Fun

July 23, 2007 at 3:46 am | Posted in Microsoft, Personal | 3 Comments

So I’ve been pretty busy living my life and doing work stuff (hence my lack of updates). But one of the latest things my Alia and I did was go to the Microsoft annual company picnic. Calling it a picnic is a huge understatement. It’s more like a fair. There are loads of fun games for adults and kids! We’ve actually been sore all day today and spent it recovering!

Rather than talk about all the things we did – I figure I should just post some pics 🙂

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6-month Microsoft Anniversary

April 9, 2007 at 3:20 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Personal | 9 Comments

This is a few days late (it happened last week) but it was my 6-month Microsoft anniversary…Generally, at this stage, I feel a lot more comfortable with what I’m doing and don’t feel like I’m “drinking from the firehose” anymore. As part of this achievement, I thought I would post 5 tips/observations for new people coming to Microsoft 🙂

1. You need really good time management skills in order to get work done! You can skip meetings and/or trainings you really don’t need to attend in order to get more work done! Also, sometimes you just need to close Outlook as well as email can be very distracting.

2. Foosball is a great way to socialize and make new friends! You definately meet people who you otherwise would never have met! It can also sometimes cause unwanted visibility by higher ups 😉 (Ask Hany about it!)

3. It is sometimes faster to just walk to another building rather than take the shuttle (especially if the weather is good!)

4. Every Tuesday and Thursday there are friendly soccer matches on the field during the day. It’s a great fun way to get some exercise in and again meet new people 🙂

5. When walking the corridors at Microsoft, its fun to look at the window-office people. They are usually more “established” and thus have much better decorated offices (and usually a ton of interesting awards)

Hope you like the list 🙂

What does an SDET do?

March 31, 2007 at 7:49 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Software development | 44 Comments

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now but I’ve just been so busy at work at the moment, I just haven’t had the time.

In this post I want to cover what the role of an SDET at Microsoft is. As most of you already know, I am an SDET, or Software Development Engineer in Test, with the Windows Serviceability team at Microsoft.

Unfortunately, sometimes people call this person a ‘Tester’ which I find to be a bit incorrect, as the job does not involve only testing. In previous companies that I have been in, you typically have the software developer who creates the code for the software, and then you have a tester who tests the software through black-box testing. In case you don’t know what black box testing is, basically the tester does not get to look at the code and just tests the software interface that is presented to him/her. This is not what an SDET does at Microsoft…Typically, most teams have Software Test Engineers (STE) that do this kind of testing. It is their job to test the software, identify failures, analyze the log files, and report bugs to the SDET.

At this point in time, you are probably thinking so what is the the role of the SDET…Well, here is a list of what I think to be the important aspects of being an SDET:

  • Developing new tests. This is pretty much one of the biggest things that an SDET has. They must work with the developers and PMs in order to identify what needs to be tests in new or existing features in the product. The SDET has full access to the code and the design of the component, so typically this is considered white box testing. Being able to look and understand the source code allows you to develop much better and more targeted tests as you can see what the typical boundaries are, how the code works, and what code paths need to be tested more than others.
  • In-Depth knowledge of the code. Sometimes you need to know the code even better than the developers. Usually when a new developer comes onto a team, he doesn’t necessarily have to understand every aspect of the code…just usually his area, or the area that he’s writing – so when he gets a bug report he can easily fix it. The SDET does not have this luxury, he needs to not only understand every aspect of the product, but as well he needs to know how it interacts with all other components (and when you are dealing with a product as large as Windows, the challenge can be immense!!)
  • Excellent debugging skills. Debugging code can be a huge field by itself. I’ve attended a couple of courses at Microsoft, and it can become really complicated and advanced. But to be a good SDET you need good debugging skills. You need to be able to take a failure in a test case and then troubleshoot it down to the problem function. This can sometimes get tricky when you are dealing with threads, timing issues that disappear under a debugger, or memory corruption.
  • Writing Code. Some people think that an SDET doesn’t really need to learn or write code, but that is far from the truth. A good SDET will write lots of code. An excellent way of testing involves using automated test suites. It actually is a necessity when you are dealing with hundreds, and thousands of test cases. SDET’s are the ones that write these automation suites, and write the necessary code to test their components. In addition to this, SDET’s write tools and utilities that help them in their jobs (for example, a tool that will generate logs, or fuzzers to test their programs). Also, some SDET’s participate in miscellaneous projects that pop that seek volunteers (for example for diagnostic tools that help product support).
  • Enjoy breaking things. Developers typically create and hate it when they find a bug in their code. SDET’s have the opposite mentality…They usually like to find new and interesting ways of breaking the software and are very happy when they find a new bug. Ever since I was a child (much to my parents anger) I loved taking things apart to try and figure out what makes them tick. You need this type of mentality in order to be a great SDET.
  • Being a good consumer advocate. It is the SDET’s responsibility to make sure that we are shipping the highest quality code possible. It is his/her responsibility to advocate the right bugs to fix and to reject the ones that would introduce too much risk to the customers. It is a very big and very real responsibility that an SDET faces with every bug found.

