[master] ab404cc Why I wrote VTEST

Poul-Henning Kamp phk at FreeBSD.org
Mon Nov 21 12:08:04 CET 2016

commit ab404cc830697532418b830cf037dca804436994
Author: Poul-Henning Kamp <phk at FreeBSD.org>
Date:   Mon Nov 21 11:07:34 2016 +0000

    Why I wrote VTEST

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@@ -8,6 +8,7 @@ You may or may not want to know what Poul-Henning thinks.
 .. toctree::
 	:maxdepth: 1
+	trialerror.rst
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+.. _phk_trialerror:
+Trial&Error - Prototyping - Continous Integration
+The other day I chatted to a friend who wrote his phd thesis with
+`David Wheeler <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Wheeler_(British_computer_scientist)>`_ as his advisor, that made me feel young, because Wheeler
+was the guy who invented the subroutine.
+No, not 'a subroutine' but 'the subroutine'.
+In the 1980'ies, right when I had started in IT, there was the new
+fashion: "Prototyping".
+It was all over the place, in 1983 Datamation you could about *"Data
+driven prototyping"*, and by 1990 it had bubbled up to management
+and Information and Software Technology could publish *"Organization
+and Management of Systems Prototyping"* etc.  etc.
+The grey-beard at my workplace laconically said *"We already do that,
+only we call it Trial&Error."*
+Programming as always been Trial&Error, and probably always will.
+All the early pioneers, like Wheeler, complained about how
+batch-scheduling of machine resources removed the "intimate" contact
+with the running program and argued that it prolonged the debugging
+Practically all the oral histories from back then are about people
+sneaking in to university or work at night, to get the computer for
+But we could call it "Prototyping" if that sounded better, and now
+that the history-deficient dot-com generation has "invented" it,
+we can call it "Continous Integration".
+I don't care - it's still Trial&Error to me.
+They guy I chatted with told how after his phd thesis he
+*"swore to never again attempt to solve a problem with inadequate
+That is sound advice, and we all tend to forget it all the time,
+so reminded, I did a mental inventory on the train home: Which tools
+do I use even though I find them inadequate.
+And then I decided to do something about them.
+First thing was my lab which has - erhh... evolved? - over the last 15 years.
+Some of the original assumptions were plain wrong, and a lot of "As
+a temporary solution I can ..." hacks became permanent, and so on.
+I spent two days cleaning, moving, shuffling and generally tidying
+my lab, (Amongst other discoveries:  The original two SCSI disks
+from the first "freefall.freebsd.org" machine built by Rod Grimes.)
+and it is now a lot more pleasant for the work I do these days.
+Second thing was the Jenkins and Travis we use for Tria^H^H^H^Continuous
+Integration in the Varnish Project.
+Jenkins and Travis are both general purpose
+program-test-framework-cloud-thingies, and they're fine up to a
+point, but they are inadequate tools for me in too many ways.
+Jenkins is written in Java, which is not something I want to inflict
+on computers volutarily, in particular not on computers people lend
+us to test varnish on.
+Travis is Linux only, which is fine if you run Linux only, but I don't.
+But worst of all:  Neither of them fully understand of our varnishtest
+tool, and therefore their failure reports are tedious and cumbersome
+to use.
+So, taking my friends advice, I sat down and wrote VTEST, which
+consists of two small pieces of code: Tester and Reporter.
+The tester is a small, 173 lines, `portable and simple shell script
+which runs on the computer, physical or virtual, where we want
+to test Varnish.
+It obviously needs the compilers and tools we require to compile
+Varnish, (autocrap, sphinx, graphviz) but it doesn't anything
+beyond that, in particular it does not need a java runtime, a
+GUI or a hole in your firewall.
+The tester sends a report to the project server with ssh(1), and
+the reporter, which is just 750 lines of python code, ingests and
+digests the report and spits out some `pidgin HTML
+<http://varnish-cache.org/vtest/>`_ with the information I actually
+want to see.
+And just like with the varnishtest program before it, once I
+had done it, my first thought was *"Why didn't I do that long time ago?"*
+So it is only fair to dedicate VTEST to the friend I chatted with:
+.. image:: bjarne.jpeg
+`Bjarne <http://www.stroustrup.com/>`_ tried to model how to best
+distribute operating system kernels across a network, wrote a
+adequate programming language tool for the job, which wass also
+an adeqaute tool for a lot of other programming jobs.
+Thanks Bjarne!
+Poul-Henning, 2016-11-21

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