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  Saultory warning to dist.sys (client/server) games  (Read 2067 times)
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Offline blahblahblahh

JGO Coder

Medals: 1

« Posted 2004-04-12 15:06:37 »

Think that forgetting a synchronized isn't so bad?


About eight weeks after the blackout, the bug was unmasked as a particularly subtle incarnation of a common programming error called a "race condition," triggered on August 14th by a perfect storm of events and alarm conditions on the equipment being monitoring. The bug had a window of opportunity measured in milliseconds.

"There was a couple of processes that were in contention for a common data structure, and through a software coding error in one of the application processes, they were both able to get write access to a data structure at the same time," says Unum. "And that corruption lead to the alarm event application getting into an infinite loop and spinning."
listed in the final report as one of the direct causes of a blackout that eventually cut off electricity to 50 million people in eight states and Canada.



The company did everything it could, says Unum. "We text exhaustively, we test with third parties, and we had in excess of three million online operational hours in which nothing had ever exercised that bug," says Unum. "I'm not sure that more testing would have revealed that. Unfortunately, that's kind of the nature of software... you may never find the problem. I don't think that's unique to control systems or any particular vendor software." this an excuse for MS? Huh


"If we see a system that's behaving abnormally well, we should probably be suspicious, rather than assuming that it's behaving abnormally well."

malloc will be first against the wall when the revolution comes...
Offline javawillie

Junior Devvie

Hola, Paco.

« Reply #1 - Posted 2004-04-15 15:38:22 »

Oh yeah, race conditions can be bad news.  When I was in school we studied an older case called Therac-25, which was a thermal accelerator for administering radiation treatments (if I recall correctly).  This thing was blasting people and killing them for a long time before it was recalled.  The problem turned out to be a race condition.  When an experienced operator used the machine, he or she was able to type much more quickly than an inexperienced operator.  The fast typing led to race conditions that were the technical cause of the death.  (Other non-technical causes were identified, such as covering up the incidents, etc.)  Here is a link if you are interested; it is a worthwhile read.

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