There is a lot more useful and great information found in the following JobsBlog article which describes the role well. It also identifies what a recruiter looks for when looking for an SDET.

In addition, if you wish to learn more technical information about testing. I found the following books to be excellent and would strongly recommend reading them:

If you have any questions about the role, or if you wish to discuss it here – please feel free to. I am looking for as much feedback as possible!

Microsoft TechFest 2007

March 9, 2007 at 5:38 pm | Posted in Microsoft | 2 Comments

I attended Microsoft TechFest the other day with Hany and Meshref. For those that don’t know, TechFest is an annual Microsot-employee conference (although this year they allowed some members of the press to attend) that highlights the  research being done by Microsoft researchers around the world.

As many of you know, I love gadgets and technology! As it’s a Microsoft employee-only event, there are a lot of confidential things that I can’t disclose – but there are some things that have been mentioned by the press already (since they were invited) so I will just talk about those 🙂

– Personal Audio Space – This is an amazing technology where basically there is an array of speakers in front of you and somehow, it creates your own individual audio space. If you stand in this exact spot, you will hear a certain piece of music and if you take just one or two steps to the right you can hear another totally different piece of music. People can stand close to each other and hear different things. And if you stand outside of these two spots, you will hear nothing! I definately need one of these at home, so I can listen to the TV without waking my wife up (right now I use wireless headphones!)

Asirra – This product was just released a few days ago. Basically, you’ve all probably seen those CAPTCHA blocks where you have to enter certain characters for a website to verify if you are human. If you make this image too simple, then there are image recognizers out there that can fool the website. If you make it too complex, then the humans won’t be able to pass it. Enter Asirra. They use images of cats and dogs. They have 12 pictures of cats and dogs, and if you identify all the cats correctly you pass. This is very easy for humans to do, but much harder for software. The trick is though, you need a huge database of images for this to work (if you only had 10 images for example, then a human can manually classify them and let his malicious software run)…Anyway, the researchers teamed up with petfinder.com to get over 2,000,000 images to do this. Also there is a cute little ‘adopt me’ link under each image, so if you like one of the pets you can adopt it right away 🙂 One slight problem with the adoption thing though – what if the pet is not in the same area as you (very likely!) hmmm…

There is A LOT more which you can find more about in the Techfest website. Some other really fascinating things had to do with Surface Computing initiatives. That stuff was just mind blowing…

A new Microsoft Research Center is opening in Egypt by the way. It’s focus will be on Applied Research and is only one of two centers of its kind that Microsoft has. They are currently hiring and looking for talented individuals so if you are interested (or even just want more information about it), please contact me and I will try to put you in touch with the right people.

Microsoft Puzzle Hunt

February 14, 2007 at 4:44 pm | Posted in Microsoft | 4 Comments

It has been a while since I posted due to a severe lack of free time. But today I will tell you about an event at Microsoft that I participated in. It is called a Puzzle Hunt, where basically you make a team of 12 players and then you have to solve puzzles as part of a ‘story’ to get to the final prize. The theme for this year was ‘Atlantis’ and you have 36 hours from the start to finish it. It’s not ONLY about sitting in a room solving puzzles. Frequently you figure out a clue and are required to go somewhere and do something.

 My initial team had a few drop-outs and lack of interest by people – so we merged with another team. We met together at like 8.30am on Saturday (!!!) and began doing the Puzzles. One thing I noticed is some of these puzzles were REALLY REALLY obscure. For example, sometimes you are given a bunch of pictures and no instructions whatsoever and are supposed to figure out an answer. In some cases we were given a CD or some audio and expected to figure things out.

