Wednesday, May 26, 2004

viWord

I'm not really sure how to feel about this... vi bindings in Word?
posted Wednesday, May 26, 2004 (0 comments)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Advances in Low Technology

I'm always amazed when I see things like this new technique for folding clothes (links to 6MB WMV video), or this refrigeration device that operates without electricity or moving parts. These are things which are so simple, yet we (humanity) didn't figure them out until recently. What other kinds of insanely simple ideas are just waiting to be discovered?

Update

I've seen two more variants of the shirt-folding video now. There's a Japanese version (3.3MB MPEG), and there's also a pretty silly parody (1.7MB WMV).

posted Wednesday, May 12, 2004 (0 comments)

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Robotron Nirvana

A while back I became addicted to Robotron. Unfortunately, part of Robotron's charm is it's unusual control system. It has two joysticks: one for movement, and the other for firing. This means that it's hard/impossible to play on a PC. For example, try and play this Shockwave port of Robotron. It's a very good port software wise (it's pretty amazing that Shockwave can faithfully replicate an 80's arcade machine), but it's very hard to actually play because Robotron just doesn't work with a keyboard.

Finally, I have found Robotron Nirvana. Midway Arcade Treasures for the PlayStation 2 includes an excellent port of Robotron. Not only that, but the PS/2's "Dual Shock 2" controller has two joysticks. Now, admittedly, the dual shock's joysticks aren't quite the same as arcade joysticks, but they still work well for Robotron. 23 other 80's classics are included on the disc as well, for those times when you need a little break from Robotron... ;-)

posted Sunday, May 09, 2004 (3 comments)

Comments Added

Blogger now supports comments. Nifty.
posted Sunday, May 09, 2004 (0 comments)

Saturday, May 08, 2004

C++ Rant

Blogs just aren't complete unless they include two things: blogging about blogging, and rants. I've already blogged about blogging a bit, so here's my obligatory "rant post".

The three programming languages I use the most are Python, Java and C++. All of these languages annoy me in one way or another. I often find that after using one language for a few weeks, I feel an incredible urge to switch to another one that doesn't have its flaws. Unfortunately, that other language will undoubtedly have its own set of flaws to deal with.

Of these three languages, the one that annoys me the most is C++.

The obvious complaint would be the lack of garbage collection. Garbage collection is hard to implement though, and the debate has been beaten to death already. There are lots of simpler things that could be done to make C++ a more bearable language.

First, there's the fact that one has to declare everything before its used. Are C++ compiler writers only able to figure out how to write single pass compilers? I'm sick of having to write "class Foo" all over the place and constantly rearranging my #includes.

Then there's the way methods, sorry, I mean "member functions", are non-virtual by default. This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that you can overload a non-virtual member function in a subclass using a syntax that looks identical to overriding a virtual member function.

Another major frustration is the way C++ creates default copy constructors and assignment operators which are almost always incorrect. (they're virtually guaranteed to be incorrect any time you've got member variables which are pointers)

I'm also convinced that Stroustrup basically screwed up when he made operator[] one operator. Python has a much better approach. In Python, overloading of the subscript operator is done with two separate "magic" methods: __getitem__ and __setitem__. There's no need to "return a reference", because you always know whether you're being called as an lvalue or an rvalue. That means you don't end up with the stupid behaviour of STL's map where attempting to retrieve a non-existant element causes that element to come into being.

There are many other things that annoy me about C++, but the general flavor is that C++ always tries to make easy things hard, and hard things impossible. I think a lot of this might stem from Stroustrup not thinking very clearly about the problems involved. I used to think, despite the problems with C++, that Stroustrup must be a pretty smart guy. Then I went to a talk of his, Speaking C++ as a Native. If you look at the "Range" class that he uses in several of his examples, it's clear that he's confused. here's the class in question:

class Range {  // simple value type
  int value, low, high;  // invariant: low <= value < high
  void check(int v) { if (v<low || high<=v) throw Range_error(); }
public:
  Range(int lw, int v, int hi) : low(lw), value(v), high(hi) { check(v); }
  Range(const Range& a) { low=a.low; value=a.value; high=a.high; }
  Range& operator=(const Range& a) { check(a.value); value=a.value; }
  Range& operator=(int a) { check(a); value=a; }
  operator int() const { return value; }  // extract value
};
Who writes a range class that has three fields? I get low and high, but value??? It turns out that this class doesn't represent a range at all, but instead represents a value constrained to a range. I'm sorry, but I've seen preschoolers write more coherent code than this. If writing C++ "as a native" means writing code like you're hopped up on NyQuil, then I'll write it like a foreigner, thank you very much.
Being really good at C++ is like being really good at using rocks to sharpen sticks.Thant Tessman
posted Saturday, May 08, 2004 (2 comments)