24 July 2002

If you're not convinced that the Model 308 or 309's Operating Software must be kept up to date, please read the following.

Remember that these are safety mission instruments. Keeping them up to date is not only a matter of conscience, it's also a matter of your own protection. If someone were to get hurt down the road, the attorney representing the injured party will consider the following issues carefully:

Installation of the latest Operating Software is very easy. And it really matters, because, while we strive to design bug free software, the reality is that there is no such thing - there exists no perfect software any more than there exists perfect hardware or omniscient engineers. Instead, it's always a matter of evolving, improving software, just as with hardware. So as with hardware, software generally gets better, that is, more accurate, more reliable, more efficient, improved ergonomics, and so on, with time. It's just not realistic to expect the original version of any software to be as capable, refined or trouble free as later versions, any more than it is to expect the first airplane to be as capable, refined or trouble free as modern aircraft. Hypatia instruments are no different - they evolve not only in hardware, but in software as well.

But in the software world, there is no longer a need to live with early version limitations. Software can now be distributed essentially for free, and Operating Software can be very easily installed into products in the field. That has profoundly changed the instrumentation and other electronic device landscape. In earlier times an instrument user was simply stuck with whatever limitations the state of the art imposed upon both his hardware and it's embedded software when he purchased it. If money were no object, the safety conscience instrument user would purchase new test instruments immediately upon the availability of an improved model in order to maximize the precision and reliability of his tests. But real world economics limits an instrument user's ability to do that.

But now Operating Software, whose distribution is essentially cost free, changes the equation. On the software side, yesterday's state of the art is no longer adequate or justified when today's state of the art is readily available at no significant cost. Under these conditions, it's unconscionable to fail to install the latest and best Operating Software in a safety mission instrument promptly upon it's availability. If there were a hardware equivalent to this situation, it would be a little like continuing to use an outdated 3% accuracy instrument when a new .1% accuracy instrument was readily available at no cost to anyone - it's so senseless that, where safety is involved, failure to use the best available option is compelling evidence of negligence.

Consider how you'd view the situation if you were an attorney representing an accident victim. Hypothetically, let's stipulate that your client's spouse had been electrocuted in an accident involving a medical device. Let's also say that the manufacturer of the medical device tested it's safety earth ground system, but neither they nor their service agency, who certified the safety testing instrument, bothered to keep that instrument's Operating Software up to date, even though it was readily available for free. That negligence rendered the instrument's safety measurements less credible than they otherwise would have been, and potentially could raise a question as to whether the measurements even met specifications at the time of the product test. Failure to utilize readily and freely available advanced Operating Software under such circumstances would be vigorously argued as a clear case of negligence, and it's likely that most of our peers in a jury box would find that argument quite compelling. In this hypothetical case, the bottom line is that the tiniest of effort was avoided without due cause, and that effort ducking might have contributed to someone's accidental death. It's inexcusable.

So abandon excuses and effort ducking, and keep your Operating Software up to date!

Hypatia Inc. Contact Information ucecage@Hypatia.com. Report mail misconduct to uce@ftc.gov.