The 8 September 1986 issue of InformationWEEK carried an article "Ada Goes to Work." A box in that article is "Ada is Finding More Job Opportunities With European Telecommunications and Banking Corporations" by Philip Hunter. The following excerpts are from the box. Deletions... (bridges) [comment]: "... The Finnish bank Kansallis Osake Pankki has standardized on Ada for some... systems, having decided that the language is much better than Cobol for developing secure fail-safe applications, with sound structure and strong management control." "... Barclays privately admits that Ada could be the logical successor to Cobol for financial systems where security and fail-safe operation are essential, ..." "... its chief appeal to banks is the rigorous structure... This prevents individual(s)... from making changes that affect other parts of the system. The ... application is then to a large extent shielded both from careless coding... and from deliberate tampering-including the insertion of logic time [sic] bombs... " "... Ada... helps project managers construct secure reliable systems." [several paragraphs omitted] "... British Petroleum and Shell... are evaluating its use for telemetry, ... The... Schlumberger group has... standardize(d) on Ada for oil-field simulation systems, ..." "Corporations here in the (U.S.) also are taking up Ada for simulation applications, but Europe is way ahead in use (of Ada) for telecommuni- cations, ..." "(other uses include)... Computer Integrated Manufacturing, where a uni- versal applications-programming environment is needed ... to drive a variety of devices, such as robots, machine tools, and vision systems. " [I have left out several concluding paragraphs. The thrust of the article (Ada doing fine in Europe) is skewed by my selection of matters relating to safety, security, and reliability.] - Mike McLaughlin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Heard on NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday evening: An Air Force Lt. Col., speaking about a kinetic energy weapons test earlier this week, which apparently went better than expected in several respects. If this isn't an exact quote (I heard it twice, but didn't write it down at the time), it's real close: "We wrote about a million lines of new computer code, and tested them all for the first time, and they all worked perfectly." "Interesting if true - and interesting anyway." - Mark Twain. Ken Calvert Univ. of Texas Computer Sciences
In a recent issue of Risks, a contributor suggested the possibility of substituting the UPC code for walnuts on a package of pecans, to "save some money". While I am fairly sure that person was joking, it does point out an interesting phenomenon in the area of computer-related risks. That is, as soon as a computer is involved, people seem more willing to commit acts of fraud, theft, and espionage than they would in the absence of a computer. Thus, people will talk about switching UPC price tags who would view switching non-computerized price tags as fraud. Similarly, people will read mail and data files stored on a timesharing system, even though it's unacceptable to rifle through people's desks. I don't believe that this is due to inadequate security measures on computers. My desk is unlocked, but that hardly constitutes license for people to paw through it, even in my absence. Two possible explanations that occur to me are 1) Novelty -- computers are sufficiently new that they haven't been included in people's "social conditioning". All of the little stories that tell children not to steal, not to lie, etc. don't seem to apply to computers and bits. 2) Distance -- computers serve as intermediaries distancing the perpetrator from the victim. It is easier to consider and carry out unethical actions when they appear to be carried out on a machine rather than a person. What, if anything, can/should be done about this problem? --Mark
A blurb from Pergamon Press came in the mail today; I thought RISKS readers might be interested in this book. Title: _HUMAN_RELIABILITY:_With_Human_Factors_ Author: Balbir S. Dhillon, Mechanical Engineering/University of Ottawa Other: 1986; 272 pp.; softcover 24.50, harcover 43.50 Blurb: "This first-of-its-kind text explains the important role people play in the overall reliability of engineering systems, since various systems are interconnected by human links. Detailed coverage of these systems and links are given through data collection and analysis, development of reliability prediction methods and techniques, and numerous ready-to-use formulas and mathematical models for predicting human reliability in a variety of situations. The introductory material eliminates the need for prior knowledge of mathematics and reliability. Exercises and references follow each chapter. "Designed for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students, this text will find application across many disciplines since human error is a common problem..."
