• ammoQ (cs)

    Bill Gates would love it. Just make the tax form unreadable and you have to pay taxes only for €100M, so the other zillions go by unnoticed.

    Edit: Well, maybe their IT could not handle such an income anyway. 

  • Anonymous (unregistered)

    What, no tax refunds?

  • Ken (unregistered)

    So did the sudden millionaires get a nice fat tax refund?

  • JR (unregistered)

    Maybe the database didn't support nulls.

     captcha: quality indeed

  • cconroy (cs)

    Brillant!  (That's French, BTW.)

  • Ken (unregistered) in reply to Ken

    Actually previous post didn't make sense.  Did they get a nice huge tax bill?

  • John Hensley (cs)

    Speaking of big bucks, do you have any stories of 6-figure consultants this week? Those are always entertaining.

  • bullseye (cs)

    HAHAHA...  the real WTF is that all those people that really made €99,999,999.99 are going to get a free tax year. ;)

  • R.Flowers (cs)
    Alex Papadimoulis:

    ...it recorded the tax payer's income as €99,999,999.99.

    What about the tax bills for those lucky new millionaires? Finding that bill in the mail would cause a few spasm in the nether regions, if you get my drift.

  • Akuji (cs)

    The real WTF is how they solve these budget problems over here in Belgium :)

  • Hit (unregistered) in reply to R.Flowers
    R.Flowers:
    Alex Papadimoulis:

    ...it recorded the tax payer's income as €99,999,999.99.

    What about the tax bills for those lucky new millionaires? Finding that bill in the mail would cause a few spasm in the nether regions, if you get my drift.



    I think what this article is saying is that all taxes were processed normally (that is, manually) for actual taxation purposes.  It's only when they wanted to report on total income reported for government financials that they used this character recognition software.
  • kuroshin (cs)
    Alex Papadimoulis:

    When the system encountered a document it could not read, it did the most logical thing possible: it recorded the tax payer's income as €99,999,999.99.

    Darn, I would have liked that figure to overflow so that you actually get a tax return. Contrary to what others have said, putting in such a high figure as taxable income (when it is not ) forces the tax payer to pay more tax to actually make up for the virtual shortfall created by this WTF. So there is no question of a refund, unless you've paid taxes for earnings greater than €99,999,999.99.

  • tchize (cs)

    Hi,

    am from belgium, and i think you desserve a bit highlighting on this overestimate. Because your post is in opposition to the content of french news articles :)

    First of all, it did not go unnoticed in our country. Some people even said it was the kind of mistake that could cause anticipated elections and we were all speaking about it everywhere for ... at least 1 and a half day. But we did not switch government.

    Now for the reasons. It is true that the base error was a computer related problem. People even asked to fire the computer man responsible for this error. Analysis have shown afterwards that the reason of this mistake is mainly due to a cascade of errors and coincidences (manual bypassing of a filter supposed to prevent this kind of values, error unnoticied by people in charge of verification, and other people impossible to join to notify them of the error).

     

    It was not the job of IT department to notice those new millionaires, but the job of some people who failed to notice those changes of value and the job of a filter that was manually bypassed by user :)

    As a result, once again, it was a problem in the computer - chair interface. :)

     

    Nota: I know this is a bit against the dailywtf to defend the IT in such situation, but am sick to see it's so easy to blame IT department each time something went wrong (in Belgium:p). I remember a journalist saying he couldn't present his article because of an IT defect. Really, it was the secretary who didn't save the .doc file and lost it. 

  • Monday (unregistered) in reply to ammoQ
    Comment held for moderation.
  • JeffTee (unregistered) in reply to Hit
    I think what this article is saying is that all taxes were processed normally (that is, manually) for actual taxation purposes.  It's only when they wanted to report on total income reported for government financials that they used this character recognition software.

    So what we really have here is two WTFs:

    1. Some Belgium programmer who "doesn't believe in exceptions and exception handling".
    2. The Belgium government going out of their way to keep two separate records of the same data, and surprised that they could ever be different. 

    Brillant! 

  • mkb (cs) in reply to Monday

    This was actually mentioned on the RISKS Digest which EVERYONE should read.

  • tchize (cs) in reply to Hit
    Anonymous:
    R.Flowers:
    Alex Papadimoulis:

    ...it recorded the tax payer's income as €99,999,999.99.

    What about the tax bills for those lucky new millionaires? Finding that bill in the mail would cause a few spasm in the nether regions, if you get my drift.



