Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bitnami Open Source Leaders Interview Series: Francisco Mancardi from TestLink

Within one application, TestLink leads the way for software quality assurance by offering all of the tools needed for test plan management. As part of our Open Source Leader podcast series, we interviewed Francisco Mancardi, Project Leader of TestLink, to learn how TestLink helps people manage tests and where they will be going from here.

The topics below are covered in the interview:
  • What is TestLink?
  • Is TestLink only for software testing?
  • Who uses TestLink?
  • How can one be involved in the TestLink Community?
  • What should we expect from the next versions of TestLink?
After learning more about the project, you can launch TestLink to the cloud or deploy it locally with free installers, virtual machines and cloud templates from BitnamiGet started in the cloud for free with a $200 credit from Microsoft Azure.


Stuart Langridge:       These are the Bitnami Open Source Leaders Series of interviews.  I’m Stuart Langridge and I’m talking to Francisco Mancardi, who is the project leader of the TestLink project.  Hi, Francisco.

Francisco Mancardi:  Hello, how are you?

Stuart Langridge:       It’s all fun and games here. So, tell us a little bit about TestLink.  What is it?

Francisco Mancardi:  TestLink is a test and requirements management application. In an ideal world, testing is pretty straightforward, but normally it doesn’t happen that way. I think that an application like this can improve how people can manage case-testing processes a lot. Testing, in my opinion, is the weakest part of the delivery process. Normally people tend not to use a tool, and try to use spreadsheets. With Testlink, you can describe the artifact you plan to test and describe it’s characteristics.

You can also create requirements, create versions of the artifact you want to test, and get reports as well. TestLink should ideally be used for manual testing. We also offer an API to connect with other systems, which allows TestLink to get results from other systems. However, it is not able to run automatic tests on other systems. Also, TestLink has integrations with the most popular issue-tracker systems such as Jira, Mantis, and Mozilla. That is what TestLink is today, more or less.

Stuart Langridge:       So, TestLink isn’t a system for actually running your tests.  It’s a system to manage which tests should be run, and which tests go with which modules?

Francisco Mancardi:  Yes.

Stuart Langridge:       Interesting.

Francisco Mancardi:  Instead of buying Excel and start typing there, where you have no versioning, you are not able to manage other integration with other systems, you can simply start TestLink in it’s own application, and write as much or as little as you want. Normally, I just write the name of the test and start adding more details if I have time. You aren’t forced to describe a lot of things on your test, and you have the ability to change what you want. Also, you can use it in your Excel versions.

Stuart Langridge:       Obviously the people who mostly use TestLink and test-management software are generally QA, but QA in which areas?  Do you know what type of companies are currently using TestLink, and what kind of companies/organizations you would like to see using TestLink?

Francisco Mancardi:  I have informal data regarding what kind of companies use TestLink. I normally get this information from the channels that we use to communicate with people, such as forums. From this, I can look at the company email to get an idea of which companies are using TestLink. I see people from – I know that people from Philips and Netherlands are using TestLink. Some examples are IT companies, insurance companies, and banks. I supposed they always happen to have a lot of IT. I think that other kinds of activities, like biology test labs, could also use this product. I need to create, in my opinion, some new scales or proof of concepts in order to show more people that they may be able to use TestLink to create these tests.

Stuart Langridge:       TestLink doesn’t have to manage just software tests, it could be any kind of testing at all?

Francisco Mancardi:  Yes, and that is what we are really seeing. Suppose you want to test your car before going on a holiday. The test is primarily, in my opinion, a checklist with certain characteristics of something you want to test. This can be a chair, an oven, or anything that you need to test. The reason you test is to see if it works, and if it does you may need to describe it. For example, you need to test the timer on the oven to make sure it is working as you expect, you could use TestLink for that. There is nothing specific that forces TestLink to be used only for testing software.

                                    If you look to the logo, you can see that it looks like something from a crash testing sight, with the same concept and same colors. The idea for TestLink is that it supports something to test, but not necessary a piece of software. I can describe parts I want to test, how to test it, and record results of my experience for anything.

Stuart Langridge:       If someone has decided to use TestLink and they want to start setting it up, obviously they will need to install TestLink initially. What’s the easiest way to do that, and how much technical knowledge do you need to run TestLink?

Francisco Mancardi:  I think the best thing to do is to get an Installer or Virtual Machine from Bitnami, it is an easy way to start. If you don’t want to do this, you can download from SourceForge. The technical knowledge is, in my opinion, not too high. You need to understand how to change a permission on a file, how to connect using a secret client to a MySQL server, and how to start or stop an Apache server.  But surely if you want to start right away, you should install a Bitnami installer because you get everything you need. You get the database and a web server all in one installer.  

Stuart Langridge:       There are obviously people using TestLink within their organization, and some people will be deploying it to the cloud. Do you expect cloud usage to increase in the future?

Francisco Mancardi:  The cloud will be the future because people do not want to manage this solution on some server. For example, I am always talking about Bitnami because I have had a good experience with them. If you want just to test TestLink, you can launch a server on Bitnami for an hour and without any effort you can test TestLink, or any other of applications that Bitnami is offering. I think the cloud is the way to go if you don’t want to worry about your servers.

