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Old 28-01-2009, 11:36 PM
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Yes, Mercedes does put out bug free technology- because if the ABS or ESP software and firmware freak out while you’re going 75– people die. Not saying that things don’t break, yes things break….but the avionics on an Airbus are not buggy little affairs that need a quick firmware patch en route over the Atlantic because every time the passenger in seat H29 flushes the loo the aircraft looses 5,000 ft of altitude.

I think Tzer2 main issue was with the 'flawless' statement in the original post..

I realise you probably meant '99.9' percent of the time, much like a Mercedes vital safety functions will function '99.99' percent of the time.

As a programmer, it is painful that people assume that stuff will always 'work perfectly'. The more complex the system, the more chance of having a glitch. We have to find a balance between perfect and economical, obviously rim have chosen a value way too far down the economical scale. Don't think tho that the solution is to not release until it's perfect tho. Companies can and have gone broke trying to achieve it, leaving a product that is 99 percent perfect off the market, which is equally as sad as releasing an 80 percent finished product.

It's all about balance, which is probably something everyone here would agree, it's just that everyone has a different 'balance' point. However, releasing products a bit early isn't so bad, because those who care about 'perfect' can check the reviews, and hold off until the product is 'finished' with updates 6 months down the track, which is when they would have got it anyway, had the manufacturers shared their view.

Old 29-01-2009, 02:18 AM
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Just don't focus on one sentence

Whoa dude! Did I miss a Staff meeting?

When did Firmware become application software? Maybe that is why manufacturers are messing this up! Application programmers control application software and if they write bad software in a free market they will go out of business. But only Nokia controls the firmware – why does my E71 bluetooth loose contact after about 15 feet when my other 2 Nokia phones are good for over 30 before they crackle? Easy FIRMWARE…not the little app that allows me to pair the phone or switch bluetooth on and off. Firmware dictates how much power the Bluetooth chip gets, what frequencies to use, all the hardware aspects that the application programmer should be insulated from.

The point is that you can write the most brilliant app on the planet, zero defect, but if the firmware is bad-opps! (Yes, I was an OO developer in a past life.)

Bad software… I have a choice. Bye-bye Nokia messaging! Hello ProfiMail. Bad firmware I’m a hostage…or Nokia says bye-bye to market share. I admit it’s a hard choice. Nokia’s core competency should be hardware… but we don’t use hardware we use apps (I may fault Apple products[full disclosure never have owned ANY Apple product], but their business strategy is brilliant). But hey that is what makes Nokia an icon brand…keeping all the balls up in the air!

Ah those crazy Swedes (was it the Swedes or Fins?)…Taking an urban micro-car and getting it to max speed and doing a moose avoidance test! Ha! Just proves you can take any product and push it past its limits (and by the way how seriously did Mercedes take the issue? Sure as hell didn’t put out a press release stating. Ummm…. Yeah we know it’s crap, sorry if some of you die.) again stay in context!

We are talking about basic functionality of product that is controlled by firmware, firmware that only one entity controls, the manufacturer.


Old 29-01-2009, 02:51 AM
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iPhone was comparatively a more stable phone when it was first launched more than 1.5 years ago. After that Apple provides firmware updates roughly once a month. These updates are really more for the refinements to the already stable product and not meant for major bug fixes.

It helps that Apple only has one smartphone to manage. Also Apple has been sued (class actions) before by its customers in the USA for some product quality issues. So it has learnt many hard lessons in the past.

Europeans and Asians don't file lawsuits for inferior consumer products. This is one of the reasons why many handset manufacturers are still making unstable products for their consumers in Europe and Asia.

Old 29-01-2009, 06:02 AM
Tzer2 Tzer2 is offline
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Look, I'm not defending ANYONE here.

All I'm saying is that people who expect hardware, firmware or software to be bug-free are living in a dreamworld.

You've got to define an acceptable and realistic level of bugs and then aim for that, because anything else is impossible.

