Tag: programming

Unidiomatic Solutions and Technical Debt

Jung’s Synchronicity theory is as fascinating as unscientific. It is “unscientific” because it can’t be proven false by its very own definition – two events appear to be related even if the causal relation is missing. Someone talks about dreaming of a Golden Scarab and suddenly a Golden Scarab hits your window. There is no apparent causal relationship, yet the event pair is so unlikely that the Synchronicity idea has been developed around this. My rational mind is more inclined in thinking of this as a selection bias (countless times it happens something like – you spend a few days away in a city and suddenly the news is filled with stories about this city). Nonetheless, when it happens I always feel uneasy, like the Universe would like to have a word with me.

So when I read the tweet below, by Mario Fusco, in a quite specific job timeframe, I felt called out

Tweet by Mario Fusco

In my whole professional career, I always tried to push the boundaries of the language(s) I was using, from assembly to C++, to achieve better engineering, more robust and safer code, fewer bug opportunities, simpler development, and improved collaboration. This meant sometimes introducing the latest C++ standard, sometimes introducing concepts from other languages and sometimes defining DSL with the help of the preprocessor. So I am not new to some raise of eyebrows when people look at my code.

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Surprisingly Exceptional

It all starts in schools. When they teach you how to program a computer. You get plenty of code that just works in the happy path scenario. So happy path that there are no other paths at all.

And then it is easy to grow, line of code after line of code, with the idea that error handling is not really part of the code. Elegant code has nothing to do with errors. Could be a sort of brainwashing.

And then language designers, present you the ultimate error-handling solution – lo and behold the Exceptions!

You can still write the code the way you were taught and then when something bad happens, throw an exception. A flare fired in the sky, in the hope that some alert patrol on guard could spot and come to the rescue.

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Speak Slowly, no Vowels, pls – Solutions

In my previous post, I described how I devised a programming problem for an internal company contest with the help of the ubiquitous ChatGPT. Also, ChatGPT provided a solution for the problem as part of the development process. Even more interestingly the language model provided a fictional context for justifying the problem.

The task was to write a function removeVowels( string text ) which takes an arbitrary text (arbitrary as long as it contains no uppercase letters) and returns the same string where vowels have been removed. Given the string “hello world”, the result should be “hll wrld”.

The implementation must not have:

  • loops
  • if statement
  • list comprehension

If you want to give it a try before reading the solution, stop here. Otherwise, follow me.

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Speak Slowly, no Vowels, pls – The Problem

As a winner of the last programmer contest at Schindler MIL, I had to devise a new compelling and intriguing puzzle to propose to my colleagues. The first two puzzles were in the form “Implement X without using Y“, an interesting pattern that allowed for multiple solutions.

But I ran short of (X,Y) pairs, and staring at my blank page I decided to resort to … ChatGPT. Yes, nowadays it is like the uber-solution to everything. Don’t you know how to partially specialize your templates? Ask ChatGPT; don’t you know how to present a topic? Ask ChatGPT; don’t you know how much a brick weighs? Ask ChatGPT; don’t you know how to devise a programming puzzle? Ask ChatGPT.

So I went on and asked this modern oracle –

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Classy Enums

Back in another era, when I worked for UbiSoft, my then-boss Alain, started a wonderful initiative – the Technical Meeting. Every Friday afternoon, one of us should present a technical argument to the whole team. A good number of Technical Meetings were held, but when the project entered some frantic period. I have fond memories of these meetings.

So I was very happy when I heard that a similar initiative was going to happen at Schindler – the biweekly Technical Session. The idea is very similar – every two weeks one of the colleagues volunteers to make a short technical presentation and give it to the team. Topics are diverse, mainly related to C++. The goal is to have compact presentations limited to 10-15 minutes, ideally including some hands-on parts.

I volunteer for the second topic, which in turn I’ll present here.

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Lambda Headache for Mere Mortals

A few years ago I attended a talk at a Lambda World Conference about Lambda Calculus. Although not an eye-opener (in fact that level of abstraction is rarely needed, nor advisable, in everyday programming), it was thought-provoking. By wisely crafting mathematical functions you could describe algorithms, fully equivalent to the good old recipe-like imperative programming code.

The point is that those lambda functions are really twisted.

Reading some anecdotes about Alonzo Church it is immediately clear he was quite a guy. And devising lambda calculus required quite a mind.

Since lambda calculus is just functions, no statement, it came to my mind I could use it to devise a solution to my “if-less” programming quiz.

The solution I prepared was too complex to be explained in my previous post, so I decided to write this post.

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Nothing lasts forever, but Cobol, Fortran, and C++

If you have kept up to date with the latest developments of C++, for sure you have noticed how convoluted and byzantine constructs and semantics have become.

The original idea of a C with Classes at the root of language is long lost and the fabled smaller and cleaner language hidden inside C++ is ever more difficult to spot and use.

The combo – backward-compatibility latch and committee-driven approval/refusal of proposals, make the language evolution spin around. Missing or late additions to the language are sitting ducks, and the lack of networking in the standard library, for a language that is 40, is enough to tell how poorly the evolution of the language is handled.

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What if “if” would go missing?

In my last post, I described the first Schindler Milan office weekly riddle. It has been a big success, and it had a brilliant winning solution (one of mine 🙂 ). A simple problem, implementing increment by one without using addition, yet open enough to trigger a good number of solutions.

As the winner, it was my duty to invent the next riddle. A really daunting task if I wanted to live up to the expectations. Honestly, I didn’t invent anything, I just squeeze the web looking for a good programming riddle in the drops.

Eventually, I decided to go for determining the lowest of two numbers… using if-less programming. After all, if statement can be tricky and someone already pointed out that if statement should be considered harmful in the same way the infamous goto is.

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