Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Sneak Peek Videos

Earlier this year I started working on a new video course, Selenium WebDriver Basics for Java. After a couple of months delay, I have been able to start working on it again. The following are samples from the Getting Started section.

Installing the Java JDK

Installing the Eclipse IDE

Installing Selenium WebDriver and the Browser Drivers

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Are We Agile Yet?

Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of working with multiple teams with each practicing their own flavor of Agile. This has given me the opportunity to see how processes grow and evolve based on the goals, strengths, and challenges faced by the teams. I have also been able to witness and gain insight into some of the confusion and mystery surrounding the Agile Methodology. For those who are just starting out on this path or those that are seeking a little more clarity, I offer you these three steps to help you on your way.

1. RTFM – Read The Famous Manifesto

Take the time to read The Agile Manifesto including the Twelve Principles of Agile Software. Despite how much has been written about Agile, the manifesto is quite short and easy to follow. By reading the words yourself, you will build your own understanding of them. It is that understanding that will help guide you to success as you discuss and evolve processes and methods with your team.

2. Confirm Team Alignment

Agile is not just for developers. It is for the whole team which includes developers, testers, product owners, facilitators, and stakeholders/customers. With that many roles involved, it should be obvious as to why you need to make sure everyone has clear expectations of their responsibilities and the ultimate goal of the team.

You may note that I said “roles” rather than “people” when describing the members of the team. That is because a single person may perform multiple roles on a team. For example a stakeholder may choose to also be the product owner or the lead developer may also be the facilitator for the team. No matter how many people the team has, alignment on duties and expectations is essential.

The Product Team:

  • Stakeholder: Provides input about the product. May also have financial responsibilities to the team and/or product.
  • Product Owner: Defines and prioritizes the project stories and tasks.
  • Facilitator: Runs meetings, removes obstacles, and shelters the team from interruptions.
  • Developer: Plans and writes code for a software project.
  • Tester: Confirms the application functions as expected.

As part of the team alignment, it should be agreed that no one member should act unilaterally because this hinders communication and will effect the project. While each member has ownership of an aspect of the project, they should make decisions based on information gathered from both their experience and that of their teammates. Product owners are responsible for what is being worked on but they should not dictate the completion dates. Developers control the frameworks, tools, and technologies used in the product but they should consider the advise from the testers to make it easier to catch bugs.

Communication and consideration are key to building team alignment.

3. Find What Works For Your Team

Agile is not a destination. Nor is it a single skill, practice, or process. No one can provide you with a checklist or script that will transform any team or product into an Agile one. The reason for this is every team and situation is unique and as such requires an equally unique solution.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t value reading about what other teams have done. Developing a unique solution doesn’t mean you have to build everything from scratch. In fact, it’s probably better for teams to adopt some practices they learn from articles, books, or an Agile Coach when they are starting out. This will provide the team with a chance to avoid some of the pitfalls and get a jump on their progress.

The key is to not get hung up on “the right way” or “requirements” of being Agile. If your team has found that part of the process isn’t helping to achieve the end goal, get rid of it. Teams should be allowed to determine the best way for them to function. So long as they continue to communicate with each other (including stakeholders, customers, etc), are able to adapt to change, and deliver working software on a regular basis then the team is successfully implementing Agile.

Chainmail 101.5: Beginner’s Chainmail with Advanced Topics

Overview:

Welcome to Chainmail 101.5. This workshop will cover the basic techniques of mail production including:

Essential Tools for making Chainmail

  • Turning wire into rings
  • Knitting Steel
  • The 4 in 1 pattern
  • The 6 in 1 pattern
  • The 8 in 1 pattern

We will also cover these additional advanced topics:

  • Constructing a Wire Crank
  • Creating a Coif

Essential Tools and Materials for Making Chainmail:

The tools required for making chainmail are simple and easy to obtain. They also depend on whether you are making the rings or purchasing them. Personally, I prefer to make my own rings. This gives you satisfaction of saying “I made this from scratch!” and it is more cost effective. A ¼ mile of 14 gauge Galvanized Steel wire cost about $15 at Farm & Fleet and will produce at least 20 lbs of rings (I haven’t actually weighed the spool so I’m estimating from heft) whereas a 5 lb bag of rings usually runs for about $15-$20 on Ebay. This list below are the required tools and materials for working from scratch.

  • 14-16 Gauge Wire (I recommend 14 gauge as it is more durable)
  • Wire Spinning Crank
  • Clippers (Tin Snips, Heavy Duty Wire Cutters, or equivalent)
  • 2 Pairs of pliers (Pick your favorite type)
  • 3 Containers to put your rings in (Open, Closed, Unprocessed)

Turning Wire into Rings:

The process of winding rings can be the most tedious part of mail making, but it is also the most important (without rings you won’t get very far on your project!). The first thing you must decide is what size rings you will produce. The most common and versatile size is 3/8”, but I have also seen people use ¼” and 5/16”. This decision affects the construction of the wire spinning device (see appendix A)

The next step is to make a spring, insert the wire in the retaining hole and slowly turn the crank. The wire should wind along the spindle as close to the previous coil as possible. If you go to fast, you might get an overlap which will cause you to lose rings when you cut them. When the spindle is full, clip the wire, or pull the end out of the hole, and slide your spring off.

Now that you have a spring the real fun starts. Pick an end of the spring to start on and start clipping. The first cut will usually be to snip off excess wire, but from that point on you should start seeing good rings. Clip straight up the coil for best results. You should get about 100 rings out of a 10” spring.

Now you have a pile of unprocessed rings and it is time to sort them out and process them. How you sort the rings depends on your style of mail making. I usually sort them into two piles with 2 rings to be closed for every 1 open. To make closed rings, hold the ring in one pair of pliers and use the other to twist the ends until they meet. To make open rings, twist the rings to be so that the ends are about 2 wire widths apart (depending on how tight your coil was some rings may already be “open”).

