The good news in the software industry is that when the software is buggy, the vendor can simply release a bug patch or fix. But what if the fix needs fixing?
That is the dilemma the largest software maker in the world, Microsoft (MSFT) faced this week as users lodged a barrage of complaints about a Windows NT 4.0 "service pack" or bug fix that introduced new bugs that weren't in the original software.
The most dramatic bug report concerned a "blue screen of death" that shut down the operating system. Another bug prevented Windows NT 4.0 Server from rewriting data to a system's hard drive.
This is the second service pack for Windows NT 4.0. It was intended to fix numerous bugs and improve the operating system's remote-access capabilities. But soon Internet newsgroups were swamped with reports of new problems.
Microsoft officials blame the problems on three things: incompatibilities between Windows NT and antivirus software, incompatibilities between new and old versions of remote-access features, and faulty downloading methods.
A fix for the second service pack has been posted at Microsoft's Web site. This patch uses a new downloading method that keeps the binary files zipped during the process.
Enzo Schiano, product manager for Windows NT Server, said he could not confirm the "blue screen of death" bug that has created an uproar in the NT Server user community. But he assured users that all reported issues have been solved with the new fix.
"We have tested the service pack rigorously and we have nothing else to report," Schiano said. To avoid a repeat of the problem in future, the company now intends to beta test its service packs with third-party software makers and willing customers before releasing them to the general public.
"We do certainly have the responsibility since NT Server is being deployed so widely," Schiano continued. "We have taken this problem very seriously."