    I think what this article is saying is that all taxes were processed normally (that is, manually) for actual taxation purposes.  It's only when they wanted to report on total income reported for government financials that they used this character recognition software.

    They process automatically the tax declaration, but when there is a possibility of mistake, it entered manually. However, for the one that couldn't be read, it's a lengthly process to encode it. Considering that, that year, people were allowed to return their declaration one month later than usual, this made a tight shedule and someone deicided to continue with those number until they have time to enter the manually. So, no over tax, just an internal budget error..... internal :p 

  • evanm (cs)

    If the system was reporting people with income of almost 100 billion, shouldn't the over estimate be more than 883 million? I mean even if only 2 returns were unreadable, and Belgium has an effective tax rate of 1%, then that really should be 2 billion of revenue for the government, when, in reality, a few 10's of thousands is much more likely.

  • Volmarias (cs) in reply to evanm
    evanm:
    If the system was reporting people with income of almost 100 billion, shouldn't the over estimate be more than 883 million? I mean even if only 2 returns were unreadable, and Belgium has an effective tax rate of 1%, then that really should be 2 billion of revenue for the government, when, in reality, a few 10's of thousands is much more likely.


    Looks like you're missing a couple of 9's in your estimate there, pork chop. It's 10^7 euros - 1 cent, not 10^10 euros - 1 cent.
  • Dazed (unregistered) in reply to evanm

    Ah well, at least this default value didn't kill anyone. Small default values can be pretty bad too. For those people who missed it (I don't think it's been on this site) allow me to mention the smart-bomb controller in Afghanistan.

    An observer team had lined up a Taliban position to receive a smart bomb. Unfortunately, just as the bomber commenced its approach, the battery in their smart-bomb controller ran out. Fortunately they had a spare battery which they could change in a few seconds. Unfortunately the enemy position was reported as an offset from the controller, and on power-up the offset was set to a default value of ... zero.

    Apparently one team member survived to report what had happened.

  • m0ffx (unregistered) in reply to evanm

    Count the zeros! It's nearly 100 million, not billion.

    CAPTCHA: batman. Wonder if he earns > €99,999,999.99

  • Gsquared (cs) in reply to evanm

    The number was 99.9... million, not billion.  That would mean, at 60% tax rate, that would be 15 tax returns (14.7 to be precise).  If, as per another poster, this was at least partially caused by a clerical error on the part of a human operator, that would make sense.  If the tax rate for 10-million+ income is lower, then it's a few more returns.

  • SomeCoder (unregistered) in reply to Dazed
    Dazed:
    Ah well, at least this default value didn't kill anyone. Small default values can be pretty bad too. For those people who missed it (I don't think it's been on this site) allow me to mention the smart-bomb controller in Afghanistan.

    An observer team had lined up a Taliban position to receive a smart bomb. Unfortunately, just as the bomber commenced its approach, the battery in their smart-bomb controller ran out. Fortunately they had a spare battery which they could change in a few seconds. Unfortunately the enemy position was reported as an offset from the controller, and on power-up the offset was set to a default value of ... zero.

    Apparently one team member survived to report what had happened.

     OUCH.  I think if i was the programmer for that Smart Bomb Controller, I'd have a nice date with some whiskey and the end of a rope :(

     God, I hope that if I ever work on anything that important, I don't make a mistake like that :(  Luckily none of my code is life-critical right now.

  • tchize (cs)

    For the little story, yesterday the belgian governement did have a meeting during all night to finalize the 2007 budget. Magically, during one night, they found the 4.000.000.000,00 euros they were missing for the upcoming year to have a positive budget.

     

    We should put them in such meeting every month, we would be a rich country :D
     

  • former military programmer (unregistered) in reply to Dazed
    Anonymous:
    Ah well, at least this default value didn't kill anyone. Small default values can be pretty bad too. For those people who missed it (I don't think it's been on this site) allow me to mention the smart-bomb controller in Afghanistan.

    An observer team had lined up a Taliban position to receive a smart bomb. Unfortunately, just as the bomber commenced its approach, the battery in their smart-bomb controller ran out. Fortunately they had a spare battery which they could change in a few seconds. Unfortunately the enemy position was reported as an offset from the controller, and on power-up the offset was set to a default value of ... zero.

    Apparently one team member survived to report what had happened.

