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Introduction · CTF Field Guide
also has some decent looking career advice and links to books/courses if I ever get interested in infosec stuff
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december 2019 by nhaliday
CppCon 2015: Chandler Carruth "Tuning C++: Benchmarks, and CPUs, and Compilers! Oh My!" - YouTube
- very basics of benchmarking
- Q: why does preemptive reserve speed up push_back by 10x?
- favorite tool is Linux perf
- callgraph profiling
- important option: -fomit-frame-pointer
- perf has nice interface ('a' = "annotate") for reading assembly (good display of branches/jumps)
- A: optimized to no-op
- how to turn off optimizer
- profilers aren't infallible. a lot of the time samples are misattributed to neighboring ops
- fast mod example
- branch prediction hints (#define UNLIKELY(x), __builtin_expected, etc)
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october 2019 by nhaliday
CppCon 2014: Chandler Carruth "Efficiency with Algorithms, Performance with Data Structures" - YouTube
- idk how I feel about this
- makes a distinction between efficiency (basically asymptotic complexity, "doing less work") and performance ("doing that work faster"). idiosyncratic terminology but similar to the "two performance aesthetics" described here:
- some bikeshedding about vector::reserve and references
- "discontiguous data structures are the root of all evil" (cache-locality, don't use linked lists, etc)
- stacks? queues? just use vector. also suggests circular buffers. says std::deque is really bad
- std::map is bad too (for real SWE, not oly-programming). if you want ordered associative container, just binary search in vector
- std::unordered_map is poorly implemented, unfortunately (due to requirement for buckets in API)
- good implementation of hash table uses open addressing and local (linear?) probing
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october 2019 by nhaliday
Linus's Law - Wikipedia
Linus's Law is a claim about software development, named in honor of Linus Torvalds and formulated by Eric S. Raymond in his essay and book The Cathedral and the Bazaar (1999).[1][2] The law states that "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow";


In Facts and Fallacies about Software Engineering, Robert Glass refers to the law as a "mantra" of the open source movement, but calls it a fallacy due to the lack of supporting evidence and because research has indicated that the rate at which additional bugs are uncovered does not scale linearly with the number of reviewers; rather, there is a small maximum number of useful reviewers, between two and four, and additional reviewers above this number uncover bugs at a much lower rate.[4] While closed-source practitioners also promote stringent, independent code analysis during a software project's development, they focus on in-depth review by a few and not primarily the number of "eyeballs".[5][6]

Although detection of even deliberately inserted flaws[7][8] can be attributed to Raymond's claim, the persistence of the Heartbleed security bug in a critical piece of code for two years has been considered as a refutation of Raymond's dictum.[9][10][11][12] Larry Seltzer suspects that the availability of source code may cause some developers and researchers to perform less extensive tests than they would with closed source software, making it easier for bugs to remain.[12] In 2015, the Linux Foundation's executive director Jim Zemlin argued that the complexity of modern software has increased to such levels that specific resource allocation is desirable to improve its security. Regarding some of 2014's largest global open source software vulnerabilities, he says, "In these cases, the eyeballs weren't really looking".[11] Large scale experiments or peer-reviewed surveys to test how well the mantra holds in practice have not been performed.

Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow? Revisiting Eric Raymond with bug bounty programs:
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october 2019 by nhaliday
"Performance Matters" by Emery Berger - YouTube
Stabilizer is a tool that enables statistically sound performance evaluation, making it possible to understand the impact of optimizations and conclude things like the fact that the -O2 and -O3 optimization levels are indistinguishable from noise (sadly true).

Since compiler optimizations have run out of steam, we need better profiling support, especially for modern concurrent, multi-threaded applications. Coz is a new "causal profiler" that lets programmers optimize for throughput or latency, and which pinpoints and accurately predicts the impact of optimizations.

- randomize extraneous factors like code layout and stack size to avoid spurious speedups
- simulate speedup of component of concurrent system (to assess effect of optimization before attempting) by slowing down the complement (all but that component)
- latency vs. throughput, Little's law
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october 2019 by nhaliday
Parallel Computing: Theory and Practice
by Umut Acar who also co-authored a different book on parallel algorithms w/ Guy Blelloch from a more high-level and functional perspective
unit  books  cmu  cs  programming  tcs  algorithms  concurrency  c(pp)  divide-and-conquer  libraries  complexity  time-complexity  data-structures  orders  graphs  graph-theory  trees  models  functional  metal-to-virtual  systems 
september 2019 by nhaliday
Two Performance Aesthetics: Never Miss a Frame and Do Almost Nothing - Tristan Hume
I’ve noticed when I think about performance nowadays that I think in terms of two different aesthetics. One aesthetic, which I’ll call Never Miss a Frame, comes from the world of game development and is focused on writing code that has good worst case performance by making good use of the hardware. The other aesthetic, which I’ll call Do Almost Nothing comes from a more academic world and is focused on algorithmically minimizing the work that needs to be done to the extent that there’s barely any work left, paying attention to the performance at all scales.

