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Why Buggy Software Gets Shipped 422

Posted by Zonk
from the life-is-pain-princess dept.
astonishedelf writes to mention an article in the Guardian about the hard reality of why buggy code is sold on retail shelves. From the article: "The world's six billion people can be divided into two groups: group one, who know why every good software company ships products with known bugs; and group two, who don't. Those in group 1 tend to forget what life was like before our youthful optimism was spoiled by reality. Sometimes we encounter a person in group two, a new hire on the team or a customer, who is shocked that any software company would ship a product before every last bug is fixed. Every time Microsoft releases a version of Windows, stories are written about how the open bug count is a five-digit number. People in group two find that interesting. But if you are a software developer, you need to get into group one, where I am."
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Why Buggy Software Gets Shipped

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  • The Reason: PHBs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by koweja (922288) * on Thursday May 25, 2006 @11:42AM (#15402082)
    99% of the time it's because upper managment either promised the customers features that could not be implemented or gave the programmers too little time and/or resources to finish the job. While not software development, I am having to deal with a similar problem right now. We are moving our website to a new CMS system. So we have to move all of the content from our old pages to the new system using a slow, buggy, web based system. In the beginning we were told by IT that we had until June 5 to complete the move, so we scheduled our time accordingly. Things progressed slowly but in time to meet the deadline. Then Tuesday morning we get a call from the assholes in PR that we have to have everything done by this Friday. We just had our remaining time cut in less than half. There is no way we can get done, so the site will be incomplete. PR gets no blame and we look bad.
  • It's the three M's (Score:2, Interesting)

    by FidelCatsro (861135) * <fidelcatsro.gmail@com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @11:50AM (#15402179) Journal
    Marketing , Management and Money
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25, 2006 @11:52AM (#15402205)
    It is in the best short term business interests of the people making the decision to ship software with some bugs NOW rather than ship perfect software later or never.
    You're going to announce that you plan to ship xyz new feature on some date well before that date occurs.
    In this business, you make the announcement for the same reason as in any other business. You don't want your customers to choose an alternative that precludes the necessity of buying from you.

    These schedules are always aggressive. They typically assume no bugs passage release test on the first try.
    Managers who develop these schedules are not stupid. They just have to respond to business as well as engineering requirements.

    Development and debugging are always behind schedule because this is not realistic.

    So, you string the Customer (one company or "the market"; doesn't matter) along with promises and betas, but eventually, they demand the product. Pressure is high and the Customer says give us what you got. (And well scream bloody murder if it's not right, and we know it's not right, and it's your fault, now, give us the f---ing software now!)

    And you ship, because once you've gotten to this point, to ship is a better business decision.

    QED

    PS
    You bet your ass I'm posting this AC.
  • by packetmon (977047) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @11:53AM (#15402214) Homepage
    How about making a list of known bugs available to your customer prior to purchase?</i> I don't think the Board of Directors on any publicly traded company will allow this. The problem with many traded companies (and I'm using publicly traded companies since MS is mentioned) would be that the company wouldn't likely meet financials. Hence many pouring out shoddy programs. Imagine the trading price of MS if it did ship a list of known bugs alongside their products... I would think consumers would wait for a stable product before buying. Even if they did ship what they deemed a stable product, whose to blame for someone finding a flaw? The programmer who didn't have an insight to think outside the box similar to the hacker (and I use that term in its purest sense) who broke the product? Speaking of MS...

    From:  Microsoft Security Response Center <secure@microsoft.com>
    To:  "xxxx" <xxxx@hushmail.com>
    Cc:  Microsoft Security Response Center <secure@microsoft.com>

    Thank you for the update with regards to your findings. We are still
    going through the repro stages of the case and there appears to be some
    confusion over the concern. Do you happen to have a network trace of the
    behavior that I could work with our development teams in reviewing to
    ensure that we are looking at the same concern and avoid any possible
    confusion on the matter?