Some of my favorite puzzles though was one where we were given very rough sketches of some Microsoft buildings. When we go to those buildings and stand at the same angle as the artist, we see some letters posted in the Windows of the building. You put them in the sketch (which has some numbers) and then line up the letters according to the numbers – You get a message that says ‘Back of Poster of the Second most popular in Message’ (very roughly). We look at the back of one of the posters of the second most popular letter in the message (S) and we found a picture of the Parthenon (which was the answer).

 Another one of my favorites involved a message telling us to take a swim in the pro club gym (Note: we had to derive this message from a puzzle, but I won’t bore you with the details)…Anyway, Meshref and I went to the gym to “take a swim” 🙂 There were some discs hidden at the bottom of the pool which we needed to collect in order to solve the answer (which we got!). It was great.

 In the end we managed to solve around 17 Puzzles I believe (out of maybe like 50). We also placed 58 out of 75 teams (not so bad considering we didnt have a full team (mainly 6 active people and they ask for a team of 12!) and that many of us were first-timers)…

The Wow Starts Now

January 30, 2007 at 6:07 pm | Posted in Microsoft | 1 Comment

The Wow Starts Now. Need I say anything else?

 But seriously, Microsoft just released Vista and Office 2007. It is a great accomplishment. I went to the release party at one of the MS Cafe’s with Hany. It was packed and we decided to just leave. I watched the launch on a live webcast instead.

I wasn’t a big fan of the slogan – but its growing on me (especially as when some people challenged me to come up with something better my mind drew a blank). One of the things that I now like about the slogan that its pretty much true. If you try Vista, I guarantee you will “wow” at some of the features. Go out, buy it, and seriously give it a try. Its worth it. Every time I use XP at home I get really frustrated now. One of my absolute favorite features is the ‘Search’ feature built-in to the start menu. It is fantastic and saves a lot of time. Also, for the first time ever you can buy and download Vista online (http://windowsmarketplace.com/)

 The new Office on the other hand is great. I’ve been using the Beta at home (and the released at work) for quite a while now and I must say the new Ribbon interface simplifies a lot of things. I actually wish that Outlook would switch to the new Ribbon UI. It takes a bit of getting used to at first, but it is quite easy after that.

It’s quite an exciting time at Microsoft and for me “The Work Starts Now” 🙂 I plan on installing Vista Ultimate on my laptop sometime soon (just need to back things up first). I can’t wait to show my wife DreamScene (you can set movies as your background for the desktop). The trick is not to put a movie with a lot of movement in it. I’ve been beta testing it internally and have seen some of the potential movies for background and it is very beautiful. This will come out as an Ultimate-only extra though so you may want to get that version instead.

Have anyone of you tried Vista or Office 2007 yet? Do you plan to soon? What are your favorite features?

 UPDATE: Hany has a much better article about it (with pictures!) here. It is a must read!

Microsoft Interview with a December Candidate

January 26, 2007 at 3:14 am | Posted in Egypt, Microsoft | 6 Comments

I am sure some of you may be wondering about what the interview process is like. On the JobsBlog Priya has an interview with one of the candidates she met and interviewed in Egypt. Her name is Mona and she was offered a position as SDET in the .NET Developer team.

I noticed one thing though…they now do the interviews it seems at the Smart Village (I am guessing at Microsoft HQ there)…Mine was done at the Four Seasons…Much better setting in my opinion 😉

Anyway, I thought some of you might be interested as Microsoft will be interviewing in Egypt in March and I know some of you are interested! If you know me and would like a referral don’t hesitate to ask…Good luck, and if she can do it then so can you!

Also, I wanted to point out Moe Shall’s blog. He got accepted too this past December and has just started a blog, so you may want to keep track of it to see his story.

Microsoft US Recruiting from Egypt again

January 19, 2007 at 8:25 am | Posted in Egypt, Microsoft | 10 Comments

I have good news for people in Egypt who are interested in joining Microsoft here in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft will be coming back to Egypt for one last time, before they take a break until the end of the year. They will be interviewing in Egypt sometime in March.

I do not know which team is coming to Egypt. Sorry. But the team that came to Egypt in December was part of the Developer Division (the team that works on Visual Studio and compilers, etc.) I know some people may wish to know which team they are applying for, but keep in mind, its very flexible here to change teams. In fact its encouraged usually for you to move around and find the best place for you. Plus, when they are interviewing you, they not only look for a fit in the team that is interviewing you, but they could also find you a position in a different team.

