Please Register Your Dead Dog (and other testing stories of the day)

Last week, I received a notice from the town of Ashland informing me that I was being fined for failing to register my dog Buster. Three things struck me as odd. First, I don’t own a dog. Second, the letter was not issued to me, but rather the last occupant of my house (who really needs to change his address). Third, Buster has apparently been deceased for a number of years.

How could this have happened? If you guessed software glitch, give yourself a pat on the back.

According to a post on the town’s website today, a glitch in the Town Clerk’s computer software caused notices to be sent to dog owners whose pets might have died or moved out  of town.

“If your dog has moved or passed away, please notify us,” said Clerk Tara Ward’s post.

The post said a software crash also caused purple notices about fines for dog licenses to be sent to residents whose dogs might already be registered.

That’s one of many interesting testing stories of the day. Here were a few others that caught my attention:

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This is Your Captain Speaking…How Does This Work Again?

If you had to pick two professions where you wouldn’t want glitchy software interfering, they would have to be surgeon and pilot.  These would be the only two correct answers.

And speaking of correct answers (or lack thereof) it seems that a software glitch caused 90% of would-be pilots to record failing grades on their online exam. Why online, you ask? In response to the recently exposed “fake pilot” scam – and as an added measure to prevent forgery – the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) decided to make candidates take the test online.

Simple enough? Here’s with how this plan went, um, off course:

A software glitch caused a 100-mark examination to be graded on just 50, causing over 90 per cent of the examinees to believe that they had failed.  “The paper had 50 questions worth two marks each. Every candidate had to secure a minimum of 70 per cent marks to qualify.

During evaluation, the online software wrongly assigned one mark to each question, as a result of which each candidate was examined on 50 marks. The merit list, however, showed the full marks as 100. As a result, none of the 1,000 pilots who appeared for the ALT examination managed to pass the exam. Passing the exam is mandatory for officers who are seeking licenses as commanders,” said a top DGCA source.

In the CPL category for commercial piloting licenses, only two-three percent of over 4,000 candidates managed to clear the examination.

Realising that the mass failure was a result of a software problem, DGCA chief E K Bharatbhushan wasted no time in declaring that the incident was a consequence of a software glitch, and said that a new merit list would be published this Monday.

Let’s hope the DGCA  learned their lesson on the importance of in-the-wild software testing. If not, I think it’s time to take the train.

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Vote for the Worst Software Glitch of 2011

The writers over at posted a nice summary of the WebLayers Top 10 Software Glitches of 2011. Of course, as with any top ten list, there’s plenty of room for debate. And since our readers know a thing or two about software bugs, I’ve decided to put this up for a vote.

So take a look at their list – think it over very carefully – and vote for the worst software glitch of 2011:

What Was the Worst Software Bug of 2011?

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Software Bugs: Your Money or Your Life!

“Technology is everywhere in every fabric of our lives. With technology, as ubiquitous as it has become, everybody will gain or fail in much the same broad way as the next person or company. Nobody is exempt.” – Jeff Papows, Author of Glitch: The Hidden Impact of Faulty Software

As Jeff said (in his Testing the Limits interview) nobody is exempt from the impact of faulty software. Not developers. Not testers. Not immigrants. Not gas station owners.

We spend most of our time on this blog discussing the impact of software bugs on testers and developers, but a few recent news stories show us how they affect the latter (i.e. immigrants and gas station owners). Take a look…

Computer glitch causes gas station to sell 8,000 gallons at $1.10 each

When residents of Wilmington – a neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA – got word that a local Valero fueling station was selling gas for the bargain price of $1.10 a gallon, almost immediately, vehicles lined up ’round the corner. This wasn’t one of those promo deals on fuel though. It was a computer glitch that lead to the station dispensing some 8,000 gallons of gas at just $1.10 each.

When station owner Kenny Nguyen got wind of his unintended act of kindness, he immediately shut down all of the pumps. All told, Nguyen estimates that he lost nearly $21,000 due to the glitch. Ouch.

Computer glitch voids green card lottery results

Tens of thousands of would-be immigrants to America are sure to be disappointed after a computer glitch prompted the State Department to invalidate results of the most recent green card visa lottery.

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Which One of These Software Testing Stories is Fake?

If you scan the headlines for terms like “software bugs” and “software glitches”, then you know how crazy the world of faulty software can be. So, to have a little fun here on a Friday afternoon, I’ve included summaries of five recent news stories that involve software glitches. Four of them are real. One is fake. Can you figure out which one is fake? Good luck.

Software Glitch Blamed For Property Overvaluations

After months of inquiry from the group of co-op presidents and council members, the Department of Finance responded (to angry residents) by blaming the skyrocketed valuations on a computer glitch. The glitch, according to members of the Council’s Finance Committee, allowed for the incongruous comparison of many co-ops to much pricier real estate—including commercial properties.

Software Glitch Turns Satellite Into Space Zombie

A telecommunications satellite, which remained electrically active while adrift in orbit for more than eight months, was rendered unable to take commands by an electrostatic discharge that fouled its onboard software, officials said. The glitch forced operators of neighboring satellites to perform orbital maneuvers to avoid frequency interference as the satellite drifted along the geostationary arc. Officials say the glitch had nothing to do with solar activity.

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