Another two days of the testimony into the April 1st elevator fatality in Ottawa has revealed some interesting/ scary facts. It seems that the elevator type in question had a known problem with potentially being able to move when only one of the two doors was closed. A repair which involved moving only *one* wire was known, and had been recommended by the manufacturer in 1978. The repair was not made until 4 days *after* the accident, 11 years later. In the meantime, the ownership of the building changed hands (in 1980), and the maintenance company changed (in 1988). The government inspectors never noticed that the change hadn't been made (there are only 2 inspectors for the Ottawa area, which has 3000+ elevators), and the new repair company didn't notice it either. The owner of the company that checked the elevator just 1 hour before the death *was* aware of the change notice, but, as he put it: "Are you telling me 10 years after a letter comes out... I should remember that?" [...] "I would assume in 1980 [when the building was sold — WDR] all those changes would be made, let alone 1988 [when he took over maintenance]. I don't know of any way any elevator company could know about it all." The scary part came at the end of yesterday's article: "The inquest was told no maintenance records were available for the elevators, installed with building construction in 1973. Records are not required by the ministry and are often removed by maintenance companies if the contract expires in order to hinder the new contractors, Allan Maheral said." [The Ottawa Citizen, 28 June 1989, p. B1, and 29 June 1989, pp. A1-A2] Walter Roberson <Walter_Roberson@Carleton.CA>
I have just seen a copy of the UK department of defence draft standard for safety critical software (00-55). Here are a few high (and low) points. 1. There should be no dynamic memory allocation (This rules out explicit recursion - though a bounded stack is allowed). 2. There should be no interupts except for a regular clock interupt. 3. There should not be any distributed processing (i.e. only a single processor). 4. There should not be any multiprocessing. 5. NO ASSEMBLER. 6. All code should be at least rigourously checked using mathematical methods. 7. Any formally verified code should have the proof submitted as well, in machine readable form, so that an independent check can be performed. 8. All code will be formally specified. 9. There are very strict requirements for static analysis (no unreachable code, no unused variables, no unintialised variables etc.). 10. No optimising compilers will be used. 11. A language with a formally defined syntax and a well defined semantics, or a suitable subset thereof will be used. Comments. 1. means that all storage can be statically allocated. In fact somewhere it says that this should be the case. 2-4 seem to leave no option but polling. This is impractical, especially in embedded systems. No one is going to build a fly by wire system with those sorts of restrictions. (maybe people should therefore not build fly by wire systems, but that is another matter that has been discussed at length here already). it also ignores the fact that there are proof methods for dealing with distributed systems. 5. This is interesting, I seem to remember reading somewhere that Nasa used to have the opposite rule: no high level languages, since they actually read the delivered binary to check that the software did what it was supposed to do. 6-7. All through the draft the phrase `mathematical methods' or `formal methods' is *invoked* in a general way without going into very much detail about what is involved. I am not sure that the people who wrote the report were sure (Could someone from Praxis - which I believe consulted on drawing it up - enlarge on this?). 8. this is an excellent thing, though it does not say what sort of language should be used. Is a description in terms of a Turing machine suitable? After all that is a well understood formal system. 10. Interestingly, there is no requirement that the compiler be formally verified, just that it should conform to international standards (though strictly), and not have any gross hacks (i.e. optimisation) installed. There is also no demand that the target processor hardware be verified (though such a device exists here already: the Royal Signals Research Establishment's Viper processor). 11. seems to be a dig at Ada and the no subsets rule. It also rules out C. Conclusions. I find the idea of the wholesale mayhem and killing merchants being forced to try so much harder to ensure that their products maim and kill only the people they are supposed to maim and kill, rather amusing. The standard seems to be naive in its expectations of what can be achieved at the moment with formal methods (That is apparently the general opinion around here, and there is a *lot* of active research in program verification in Edinburgh), and impossibly restrictive. An interesting move in the right direction but too fast and too soon. And they might blow the idea of Formal verification by tring to force it too soon. And I would very much like to see these ideas trickle down into the civil sector. I might follow this up with a larger (and more coherent) description if there is interest (this was typed from memory after seeing it yesterday) there is quite a bit more in it. Sean Matthews Dept. of Artificial Intelligence JANET: firstname.lastname@example.org University of Edinburgh ARPA: email@example.com 80 South Bridge UUCP: ...!mcvax!ukc!aipna!sean Edinburgh, EH1 1HN, Scotland
