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Subject:
From:
Michael Feldman <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Michael Feldman <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Fri, 2 Aug 2002 14:46:15 -0400
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[said Ron Oliver]
>
> At 11:02 AM 8/1/02 -0400, Michael Feldman wrote:

> >Specifically, what kinds of software screwups do you envision, that
> >would be bad enough to arouse public outrage?
>
> The kind where lawyers get involved and start winning large $$ law suits
> against companies that develop software.
>
Well, yes, but in what sorts of domains do you think that will
happen? Big time lawsuits won't happen until either

1. lots of people die or are seriously disabled, or

2. REALLY big bucks are lost by businesses

and maybe not even then.

As an example of the first, I don't know whether anyone died from the
inopportune airbag deployments, but AFAIK, the only results was a
big recall to replace the ROMs. That was publicized at the time,
even in the popular press, but I don't remember any real outrage.

(There was also the Therac-25, but that was 15 years ago, and only
a few people died, so most of the world knows nothing about it.)

As an example of the second, consider the Love Bug virus. Popular
discussion focused on the criminality of the kid who wrote it, who
got off because it wasn't a crime in the Philippines.

But the *real* problem was that Outlook allowed, in its default
settings, potentially damaging VB scripts to be executed. Someone
at Microsoft made a management decision to allow this highly
unsafe behavior *by default*, with no warning or obvious way
to turn it off. Millions of naive users had no idea it was
happening or what it meant, and it cost billions across the
industry to repair the damage. Big bucks, but only the kid
in Manila got blamed.

One would think that the lawyers would have a field day with
something so obvious. It should be the mother of all class
action lawsuits, even bigger than asbestos, but nobody seems to
be suing. Where's the outrage, Ron?

Has Microsoft even put out a fix that makes users *opt in*
for really cool power-user features? Do their latest versions
at least *warn* the user that a script is going to run and ask them
to confirm with a click? I haven't heard of anything, but of course
I wouldn't touch Outlook with a 10-foot pole, so I miss a lot of
discussion, I guess.:-)

Even obvious non-software stuff gets people riled up less than
we'd like. Replacing zillions of Firestone tires will cost Ford a
bundle of money, but people are still buying Explorers and other
such truck/cars like crazy.

(We don't focus on the instabilities inherent in tweaking the
suspension and tires on a truck, to make it ride nice and soft
like a car. We just keep buying the stupid SUV things.)

So I ask again: what kind of outrage do you envision? What kinds
of programs must screw up badly enough to piss off the public?

Can you give a specific example?

Mike Feldman

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