You have now successfully created the building blocks for your Chainmail project.

Knitting Steel:

There are a number of patterns that can be used for producing chainmail, or knitting steel. Some patterns are very complex and most often used for jewelry making. In this workshop, we will stick to the “functional” patterns that are used for armor. The patterns are referred to by the number of rings linked through an given link: 4 in 1, 6 in 1, or 8 in 1. You choose the pattern based on the ring size and the density of the finished product. Since we are using 3/8” rings any of the patterns can be used. The most common pattern is 4 in 1, which is quick to produce and provides a loose but effective weave. I use this weave for making ceremonial chainmail items. For armor grade I use 6 in 1, but that is my personal preference 4 in 1 is sufficient for heavy list. Examples of the different weaves are shown below.

The 4 in 1 Pattern:

Steps for constructing 4 in 1 Chainmail strip:

  1. Place 4 closed rings on 1 open ring and then close it
  2. Add two closed rings to an open and then loop the open ring through 2 of rings in the previous set
  3. Repeat step 2 until you have a strip of the desired length
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you have created the desired number of strips
  5. Connect the strips together by weaving open links through four links, 2 from each strip.

The 6 in 1 Pattern:

Steps for constructing 6 in 1 Chainmail strip:

  1. Place 4 closed rings on 1 open ring and then close it
  2. Add two closed rings to an open and then loop the open ring through 4 of rings in the previous set
  3. Repeat step 2 until you have a strip of the desired length
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you have created the desired number of strips
  5. Connect the strips together by weaving open links through 6 links, 3 from each strip.
  6. Match any additional rings needed, ie., a ring through the first 4

The 8 in 1 pattern:

Steps for constructing 8 in 1 Chainmail strip:

  1. Place 4 closed rings on 1 open ring and then close it
  2. Add two closed rings to an open and then loop the open ring through 4 of rings in the previous set
  3. Add two closed rings to an open and then loop the open ring through 6 of rings in the previous set
  4. Repeat step 3 until you have a strip of the desired length
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 until you have created the desired number of strips
  6. Connect the strips together by weaving open links through 8 links, 4 from each strip.
  7. Match any additional rings needed, ie., a ring through the first four and then through the first 6

Adding Single Rows:

Adding a single row of mail to an existing strip is accomplished by weaving open rings through the bottom row of the strip using the technique described for connecting strips

Adding Double Rows:

To add double rows, you need to start with 2 closed rings on one open ring. Connect the open link through the first 2 links in the strip. From this point on, add one closed link to the open and then connect it through the appropriate number of rings on the strip and in front of it. Eg., for 4 in1 the open link should have 1 closed link and then attach to 2 rings from the strip and 1 ring from the previous addition. For 6 in 1, it would have 1 closed and attach to 3 from the strip and two from the previous addition.

Appendix A: Constructing a Wire Crank

The wire crank is an essential tool used to convert wire into springs or coils. The springs are then cut to form the individual rings used to produce chainmail.

Building a Period-style Wire Crank:

The materials used to construct a crank are as follows:

· 2 1’ pieces of 2×4

· 1 2’ x 8” piece of plywood (or equivalent)

· 1 2’ piece of 3/8” dowel (or whatever size you want your rings to be)

· 1 6” piece of a 1” dowel

· 1 6” 1×2

· A drill

· 4 Drill bits (7/16”, 3/8”, 1”, and 5/64” or 3/32”)

· Screwdriver

· 4 2” wood screws

· Tack hammer

· 2 2” nails (small gauge)

· 2 Carter Pins

Construction Steps

1. Drill a hole in the center of the 2x4s about 1” from the top using the 7/16” bit. This hole will be large enough for the dowel to slide through an rotate smoothly.

2. Attach the 2x4s to the plywood using the wood screws. I recommend attaching them centered and about 1” in from the edge.

3. Drill two holes, 1” and 3/8”, in the 1×2, one at each end.

4. Push the 1” dowel into the 1” hole and secure with a nail through the end of the 1×2.

5. Attach the handle you just made to the 3/8” dowel in the same manner.

6. When everything is dry, slide the crank through the holes in the 2x4s. position the crank so that there is about a 1”space between the handle and first 2×4.

7. You will now need to mark three points on the 3/8” dowel. The first 2 will be for restraining clips to prevent the crank from sliding out prematurely. The marks should be made on the outside of the 2x4s. The third point should be about ½” in from the 2×4 farthest from the handle. The third point will be the hole to secure the wire.

8. Remove the crank from the jig.

9. Using the smaller bit, drill holes in the crank at the points you have marked.

10. Place a carter pin in the hole closest to the crank handle and place the crank back into the jig

11. Push the remaining carter pin into the hole on the other end of the crank.

12. You are now ready to use the crank to produce springs.

A Modern Wire Crank:

A much faster crank can be made from a variable speed drill and a 3/8” dowel. I do not recommend using a dowel over 1′ in length as it will be unwieldly. The first thing you need to do is to drill a hole through the dowel large enough to insert the wire. Once this is done, insert the dowel in the drill and tighten it down. You are now ready to produce your springs (Aren’t modern conveniences wonderful!)

I have also heard tell of someone using a metal lathe with a custom feeder jig for the wire, but I don’t know too many people who have one of these laying around their house.

Appendix B: Making a Chainmail Coif

The following instructions can be modified to construct a more form fitting coif. If followed exactly, they will produce one with the same dimensions as mine, ie it will fit my head quite well. The measurement I used to determine how many rings I needed to fit around my head was 24”. This is measured just above your eyebrows and all the way around.

