How to incorporate your ears to check log files

Today my irritation level was high enough to act. What happened?

While working on some Capybara tests, I was switching forth and back between the editor, the browser and the logfile terminal on the 2nd monitor to investigate if errors showed up in the log file.

If you ever tailed a file on a Linux system, you might have seen, that the log file is moving quite fast in your terminal window. Even on font size 6 its not easy to catch a certain ERROR label.

Opening a huge file and searching within is also not a pleasure and tedious, so that was also not an option for me.


I remembered the Log-Watch tool from James Bach, which plays a sound file everytime a customizable word/phrase is found in a log file.

Alas, my work computer was not Windows based.

Would it not be nice, if there was such a tool for Macintosh?

A quick question into Slacks tool channel and Richard Bradshaw (@friendlyTester) had a solution at hand.

It basically combines the feature of the “tail” command to continously display the last entries of a given file on the screen with the “grep” command, which searches the input files for lines containing a match to a given pattern list and finally plays a sound file via afplay, if the pattern is found.


tail -f <path-to-log-file> | grep --line-buffered ‘<Pattern to listen to>' | while read line; do afplay <path-to-local-sound-file>/test.wav; done


Richard also has a blog post up, which contains also a link into his Github repository.

Next level

That command is working locally. But the log files I use daily are on a remote server, a sandbox in my case. There are no sound files, no audio player and even it there were, its of no use, if it beeps in the server room. Might scare some admins, if it randomly beeps though.

Plus I also don’t want to install stuff on the sandbox. We delete them on a regular base and make new ones. Installing stuff would be another preparation step, which costs time.

I was wondering, if it was possible to use my local Macintosh files and hardware and started to adjust the above solution.

Command for remote files

ssh <user@remoteserver> 'tail -f <path-to-log-file>' | grep --line-buffered ‘<Pattern to listen to>' | while read line; do afplay <path-to-local-sound-file>/test.wav; done

This combined the command with the feature to log into remote machines via ssh.


The Benny Hill theme

Thanks to @simonk the tool channel probably had an earworm for the rest of the day, cause he brought up the Benny Hill theme.

Anyone not familiar, click on play here.


Lessons Learned for me

First, we are a global, intensively knowledgable community. As so often in development, someone somewhere might had the same obstacle and can help you out. Or s/he has the right skills to solve your problem. This was an exercise in tester pairing btw.

So reach out and connect. It can only be a win win situation.


Second, if something troubles / irritates you enough, it might be worth to investigate and automate it.

Yes, it can be called automation. We created a small line of code to help us in our testing work.


Third, remember that we have more senses in our portfolio than “just” our eyes, to watch what the software is doing.

The blink heuristic relies on your visual sense as well.

While smell has become a little out of fashion, even that was used before (Smoke Test anyone?).

If you are in mobile testing, the tactile sense is useful, e.g. when your battery becomes warmer, than you expect.



I used this command the whole afternoon, while testing and listening to music.

Believe me, the sound file you choose will be heard, even with music on, cause it is also a kind of blink heuristic for your ears. It sticks out.

This will give you an additional layer of information in your testing, because you can now make use of two senses instead of one.

The whole “development” might have taken maybe like 30 minutes and I am quite sure, it already has paid off.


STWC – Software Testing World Cup – Changes for 2015/2016

The official STWC website has gone public with the new information about the next STWC.

There are some changes and one of the obvious ones is the team registration fee of 40 Euro per Team (10 Euro per team member).

While the reasoning can also be found on that site, I want to explain some more about it.

As stated there are basically two major reasons, why we decided for that.

1. No Shows

Anyone who has ever organized an event, a user group or even a dinner table booking for people, who are not direct friends, might have experienced it.

There is most often a quota of “no shows”. Meaning people who said, they would come, but then don’t.

And I mean, without informing the organizer upfront; they just don’t show up.

Btw. that might be a reason, why sometimes e.g. airlines or hotels are overbooked. They expect, that a certain percentage of people are not showing up.


Why is this a problem for STWC?

Since each STWC continental round has a limit how many teams can participate, the teams who register, but then don’t show up, are blocking slots for teams, who are really interested and would love to play.

Why do we have limits on how many can particpate, its online anyway?

Well, one main concept of STWC is the evaluation of the teams deliverables by (as we call them) judges.

Each team is evaluated at least by two judges to get two opinions.If they are close to each other, fine. If not we bring in 1-2 more judges.

This takes a lot of time and commitment of the judges.