You might think 99.9% reliability is bug-free but it isn't. Something that is 99.9% reliable and sells 10 million units it will still cause problems for 10,000 people. If 10,000 people complain that their phone doesn't work, would you consider that model to be bug-free?

You realise you are talking about making a mobile phone? "It's not rocket science, boys!"
Actually it IS rocket science, making a modern high end smartphone is an extremely complicated process with a total research cost that's probably comparable to some space rockets. A modern phone is effectively the same thing as a PC from a few years back, but packed into a casing that's smaller than a pack of cards along with all the communications equipment needed to link to wireless towers several miles away, and a camera, and speakers, and a microphone, and a memory card slot, and a keypad, and a GPS receiver, and possibly some more stuff too. You think that's easy?

The physical tests alone cost a fortune, here's a tour of Nokia's test facility in the UK:

...and that's just for physical damage. Now add in testing all the firmware, all the components, all the applications, and then imagine all the different possible combinations of problems together... and then add in all the updates and do the tests again... and then the operator variant models... it's incredibly complex. To go through every possible problem would literally take many years for each model, by which time that model would be out of date, and if anything changes you'd have to do the tests again.

Europeans and Asians don't file lawsuits for inferior consumer products. This is one of the reasons why many handset manufacturers are still making unstable products for their consumers in Europe and Asia.
First of all, rubbish, American handsets are no more stable than those elsewhere.

Secondly, Europeans don't file lawsuits as often because they don't have to. European consumer laws are much tougher than their US equivalents, and EU governments will prosecute much more often on behalf of consumers.

If a device breaks down in Europe, you can typically return it to the shop that sold it for a free repair or replacement within the first year or two. I've done this many times with various smartphones and other gadgets, didn't cost me a penny, and I didn't have any kind of extended warranty either.

If a device breaks down in the US, you typically have to send it somewhere yourself, and thenpossibly pay some extra charges on top too, even though it was supposed to be covered by a warranty. Many people never bother to go through this procedure, and US companies get away with shoddier customer support as a result.


That “can’t do” attitude is exactly what the manufacturers are looking to foster in the man on the street.
No, it's a realistic attitude which is fostered in anyone who keeps their eyes open.

I'm not saying bugs are okay, I'm just saying that you cannot ever make something that is 100% free of bugs.

If you think a computing device can be totally free of bugs, then I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell to you.

Yes, Mercedes does put out bug free technology
Name one Mercedes product which has NEVER failed under any circumstances.

I don't think you quite understand what "bug free" means, it means God-like perfection which simply isn't attainable in the real world.

Yes, a car failure could mean deaths, but cars still fail don't they?

Aircraft failure could mean even more deaths, but despite massive amounts of money invested in safety aircraft still fail from time to time, due to unforeseen circumstances caused by the complexity of the vehicle.

In fact aircraft are a very good illustration of why complexity matters: when piston engines were standard aircraft used to require far more maintenance, but when jet engines were introduced the maintenance levels dropped right down. That's because jets have far fewer moving parts, so there was much less that could go wrong.

Smartphones are the equivalent of piston engines, they've got more functions than normal phones, and the complexity is getting greater all the time. That's why smartphones are less reliable than normal phones, not because they're badly made but simply because there are more "moving parts".

Old 29-01-2009, 08:29 AM
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That testing 'lab' is not rocket science... A machine that presses a button alot and a fridge / freezer are not the cutting edge of science... I'd say 'rocket science' was more like the American Strategic Defense Initiative or Stem Cell research.

Just to be clear - we are talking about firmware and a reasonable degree of completeness on launch - ie it works. Just because phones are small and they have a camera and a gps does not mean the are amazingly complicated and really hard to test! They have a gps receiver and a cmos chip - big deal! If we lived in the 1950s then yes that would be amazing but we don't and phones arent! However much you like then - don't make them out to be something they are not.

