Thanks for driving me nuts!

When this application programmer pilot fish takes a job in a factory environment, his co-workers warn him to watch out for a user named Barney -- and with good reason.

"They told me to never use Barney for testing because Barney would 'always find a way to screw up your program,'" fish reports.

"Sure enough, when I released my first application, Barney broke it by deleting some sound files my application used. I fixed this by embedding the .WAV files in the executable file."

And as time goes by, it's clear that's just the kind of thing Barney does -- and it's infuriating. But fish takes that as a challenge, and sets himself a goal: Create an application that even Barney can't screw up.

So he tries to think like Barney -- and soon begins to make sure drop-down selections can't be edited, date formats have to be in the proper order, and printers must be selected before printing a report.

Fish also starts adding "Test Printer" buttons to ensure that the printer actually works. He begins putting in checks to verify that numeric fields are actually numeric, and that if a field is only 50 characters long, the user can only type 50 characters and not key in something book-length, and to make sure that if users change screen colors, the application's input fields aren't darkened out.

And eventually fish figures out the value of putting in a switch for logging, and keeping two weeks' worth of daily log files on a separate server so they're available for debugging -- and he comes up with a practical way of pushing new-feature and bug-release updates to his applications remotely.

"After several years, my applications became Barney-proof and my manager began encouraging the other developers throughout the company to adopt my standards for testing and logging to make our support easier," says fish.

"I recently won a support award for my work, and the first thing I did was walk out to my user, shake his hand and say, 'Thanks, Barney, for challenging me!'"

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