Letters to the editor

Re: Who are you calling a software engineer? (June 12)

As a professional engineer and someone with over 20 years experience in software engineering, I happen to believe very strongly

that the software industry needs a strong dose of real engineering. I completely disagree with Lopez’s statement: developing software should not mean just that “”you have training that is computing-based . . . and a lot of expertise in software.”” Her/Canadian Information Processing Society’s definition is meaningless and it’s a recipe for the kind of poor software that the industry continues to be plagued with, as well as a licence to continue to perpetrate on the unsuspecting public the fallacy that software is an ‘art form’ and that standards/discipline impede creativity.

All the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE) is saying is that software engineering is part of and requires an engineering discipline. That’s not constraining, it’s enabling and provides a framework for improved quality and professionalism. Engineering is a discipline, with standards and processes, both of which remain relative oxymorons in the current software industry. Beyond that, engineering something means that you are designing and building to a defined level of capability and performance, with a known safety factor. The concept of a safety factor is not even understood, much less accepted, in the software industry and there isn’t a package on the planet that is bug-free or even a known percentage bug free.

Beyond that, engineering is a time-honoured, well-disciplined profession, with professional accreditation – it’s not just a name! Because of this, CCPE is entirely within their rights, not to mention their code of ethics, to restrict the title of software engineer to those with an accredited, professional engineering degree and registration.

While CIPS made an attempt to have the IT industry recognized as a profession, it was largely seen as a dismal failure and arguably holds no recognition today. I wonder why?

Stephen W.A. MacLean

Re: Who are you calling a software engineer? (June 12)

Alberta’s Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act restricts only the use of the term professional engineer, not the single word engineer. Similarly, you can call yourself an accountant but not a chartered accountant (CA), a certified Ggeneral accountant(CGA), or certified management accountant (CMA) unless you are a member of those specific professional associations.

The difference is that in Canada, over 95 per cent of those with engineering degrees register as P.Engs. (Professional Engineers) and less than five per cent of Americans with engineering degrees register as PEs. If you are in a technical field in Canada and you call yourself an engineer, it is assumed that you are a P.Eng. However, in the U.S., computer engineers are not even eligible for a PE license and there are no state licensing exams for the field, last time I looked. While working in the US under NAFTA, I qualified for entry as a computer systems analyst because Immigration and Naturalization Service did not recognize computer engineer under NAFTA. A computer person who uses the term engineer in the US is assumed not to be a PE. I met one PE in the field in Atlanta, and he was an electrical engineer administering computer projects.

In some respects, the U.S. system is short-sighted. After all, a critical software failure in a Boeing 777 MILS system would give new meaning to the term “”system crash.””

Leo R Masciuch
Netryst Corp.

Re: CAAST calls for review of piracy penalties (June 10)

I am in support of having the fines be higher. It would encourage businesses and citizens to fully look at the costs of proprietary software, and adequately evaluate the alternatives. This is the basis of the http://www.stay-legal.org/ campaign.

On CBC Radio recently, the IDEAS show was about crime and punishment. I didn’t listen to it, but heard second hand some of the arguments. Two ways to reduce crime are:

  1. tackling the social problems like poverty
  2. harsher punishments

Studies have found if you are only interested in reducing crime then the latter is more cost effective. Jails are expensive but not as expensive as social programs. Politicians also like two because the average person can see the correlation between harsher punishments and personal safety. The benefits of one are much harder to quantify. Most people find it difficult to see how having more members of society as productive law abiding citizens benefits them.

What does this have to do with harsher piracy penalties? It’s like two. The goal is to make using proprietary software to produce more proprietary software cost effective. Whereas free software benefits society in many ways which are harder to quantify.

Kal Lin

Re: CAAST calls for review of piracy penalties (June 10)

I read with interest your article about software piracy being higher in Canada. The Canadian mentality is certainly different. We want what we pay for, and that is a working product. That might serve to explain why the rate of piracy has increased. The consumer simply found that what he bought did not work very well, got his hands on a new version and said, “”Why should I pay for the new version when I already paid for the old, and it didn’t work?”” Everyone wants to sell you fixes for a product that should not need fixing.

I think the computer industry needs some standards. Maybe when it fixes itself, it will fix the piracy problem and the consumer won’t feel so ripped off.


Re: CAAST calls for review of piracy penalties (June 10)

C’mon, think about it. The software in the United States is half the price it is in Canada. Think maybe that could be the reason? Duh!

Robert M. Wiens

Re: Pratt & Whitney tinkers with its ERP engine (June 6)

Your article does not mention that the SAP Quality Module was also part of the 1999 go-live. Pratt & Whitney has been a great contributor to the development of this module. The quality of all the parts being purchased or manufactured are tracked with QM giving Pratt & Whitney Canada full control on the quality of the final product.

Claude Poliquin
Business Development Manager
Product Integrity
Pratt & Whitney Canada

Letters to the editor must include the writer’s name and company name along with an e-mail address or other contact information. All letters become the property of ITBusiness.ca. Editors reserve the right to edit submissions for length and content.

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