1. Link 12 rings on a single center ring and lay flat.

2. Attach 12 rings by connecting 1 open ring through 2 closed such that the added rings will overlap the previous by 1 ring.

3. Repeat step 2

4. Repeat step 2 and then add another ring to every second ring in the previous level. The expansion rings should only connect to one closed ring. This will expand the ring count to 18

5. Using the same method as in step 2, add 18 rings

6. Repeat Step 5 again and then add expansion rings every second ring. You will now have a base of 27

7. Add 27 rings and then add expansion rings every 3rd ring. The level will now be expanded to 36

8. Add 36 rings

9. Repeat step 8 and then add expansion rings every 2nd ring. You will now have a base of 54 rings.

10. Add 54 rings as the next level.

11. Repeat step 10 until the caplet created ends just above your eyebrows.

12. Count the number of rings that hang above your face. This number will be used to determine how long of a strip you will need to add to go around the back of your head; Subtract the number from 54 to get the number of rings required. Most likely this will be around 16 rings.

13. Construct enough strips of chainmail of the appropriate length (38 rings) to reach from the base of your caplet to the base of your neck.

14. To construct the mantle, assemble 2 strips of mail 60 rings long and connect them.

15. Add expansion rings to the bottom row every 3rd ring, this will bring you to 80 rings

16. Assemble 2 more strips of mail 80 rings in length and connect them

17. Add expansion rings to the last row every 4th ring, to bring the total to 100 rings

18. Add 2 more strips of mail 100 rings in length.

Stereotypes and Social Stigmas in the Twenty First Century

A stereotype, as defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “a fixed or conventional notion or conception” (Agnes, 2003). In other words, it is a generalized idea about something or someone. The most prevalent stereotypes in modern society are those regarding people. These concepts attribute qualities to members of various groups based on race, ethnicity, economic status, education, age, and many other factors. Being highly generalized, stereotypes are often incorrect when compared to a specific individual, but there are also cases where a person is the embodiment of such generalizations.

Each of these stereotypes also carries with it social implications, which separate those to whom the stereotypes are applied from other people who are not of that group. This separation can manifest as a result of either the group’s desire to exclude non-members or the expulsion of the group as undesirable. While the former example is often referred to as “snobbery” and draws upon the application of positive attributes to the members of the group, the latter—stigmatization—causes the greatest duress for individuals. Being the victim of a social stigma can be devastating psychologically and physically. The physical damage may come from attacks by others or from the stigmatized person’s self-loathing (suicide, cutting, extreme dieting, body modification, etc.). Regardless of the form or source of the harm, the damage done can be irreversible.

The Power of Stereotypes

There are many common stereotypes within the United States—the politician, the country bumpkin, the city slicker, and the geek to name a few—but most of these are harmless enough if a person has a good sense of humor and/or thick skin. There is another stereotype, however, that has seized the minds of Americans in recent years and driven some to commit hateful acts in the guise of patriotism: the Muslim terrorist. Under this concept, any proclaimed Muslim must be part of or aware of a plot to assault citizens of the United States. This stereotype is also applied to anyone who appears to be Middle Eastern or wears clothes reminiscent of that culture.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, American Muslims and citizens of Middle Eastern decent have been harassed, slandered, and physically attacked based on little more than their religious beliefs or their appearance. As seen in a 2009 article, American Muslims suffer insults and fear reprise for acts they did not commit (Associated Press, 2009). In May of 2010, Muslim artwork—created as a commentary about the increase of hate crimes against Muslims—was defaced while on display at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago (Lasagni, 2010). While it is unclear why the artwork was vandalized, it is suspected to be due to the animosity of many Americans towards Muslims. The reason for such hatred can only be explained by a deep-seated belief in the Muslim terrorist stereotype.

The Perpetuation of Stereotypes

The answer to where stereotypes come from and how they persist in the world can be disturbing. The generalizations about people are often created through ignorance of their culture and a need to categorize them. These ideas become fixed when people increasingly see and hear the descriptions from places they trust for information—such as the news, respected officials, and parents.

The media have long been known for providing information in such a way as to have the greatest impact. This is best accomplished through appealing to emotions rather than critical thought. The unfortunate result of appealing to emotions is the removal of understanding, and the acceptance that all individuals can be defined by their grouping. The same concept applies when dealing with respected officials. A leader can easily control a community that does not question or analyze information, which is the result when they are swayed purely by emotion.

While it is easy to blame others for instilling incorrect information in the nation’s youth, parents have often done the most damage. In some cases, the parents subscribe to the stereotypes themselves and foster their belief. Other parents commit a far greater disservice by not taking action to encourage their children to question the stereotypes and to see people for who they are rather for what someone else says they are.

Education, Acceptance, and Understanding

It is possible to combat stereotypes and to reduce them to mere footnotes in history, but this is a very daunting task. The road to understanding requires educating everyone about the flaws in generalizations. The acceptance of this idea can lead people to make an effort to fight their preconceived notions as well as remind them that every individual is unique. Stereotypes can only be disproven using critical thought and analysis, which is something people must do for themselves. In this respect, there is great wisdom in the song “Closer to the Heart”, which offers this statement: “Philosophers and ploughmen / each must know his part / to sow a new mentality / closer to the heart.” (Peart & Talbot, 1977).

Rush: Closer to the Heart

References

Agnes, M. (Ed.). (2003). Webster’s New World Dictionary (Fourth ed.). New York: Pocket Books.

Associated Press. (2009, September 11). For Muslims, backlash fear builds each 9/11. Retrieved June 15, 2010, from MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32782444/

Lasagni, G. (2010, May 13). Attack on Muslim artwork at School of Art Institute called a hate crime. Retrieved June 14, 2010, from Medill Reports Chicago: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=164662

Peart, N., & Talbot, P. (Composers). (1977). Closer to the Heart. On A Farewell to Kings. South Wales, United Kingdom.

