Certifiable code

From: Karl Auerbach <karl_at_cavebear_dot_com>
Date: Tue Aug 31 2004 - 15:09:28 CDT

We must soon squarely face the question "How does one write code and build
systems that can pass certification?"

There are certain aspects that I think are given by the nature of the
audience or customers for this certification.

These pre-ordained aspects are things like use of a process similar to
that defined by ISO 9000x. (Not that I believe that these processes are
necessarily good and I don't think we ought to argue about that, but
rather it is my feeling that these are necessary in the eyes of the

And I don't think that the certification target should be merely to pass
the lowest of the low. Rather I believe that it should be done in a way
that reflects the kind of practices we would like to see in other
social-infrastructure software.

So my questions of the moment are these:

1. What programming language? (This is not a monolithic question;
different parts of the system could be written in different languages.)

   A) Can one certify code written in Python? What restrictions on
      use of Python are required. (Python is a highly mutable language
      that gives the programmer a great deal of control of the underlying
      machinery, which can result in very obscure code and far flung side
      effects. I don't think that Python code that did such things could,
      or ought to, pass a certification test.)

   B) What other languages? (Java? C++...) And if so, what restrictions
      on use?

2. What coding and comment standards should be applied?

    A) Should there be a full set of entry/exit assertions?

    B) Should there be standard per-module/per-procedure comment blocks.

    C) How much should variable/procedure/object names be semantically
       descriptive. (My own code, for example, often contains objects
       that have high descriptive names of 30 or more characters. That
       may be an extreme case, but is it something that we need to do for

    C) How should debugging/testing scaffold code be handled (and



This can become a very long topic, including other questions about code
versioning, testing, regression testing (including maintanence of test
logs), etc.

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Received on Tue Aug 31 23:17:22 2004

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