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Last-Modified: 13 Oct 2002
Archive-name: software-eng/part1

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
This message gives brief answers to questions that have occurred in; in many cases they are also topics many readers would like
NOT to see discussed again soon.  Questions are:
    What is Software Engineering?
    What's a CASE Tool?
    What's a 'function point'?
    What's the 'spiral model'?
    What is a 'specmark'?
    Where can I find a public-domain tool to compute metrics?
    What metrics are there for object-oriented systems?
    How do I write good C style?
    What is 'Hungarian Notation'?
    Are lines-of-code (LOC) a useful productivity measure?
    Should software professionals be licenced/certified?
    How do I get in touch with the SEI?
    What is the SEI maturity model?
    Where can I get information on API?
    What's a 'bug'?
    Where can I get copies of standards??
    What is 'cleanroom'?
    What is the Personal Software Process?

Subject: What is Software Engineering? Date: 11 Jul 2002 I'm not entirely happy with definitions, but here is one: * *IEEE Standard Computer Dictionary*, 610, ISBN 1-55937-079-3, 1990: The application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to development, operation, and maintenance of software; that is, the application of engineering to software. Textbooks tend not to give definitions, but instead spend their introductory chapters explaining characteristics of the discipline. Interesting phrases include: * Ian Sommerville, *Software Engineering*, 5th edition, Addison-Wesley, 1996. The specification, development, management, and evolution of software systems. Not constrained by materials governed by physical laws or manufacturing processes. Theories, methods, and tools needed to develop software. Evolving models of the real world. * Stephen R. Schach, *Software Engineering*, 2nd Edition, Richard D.Irwin, Inc. and Aksen Associates, 1993. A discipline whose aim is the production of quality software, delivered on time, within budget, and satisfying users' needs. * Shari Lawrence Pfleeger, *Software Engineering: the Production of Quality Software*, 2nd Edition, Macmillan, 1991, ISBN 0-02-395115-X. Designing and developing high-quality software. Application of computer science techniques to a variety of problems. We are problem-solvers rather that theoreticians.
Subject: What's a CASE Tool? Date: 24 Feb 1998 Archive file: casemsg (thanks to Scott McGregor <> for inspiring this question) CASE stands for Computer Aided Software Engineering; it can be used to mean any computer-based tool for software planning, development, and evolution. Various people regularly call the following 'CASE': Structured Analysis (SA), Structured Design (SD), Editors, Compilers, Debuggers, Edit-Compile-Debug environments, Code Generators, Documentation Generators, Configuration Management, Release Management, Project Management, Scheduling, Tracking, Requirements Tracing, Change Management (CM), Defect Tracking, Structured Discourse, Documentation editing, Collaboration tools, Access Control, Integrated Project Support Environments (IPSEs), Intertool message systems, Reverse Engineering, Metric Analyzers.
Subject: What's a 'function point'? Date: 24 Feb 1998 Archive file: funcpoints Function points and feature points are methods of estimating the "amount of functionality" required for a program, and are thus used to estimate project completion time. The basic idea involves counting inputs, outputs, and other features of a description of functionality. Bruno Peeters has collected a biblography on function points at Engineering/funcpoints.html. If interested, for a fee you can join: International Function Point Users Group 5008-28 Pine Creek Drive Blendonview Office Park Westerville, Ohio 43081-4899 614-895-7130 Home page (available using the World-Wide Web via URL
Subject: What's the 'spiral model'? Date: 10 Oct 1998 Archive file: spiral (1) Barry Boehm, "A Spiral Model of Software Development and Enhancement", ACM SIGSOFT Software Engineering Notes, August 1986. (2) Barry Boehm "A Spiral Model of Software Development and Enhancement" IEEE Computer, vol.21, #5, May 1988, pp 61-72. Basically, the idea is evolutionary development, using the waterfall model for each step; it's intended to help manage risks. Don't define in detail the entire system at first. The developers should only define the highest priority features. Define and implement those, then get feedback from users/customers (such feedback distinguishes "evolutionary" from "incremental" development). With this knowledge, they should then go back to define and implement more features in smaller chunks.
Subject: What is a 'specmark'? Date: 24 Feb 1998 Archive file: specmark The SPECmark is the geometric mean of a series of benchmarks done by the SPEC group. There are a couple of suites, but in general SPECmark refers to the results of the first suite. The suite includes FORTRAN and C codes, mostly well known codes but slightly hacked versions. SPEC c/o NCGA 2722 Merrilee Drive, Suite 200 Fairfax, VA 22031 Phone: (703) 698-9600 FAX: (703) 560-2752
Subject: Where can I find a public-domain tool to compute metrics? Date: 11 Jul 2002 Archive file: static.html Christopher Lott has a collection of metrics tools for C programs at Volume 20 of newsgroup comp.sources.unix contained a public-domain package called "metrics", which computes McCabe and Halstead metrics. There are many comp.sources.unix archives around the net.
