Visual Basic

Test Machine Configurations

If you are testing a system for a corporate environment, it is worthwhile having two different types of test machine configurations. A "plain-vanilla," or basic, configuration gives you a benchmark with which to work. A second configuration that contains a typical corporate build will highlight any problems you might encounter. Let's examine them in more detail.

The plain-vanilla configuration

In this configuration, a plain-vanilla machine is configured solely for the purpose of testing your new system. Preferably, the hard disk will have been formatted to remove everything relating to previous configurations. The machine should then be loaded with the following:

  • The version of Windows you are testing against.
  • The minimum network drivers that you need to get your configuration to work. By this, I mean that if your corporate environment runs on a TCP/IP-based protocol, check that the machine is not also running NetBEUI or IPX/SPX.
  • The build (and only that build) of the system that you are testing.

This test will allow you to assess the performance in a pure environment. Whatever problems arise during this test are either straightforward bugs in your system or are fundamental problems in the way that you are trying to work with the Windows environment. By testing in such an uncontaminated environment, you can be sure that the problems are between you and Windows and that nothing else is causing any problems that arise at this stage.

I have a personal reason for being so particular about this point. A few years back, I was writing a client/server system using a non-Microsoft development tool. The product itself was buggy, and it was difficult to get any form of stable build from it at all. Eventually, everything that went wrong was blamed on the development tool. Because we concentrated on trying to get some common routines built first, my co-developer and I did not attempt to hook up to the Microsoft SQL Server service for a couple of weeks. When we did try, it wouldn't work. We both blamed the tool again. Because we had seen it done in a training course, we knew that it should work. Therefore, we reasoned, if we tried doing the same thing in different ways, we eventually would find success. We didn't. Only when we came to try something else that involved a connection to SQL Server did we find that it was the current Windows configuration that was at fault. We decided to reload Windows to get a plain-vanilla environment, and, sure enough, we got our database connection. As we reloaded each additional component one by one, we found out that the antivirus terminate-and-stay-resident (TSR) program that we were both using was interfering with the SQL Server database-library driver! When we changed to a different antivirus tool, the problem went away.