Home > testing > My grandma did not test your OS

My grandma did not test your OS

About the title, I was inspired by Alexis Ohanians talk at this years Öredev, Only your mom wants to use your website. And just to point out, the story below is not strictly chronological.

My grandma is not very much of a technician. Yet she uses her computer and Internet every day, all day long. To do what? Listen to the Icelandic web radio of course, sharing her digital photos through email and play hearts, spider and winmine amongst other things. Any of these tasks must be enabled in the least amount of scripted steps to achieve as there is no room for exploration when grandma uses her computer. I have to do the exploration.

It has been time to upgrade her hardware for some time, and this needed to happen now. So we got her a new computer, a laptop with Win 7. But that was just the problem, since she has been used to Win XP for so long, still everything needs to stay the same. Of course there are differences, and that is what I have told her. Yet I thought I would be on the safe side on the overall experience. But hey, the devil is in the details as always when it comes to software and humans.

Volume and balance controls

As grandma is always listening to the radio, she has two speakers with really long cords that reach all over the house. Sometimes she wants to just listen to the one in her room, so she uses speaker balance in windows taskbar for this. However, the balance bar in the volume control was removed in Win 7, now it takes 8 clicks to get to this basic functionality (duh?). After some research I found out I am not the only one with this issue, although some support people manage to not understand the problems at all. But to enable the one-click easy adjustment I had to install a 3rd party workaround for it, SimpleSndVol. And that was after I had been looking for it way too long. (It even took me 15 minutes to find it again on google when writing this, since I forgot the name of it.). The tool is not pretty, but it does the job.

No balance in volume control

No balance in volume control

Balance, but not pretty

Balance, but not pretty

Importing images

That is a whole story of itself. How hard can it be to make good photo importing software? Apparently its really hard, since the pre-sets when attaching her Sony camera gives us three different programs to use. And they are just about useless all of them. One of them (from Sony) actually decided to pop up every time after we used it once, and the only way to get rid of it was actually removing it in Remove/Add programs.

At least the Win XP one did what you expected it to do, and nothing more of those fancy blingbling (dont want the name changing in this one) that is just annoying. With these new options it was just plain impossible to do what grandma wanted it to do. That is, just import the pictures as is into a My Pictures/<year> folder. While this might not be a very standard solution it works for her to look at all pictures in the order of a year at a time. And I really wanted to avoid her using just copy paste from camera to filesystem in the Explorer.

I ended up using the most advanced tool, that actually had the options of imports that we wanted. However, there was one catch with the screen resolution that I will get back to later.

Delete photos in My Pictures folder

While trying out the different importing tools, I created a bunch of copies of photos that I needed to trash. This is where I found a real bug in the Explorer UI.

See the pictures below to follow.

  1. I am using copies of the example pictures, and I have 5 of each type.
  2. I want to remove all 5 of one kind by highlighting them and press delete.
  3. “Do you want to move these 5 items to the trash?” > Yes
  4. Observation shows that only one of the five images have been removed. Some questions arise:
    1. How does that happen?
    2. What happens if I delete the remaining four?
    3. Was the fifth picture actually moved to trash or is it just hidden or moved somewhere else?
5 Hydrangeas

5 Hydrangeas

Pictures highlighted and moved to trash

Pictures highlighted and moved to trash

Still there? Thought I moved you to trash

Still there? Thought I moved you to trash

Some investigation showed that the pictures were actually moved to trash, but that the GUI of Explorer had not been updated accordingly. It was not possible to delete the pictures again, but they disappeared if switching to another folder and then back. I can reproduce this any time on grandmas machine but not on other i tested on with different version (enterprise)

Disappeared when going to another folder and back

Disappeared when going to another folder and back

Radio non-stop

So this might be the worst bug for my grandma. The radio is streamed every day, the whole day. So the show must go on, right? Well it doesnt. While on Win XP and IE, the radio never went dead while listening to show after show. But apparently with Win 7, newest flashplayer and firefox, the sound is cut every now and then. Grandma needs to get up from her chair to walk in to the computer to wiggle the controls and press play on the flashplayer again.

Since this is an issue I have not been able to see for myself, I made the experiment to make her switch to Crome when listening to the radio, and after that she at least hasn’t said anything more about it. It might have solved her problem, although I am not so sure.

If anyone has a suggestion on this, please help me out here.

Update: My brother actually came up with an idea and explored around it that might work. Involving media player and saved playlists to stream through. Lets see how it goes.

Spider, number of moves not shown

One of the favourite games is Spider Solitaire. A neat feature that gives some status of the game is the “number of moves” shown in the lower-right corner. However, this was not shown correctly, and the actual number was not shown. My first thought was to check the English version of it, since “Förflyttningar” is a longer word than “Moves”. But the lack of an English version made me give up quite quickly. It was a minor bug that was easy to live with.

Look into the lower right corner

Look into the lower right corner

Then I realized that this problem was somewhat related to the problem with the photo importing software. Why is that?

Resolution and visual accessibility – Root causes!

Grandma needs all the help she could get with seeing whats displayed on the screen. So the first thing I did was of course fix the resolution for her. But in the middle of all the fiddling with the different software described above It was shown that the lower resolution did just not work.

The importing software was just a 90s looking GUI smashed with controls. It also had a quite stupid layout, using a portrait view of controls that just didnt want to fit on the screen on a lower resolution. In fact the most important control of them all, the “Get photos” was hidden under the task bar.

See the "Get photos"

See the "Get photos"

So I needed grandma to use a higher resolution if she ever wanted to import using this tool. What about the rest of the visual experience? I found a different control for just elements on the screen that can be shown with a bigger scale without tampering with the resolution. Voilá!

125% on some elements

125% on some elements

And guess what, through this feature I also found the root cause of the Spider problem. The moves are actually shown when using a lower resolution. But it is NOT if using the screen element scale higher than 100%, even if I have a high resolution as well. Unfortunately we will have to keep elements visible in favor of the number of moves in Spider.

See the moves count?

See the moves count?


Just to make sure, I am a full-time mac user since many years. The testing I have done is mostly on anything BUT Windows Vista and 7 (WinXP and a variety of mobile and web platforms). So I took the tour with grandma to explore the little things in this OS.

While humans are still using the software we produce, it is still in need of testing by humans.

Hope you enjoyed my story.

  1. Björn
    December 30, 2011 at 10:32

    Just had the same experience with my parents who got a new computer with Win 7 on.
    I get a phone call where they state that:
    “we do not know what we did but all the icons are massive now”
    A fairly easy fix, just right click on the screen and select View and then icon size.
    But try explain that over the phone to someone without much computer savvy.
    Really need to setup remote login now 🙂

  2. markus
    January 13, 2012 at 14:44

    Sigge! Varför köpte du inte en MAC åt din mormor?

  3. meikemertsch
    November 24, 2012 at 22:47

    Hi Sigge,

    Great post. When we think about testing strategies, we often take kids of different ages under consideration. How would they use our product? But I often forget about people who are just not used to nerd-stuff ;o)
    Thanks for reminding us of a lost (?) strategy!


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