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Real Life Debugged » Software quality

Tag-Archive for ◊ Software quality ◊

I had a challenge getting my blog up after Wordpress was hacked a month ago.

Today I find that every image I’ve uploaded into every post does not appear.  Just Like This.

** pulls hair **

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How Could They Have Missed This Software Bug?
Thursday, June 03rd, 2010 | Author: lisaksimone

The correct prize for an apparent $42.9 million slot machine jackpot that a Thornton woman hit at a Central City casino should have been $20.18, Colorado gaming regulators said today. [Denver Post 5/19/2010]

Ouch.  I bet there was a whole lotta screaming going on, starting with great enthusiasm and then ending badly.

The machine was a progressive, meaning that the payout is based on previous bets and other similar machines.  In order to win the Big Payout, the player must bet the max, which in this case was $4.  The player had bet only the minimum, $0.40.

The Colorado Division of Gaming’s forensic investigation found that the slot machine malfunctioned and displayed the wrong payout because of errors in “mathematical calculations built into the game software.”

That’s a heck of a big mistake.  Seems like an extra (missing?) if() statement would’ve caught that one.

I love tripping across relatively harmless bugs.  Amazing how the same types of bugs keep showing up over and over and how we don’t test our code enough before releasing it.

Weather.com has a new radar feature called TruPoint.  Rather than showing radar images from T-30 minutes to the present, this feature predicts future weather patterns of radar images.  T+30 minutes.  Kinda neat if it can actually show the magical storms that materialize out of nowhere just when the traditional radar implies blue skies for as far as the eye can see.

So if a prediction program is T+x, and x is negative, are we going forward or backward in time?

Anyway, I mucked around with the feature and got it to hang.  (Not on purpose.)

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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 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

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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