This appeared in the 2 Jul 89 Austin (TX) "American-Statesman". "Exxon accidentally destroys data files on Alaska oil spill," by Roberto Suro, New York Times Service HOUSTON - A computer operator at Exxon headwuarters in Houston says he inadvertently destroyed computer copies of thousands of documents with potentially important information on the Alaskan oil spill. A federal court had ordered Exxon to preserve the computer records along with all other material concerning the grounding of the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound on March 24 and the subsequent cleanup effort. Les Rogers, a spokesman for the Exxon Company USA, confirmed the destruction of the computer records but said the oil company's lawyers believed other copies exist. "Very early in the spill, even before the court order, Exxon took the initiative to instruct all its employees to save all documents relating to the event because of the anticipated litigation," Rogers said. "We assume these instructions have been followed." The computer technician, Kenneth Davis, said that it would be difficult and perhaps impossible to determine what documents were on destroyed conmputer files. Exxon faces about 150 lawsuits as a result of the spill, which dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, and it appears certain that the loss of these documents will be the subject of court arguments. Stephen Sussman, a Houston lawyer involved in a suit against Exxon on behalf of Alaska fishermen, Native Americans, and others, said, "The destruction of these records is potentially significant to our case in that we will be arguing that Exxon has been negligent throughout this disaster and now perhaps it was negligent even in the handling of its own documents." Davis, 33, was dismissed June 8, the day after the destruction of the records was discovered. In several interviews, and in written statements to the Texas Employment Commission, Davis alleged that his superiors had been negligent in safeguarding the computer records and that his actions resulted from their failures. The destroyed material included all internal communications and word-processing documents from both the Exxon Shipping Co., which owned the tanker, and the executive offices of Exxon USA. Davis said that since the tapes were the only complete copy of what passed through those computer systems, it might be impossible to determine what was lost. [The full NYT text was sent in by Hugh Miller <MILLER@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>, who prefaced the text with this reference to `1984' by George Orwell: ``I was thinking just this morning about how Winston Smith's job in historical engineering would have been a lot easier if everything had been kept on magnetic media, when this item appeared in today's NYT.'' To conclude, he made some comments about the difficulties of prosecuting after the documents have been destroyed (with reference to Ollie and Fawn). ``Want to bet Exxon doesn't use a PROFS system?''
The June 1989 issue of IEEE Spectrum contains a series of articles discussing risk management techniques and failures, paying particular attention to the areas of aging aircraft ala the Aloha Airlanes 737 incident, the Hinsdale fire which shut down phone service near Chicago, the Savannah river nuclear reactors, the space shuttle, and the release of lethal chemicals in Bhopal. Perhaps because of my own particular biases, the space shuttle article was particularly interesting where it describes the risk of a shuttle accident also dooming the space station (due to the destruction of single copies of critical space station components). Bob Allison
In RISKS 8.86, Jon Jacky quotes Stan Shebs: We supposedly had a "model" software engineering methodology; what I remember most clearly is that half the work was done on one flavor of IBM OS, and the other half done on a different flavor, and file transfer between the two was tricky and time-consuming. The coupled clauses are unrelated, a compositional practice Mr. Shebs is apparently quite fond of. Let's concentrate on Mr. Sheb's text to see what his understanding of software development is: The day-to-day work was [...] writing the "Program Design" for an already-written program (is that stupid or what), figuring out how to compute the intersection of two polygons in space. Without context, this is not evidence that the SE method was good or bad. Of course the program design should have been documented beforehand, but recognizing that it is necessary to have for testing and maintenance purposes is not stupid. I have seen many systems where the software is very old (or inhereted) and must be re-documented to current standards. What was the case here? I suppose the greatest risk of failure derives from things that weren't anticipated during testing, such as a Siberian snowdrift changing the topography on a navigation map... [How does the snow get on the map?!] One does not wait until testing to anticipate such contingencies. Does Mr. Shebs think so? (Regarding) statistics on software quality, the closest thing we had was maybe a count of problem reports (hundreds, but each report ranged from one-liners to one-monthers in terms of effort required). Sigh. There is no mention here whether this applies to _delivered_ product or corrected production errors. Is this his view of what constitutes quality? Nothing classified, we had the odd situation that the *data* was [sic] classified, but the *program* wasn't even rated "confidential"! Odd situation? Apparently, Mr. Shebs had a single experience in the MCCR community. This article was posted to illuminate "the accuracy/quality of strategic weapons guidance systems", presumably by offering a coherent and reasoned