Feeds

Mathematical approaches to managing defects

Radical new approaches toward software testing needed?

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Software testing is still a controversial subject – everybody agrees that it is a "good thing", but it is frequently the first bit of the process to get cut when deadlines bite.

After all, those sneaky testers are really responsible for the bugs, aren't they? Our software is just fine until strangers start poking around inside it, trying to stop it going out to our eager users. Mind you, I was taken aback once when I asked some people in a bank why they imposed silly deadlines on the IT group I worked for - and was told that they didn't expect our software to work anyway.

So, they said, they'd rather get it, broken, a year before they needed it, with a year to iron out the bugs before it was deployed; than get it just before they really needed it and risk disrupting operational business systems with broken software.

That was then, and it represented a very expensive approach to testing, but things don't seem to have improved much. Natalia Juristo and Ana M Moreno, (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid) and Wolfgang Strigel (QA Labs), the guest editors of the July/August 2006 issue of IEEE Software (featuring Software Testing Practices in Industry), can still say: "Despite...obvious benefits, the state of software testing practice isn't as advanced as software development techniques overall. In fact, testing practices in industry generally aren't very sophisticated or effective. This might be due partly to the perceived higher satisfaction from developing something new...Also, many software engineers consider testers second-class citizens."

This highlights the fact that many of the issues with testing derive from a failure of process and the people carrying out the process, rather than from failures in technology or the supply of tools. After all, it is well known that defects are cheaper to remove the earlier that you find them, and cheapest of all if they're never introduced in the first place. But what chance is there of producing defect-free code if the most enjoyable part of the development process, for many programmers, is hunting bugs?

Unfortunately, if you only ever find some of the bugs in your code (as Myers pointed out in chapter one of The Art of Software Testing, it is "impractical, often impossible, to find all the errors in a program"), then the more you put in (typically, by guessing something, in the expectation of supplying the right answer while debugging the code), the more bugs there will be in the delivered product.

And yet, increasing legal regulation and concern with security issues makes defects in delivered systems increasingly unacceptable. It is unlikely that "more of the same" will work any better than it ever has, so perhaps it is time to try radically new approaches to managing defect removal; and mathematically-based approaches might take some of the human issues out of the equation.

Bayesian Analysis and Formal Methods are examples of such approaches. They are established enough for reasonable maturity, but they are not yet widely employed in software development generally. Perhaps they should be.

Next page: Bayesian analysis, by Pan Pantziarka

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Not appy with your Chromebook? Well now it can run Android apps
Google offers beta of tricky OS-inside-OS tech
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
NHS grows a NoSQL backbone and rips out its Oracle Spine
Open source? In the government? Ha ha! What, wait ...?
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.