    As someone who has worked extensively on military computer systems (in my very distant past), I could easily see this happening. Then again, didn't NASA just manage to use two different measurement systems that ultimately caused a spacecraft to go kerflooie near Mars?

  • GrandmasterB (unregistered) in reply to JeffTee
    Anonymous:
    So what we really have here is two WTFs:
    1. Some Belgium programmer who "doesn't believe in exceptions and exception handling". 

    No - its pretty clear the exception was caught and handled.  It was just handled in a truly wtf fashion.  Using a magic number like that was pretty common back in the days of big iron and COBOL.

  • GrandmasterB (unregistered) in reply to JeffTee
    Anonymous:
    So what we really have here is two WTFs:
    1. Some Belgium programmer who "doesn't believe in exceptions and exception handling". 

    No - its pretty clear the exception was caught and handled.  It was just handled in a truly wtf fashion.  Using a magic number like that was pretty common back in the days of big iron and COBOL.

  • tchize (cs) in reply to former military programmer
    Anonymous:
    Anonymous:
    Ah well, at least this default value didn't kill anyone. Small default values can be pretty bad too. For those people who missed it (I don't think it's been on this site) allow me to mention the smart-bomb controller in Afghanistan.

    An observer team had lined up a Taliban position to receive a smart bomb. Unfortunately, just as the bomber commenced its approach, the battery in their smart-bomb controller ran out. Fortunately they had a spare battery which they could change in a few seconds. Unfortunately the enemy position was reported as an offset from the controller, and on power-up the offset was set to a default value of ... zero.

    Apparently one team member survived to report what had happened.

    As someone who has worked extensively on military computer systems (in my very distant past), I could easily see this happening. Then again, didn't NASA just manage to use two different measurement systems that ultimately caused a spacecraft to go kerflooie near Mars?

    The european space agency (ESA) lost his first ariane 5 space rocket like that. They had developped a component on the basis of some ariane 4 specs, specially on the metric part that did change. Just after take off, the system got crazy result and a securty system transfered the operation to a backup calculator, which had the same flaw and got crazy too. After a few seconds, the ultimate security system triggered an auto exploded the rocket.

     Guess what now... The auto destruction system, the only thing that was a success on this mission was ... belgian made :D
     

  • Database Guy (unregistered)
    Comment held for moderation.
  • ParkinT (cs) in reply to SomeCoder
    Anonymous:
    Dazed:
    Ah well, at least this default value didn't kill anyone. Small default values can be pretty bad too. For those people who missed it (I don't think it's been on this site) allow me to mention the smart-bomb controller in Afghanistan.

    An observer team had lined up a Taliban position to receive a smart bomb. Unfortunately, just as the bomber commenced its approach, the battery in their smart-bomb controller ran out. Fortunately they had a spare battery which they could change in a few seconds. Unfortunately the enemy position was reported as an offset from the controller, and on power-up the offset was set to a default value of ... zero.

    Apparently one team member survived to report what had happened.

     OUCH.  I think if i was the programmer for that Smart Bomb Controller, I'd have a nice date with some whiskey and the end of a rope :(

     God, I hope that if I ever work on anything that important, I don't make a mistake like that :(  Luckily none of my code is life-critical right now.

    My code has a direct effect on the "planning" portion of military operations.  And it is sobering to realize the serious ripple effect of a simple error during a pilot's plan of his/her flight!

    Read Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" some time (don't see the lousy movie)

  • WIldpeaks (cs) in reply to cconroy

    cconroy:
    Brillant!  (That's French, BTW.)

     Actually, nope.

  • animous (unregistered) in reply to tchize
    tchize:
    Anonymous:

    As someone who has worked extensively on military computer systems (in my very distant past), I could easily see this happening. Then again, didn't NASA just manage to use two different measurement systems that ultimately caused a spacecraft to go kerflooie near Mars?

    The european space agency (ESA) lost his first ariane 5 space rocket like that. They had developped a component on the basis of some ariane 4 specs, specially on the metric part that did change. Just after take off, the system got crazy result and a securty system transfered the operation to a backup calculator, which had the same flaw and got crazy too. After a few seconds, the ultimate security system triggered an auto exploded the rocket.