    Thanks,

    Adrian
    Microsoft Security Response Center

    I've broken MS' MSRPC in a real bad way. There are no ifs ands or buts. I passed the information off to Microsoft instead of passing code to a full disclosure list. I've replicated this over and over, remotely and locally. I know for a fact because of the architecture of networking they will never be able to fix this. So what would you think as a consumer about to purchase a product with a hole that can never be filled.
  • by Sproggit (18426) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @11:54AM (#15402218)
    No no no no no no!!!

    It is NOT inevitable that software will have bugs in it.
    By your reasoning, it is inevitable that bridges have design defects in them, and that at some point (in their usable specified lifetime), will collapse.

    This whole fucking "tinkerer" mentality that self important developer assholes have foistered on the rest of mankind, is no different from the self important tinkerer mentality that steam engineers foistered in the 1800's.

    Take solace in the fact that the software development world will ultimately fall into the same engineering disciplines as steam and mechanical enginering before it, and whatever mankind pulls out of our asses after it.

    Software and any other IT components will ultimately be consumer grade, and the inner mechanics (and bugs) will be a problem for the engineering QA department.
  • by Mindwarp (15738) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @11:55AM (#15402232) Homepage Journal
    How very black and white of you. So the large Investment Bank shouldn't ever put its new trading system in place, which has the potential to make them hundreds of millions of dollars, because of a couple of small, esoteric display bugs in the GUI?

    The real world is all about risk/benefit analysis. The only places that ship guaranteed bug-free code are those where human life is directly affected by the output of that code. For anything other than trivially simple systems the cost/benefit analysis will rule out formal code proof in anything but the most necessary of circumstances.
  • Re:bugs, so what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tbone1 (309237) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @11:58AM (#15402248) Homepage
    I work for a company that does medical publishing. Our data is used by many medical professionals in highly-stressful, quick-paced environments. If we mess something up, it can kill people.

    And if our IT staff had the same intelligence, competence, and vision as our management team, we'd kill over 10,000 people a week.

  • How about Group 3? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dpbsmith (263124) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @12:18PM (#15402468) Homepage
    Group 3 consists of people who acknowledge that fixing all bugs is impossible, and that judgement is necessary in deciding which bugs need to be fixed... but nevertheless contend that within the personal computer software culture in the United States, these judgements consistently err in the direction of shipping software with too many bugs.

    The personal computer software culture in the United States is much like that of automakers in the United States circa the sixties, who insisted that the low quality of U. S. autos was the result of the best and wisest judgement... and that public toleration of low quality, as reflected in good sales and profits, validated their judgement.

    Good sales and high profits, that is, until overseas competitors began to ship high-quality cars to the U. S.
  • Gears of War (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Unkynd (977089) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @12:22PM (#15402515)
    Did anyone see the MTV special about the new XBox 360 game Gears of War? At the end of it, Bill Gates walks up to the Lead Developer (atleast i believe he was the lead), and basically says "So, you are gonna have this ready by August, Right?"... The developer reluctantly agrees that it will be ready by August. Bill Gates responds "Great, we are counting on you." Talk about pressure to get a product out. Can you say buggy release?
  • Re:The Reason: PHBs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by creimer (824291) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @01:05PM (#15402919) Homepage
    Then Tuesday morning we get a call from the assholes in PR that we have to have everything done by this Friday. We just had our remaining time cut in less than half. There is no way we can get done, so the site will be incomplete. PR gets no blame and we look bad.

    That's always fun. When I was the lead tester for DBZ: Buu's Fury GBA at Atari, the producer revised the schedule without informing us and I didn't find out until two months after that happened. On top of that, Nintendo insisted that we put in wireless multiplayer capability because the title was coming out the same time as the new wireless adapter was being released. That was a disaster in the making since the wireless API was unproven (even Nintendo had a hard time with it), we didn't get the wireless adapters until a few weeks before we were supposed to code release, and I was planning to leave the company because my boss thought I wasn't working hard enough (I worked 28 days straight before I left, BTW).

