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Re: MaxBeam, MaxQuake, MaxWind

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Chris, 
We need to control the improper use of structural engineering programs at the 
building department level rather than restricting sales. There are architects 
well qualified to practice engineering - albeit they are few and far between. 
There are others who purchase software and use it under the supervision of an 
engineer who understands the principles.
This goes to the root of the Architect/Engineer debate. How do you stop an 
architect from practicing engineering if you know that he does not posesses 
the minimum skills? The Architectural Lobby is unfortunately strong enough to 
counter such action against them. The only avenue that we have which makes 
sense is to use the interpretation of the building official or contract plan 
reviewer. Not a perfect solution, but better than none at all.
A building official who discovers that the user of a program does not have 
the basic understanding of the principles of engineering should report that 
engineer or architect and prevent him/her from practicing engineering until 
they can past the basic PE exam.
It's difficult to restrict them from the start, and I would think much easier 
one their weakness is documented.

Finally, I think any software that is released to the public before it is 
ready and can provide ACCURATE results should be held responsible for a 
portion of the liability. However, this does not include those programs which 
were beta tested and believed to be accurate. There has to be an intention to 
defraud the public by knowingly releasing software whose results can affect 
life safety. This is a difficult one to prove.

All software should be tested for the most common uses it was designed to 
calculate. Creative use of any program should be the responsiblity of the 
user who must be able to justify the methodology and show why the program 
satisfies that particular need.

Any software that becomes buggy from the installation of another software 
which happens to write over a modified DLL file should not be held 
responsible. This should have been addressed at the Operating system level 
rather than the developer who acted in good faith.

Finally, any user can ask the questions to determine if a developer has taken 
proper steps to insure the accuracy of their software. Has it been beta 
tested, for how long and what known issues resulted in the beta testing. If 
the developer refuses to provide this information, the user should look for 
another tool to use.

Dennis S. Wish PE

In a message dated 5/16/99 11:01:57 AM Pacific Daylight Time, 
chrisw(--nospam--at)skypoint.com writes:

<< >In fact, the brochures
 >state:  "Easy to use structural software for architects, builders, drafters,
 >engineers, and building departments." 
 Welcome to 'black box engineering--cheap. One size fits all.' It very 
 common for mechanical engineering FEA developers, one of whom claimed it 
 was 'child's play.' Irrespective of the quality of the software 
 (something which never makes it into the ads) if the user hasn't a good 
 grasp of applied mechanics and the applicable codes, if the program 
 contains code compliance assessment, you are cruising for a serious 
 bruising if you assume _anything_ any FEA program puts out is gospel. 
 I've been in the FEA biz for about 25 years and in that time software has 
 proliferated and quality has generally gone right straight to hell. There 
 a few exceptions, but the MicroSoft 'bugs be damned, bloat up the feature 
 set and ship,' philosophy is common. I sometimes wonder if there's a 
 certain critical size engineering software which is unsupportable--so 
 many features aimed so many different sub-disciplines that no single 
 person really understands it all. 
 
 Christopher Wright P.E.    |"They couldn't hit an elephant from
 chrisw(--nospam--at)skypoint.com        | this distance"   (last words of Gen.
 ___________________________| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)
 http://www.skypoint.com/~chrisw >>