Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No Recalls for Software

By now practically everyone is familiar with the issues Toyota are facing. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of their cars may be susceptible to sudden, dangerous bursts of uncontrollable acceleration. This has of course, lead to massive recalls, many, seemingly flailing attempts to rectify the problems, and widespread public distrust of the brand.

Today in the tech world something occurred that closely parallels the problems faced by Toyota. Today, there was a software glitch.

MacAfee is one of the largest and most trusted names in anti-virus and security software applications. This morning at 9 am Eastern time, the company posted a software update which inadvertently caused thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of computers to go all wonky, freeze up and fall into an infinite cycle of rebooting themselves.

Now I know what you're thinking. It's just a software glitch, it's not like having no brakes on your Priuss and hurling down the highway at 90 miles an hour. Think software glitches can't be dangerous? Guess again.

In the past it's been stated that money, or perhaps even love, makes the world go around. Well today, it's computers baby and when tens of thousands of them suddenly freeze up, problems can arise. Software glitches are not uncommon. Usually they merely disrupt productivity for a couple hours. They may be costly, but they are usually not dangerous. However sometimes they are.

Today's glitch caused no less than a third of the hospitals in Rhode Island to postpone all elective surgeries and to stop treating non-trauma patients in emergency rooms. This means that everyone outside of gun shot, car crash and blunt trauma patients was left to fend for themselves. It may be somewhat comforting to know that patients who suffered crashes in their Toyotas due to sudden bursts of acceleration would still have been able to receive treatment. Meanwhile in Kentucky state police were instructed to turn off the computers in their patrol cars until the problem could be fixed.

Thankfully when it comes to software glitches, the fix is a lot easier than having to deny it's an electrical problem and then saw an inch or two off the gas pedal for good measure. McAfee was able to determine that the software update caused the anti-virus programs employed by many of it's corporate customers to identify a harmless file as a virus. A replacement file has already been posted and is available to download. No recall necessary, and as of this time, no injuries or lawsuits.

If only Toyota had it so easy. . .

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