Friday, March 26, 2004

Why software quality matters

Baseline Magazine

A good article in Baseline Magazine. Check it out here or here if you prefer it in .pdf form.

This is a warning for any creator of computer programs: that software quality matters, that applications must be foolproof, and that -- whether embedded in the engine of a car, a robotic arm in a factory or a healing device in a hospital -- poorly deployed code can kill.

"Software is the most complicated thing that the human mind can come up with and build," says Gary McGraw, the chief technology officer at Cigital, a consultancy specializing in improving software quality. "Perfection is unobtainable."

"You have to assume there are some bugs in the code." -- Pradeep Khosla, Head, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Carnegie Mellon University

As software becomes more pervasive, software quality -- long a discussion confined to software-development circles -- becomes an issue for business executives, product managers, factory floor supervisors and, as the physicissts in Panama found out, anyone who uses software in the workplace.

Software engineer Ganssle, for one, notes that programmers don't need any form of certification or license to work on commercial software, including life-critical medical devices software. Yet, he says, "In Maryland, where I live, if you want to cut hair, you need to be licensed."

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