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Fatal Defect: Chasing Killer Computer Bugs

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An airplane crashes, killing eighty-seven passengers. A cancer patient receives a fatal dose of radiation from a machine designed to be foolproof. The ATMs at a New York bank debit customers twice their actual withdrawals, resulting in a loss of millions of dollars. In every case, the culprit was a computer bug, a software error or design defect that may escape detection u An airplane crashes, killing eighty-seven passengers. A cancer patient receives a fatal dose of radiation from a machine designed to be foolproof. The ATMs at a New York bank debit customers twice their actual withdrawals, resulting in a loss of millions of dollars. In every case, the culprit was a computer bug, a software error or design defect that may escape detection until it erupts into the real world with sometimes catastrophic results. This arresting and at times terrifying book tells us just how prevalent these defects are and how they are multiplying as computers become more sophisticated and more deeply embedded in our daily lives. It is also a riveting portrait of the men and women who find and exterminate those bugs, whether they occur in pocket calculators or nuclear reactors. Fatal Defect reveals what you should know about the computers in our lives. Read it before you buy a computer, use a cash machine, or book an airplane flight. Then pray that one of its real-life heroes was on the job.


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An airplane crashes, killing eighty-seven passengers. A cancer patient receives a fatal dose of radiation from a machine designed to be foolproof. The ATMs at a New York bank debit customers twice their actual withdrawals, resulting in a loss of millions of dollars. In every case, the culprit was a computer bug, a software error or design defect that may escape detection u An airplane crashes, killing eighty-seven passengers. A cancer patient receives a fatal dose of radiation from a machine designed to be foolproof. The ATMs at a New York bank debit customers twice their actual withdrawals, resulting in a loss of millions of dollars. In every case, the culprit was a computer bug, a software error or design defect that may escape detection until it erupts into the real world with sometimes catastrophic results. This arresting and at times terrifying book tells us just how prevalent these defects are and how they are multiplying as computers become more sophisticated and more deeply embedded in our daily lives. It is also a riveting portrait of the men and women who find and exterminate those bugs, whether they occur in pocket calculators or nuclear reactors. Fatal Defect reveals what you should know about the computers in our lives. Read it before you buy a computer, use a cash machine, or book an airplane flight. Then pray that one of its real-life heroes was on the job.

44 review for Fatal Defect: Chasing Killer Computer Bugs

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Wanted more horror stories Bugs in code that caused disasters. But spent very little time on interesting bugs. Never got in depth, doesn't retell any tales (was hoping for something a little more like Cuckoo's Egg), don’t get to know any 'characters.' Spent a lot of time on whether you can prove software works 100% correctly (you can't). Wanted more horror stories Bugs in code that caused disasters. But spent very little time on interesting bugs. Never got in depth, doesn't retell any tales (was hoping for something a little more like Cuckoo's Egg), don’t get to know any 'characters.' Spent a lot of time on whether you can prove software works 100% correctly (you can't).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mark Bates

    This book is more software engineering oriented than software bug stories. Good insight, a little dated.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ushan

    The stories of many famous software bugs and bug-prone systems: the Therac-25 radiation machine that killed patients, the crash-prone Airbus, the Patriot missile battery that missed Iraqi SCUDs because of an insufficiently accurate internal clock. Computer safety expert Nancy Leveson is quoted many times; I took her class in 1998 (and told her of the most bizarre bug I had introduced up to then) and recommend her book Safeware over this one. One small correction: Velvel is not a childhood nickna The stories of many famous software bugs and bug-prone systems: the Therac-25 radiation machine that killed patients, the crash-prone Airbus, the Patriot missile battery that missed Iraqi SCUDs because of an insufficiently accurate internal clock. Computer safety expert Nancy Leveson is quoted many times; I took her class in 1998 (and told her of the most bizarre bug I had introduced up to then) and recommend her book Safeware over this one. One small correction: Velvel is not a childhood nickname of William Kahan, but simply the Yiddish variant of his name.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Danny Lynn

    Ivars Peterson quickly guides us through what was painstaking drudgery to discover the tiny errors costing lives, lots of money and confidence in trusted systems. We see how bright and hard-working people make deadly mistakes. He takes us to the door of the consortium, of which he is a member, that for years has struggled with the sticky problem of debugging code before the bugs bring down a system. Entertaining and frightening because it is true. Take it from the expert.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alejandra

    Just as other reviewers, I was expecting more detailed anecdotes. It's still an interesting read, but I guess the title of the book is misleading. Just as other reviewers, I was expecting more detailed anecdotes. It's still an interesting read, but I guess the title of the book is misleading.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Morbus Iff

  7. 5 out of 5

    Frank

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kim

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Brodzenski

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peter Clare

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ian Douglas

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jared

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Ruth

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Holland

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jason Pasch

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jack Lindgren

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Rubenstein

  18. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bishisht Bhatta

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jagan Ganti

  21. 5 out of 5

    Yuval Shachar

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robert Binder

  23. 5 out of 5

    JOSE A CASTILLO

  24. 4 out of 5

    Balthazar Lawson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ken Ahrens

  26. 4 out of 5

    John

  27. 4 out of 5

    Donald Gillies

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anthony DaSilva Jr.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eric Leuliette

  30. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  31. 5 out of 5

    Rich Dailey

  32. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  33. 5 out of 5

    Trish Johnson

  34. 5 out of 5

    Homoionym

  35. 5 out of 5

    Yohai Cohen

  36. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  37. 4 out of 5

    James

  38. 4 out of 5

    Themegalomaniac

  39. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  40. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Pyatt

  41. 4 out of 5

    Vector Shaw

  42. 5 out of 5

    Evgen First

  43. 5 out of 5

    Jeshan Babooa

  44. 5 out of 5

    Aleksei Novikov

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