Category: "general"

How I Avoid Making Mistakes

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No one likes to be wrong, except maybe the class clown; even then, I'm sure they don't like it if their incorrect answer does not get any laughs from the others. I especially hate when someone breaks the build, and the cause turns out to be a change that I made. I learned long ago not to try to chase perfection. However, I also learned there are many things that can be done to improve productivity and success.

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Evolution to the Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things, what a great idea because of all of the possibilities. I think the best place to test this would be in Utopia. Whenever a new invention or discovery is made, there is always a potential for misuse. For instance, fire, alcohol, software patents, YouTube, and the list becomes potentially endless when you start combining two or more seemingly innocuous things like Diet Coke and Mentos. Every business is racing to cash in on The Internet of Things, and some even want to be the leader. The reality is, this thing will come to life sooner or later. However, I think it would be best if we started out small and create many Intranets of Things (IaoT) first. Then watch them evolve and develop into something valuable and safe.

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Value Semantics

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Value semantics for an object indicates that only its value is important. Its identity is irrelevant. The alternative is reference/pointer semantics; the identity of the object is at least as important as the value of the object. This terminology is closely related to pass/copy-by-value and pass-by-reference. Value semantics is a very important topic to consider when designing a library interface. These decisions ultimately affect user convenience, interface complexity, memory-management and compiler optimizations.

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Do As I Say, Not As I Do

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How often are you given instructions by a person of authority and then at some later point in time witness them going against exactly what they just asked you to do?!

  • Your dad telling you not to drink out of the milk carton; then you catch him washing down a bite of chocolate cake with a swig directly from the milk carton.
  • You see a police car breaking the speed limit.
  • You see the host of a party that you are at double-dip, even though the host has a "No Double-Dipping" policy.

Doesn't that just irritate you?

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The Singleton Induced Epiphany

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I am not aware of a software design pattern that has been vilified more than The Singleton. Just as every other design pattern, the singleton has its merits. Given the right situation, it provides a simple a clean solution, and just as every other design pattern, it can be misused.

I have always had a hard time understanding why everyone was so quick to criticize the singleton. Recently, this cognitive dissonance has forced me on a journey that led to an epiphany I would like to share. This post focuses on the singleton, its valid criticisms, misplaced criticisms, and guidelines for how it can be used appropriately.

Oh! and my epiphany.

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Software Design Patterns

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Software Design Patterns have helped us create a language to communicate and concepts and leverage the skills of previous work. Design patterns are very powerful, language agnostic descriptions problems and solutions that have been encounter and solved many times over. However, design patterns are only a resource for solving programming problems. A tool that can help software programs be developed elegantly, efficiently, and reliably; exactly the same way that programming languages, 3rd party libraries, open source code, software development processes, Mountain Dew and The Internet can improve the quality of code. I would like to discuss some of my thoughts and observations regarding design patterns, with the intent to help improve the usefulness of this wildly misused resource.

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Preprocessor Code Generation

general, CodeProject, Boost, C++, maintainability, Alchemy 2 feedbacks »

I really do not like MACROs in C and C++, at least the way they have been traditionally used starting with C. Many of these uses are antiquated because of better feature support with C++. The primary uses are inline function calls and constant declarations. With the possibility of MACRO instantiation side-effects, and all of the different ways a programmer can use a function, it is very difficult to write it correctly for all scenarios. And when a problem does occur, you cannot be certain what is being generated and compiled unless you look at the output from the preprocessor to determine if it is what you had intended.

However, there is still one use of MACROs, that I think makes them too valuable for the preprocessor to be removed altogether. This use is code generation in definitions. What I mean by that, is hiding cumbersome boiler-plate definitions that cannot easily be replicated without resorting to manual cut-and-paste editing. Cut-and-Paste is notorious for its likelihood of introducing bugs. I want to discuss some of the features that cannot be matched without the preprocessor, and set some guidelines that will help keep problems caused by preprocessor misuse to a minimum.

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C++: < type_traits > header

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For this entry, I would like to introduce the type_traits header file. This file contains utility templates that greatly simplify work when writing template-based libraries. This is especially true for libraries that employ template meta-programming. The header file is available with C++ TR1 and above. This library provides tools to identify types, their qualifying properties and even peel-off properties one-by-one programmatically at compile-time. There are also transformation meta-functions that provide basic meta-programming operations such as a compile-time conditional.

The definitions in type_traits will save us a lot of time implementing Alchemy. As I introduce some of the tools that are available in the header, I will also demonstrate how these operations can be implemented. This will help you understand how to construct variations of the same type of solution when applying it in a different context. As an example of this, I will create a construct that behaves similarly to the tertiary operator, but is evaluated at compile-time.

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An Eye on Refactoring

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Recently I ran across the article, "Is Design Dead?", from Martin Fowler's blog. Martin addresses the common misconception that design is discouraged in Extreme Programming. He describes the overall purpose of design in software and how the design emerges as part of the development phase. As more is learned about the problem domain, better decisions can be made and the design evolves with the implementation. Refactoring code is an activity that helps facilitate success with this approach.

At a different time I was learning about the structure of the human eye and some of the potential paths in evolution that could have led to the structure of our eyes today. I learned some surprising things with regards to how our eyes are structured. The evolved structure is counter-intuitive to what I would have imagined, especially when compared to the structure of a digital camera. I took a step back and starting thinking about the evolutionary path of the eye and compared it to typical events I have experienced during a software development cycle. I wanted to share the conclusions that I reached when I thought about these two topics.

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Introduction to Network Alchemy

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While many of the principles of developing robust software are easy to explain, it is much more difficult to know how and when to apply these principles. Practice and learning from mistakes is generally the most productive way to understand these principles. However, it is much more desirable to understand the principles before a flawed system is built; an example from the physical world is the Tacoma Narrows bridge. Therefore I am starting a journey to demonstrate how to create robust software. This is not a simple task that can be summarized in a magazine article, a chapter in a book or a reference application with full source code.

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