Stuart Langridge:       TestLink is a Web-based application. Do you tend to work with mainly modern browsers or mainly with mobile? Are you trying to support old versions of Internet Explorer 6? What do you expect the users of TestLink will be using?

Francisco Mancardi:  I expect that people aren’t using Internet Explorer 6, 7 or 8 because it has a lot of compatibility issues. Since the development team is small, it’s very difficult to be able to test – to be sure that TestLink has no issues with the different browsers. That being said, I don’t have a problem telling users to run on different servers – from different browsers. I normally test on Chrome and Firefox, and not much on Internet Explorer just because I’m using Linux as my development platform.

Stuart Langridge:       How often does TestLink release?  What’s the release strategy and the release cadence?

Francisco Mancardi:  During the last few years, I have tried to increase the release pace of TestLink, and we can say that we have four releases in a year normally. These releases include bug fixes and new features.  In the last two years we have no big-bang features, but people have been requesting a lot. As an example, many people were requesting to record the execution results of step levels. Finally this year, I was able to release it because a German company had provided support with the development. It is really great when people support us like that because it makes it easier to release a new thing.

Stuart Langridge:       Do you do time-based releases or feature-based releases?  When you say that you release four times a year, do you mean that four times a year you say, “Okay, the development version of TestLink is now TestLink 1.9.2”?

Francisco Mancardi:  It is normally time-based because if TestLink has bugs, and we need to provide fixes to the people. Aside from the releases, if there are some features that I consider important enough, I will release before the preplanned date.

Stuart Langridge:       How do upgrades work?  If I’m running the current version of TestLink and a new release happens, how do I upgrade to it? Can I stay on the version I’m on and stay supported, or do I have to be running the most recent version?

Francisco Mancardi:  During the last year, I chose not to support a very automated upgrade process because it’s very time-consuming to develop this kind of approach. Also, in the past years, the changes normally had a big impact on the databases. Since the updates have been very small in the last years, I currently provide an upgrade manually.

Normally, an upgrade consists of taking a couple older VMs and installing new ones, or you can just install a new Bitnami installer. Another option is to download the latest release from SourceForge, by installing TestLink in another folder and applying two or three SQL scripts to the database.

Regarding the older releases, I try to only maintain releases that are not older than a year because changes on code require a lot of work to maintain newer versions. Version 1.8 is not supported anymore, and currently you can run 1.9.9 or 1.9.10. We don’t support the other versions due to bug fixes and features that are no longer there.

Stuart Langridge:       So, TestLink is currently in the high 1.9 versions. What are your upcoming plans for TestLink?  Is there going to be a TestLink 2.0? Are you planning on working on the 1.9 series, and what will happen in new versions?

Francisco Mancardi:  The development on Version 2.0 has stopped because it was very difficult to maintain two parallels between 1.9 and 2.0. I have tried to work backward by going from 2.0 to 1.9, and suppose that the new features of TestLink would be a 1.9 branch. I don’t know when I’m planning to change to 2.0, but I need to consider what kind of future I can afford. 2.0 is going to be beneath it, and the new 2.0 will be an evolution of 1.9.

Stuart Langridge:       What things are you planning on working on next, improvements to the reports or improvements to the GUI?  Is that the kind of area that you’d expect TestLink to change in?

Francisco Mancardi:  I think the reports area needs more work because people like to have the Word or OpenOffice format. Currently they have provided us with a kind of fake OpenOffice or fake Word, and I have a lot of issues with embedded images. That is one of the most important things we need to change, but also the GUI needs to be refreshed a lot. I don’t think we will be able to have a mobile version of the app, but we need to work on a mobile and responsive version of TestLink in order to be used from a PC tablet.

Stuart Langridge:       You obviously work quite closely with the TestLink community.  Is that community mostly people who work on TestLink itself, or people who use TestLink to manage tests in their own organization?

Francisco Mancardi:  There aren’t enough people that want to help to develop TestLink. I think our community has an interesting size because you have to consider that I have no download statistics from Bitnami. On SourceForge, we get more than 1,000 downloads a week. I think it’s a good figure because this kind of application isn’t the most popular as an issue tracker. As more and more people use TestLink, they improve things through ideas more than through development work. I like to have people help by writing tutorials or other documentation of a use case that can be useful for other people. One thing that TestLink lacks is documentation – we had written a user manual long time ago, and it was my choice to develop instead of documenting, which sometimes makes it a little difficult to use TestLink.

Stuart Langridge:       If someone wants to use TestLink, where should they go to try it out or if they want to ask questions?

Francisco Mancardi:  The main site is www.testlink.org, which has information about the last stable release and links to our other channels. For community help, the best place is forum.testlink.org. For issues, we have a Mantis installation, and a Twitter account that I use to inform people of things that are happening and nothing more. I don’t provide support via Twitter. Also, we have a LinkedIn group, but managing all these channels is very time-consuming. I suggest that people get a username for the forum if they need to ask for help between users. Also, they can get a username for Mantis, which will give them the ability to provide feature request and the option for us to help them with issues.

Stuart Langridge:       Excellent.  And so, thank you very much for talking to us, Francisco Mancardi of the TestLink project.

Francisco Mancardi:  Bye-bye.

[End of Audio]