decline in the positive sentiment to the reactions from older Americans, and particularly seniors who have come online in growing numbers in recent years. According to data released by Pew last May, for example, Americans 65 and older now account for 15 percent of the overall U.S. population. And by 2050, 22 percent of those 65 and older will be online.

Like most Americans, the large majority of the senior group still feels the internet is mostly a good thing – but that number has dropped 14 points from 78 percent in 2014 to 64 percent today.

In addition to seniors, a smaller number of younger U.S. adults today believe that the internet is “mostly good.” While again, that sentiment is still held by the large majority by far – 74 percent say this is their opinion – that number has fallen from 79 percent in 2014.

 

Pew’s report didn’t detail why more U.S. adults are increasingly ambivalent about the internet. Instead, it focused on the reasons cited by the group who claims it’s “mostly bad.” (Presumably, these sentiments are shared by those who now believe the internet isn’t mostly good.)

The adults who think the internet is “mostly bad” had a large list of grievances, as it turned out. And their top concerns are somewhat surprising.

A quarter of the internet’s naysayers cited its paradoxical ability to isolate people even as it connects them – saying it leads to people spending more time with devices instead of with other people.

16 percent mentioned the problems related to the spread of misinformation and fake news, and 14 percent were concerned about the effect the internet has on children. Another 13 percent said it encourages illegal activity.

Only a small share – 5 percent – were worried about their privacy and their personal information being shared online.

That small percentage focused data privacy concerns is interesting – especially in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, where the personal data of some 87 million Facebook users was hijacked without their knowledge or consent. Instead, Pew’s data seems to imply that people are generally more upset about the cultural and emotional impacts attributed to the internet, rather than having their personal data stolen or misused.

Maybe that’s because personal data has already been stolen time and time again, through security breaches at places like Yahoo, Equifax, Target, Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase, Anthem, and others. Or maybe it’s because users have a hard time identifying or understanding the real-world impacts of personal data breaches, unless it leads to some concrete changes – like identity theft or targeted harassment. Or maybe people already assume the days of personal privacy online are long dead, and just shrug their shoulders at new reports of yet another breach of trust with a fatalistic, “oh, who was it this time?”

In any event, it’s already been observed that the fallout from the Facebook scandal has been minimal, in terms of user behavior. There have been no sizable changes on that front, including user-initiated changes to privacy settings and sharing, The Wall Street Journal recently reported. In addition, Facebook just surprised investors by reporting continued user growth and beating earnings expectations.

Pew’s data supports the idea that more users seem to think – despite everything that’s happened – the internet is still mostly a good thing. And if there are concerns, they’re around its ability to lessen our connections to others – because we’re spending too much time online, fighting about information because we read different sources, or because we’re worried how it’s impacting our kids.

Meanwhile, those with a more positive take on the internet cited reasons like how it makes information much easier and faster to access (62% said this). 23 percent saw its networking benefits as a largely good thing – including connecting with others, and keeping up with friends and family.

Unrelated to perceptions about the internet, Pew also reported today that one-in-five Americans (20%) are now “smartphone only” internet users at home – meaning, they don’t subscribe to broadband. This is up 7 percent from 2015.

The figure is associated with those living in low-income (<$30K/year) households and those who are less likely to have attended college – it’s not some sort of reaction to concerns about the internet’s impact.

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The Pentagon is working on a radio wave weapon that stops a speeding car in its tracks

Vehicular terrorism is on the rise, but technology under development by the U.S. Department of Defense could save lives by disabling a weaponized car before it ever reaches its target. The Pentagon’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program (JNLWD) is working on a device called a Radio Frequency Vehicle Stopper to address the prevalence of vehicle-based attacks targeting civilians, Defense One reports.

To prevent this kind of violence and other kinds of vehicular attacks (an unauthorized car rushing behind a military security gate, for instance), the Pentagon’s Radio Frequency Vehicle Stopper points high powered microwaves at a vehicle, disabling its electrical components via the engine control unit and making the engine stall out. You can watch the technology in action in the Department of Defense video below.

As Defense One reports, the group is developing two version of its technology, one with a 50-meter range small enough to fit in a truck bed and another larger version with a range of more than a hundred meters designed to remain in place. The latter would particularly be useful in the kind of open public spaces that lend themselves to violent vehicular attacks in popular urban areas like markets and shopping hubs. This kind of technology is only becoming possible now due to breakthroughs in powering the concentrated beams emitted in these kind of notoriously energy-hungry weapons.

