Multilingual Testing on Multiple Platforms

Setting up test plans for products that span operating systems and languages

As much as they need to be multilingual, software products need to qualify as multiplatform to truly provide for the global user. Take Palm OS 5, Linux Red Hat Advanced Server, Solaris 9, Windows XP or Mac OS X. Many questions and issues may come up when you are trying to achieve efficient testing of a product on some or all of these platforms. How do you prepare for efficient internationalization, localization and functional testing on software products that combine these platforms?

This article can serve as a beginner's guide for testing a product on several platforms. It describes the concepts you need to pin down, preempts some common issues and provides tips, solutions and best practices for teams involved in multiplatform testing.

What is a platform?

Platform can mean many things. For our context, we assume that platform is a unique operating system running on unique hardware. So with platform, you should always distinguish between Solaris on an Intel machine and Solaris on a SPARC workstation. Sometimes, the same platform can have different names. Windows NT 4 and Windows XP, for instance, can be considered the same platform, only different versions.

How can you manage multiplatform testing?

The answer to efficient multiplatform testing is to have infrastructure, tools and processes that allow quick and repeated setup of your clean testing environment - your platforms. How to do this? One of the most widely used and easiest ways is to create disk images of configured systems that are deployed (or ghosted, a term deriving from one of the tool names) on the testing machine. Ghosting is much faster than installing and configuring your operating system from scratch. You can create and save a sector-by-sector "image" of your tuned-up installed system in a file and load it back whenever needed.

Some of these tools are available as part of your system server (Mac Server) while some are utilities (Flash for Solaris). If you need to store hundreds of images for different platforms on several different file systems to be used by dozens of users simultaneously, tools such as Symantec PowerQuest Deploy Center or Symantec Ghost allow advanced server features such as multicasting sessions, remote deployment and server management.

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