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Building Better Software Expand / Collapse
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Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2013 9:13 PM


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Comments posted to this topic are about the item Building Better Software






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Post #1410327
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 6:58 AM
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I've been a developer for over 30 years. No, it is not easy!

The problem is the size of the problem domain and the sheer complexity of it. Take the ISO date example. Who has time to be an expert on every single aspect of ISO dates? Being blissfully ignorant on that subject my first question as a developer is "why doesn't the ISO date system operate as expected?" Is there a bug in it? If so, why? What's the problem and why would it bite on Jan 1st to 7th of 2013? And, being this is ISO approved, why would there be a bug at all???? If you can't trust the ISO who can you trust?

Take my current developement project. I'm implementing what could best be described as a "whole business automation system", using VB.NET for the front end and T-SQL for the backend.

That's two entire, and very complex, languages I have to know. Further, I've only known these languages for about a year now, while keeping up with all the other jobs I have to do as our company's one man IT shop.

The point being I already know I'm not fluent in either VB.NET or T-SQL and probably won't be for about 3 more years. By "fluent" I mean "know the languages inside out and backwards, able to wring every bit of performance and know all the gotchas to avoid".

In the meantime I've got to create a program with a predecesser that consisted of 100,000 lines of code, written in a system I've been fluent in for 10 years.

Oh, and did I mention my users won't take the time to beta test the new system? Because they don't have "time to play". Oh, and that my tool budget is severely constrained?

And let's not even talk about all the (very complex) tools involved in production, from the ERD tool, to all the Red Gate tools, SSMS, Visual Studio (and add-ons), the profiler, the unit test system...

Easy my Aunt Sally!

So what do you do in that situation? You keep it simple. You avoid all the nifty tricks that would probably be faster or need less code, but have unforseen "gotchas" and inexplicable interactions with other features. Since you can't know everything, you concentrate on a small subset you know won't break.

Then you refactor as you can over the lifetime of the system. (The last system lasted 13 years!)

And that, my childen, is how Equestria was made! (laughing)
Post #1410547
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 8:06 AM


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On top of all the above is the lack of demanding and/or allowing of following decent processes to ensure high quality software engineering occurs. We all know the "just ship it" attitude remains alive and well and still comes from people who know better but feel that the commercial pressures are too high.

Gaz

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Post #1410606
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 11:54 AM
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It takes little understanding and talent to write bad code that will not work. That is easy. And for the person who has written a few hundred thousand lines of code, it might appear easy to throw something together that may or may not work. But the premise in the editorial is correct, it is not easy to get it right. Compare it to throwing together a few burgers or an omelet to a five course formal dinner with the Queen. One is very easy, the other requires attention to detail that most of us are not use to.

Good experienced developers who can get the job done right and make it last are expensive. But the industry has to face the fact that those dime-a-dozen developers appear to be cheap to get a product out, but in the long run a far more expensive then the experienced professional.

M.






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Post #1410741
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 2:42 PM
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Sometimes I wonder why larger organizations would not test their products before release. Often, I get answer like they want their customers to find bugs. By the time customers start reporting bugs, don't the organizations think their reputation was already got damaged? Most of the times, products are not even beta versions. I think product needs to be well tested for at least obvious defects before even releasing to the market.
Post #1410803
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 4:37 PM
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Building Better Software or Bugs in Software... Unfortunately Steve you have put software on a far too high pedestal. Software, even cowboy hacker buggy software is more reliable than the human operators and users. If you compare software error/bugs in software to human error/bugs, you might have written a different article. Financial and productivity loss from human problems makes software problems an after thought. What you really should be writing about is how we falsely reason that it's so much easier to fix the human problem than the software problem, when really it's not.

Ever had a human run a Delete with no where, not tested their backups, damaged the backups, turned the wrong server off, changed the sa password then gone one holidays, rogue admin, etc. That's just the easy ones. How about made wrong security choices, wrong storage location or space allocation, poor performing SQL, bad indexes, office politics, etc.

Complaining about software bugs like it's a real source of drama is like complaining about the weather; it's just vanity.
Post #1410837
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 4:45 PM


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I'm not sure that comparing human mistakes to software mistakes is fair. Software mistakes can easily affect a large group of people and impact lots of business. Forgetting backups, while tragic, happens lots without there being a problem.

I'm not sure which one is worse. Certainly there is something to the idea that humans reduce efficiency more than poorly written software, but that might be hard to quantify. Maybe I need to think about that a bit.







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Post #1410839
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 5:22 PM
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The referenced article also has plenty of mistakes.

Ask Ars: Why will Apple's Do Not Disturb bug fix itself next week?
http://arstechnica.com/apple/2013/01/ask-ars-why-will-apples-do-not-disturb-bug-fix-itself-next-week/

For example:
"The first day of 2013 started on a Tuesday, whereas (as noted by TUAW) the ISO standard expects the first week of the year to start on "the Monday that contains the first Thursday in January." In this case, that would be January 7, 2013."

The first ISO week for 2013 starts on December 31, 2012, not January 7, 2013. The first ISO week of the year can start no later that January 4 of any year, and will be in the range of 29 December of the prior calendar year to 4 January of the current calendar year.

ISO week date
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_week_date



Post #1410846
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 5:55 PM
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Ok, not a convincing enough argument? How about the Internet. The biggest usage of software by humans and the major outages have been caused by what or whom? Human operator error.

But back to your point: Software mistakes affect many people. Why is that? How have been become so dependent on software when it has so many problems and bugs? Because software bugs are a stereotype.

Really, the amount of problems compared to working solutions is incomparable, but we pick on and declare the end of days when something doesn’t go as *we* expected. “Expected”, how many times has a new staff member or college not done things as we expected, but to write an article about that? That’s common knowledge and expected, so who cares!?!

I agree that comparing human mistakes to software mistakes isn’t fair, as humans make so many more.
Post #1410856
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 9:31 PM


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Scott Anderson-466019 (1/23/2013)
Ok, not a convincing enough argument? How about the Internet. The biggest usage of software by humans and the major outages have been caused by what or whom? Human operator error.

But back to your point: Software mistakes affect many people. Why is that? How have been become so dependent on software when it has so many problems and bugs? Because software bugs are a stereotype.

Really, the amount of problems compared to working solutions is incomparable, but we pick on and declare the end of days when something doesn’t go as *we* expected. “Expected”, how many times has a new staff member or college not done things as we expected, but to write an article about that? That’s common knowledge and expected, so who cares!?!

I agree that comparing human mistakes to software mistakes isn’t fair, as humans make so many more.


I'm lost with your argument. Sorry, just not making too much sense to me. Building better software really doesn't have much to do with some of the human errors you mentioned. I really think it is about writing software that does what is expected when properly used. And as we know, there are users that don't use software the way it was intended many times. If you can trap for those "mistakes" and handle them, then you are ahead of the curve in many respects.



Lynn Pettis

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