Old 29-01-2009, 08:49 AM
svdwal svdwal is offline
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Lots of software nowadays has a known quality level. This means keeping track of the number of defects in the software, their severity (from total crashes to misplaced pixels) and the evolution over time of the number of defects. Having a big enough software base, you can now start doing statistics, like the expected number of defects that cause crashes, or expected number of misplaced pixel situations.

Depending on the application (smartphones, fly-by-wire airplanes) you can now state that you only accept a certain quality level. It should be obvious that the software quality of a fly-by-wire airplaine has to be much higher than that of a smartphone.

It is also clear that to make economic sense, you cannot continue to search for defects in a smartphone. At some point you start loosing money. A successful smartphone manufacturer needs to write high-quality software so that he doesn't need to fix all those defects that are injected during software creation. There are ways to get high-quality software, like having a good architecture, not rewriting the code all the time, employing good people and having good processes.

Then there's the market. If the market doesn't want to pay the amount of money it costs to create the software at the quality level the market wants, you have a problem too. You have to aim for that quality evel that both makes you money and that makes your customers happy.

Old 29-01-2009, 09:16 AM
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the odd bug is fine.

But Nokia has sold phones with very poor firmware that has required users a decent amount of time and effort to deal with. Nokia's backing up method is poor and incomplete. One needs a computer to do the firmware upgrade and it all takes time.

How ever you look at it - this is not good enough. If users are expected to put up with incomplete firmware like the RIM man said then RIM et al must provide simple, fast firmware upgrade paths with full data preservation.

Old 29-01-2009, 09:51 AM
clonmult clonmult is offline
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Some heated discussion here ...

20+ years in software development, and yes, it is almost impossible to guarantee zero bugs.

In that time, I've only ever found one system that seemed to be bulletproof on the software level - IBM AS/400 (latterly iSeries). Incredibly reliable platforms, and the only outage experienced in my 9 years on the platform was caused by hardware (some very badly damaged ram).

However, work should be done to minimise the risks.

Nokia do have 2 basic hardware platforms - S40 and S60. S60 has a few variants - adding GPS, WiFi, FM transmitter, as appropriate for the market segment.

They need to define a hardware platform, and then design the code around that - I get the feeling that both sides are being tweaked without consideration of the other.

Old 29-01-2009, 11:43 AM
rvirga rvirga is offline
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How much will RIM lose in bad press over the Storm?
When they released the Storm, RIM had a reputation of making very reliable phones. And they decided to cash in on that reputation. Nokia did the same with the (very buggy) 5800XM. That's something they can afford to do only once in a long while. If they start doing it often, they'll see massive losses in sales.
So I would say no, that's not going to be the future of electronics. However, if the CEO of RIM thinks it is, maybe it's time to sell all the RIM stock. you have in your portfolio.

Old 29-01-2009, 02:39 PM
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Speak of the devil!!

More bad RIM firmware!

28-01-2009: Since yesterday afternoon, the BlackBerry Bold and BlackBerry Curve are (temporary) not sold with T-Mobile anymore. According to internal messages, the sales is hold up due to technical problems. According to an internal message that was sent to all stores of T-Mobile, the BlackBerry Bold and BlackBerry Curve generate far more data traffic than the users of the device really use. Due to this, customers would be confronted with extra costs.

But I do want to do a quick recap since (often) the meat of the argument is lost.

Firmware is NOT application software, the user controls Application software! If I can install / uninstall it, turn it on or of, it's my choice. If I can't its part of the OS or firmware (Microsoft any comments about IE?), and only the OEM controls Firmware (do you really need Push to Talk on your E71? – can you show me how to remove it?).

Programming firmware is NOT writing applications…it is an engineering exercise. Chip X has these Y operating parameters and can execute these Z functions – you get that right and the OS and the development Kit can't violate the "rules" ( not withstanding hacking) and you have a set quality of service.

You can break or brick any device…but that, again, is your choice.

Smartphones are not the space shuttle – don't make me ask Steve, Ewan and Rafe to wax poetic about various psions and Casios… Secondly we are not talking about a guy building a phone in his garage, we are talking about industry leaders that have decades of experience making these products- this is not a brave new frontier.