Making a Bow Stringer

The kindest thing an archer can do for his bow is to use a bow stringer. Aside from making it easier to string the bow, the stringer allows for applying even pressure on the limbs during stringing so there is less chance of breaking or damaging the bow. This article will explain how to make a stringer that will work on most bows. The stringer is made up of three parts, the pocket, the saddle, and the cord. The function of each part is explained at the end of the article.

To make a simple stringer you will need the following:

· a length of cord 7-8’ long ( I use 8’)

· a scrap of leather or suede at least 5 inches square

· a hole punch

· a rivet (not a pop-rivet) or heavy waxed thread and needle

Figure 1: Leather Tab Patterns
Figure 1: Leather Tab Patterns
You will need to cut two shapes for the leather (see diagrams). The first piece will be used to make the pocket. This piece is shaped like a “T” and measures 4.5” for the top and 5” for the body. The second piece should be 3” long and 1” wide. I usually round the short edges. Once these are cut you are ready to begin assembly.

You will need to punch holes in the ¼” from each of the sides of the saddle. The holes should be large enough to fit your cord through. The number holes required for the “T” depends on whether you use a rivet or thread. If using thread, you will only need one hole, large enough for the cord to pass through twice, punched ¼” from the bottom of the “T”. The diagram shows the single hole and the approximate holes for the rivet.

Figure 2: How to fold the pocket tab
Figure 2: The Pocket

To make the pocket you will need to fold the top of the “T” over twice and then fold the flaps under so the overlap. You will then secure the bottom three layers; the two flaps and “T” body. You should now have a pocket with a loop above it (see diagram).You can now run your cord and complete the stringer

Start running the cord into the “T” with the pocket on top. The cord should pass through the hole from the top; then through the loop (pictured on the left above), and then back through the hole from the bottom. Once the cord is run, secure the strand together with a knot. The saddle is strung by running the cord up through the first hole, down through the second, and securing the cord together with a knot that will not slip. You should leave some room in the loop so it will slip over the bow without too much trouble.

Figure 3: A completed bow stringer
Figure 3: A Completed Bow Stringer

 

 

 

You now have a bow stringer, but do you know how to use it? If not read on and I will offer a quick lesson in stringing your bow. Hold the bow so the string hangs beneath it and slip the pocket of the stringer over the end that already has the string in place. Now slip the saddle over the other end and position it just behind the other loop in the bowstring. Place your foot on the stringer cord and pull up on the handle of the bow; the bow will bend into shape. While holding it in position, slip the loose loop down into position. Your bow is now strung. You should verify that both ends of the string are seated correctly before drawing the bow.

Outdoor Games Played in Medieval Times and Earlier

Overview:

Finding something to do at an event when you’re too young to take part in many activities can be difficult. In this class, we will learn some games that are easy and appropriate for events. This isn’t as difficult as you might expect, in fact you may already know several of the games. Here is the list:

  • Hopscotch
  • Hoodsman’s (Blind Man’s) Bluff / Jingling
  • Barley Break
  • How Many Miles to London?
  • Bowls/Bocce/Boules

Hopscotch:

Hopscotch dates back to the Roman occupation of Britain. The first thing to be done is to draw a course, several common court styles are seen below.

Each player then chooses a marker, usually a stone. Play begins with the first player tossing his stone into the first space. If the stone lands completely within the designated square, the player proceeds to hop through the course. A player can only have one foot in any given square, so single squares must be balanced and double squares (side by side) are straddled. While hopping, the player should alternate the foot he lands on for each square. Any space not marked with a number, ie London, Home, etc., are considered rest squares and can be landed in any fashion.

When the player reaches the top of the court, he then turns around and comes back, collecting his marker along the way. Play then continues with the player tossing his marker into the second square and so on.

If a player fails to toss his marker into the correct square or if it touches a line the players turn ends. The same is true if the player steps on a line, misses a square, or loses his balance and falls.

The first player to complete the course for each numbered square wins.

Hoodsman’s Blind / Jingling:

Hoodsman’s Blind is known today as Blind Man’s Bluff. The person who is “It” is blindfolded or hooded and must try to catch any player that ventures too close. The other players see how close they can get to “It” without getting caught. The last person caught is “It” for the next game.

Jingling is the reverse of Hoodsman’s Bluff. All of the players are blindfolded except “It”. “It” is given a string of bells and the players must try to catch him. The person who catches “It” is “It” for the next game.

Barley Break:

The game starts by marking an area on the ground by drawing a circle or other shape. “It” cannot leave this area. The players must try to run through the area without getting tagged. If a player is tagged, they must join hands with “It” and help to catch the other players. As more players get tagged, they join onto the end of the line. Only those at the ends of the line can tag a player. Those in the middle can however help to “net” the player as they try to run through. The last person caught is “It” for the next game.

How Many Miles to London?:

This game begins with “It” being blindfolded. The other players then stand in a line and ask “It” for directions. “It” tells them how many steps to take forward backward, left, or right they must go. Then “It” is led to the starting point and must follow his own directions. When “It” has reached the final destination, he must try to touch another player. The other players may duck or sway to avoid being touched, but they cannot move their feet. If a player is tagged, then he is the next “It” otherwise “It” must try again.

Bowls/Bocce/Boules:

This game has many names of which I have mentioned three. Each variation has minor adjustments in the rules, but essentially are the same. The equipment required for the game is 1 small white ball (about 1 – 1 ½” in diameter) and 2-4 balls of about 3” diameter for each player. The field is a flat stretch of ground generally 10’ wide by 60’ long (the distance can vary depending on the age and skill of the players).

