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Comment Re:New guidelines (Score 1) 241

This becomes a hard guarantee to make. As a poster above stated, it can take millions to produce a relatively small amount of bug-free code. Not that it is impossible. It is costly and time-consuming, but certainly possible. Doing an analysis between the costs of bug fixes and shipping a bug-free product might provide more insight, but then again, there's the issue of what caused the bug. Was it a platform issue? Was an interaction with other software? Was it an untested configuration? We might begin to see shorter lists of supported platforms, and hear more responses stating that software is not supported on that configuration, so there is no guarantee. I do not think someone should knowingly ship flawed software, but I do think that some bugs will always be found after the software has been "in the wild".

Comment Can a "level" of liability be set fairly? (Score 1) 241

While a number of coders could be responsible for a software defect, it would be the responsibility of a given software project to correct that defect in a timely and effective manner. The reliance on an open source application can be guaranteed in part through support contracts, but simple ethics would dictate that the developers should hold themselves accountable for the final product. I wrote an essay (Liability, Reliability, and Safety) that briefly touches on this topic back in 2007.

One point that I argue is "[c]ompanies must constantly look at their level of liability and manage the reliability and safety of their systems. Spinello discusses some issues of reliability such as software 'bugs' which are an inherent problem with any piece of software and are to be expected, within reason. However, the programmers of the software are expected to assume the responsibility for providing fixes for the bugs and improving upon the existing code."

The problem lies in defining what "knowingly" means. After all, "software vendors know that the nature of software guarantees a certain amount of bugs thereby raises the risk to the vendor. However, it is not unreasonable to expect that any crippling system bugs would be removed from the final release product. Asking software vendors to assume some liability would help to drive the quality of the software upward."

Ironically enough, I ask the question at the close of my arguments: "From a legal perspective, the United States has some way to go to resolve the problem of liability, especially in the software industry. Software products and systems are not only used to process secure transactions and enable consumers to manipulate data, but they are also used in environments where human lives are at stake and sensitive private data is handled by many different people at all hours of the day. Negative feedback has been proven to work less effectively than positive feedback when dealing with the human psyche, but should software vendors be offered incentives to provide better offerings and assume more liability, or should they be forced to accept a minimum level of responsibility by law and an increasing amount of accountability based upon the industry and the application of the product?"

So, in the case of open source software, should an application targeted at the medical industry be more liable than an application that serves personal media on the Internet? While I would like to see more open source software used in more organizations, I believe that as things stand now, service level agreements and quality of support on standard platforms play a large role in determining whether or not to use an open source application.

As for the risk of litigation,where does the onus of responsibility fall when there is no corporate entity? Does the owner of the individual project become the liable one?
The Courts

Examining Software Liability In the Open Source Community 241

snydeq writes "Guidelines from the American Law Institute that seek to hold vendors liable for 'knowingly' shipping buggy software could have dramatic impact on the open source community, as vague language around a 'free software' exemption could put open source developers at litigation risk. Meant to protect open source developers, the 'free software' exemption does not take into account the myriad ways in which vendors receive revenue from software products, according to a joint letter drafted by Microsoft and the Linux Foundation. As such, the guidelines — which, although not binding, are likely to prove influential on future lawsuits, according to attorneys on both sides of the issue — call into question the notion of liability in the open source community, where any number of coders may be responsible for any given defect."

Comment MS Word UI will soon be like Adobe Photoshop (Score 1) 617

It won't be long before Microsoft changes the Word UI to using a main toolbox and multiple customizable, tear-able, collapsible palettes similar to the Adobe Photoshop or GIMP interfaces. After all, when so much functionality is packed into an application, there are only so many functions you can show on the screen at once. Ever try turning on all the toolbars in Word 2003 or older? Was similar to the ribbon UI, but took up far more vertical screen real estate. The ribbon is bound to grow, too, or will just turn into a nicely skinned, context sensitive, menu bar, which is what it appears to be in Office 2010.

Submission + - Green computing driven by cold, hard cash

jbrodkin writes: "Some of the biggest technology companies in the U.S. are turning to environmentally friendly computing — but not out of any desire to save the planet. Executives from HP, Yahoo!, Google, Sun and Intel discuss how green computing is being spurred by customer demand and, in the words of one executive, a chance to increase "shareholder return." op-green-computing.html"
The Internet

Submission + - How much control do you want over your XML?

An anonymous reader writes: Not many years ago, the options for working with XML were limited essentially to SAX, DOM, or a home-brewed API, but with hundreds of different developer-friendly APIs today control over XML has changed a great deal. O'Reilly Media's editor and author Brett McLaughlin explores the question: Have developers lost some of their ability to manipulate XML or is it true that hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of you out there still plug away with the SAX and DOM?

Submission + - FOSS School Foundation?

smilindog2000 writes: "Open source software has it's place in main-stream corporate America, but only a small place. As Windows and Microsoft Office users, we naturally push these programs on our school-age kids, without thinking of what we deny them. As the OLPC project and many blogs so often state, FOSS gives children an opportunity to look under the hood, and discover for themselves how things really work. A charitable foundation dedicated to supporting the adoption of FOSS in schools could greatly benefit millions of school-age children. It also could make great use of volunteer hackers, while requiring virtually zero cash donations. I would volunteer for such a foundation. Would you?"

Submission + - E-Learning / course management recommendations?

neuralfraud writes: "My organization is in the process of evaluating possible e-learning/course management system. Of course, the problem is, this is a completely new arena for us and many other small/private educators. Given the vast amount of choices available, what does the Slashdot community recommend for a good web-based platform? Are there good open/free systems available? The system would need to be built on PHP/MySQL and support various curricula, testing, reporting, scheduling, etc. As a Web Developer, I'm also looking for a system that is fairly, if not completely standards-compliant and accessible. One of the products I'm aware of is Moodle —, but are there other, better alternatives?"

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