Most (if not all) are doing this as a voluntary, unpaid task next to their main jobs and private life.

With a round limit of 250 teams one can do the maths….

Often a judge has to evaluate around 20 teams in a period of one month.

Depending of course, that we get that many volunteers who want to participate as judges.


2. Raising money to realize the unique points of STWC

A lot of people invest their own, unpaid time for STWC. Be it the players, the volunteering judges from all over the world and also the organizers.

One of the awesome aspects of STWC is, that we want to fly in the winner team from each continent and pay their flight and accomodation. And also the professional live recording and video streaming.

I personally think, that is a great incentive to participate, cause a) it gives the event something unique and elevates it from a pure online event and b) it gives the team members a chance to participate in a good conference, make contacts with other testers from around the world and exchange with other known, public names.

This of course comes with a price tag.

While we were lucky to ask at the right time and place and could convince HP to be the global tool sponsor, it is not running so smoothly every time.

So we decided to take some money from the teams.

We could not realize the intial idea which we had, which was to charge each member 10 units of their local currency (peso, euro, dollar, yuan, rupees, etc.) to balance out the conversion differences and we thought to mirror the Big Mac Index .

Sadly it was too complicated, cause Diaz & Hilterscheid would collect the money (since they paid the tickets, etc.) and the tax issues involved were too much a headache and complicated, that we scrapped that idea.

This team fee will pay forward to the costs involved.

And, on a personal note, I think, some investment intoa testers learning should be worth to each of us. For some, 10 Euro is still something, but for a lot of folks that money is equivalent to 2-3 beer or other beverages of choice.

PotsLightning 2014 and STWC Antarctica wildcard team

Are you going to the Agile Testing Days‎? Why not come one day before and enjoy the company of fellow testing professionals? Potslightning gives you the (open) space to talk about topics from our craft, which focus on what the attendees want to talk about.

You want to discuss, how the advancement of mobile devices has advanced from mere mobile phones to new kinds of “things”? And how that changes our working area as testers?

Maybe you want to hear, how and why the winner teams of the STWC choose their testing strategy and reports; which scored them a place in the final round of the world cup.

BYOT: Bring your own topic. You have an area you want to talk about? Bring it along and put it to the vote for the other participants. Maybe it’s the newest trend or information, which we all are interested in.

If you are pumped up from a day of full testing passion, why not put it to the test (pun intended).

Open Space attendees:

George Dinwiddie (The Three Amigos concept),  Oana Juncu (Storytelling), Lisa Crispin, Janet Gregory, Matt Heusser, Helena Kolpakova, (Embedded System), Carl, STWC New Zealand Champions: Joshua Urieli, Joseph Walker, Henry Ashton-Martyn and Mark Tokumaru

This years PotsLightning will also be connected with the STWC.

We will create a 4 person team from interested participants, who will enter the final round of STWC as the wildcard team “Antarctica”.

If you are interested, sent me an email with your details, your topic ideas and why you should be one of the 20 participants. Please also indicate, if you are interested to play in the Final round of STWC.


The third PotsLightning peer workshop will be held on 9th of November 2014.
It is lined up on the sunday before the Agile Testing Days 2014 conference.

Some people are arriving the weekend before and now they have the chance to attend also a workshop with peers in a relaxed atmosphere.

We will do an Open Space format as not to restrict the flow via setting a strict theme upfront.

Plus we offer a small competition (max. 20 players) to be team “STWC Antarctica” and particpate in the STWC Finals round on Monday, 10th November 2014 on the AgileTestingDays.

If you are interested to attend, please contact us via email.
Should you already know a topic you want to talk about, feel free to sent it in the email.

Twitter Hashtag: #PotsLightning

Here are the information in short:

Date: 09.11.2014
City: Potsdam, Germany
Venue: Dorint Hotel

Official Announcement – STWC – Software Testing World Cup

We are proud to announce the first annual Software Testing World Cup (STWC)!

Imagine a world test competition, held over the internet, on your continent, in a time zone that is reasonable for you, on a Saturday, with local judges you know and respect.

STWC is a global event with a sportive, competitive character for the testing community.
It will consist of a continental round of testing, done online, so that all the testing professionals out there have the chance to participate.

The continental champions will be invited to one of the best testing conferences in Europe; the Agile Testing Days 2014 in Potsdam, Germany!
There they will test it out to crown the winning team and get their hands on the STWC trophy!

All flavors or testing can participate and form a team to enter the competition.

