Oct 20 2011

Worst Software Bugs

We all have heard of missiles blowing up in midair because of the wrong unit was used in calculating the trajectory or bank software that misplaced millions of dollars because of a decimal place. It might not compare against blowing up a multi-million dollar missile but here are some of the worst software bugs I’ve seen in projects where I’ve worked.

Shift + O Short Cut – I once worked on a software application where one of the engineers developed a screen search functionality that would find the UI screen by name or feature. Needless to say the modal pop-up dialog for this search feature popped up when the user hit the Shift + O keys. This feature was developed by the engineer on his own initiative, so you can imagine everyone’s surprised when we couldn’t even type a capital o without this thing popping up.

Exposing Regular Expressions – In another project we developed micro expression language which was used and exposed at the application level to users. In one situation, a user reported a error when he wanted to replace a variable place holder with a dollar amount. It seems that when he called the expression language replaceall(“AMOUNT_VALUE”, “$0.00”) the got back the value of AMOUNT_VALUE.00. This problem was caused because we used Java Regular Expressions feature of the String class and $0 expression is a special value in the Java RegEx. This was like a Regular Expression Injection bug.

Localization and Internationalization – In the same project we had a problem with displaying the correct currency symbol used in a financial account statement. There is a big difference between $100 and €100. Account holders are not happy to know that their €100 are now worth $100.

Cut/Copy/Paste Does Not Work – I have seen way too many Java/Swing application where some component does not have proper support for cut, copy, or paste. When you cut from a Java application and paste to say Notepad you get a stringified Java object.

Textarea Size Limit – When filling online forms, the one bug that just kills me is where a textarea has a size limit not shown and you spend time typing a long response which will be either truncated, lost, or rejected on submit.