Anyway, enough of my talking…so you want to apply…what do you need to do? It is very simple. Send your resume to egyptres@microsoft.com and if you know me you can also send me your CV personally, and I can send it directly to the recruiter responsible for Egypt (with a recommendation).

Good luck and remember – 7 people got accepted last December (in my round it was only 3) so its improving. Unfortunately, nobody I knew got accepted. Hany knows all 7 of them!!! I’d really like to have someone I know get accepted this time around! So get those CVs in.

Oh yeah, and they are due by Feb 9th please as they need to take time to schedule and conduct phone interviews before they come in February.

Microsoft @ CES

January 9, 2007 at 7:04 am | Posted in Microsoft, Software | 1 Comment

In case you did not know already, the Consumer Electronics Show is going on right now at Las Vegas, and Bill Gates gave the keynote there announcing a bunch of new things in the pipeline for Microsoft.

2007 is definitely going to be the biggest year for Microsoft in a long time. Not only are we releasing Windows Vista, Office 2007, and Exchange 2007. In addition to this, Longhorn Server 2007 is supposed to ship and the Zune is shaping up to be a great Microsoft product.

Anyway, none of the above has anything to do with CES. It’s all old news…So just what is exciting and new that was announced at CES?

  • Windows Home Server. I heard about this about a couple of months ago at Microsoft and was something that I found very interesting. Basically it’s a small server box for your home that is designed to run without any input devices or monitors. Kinda like a Router. It is designed to be your home server, so you can store all your files on it centrally and stream things all over your home. It would be great for any home that has multiple PC’s. It’s designed to take 5 HD’s and no need to open it to add extra hard disks. Target Price: 500$! Here is a sample picture of a prototype device (not final). Look at the guy’s hand to get an idea of the size of the device.

 

  • Ultimate Extras for Windows Ultimate. There are some great new things coming for people who decide to go for the Windows Ultimate SKU. Some of the extras include Texas Hold ‘Em Poker (a very famous poker game that is the latest craze in the US). Some Bitlocker and Encrypted File System enhancements. And finally, Windows DreamScene which basically allows you to use a video as your background. Remember the static view of some grassy hills in Windows XP (called Bliss in your Desktop Background)…anyway, imagine the grass is actually moving as if there is a breeze blowing across it! Yes, I know this has been around in Linux for quite a while…but I use Windows, and I’m happy to have this feature 🙂
  • Xbox Live on Windows Vista. Finally, Windows users will be able to play with Xbox 360 users. DirectX 10 on Vista is just amazing with lots of features and brings Windows gaming in line with console gaming. You can even use an Xbox 360 controller on your PC (in fact, they had an amazing demo of using your Xbox 360 controller to navigate through Virtual Earth in amazing 3D). It just makes sense for Microsoft to provide this seamless integration between Windows gamers and Xbox 360 games!
  • IPTV on Xbox. At some point in the future of 2007, Microsoft plans to introduce IPTV through the Xbox system. If you have ever seen the state of DVR’s and Cable Television you would understand why this is a big deal. My Comcast DVR hi-def box crashes routinely at least once a day…plus the interface is incredibly ugly and slow. If I could get all my shows on my Xbox with in hi-def with DVR capabilities – I would switch in an instant.
  • In-car computing with Ford. Microsoft has partnered with Ford to provide a Windows for Automotive solution built into the cars in the Ford lineup. It has bluetooth, allowing you to make/receive calls. It has TTS to read any messages you may have got. It works with portable music players so you can create playlists using speech recognition and lots lots more.

Anyway – there is probably a lot more I am missing…but here you got an idea of what an exciting future Microsoft has planned. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Microsoft has a lot of exciting projects going on right now, and I’m excited to be a part of it all 🙂 (Since I’m a part of it and everything…anyone here want to give me a Microsoft Home Server? :P)

Microsoft Interviews (in Egypt)

December 13, 2006 at 5:01 pm | Posted in Egypt, Microsoft | 19 Comments

I know that Microsoft will be interviewing in the next couple of days in Egypt. I believe it will start on Dec 15th.

I want to make my blog more interactive (I love getting comments). So basically, I am requesting comments from anyone who will be a part of it. Post a comment, introduce yourself…tell us how you prepared…ask questions…tell us what you are expecting…

And when you actually have the interview, tell us how it went. Note: This is not a place to discuss interview questions, so please don’t post that kind of information. If you get an offer, also feel free to tell us and tell us what team/position you will be joining.

Hope to hear from you soon.

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