Interested and want to get more information?
Registration is free. Participation is free.

Check out the official website:

We will update the website over the next days and fill it with more information.
Get yourself registered as a team or stay updated with general news regarding the Software Testing World Cup.

Melior homo vincat!
May the best win!

English kindergarden “Little Feet” opened

For anyone looking for a child day care center, there is a new one in Hamburg East; between the area of Farmsen, Berne and Rahlstedt. Easily reachable with public transport and with convenient parking for car arrivals.

It is run by two experienced professionals, Mrs. Michelle Rose and Mrs. Patricia Vlasa.

Both have worked the last three years as a professional “Tagesmutter”. This is a official title for child day care persons. The education is funded by the government and takes around one and a half year to finish, before you get your certificate.

The ladies will cater to the needs of small babies, up to the age of three preferable.

Since the demand for English education is high, their educational concept includes the singing of English child rhymes and spoken English language.

They rented a location just for the purpose of child day care, the center is called Little Feet and you can see the location on Google Maps .

They have done a great job in furnishing it with cosy carpets, play toys and have two rooms available for sleeping and playing. Some photo collection is online to get a first impression.

If you are interested, how the state of Hamburg financially supports the parents, have a look.

Feel free to spread the word and help the two Tagesmütter to get their business up and running. If you know parents, who are looking for a child day care, sent them the link to the website, so they can contact them.

Skurriles aus dem Testeralltag

Note: For my non-German reading peeps: A translation would loose out on the word play; sorry.

Manche Anekdoten kann nur das Leben selber produzieren. Wenn man die Analogie der 1000 Affen und das Werk eines Shakespears bemühen will…

Hat allerdings mehr Dada oder Haiku Charakter.

Kurzer Hintergrund:
Die Anforderung war, einen Wert in der Auswahlliste zu haben, der „<leer>“ hieß. Dieses war nicht umgesetzt. Nach erster Einschätzung ging die gewünschte Umsetzung technisch nicht (Details sind hier nicht relevant).

Nach der Analyse durch die Entwicklung kam dann folgender Kommentar zum Defekt:

„… Ich weise aber darauf hin, dass es bei diesem Feld allerdings nicht möglich ist irgendetwas anderes außer NICHTS oder einem Wert aus der Werteliste auszuwählen.

Beim Löschen kann also entweder alles oder nichts gelöscht werden – es kann auch nichts außerhalb dieser Werteliste eingegeben werden (außer NICHTS). …”

Ich hoffe ich bin nicht der Einzige, der dieses komisch (im Sinne von witzig) findet. :-)

Experience report on a Miagi-Do challenge

I was attending the test automation day in Rotterdam, where I had the chance to meet a few Miagi-Do fellows and took the opportunity to ask for a challenge.

Huib Schoots (@huibschoots), Jean-Paul Varwijk (@Arborosa) and Matt Heusser (@mheusser) gave me the chance and we sat down for it between some sessions.

Huib took the role of the challenger.
And, boy, did I took a learning that day. Sometimes I felt like in Vaders Force Grip. :-)

I had some time for reflection since then. Here are my learning’s.
Traps. Some I was expecting, some were unknown (to me). 
I try to summarize the traps, as I see them and will mark my comments as well.

Trap: Surroundings (Environment). We had the challenge in a time-boxed environment (since the next conference session was looming ahead) and the noise level and distraction was varying as well.

Maik: This is not unusual in real situations as well; we as testers also have to deal with that.

If you have the chance, setup a quiet, concentrated meeting with your stakeholders. Try to have as few distractions as possible, phone, email, walk-ins, etc. Maybe changing to an alternate place (meeting room, go out for lunch) can provide already some focus.

Nevertheless. Have a checklist, mind map or some guide at hand. Maybe even sketch it out on paper. Having it only in your head can or cannot work.

Trust me, if you sitting with three people all making comments (intentionally or not) and a personality like Huib (:-)), it did really distracted me from my mental checklist and my brain became a distracting factor as well (shame on you, my brain!).

Trap (which I brought on myself): Preparation time.
Maik: After the challenge was given, I didn’t ask for some private preparation time. Even 2-4 minutes might have helped me sharpen my mental checklist to the current context. And nobody “forbid” it. But by not even asking, I lost out on that chance!

Trap: Challenge setup and challenger agenda
Maik: Since it was a challenge, I expected some “rules” and even “hidden rules” of the challenger (here: Huib). Knowing that there were some and actually recognizing them or even actually engaging them is different.