The premise is that top of the range is the best , the Flagship– quality, features, construction….in this crazy mixed up segment consumers can get a "dumb" phone for 0$ that are 99.9 % flawless as phones, cameras, organizers. More and more flagship products are exactly the opposite of the premise, being the crème de la crème.

We are not talking testing for physical damage – remember we do not use desktops, laptops, smartphones, PDAs, we use software. Additionally the pro-rated cost of physical testing across the production run is very small.

Bugs, are only bugs, if they bug you…ergo usability. If the firmware has 200 extra lines of code in it…that makes application loading slow, is that a bug? Not really, you may never notice (ask Apple how they got around that one), but if a 3.2 mp AF camera can't take a usable picture and a majority of the devices value proposition is the camera…that is a bug. If you click answer on your Palm Centro and it goes bye-bye is that a bug? If your phone is ringing up charges in the background is that a bug?

Old 29-01-2009, 09:14 PM
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rottie rottie is offline
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TBH I can live with buggy firmware which gets fixed later. That's a price for being an early adopter.

But what I can't bear with is when the update MAKES THINGS WORSE! How many times you can read people asking "How can I return to a previous firmware?" Unfortunately impossible to downgrade in Symbian.

Or Nokia Messaging for example, everything was working fine on my E71. Yesterday I upgraded the firmware and after reinstalling NEWER version of Nokia Messaging it stopped working! Can't connect, doesn't sync, you can't change access point anymore etc. How annoying is that, when you have to be afraid to upgrade software or firmware so it won't make it worse for you!!!

Old 29-01-2009, 10:24 PM
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Looking at the article, and most of the responses, it looks like there's some consensus on the sentiment "it's OK if it's buggy, as long as they fix it later". It's not good enough. Consider that there is a class of non tech-savvy people who don't know what firmware is or how to upgrade it. There is also a class of marginally tech-savvy people which know what fw upgrades are, but get scared by the "this may render your handset inoperable" warning, and never perform one. Finally, there's a class of tech-savvy people who are not afraid to upgrade their fw, but have a branded handset for which the fw upgrade may never come (and are unwilling to change the product code, voiding the warranty). It's imperative that manufacturers try their best to get the fw right the first time; a few minor glitches are acceptable, an epic fail situation like the BB Storm is not.

Old 01-02-2009, 12:38 AM
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We accept poor quality, so people get away with it

Look at this whole notion of beta testing - we as consumers have already accepted that software is imperfect.
It's not so much about the complexity of systems as that of people. A smarphone just has too many companies and staff working on it to guarantee any sort of quality.
Software is shipped with thousands, if not tens of thousands of known issues - most of which will be unimportant to majority of people, perhaps affecting a few here and there.
The problem of late is that the acceptable balance has been lost where by cumulative effect of all the tiny problems has snowballed into systems which are routinely crap at the time of launch.

I get your point steve, but the bar has been low for a while. They ship what they think they can get away with....which is why the iPhone was so embarrassing for Nokia - it made Nokia's flickering app switches and clumsy drawing look like a child's crayon drawing.

The worst thing you can do for quality is to have an open platform - where it is "generic to hardware". It's like separating the brain from the body. Compare Vista to Apple - the quality control required at apple was so much easier given that they had limited h/w configuration to test on - and no meddling OEMs.

so in summary, if you model your company structure around your sofware modules, and your system is technically complex, then your organisation will fail since communication, responsibility and vision all fall between the cracks.

“I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my telephone. My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my telephone.”
- Bjarne Stroustrup, the designer and original implementer of C++

Old 05-02-2009, 11:58 PM
Marcusblue Marcusblue is offline
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And he ominously warned that shipping with imperfect software was the future of electronics.
The consumer rights group should have a say in this. Don't we have a quality assurance process anymore? Buggy electronics should not be tolerated even if it means I can't have a mobile phone that uses interactive holograms instead of a screen... beam me up scottie...


bugs, companies, deal, firmware, stay

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