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Bjarne Stroustrup Awarded 2015 Dahl-Nygaard Prize

martin-boundary Re: Poor Alan Kay (191 comments)

Essentially, they should never be used at all. If you're going to have an unrecoverable error, it's trivial to design the system to exit without using exceptions anyway.

Probably the most useful side effect of exceptions is printing the stack trace, and that's not something where the overhead (both performance wise, and logical complexity wise) of exceptions is needed. And you should really be doing logging rather than relying on cryptic exception traces.

The one theoretical case where exceptions are sometimes argued to be superior is if you don't know what to do locally about an error, and you're hoping that a higher level part of the program might know how to recover. Classic example is a read error, and then asking the user to put a usb stick in.

But guess what? That's not how nontrivial programs work. The higher level simply can't know fully the effect of handling an exception that bubbled up, because the low level details that matter can and often do have unpredictable consequences in terms of program correctness, especially when you're reasoning at a higher level. When an exception is thrown, your program state is wonky. Only trivial programs are like the usb stick example. Real programs become subtly wrong if you try to recover a partially completed, partially incomplete, multi statge operation, especially if you're not the guy who wrote the code, but feel you're doing the right thing at a higher level.

Your greatest chance of correctly handling errors is a few lines above or below where the error actually occurs. Anything else sounds good but is worse.

2 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?

martin-boundary Re:Discussion is outdated (478 comments)

But then again, as long as customers still buy without complaining, why bother with quality?

Because then the terrorists win.

Seriously, bugs imply exploits imply security breaches imply more terrorists thinking they have a shot at blowing stuff up.

2 days ago
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Bjarne Stroustrup Awarded 2015 Dahl-Nygaard Prize

martin-boundary Re:Poor Alan Kay (191 comments)

Exceptions are absolutely the right way to do error handling.

Really? You have no clue.

Exceptions are utterly wrong, they are Gotos Considered Harmful: An exception is basically a nonlocal jump and that's exactly the wrong way to do error handling, because it cause spaghetti logic, where pieces end up all over the place without any simple way to check what the code does besides unravelling the whole mess. And when multiple people maintain the code, it guarantees failures of logic.

The correct way to do error handling is _locally_, right where the failure occurs. It's the _nonlocal_ nature of exceptions which is evil because it causes brittle code and broken logic. Robust code requires that you handle all contingencies correctly. And you simply can't do that correctly way up the callchain except in trivial cases. But you can always do so at the site of the error. It's just very tedious and longwinded. But that's the difference between well written professional code and amateur hour anyway.

2 days ago
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Fields Medal Winner Manjul Bhargava On the Pythagorean Theorem Controversy

martin-boundary Re:Umm, no. (187 comments)

If you knew anything about building construction, you would know that the first humans that built an accurately square large structure must have known Pythagorean Theorem as it is the simplest and only way to set out the structure.

You're either a troll or a moron, pardon my French. The simplest way to construct a square is to take a piece of string, fold it into four identical lengths, and tie it into a ring. Now take four people and pull at the corners until the four sides are taut.

about two weeks ago
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Fields Medal Winner Manjul Bhargava On the Pythagorean Theorem Controversy

martin-boundary Re:Umm, no. (187 comments)

Instead of self-glorifying episodic re-writes, how about discussing continuous, progressive and well reasoned contributions to culture and civilization?

While that's an admirable thought, the reality is that modern mathematics owes very little to the prehistoric findings pre ca 1500. The breakthroughs that transformed mathematics into the tool we use today occurred mostly in Europe during the Renaissance period and later. Perhaps the only significant (*) contribution before then is Euclid's tour de force (**), technically also in Europe.

(*) to modern mathematics

(**) I'm talking of course of the logical structure, not the actual geometrical results.

Modern mathematics only became possible by inventing a language in which abstractions can be precisely and economically stated. Before this happened, mathematical ideas could only be expressed in analogies, with very lenghty, hard to interpret, paragraphs. It took until the Renaissance for mathematicians to understand that.

Think about legalese. That's exactly what old mathematical documents are like. Over time, symbols with precise meanings were invented. This is how future generations of mathematicians are able to completely assimilate, and then surpass, in a very short time, the discoveries of their teachers.

Incidentally, the lack of such a development in the legal world is one reason why there is so much confusion and irrationality in that world. It's literally at the same primitive stage that pre-Renaissance mathematics used to be, but without so much even as Euclid's Elements for a guide.

Before the modern European era, mathematical ideas were sporadic, and highly subject to interpretation. Where one scholar sees a universal theorem, another only sees a single numerical example, clumsily expressed. More often than not, generalizations were just wishful thinking. Once the modern era began around the time of Descartes, these old results could be rediscovered easily enough by anyone using the modern mathematics.