While vehicle-based attacks were once rarely observed outside of war-zones, they’ve occurred with increasing frequency in high-density urban areas and tourist destinations in recent years. As the attack in Toronto last week proved, the results are effortlessly deadly to unsuspecting pedestrians. It’s unfortunate that such a device is necessary at all, but if they were to become readily available, these Radio Frequency Vehicle Stoppers could discourage the rising trend of vehicular attacks, protect victims when they do occur and help law enforcement obtain additional intelligence by apprehending suspects without resorting to lethal violence.

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Amazon exec Charlie Kindel says he’s leaving to take a serious break from ‘work’

Amazon is famous for its hard-charging work culture, and Charlie Kindel, an Amazon executive who helped shape the rise of Alexa, is ready to hit the pause button after a five-year stint with the company and three years with the team at work on the company’s smart home division. Writing on his personal blog earlier today, Kindel shared the memo that his colleagues received last week to explain his decision. In a nutshell, said Kindel, he’s burnt.

“The pace of the past 5 years has finally gotten to me and I simply need to catch my breath. I’ve recently been joking with folks that “I used to get my adrenaline rush going heli-skiing. Now I just go into work.” I have a car restoration project that is two years behind schedule. My home automation system needs a complete revamp (it’s gotten a bit crusty since it was installed in 2001).

I was originally just going to take a temporary leave, but I like the idea of having total freedom of thought to decide what’s next in my life. By making a clean break from Amazon all options (including coming back to Amazon) are still on the table.”

Kindel, who held a director level role at Amazon, said his last day as this past Friday.

Before joining Amazon, Kindel had held the role Microsoft Windows Phone general manager. He has also done dabbling in the world of startups, including starting a company called FreeBusy whose tool used artificial intelligence to generate mileage logs using users’ cloud-based calendars. That outfit has more recently evolved to center around an AI scheduling assistant.

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Windows 10 April 2018 Update focuses on productivity improvements

Microsoft has released its Windows 10 April 2018 Update, with a focus on productivity improvements so that users can utilize their time better.

This update makes communication better with a new feature called My People. With My People, users can pin the people they communicate with most to the taskbar for easy access. They can then drag and drop files directly onto that contact in the taskbar to share content with them.

Microsoft is also trying to create a more seamless experience when switching from using the PC to mobile. Users can now send websites, searches, and articles from Android devices and iPhones to their PC using the new Continue on PC app. It also added a Microsoft Launcher app to provide users with one-click access to apps such as Office.

With this update, users will be able to shut down, restart, or put their computer to sleep using Cortana voice commands. For users with a compatible eye tracker, they will be able to control the mouse, keyboard, and text-to-speech features just with their eyes.

Microsoft has also made several improvements to security in this update. Windows Defender now has more specific safeguards to protect against malicious apps and threats, such as WannaCry. It also enables your PC to receive the latest threat definitions from the cloud. It also will allow users to scan their devices for threats in real-time.

The update also features an improved Photos app, Mixed Reality Viewer, a new Game Mode, the ability to write in eBooks and fill out PDF forms from within Microsoft Edge, and a feature that can tell you where you last used pens on your computer to make it easier to find lost pens.

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Check out the latest featurette for Star Wars: A Solo Story

On May 25, the latest installment of the Star Wars theatrical franchise will drop in theaters.

Shooting Star Wars: A Solo Story hasn’t been all roses, with Ron Howard stepping in to take over for directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller and reshooting many scenes. But the show must go on!

Yesterday, Lucasfilm released a featurette with interviews from the cast and crew talking about the making of the film and Han Solo as a character.

The featurette also includes some new footage beyond what we’ve seen in the trailers, such as Han fighting alongside Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton), alongside previously teased scenes like the train heist on Vandor and the scene where Han Solo wins the Millenium Falcon from Lando (Donald Glover).

Central to the featurette, and the film in general, is that the story takes place in a type of world we haven’t seen yet on Star Wars, where the galaxy is completely under the control of the Empire, Howard reminds us. These circumstances push Han Solo, already a free spirit, to become the character we’ve come to know and love.

Check out the featurette below:

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SoFi founder Mike Cagney is back with a new startup and $50 million in funding, too

Mike Cagney, who was ousted last summer from the lending company he founded, is back with a new startup and a whole lot of funding from some of his previous investors.

According to new report in Bloomberg, Cagney who earlier this year formed a new lending startup called Figure, has raised $50 million to grow the company, which plans to use the blockchain to facilitate loan approvals in minutes instead of days.

According to the company’s site, its lending products will include home equity lines of credit, home improvement loans and home buy-lease back offerings for retirement.

The round was led by DCM Ventures and Ribbit Capital and included participation from Mithril Capital Management, Cagney confirmed to Bloomberg.

