Testing times in Tasmania

5 Jun

Since these are the last days in Tasmania, I thought I’d post an account of both the successful projects I have been involved with in the past year.

It’s been nearly one year, one island, and two projects.

First up, Aurora Energy


First up was the six month contract at Aurora for their Full Retail Contestability contract, prior to getting a call about this role I had never even heard of Aurora, but since they do not operate on the mainland, how would I?

The population of Tasmania is about the same as the population of Geelong in Victoria. I previously had experience in Full Retail Contestability for Alinta Gas, Gas of course being about a hundred times easier to test of course, there are not as many rates to test, with electricity there are quite a few rates, which apply at different times, depending on the type of heating, underground heating has a different rate, this is a rate that can now be charged VIA the Smart meters that were introduced not long ago.

Tasmania is the last place in Australia to do this sort of project, so it was easier for them to hire people with prior experience in FRC industry to come work in Hobart.

FRC is about allowing the customer to choose who they pay their electric retailer, it makes the people that bill you more competitive for your business and hopefully the bill on your fridge is not so frightening, well that’s the idea.

How i went to Tasmania the back in 2001



The FRC project for Aurora went very well, the modules I was involved with had minimal issues, and of course I had quite a bit of help from some great people too.

One of the obvious advantages of working in Hobart is I could walk to work and be at work in two minutes, quite a change from the hour and thirty minute commute to Xerox in Sydney.

The obvious dis-advantage to being in Hobart during mid-July is it never stopped raining, or so it seemed. Quite a challenge from the consistent weather. It was 22 degrees for six months living in Sydney. The winter too seemed a bit odd, for Australia. It seemed more like Ireland in fact. I thought I left Ireland, not now I seemed to be back in the midst of it?

University of Tasmania

University of Tasmania


Towards the end of the project at Alinta, I heard about another contract at the University of Tasmania and since I was already established here, I made good friends.

The role was as Integration test analyst testing, for the Admissions SLIMS (Student life cycle Integrated Management System) team, the scope of the role included testing web modules VIA SOAP. Since I had quite some experience testing aseXML from the Utility companies it seemed like an interesting role to be involved in.

This project too has gone extremely well for me; I have had the pleasure of working with some incredibly talented people on some challenging releases with tight time frames.


Wineglass bay



In Sydney I was involved with a lot of Start-up/Innovation groups, meet-ups every day was a challenge in choosing which event to see and which event not to see, this was another initial challenge in being here, the nights were free. Hobart does not have the same innovation culture, yet.

Since I have been pretty much working every day I could in the past year, I didn’t get much of a chance to be the tourist I was 14 years ago when I drove around, but now I can afford to rent a car or even buy a car and do that.

You can see more of my experience displayed on my Linked in profile

Tasmanian devil in action



I think what I have learnt more than anything else in the past year is you learn a lot by doing a lot and by being focused on the work at hand you improve and outperform your own expectations and I also became an Australian citizen in Tasmania, a great ending to a great year of hard work.

No one fixes anything anymore

11 Jul

I had an experience last week, which reminded me why i am involved in software.

You see, i did electronics and computers in college and thank god the ‘and’ was part of the course, because through doing electronics gave me a good appreciation for computers, specifically software.

The future, forty years ago…


You see, remember reading on the back of the bus to college one day of how they managed to heat treat glass to act as a resister and i remember thinking, there is only two jobs in electronics

1, Designing the components, i would never be that smart, i knew no one that is, one of my substitute teachers had a doctorate in electronics, so i knew that was out of the question, what was the point in getting a doctorate and the ‘best case scenario’ was substitute teaching? 

And, job number…

2, Replacing the parts, they are cheaper to replace that fix, you dont have to be that smart at all, the less the better in fact

There and then, on the back of a bus in Ireland, i remember thinking it’s got to be software and that was the start of the software journey and it’s not over yet.

Here it comes…..


You see, last week i had a problem with my Mac Book, not just any problem, i had the spinning beach ball (See above), if your a Mac user this is akin the grim reaper hovering over your precious device, remember the temptation in the garden of Eden? And you know when your back is turned an apple is going to be damaged beyond repair. People will point fingers, i just wanted the issue resolved and fast!

Try as you may, there is not much you can do.

Do not touch


The spinning beach ball means, your computer is having difficulty reading from the hard drive, deep breathing is required, and lots of it.

So, what did i do? After the 30th system scan and trying to resolve it myself, I brought it to the Mac expert’s where i am currently living.

The first place i brought it to, said they would reformat it, that would fix it, and that would have been ok, except i have a lot of stuff i want to keep, not that i’m much of a hoarder, but stuff i have i didn’t get easily, so i’m not going to format anything, not if i can avoid it.

I’m thinking the Mac technician was probably a five year old, ready to hit format, no thank you, i want to fix the problem, fix people, fix!

That ‘format’ solution didn’t sound right, so i brought it to another place, and explained the issue again.

I said no, to the format solution again…


We booted the computer up, it worked a bit, so i took it back, to cut a long story short, eventually ended up getting all the data off myself, it took a long time, but i got it. I could breathe easier again.

Through the services of Australia Post, i posted it back to the great people i bought it off in Sydney and here’s the thing, the Mac it works fine right now, and why? It’s in Sydney, i’m in Hobart and i’m thinking maybe the Mac was a bit homesick, maybe it was a bit cold?

Now that i think about it, the Mac worked fine in Sydney, memory works by location, you retain memories stories, and god know Sydney has enough of them. Maybe Sydney is a memory palace of sorts, for my Mac?


Maybe i should get the Mac a wooly jumper in Hobart? What do you think?

Part of me likes to think a guy like this delivered my laptop in Sydney (cat and all!)


The (real) Mac technician i talked to was having a great time downloading movies on it, he couldn’t find any problem and now i’m thinking time does heal all wounds, maybe my laptop is really a person and homesick? I was a bit homesick myself, it’s only natural, Hobart is a big change from Sydney!

And reminded me of when i called roadside assistance years ago, my car just wouldn’t start, a half an hour later with a qualified mechanic turning the key, it started first time.

Who knows, mechanical, electrical? I’m glad i’m not involved in that business, i’m a software tester.

Maybe it was a software issue, and now it’s not reproducible, one of life’s little mysteries, i’ll log it as a defect, and categorise it as something to watch.



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