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Save Lives: Debug Code

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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.

Patricia Keefe
pkeefe@cmp.com
www.informationweek.com


2. Today's Top Story

Apple Discussion Board Users List Boot Camp Woes
Some customers are complaining that they're not able to get back into OS X once they load Windows. Some say they've had to reformat their hard drives.

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.


3. Breaking News

Google Confirms Licensing Search Algorithm, Hiring Creator
A search algorithm called "Orion" is said to deliver more targeted results. Google has confirmed licensing the technology and hiring its developer, a 26-year-old Ph.D. student at an Australian university.

Oracle Acquires Portal Software For $220 Million
Oracle continued its acquisition spree Wednesday, announcing it will acquire billing management supplier Portal Software Inc. for about $220 million in cash.

Dell Exploring On-Site Services
Dell is exploring ways to branch out into on-site IT support and repair services.

Yahoo Offers 'Instant Search'
Like the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button on rival Google, the new feature takes users to the most commonly viewed Web pages, bypassing the usual long list of results.

MySpace Lures Microsoft Exec To Become CSO
The move follows a number of high-profile cases highlighting online dangers to children, some of which involved MySpace.

AT&T's Sterling Adds Software Developers In India
Developers at the company's India division are working on purchasing, order management, supply chain visibility and synchronization software, and more.

Brief: New Industry Standards For Databases In The Works
Several technology companies are creating an interoperability specification to allow customers to federate and access information from their complex, multivendor IT infrastructures.

Mozilla Corp. Rolls Out Firefox Fan Videos
Mozilla plans to roll out a new set of online videos every day, created by Firefox enthusiasts to drive Firefox adoption.

Singapore Telco Links Treo Hardware, BlackBerry Service
Palm Treo users using the SingTel service will be able to use BlackBerry's "push" technology to get their Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus mail.

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.

European Commission Honors Homegrown Tech Inventors
Lifetime achievement awards will be bestowed upon the Italian "father of the microchip" and the German inventor of the MP3 format.

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4. Grab : News You Need From Around The Web

Invasion Of The Computer Snatchers (Washington Post)
Hackers are hijacking thousands of PCs to spy on users, shake down online businesses, steal identities, and send millions of pieces of spam. If you think your computer is safe, think again.

U.S. Judge Orders PayPal To Talk (San Francisco Chronicle)
A tax cheat inquiry has investigators sniffing in San Jose.

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 Posts, Then Pulls 'Not Quite Ready' Vista Guide
The 313-page guide was up on the Web briefly, but then removed. Microsoft says "it isn't quite ready for public consumption."

Microsoft Sparks Backlash By Tying IE Changes To Security Patch
Security vendors say the security patch that Microsoft released on Tuesday will break the browser for some users.

Microsoft To Pull Plug On Windows 98, ME In July
Microsoft has begun reminding users of Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, and Windows Millennium that it will cut off all support for the aging operating systems in July.

Microsoft Fixes 14 Flaws
Three of the bulletins were tagged as "critical," one as "important," and the fifth as "moderate"--the last being Microsoft's second-from-the-bottom alert.

Brief: Microsoft Tool Defends Against URL Hijacking
The Tracer download, available this week, includes a tool that scans for sites that take advantage of misspellings in an Internet address, a process known as "typosquatting" or "URL hijacking."

IE Changes Due: What You Can Expect
Microsoft will release a security update for Internet Explorer that will also change how users interact with Web sites.


6. Voice Of Authority

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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