Test Outside the Box by Rooting Your Devices: An Interview with Alan Crouch

[interview]
Summary:

In this interview, Alan Crouch, a director of mobile testing at Coveros, explains how rooting can help you look at mobile testing differently. He talks about the concepts behind rooting, how to pick the right mobile testing tool, and why experimentation in testing is key.

Josiah Renaudin: Welcome back to another TechWell interview. Today I am joined by Alan Crouch, a director of mobile testing with Coveros and a keynote speaker at this year's Mobile Dev + Test Conference. Alan, thank you so much for joining us today.

Alan Crouch: Thanks for having me.

Josiah Renaudin: Absolutely. First, before we actually dig into the concept behind the keynote, can you tell us a bit about your experience in the industry?

Alan Crouch: I've been doing mobile testing for probably five or six years in the Washington, D.C., area with a lot of startups and federal clients.

Josiah Renaudin: How and why—and this is a lot about what your keynote's about—has the mobile landscape altered how companies think of information technology?

Alan Crouch: I think mainly, it flips a lot of the traditional software development paradigms on their head. It makes us develop with the concept of mobile first, and that concept is pretty simple. It just puts into action a plan to develop thinking small, thinking of mobile, and adding functionality as screens and interfaces get larger. It seems pretty simple, but it's complicated in practice. It typically makes us rethink about our design process, how we think about handling the computing needs of security versus usability and how we test applications efficiently and effectively.

Josiah Renaudin: Speaking of things that seem simple but are actually pretty complicated, I mean, with how big mobile has become, how difficult can it be to find the exact right testing tool for your team? Every team's different. Every application's different. Mobile's done differently, there's so many different platforms. How much research needs to go into that process to make sure you're not choosing something that'll actually be more detrimental than helpful for your team?

Alan Crouch: In my experience, it's always been important to choose in particularly testing tools for three things. The people doing development and testing, the process by which you're developing your app, and the technologies you're using in your app. There's a lot of competing tools in the marketplace. Some are open source. Some are COTS. It's not necessarily easy to select the right one, but select one that's good enough and continue evaluating. The truth of the matter is the right one is more like the right one for right now because the tools will change over time often as rapidly as the mobile industry.

It's nice, at least at Mobile Dev+ Test, there are a lot of vendors who will make that research process a lot easier, who'll be on site to do some demos and to ask questions. You can get a good idea and a feel for what the tools offer.

Josiah Renaudin: If you do, let's say, choose what ends up being the wrong tool early on, does it take a while to kind of uproot that and slip something different in? Because I'm guessing once you get the certain tool in there, the team gets comfortable with it and then it might not work out. Does it take a while to switch from tool to tool?

User Comments

2 comments
JJ Hill's picture

I loved the article but I have to disagree. This equates roughly to test driving a car by hot wiring it. Sure, there's always going to be some group out there that releases a way to root every device almost the instant it hits shelves, but is that really the target audience for most of our mobile test cases? There are inherent security features that are bypassed when rooted, and I'm concerned that more people want a new shiny OS that can have ten billion wall papers, but is fundamentally flawed and left vulnerable from a security perspective. 

March 8, 2017 - 12:20am
Richard Nixon's picture

@JJHill,

I don't really think this is akin to hotwiring... that implies criminal intent... think more like being able to tap into the ECU to examine performance data.

Rooting doesn't disable the security features... it just adds a mechanism to escalate privelege to gain full control of the environment when its required. Rooting normally just adds an `su` command to execute specific things with root privs just like in Unix/Linux.

Being able to setup pre-conditions and stub things out has been a fundamental part of testing for years.

Being able to examine ALL the results (including results in private parts of the system) has also been fundamental.

March 24, 2017 - 8:50am

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