That's the power of the new mathematical language, and that's also the reason that the old results, while mildly amusing to read about, are not important milestones for modern mathematics.

about two weeks ago
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Rust Programming Language Reaches 1.0 Alpha

martin-boundary Meh... (161 comments)

I'll just wait until next week, when the much more stable version 27.0 comes out.

about two weeks ago
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The Next Big Step For Wikidata: Forming a Hub For Researchers

martin-boundary Re:1 Millionth User? (61 comments)

No, I'm the millionth user to log in. It says so right here on my screen! *I* want this imposter whipped with a pussy willow!

about three weeks ago
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The Next Big Step For Wikidata: Forming a Hub For Researchers

martin-boundary Re:I object. (61 comments)

Data is racist.

I agree. Just last week I was interviewing for an engineering job with a Nascar team, and all they could talk about was fuel data this, weight data that, etc. I told them that's not how I roll. I'm writing my congresscritter right now to stop this despicable behavior.

about three weeks ago
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The Next Big Step For Wikidata: Forming a Hub For Researchers

martin-boundary Re:Jimmy Wales On Crack Again (61 comments)

[...] and to make all this available to everyone, without any restrictions on use and reuse.

The fundamental problem remains, however. Even if scientists curate the data honestly and comprehensively, what's to stop people from taking the material, editing/changing it, and publishing/claiming their version is correct? The only way to protect against this is to make the data read-only downstream, eg only credentialed scientists will get to create or modify data - and that's a pretty fundamental restriction on use and reuse.

Basically, the idea seems contradictory.

about three weeks ago
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What Language Will the World Speak In 2115?

martin-boundary Re:languages are fads (578 comments)

Incorrect. The Frankish kingdom was located in what is now occupied by France. It is true that Charlemagne ruled a much larger domain, including modern Germany, Italy, and parts of eastern Europe, but these peoples are not considered Franks. Moreover, after Charlemagne died, his territories were split up among his three sons, which resulted in the plethora of countries composing Europe.

In any case, the frankish tongue spoken in the days of the kingdom of the Franks was closer to Latin than modern French or German. The lingua franca before modern English was modern French. For example, the language of modern diplomacy worldwide is often still French, although English is now preferred.

about three weeks ago
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Doxing -- Something To Expect More of In 2015

martin-boundary Re:That is not doxing (171 comments)

ignoring the fact it was his fault for associating his real name with his post in the first place.

Uh, what? The FAULT for the real name fiasco is GOOGLE's and FACEBOOK's and their insistence on making accounts with real identifying information. They are the technology trendsetters and API providers, who turned the internet into a giant fishbowl where people can be easily stalked by anyone.

Ten to fifteen years ago, before they got their grubby ad ridden paws on the web, it was common knowledge and standard operating procedure for people to post things anonymously, and keep their internet usernames well separate from their real world personas.

You can blame the guy for being ignorant, but you can't blame him for acting the way most people are forced to act by those two companies' evil(*) behaviours over the last 10 years or so. The current web is way too unfriendly to anonymity for regular people.

(*) don't be evil my ass.

about three weeks ago
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What Language Will the World Speak In 2115?

martin-boundary languages are fads (578 comments)

The best tool for the job argument some of you want to use doesn't work with languages. When viewed over millenia, all languages are fads. It's best to view them as reflecting the local power structures of the times. The current widespread adoption of English as the lingua franca is purely due to the (now waning) influence of America and Britain combined.

Even the phrase "English as the lingua franca" is ironic, since "lingua franca" originally meant a loose version of French, so this phrase really means eg "English is the New French", which of course implies that French was once the obvious final world language that everyone wanted to learn (about a hundred to a hundred fifty years ago) - although it wouldn't have helped them understand the phrase "lingua franca" itself, since that is Latin, the other final world language that everybody wanted to learn - in Roman times.

Languages in societies evolve slowly and inexorably, as most people here know, eg consider the previous meanings of words like hacker or gay etc. This evolution is not always to promote communication, it is often to impede communication among groups as well (which is why the best tool for the job argument fails).

Simple examples where language evolution is intended to make communication more difficult is where teenagers invent their own dialects, eg in school, as a way to exclude grown ups or other undesirables.

When England was invaded by the Norman French in the Middle Ages, the rulers spoke French and expected the subjects to learn the language or suffer the consequences, since the laws were now in French too. There was no concept of trying to improve communication among all people, instead it was a good way of keeping benefits and privileges among a certain group. The English language as the language of the ruling class was later reinstated of course, again as a result of politics, to exclude certain undesirables, and include others. Similar examples exist in other countries, eg when the Mongols invaded China and Mongolian became fashionable as a result.

