Tips & Tricks for Testing and Managing Web Applications Run by Linux OS

How to Test, Manage, and Configure Web Applications Run by Linux OS:

Let’s find out how to manage the fastest growing operating system today in the field of web applications testing. The following is applicable if your application is running on servers operated by any of Unix-like distribution.

This tutorial will be useful for any novice Linux user during his or her education. Especially, the majority of frequently asked questions we have to solve during our Linux study are described below. 

What you will learn in this Tutorial:

We are going to run through a few essential topics which any QA Engineer will probably face during managing and testing web applications run by Linux OS:

  1. Linux vs Windows.
  2. General *nix “must-knows”.
  3. Name and path limitations.
  4. Job and process management.
  5. 3 major ways how to install new software.
  6. Basic instruments for testing itself

Testing applications on Linux

Recommended read => UNIX basics for software testers.

Few regards to the history. It was a hard work by real Linux followers to bring *nix OS merits to bear on IT Community in past. Thanks to them, this operating system is in full swing now.

The global statistic mentions the majority of supercomputer and highly-loaded application servers are operated by Linux. Linux servers tend to be the most stable and productive environments designed to be shared by a large number of users (e.g. social networks).

Let us get it started from few comparisons:

Windows vs Linux:

Windows vs Linux

  1. The main and really overbalancing advantage of Linux is its free license: FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open-Source Software). Additionally, various software and drivers have been already included in the majority of distributions also for free.
  2. Support, fixes and new features are provided by the Unix community (developers and foundations over the world) rather than the Windows is developed and supported by the only Microsoft corporation.
  3. Linux is extremely flexible and ready for any user configurations and changes. It results any system to be unique and user-specific. Unfortunately, that is not true about Windows installed on your PC.
  4. Additionally to the previous point, all attempts of hackers and malicious software producers to break Linux security with viruses don’t have real impact. Frankly speaking, it doesn’t make sense and “not popular”. Linux is more secure and stable than Windows, that’s a well-known fact.
  5. As we mentioned above, high performance is expected by web and telecom users. We cannot ignore the point that the same hardware will be significantly more productive if run by Linux. More than 95% (!) of supercomputers are operated by *nix. That is not a coincidence!

This is only a part of all advantages we could list here. Let’s keep on moving.

Firstly, we’d like to list some hints which could help to avoid its specific singularities.

Tips & Tricks of penguin taming: web application testing

General *nix must-knows:

Let us start from some essential but simple points here:

  • The best command for a novice Linux user to start with is man: it displays on-line manual pages for specified command. Example: man ls. This will return info regarding the command you possibly want to learn: Name, Synopsis, Description, Options.
  • Command names, paths, file names are case-sensitive. Example: “test.log” and “TEST.log” could be different files in the same directory.
  • Using spaces in file names within the terminal (console) will cause incorrect behavior because spaces are originally used for pointing multiple arguments of the command. Use underscore or CamelCase (PascalCase) instead (e.g. “test_log” or “testLog” instead of “test log”).
  • To rename a file use the mv command: mv test.tar.gz temptest.tar.gz. It changes the name of test.tar.gz to temptest.tar.gz.
  • There is no “undo”. It’s not possible to restore overwritten or modified files to their original state in Linux.
  • There is no “Trash” or “Recycle Bin”. There is no possibility to restore deleted files and folder using standard tools in majority of Unix distributions. So, make sure you delete only necessary files: specify unique parameters for the rm command. For example: rm -i test*.txt (user will be prompted. Finally, alias command will help to reconfigure the rm command call if you really care about data loss.
  • Don’t forget to use shortcuts: current directory (.), parent directory (..). And that’s why you have to keep an eye not to run the following: rm -r .*, because this command will delete the parent directory (the expression matches “..”).
  • Also anyone who works within console should be aware of the autocomplete function for command or file names: just type few first characters of a name and press the Tab key.
  • And one more useful hint here is to access recent command history. Use up and down arrows on the keyboard to browse commands run previously.

Name and path limitations in Linux OS:

Meanwhile, I’d like to draw your attention to few details about path types as well as name length limitations in the *nix OS.

First of all, let’s specify common terms.

An absolute path means the location of a file or directory from the root directory (top level): e.g. /var/log/protocol/log.

Relative path means path related to the current directory (pwd). For example: you are located in /var/log and you want to go to the following directory /var/log/protocol/log/. You can use relative path here, so just apply: cd protocol/log/.

And finally, there are following limitations applied to folder and file names in *nix (these limitations should also be checked during the test of your web application):
– 256 characters for a name;
– 1024 characters for an absolute path.

Basically, it’s prohibited (or impossible due to unknown or hidden password according security policy) to log in as the root user (technically, the top level user, Administrator). But at the same time, the majority of daily routine administrative tasks require administrator permissions: web app start/stop, database restarting/cleaning, new build deployments and so on.

The actual workaround here is to use the sudo command (requires password as well): super user do. So, use sudo followed by required command to perform activities with so called super user permissions: sudo apt-get install shellutilities.


Job and process management in Linux:

The administration of the Linux host (where your web application runs) requires frequent job and process managing activities.