Ribbit Capital in Palo Alto, Ca., has been leading investments in the world of fintech and digital currencies from nearly its founding nearly six years ago. Others of its many bets include the online consumer lending company Affirm and Point, a startup that buys equity in U.S. homes. Mithril, cofounded by Peter Thiel, prides itself on funding companies that take time to build (its vehicles have long investing timelines than do most venture funds).

The cross-border firm DCM Ventures, meanwhile, is perhaps the most interesting participant in this round. The reason: Back in 2012 DMC began investing in Social Finance, or SoFi, the company that Cagney founded previously.

It isn’t uncommon for VCs to invest in founders with whom they’ve worked before, of course. And SoFi — which initially focused on refinancing student loans but today provides personal and mortgage loans and wealth management services and appears to be pushing further into bank-like services — has grown by leaps and bounds since its August 2011 launch.

But Cagney was forced out of the company last summer, not long after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed by a former employee who claimed he’d witnessed female employees being harassed by managers and was fired after he reported it.

Another former employer who’d worked at the company’s office in Healdsburg, Ca., told the New York Times that her work environment had been akin to a “frat house,” with employees “having sex in their cars and in the parking lot.” That same story, based on conversations with 30 then-current and former employees, also reported that Cagney himself had raised questions with staff because of his own behavior, including bragging about his sexual conquests.

Evidently, DCM and Figure’s other backers were able to brush aside concerns about anything of the sort happening again at Figure. This morning, we reached out to Cagney and Figure’s investors for more information and hope to have more for you soon.

Employees are also signing up for Figure, with the belief, ostensibly, that Cagney is well-positioned to create another financial services juggernaut. According to Bloomberg, Figure has already quietly assembled a team of 56 people. They include the former chief risk officer of LendingHome, Cynthia Chen, and the former chief legal counsel of PeerStreet, Sara Priola.

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Google teams with NBC to build VR content for its TV shows

Virtual reality has yet to hit the big time with the vast majority of consumers — headset sales are still in the single-digit millions — but today Google and NBC announced a deal to make programming that could help the medium pick up some more mainstream appeal. The two said that they will be working together to produce at least 10 multi-episode VR productions that will run as extra content alongside core programming on NBC itself and its network of other channels.

Users can watch in VR on Google Cardboard or Daydream View, and it will also be hosted on YouTube for those not immersively inclined. Google said that it will also down the line make some of the content available on the VR180 format for 4K, three-dimensional video.

Initial programs that will get the VR treatment include NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” (which has already produced a selection of VR productions here, here, and here); reality show “Vanderpump Rules” from Bravo; and content from SYFY WIRE, the website for the Syfy TV channel.

With VR still a relatively young industry, and Google continuing to develop its own internal capabilities, there are a number of routes that can be taken to capture the experience. In this case, it looks like Google will be using the deal with NBC to promote and use Jump, its own platform for VR video capture that it first launched back in 2015.

We’ve asked Google if it can give more details regarding the business relationship with NBC, and we will update this post as we learn more. For now, it’s another opportunity for Google to develop more premium content — creating a new set of videos against which to sell advertising — and working alongside NBC Universal to help it also update its content for new and different audiences.

This is not the first time that NBC Universal has tried out content on VR: as one example it also worked with Intel and Oculus to bring Olympic content to headsets.

It’s also become a very standard part of TV programming to develop additional content that can be watched by fans alongside the core TV show, to help extend touch-points with an audience who may otherwise only be seen for 22 minutes each week, at best. VR presents another opportunity for that, too.

“We are constantly looking for opportunities to bring consumers new ways to experience content from across the NBCUniversal portfolio,” said Ron Lamprecht, Executive Vice President, NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, in a statement. “This partnership combines the creative expertise of NBCUniversal with Google’s VR capabilities to create these engaging experiences. We look forward to working with Google and YouTube on more collaborations like this in the future.”

Google has also been looking for more ways to cosy up to premium content companies to develop content for its platforms, partly to secure those relationships for a future where it might find itself competing for a content-hungry VR audience, and partly to help try to create that audience today. Other partnerships have included deals with HBO and Netflix.

“NBCUniversal’s networks and shows have a proven track record of high-quality storytelling that audiences can’t get enough of. Bringing them to VR lets fans connect with that content in a whole new way,” said Amit Singh, VP of business and operations for VR and AR at Google, in a statement. “NBCU’s teams were able to easily capture engaging VR content using the latest VR Jump cameras. And with YouTube, audiences can experience it on any device, bringing them closer to their favorite series.”

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