exposition. Instead, it presents jokes, innuendo, and unsubstantiated charges and conclusions in indefinite (and sloppy, such as the 1/2 inch diameter missile) language such as: The difficulty of all this apparently didn't occur to anybody until after the missile was working... ...error accumulation over 2000 km is immense,... ...cute little cassette tapes... The precision and formality of the software was very low, but it was exhaustively tested over and over and over again. Really, if Mr. Shebs's rambling demonstrates anything, it shows that the greatest risk is hiring inarticulate and confused programmers like himself who don't have the faintest idea what software engineering is. Mr. Shebs appears to come clean in only one statement: The fragility of something like the cruise missile and its software is something I've spent a lot of time wondering about, and don't really have any idea. Indeed. Rich D'Ippolito
The supply of cold water to our air-conditioners has been turned off due to a major break in the pipes. The problem may not be corrected until the weekend. The lack of cold water is bad news for the computer room. All of the systems are going to be turned off. For the next day or so, CERT will not be able to send or receive EMAIL via the Internet. We will be in the building if you need to contact us. Our telephone number is 412-268-7090. Please forward this information to others in your group. Thanks, Ed DeHart [whhada yuh know; CERT needs a CERT! The police dept's computers are down ... Willis Ware] [I suppose the famous detective, Air-Cool Pour-out, will investigate. PGN]
> The study, ``An Examination of Sudden Acceleration,'' explored ... > > However, there was evidence of minor surges of about three-tenths of the > Earth's gravity for 2 seconds caused by electronic faults in the idle > stabilizer systems of the Audi 5000 ... the surge could startle a driver > enough to accidentally push the accelerator instead of the brake, ... Minor?? .3G works out to roughly 10 feet/sec^2, or a zero-to-sixty acceleration time of about 9 seconds. This may not be considered "full power" or "major" acceleration for a sports-car, but my old Volvo has difficulty reaching highway speed (55) in 9 seconds even if I floor the accelerator. A .3G surge for 2 seconds would accelerate a car from a standstill to somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 feet/second, and would carry the car about 10 feet forwards. Startling? I should say so... especially to drivers who might have only recently switched to the Audi from an older, lower-powered car. Even if this fault in the idle stabilizer cannot invoke "full" acceleration by itself, it sounds substantially dangerous in and of itself. Coupled with poor pedal/linkage layout and design, it apparently adds up to a real hazard. Dave Platt FIDONET: Dave Platt on 1:204/444 VOICE: (415) 493-8805 USNAIL: Coherent Thought Inc. 3350 West Bayshore #205 Palo Alto CA 94303
Three-tenths of the Earth's gravity is not "minor." That's about three meters per second squared. At the end of two seconds the car would have travelled about six meters or twenty feet. 3m/sec^2 on a 1500 Kg automobile for just a moment will set it moving fast enough to squish or bash-in any likely obstacle (inertia, you know). I'll bet drivers are startled! They aren't likely to accellerate that fast when parking... Sixty miles per hour is about a hundred kilometers per hour. That's about twenty-eight meters per second. At 3m/sec^2 it takes only nine or ten seconds to reach 28m/sec; the owners of Audi 5000's are probably pleased with the "zero to sixty in six seconds" performance of their cars; that's less than 5m/sec^2. (Many cars can't do 0-60 in less than 9 seconds flat out.) This means the "surges... caused by electronic faults" are equivalent to accellerating away from a stop light in traffic--and only a third less than flooring the gas pedal to get onto the Pasadena Freeway in Highland Park. Imagine if you were easing your car into your garage at an idle and it suddenly accellerated like you were taking off from a stop sign. (Before you all write to criticize the math, I'm aware that I've neglected air resistance and gear shifting, but I don't think this invalidates the discussion.) If the report does minimize the fault in the Audi's electronic controls to lay the blame on the driver, then we must ask whether the authors wanted to shift concern away from Audi where it seems to belong. (No, I've never owned or even driven an Audi.) Mark Seecof, Locus Computing Corp., Los Angeles (213-337-5218) My opinions only, of course...
>However, there was evidence of minor surges of about three-tenths of the >Earth's gravity for 2 seconds caused by electronic faults in the idle >stabilizer systems of the Audi 5000 Is this a missprint? I find the characterization of a two-second, 3/10 g surge as "minor" to be ludicrous. This is especially true if it is the result of a malfunction in an idle speed control system, implying that it would occur when the vehicle was stopped. At a busy intersection, for instance, with pedestrian cross-traffic or another stopped car just a foot or two ahead. After one second, a 3/10g surge would have moved the vehicle almost five feet forward, and have it traveling over 6 1/2 MPH. By the end of the two second surge, if nothing is done, the car would be doing 13 MPH and have gone nearly twenty feet. No hypothetical "pedal misapplication" is necessary to make such a vehicle hazardous, and while zero-to-sixty in under ten seconds may not be full throttle for an Audi, it's close enough for me.
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