Play starts by throwing the small white ball known as a “Jack”, “Pallino”, or “Cochonnet”. The ball must land at least halfway up the designated field to be in play. The players then take turns trying to roll their balls closest to the “Jack”. When a player succeeds in getting his ball closest, his turn ends. If a player runs out of balls before getting “Best Ball” then they must wait while the other players attempt to improve their positions.

A player can get “best ball” in several ways. First they can simply roll their ball closest to the jack. He could also use his ball to hit another player’s ball away or one of his own closer. The player can also hit the jack causing it to move away from the other players’ balls.

At the end of each round, the player whose balls are closest gets one point for each ball nearer to the jack than any other players’. Games are usually played until a score of 15 is reached.

Initial Review of RedwoodHQ

I recently saw a post in the Test Automation community on LinkedIn suggesting that we should stop writing custom frameworks. The reasoning behind the suggestion was that it was time consuming to reinvent the wheel when there was an Open Source project, RedwoodHQ, that already had everything you need. Like most of the commenters, my first thought was that I was just reading a sales brochure for another “silver bullet” automation solution. The author, however, insisted that it was a sales pitch since his framework was free and he just wanted to raise awareness of a new tool that is available to the community.

I have long been a proponent of developing one’s own framework to build understanding of the underlying operations. In some ways it’s like Jedi training, you might start out using a lightsaber you were given but you will not become a master until you have constructed your own. In my experience, using pre-existing frameworks can limit an automator’s growth by obscuring the inner workings. Some frameworks will also limit a user’s ability to perform tasks because the developer didn’t consider that use case.

With that in mind, I decided to look at RedwoodHQ and see what it actually is. It wouldn’t be fair of me to write off someone else’s work without at least taking it for a spin. After reading a bit more about it, I downloaded the application and set it up on a VM. The installation process was smooth and I was connected to the web interface and poking around in the sample test in minutes.

For someone with very little knowledge of Selenium WebDriver, they could develop a test with RedwoodHQ right out of the box. They may even be able to begin learning by looking through the action example code. I wouldn’t, however, recommend keeping the original actions in the long term. If for no other reason, they need to be replaced because the current Selenium code uses hard sleeps and possibly relies on implicit waits.

With that said, don’t write off this framework yet. You’ll note that I recommend replacing the actions. This is extremely easy to do using the built-in web IDE and you can drop in any jars you like to use with your tests. This means that if you have built your own framework, you could compile it and reference your own classes and functions within RedwoodHQ. I am currently considering doing just this.

The efforts I have put into my personal framework have been focused on building functions around Selenium WebDriver to make developing page/component objects easier and by extension making the tests easier to write. In this way, I was not limited to using a specific test framework (although I tend to use TestNG most often). I have now realized that unlike other automation tools and solutions, RedwoodHQ operates at the same level as a test and reporting framework and will not interfere with working at the lower levels.

Since this is only an initial review, I can’t speak to how it integrates with a CI environment but I am willing to give this tool a chance. Once I have adapted my Selenium framework to RedwoodHQ, I am considering submitting it as a replacement for the existing actions. I believe the tool would benefit from having actions that utilize explicit waits and provide more than just basic functionality.

The take home from this is that I learned that RedwoodHQ is not another “silver bullet” automation nightmare. It is a test development, management, and reporting framework that won’t limit you to working within their methods. My intial opinion is “Well done!”

Building a Low-cost Video Recording Booth (High Tech Blanket Fort)

Tools Required:

Hacksaw
Measuring Tape or yard stick

Materials (per wall):

3 – ½” PVC pipes (10’ each)
6 – ½” PVC elbow connectors
4 – ½” PVC Tee connectors
2 – Spring-loaded Clamps (Optional)
3 – clamp lights (Optional)

I purchased 2 8.5” lights for in front of me and a 5.5” for filling behind me

1 – twin size blanket

Instructions:

  1. Cut the 10’ PVC pipes into three 3 foot sections and one 1’ section each
  2. Cut one of the 3’ sections into 1’ pieces.
  3. Assemble two 6’ upright poles by connecting two 3’ foot pipes with a tee connector for each one.
  4. Put elbows on either end of a 3’ pipe and set it aside. This will be the top bar.
  5. Lay the side poles down with the Tees facing each other. Insert a 3’ pole into the tee connectors to serve as a brace. You assembly should now look like an H.
  6. Now take the top bar and fit it on the top of the poles.
  7. Place two elbows on each of the remaining 3’ pipes and set them aside
  8. Make two 2’ pipes using 4 1’ sections and 2 tee connectors
  9. Assemble a rectangle using the two 2’ pipes and the 3’ pipes with the elbows.
  10. The final step is place the upright poles into the tee connectors in the center of the 2’ sides of the base.
  11. Use clamps or lights to attach the blanket to the frame

I hope these instructions are useful and make sense. I am including a picture of one of my frames. This one is a little different than the instructions because I decided to add an extension to the top rather than having a full rectangle for the base.

Be creative and build what you need. I added another pole  and a 3-way connector to support the corner and connected the two walls so I could completely enclose the area rather than just having separate screens.

On the Making of Mead: An Introduction to the History and Practice of Brewing Honey Wine.

The following text has been created to serve as an introduction to mead and mead making. The material contained within is not specific to the Medieval and Renaissance periods as that time frame is just a small portion of the history of mead. Instead, I have chosen a broader scope which begins in Antiquity and ends in your kitchen. I believe the result is a well rounded overview which will not only whet your appetite for knowledge but teach you how to brew something to slake your thirst while delving deeper into your own studies.

A Brief History of Mead

Mead has been enjoyed by man through the ages from pre-history to the present day.

