In This Issue: 1. Editor's Note: Save Lives: Debug Code 2. Today's Top Story - Apple Discussion Board Users List Boot Camp Woes - Related Story: - New Sun Thin Clients Ready To Access Windows Apps 3. Breaking News - Google Confirms Licensing Search Algorithm, Hiring Creator - Oracle Acquires Portal Software For $220 Million - Dell Exploring On-Site Services - Yahoo Offers 'Instant Search' - MySpace Lures Microsoft Exec To Become CSO - AT&T's Sterling Adds Software Developers In India - Brief: New Industry Standards For Databases In The Works - Mozilla Corp. Rolls Out Firefox Fan Videos - Singapore Telco Links Treo Hardware, BlackBerry Service - TiVo, DirecTV Extend Partnership - European Commission Honors Homegrown Tech Inventors 4. Grab Bag: News You Need From Around The Web - Invasion Of The Computer Snatchers (Washington Post) - U.S. Judge Orders PayPal To Talk (San Francisco Chronicle) - Cosmic Log: What's Next For Nano? (MSNBC.com) 5. In Depth: Microsoft Security--Fixes And Faux Pas - Microsoft Posts, Then Pulls 'Not Quite Ready' Vista Guide - Microsoft Sparks Backlash By Tying IE Changes To Security Patch - Microsoft To Pull Plug On Windows 98, ME In July - Microsoft Fixes 14 Flaws - Brief: Microsoft Tool Defends Against URL Hijacking - IE Changes Due: What You Can Expect 6. Voice Of Authority - Microsoft's Crawl From The Bottom In Search 7. White Papers - Meeting High-Volume Content Distribution Requirements 8. Get More Out Of InformationWeek 9. Manage Your Newsletter Subscription
Quote of the day: "Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives." -- William Dement
1. Editor's Note: Save Lives: Debug Code
We're so used to looking at programming these days as a throwaway, low-cost skill. We discourage students from pursuing it, we outsource the basic tasks, and we routinely struggle with balky applications. Regardless of how smart any of this might be, we know we can live with all that.
But the tendency to ignore commonsense requests to thoroughly debug code? Very bad idea. In fact, it can be downright dangerous, according to panelists and attendees speaking at several sessions on software disasters at the recent Embedded Software Conference in San Jose.
The overall point of these sessions was both patently obvious and yet something we rarely think about: Buggy software can cost lives. It already has.
One session leader, Jack Ganssle, a software expert and author, had a pocketful of perilous stories--both from a financial and human perspective. He pointed to the unmanned Ariane 5 rocket, which exploded in part, he said, due to leftover dead code from the Ariane 4 project. A $100,000 test platform would have caught the error. Instead, the rocket and its cargo--valued at $500 million--was destroyed on its first voyage, after a decade of development costing a staggering $7 billion.
It's not hard to come up with other potential examples--computer software is embedded in everything these days, not just rocket ships and weaponry. There's appliances, automobiles, medical devices and implants, and security devices. The list is endless. A malfunction anywhere can lead to significant financial loss or, worse, injury or death to the users, operators, and beneficiaries of these devices and tools.
Looked at in this light, "suddenly" coding and the time spent testing that code matter again. At the very least, software testing should take on a new level of urgency. "This is the only industry left where we can ship products with known defects and not get sued. How long do think that will last?" asked Ganssle. Especially when, as Dave Stewart, CTO of Embedded Research Systems Inc., pointed out, "Spending $2,000 on tools might save you $100,000 in programming effort."
You can read more examples of why we better start coding and testing as if someone's life depends on it (and it does), along with some tips for success and the outing of a surprising culprit in all this, by going to my blog entry.
Related Story: New Sun Thin Clients Ready To Access Windows Apps Sun Microsystems this quarter plans to ship new software for its thin-client architecture that will include support for Windows applications. Sun also unveiled two new thin clients.
TiVo, DirecTV Extend Partnership The two companies signed a three-year extension on a deal which has DirecTV supplying subscribers with TiVo personal video recorders. The deal is strategic for TiVo, which faces a crowded competitive market.
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Cosmic Log: What's Next For Nano? (MSNBC.com) As we've seen over the past week, the nano revolution isn't merely near--it's here. The plus side is that nanoparticles can work as a cellular-level delivery method for targeted cancer drugs. The minus side is that working with nanoparticles could represent the next generation in occupational hazards.
5. In Depth: Microsoft Security--Fixes And Faux Pas
Microsoft's Crawl From The Bottom In Search Microsoft may be lagging in the search market, but give its engineers credit for moving faster to catch up. The software company posted a new search engine for academic journals to the Web Tuesday night, and while it's yet another example of Microsoft trailing Google in online software (digital maps and desktop searches also come to mind), Microsoft is showing what looks like a new willingness to take some chances and loosen up its release schedules.
7. White Papers
Meeting High-Volume Content Distribution Requirements This white paper examines how high-volume service companies, such as insurance firms and credit card providers, can seamlessly integrate software into their existing ECM systems, enabling these companies to distribute high-value content to clients, reduce costs, and minimize customer turnover.
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