26 votes

Accused murderer wins right to check source code of DNA testing kit used by police

10 comments

  1. Whom
    Link
    Infuriating that it's closed off in the first place. The widespread assumption that software is magic that does what it says it does in the most neutral way possible is one of the biggest problems...

    Infuriating that it's closed off in the first place. The widespread assumption that software is magic that does what it says it does in the most neutral way possible is one of the biggest problems of our time. Somehow we all forget that programs are written by humans.

    26 votes
  2. [2]
    knocklessmonster
    Link
    In a way it's like saying "Your honor, I have a series of facts that make a larger point to prove the defendant is guilty, but only feel I should say the last sentence and be taken at face value."...

    In a way it's like saying "Your honor, I have a series of facts that make a larger point to prove the defendant is guilty, but only feel I should say the last sentence and be taken at face value."

    Good on them for winning. Hopefully the software doesn't have any issues, if it's been used before, but hopefully if it has issues it changes how we manage this sort of stuff. If you can hang a man with a program, surely he should be able to see how his noose is made.

    I'm curious about the audit, which I assume will happen at the hands of some neutral third party.

    18 votes
    1. NoblePath
      Link Parent
      The audit will be done by experts for both sides. Then it will be an interesting day in court as the experts testify and a jury tries to decide the imprtiality of the platform.

      The audit will be done by experts for both sides. Then it will be an interesting day in court as the experts testify and a jury tries to decide the imprtiality of the platform.

      5 votes
  3. [6]
    soks_n_sandals
    (edited )
    Link
    Is this just grandstanding? I review code that's written in a scripting language like Matlab and it would never take me 6 minutes to review a line of code. I've certainly been slowed down by bad...

    Is this just grandstanding?

    The co-founder of the company, Mark Perlin, is said to have argued against source code analysis by claiming that the program, consisting of 170,000 lines of MATLAB code, is so dense it would take eight and a half years to review at a rate of ten lines an hour.

    I review code that's written in a scripting language like Matlab and it would never take me 6 minutes to review a line of code. I've certainly been slowed down by bad code, but if the defense is that the code is "dense" (aka hard to follow) then that bodes poorly to me as a defense.

    Edit: I should say I've also worked in Matlab and I think it's pretty friendly to read, which is the source of my skepticism.

    14 votes
    1. Wulfsta
      Link Parent
      To be fair, MATLAB has both a combination of bad function overloading and the ability to write incredibly dense vectorized code. I have written small MATLAB functions that I still get calls about...

      To be fair, MATLAB has both a combination of bad function overloading and the ability to write incredibly dense vectorized code. I have written small MATLAB functions that I still get calls about to this day, and it has taken me hours to analyze handfuls of lines of code. This is a language with a profiling tool, and sometimes the fastest way to do something is also the most disgusting. I still think this is a crazy overestimation, but don't discount how batshit MATLAB can be.

      9 votes
    2. [4]
      hamstergeddon
      Link Parent
      It's such a dumb claim. Yeah, you may need to pour an hour into breaking down 10 complex lines, but that doesn't mean every single line is going to take 6 minutes. How many lines are comments?...

      It's such a dumb claim. Yeah, you may need to pour an hour into breaking down 10 complex lines, but that doesn't mean every single line is going to take 6 minutes. How many lines are comments? Simple statements? Simple return lines? Blank lines to make the code more readable? I've no doubt reviewing and comprehending the whole thing is going to be time-intensive, but there's a reason that using lines of code as a metric is frowned upon by devs.

      6 votes
      1. [3]
        teaearlgraycold
        Link Parent
        Also, the defense team isn’t trying to fully understand the source code. They’re likely just trying to QA it until they find one critical bug that can bring the defendant into the territory of...

        Also, the defense team isn’t trying to fully understand the source code. They’re likely just trying to QA it until they find one critical bug that can bring the defendant into the territory of reasonable doubt.

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          joplin
          Link Parent
          Yeah, I agree. I've written some code that at first glance looks awful, but when you dig into why it's that way, it turns out to be a pretty reasonable bit of code. Sometimes I write useful...

          Yeah, I agree. I've written some code that at first glance looks awful, but when you dig into why it's that way, it turns out to be a pretty reasonable bit of code. Sometimes I write useful comments that explain why it's that way, and other times, management puts too much time pressure on me, and it either doesn't get done, or it does, but the comments are as confusing as the code. I don't see this actually being useful unless there's some major problem with the code that brings into doubt all of its past uses, too.

          2 votes
          1. vord
            Link Parent
            There's usefulness if it can set the precedence for forcing open software important for society. Voting machines for example.

            There's usefulness if it can set the precedence for forcing open software important for society.

            Voting machines for example.

            4 votes
  4. Grendel
    Link
    I was surprised to read that this was written entirely in MATLAB. While I haven't personally used it myself, based on what I know of it and what I've heard about it it seems like a poor choice to...

    I was surprised to read that this was written entirely in MATLAB. While I haven't personally used it myself, based on what I know of it and what I've heard about it it seems like a poor choice to use to build this kind of software

    5 votes