Design Con 2015

Hogwarts School of Software Engineering

April 01, 2013

JackGanssle-April 01, 2013

April 1, 2013

In response to the total collapse of the British economy after last week's exploitation of security holes in every electronic product on the market by Lord Voldemort, headmaster Severus Snape announced the renaming of Hogwarts to Hogwarts School of Software Engineering.

"There is evil in the world," Professor Snape snarled, "and it's worse than a pack of werewolves. We have learned that he-who-can't-be named found an abandoned Dell notebook in the slag heaps of Azkaban prison and took an on-line C programming course. His army of malevolent Dementors have now mastered the black arts of the script kiddies."

Snape later noted that the Dementors (and their master) are able to work their evil ways only because of the gaping security holes left in electronic products by the engineers (and their bosses) who don't know a GPOS protection profile from the SKPP. And users are at least as culpable as so many never bother to change or even implement passwords. "The happy days of Harry Potter 1 through 7 were like the innocent eons of the Garden of Eden," he said. "When Adam and Eve were cast out they found a world of connected poorly-secured devices. Then the Internet of Things came about, and the Things were mostly useful as attack vectors. Think 50 billion connected devices, one he-who-can't-be-named, and a couple of million Dementors who neither need food nor bathroom breaks, all trained in the Dark Arts of tunneling through firewalls."

Hogwarts will continue to recruit eleven-year-olds with magical skills, but now the course material will contain rigorous instruction in highly-disciplined firmware engineering. Coursework will change to reflect this new focus. For instance, Defense Against the Dark Arts will now feature in-depth training in IPsec, deep packet inspection, and thwarting DDoS attacks.

But the school will be about much more than security.

"We're facing a software crisis," Snape muttered, "the need for software far outstrips the industry's ability to create it. The only possible solution is magic."

In the Transfiguration class young magicians will focus on refactoring legacy code from the creaky disaster of technical debt into robust, bug-free maintainable software by using their wands to issue the correct spells

Study of Ancient Runes will expose students to the cryptic languages of yore that are still found in many systems, like Perl, APL and Lisp. The Potions class will cover design patterns, and Charms will show students how to consign crummy code forever to the Chamber of Secrets.

Snape concluded with: "When the first class graduates from the revamped Hogwarts we expect that no muggle will ever again be allowed to contend with the mysteries of software engineering."

Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companies with their embedded challenges. Contact him at jack@ganssle.com. His website is www.ganssle.com.

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