Monday, August 4, 2008

marriage to c++ (also known as 'c++, elegant static arrays' part 2)

I received feedback for the 'c++ static arrays' post from numerous friend developers, who are all unfortunately too lazy to post a comment.
Some were scared by the meta-programming heaviness, while others said it's an overkill.

I fed their feedback into my thinking machine and came to the following conclusion: the difference between us is that I am married to c++, while the skeptics have only been dating it, and it makes a big difference even if they have been dating for years.

This kind of situation happens whenever you spend a lot of time in a relationship with something or somebody, be it c++ in my case, your car, your flat, your partner, your friend and EVEN your new IPhone! the situation always evolves the same way: in the beginning, you enjoy the new benefits, you only see the cool features, you are happy it works and you are satisfied, but eventually, you start taking all the good things for granted, and start to only see the small annoyances, which transform into big annoyances, because they become all what you see, it is like taking a small coin, and sticking it into your eye, even though it is small, it is all what you see, and it is very painful. I could turn this into a human relationship post, but I will just say it is different because people have feelings, and trying to change others is in many cases egoistic, in other rarer cases the right thing, but in most cases can hurt feelings, but let's close it here and concentrate on c++, which until now, has not developed any feelings.

Allow me to change you...
The 'issues' can be divided into 2 types:

There are the things that I don't like when done the "copy from book/tutorial/demo" way, and this does not mean that the book/tutorial/demo is bad, of course not! but things have to be put in context. You cannot simply take whatever code was there and stick it into a codebase specially if it is large and complex, the culprit here it turns out is the programmer, but a beginner programmer is automatically excused, he is happy enough that things are working and that's fine, I am happy. But I see many experienced programmers, who should know better, and know that they have to write code that has minimal dependencies and needs minimal changes, and that is robust and very good at detecting problems at run time, and not just for the sake of it, or because of some obscure obsession about code elegance, but becuase this is wasted time and money in any term except the short term, I am not happy!
Most such issues can be easily solved however, by using meta-programming per example, and by thinking long term, how long is long term is also an important skill by the way, but let us skip that and move to the second type.

This is the tougher type, with issues that are impossible to solve wihout the help of the compiler, (except when killing performance or causing other big disasters is no problem). In these cases we can just hope and wait for things like c++0x, tr1 and friends to come to the rescue, one example mentioned in the previous post is the 'auto' keyword which allows code to be made less dependent, and mroe change resilient among other benefits.
But unsolved compiler dependent issues remain (themes for future rants), seemingly meaningless to most ... except the married.

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