Computer program fixes old code faster than expert engineers

From there, the Helium system then replaces the original bit-rotted components with the re-optimized ones. The net result: Helium can improve the performance of certain Photoshop filters by 75 percent, and the performance of less optimized programs such as Microsoft Windows’ IrfanView by 400 to 500 percent.

“We’ve found that Helium can make updates in one day that would take human engineers upwards of three months,” says Amarasinghe. “A system like this can help companies make sure that the next generation of code is faster, and save them the trouble of putting 100 people on these sorts of problems.”

Source: Computer program fixes old code faster than expert engineers | MIT News

Having the ability to automatically fix bad code is like when they introduced auto focus on cameras to automatically fix bad focus or auto tunes to fix bad singing.  The downside might be that development chooses to do less code reviews releasing more bad code into the wild relying on these automatic techniques to fix everything.

Here’s another article recently published by MIT News about this concept.

Remarkably, the system, dubbed CodePhage, doesn’t require access to the source code of the applications whose functionality it’s borrowing. Instead, it analyzes the applications’ execution and characterizes the types of security checks they perform. As a consequence, it can import checks from applications written in programming languages other than the one in which the program it’s repairing was written.

Source: Automatic bug repair | MIT News

A400M probe focuses on impact of accidental data wipe

Computers operating each engine cannot work if this data, which is unique to each of the turboprops, is missing.

Source: Exclusive: A400M probe focuses on impact of accidental data wipe | Reuters

Under the A400M’s design, the first warning pilots would receive of the engine data problem would be when the plane was 400 feet (120 meters) in the air, according to a safety document seen by Reuters. On the ground, there is no cockpit alert.

Sounds like these data files became a single point of failure.

Wall Street and the Mismanagement of Software

It’s clear that Knight’s software was deployed without adequate verification. With a deadline that could not be extended, Knight had to choose between two alternatives: delaying their new system until they had a high degree of confidence in its reliability (possibly resulting in a loss of business to competitors in the interim), or deploying an incompletely verified system and hoping that any bugs would be minor. They did not choose wisely.

via Wall Street and the Mismanagement of Software | Dr Dobb’s.

What is needed is a change in the way that such critical software is developed and deployed. Safety-critical domains such as commercial avionics, where software failure could directly cause or contribute to the loss of human life, have known about this for decades. These industries have produced standards for software certification that heavily emphasize appropriate “life cycle” processes for software development, verification, and quality assurance. A “safety culture” has infused the entire industry, with hazard/safety analysis a key part of the overall process. Until the software has been certified as compliant with the standard, the plane does not fly. The result is an impressive record in practice: no human fatality on a commercial aircraft has been attributed to a software error.

Building QuickBooks: How Intuit Manages 10 Million Lines of Code

As the manager with primary responsibility for build management, Burt has supervised the construction of automated systems that perform continuous builds and continuous integration. The systems incorporate tools for testing, version control, and scheduling.

via Building QuickBooks: How Intuit Manages 10 Million Lines of Code | Dr Dobb’s.

Most of all, the key to managing a large project was automation. “We automate everything that can be automated,” says Burt. “The tools make a huge difference. We maintain all the different versions of QuickBooks, on all our supported platforms, with about 60 code-writing developers. We couldn’t do that without automation.”