Subject: What metrics are there for object-oriented systems? Date: 24 Feb 1998 The Empirical Software Engineering Research Group at Bournemouth University maintains a bibliography on OO metrics at, originally maintained by Robin Whitty of South Bank University.
Subject: How do I write good C style? Date: 11 Jul 2002 This is answered regularly in the comp.lang.c FAQ. See Christopher Lott's list of C and C++ style guides at
Subject: What is 'Hungarian Notation'? Date: 24 Feb 1998 Archive file: hungarian A naming convention for C code. See Charles Simonyi and Martin Heller, "The Hungarian Revolution", BYTE, Aug. 1991 (vol. 16, no. 8). There are other naming conventions; see, e.g. "A Guide to Natural Naming", Daniel Keller, ETH, Projekt-Zentrum IDA, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland. Published in SIGPLAN Notices, Vol. 25, No. 5, pages 95-102.
Subject: Are lines-of-code (LOC) a useful productivity measure? Date: 24 Feb 1998 Archive file: static.html Not unless you are very careful. Capers Jones' book has a detailed and insightful discussion of Lines of Code, including anomalies, and shows how to use it sensibly (eg in a single job shop, with a single language, and a standard company coding style). It is easy to cook up anomalies where LOC gives different numbers for code written in different styles, but pathological cases should get caught in code inspections. References: - T. Capers Jones, Programming Productivity, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1986 - Capers Jones, Applied Software Measurement: Assuring Productivity and Quality, McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1991, 494 pages ISBN 0-07-032813-7 The appendices of the latter give rules for counting procedural source code, as well as rules for counting function points and feature points. The following study, cited in Boehm's _S_o_f_t_w_a_r_e _E_n_g_i_n_e_e_r_i_n_g _E_c_o_n_o_m_i_c_s, claims that anomalies that seriously "fool" the LOC metric show up rarely in real code. - R. Nelson _S_o_f_t_w_a_r_e _D_a_t_e _C_o_l_l_e_c_t_i_o_n _a_n_d _A_n_a_l_y_s_i_s _a_t _R_A_D_C, Rome Air Development Center, Rome, NY. 1978.
Subject: Should software professionals be licenced/certified? Date: 24 Feb 1998 This is a very controversial and political question. Generally, certification is something voluntary, while licencing is regulated by governments. Certification generally means some agency warrants you meet its standards; licencing generally means that to claim to practice a certain profession requires a government licence, often administered through a professional organization. In theory both are supposed to help judge if someone is capable of doing certain jobs. Licencing isn't currently required for computing professionals; some people would like to see some jobs require it, as with established branches of engineering. Others don't like government intervention, and/or believe many people who wouldn't get licenced are perfectly competent. Computing professionals in the USA have had a certification program for years, administered by the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals (708-299-4227), a meta-organization with representatives from ACM, IEEE-CS, ADAPSO, ICCA, IACE, AIM, DPMA, AISP, COMMON, ASM, CIPS, and AWC. There are three certificates aimed at different broad types of practitioner, and many areas of specialization. To keep a certificate requires at least 40 hours of continuing education each year; credit can also be obtained for self-study, teaching, publication, etc.
Subject: How do I get in touch with the SEI? Date: 24 Feb 1998 Try their Web server at <URL:>. For general information about the SEI, contact the customer relations department of the Software Engineering Institute at: internet: Phone: (412) 268-5800 A subscriber service is available to U.S. mailing addresses. Subscribers receive the SEI quarterly newsletter, Bridge; invitations to SEI public events; and first notification of course offerings and new publications. To become a subscriber, contact Customer Relations. To order an SEI publication, contact NTIS, DTIC, or RAI directly: National Technical Information Service (NTIS) U.S. Department of Commerce Springfield, VA 22161-2103 Telephone: (703) 487-4600 Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) ATTN: FDRA Cameron Station Alexandria, VA 22304-6145 Telephone: (703) 274-7633 Research Access Inc. (RAI) 3400 Forbes Avenue Suite 302 Pittsburgh, PA 15213 Telephone: (412) 682-6530 FAX: (412) 682-6530
Subject: What is the SEI maturity model? Date: 24 Feb 1998 Originally-From: (Mark Paulk) Archive file: maturity Maturity is not an easy concept to get down to a single paragraph, but consider this. Premise: The quality of a software system is largely governed by the quality of the process used to develop and maintain the software. Basics: The first step in improving the existing situation is to get management buy-in and management action to clean up the software management processes (walk the talk, as TQMers frequently say). Integration: The second step is to get everyone working together as a team. Measurement: The third step is to establish objective ways of understanding status and predict where things are going in your process. Continuous improvement: Understand that this is building a foundation for continually getting better.
