Friday, November 23, 2012

Yet More Government Responses on Software License Questions and Study Guide

This month I received responses from Maryland and Idaho to the questions I asked in August, and IEEE-USA has released the Study Guide for New Software Engineering Exam. See my previous blogs on the subject at Do you have your license to write firmware? and Government Responses on Software License Questions.

The Idaho Board of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors, sent me a formal written response via Snail Mail:

November 9th, 2012

Dear Mr. Paddock:

At its meeting on November 7 and 8, 2012 the Idaho Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors voted not to utilized the NCEES Principles and Practice of Software Engineer examination at this time for licensing professional engineers in Idaho, but they may reconsider that decision in the future.

Please call if you have any questions.

Sincerely, David K. Bennion , P.E. Board Chair.

Nov. 13 2012

Dear Mr. Paddock:

In your e-mail of August 12, 2012 you asked a number of questions regarding the NCEES Software Engineering, Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination. Please excuse us for not responding sooner, but I needed to consult the Board in detail to be able to provide you answers to your questions.

You asked if the "Software Engineering" license will be required in Maryland. Maryland does not license engineers by discipline. So no a "Software Engineer License" is not required (because there is no Software Engineer license), However, the practice of any engineering discipline including software engineering in the State of Maryland, does require a Professional Engineer License, subject to the exception provided in statute.

You asked: "Should such a license be required by the state, will there be any distinction made between types of computer systems such as your desktop PC, your Smart Phone or an Embedded System (those that run your microwave and your car)?" The practice of engineering is defined in Maryland statue as including: consultation; design; evaluation; inspection of construction to ensure compliance with specifications and drawings; investigation; planning; and design coordination. The planning, design, evaluation of any kind of software that could affect the health, safety or welfare of the public would fall be included in this definition and be considered the practice of engineering in Maryland.

You asked: "What will the prerequisites for taking the test, should it become required? Software is significantly different than any of the current required licenses." The requirements for taking the exam are the same as any other Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination (see § 14-304 and § 14-305). You also stated that you are concerned that there "..will there be academic requirements that will exclude those that have been practicing in the industry for years, yet have do not have a degree from a state recognized institution" Current Maryland Statute provides a path for licensure without a degree (see § 14-304 and § 14-305).

You asked: "Does Maryland license by comity?" Yes, Maryland does license by comity.

You asked: "How often will this license have to be renewed and what is the expense?" A Professional Engineering License in Maryland is renewed once every two years. The cost to renew is currently $68.00.

Finally you asked: "As a holder of a CSQE, will there be any ramifications of using the word 'Engineer' on my business card or web site?" Only Licensed Professional Engineers may practice, attempt to practice or offer to practice engineering in the State of Maryland. This includes using the title "engineer" on business cards, web sites or any other forms of communications.

I hope this clarifies the issues you were concerned with regarding software engineering and the practice of engineering in Maryland.

Please feel free to contact me again if you need any additional clarification on these issues or additional information.

Pam Edwards Executive Director - DLLR's Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing [Maryland].

News Release: Study Guide for New Software Engineering Exam Now Available:

WASHINGTON (31 October 2012) - A study guide for those planning to take the new software engineering exam is now available from IEEE-USA. It includes 40 representative questions and solutions, a suggested reference list and test specifications.

The Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Software Engineering exam - PE Software exam -- will be offered by NCEES, The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, for the first time in April 2013.

IEEE Fellow Dr. Phillip Laplante, a professor of software engineering at Penn State University's Malvern, Pa., campus and chair of the Software Engineering Licensure Examination Development Committee, said the study guide is an essential tool in preparing for the exam.

"All prospective exam takers would be well-served to review the book to help identify weaknesses in their knowledge prior to taking the exam," Laplante said.

The study guide is $39.99 for IEEE members and $49.99 for nonmembers.