For example: I expected that the challenger would hide or avoid certain information, till I trigger them. But sometimes I felt, I was actively led astray.

Which is okay, since it is a challenge; but it adds an additional layer of difficulty.

In reality I would expect that the stakeholder, who is coming to me, would “play nice” and “play along”. As in, we are on the same side.

Example: Stakeholder has no clue about testing. I would expect that he would play with open cards and acknowledges that fact. Then I can adjust my role and help him better; I need to give him different information as someone who knows about testing.

But that is my assumption. This leads me to…

Trap: Intention of the stakeholder
Maik: One thing I re-learned again is try to find out the intention of the stakeholder coming to you.

Stakeholder can have different kind of motives. They can look for a scape goat, they can be totally clueless to testing, they can really want to help you with all they can contribute, they might have already made up their mind about the product and just want “proof” of their opinion, they might want to help, but have a different understanding of the context.

It is not easy, if at all, to find out the intentions of the person you are talking to; especially if they are unknown to you.

I knew Huib in person from five days at the Agile Testing Days 2012 (@AgileTD), so he was kind of “unknown” to me.


Now the last trap, which I brought on myself and which is the hardest to admit:

Trap: Hybris.
Maik: I knew and know, that there are a lot of unknowns to me.

In Testing, there are situations, I haven’t encountered yet or software bugs I haven’t seen or found. I read a lot; I had the chance to apply some of it and I am trying to keep up with information.

So I betrayed myself by believing, I could do the challenge and do it good. I didn’t expect it to be a breeze, but manageable.

Besides the fact, that I love riddles and puzzles, I also wanted to show to my fellow Miagi-Do’s, that I know my game and can step up to the plate.

If you are a tester with experience or a consultant with a lot of exposure, you should treat each stakeholder with your whole focus and concentration and take their request or questions seriously.

Serious in the sense, that to really think about what their request is, what their questions mean (to them) and not brush to fast over it, cause you have done it many times before. Maybe you are right, but sometimes you might be wrong and doing not a good service to your stakeholder as you could have done.



For me it was absolutely great to take on a challenge and get feedback from peers I respect. I wish we all could open one big company and work together on a daily base.

Even if I busted on that challenge, my takeaways made this experience worthwhile.

2. PotsLightning announcement

The second PotsLightning peer workshop will be held on 27th of October 2013.
It is lined up on the sunday before the Agile Testing Days 2013 conference.

Some people are arriving the weekend before and now they have the chance to attend also a workshop with peers in a relaxed atmosphere.

This year we will do an Open Space format as not to restrict the flow via setting a strict theme upfront.

If you are interested to attend, please contact us via email.
Should you already know a topic you want to talk about, feel free to sent it in the email  and we make a rough idea collection on the website.

Twitter Hashtag: #PotsLightning

Here are the information in short:

Date: 27.10.2013
City: Potsdam, Germany
Venue: Dorint Hotel

Scrum in your daily life

At the AgileCoachCamp (#ACCDE12) I attended a wonderful session named „Scrum in your daily life“.

Deborah W. (#weberde) brought this session up and chose an outdoor location.

We started with six participants and the idea was to share stories, where one had applied Scrum or other agile elements in her or his personal life.

Deborah started and shared how she and her boyfriend used Scrum one weekend to finish her household chores. Next was Sebastian (#stdout); if I remember correctly; who told a story, where a couple organized their flat moving with Kanban.

Quite a few people used retrospective elements with their partner on a time boxed approach (every week 2 hours) and also tried out coaching elements with their kids.

This lead to the question, why do we as coaches have to “fix” the things, which went wrong way earlier in the society. (Well, “wrong” in our opinion).

In the meantime a little crowd of bypassers had gathered to listen and sharing their input.

The topic brought up some stories of regular school life in Germany and Austria and how kids are natural agilists and how that is (seemingly) changed when they enter the school system.

The session was closed after 90 minutes (triple the initial planned time), since it was clear, we could spent even longer on that topic.

On the open space evening news Deborah and Wolfgang (#wwiedenroth) proposed a follow up session the next day.

The session was filled with up to 20 attendees. One local school teacher was convinced to join us and shed some of his opinions.

Due to the sheer number of active people we had to use the fish bowl format.

It was a wonderful experience to attend these two sessions and the energy and involvement the people put into it.

I put up some pictures from the second session (agile school theme) here.

(As a side effect, I started to use a personal Kanban board. Let’s see what my retrospective about it will be.)