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July 25, 2002—In this issue:
- Complacency Creates Vicious Cycle of Software Bugs
2. SQL SERVER NEWS AND VIEWS
- Results of Previous Instant Poll: Business Intelligence Tools
- New Instant Poll: SQL Server Development Environment
- Get Kudos & a Free Trip to SQL Server Magazine LIVE! in Orlando!
- Got Digital?
4. HOT RELEASES (ADVERTISEMENTS)
- NetOp Remote Control - CrossTec
- Compare and Synchronize SQL Databases with SQL Compare
- What's New in SQL Server Magazine: Missing Numbers
- Hot Thread: Using Temporary Tables with Web Applications
- Tip: Blocking SQL Server Agent Stops and Starts
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Monitor SQL Server Configuration
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
(contributed by Brian Moran, news editor, firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Instant Poll in the July 11 SQL Server Magazine UPDATE posed the question, "Do you think Microsoft should be held financially liable for defective software?" The poll received 897 responses, 53 percent of which were "Yes." (To see the poll results, go to http://lists.sqlmag.com/cgi-bin3/flo?y=eMob0E3SUn0BRZ03VA0AB .)
I'd like to expand the discussion about defective software to include all software vendors. It's easy and politically correct to poke fun at Microsoft, but the problem of excessive bugs in commercial software cuts across all layers of the software business.
Stamping out every bug in every software program before release might be impossible. I don't believe that the industry should hold software vendors accountable for every bug in their products. However, software consumers have let the quality bar drop precipitously low. Consumers and programmers alike are conditioned to accept a certain number of bugs. This complacency has created a vicious cycle over time. Programmers learn that consumers will accept bugs and that they can defer bug fixes to the next release. Consumers accept that bugs are unavoidable and simply learn to deal with them. Every year, the problem gets a little worse. How can the industry stop the software bug cycle?
Forcing vendors to accept financial responsibility for every bug is a foolish idea. Lawyers will make a ton of money, but consumers will be hurt. Software vendors will resort to charging exorbitant prices to cover the new liability insurance they'll need. Development life cycles will drag on, and we'll wait painfully long periods of time for new software products.
I believe that continuing to accept software bugs will lead to further downward spirals of quality levels in the software industry. I don't expect bridges to fall down from engineering mistakes, and I'm sure that the world's leading software vendors can produce software with fewer bugs, even if they can't entirely eliminate coding mistakes.
You might not know that most major software companies (Microsoft included) ship products with known bugs in them. Product development teams set Quality Assurance (QA) thresholds and prioritize the severity of software bugs. The product ships when the number of severe bugs is low enough that the vendor decides the software is safe to use. (This description oversimplifies the product development life cycle, but it's fairly accurate.) I don't think this approach is horribly flawed, but I'm infuriated that software companies don't publish known defects when the product ships. Most software vendors will triage their products, decide that the quality level is good enough, and ship the product. But vendors typically don't tell customers about all the known defects when the product ships.
I think that the general quality level of software would increase immediately and continue to increase over time if a law forced vendors to publicize all known defects when products ship and to periodically publish updated defect lists as developers or users find new bugs. These lists need to include bug reports from consumers after the vendor's QA team has verified the reports.
Won't vendors cheat? Won't they try to hide defects? I have two answers to those questions. First, a new consumer watchdog agency--let's call it Software Defect Report--could act as a clearinghouse for the public to post defect reports. The clearinghouse could work with the software vendor to validate bugs and wouldn't release dangerous information (such as a security vulnerability) until the vendor has time to respond. Second, and most important, feed software vendors to the sharks if they're caught suppressing defect reports. Protect the vendors from liability for known bugs, but sic the lawyers on them when they suppress bugs.
Wouldn't the software world be a better place if consumers could make informed decisions about purchasing a product after reviewing the bug list? Don't you think vendors would change their QA triage processes if their dirty laundry were on display for the world to see? Tell me what you think by sending your comments to email@example.com.
P.S. Thanks to Mike McGuire for his interesting dialogue with me about software defects.
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2. SQL SERVER NEWS AND VIEWS
Sponsored by Oracle
The voting has closed in SQL Server Magazine's nonscientific Instant Poll for the question, "Which SQL Server business intelligence (BI) tools are you using?" Here are the results (+/- 1 percent) from the 182 votes:
- 30% OLAP - 5% Data mining - 2% SQL Server Accelerator for Business Intelligence - 9% More than one of the above - 54% None of the above
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The next Instant Poll question is, "What is your development environment for SQL Server?" Go to the SQL Server Magazine Web site and submit your vote for 1) Visual Studio 6.0, 2) Visual Studio .NET, 3) Server-side tools such as T-SQL stored procedures, 4) A third-party environment, or 5) Other.
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4. HOT RELEASES (ADVERTISEMENTS)
NetOp, PC Magazine Editor's Choice, provides fast & secure remote support & management. Control PCs over the Internet, LANs or modems as if you were in front of them. Click to download a FREE evaluation!
Compare and synchronize the structure and contents of Microsoft SQL Server databases with SQL Compare. Compare and synchronize development and live databases. Push changes out to live databases quickly and accurately. Visit site for free trial.
Can you solve the T-SQL puzzle that stumped a talented SQL programmer? Your challenge is to find one SELECT statement that retrieves all the missing numbers in a table. Author Itzik Ben-Gan guides you through an exercise that will sharpen your T-SQL skills in his article "Missing Numbers," which appears in the July 2002 issue of SQL Server Magazine and is available online at the following URL:
Web application developers at Jim's company want to return a result set that involves using temporary tables that will externally face up to 100,000 users. He would like to know whether another approach is available. Offer your advice and read other users' suggestions on the SQL Server Magazine forums at the following URL:
(contributed by Brian Moran, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Q. One of my SQL Server users periodically stops and starts the SQL Server Agent service. The user isn't a member of the sysadmin role and isn't a member of any other SQL Server role, but the user can still stop the service. I've denied public access to the xp_servicecontrol procedure, but the change hasn't made a difference. How can I prevent the user from stopping and starting the SQL Server Agent?
A. This problem is a perfect example of why SQL Server DBAs should have a good knowledge of the underlying OS. Stopping and starting the SQL Server Agent service has nothing to do with SQL Server. The ability to start and stop any service, SQL Server-related or not, is strictly a function of the rights granted to the user's Windows user account. By default, all Windows users who have administrator or power-user permissions can stop, start, and pause services. The Microsoft article "HOW TO: Grant Users Rights to Manage Services in Windows 2000" explains how to grant the right to stop and start services. You can't prevent a Windows user who is an administrator or power user from stopping the SQL Server Agent service. The only solutions I might suggest are to remove the rogue user from the Windows administrator group or create a set of policies that clarify who can and can't stop SQL Server-related services.
Send your technical questions to email@example.com.
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Carolyn Mader, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ecora Software announced Configuration Auditor for SQL Server, which will be available in third quarter 2002. The software lets you see users' server roles such as login name, type, default database, default language, and whether a user's password is null. The software reports and tracks table structure settings, including column name, data type, length, and whether nulls are allowed. The software details data-file properties, including data-file ID, filegroup name, filename, size, maximum size, growth, and location. Configuration Auditor for SQL Server formats reports similar to how Enterprise Manager formats reports. For pricing, contact Ecora Software at 603-436-1616 or 877-923-2672.
7. CONTACT US
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