A Not So Brief History of Mead

Most people are familiar with the argument of whether the chicken or the egg came first, but not as many realize that there is a similar argument surrounding beer, wine, and mead. All three of these beverages can be traced back into antiquity through writings, art, and archaeological findings which makes finding an absolute answer to the question extremely complex. Rather than trying to unravel the threads and divine an altruistic answer, this work will present the facts and theories surrounding the origins and history of mead while making no apologies for perceived bias in the writing.

It is important to have a basic definition to work from when interpreting historical references. The definition must be neither too broad nor too narrow to be effective. In its most basic form, mead is the product of combining honey and water. Yeast would be the third ingredient in the list if we wanted to restrict the definition to alcoholic beverages, but this would also make it harder to locate references since most historical texts do not mention yeast. For the purposes of this article, mead will be defined as a beverage made from a solution of honey, water, and optionally other ingredients for flavoring.

One of the most intriguing facts about mead is that it occurs naturally when honey reaches a sufficient moisture level. With this in mind, it is not unreasonable to theorize that man did not invent mead but rather discovered it while seeking food in a hollow tree. An alternate theory for the discovery of mead works on the same basis but includes man actively gathering and storing honey and some of the containers became contaminated with water which resulted in the wondrous beverage being created. Using either of these concepts, we can speculate that once man began using honey as a normal food source the possibility of discovering mead rose exponentially. The earliest indications found relating to honey gathering are cave paintings and rock drawings dating back to around 15,000 BC (Schramm, 5). Given the nature of mead, there is no way to actually determine when the first batch was created but it should be very safe to say that man was enjoying mead long before he ended his days of cave-dwelling.

The skeptical reader is no doubt wondering why mead would have been forgotten until the Middle Ages if it was discovered so long in the past. Mead wasn’t forgotten; it just existed under different names such as soma, pyment, hydromel, and nectar. References to mead can be found throughout the ancient world from mythology and religious texts to accounts by Greek and Roman historians.

The Many Names of Mead

Let me start by saying that this section is not going to be about what the word “mead” translates to in other languages. It will, however, cover the various types of meads which have had names coined for them. In my studies, I have found that there is some contention over the appropriateness of some of these terms. The main issue is whether or not the distinctions are modern inventions. While a number of  the names do date to the Medieval period or earlier, the actual adherence to the terms and definitions is not strict before modern times (Krupp, 7). My general opinion is that they are all meads and the names are more guidelines for discussing them in a modern context.

Melomels:

This designation is used to describe meads that have been flavored with fruits. The term derived from the Roman name for a beverage made from honey and fruit juices, melomeli (Papazian/Gayre, 113).

Pyment:

The exact nature of pyment is a question of perspective. Some sources state that pyment is wine that has been sweetened with honey . Under the broader definition of what mead is, a fermented beverage made with honey, pyment would classify as a mead made with grapes.   While Papazian continually refers to pyment as a wine, he gives proof that it is more a mead while quoting Chaucer (Papazian/Gayre, 116).

Cyser:

A form of hard cider which uses honey rather than mead as an additive. It can also be made as a mead with apples, cider, or apple juice added for flavor.

Morat:

Mulberries are used to provide a deep color and rich flavor to this form of mead.

Perry:

Pears or pear juice adds its delicate flavor to this form of melomel to produce a crisp refreshing beverage.

Metheglins:

Braggot:

A braggot is often described as “a mead with a beer in it”. This description is fairly accurate since the additional flavors come from barley or hops which is the main ingredient for making beers and ales.

Rhodomel:

A Greek and Roman mead flavored with rose petals. (Schramm, 19-20) (Papazian/Gayre, 114).

Hydromel:

Some references use the term hydromel and mead interchangeably but it has been my experience that this term refers to a mead that has been cut with water to reduce its potency.

Sack:

A sack mead is made by increasing the ratio of honey to water such that the finished product is much sweeter than a typical mead.

Brewing a Basic Mead

Now I am hoping that you have prepared yourself to unravel the complicated and intricate methods and practices involved in the making of mead. If you are truly ready to learn the arcane knowledge that will start you on your way to producing the drink of the gods, you are about to be very surprised by the simplicity of it all.

The most basic of meads is also known as traditional mead. The ingredients list consists entirely of two things honey and water. Of course, yeast will help if you intend to make an alcoholic beverage, but it isn’t required to be on the shopping list. When working from many early recipe sources, yeast is not listed as an additive. This is due to the fact that brewers of the time didn’t know that yeast is what caused the fermentation. Most often the must of these ancient brewers would be impregnated by yeast in the environment. This could be wild, airborne yeasts, bread yeast if the mead was made in a kitchen where baking was being done, or those that were residuals in the vessels used to make previous batches.

Once you have the ingredients, the next step is to gather the tools and equipment needed. Many people think that this means spending large amounts of money on gadgets and gizmos, but this really isn’t the case. The essential list of things you need is: a stock pot (preferably steel so it doesn’t impart a metallic taste to your mead), a long spoon, a funnel, and something to put your must in to ferment. There are some additional items that will make life easier and help you to produce “better” mead, such as airlocks, hydrometers, carboys of various sizes, hoses, bottles, corks, corkers, filters, and the list goes on long enough to make your head spin and your checkbook cry for mercy. For our purposes, I will be covering how you can start brewing with items you probably already have around the house or can obtain for $20 or less.

