Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is your supply chain under water? Flooding in Thailand

As reported by CBC News a third of Thailand is submerged underwater; Bangkok escapes worst of Thailand flooding.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Software Safety or Embedded Systems. Alas our supply chains are now global, be it Earthquakes (Europe monitoring stations, US World Monitoring, Small daily US Quakes [Did you know Arkansan has more daily earthquakes than California?]), Volcanoes (will the Super Volcano Uturuncu be blowing its top anytime soon?), or Flooding around the world, our ability to get parts to build our widgets suffers along with the effected people of the region whom should always come first.

Places like Benchmark Electronics, Toyota, Rohm (Will a simple resistor stop you from shipping your widget?), and Toshiba; Toshiba Semiconductor (Thailand) Co., Ltd. "Damage status: The water is 3 meters high on the site and the surrounding area and approximately 1.5 meters deep in the buildings. Facilities are damaged but no employees have been injured in the factory.", Toshiba Storage Device (Thailand), Co., Ltd. "Damage status: The water is 2 meters high on the site and the surrounding area and more than 1 meter deep in the buildings. Facilities are damaged but no employees have been injured in the factory." - This one is already having a ripple effect on hard-disk prices and supply shortages. Many other places have also been effected.

Worries of disease and chemical contamination of the water are starting, as people are beginning to develop skin rashes.

Natural or man-made EMP attack on the horizon?

About this time last year I published Scientists, Politicians Take Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Threat Seriously. Human Exposure to EM Fields. There have been a few events relating to EMP that have transpired over the last year, that I wanted to bring to your attention.

First of all to bring to your attention is Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, a former CIA weapons expert, forty five minute long podcast, on both natural and man-made EMP threats.

Secondly Dr. Pry's site, EMPACT America is a bipartisan, non-profit (with IRS 501(c)4 status) organization for citizens concerned about protecting the American People from a nuclear or natural electromagnetic pulse (EMP) catastrophe.
"The EMP Commission and the National Academy of Sciences warn that a catastrophic EMP event can also occur naturally, from a great geomagnetic storm, with effects virtually identical to those of a nuclear EMP attack, and that such a storm is inevitable, occurring every century or so. Great geomagnetic storms have occurred in the past, but not since the advent of the modern electronic age. Some scientists estimate that the world is overdue for a great geomagnetic storm, that could occur during the next cycle of solar activity, in 2012."
There are a couple items before the politicians, whom are playing political games with our future, that you need to spend some time studying: SHEILDAct, also known as H.R. 668,see below, and Guard The Grid. Give your political representative a call, and tell them to stop screwing around.

H.R. 668:


    This Act may be cited as the 'Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act' or the 'SHIELD Act'.


    The Congress makes the following findings:
      (1) According to the Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack (in this Act referred to as the 'EMP Commission Report'), the society and economy of the United States are 'critically dependent upon the availability of electricity.'.
      (2) According to the EMP Commission Report, 'continued electrical supply is necessary for sustaining water supplies, production and distribution of food, fuel, communications, and everything else that is part of our economy'.
      (3) According to the EMP Commission Report, 'contemporary U.S. society is not structured, nor does it have the means, to provide for the needs of nearly 300 million Americans without electricity.'.
      (4) According to the EMP Commission Report, due to the existing electrical system operating at or near its physical capacity, `a relatively modest upset to the system can cause functional collapse.'.
      (5) According to the EMP Commission Report, electromagnetic pulse (in this Act referred to as 'EMP') is a threat to the overall electrical power system.
      (6) According to the EMP Commission Report, EMP occurs both naturally, such as geomagnetic storms, and via man-made devices.
      (7) According to the EMP Commission Report, while the electric infrastructure `has a degree of durability against . . . the failure of one or a small number of [electric] components,' the current strategy for recovery leaves the United States ill-prepared to respond effectively to an EMP attack that would potentially result in damage to vast numbers of components nearly simultaneously over an unprecedented geographic scale.
      (8) According to the EMP Commission Report, EMP 'may couple ultimately unmanageable currents and voltages into an electrical system routinely operated with little margin and cause the collapse of large portions of the electrical system.'.
      (9) According to the EMP Commission Report, a collapse of large portions of the electrical system will result in significant periods of power-outage and `restoration from collapse or loss of significant portions of the system [will be] exceedingly difficult.'.
      (10) According to the EMP Commission Report, 'should the electrical power system be lost for any substantial period of time . . . the consequences are likely to be catastrophic to civilian society.'.
      (11) According to the EMP Commission Report, 'the Commission is deeply concerned that [negative] impacts [on the electric infrastructure] are certain in an EMP event unless practical steps are taken to provide protection for critical elements of the electric system.'.

See also The Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the U.S. from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack, 2005, and Testimony of Dr. Michael J. Frankel Information submitted for the record house homeland security committee hearing cyber security and other (EMP) threats to the power grid JULY 21, 2009.

Projections for the current solar cycle are that there will be increasing solar storm activity in 2012 and 2013. I wonder if this is any coincidence coinciding with the Earth's aliment with the center of the galaxy on December 21st, 2012, the day the Mayan Calendar ends? This alignment happens once every 25,920 years (72 years to move one degree of a 360 degree circle). EMP Gama burst anyone?...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Is there any training on "Software Safety" available?

I was recently asked if there was any specific training or certification on the topic of Software Safety.

Sadly my answer is I don't think so. I've seen some training specific to DO-178B, some related to FDA device compliance, and an occasional course at the MISRA office in the UK.

Part of the problem is defining what exactly do we mean by "Software Safety", as it always depends on the context. My simple working definition is that I never have to tell a person to "just push the reset button" or "you must reboot to recover". Do you really want to push the reset button on your defibrillator?

It also always must be kept in mind that even if the software is safe, it is still part of a system as a whole. If the system as a whole is unsafe, then having perfect software will not make a safe system.

Michael Barr at Netrino does offer Critical Software Safeguards Course: Lint and MISRA-C, for the Embedded space.

Jack Ganssle also offers his How to Develop Better Firmware Faster, one day class, again for the Embedded Space.

Do you know of any courses that would be relevant? If someone put together such a course what should be in it?