Re: [LEAPSECS] Software requirements

From: Poul-Henning Kamp <>
Date: Thu, 22 Dec 2005 01:00:19 +0100

In message <>, Rob Seaman writes:
>On Dec 21, 2005, at 1:33 PM, Poul-Henning Kamp wrote:

>> You can't separate software from "the real world" any more and
>> therefore "software must be responsive to real world issues" is
>> about as meaningless as saying "timber must respect the US
>> constitution".
>And yet roller coasters must acknowledge gravity, and the space
>station control software, the vacuum of space.

That is utterly irrelevant: Gravity and vacuum of space are not
human conventions they are laws of nature.

Leap seconds and indeed any enumeration of time is merely a human
convention, and one which have changed many times over history
and between cultures.

>> As complexity increases, the situation only looks more and more bleak.
>You're a real fun guy, you know it? Complexity is where the fun is.

I fully agree, and as long as I only endangered my own close proximity
with my coding I used to take the traditional view on software quality:
"If the holes go all the way through the card, it's high quality". :-)

Unfortunately, I find myself, despite my best efforts, being a victim
to the still largely unproven older-wiser connection these days.

>Blindly pursuing the deprecation of leap seconds doesn't avoid
>liability, it creates it.

You seem to think that it will result in a net increase, I think it
will result in a net decrease.

A better less loaded wording would therefor be "shifts liability".

>Arguing that programmers are too ignorant
>or careless to correctly account for real world constraints is not a
>winning selling point for software solutions.

I'm as ashamed as the next guy at how lousy programming is in
general, but I still don't see any major willingness anywhere to
pay the higher price of quality programming.

So while the argument may not sound like a winning selling point for
you, I suspect that the vast majority of relevant decision makers
will merely ask "Which option costs more money ?"

Some of them might after a brief pause ask "... and human lives ?"

It would be a nice world where we could all take TF.460, smack our
customers, politicians, project leaders etc. on their pointy haired
heads and say: "Give me the time and money to do this programming
properly!" and have them magically obey the holy writing.

It ain't this world though.


Poul-Henning Kamp       | UNIX since Zilog Zeus 3.20
phk_at_FreeBSD.ORG         | TCP/IP since RFC 956
FreeBSD committer       | BSD since 4.3-tahoe
Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence.
Received on Wed Dec 21 2005 - 16:11:09 PST

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