Subject: Where can I get information on API? Date: 24 Feb 1998 API stands for Application Programming Interface. For a useful subset of standard APIs that NIST considers relevant to US Federal government needs, you can look at NIST SP 500-187 "Application Portability Profile" (available using the World-Wide Web via URL, or send mail to with send app-ose/app2.txt in the body, or contact Barbara Blickenstaff, 301-975-2816. Many of the open systems APIs are being developed in the IEEE POSIX groups. An article in the Dec. 1991 IEEE Spectrum describes these and related API standards. IEEE standards aren't distributed electronically, but both of the documents above tell how to obtain copies.
Subject: What's a 'bug'? Date: 24 Feb 1998 You can take your pick: (1) Don't use "bug", use "fault" (an incorrect instruction or definition), "failure" (an incorrect result), or "mistake" (a human action leading to a failure). Paraphrased from IEEE Standard Computer Dictionary Standard 610, ISBN 1-55937-079-3 Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc. 345 East 47th Street New York, NY 10017-2394 USA $49.50 (US$) for IEEE members (2) Beizer, in a footnote on page 33 of the second edition of _S_o_f_t_w_a_r_e _T_e_s_t_i_n_g _T_e_c_h_n_i_q_u_e_s says (paraphrased): I'm sticking with "bug" because everyone knows what it means, there are several "standards" for other terms that are incon­ sistent with each other, the OED says that the conventional computer meaning of "bug" is ancient, and short Anglo-Saxon words are preferable to long Norman ones.
Subject: Where can I get copies of standards?? Date: 16 Jun 1998 ISO, ANSI, and IEEE standards are usually sold to raise some of the funds that the various national and international standards bodies (who usually own the copyright) need to keep afloat; thus they are not normally avail­ able electronically. Also, the organizations are concerned that electron­ ic copies would make it too easy for people to disseminate doctored ver­ sions of the standards. Some IEEE standards are available by annual electronic subscription; see (available using the World-Wide Web via URL ISO standards may be purchased from: In Canada: Standards Council of Canada / Conseil canadien des normes 1200-45 O'Connor, Ottawa K1P 6N7 Phone: (613) 238-3222 Fax: (613) 995-4564 On CD-ROM: Omnicom, Inc. 115 Park St. SE Vienna, VA 22180-4607 1-800-OMNICOM Also available through the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), 5284 Port Royal Rd., Springfield, VA 22161, (703) 487-4650. ANSI and ANSI equivalent ISO standards are available from ASQC Quality Press Customer Service Department P.O. Box 3066 Milwaukee, WI 53201-3066 Voice: (800) 248-1946 FAX: (414) 272-1734 For ITU (formerly CCITT) standards, see the ITU gopher server, (available us­ ing the World-Wide Web via URL gopher:// use their mail server: mail to with no subject and the following body: START HELP END There were once some CCITT standards on-line at the University of Colorado, but the arrangement to make them available via the Internet was terminated at the end of 1991.
Subject: What is 'cleanroom'? Date: 24 Feb 1998 'Cleanroom' is a software process based on mathematical verification of compo­ nents and statistical system-level testing. Cleanroom Software Engineering, Inc. (see Web page at keeps a more extensive defi­ nition at, including a bibliography.
Subject: What is the Personal Software Process? Date: 3 Mar 1997 A discipline for monitoring, testing, and improving your own Software Engi­ neering work. It's described the book *A Discipline for Software Engineering* by Watts S. Humphrey, Addison Wesley, 1995. ISBN 0-201-54610-8. There is al­ so a more introductory version (intended for early programming courses): Watts S. Humphrey, Introduction to the Personal Software Process (SEI Series in Software Engineering) Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1997 ISBN 0-201-54809-7. There is a mailing list; to be added, send e-mailto psp-users- -- "Yo' ideas need to be thinked befo' they are say'd" - Ian Lamb, age 3.5 qucis->cs to reply (it's a long story...)

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