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Yellow Journalism and Software Bugs

Oh boy, I thought I had quibbles with the news story on the Coverity announcement yesterday and today someone points out the worst piece of yellow journalism that I have seen in quite some time: Open Source Code Contains Security Holes. First the title is atrocious and this quote “the popular open source backup and recovery software running on half a million servers, were all found to have dozens or hundreds of security exposures and quality defects” may (have) be(en) accurate, but without context sounds worse than it really is. The truth, as George Wilson said, is that this is an article along the lines “And in other news, fire is hot and water is wet.” I personally consider this irresponsible journalism. They had to willfully ignore older stories based on information from Coverity and Carnegie Mellon such as Open Scrutiny of Open Source Code which contains the nugget “The average defect rate of the open source applications was 0.434 bugs per 1000 lines of code. This compares with an average defect rate of 20 to 30 bugs per 1000 lines of code for commercial software, according to Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab Sustainable Computing Consortium.” This is simply yellow journalism whose primary intention is to drive traffic and raise the ire of open source fans! Harrumph! Outrageous!

Note to Charles Babcock: software has bugs, even security bugs. If you want to drive down the number of bugs in the software that you are using, use open source.

This type of crappy response comes up almost every time Coverity announces a significant improvement. See this similar news story from ZDNet back in October 2006: Most open source is better.

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