We have listed a few must-knows below:

  • Use shortcut Ctrl-C to interrupt a job.
  • Use shortcut Ctrl-Z to resume a job. The command fg will restart such job and bg will place a job to the background (to perform additional tasks in parallel). Also add an ampersand (“&”) to your command in the end of string to start it in the background.
  • Run “ps” to view currently running processes. All jobs have unique process ID’s, displayed in the first column of the output. Rest assured there are some more useful options here to modify its result view.
  • Run “kill / killall” followed by the process ID (or process name) to end required job. Example: kill 22064; killall java.
  • Additionally, you can seek for specific job you want within process list by the grep command: grep is a very efficient search tool with a large scope of configurations. Example: ps -aux | grep java. The ps returns the list of all processes. The grep filters the list according your search criteria.

3 major ways how to install new software on Linux:

installing-software-on-linux

I’d like to finish this Intro with the following instructions how to install new software in Linux as this point is exceptionally challenging and called-for among former Windows users. The most common methods are below:

  • Installing RPM packages
  • Installing DEB packages
  • Installing from tarballs (esp. Source code).

Firstly, any Linux user should be aware of such thing as software repositories. Repository is storage for packages (both source and binary) accessible via Internet to install any required software on your computer.

You can easily select which to use or even create your own one: the list of connected repositories is stored here by default (examples for the most popular utilities):
– YUM: in files repo in the directory /etc/yum.repos.d/;
– APT: in file /etc/apt/sources.list and in the files in the directory /etc/apt/source.list.d/.

See also => Click here to learn more on how to install new software/packages on Linux OS.

Basic Tools for Testing Linux Applications:

Further, coming to technical side of testing itself, you can find basic set of instruments for testing Linux applications you will definitely face while testing them. But most of these solutions are applicable to majority of Unix-based systems and they are console based that is easier to automate, in fact.

On Linux, all programs can be divided into the following groups:

a) Core (Kernel)
This includes the core itself, the kernel modules and user space level for kernel control (meaning the / proc and / sys interfaces). Since the kernel itself is written on C and ASM, then for testing you’d basically better to use C. Usually these are small test kernel modules, checking some functions or module with different parameters + script.

As practice shows it’s better not to use one module checking the whole “feature”, but many modules checking each of the functions separately. You should also not forget to check all possible functions return codes.

b) User applications (userspace level)
Any application running on that OS. Of course if such application is written in Java, you’ll need to own Java, at least in order to make sure that the program is working.

c) Core + User applications
Most likely this kind of application you will interact the most. This scheme encompasses the core driver provides low-level communication with any device and the user program.

Linux is really convenient for programming and testing. Almost all the tools present in any distributive or can be downloaded as they are distributed free.

Let’s try to describe all the necessary tools for testing Linux applications:

#1) GCC – Gnu C compiler
Basic C, C++ compiler for Linux. If you need to test the compiler, the gcc site having special tests. Compiling with the -g option will make debugging with gdb.

#2) bash
The BASH shell is also included in each distribution. It is in fact very useful for writing scripts.

#3) expect
Also present in each distributive. Rather simple but very handy syntax TCL.
expect-perl ? expect-python (pyexpect) – libraries expect for scripting languages perl and python.

#4) gdb – Gnu Debuger
This is standard C / C + + debugger having a lot of opportunities. If you have never used it, I advise you to get acquainted with it. Use kgdb for kernel.

#5) ltt – Linux Trace Toolkit
If your Linux core supports LTT, you can view the active processes / system calls in the current process.

#6) import ? gimp – can be used for taking screenshots for testing graphics applications.

#7) minicom
A program for manual testing. If you want to automate the console, it is better to use the expect (or in conjunction with the “cat” and “echo”, or just open / dev / ttySx as file – sometimes the second option does not fit).

#8) ltp – Linux Test Suite Page [ltp.sf.net]
Very usefull collection of tests. Includes tests of file systems, system calls, and more.

#9) Some more common tools:
netperf – utility to verify the network performance.
ircp, irdump, openobex – Utilities for infrared checking.
telnet, ssh – remote shell. If you frequently enter the same command, you can use expect in any distributive.

Conclusion:

That’s it for now. Today we learned a bunch of entirely important topics that cover FAQs, Linux singularities, process management, specific limitations and some more points that could be vital for QA services in the sphere of web application testing.

We have tried to list useful examples as well as to demonstrate the ways new software could be installed. Starting from this article you could keep on investigating the most stable, efficient, safe and legal operating system ever. We hope you’ve realized it makes sense!

About the Author: This is a guest post by Alexander Panchenko, who works as Head of Complex Web QA Department for A1QA. He is having good experience of working on various projects like backup and recovery applications, projects with complex business logic e.g. corporate portals based on Share Point, Banking systems, and Government portals. Now he is leading several teams of 7+ people and managing a division of 30+ engineers on board.

Good luck in testing, managing and configuring applications that installed on servers operated by Linux OS!

Need help in testing applications on Linux or any UNIX based systems? Just put your queries in below comments and we will try to resolve it.




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6 comments ↓

#1 Vishnu Kumar

very informative. thanks for sharing.

#2 Paul

good guide especially for Novice Linux testers.

#3 Mohan Siddilingam

Thanks for input!!

#4 Alex Panchenko

Thank you, guys! Please adress me if you have something to discuss

#5 Divya

how about server hosted with linux..

#6 Sanjeev

What should i need to learn for working as an software tester in QA team

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