     Guess what now... The auto destruction system, the only thing that was a success on this mission was ... belgian made :D
     

    Not quite; the unit which was reused from Ariane 4 in Ariane 5 was unmodified. The problem was that the systems engineers never considered the possibility that the flight profile of Ariane 5 might be different from that of Ariane 4. To increase the WTF factor, the routine which ultimately failed (by overflowing a 16-bit integer register with a 64-bit float in a code block which had no expection handling for performance reasons; in case of Ariane 4 it had been shown that the register could never overflow) was not needed in Ariane 5 in the first place. It was a relic from Ariane 4, where it might have been used for faster resumption of countdown in case of a delay; if I remember correctly this functionality was never used.

    So to sum it up - Ariane 5 had nothing to do with mixed-up units, unlike the Mars probe.
     

  • tchize (cs) in reply to animous

    mm seems i messed up stories, sorry :) You are right :)

     

    But the belgian were, ironically, happy because they had proved their autodestruct system was working :D 

  • Pensacola Tiger (unregistered)

    The CNN article has passed into the bit bucket, but Schneier.com has this story that is similar to the WTF:

    Database Error Causes Unbalanced Budget

    <!-- /robots -->

    February 17, 2006

    This story of a database error cascading into a major failure has some interesting security morals:

    A house erroneously valued at $400 million is being blamed for budget shortfalls and possible layoffs in municipalities and school districts in northwest Indiana.

    [...]

    County Treasurer Jim Murphy said the home usually carried about $1,500 in property taxes; this year, it was billed $8 million.

    Most local officials did not learn about the mistake until Tuesday, when 18 government taxing units were asked to return a total of $3.1 million of tax money. The city of Valparaiso and the Valparaiso Community School Corp. were asked to return $2.7 million. As a result, the school system has a $200,000 budget shortfall, and the city loses $900,000.

     

    User error is being blamed for the problem:

    An outside user of Porter County's computer system may have triggered the mess by accidentally changing the value of the Valparaiso house, said Sharon Lippens, director of the county's information technologies and service department.

    [...]

    Lippens said the outside user changed the property value, most likely while trying to access another program while using the county's enhanced access system, which charges users a fee for access to public records that are not otherwise available on the Internet.

    Lippens said the user probably tried to access a real estate record display by pressing R-E-D, but accidentally typed R-E-R, which brought up an assessment program written in 1995. The program is no longer in use, and technology officials did not know it could be accessed.

     

    Three things immediately spring to mind:

    One, the system did not fail safely. This one error seems to have cascaded into multiple errors, as the new tax total immediately changed budgets of "18 government taxing units."

    Two, there were no sanity checks on the system. "The city of Valparaiso and the Valparaiso Community School Corp. were asked to return $2.7 million." Didn't the city wonder where all that extra money came from in the first place?

    Three, the access-control mechanisms on the computer system were too broad. When a user is authenticated to use the "R-E-D" program, he shouldn't automatically have permission to use the "R-E-R" program as well. Authentication isn't all or nothing; it should be granular to the operation.

     

     

  • Charles Perreault (unregistered) in reply to WIldpeaks
    WIldpeaks:

    cconroy:
    Brillant!  (That's French, BTW.)

     Actually, nope.

     

    Actuellement, oui c'est français et cela est synonyme de "Intelligent!" ou "Bien!".  Brillant est la version française de "Brilliant!".

    Actually, it is French and it means "Brilliant!".

     

     

  • Saladin (cs)

    Alex Papadimoulis:
    a reader commented that the system did have filters to prevent these kind of errors, but the filters were manually bypassed by the users to speed up processing. Whoops!

    Uh oh.  Because bypassing safety/integrity processes is always worth it in the end.

    Shades of "don't give me that 'o-ring' crap.  I want that shuttle launch tomorrow to proceed as planned!"

  • FrostCat (cs) in reply to former military programmer
    Anonymous:

    As someone who has worked extensively on military computer systems (in my very distant past), I could easily see this happening. Then again, didn't NASA just manage to use two different measurement systems that ultimately caused a spacecraft to go kerflooie near Mars?

     Yep--one of the Mars Landers was lost on descent.  I don't remember the exact details of how the interaction went, but it was because some of the teams involved were using metric, and some weren't.

  • FrostCat (cs) in reply to Pensacola Tiger
    Anonymous:

    The CNN article has passed into the bit bucket, but Schneier.com has this story that is similar to the WTF:

    Database Error Causes Unbalanced Budget

    <!-- /robots -->

    February 17, 2006

    This story of a database error cascading into a major failure has some interesting security morals:

    A house erroneously valued at $400 million is being blamed for budget shortfalls and possible layoffs in municipalities and school districts in northwest Indiana.

    [...]