PE Software exam registration begins 17 December. Check to find out about your state's approval and registration process. See exam specifications at

Just as I predicted the people that have been pushing this have a vested interest in selling training material. What prices should there be on safety?

The Time At the Tone is Nov. 19th 2000. Say what?

On November 19th one of the primary Network Time Protocol (NTP) clocks, The Official Source of Time for the Department of Defense (DoD) for the Global Positioning System (GPS), and a Standard of Time for the United States, broke for 51 minutes, reporting that the year is now 2000, about 30 million seconds ago.


On Monday, November 19, USNO made what was expected to be a routine upgrade. Unfortunately, for 51 minutes, between 21:07:32 - 21:58:56 UTC, the server gave out the year as 2000 instead of 2012. We have resolved the issue that caused this error.

We regret the disruptions that this may have caused. We strongly recommend that all NTP users configure their software to get time from three different sources at a minimum. Most software should be able to use the redundant data to identify and ignore incorrect time sources. You can find a list of other time sources at

Many of our Embedded Widgets rely on getting accurate time from Internet. Sometimes because we are to cheap to put in a real clock, or we think that the Internet will always be here and is always telling the truth which will give us accurate time.

Ask Bjørn Hansen who runs the time pool, what I believe to be the most common source of time for Embedded Widgets had some comments on the Nov. 19th incident.

The official advice from NTP is that you should always configure at least four different NTP time servers when you use NTP. No two from the same organization and, as much as possible, reachable only via diverse, nonintersecting paths, and no more than 128 ms apart. Can your Embedded Widget coupe with that? Many do not have the required resources to do it.

In an related time issue that shows that time can be truly hard to code correctly, as it can take literally forever to test all future dates, Android 4.2 Deletes December From People App.

One year one of my colleagues got a yearly calender that he used all year long. In December he showed us that Thursday December 17th was missing. Calendar went from Wednesday 16th to Thursday the 18th. The lesson here is that even pre-Internet technology still can't figure out time...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

MARK V Home Computer Alarm Robo-Judge vs Google's 4ft Gator

Today [Nov/14/2012] reading Google's Server Cooling Plan Produces 4ft Alligator and the comments about adding a moat around the facility, reminded me of this classic from Creative Computing Magazine (Sep-Oct 1977). Now, 35 years later, this MARK V Alarm system is almost reality. What is left to do? Do take note of the impressive time marks.

 How'd you like to have a computer like this one:
    * D * A * N * G * E * R  *
        *  D  *  A  *  N *  G  * E * R *

I, the MARK V Home Computer Alarm, detect a suspicious looking individual attempting to force entry into the building.

Commencing Intruder Log:
18:33:47.023  Front door breached.
18:34:54.543  Photocell Checkpoint Alpha passed.
18:36:06.105  Weight of 97 kilograms detected on first stair-step.
18:37:22.133  Intruder on  landing; digital photograph taken.
18:37:22.345  Photograph stored and processed: analysis indicates White Anglo Saxon Catholic male with a scar above the left eye and a slight lisp.
18:37:22.665  Photograph dispatched via telesat to interpol.
18:37:22.982  Interpol returned id as "Greg Heiss," known computer thief  and Arlingtonite.
18:37:22.995  Energize defense system.
18:37:23.442  Target on fifth step of second tier.
18:37:23.445  Defense system ready.
18:37:25.045  Target at top of stairs. Lock on 50 megawatt laser.
18:37:25.050  Laser locked on. Query supreme court Robo-Judge for permission to terminate life of intruder.
18:37:25.052  Permission granted and verified.
18:37:25.053  ======  Z  A   P  ======
18:37:25.054  Switch air recirculation system to High Clean.
18:37:25.100  Notify building engineering office of repairs needed to front door and rear wall over stairs.
18:37:25.125  Reset alarm system.
18:37:25.143  Terminate Intruder Log.
       MARK V, ready.

[Alas they confuse Weight with Mass. Killiograms are a unit of Mass. Sigh.]