There's no reason to think that, when China takes over economic leadership from the US, there won't be a wholesale change of the dominant language, with English playing a backwater role after that. This kind of thing has happened several times in the past. Moreover, even if it wasn't necessary, China would benefit more if the world is forced to adapt to its culture - eg its economic dictates, its laws, and its language - rather than if it adapts to world culture. So the ultimate question isn't so much will it happen (I guess there's a small chance China will implode and not become dominant), but when (it will take a generation or two after China becomes dominant for the language to spread universally) .

about three weeks ago
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Happy Public Domain Day: Works That Copyright Extension Stole From Us In 2015

martin-boundary Re:And that's still too long (328 comments)

Sorry, but you're doing it wrong. If you've started your novel in 2001, and you've decided to write two more over a total period of 14 years before even considering publishing it, then you're not operating a business, you're playing a hobby. That's fine, but you're not qualified to discuss commercial imperatives of publishing books.

Copyright isn't intended for hobbyists. It's great that hobbyists can benefit from copyright as well, but the purpose is to promote the creation of works, ie to improve the natural rate of creation. What you're doing is a high-risk labour of love. It's high risk if you're spending 10+ years without actual feedback from paying customers, it means there's a high chance it will never be read by more than 10 people in the world and it's possible you might have to pay for the publishing costs yourself. And *that* is not sustainable for a society if all writers were doing this. Hence copyright, to increase production.

What you should be doing (or should have done before) is publish your first novel quickly, or even publish a few short stories first to get real feedback from customers. Lots of science fiction authors got their start that way in the 50s, or even today online. It's the right thing to do because it minimizes risk and ensures that *something* gets published and read. And you get timely feedback, and you can adjust your writing so that more people will want to read what you write next. Read Asimov's advice for young writers, for example.

That is what copyright is intended for: to accelerate the creation and dissemination process. Hobbyists don't need the incentives of copyright as they're quite happy to spend years writing at their own pace, even if it costs them opportunities, readership, and their own money.

And that is not a criticism of you or anyone else who's a hobbyist, life is more enjoyable if you do what you love, rather than what others force you to do for a living. Keep doing what you love, soon you'll be dead like all of us (except for Ray Kurzweil...)

about three weeks ago
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Science Cannot Prove the Existence of God

martin-boundary Re:No, I'm not really saying that. (755 comments)

No.

By your own admission, you consider the world's literature and mythology to "illustrate basic truths" about human behaviour. So fucking what? Illustrations are useless, for every illustrated truth I can illustrate the opposite. Illustrations are a dime a dozen, the point you're missing about Science is that its statements are *difficult*. Laws of Physics aren't illustrations, they're incomparably more than that. They are the certainties upon which the world is built, bridge by bridge, skyscraper by skyscraper, etc. Religious myths can be (and sometimes are) invented by ignorant teenagers.

Apples and oranges, really.

about a month ago
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Apparent Islamic Terrorism Strikes Sydney

martin-boundary Re:Muslims? (880 comments)

at minimum a source that has very much already decided on their bottom line, which means one shoudl already take it pretty skeptically.

Why on earth would you say that? That's not a logical argument. If someone tells you some facts, and they happen to have already made up their mind on what those facts imply, that's still a perfectly valid source of knowledge to use.

You're not obliged to accept their conclusion, unless it logically follows from the facts. And if you don't accept their conclusion even when it follows logically from the facts, then you're a fool. So either way, whether someone else already followed the facts to some logical conclusion before you is irrelevant. You should accept the conclusion if and only if it follows from the facts.

about a month and a half ago
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2 Futures Can Explain Time's Mysterious Past

martin-boundary Re:Time travel (107 comments)

I know!

I'll go the first time, and afterwards, if it was boring, I'll just stop by myself before I go and tell myself not to go at all. Problem solved!

about a month and a half ago
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Molecular Clusters That Can Retain Charge Could Revolutionize Computer Memory

martin-boundary Re:Paywalls pain me (36 comments)

Frankly, that's not good enough either. Popular articles often get the science wrong, and without any evidence that anyone can check (like an actual link to a freely available paper) that would be just spreading rumours and disinformation.

The policy should be: either link to a freely accessible version of the original research, or skip the story entirely. Anything else does more harm than good.

about 2 months ago
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Startup Assembly Banks On Paid, Open-Source Style Development

martin-boundary Re:Hard Headline to Parse (33 comments)

Why you have difficulty? Easy reading I can do for you, look! Is bank for assembling startups get it? Is open, turned on electricity, and paid job for you lookers of career get it? Is source style development no funny business! Great opportunity! Do not miss ok? Good for you.

about 2 months ago
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The EU Has a Plan To Break Up Google

martin-boundary Re:What's so special about Google? (334 comments)

Hogwash.

What keeps people using Google is that it puts its grubby little search boxes in all the major default locations. Face it, most people use the first text entry field they see, regardless of if it's a search box or not. And when it doesn't respond like they think it should, they say it's broken, rather than accept that they typed words into the wrong textbox.

Do not confuse ordinary people with the elite here at slashdot. We know which search engine we use, and we know the differences between them. But we're a tiny minority.

TL;DR summary: Google's success isn't based on quality, it's based on flooding the major entry points for text so that people use them without needing to make a choice.

about 2 months ago

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