Tuesday, January 21, 2003

S/W QA/QC:

Posted wirelessly from my Newton using nBlog

My wife had been using AOL until I came along and convinced her that nano-bandwidth was a waste of her time. Plus, the phone service where we live is pretty pitiful anyway, leading to stunning baud rates like 9600, so it was constantly frustrating her. We eventually went with cable, and last weekend I dedided to get rid of unused software on her computer. Specifically, all the AOL paraphernalia. Bad idea.

AOL is like that little kid who takes the bat and ball and goes home when he loses. Uninstalling AOL removed all the drivers for any internet-related items on the machine: the old modem card, the ethernet card, and the WiFi I had just installed. Also, AOL had hijacked IE, replacing the throbber, and IE was claiming it was "supplied by AOL." Grrr. Of course the uninstall did not get rid of that, and I can't be bothered to get that far under the hood of IE to get rid of these traces.

This all points to not only AOL, but to a really poor field of engineering. Software is one of the most poorly quality controlled industries in the world. To even call it engineering is really stretching it. It's sort of like calling medicine as practiced by GPs "science." Yes, there are plenty of QA fora and so-called institutes offering courses on ISO9000 and 15000 issues at $3,000 a pop, but the end result is... you are still stuck with the OS's own QA/QC issues.

I'm pretty sure we are still in the real infancy of software development, and will remain there for a while. People still insist on writing code from scratch because no standard methods have dominated - yes, some tools are emerging that generate standard methods and cross-platform is almost de rigeur. But that's a long way from giving us the reliability we have come to expect from other complex engineering systems. Right now, the industry is being driven by costs that exceed user demand. You didn't get that upgrade because it helps you to do your daily work, did you? You probably upgraded because you found you couldn't use a new piece of software, or because the Joneses next door sent you an attachment you couldn't open. i.e. you were forced to do it because of factors external to your performance and especially external to your requirements.

None of us like being forced to upgrade, but since this is still a very tempting revenue stream with a business model that is tolerated by the consumer, the software empires will continue to use it. So go ahead. Use your .mac account, and/or Windows why don't you?

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