CACM June 2017, Kode Vicious

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CACM June 2017, Kode Vicious

Richard A. O'Keefe-2
The June 2017 issue of CACM turned up on the common-room
table today, and as usual, I turned to Kode Vicious.

This directed my attention to
https://blog.acolyer.org/2016/10/06/simple-testing-can-prevent-most-critical-failures/
which summarises a 2014 Usenix paper I'd missed,
https://www.usenix.org/system/files/conference/osdi14/osdi14-paper-yuan.pdf

To summarise the summary:
   92% of the catastrophic failures in distributed systems
   that Ding Yuan, Yu Luo, Xin Zhuang, Guilherme Renna Rodrigues,
   Xu Zhao, Yongle Zhang, Pranay U. Jain, and Michael Stumm
   studied "are the result of incorrect handling of nonfatal
   errors explicitly signalled in software."
and from the paper:
   "We found the majority of catastrophic failures could easily
   have been prevented by performing simple testing on error
   handling code - the last line of defense – even without an
   understanding of the software design."

The second quote is basically talking about ensuring that test
coverage covers exception handlers.

Reading this made me realise just what a big deal
"Let it Crash!" is.  It is literally unthinkable
for most programmers, due to the way we teach them
using languages like Java.  Nobody seems to be able
to think "hey, if we get a lot of crashes due to
'sloppy' exception handling code, maybe we shouldn't
*have* exception handlers."  And it's sobering to
realise that *I* would probably never have had this
insight.  I am just awed by the mind that could think
such a thing.

Viva Erlang!  Semper floreat et crescat!

(Another article in that issue,
"Too Big NOT to Fail, Embrace failure so it does not embrace you",
may also be of interest.)



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