Humble programmer, this time for real

Sometimes even the most skilled programmer like me lose their humbleness and blame the compiler. Luckily for him (or her) reality is ready the put them back at their places. This is what happened to me today. It was afternoon and after some thick coding with containers and containers of containers I was rather tired, maybe in need of a break. I don’t believe in break so I went on and wrote the destructor.
Pretty simple stuff a for loop iterating through all the container elements and basically deleting them one by one.
So far so good, then I wrote the test case (I do believe in test cases) and I got a rather surprising behavior on the destruction of an empty container. My code was supposed to skip the destruction loop and get out of the destructor cleanly, instead what actually happened was that the loop code was executed once causing exception and exception dialog popping all around.
Puzzled I stared at the code without a clue. It was a for loop as thousands other I wrote.
So I composed a small source to test just that behavior (I do believe in small source test, too, they usually help you a lot understanding stuff). And I got it perfectly right. The code was doing what I expected. So I cut and pasted some types from the project into my test. Maybe after all it had something to do with the complex types I used.
But once more the small test code run perfectly.
I was quite astonished and tempted to blame the compiler. So I went for the assembly window just to have the confirmation that the code was actually different and that the project code compiled to execute the loop once.
My personal C++ GURU was away so I had to handle it all by myself. At this point I tried to do some more cut & paste to understand were the problem arise and… I got it… There was, right after the closing bracket of the for statement and before the opening curly bracket… there a SEMICOLON!
Feeling dumb would have been an giant leap upward respect to that I felt. I knew that very seldom the compiler is to blame, so despite of appearance I was the culprit. Also I should believe some more in breaks, just a few minutes to get from ‘fused’ back to ‘bright’. And … yes C++ (or C, in this case it is a common pitfall) is a loaded gun ready to shot into your feet by default… but, what the heck! A little warning from the compiler would have saved me quite a time.
In fact my personal programming style is to always use the curly brackets even when the block is empty. I found this to be more readable and less error prone. It would be nice to instruct the compiler to emit a warning when this rule is broken. If the programmer is so smart to do everything in the for parenthesis and doesn’t need to specify a loop body, then she could spend part of the saved time writing a pair of curly brackets.

Leave a Comment