The report from AAAI-86 (RISKS 3.41, Alan Wexelblat, email@example.com) had two questions (Q7 & Q8) relating to the WWMCCS Intercomputer Network (WIN). The WIN, which is the communications component of WWMCCS, has received a great deal of bad press dating from the period 1977-79. Some of it may be pertinent to RISKS FORUM. RISK: Using obsolete data for system evaluation. The most vociferous complaints about WIN date from the period 1977-79 which was a transition phase from prototype (PWIN) to operational status. Use of data from that period may be of academic interest but it is not relevant to the present WIN which has current technology hardware and vastly improved software. I visited several WWMCCS sites after the transition and found satisfied users who were doing things that they considered impractical a few years before. In some cases, the WIN was outperforming every other communications medium to the point of operating where the parallel communication channels failed or were hopelessly saturated. WIN is now handling more data and serving more users than was originally anticipated. There are still people whose contempt for WIN is based on data from the transition era. RISK: Premature transition from prototype to operational status. Transitioning from a prototype to production or operational status is always a calculated risk. This was no different in the case of the WIN. Go ahead was given based IN PART on the following: 1. There were still minor but correctable technical flaws in the WIN. 2. Even in its imperfect state, the WIN provided capabilities which were not otherwise available. 3. A situation existed where no applications software was being developed for WIN because WIN was not yet available for development of applications software. 4. There would be a learning curve for the applications development people where the remaining WIN technical problems could be resolved before the learning curve started to rise significantly. 5. There was no way of economically or effectively modeling or testing the full-blown military network. 6. Certain categories of highly sensitive military messages would be prohibited in the WIN. No reliance would be placed on an unproven system. In the case of the WIN, the gamble paid off handsomely, but there are still numerous criticisms from people who could not or would not understand the situation that existed in the late 1970s. RISK: Adaptation of technology from a different environment. The WIN was directly derived from the purportedly highly successful ARPANET which dated back to the late 1960s. The ARPANET of that era was essentially a heterogeneous network linking universities and government research houses. There were however flaws in the network architecture and implementation that were unknown, unrecognized or otherwise not recorded, which came to light in the homogeneous military environment. No one much knew or cared if the University of West Academia unexpectedly dropped out of the network because of failures in home-grown software or hardware. In the WIN, a lot of people will take notice if the Pentagon suddenly drops out of the network. Much of the development effort and many of the problems reported in the 1977-79 period were associated with correcting deficiencies in the ARPANET architecture and implementation. The ARPANET was and still is a very good research network where problems are analyzed and corrected on a time-, money-, and talent-available basis. There may be serious problems in the wholesale transfer of laboratory technology to other environments especially critical large-scale military installations. RISK: Becoming a victim of one's own success. At well-managed and well-run sites the WWMCCS/WIN provides good service and reliability to those who understand its capabilities and limitations. This results in a good reputation which causes the demands for service extension to new users beyond those originally intended or causes existing users to increase their utilization of the system. Failure to accommodate these demands yields criticisms of poor response and inadequate support. In order to support more users or increased utilization, the site equipment would probably require additional hardware which is difficult to formally justify and fund. At the present time a typical WWMCCS site has less than half the equipment that the vendor defines as a maximum hardware configuration. If more users are granted access than the equipment can support, then performance can be expected to degrade and complaints to increase. The WIN provides solid, reliable, effective communications among the WWMCCS sites for file transfer, teleconferencing, remote terminal access, and mail, but it has throughput limitations. Performance tests, which I conducted two years ago, showed that minimal WWMCCS ADP computers are capable of driving the communications lines at near theoretical capacity. Some people understand why their M16 rifle can't shoot 10 miles but will not be convinced that it takes a while to transfer a megabyte file over a 56K baud communications link. WWMCCS ADP and the WIN have a lot of room for technical improvement. However, the biggest problems are not technical, but government regulations, redtape, funding, and retention of trained, capable personnel. The continual references to statistics and data nearly a decade old is misleading and masks current problems and issues. As always, these opinions may not reflect those of my employers, associates, or customers, past or present.
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