Infinite Loop

Using NSURLProtocol for Injecting Test Data

In earlier posts I described methods for unit testing asynchronous network access and how to use mock objects for further control of the scope of these unit tests. In this tutorial I’ll present an alternative way of providing reliable test data by customizing the NSURLProtocol class in order to deliver static test data.

A few months ago Gowalla made the networking code used in their iPhone client available as open source on GitHub. The AFNetworking library as it is called is a “A delightful iOS networking library with NSOperations and block-based callbacks“. One of the things that first caught my eye was the built-in support for accessing JSON based services with just a few lines of code.

The simplicity of the AFNetworking interface inspired me to give it a test spin and write ILBitly which provides an Objective C based wrapper for the Bitly url shortening service. It’s very easy to use AFNetworking and especially the JSON support that is accessed using a single class methods. Unfortunately this simplicity also makes it quite difficult to write self-contained unit and mock tests using OCMock. This is mainly because OCMock doesn’t support mocking of class methods. My attempts with other techniques such as method swizzling wasn’t successful either.

It wasn’t until a few days ago when I noticed a discussion on GitHub about how to properly mock the interface to AFNetworking. In the discussion Adam Ernst suggested to use a customized NSURLProtocol for doing the task. That finally gave me the missing clue on how to solve the testing problem.

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Using Mock Objects to Stabilize Unit Tests

In the previous post I presented one way of implementing unit tests for iOS code that access the internet asynchronously. In this post I’ll go through how to use Mock Objects to further stabilize and optimize these tests. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Mock Objects I’ll suggest you first read A Brief History of Mock Objects or this Wikipedia article.

As mentioned in the previous post, it is possible that the unit tests may fail due to some outside factor even though our code is working perfectly. This could for instance be an internet service that is temporarily down or malfunctioning, or it could be your own ISP that have some problems.

By replacing the code that access the internet by Mock Objects that mimic the same behavior the unit tests can be made completely independent of external factors. Additionally by mocking the internet access the unit tests will also execute substantially faster . A speed increment by a factor 1000 or more is not unusual.

In Test Driven Development the complete Unit Test suite should ideally be executed as part of your normal compile setup. This means that execution times in the order of seconds for just a single test is an absolutely no-go. As Noel Llopis states in this blog post, the total execution time for the full test suite of your entire project should be less than 2 seconds. Whether the limit is 1, 2 or maybe even 3 seconds is not important, but the point is that it should be so fast that it doesn’t contribute to the perceived build time.

In the following I’ll show how to mock the network access code for ILGeoNames using OCMock by Mulle Kybernetik.

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