    I made extensive arrangements to be the fall guy if this blew up after I was gone so my team wouldn't get fired in my absence. Since I was leaving the video game industry, I wasn't concern about my reputation if I had to take the blame. However, everything turned out as I expected. Nintendo rejected the title for wireless multiplayer bugs, the wireless capability was pulled from the US version (the European version shipped with it a month after the US release), and no one on my team was fired. Well, not immediately. Within a year after I was gone, all my team members were picked off one by one even though they were the most experienced people in the department. I guess my boss found out I reported him to HR for an ethical violation.
  • by objwiz (166131) <objwiz@NOSpaM.yahoo.com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @02:20PM (#15403603)
    I disagree.

    I think the laywers won't allow us to release that information for fear of making lawsuits that much easier.

    I work for a commerical software developer (hence unnamed to protect blah blah). Yes we do ship with known defects. Our lawyers look over everything to the nth degree. They look at every screen we developed. They look at every report the program generates. They look at every help link. The list is pretty long.

    Yes BoD is about ensuring the company is profitable. But profitable doesnt have to mean shoddy and many companies honesty try to deliver quality products. So I feel its a bit contrived to suggest that the BoD primarily responsible.

    If anything releasing bug information would make the company more reputable therefore more profitable because more customers would be interested in dealing with a sincere and honest company (my program managers hold that view anyways).

     
  • by Tim Browse (9263) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:39PM (#15405410)
    My favourite version of this was a comment someone made on here a while back - something like "That bridge you made was great! Can you do us another one, only this time make it work in a universe where electrons have +5 spin..?"
  • I hope.. (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25, 2006 @06:44PM (#15405825)
    I hope you are still honoring the memories of the firefighters who died after they reported over the radio hearing a series of explosions that collapsed the towers. The same with the maintenance worker pulled from the rubble who said the same thing, the people who's testimony was NOT in the kean whitewash report and the recordings of them NOT released to the public. The firefighters who croaked in WTC 7 after reporting that they had the fires blocked and were in clean up mode them BAM BAM BAM BAM.

        I hope you take it as serious as millions of other people do who can see quite clearly that this current government-some cabal of insiders in extremely highcommand levels- allowed this thing to go down for profit of various kinds. The people who were running a "drill" that day with "airplanes used as weapons" that they later claimed they had "no knowledge" of anything like that even contemplated. The same cabal that clearly had all the project bojinka information. The same cabal who issued warnings to selected politicians to not fly that day. The same cabal who ignored warning after warning from some foreign intelligence services, and who conversely don't think it is relevant that ONE of those services notified nationals who were there who failed to show for work that day and escaped the fate that others had to endure. The same cabal who refused to let david schippers of past presidential impeachment legal fame and credentials issue his warning of imminent upcoming terr attacks to them, in JULY. The same people who ordered various control tower tapes of airliner captains transmissions to be destroyed, the cassettes crumbled and placed in separate waste receptacles and ATC guys to SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP. The same cabal that ordered various of their lower level federal cops to STOP INVESTIGATING what looked like an upcoming terror attack once they saw it went upstream and started WHITE GUYS WITH BLACK SUITS AND FUNNY SUITS WITH BRAID AND RIBBONS. The same fed cops still sitting in limbo to this day and never yet with their day in court for some rather mysterious reason.

    And so on, there's a HUGE list out there of strange and oddly weird "intelligence failures", which looked at from a more realistic point of view, look suspiciously like intelligence successes, as in "mission accomplished", the grand "pearl harbor" event excuse to go apeshit in the middle east and institute domestic big brother actions to an unprecedented level not matched since the Civil War..

    I sincerely hope you are honoring your friend's memories by not swallowing the governments ludicrous fairy tail conspiracy THEORY about what really went down that day and who was responsible for it. It was the culmination of a long running slow speed coup d'etat, and it had very little to do with some ex-CIA asset wearing a bathrobe hanging around in a cave someplace.

    Yep, it was a conspiracy,and the governments public version is so full of holes moths wouldn't even look at it, not enough to chew on.

To err is human -- to blame it on a computer is even more so.

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