Referring back the basic equipment list, the first item we need to find is a large enough stock pot. The recipe to be used here makes 1 gallon of traditional mead. The stock pot you will need should hold 6-12 quarts. The next items on the list are also fairly common in any kitchen, a spoon long enough to reach the bottom of the pot without putting your hand in the boiling liquid and a funnel (any size will do but a wide mouth funnel will make pouring easier). The last item in our essentials list is something to put the must in to ferment. Most brewers will recommend glass bottles or carboys for this because they are easy to clean and do not absorb smells the way plastic can. For someone just starting out, I recommend 1 gallon plastic bottles. I used plastic apple juice bottles since my kids made them readily available in abundance. If you would prefer glass, I have found that 1 gallon wine bottles work wonderfully, in fact, they are the same as the 1 gallon carboys you can purchase at brewing supply shops only you need to empty them first. Once you have all of these items, you are ready to begin.

As a general rule, the ratio of honey to water is 2.5-3lbs honey per gallon of water (Papazian/Gayre, 169). As we are making a 1 gallon batch, we will need 3lbs of honey (less measuring that way) and 1 gallon of water. Start by bringing the water to a boil and then stir in the honey. Continue stirring until the honey is completely dissolved and then remove your must from the heat. Allow your must to cool  to room temperature and then pour it into your bottle (this is where the funnel comes in handy). At this point we need to get some yeast into the must and to do this you have 2 options, adding some yourself or sitting hopefully waiting for some stray yeast to come along. I recommend using some store bought yeast.

Since I didn’t go into this earlier, you can get brewer’s yeast from any number of brewing supply shops either locally or on-line. If for some reason you can’t find brewer’s yeast, you can use regular bread yeast from the grocery store. Using bread yeast will change the taste of your resulting mead. I have done this and received compliments, so it really boils down to your personal tastes.

Before adding the yeast to your must, called pitching, you will need to activate it. There are directions on the yeast packet regarding how to do this. Basically, you dissolve the yeast  in a small amount of warm water or juice. A better method is to take a small amount of your must to use as a starter. Once your yeast has been activated, it will usually start to foam after a few minutes, pour this into your must and mix it in. I use the handle of my long spoon for this.

You are now ready to sit back and let the yeast do its magic. Since we are working with very basic equipment found in the kitchen, you will need to make a decision about how to seal the bottle while the yeast is working. You can use the lid for the bottle but you will need to be very diligent if you do. While the yeast is producing alcohol, it is also making CO2. This means that if your bottle is air tight it will build up pressure and could explode. During a vigorous fermentation, even putting the cap on loosely could be too tight, so you will want to carefully open the cover from time to time to release the pressure. Another option is to use a cloth held over the opening with a rubber band. This works fairly well. If you are planning to continue brewing, I strongly recommend investing in airlocks. They only cost around $1 and they will protect your mead and your kitchen (I’ve seen carbouys explode from pressure and it isn’t pretty!!)

After about a week, you will notice that the bubbles in your brew are decreasing or have stopped. You will also notice a build up of sludge (actually called lees) on the bottom of your bottle. Most brewers recommend racking, transferring your mead to a new bottle and leaving the sludge behind, at this point. Racking is much easier to do if you have a length of food grade tubing, which can be found in most hardware stores, but can be done by carefully pouring your mead into a new bottle.

If you have made it this far, then you are now the proud brewer of a batch of mead. The question that   you are undoubtedly asking is, “When can I drink it?” This is a question that will bring about debate from brewers everywhere. Technically, your mead can be served when the fermentation stops, or even before if you really wanted to. Most mead makers today prefer to age their meads to improve the quality. Aging can take anywhere from 1 month up to 2 years or more depending on the mead. For the beginning brewer, I recommend tasting your mead to see if you like it. If you like the taste, then you are ready to serve, if not then close it up and put it in a cool dark place for a month or so.

Additional Recipes

The following recipes were gathered from various sources including my own recipe book.

Wulfric’s Traditional Mead (AKA BOOM!)

This wondrous mead may never truly be duplicated, but we are extremely hopeful. The first time I used this recipe, the result was a lightly sweet mead with an alcohol content of 22%, hence the name “BOOM!” This recipe is for a 5 gallon batch. If you do not have a pot large enough to heat all of the water and honey at once, you can hold 3 gallons aside and add it to the carboy later. This method is good for cooling the must quicker if you use cold water.

25 lbs Raw Dark Honey

5 Gallons Water

1 tsp Yeast Nutrient

1 pkg Lalvin D47 Active Dry Yeast

Heat water and honey to just below boiling, stirring to until the honey is completely dissolved. Skim the solution as needed to keep the surface relatively clear. Remove from heat and let stand until cool. While the must is cooling, you can start your yeast. When the must is below 90°F pour it into a carboy, pitch yeast and seal with a airlock.

When the bubbles slow to one or two per minute, you should rack the mead into a clean carboy. You will want to have an airlock on the new carboy in case a secondary fermentation starts. Allow the mead to sit in the carboy in a cool place until it clears, or clears enough for you (I don’t mind cloudy meads, they have more character), and then bottle.

“A Most Excellent Metheglin” (Digbie, 68-69)

This recipe is a nearly period recipe for metheglin from Digbie. I will list both the original text as well as the redaction.

“Take one part of honey, to eight parts of Rain or River-water; let it boil gently together, in a fit vessel, till a third part be wafted, skimming it very well. The sign of being boiled enough is, when a New-laid-egg swims upon it. Cleanse it afterwards by letting it run through a clean Linnen-cloth, and put it into a wooden Runlet, where there hath been wine in, and hang in it a bag with Mustard-seeds by the bung, that so you may take it out when you please. This being done, put your Runlet into the hot Sun, especially during the Dog-days, (which is the onely time to prepare it) and your Metheglin will boil like Must; after which boiling take out your Mustard-seeds, and put your vessel well stopped into a Cellar. If you will have it the taste of wine, put to thirty measures of Hydromel, one measure of the juice of the hops, and it will begin to boil without any heat. Then fill up your vessel, and presently after this ebullition you will have a very strong Metheglin.” (Digbie, 68-69)

For my interpretation of this recipe, I will plan to produce a 5 gallon batch. I have chosen this number because of the specification to pour your must into a “Runlet”. A runlet (rundlet) is a cask or barrel that holds between 3 and 20 gallons (14.5 is most common). Since most brewers don’t have barrels, I’m opting to plan for a 5 gallon carboy.

