Using screen-scraper to automatically test embedded devices

A while back I flew out to Huntsville, AL to work with a government contractor company on automating the testing of embedded devices. To this day I’m not entirely sure what these little machines did, but they each had a web interface that needed testing (much like that of a wireless router, if you’ve worked with those before). This isn’t the most common usage for screen-scraper, but it turned out to be just what they needed.

I worked closely with Greg Chapman, one of their engineers, and he recently wrote an article on the experience entitled Testing aerospace UUTs leads to Web solution. Greg’s a smart guy, and has continued to use screen-scraper in ways that I wouldn’t have even considered.

It’s gratifying to see screen-scraper used in so many different ways, but it’s interesting that it’s versatility has almost been a curse at times to us. Our software can be used for all kinds of purposes, but we’re finding that, from a business standpoint, we’re often better off narrowing our focus to very specific applications. As one marketing expert we consulted with put it, “You guys have plastic.” Plastic is incredibly useful, but it gains value as you craft it into something with a specific purpose. I’m planning on blogging about this idea more later, but it’s interesting to consider the pros and cons of a general-purpose tool, like screen-scraper.

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