A world-renowned technology expert reveals the true cost to business and society created by little-known problems rife within the software industry. Software kills? Yes. Industry insider Mark Minasi argues that it routinely destroys millions of work hours, files, deals, and ideas. Most of us are familiar with conputer problems, but how many realize that software victims also include people: a 7 year-old killed by bad fuel-injection software in a Chevrolet in Alabama, 28 U.S. Marines lost to a missile-chip malfunction, 200 people on a flight to Guam blown to bits when an altitude warning device failed. Minasi believes it's time to get mad at the industry that allows such things to happen. From his unique vantage point, he delivers an incisive and highly readable expose that calls computer makers and consumers to account. He reveals how companies inexcusably get away with thumbing their nose at quality, and tells what all of us can do to stop it.
Review By: Bill Tuccio 02/14/2003This book discusses the dominance of the Software Industry and its arrogance towards customers. Briefly, software firms routinely spring conditions on you after you've paid for their product, but before you can install it on your computer: conditions they won't let you see before you pay for it, conditions that absolve them for any wrongs the product may do to your data and that dissolve any ownership rights you might have had, and even restrict use of the product you paid for. The software industry maintains software police who can obtain warrants to enter your business and fine you hundreds of thousands of dollars if you are not using the software according to the industry's complex rules and keeping the IRS-like records that they require. Why does the industry do this? Because they can. Because we let them. Consumers who would otherwise howl with outrage over any other kind of product that turned out to be so shabby have been conditioned to give the software industry a free ride. Veteran journalist and computer expert Mark Minasi now explains why it's time to punch some tickets. As Upton Sinclair took on the meat packing industry in The Jungle, Mark Minasi exposes the conspiracy of contempt, complacency, and arrogance of the software industry—an industry now as powerful as the automobile industry was in the 1960s and 70s, and as vulnerable.
The book is written for the mass-market, consumer audience. The author accompanies the reader on a tour of the software industry. He starts out by piquing your interest with some sensational software failures. He then explains how the software development process works and existing methods that are used to eliminate bugs.
The author then steers the book toward the conspiracy theme. He explains why software companies allow software to ship with bugs, drawing analogies to the decline of quality standards in the US automobile industry in the 1970s.
The conspiracy continues with a picture of the legal landscape of the software industry. The author points out the details of software licenses and current forces that are working to shape the scope and effect of software law. He argues that software law will ultimately shape software quality. He then concludes with practical steps the consumer can follow in purchasing software to get the best value for the dollar.
I found the presentation of the dynamics of software law intriguing. His explanation of how the fifty states agree upon common interstate laws and how draft legislation eventually becomes law in each of the states was enlightening. The book arms the reader with enough intellectual ammunition to become a vocal consumer advocate for software quality.
It is easy to share the author’s frustration with “annual” new releases of software that are sometimes merely bug fixes. Other shared frustrations include those long software licenses that you have to agree to, that may very well say, “…and this software may not work at all, and, by the way, you can’t return it…” Certainly, this book will inspire you to read the absurdity of a software license and question its assertions before saying “I AGREE.”
Don’t expect a scholarly or highly technical dissertation. If you are looking for a book about the software industry and laws written with a voice of sensationalism, this is a great book. For a book written in the same time period on the same issue, consider Kem Caner’s Bad Software for a different voice on the subject. The authors shared notes while they were writing their respective books.