    County Treasurer Jim Murphy said the home usually carried about $1,500 in property taxes; this year, it was billed $8 million.

    Most local officials did not learn about the mistake until Tuesday, when 18 government taxing units were asked to return a total of $3.1 million of tax money. The city of Valparaiso and the Valparaiso Community School Corp. were asked to return $2.7 million. As a result, the school system has a $200,000 budget shortfall, and the city loses $900,000.

     

    User error is being blamed for the problem:

    An outside user of Porter County's computer system may have triggered the mess by accidentally changing the value of the Valparaiso house, said Sharon Lippens, director of the county's information technologies and service department.

    [...]

    Lippens said the outside user changed the property value, most likely while trying to access another program while using the county's enhanced access system, which charges users a fee for access to public records that are not otherwise available on the Internet.

    Lippens said the user probably tried to access a real estate record display by pressing R-E-D, but accidentally typed R-E-R, which brought up an assessment program written in 1995. The program is no longer in use, and technology officials did not know it could be accessed.

     

    Three things immediately spring to mind:

    One, the system did not fail safely. This one error seems to have cascaded into multiple errors, as the new tax total immediately changed budgets of "18 government taxing units."

    Two, there were no sanity checks on the system. "The city of Valparaiso and the Valparaiso Community School Corp. were asked to return $2.7 million." Didn't the city wonder where all that extra money came from in the first place?

    Three, the access-control mechanisms on the computer system were too broad. When a user is authenticated to use the "R-E-D" program, he shouldn't automatically have permission to use the "R-E-R" program as well. Authentication isn't all or nothing; it should be granular to the operation.

     

    Four, why wasn't the R-E-R program removed when it was deprecated?  Any place I've ever worked, if we deprecate a program, the ability to access it is removed!

  • aultl (unregistered)
    Comment held for moderation.
  • science (unregistered)
    Alex Papadimoulis:

    The Fiscal Institution uses document scanners and optical character recognition to automatically process fiscal declarations (tax returns) sent in by tax payers. When the system encountered a document it could not read, it did the most logical thing possible: it recorded the tax payer's income as €99,999,999.99.

    Maybe they wouldn't have run into this problem if they'd taken the tax return forms, placed them on a wooden table, and taken a picture...

     

  • Think Outside the Box (unregistered) in reply to ammoQ
    Comment held for moderation.
  • Anon (unregistered) in reply to SomeCoder
    Anonymous:
    Dazed:
    Ah well, at least this default value didn't kill anyone. Small default values can be pretty bad too. For those people who missed it (I don't think it's been on this site) allow me to mention the smart-bomb controller in Afghanistan.

    An observer team had lined up a Taliban position to receive a smart bomb. Unfortunately, just as the bomber commenced its approach, the battery in their smart-bomb controller ran out. Fortunately they had a spare battery which they could change in a few seconds. Unfortunately the enemy position was reported as an offset from the controller, and on power-up the offset was set to a default value of ... zero.

    Apparently one team member survived to report what had happened.

     OUCH.  I think if i was the programmer for that Smart Bomb Controller, I'd have a nice date with some whiskey and the end of a rope :(

     God, I hope that if I ever work on anything that important, I don't make a mistake like that :(  Luckily none of my code is life-critical right now.

    The controller performed correctly, what other default should it have been set to? Offset -10000 might be a schoolhouse. It was the smart bomb itself that should have been programmed not to detonate if it receives offset 0 or if it loses contact with the controller for more than a certain period of time. Either that or keep persuing the last known offset when the offset is 0.

  • KattMan (unregistered) in reply to Anon
    Anonymous:
    Anonymous:
    Dazed:
    Ah well, at least this default value didn't kill anyone. Small default values can be pretty bad too. For those people who missed it (I don't think it's been on this site) allow me to mention the smart-bomb controller in Afghanistan.

    An observer team had lined up a Taliban position to receive a smart bomb. Unfortunately, just as the bomber commenced its approach, the battery in their smart-bomb controller ran out. Fortunately they had a spare battery which they could change in a few seconds. Unfortunately the enemy position was reported as an offset from the controller, and on power-up the offset was set to a default value of ... zero.

    Apparently one team member survived to report what had happened.

     OUCH.  I think if i was the programmer for that Smart Bomb Controller, I'd have a nice date with some whiskey and the end of a rope :(

     God, I hope that if I ever work on anything that important, I don't make a mistake like that :(  Luckily none of my code is life-critical right now.