5 pints Honey (approximatly 5 lbs)

5 gallons Water

1 tbl Mustard Seed

1 pint Juice of Hops (optional)

1 pkt Yeast (if using a clean carbouy)

Boil the water and honey until the starting volume is reduced by one third. Alternately, you can check if it has boiled enough by placing an egg in the must. The egg should be fairly round and as fresh as possible. If the egg floats then you have boiled it down far enough. In this situation, the egg is serving as a hydrometer.

After the boiling, filter the must by pouring it through a clean linen cloth into your carbouy (or cask if you have one). The original recipe specifies that it should be a container that had wine in it before. While this may seem odd, the reason behind it is that there would be residual yeast in the container and that is why the recipe doesn’t call for the addition of any. Since sanitation is a major concern for most modern brewers, I have included a pkt of yeast in the recipe. The yeast should be added once the must has cooled a bit so as not to kill the yeast. You should then place the mustard seed in a linen bag and hang it in the must so that it can be easily removed later. A string tied around the bag that runs out of the stopper works well for this. When you have everything in place, put your carbouy in a warm place to work.

When the initial fermentation is complete, remove the mustard seeds, securely seal the carbouy and move it to a cellar (or other cool, dark place). At this time, you can optionally add 1 pt of “Juice of Hops”, which I suspect is the result of boiling hops in water, to 30 pints of your Metheglin. Since 5 gallons  is the equivalent of 40 pints, you can either remove a portion  of the metheglin, increase the amount of hops to 1 1/3 pints, or call it close enough. Your metheglin will begin a secondary fermentation at this point. When that completes, you should have “a most excellent metheglin”.

“Damn Shame”: A non-alcoholic mead

There have been a number of occasions in which I wanted to serve mead but could not distribute alcoholic beverages. I rose to this challenge by creating the following recipes.  While the steps are very similar to making the “fully leaded” version, you do not add yeast. The omission of yeast means that there is no waiting period outside of allowing the must to cool before bottling.

Cinnamon
2 gallons water
4 cups honey
2 cinnamon sticks

Allspice
2 gallons water
4 cups honey
1 tsp whole allspice (crushed coarsly in a mortar & pestle)



Heat the water in a large pot. Once the water is hot, add the honey and stir until all of the honey dissolved. Continue heating the mixture but do not boil it. If you notice a scum floating on top, skim this off and discard it. I typically keep the mixture in low heat for about 20 minutes or so after mixing. Remove from heat and add the spices. Allow your brew to stand until it reaches room temperature and then strain and bottle it. Alternately, you could simply add all of the ingredients in at once and then heat it, but I prefer to do it in stages.

 

(Sibley)(Shapiro)(Griffith)

Bibliography

Digbie, Sir Kenelme, The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Opened… s.l., London: E.C. for H. Brome, 1669. (Reproduction by Mallinckrodt Chemical Works 1967)

Griffith, Ralph T. H., Sacred Writings Volume 5 – Hinduism: The Rig Veda, New York, NY: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1992.

Krupp, Christina M and Bill Gillen, “Making Medieval Mead or Mead Before Digby”, The Compleat Anachronist 120 (July 2003) : .

Papazian, Charlie and G. Robert Gayre, Brewing Mead : Wassail! In Mazers of Mead, Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 1986.

Schramm, Ken, The Compleat Meadmaker, Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 2003.

Shapiro, Mark, “Alcoholic Drinks of the Middle Ages”, The Compleat Anachronist 60 (March 1992) : .

Sibley, Jane, “The CA Guide to Brewing”, The Compleat Anachronist 5 (March 1983) : .

 

A Brief Review of “The Phoenix Project”

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been listening to The Phoenix Project during my commute to and from work. Having finished it today, I decided to jot down some of my thoughts and share them with you.

The first thing I will warn you about is that if you have already read The Goal and understand how it can be applied to IT then you are not going to find any new, eye-opening concepts in this book. The plot follows a middle manager that finds himself being promoted to the head of a struggling department. Through determination and coaching from a elusive and wise mentor, he learns to identify and control work along with how to align it with the companies needs to become successful and rise to the top of their market. For the record, that is the plot for both books. I identified the similarities between the books within the first couple of chapters, but was amused when the main character’s mentor began to quote and reference The Goal while explaining that work is work and IT is no different from a manufacturing plant.

With my main criticism out of the way, I found the story to be a fairly realistic look at IT functions within an company. Misunderstandings and unreasonable demands result in repeated disasters and a generally oppressed and depressed atmosphere. I dare say the stage was set so well that I could not only draw parallels from my experience but was starting to have actual sympathy for the characters because I could see what was coming.

Overall, I think this is a good book for IT staff, managers, and all executives to read and gain an understanding of the processes that help work flow. For the IT staff in the trenches, the purpose of reading this book should be gain an understanding of why processes may need to change and to help acknowledge that their managers need help not resistance. The executive’s take away should be to identify things that were done poorly by the executives and the board in the book so that they can recognize and correct similar issues within their organization. For the last group I recommend this book to, I suspect the take away would be a number of ideas regarding how to implement changes and structure work for their teams and that there is some hope if you can get those above you and below you to listen to reason.

I would recommend this book over The Goal for use in IT organizations simply because it makes it easier to see how the concepts apply to IT while making a point of addressing the common responses from IT personnel. I believe this was the motivation of the authors and, if I am correct, they succeeded.