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Real Life Debugged » Product Bugs

Archive for the Category ◊ Product Bugs ◊

My evil car knows I get cold easily, and it purposely screws with me when I desperately need hurricane winds of hot toasty air. “No heat for YOU” in its best Soup Nazi sneer, armrests crossed and headlights rolling in the air. “I just don’t feel like it right now.”

Northbranch Park. When I was *prepared* for the icicles.

Last spring, I jumped into my car, damp from a light afternoon shower and jacked up the heat. It was overcast but about 70ºF outside. Brrr - I was chilled! But when when I maxed out the temperature (90ºF) my car refused to emit the anticipated waves of warmth. Grrrr.

The gas tank was full, car nicely washed and detailed, clean air filter and sated with meandering drives in the country: she should be happy and content. But nooo, she’d gone bipolar and my car insurance doesn’t cover mental health.

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Yo, Today is December 31, 1969?
Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 | Author: lisaksimone

Couple weeks ago, I was transported back to December 31, 1969 when I was informed a license for some software expired. Huh? I bet you’ve seen this - Mysterious Little time machine references to December 31, 1969 are caused by a simple software bug - so why does such obvious evidence continue to get completely overlooked before software is released?

That got me thinking so I Googled “December 31, 1969.” Of the first 100 search results, only 8 refer to that Wednesday evening nearly 40 years ago.

The other 92 entries? Oooooh, let’s have some fun exploring the debris trail of software date problems (with very few examples I found of what REALLY happened on December 31, 1969).

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Really, Your College Degrees ARE Worth Dirt!
Monday, April 20th, 2009 | Author: lisaksimone

Sometimes advertisements send confounding messages. FAILBlog rocks with examples. Some are amazingly obvious and others send subtle messages. The other day, an ad informed me that my advanced degrees are worth little more than rodent infested dirt and piles of rocks.

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“Lisa, you’re wrong and your technical claims are absurd.” So when do you throw in the towel? Especially when you keep debugging (for free)? I’ve hammered on this BitDefender “License expired” and now “no updates happening” problem for 14 days. I posted a few days ago about my BitDefender debugging - since then, I’ve provided additional updates on the BitDefender forum and then been awarded an extra year for free. And then attacked by a moderator.

Reward? Or bribe? Ahhhh well. Let’s ride the debugging train just a little bit further, shall we?

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I suspected my antivirus/firewall software had a virus. Ya see, out of nowhere at 7am over a nice cup of coffee, BitDefender screamed at me, “Your system is NO LONGER PROTECTED!

Huh?!? I renewed it last month. It’s been running fine!

BitDefender further admonished, “The specified key is not valid. Please enter a valid license key.” After much cajoling and growing ire on my part, it refused to yield, and dragged me way down the rabbit hole.

This is one of those debugging scenarios where you DON’T get access to the source code. OR access to any tool to debug it faster than real time. So, we’re stuck debugging by permutation, with the results of our testing presented as snippy little error messages. But pictures are so much fun, so let’s have a go at it.

(And one of those big hints… Party Like It’s December 31, 1969.)

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Jack Ganssle’s Review of My Book
Friday, February 27th, 2009 | Author: lisaksimone

JackGanssle presented a book review of my book, If I Only Changed the Software, Why is the Phone on Fire? in his latest Embedded Muse Newsletter #174.

An except from Jack’s review:

Engineers are famous for being very bright but also for lacking basic writing skills. Yet writing is still our primary means of communication, so we buy heavy tomes created without the benefit of basic grammar and often bereft of a coherent structure. Storyline? Character development? Forget it.

Welcome to a very different kind of technical book. Lisa Simone’s work isn’t the usual dreary tome stuffed with arcane wisdom buried beneath paragraph-length sentences seemingly written by someone just learning English as a second language. This is certainly the first embedded book with characters. The first with action, and with interesting and cool stories.

Bad code that makes a phone burst into flames?

What fun!

And yes, at one point in my sordid technical past, I did have to debug a very hot phone.

After successfully (I hope!) hiding the problem from potential customers at an international trade show in Singapore. Thankfully, the phones were displayed on marble tables - very good for heat dissipation between hurried demonstrations!

I was reading a post about the danger of cutting innovation efforts and R&D costs in this radically crappy economy - kinda like the farmers’ saying about not eating the seed corn. Seems a no-brainer to me that while forward-looking efforts might be optimized, long-term strategy and activities should not be compromised or curtailed.

You tech companies want a hint? Bag the next generation 140-button electronic gadget remote control that manages every electronic device in the house, washes your dishes, and vacuums the rug. Instead, gimmee a 15-button remote control in a fashionable color that doesn’t require me to turn on the lights to find the button to pause my DVD.

You want a rant? Here ya go.

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Jack Ganssle is an embedded guru and also a really neat guy. He collects real life disasters - when products behave Not As Intended. Some are pretty sad when they involve loss of life, but others are funny - like this store sign that reports a temperature of 501 °F. Whew!

When I pitched the concept of individual product disaster mysteries like “Law and Order” or “CSI” for my book, he liked the idea. And I was even more psyched that he would dig through his collection to find Real Life Disasters with similar root causes to the bugs in each of my chapters.

So I thought of Jack when I ran across a post about errors at a site called “The Daily WTF.” (Man I like that name!)

Check out these pics of other interesting Bugs in Public at - There’s Gotta Be A Catch.

And the Walgreens bug? It’s still out there - a student of mine sent me a picture he took of it in mid 2008.

And what caused the bug?  The bias current to an unconnected processor input in the electronic billboard changed; the normal “zero” state drifted to a logic “one.”  Firmware didn’t ignore this unused bit, and accepted the unnecessary and incorrect new data, generating a temperature display that was insane. - From Jack

Bugs: Product Features or Warranty Restrictions?
Friday, January 09th, 2009 | Author: lisaksimone

Jessica Hagy writes a neat little blog called Indexed - it’s full of interesting meanderings about life that we all recognize as true, but we Never Quite Thought Of That Way.

Each is hand drawn on an index card. Short attention span theater. As the blog’s tagline states:

PUBLISHED WEEKDAY MORNINGS as the COFFEE BREWS

Not all musings are about bugs or debugging, but many highlight problems, misunderstandings, and truisms about life.

This card begs one to explore the disposition of bugs which aren’t solved, either before product launch or after.

Fix, Featurize, or shove into the Product Warranty under “misuse, abuse … or use under improper environmental conditions.”

Heh.

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What? Products have Bugs?
Saturday, April 05th, 2008 | Author: lisaksimone

A few years back, I was blindsided by a problem that is plaguing the creation of technology-based products and services. We don’t teach our technical community of students, developers, computer scientists and engineers how to solve problems.

But I don’t mean original technical problems like how to build a faster computer or how to diagnose cancer through advanced imaging analysis. Those “problems” are the types of technical and social challenges that got us into engineering and science in the first place.

I mean the unintended problems that plague us on the quest to create a portable artificial kidney or deliver high fidelity movies over a cell phone. Problems that weren’t supposed to be there in the first place.

I mean Bugs.

We’re putting more bugs into our products without having the skills and expertise to take them back out again.

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