    The controller performed correctly, what other default should it have been set to? Offset -10000 might be a schoolhouse. It was the smart bomb itself that should have been programmed not to detonate if it receives offset 0 or if it loses contact with the controller for more than a certain period of time. Either that or keep persuing the last known offset when the offset is 0.

    Firstly, the observer team would not know what happened in the bomber, so how could they report it.

    Secondly, Zero was to only option as the battery ran out there was no memory of a last known offset and it has to be initialized to something.  In this aspect I'm with you, If offset is 0 don't detonate because we know that is our team. 

    But this does show that it is far more important to blow something up rather than nothing; even if it is the wrong target, school house or not, because the observer team might have been on the roof of a school house or hospital in order to get the target.  Mark that up as our typical WTF attitude of our military leaders.

  • CodeReaper (cs)
    Alex Papadimoulis:

    UPDATE: I didn't actually read the articles; ironically, the only thing I can say in French is je parle français. But, a reader commented that the system did have filters to prevent these kind of errors, but the filters were manually bypassed by the users to speed up processing. Whoops!

    "Je ne parle pas français", sil vous plait, Alex.

    Oui, oui, Monsieur... Je lis toujours le journal "Qu'est-ce que c'est? Ce qui la baise?"

  • Rank Amateur (cs) in reply to tchize
    tchize:

    It was not the job of IT department to notice those new millionaires, but... the job of a filter that was manually bypassed by user :) As a result, once again, it was a problem in the computer - chair interface. :) ...I remember a journalist saying he couldn't present his article because of an IT defect. Really, it was the secretary who didn't save the .doc file and lost it. 

    Heh, yeah, I can see the PHB threatening the users to speed things up, don't argue, make it happen, or else you're toast. So it's the users fault they bypass filters.

    And how is it that it's 2006 and we have GHz processors and multigigabyte hard drives and yet saving our work still takes an explicit command or verification? Just save the bloody thing. I'll explicitly delete it if and when I don't want it.

    --RA

    Society is to blame. Let's fire society.

  • Volmarias (cs) in reply to Anon
    Anonymous:
    Anonymous:
    Dazed:
    Ah well, at least this default value didn't kill anyone. Small default values can be pretty bad too. For those people who missed it (I don't think it's been on this site) allow me to mention the smart-bomb controller in Afghanistan.

    An observer team had lined up a Taliban position to receive a smart bomb. Unfortunately, just as the bomber commenced its approach, the battery in their smart-bomb controller ran out. Fortunately they had a spare battery which they could change in a few seconds. Unfortunately the enemy position was reported as an offset from the controller, and on power-up the offset was set to a default value of ... zero.

    Apparently one team member survived to report what had happened.

     OUCH.  I think if i was the programmer for that Smart Bomb Controller, I'd have a nice date with some whiskey and the end of a rope :(

     God, I hope that if I ever work on anything that important, I don't make a mistake like that :(  Luckily none of my code is life-critical right now.

    The controller performed correctly, what other default should it have been set to? Offset -10000 might be a schoolhouse. It was the smart bomb itself that should have been programmed not to detonate if it receives offset 0 or if it loses contact with the controller for more than a certain period of time. Either that or keep persuing the last known offset when the offset is 0.



    What if the observation team was being overrun, and intentionally set the offset to 0 (point it at the ground)? Or, maybe they, for whatever reason, left it as a poor man's Laser Guided Multi-million dollar homing beacon (Yeah, I know, they should have just taken it with them)? It's pretty easy to armchair general and say "Yeah, we should have X!" when something bad happens, but remember that we all make assumptions, figuring that there might be a reasonable reason for something to happen. The engineers probably figured that if the battery was swapped out in that kind of situation, the team would remember to change the offset (they would, after all!) The world is a marvelous place when you can correctly make reasonable assumptions about everything that will happen. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.
  • fry (unregistered) in reply to Charles Perreault
    Anonymous:
    WIldpeaks:

    cconroy:
    Brillant!  (That's French, BTW.)

     Actually, nope.

     

    Actuellement, oui c'est français et cela est synonyme de "Intelligent!" ou "Bien!".  Brillant est la version française de "Brilliant!".

    Actually, it is French and it means "Brilliant!".



