Tuesday, November 18, 2003

You know, the hardest part about getting QFE's out the door depends on the type of QFE we're doing...

When we're authoring an existing XP desktop QFE for XPE, the toughest part is creating the test matrix so we can test it. There are a lot of files and registry keys I need to put into the components, and all of them need to be listed - accurately - in the matrix so my testers can verify I did the work properly. That's a little time consuming, and when the format of the component changes, the matrix has to change as well.

Another part of building the matrix involves finding someone to test the fix itself. The XPE Test team can test the SLD file and the packaging, but we're not experts on individual features. Tracking down the right people to verify that the QFE works on embedded runtimes the same way it works on desktop systems is sometimes tricky - actually convincing them to take the time to do the testing can sometimes be trickier. It's getting better, as the rest of the Windows organization now knows who we are and what we do, but it's still a big part of releasing a QFE.

Now, when we're releasing a QFE for our stuff (EWF, SDI, etc.), things get a little easier - the matrix still needs to be filled out, but by the time I've got the new bits for authoring, someone on the test team has already made sure they work properly. Identifying the tester is trivial, and getting them on board to test is a minor thing. However, the hardest and most time-consuming part of any QFE we put it out still needs to be done - writing and publishing the Knowledge Base article.

Every QFE that is issued has a corresponding KB article that customers can search on. For desktop QFE's and security bulletins, the KB article has already been written, so our XPE QFE's just reference that. For fixes to XPE binaries, though, we need to write the KB's ourselves.

Writing a KB article isn't as simple as it seems. The content needs to be formatted properly, the right boilerplate text added, and the right properties added so it shows up as a QFE. Once it's written, like everything else that goes out of MS, it needs to be tested - in the case of KB articles and other written docs, it's a technical review of the material. Once that's done, it goes to an editor to be cleaned up for publishing, then published by our content team. All in all, the process can take a few weeks to do - as you can imagine, there are far fewer editors for KB articles than there are people writing them.

So, when you see an XPE QFE in the Download Center, but can't find the KB article we reference, check to see if the QFE is XPE specific. If so, it's probably because we were able to release the QFE quicker than we could get the KB article published. Most of the time, if the KB article isn't published when we release the QFE to the web, the salient content from the article is included on the Download page. And if you need more, ping up in the newsgroup.

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