    Tout à fait, but "actually" means "en fait" and not "actuellement" in French. It's a "faux-amis", a common mistake. :)
  • Anon (unregistered) in reply to Volmarias
    Volmarias:
    Anonymous:
    Anonymous:
    Dazed:
    Ah well, at least this default value didn't kill anyone. Small default values can be pretty bad too. For those people who missed it (I don't think it's been on this site) allow me to mention the smart-bomb controller in Afghanistan.

    An observer team had lined up a Taliban position to receive a smart bomb. Unfortunately, just as the bomber commenced its approach, the battery in their smart-bomb controller ran out. Fortunately they had a spare battery which they could change in a few seconds. Unfortunately the enemy position was reported as an offset from the controller, and on power-up the offset was set to a default value of ... zero.

    Apparently one team member survived to report what had happened.

     OUCH.  I think if i was the programmer for that Smart Bomb Controller, I'd have a nice date with some whiskey and the end of a rope :(

     God, I hope that if I ever work on anything that important, I don't make a mistake like that :(  Luckily none of my code is life-critical right now.

    The controller performed correctly, what other default should it have been set to? Offset -10000 might be a schoolhouse. It was the smart bomb itself that should have been programmed not to detonate if it receives offset 0 or if it loses contact with the controller for more than a certain period of time. Either that or keep persuing the last known offset when the offset is 0.



    What if the observation team was being overrun, and intentionally set the offset to 0 (point it at the ground)? Or, maybe they, for whatever reason, left it as a poor man's Laser Guided Multi-million dollar homing beacon (Yeah, I know, they should have just taken it with them)? It's pretty easy to armchair general and say "Yeah, we should have X!" when something bad happens, but remember that we all make assumptions, figuring that there might be a reasonable reason for something to happen. The engineers probably figured that if the battery was swapped out in that kind of situation, the team would remember to change the offset (they would, after all!) The world is a marvelous place when you can correctly make reasonable assumptions about everything that will happen. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

     

    Then they would set it to offset 0.0000001.

  • BradC (cs) in reply to Dazed
    Anonymous:
    Ah well, at least this default value didn't kill anyone. Small default values can be pretty bad too. For those people who missed it (I don't think it's been on this site) allow me to mention the smart-bomb controller in Afghanistan.

    An observer team had lined up a Taliban position to receive a smart bomb. Unfortunately, just as the bomber commenced its approach, the battery in their smart-bomb controller ran out. Fortunately they had a spare battery which they could change in a few seconds. Unfortunately the enemy position was reported as an offset from the controller, and on power-up the offset was set to a default value of ... zero.

    Apparently one team member survived to report what had happened.

    Sounds like an urban legend. Got a link to a news story?

  • SpecialBrad (unregistered) in reply to Volmarias
    Volmarias:
    Anonymous:
    Anonymous:
    Dazed:
    Ah well, at least this default value didn't kill anyone. Small default values can be pretty bad too. For those people who missed it (I don't think it's been on this site) allow me to mention the smart-bomb controller in Afghanistan.

    An observer team had lined up a Taliban position to receive a smart bomb. Unfortunately, just as the bomber commenced its approach, the battery in their smart-bomb controller ran out. Fortunately they had a spare battery which they could change in a few seconds. Unfortunately the enemy position was reported as an offset from the controller, and on power-up the offset was set to a default value of ... zero.

    Apparently one team member survived to report what had happened.

     OUCH.  I think if i was the programmer for that Smart Bomb Controller, I'd have a nice date with some whiskey and the end of a rope :(

     God, I hope that if I ever work on anything that important, I don't make a mistake like that :(  Luckily none of my code is life-critical right now.

    The controller performed correctly, what other default should it have been set to? Offset -10000 might be a schoolhouse. It was the smart bomb itself that should have been programmed not to detonate if it receives offset 0 or if it loses contact with the controller for more than a certain period of time. Either that or keep persuing the last known offset when the offset is 0.



    What if the observation team was being overrun, and intentionally set the offset to 0 (point it at the ground)? Or, maybe they, for whatever reason, left it as a poor man's Laser Guided Multi-million dollar homing beacon (Yeah, I know, they should have just taken it with them)? It's pretty easy to armchair general and say "Yeah, we should have X!" when something bad happens, but remember that we all make assumptions, figuring that there might be a reasonable reason for something to happen. The engineers probably figured that if the battery was swapped out in that kind of situation, the team would remember to change the offset (they would, after all!) The world is a marvelous place when you can correctly make reasonable assumptions about everything that will happen. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

     How about you just disarm the thing after a power loss instead of leaving it in an armed state?
     

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