[ed.: Neither of these exactly matches TCS performance PoV but latter is closer (the focus on diffs is kinda weird).]


Never Miss a Frame

In game development the most important performance criteria is that your game doesn’t miss frame deadlines. You have a target frame rate and if you miss the deadline for the screen to draw a new frame your users will notice the jank. This leads to focusing on the worst case scenario and often having fixed maximum limits for various quantities. This property can also be important in areas other than game development, like other graphical applications, real-time audio, safety-critical systems and many embedded systems. A similar dynamic occurs in distributed systems where one server needs to query 100 others and combine the results, you’ll wait for the slowest of the 100 every time so speeding up some of them doesn’t make the query faster, and queries occasionally taking longer (e.g because of garbage collection) will impact almost every request!


In this kind of domain you’ll often run into situations where in the worst case you can’t avoid processing a huge number of things. This means you need to focus your effort on making the best use of the hardware by writing code at a low level and paying attention to properties like cache size and memory bandwidth.

Projects with inviolable deadlines need to adjust different factors than speed if the code runs too slow. For example a game might decrease the size of a level or use a more efficient but less pretty rendering technique.

Aesthetically: Data should be tightly packed, fixed size, and linear. Transcoding data to and from different formats is wasteful. Strings and their variable lengths and inefficient operations must be avoided. Only use tools that allow you to work at a low level, even if they’re annoying, because that’s the only way you can avoid piles of fixed costs making everything slow. Understand the machine and what your code does to it.

Personally I identify this aesthetic most with Jonathan Blow. He has a very strong personality and I’ve watched enough of videos of him that I find imagining “What would Jonathan Blow say?” as a good way to tap into this aesthetic. My favourite articles about designs following this aesthetic are on the Our Machinery Blog.


Do Almost Nothing

Sometimes, it’s important to be as fast as you can in all cases and not just orient around one deadline. The most common case is when you simply have to do something that’s going to take an amount of time noticeable to a human, and if you can make that time shorter in some situations that’s great. Alternatively each operation could be fast but you may run a server that runs tons of them and you’ll save on server costs if you can decrease the load of some requests. Another important case is when you care about power use, for example your text editor not rapidly draining a laptop’s battery, in this case you want to do the least work you possibly can.

A key technique for this approach is to never recompute something from scratch when it’s possible to re-use or patch an old result. This often involves caching: keeping a store of recent results in case the same computation is requested again.

The ultimate realization of this aesthetic is for the entire system to deal only in differences between the new state and the previous state, updating data structures with only the newly needed data and discarding data that’s no longer needed. This way each part of the system does almost no work because ideally the difference from the previous state is very small.

Aesthetically: Data must be in whatever structure scales best for the way it is accessed, lots of trees and hash maps. Computations are graphs of inputs and results so we can use all our favourite graph algorithms to optimize them! Designing optimal systems is hard so you should use whatever tools you can to make it easier, any fixed cost they incur will be made negligible when you optimize away all the work they need to do.

Personally I identify this aesthetic most with my friend Raph Levien and his articles about the design of the Xi text editor, although Raph also appreciates the other aesthetic and taps into it himself sometimes.


_I’m conflating the axes of deadline-oriented vs time-oriented and low-level vs algorithmic optimization, but part of my point is that while they are different, I think these axes are highly correlated._


Text Editors

Sublime Text is a text editor that mostly follows the Never Miss a Frame approach. ...

The Xi Editor is designed to solve this problem by being designed from the ground up to grapple with the fact that some operations, especially those interacting with slow compilers written by other people, can’t be made instantaneous. It does this using a fancy asynchronous plugin model and lots of fancy data structures.



Jonathan Blow’s Jai compiler is clearly designed with the Never Miss a Frame aesthetic. It’s written to be extremely fast at every level, and the language doesn’t have any features that necessarily lead to slow compiles. The LLVM backend wasn’t fast enough to hit his performance goals so he wrote an alternative backend that directly writes x86 code to a buffer without doing any optimizations. Jai compiles something like 100,000 lines of code per second. Designing both the language and compiler to not do anything slow lead to clean build performance 10-100x faster than other commonly-used compilers. Jai is so fast that its clean builds are faster than most compilers incremental builds on common project sizes, due to limitations in how incremental the other compilers are.

However, Jai’s compiler is still O(n) in the codebase size where incremental compilers can be O(n) in the size of the change. Some compilers like the work-in-progress rust-analyzer and I think also Roslyn for C# take a different approach and focus incredibly hard on making everything fully incremental. For small changes (the common case) this can let them beat Jai and respond in milliseconds on arbitrarily large projects, even if they’re slower on clean builds.

I find both of these aesthetics appealing, but I also think there’s real trade-offs that incentivize leaning one way or the other for a given project. I think people having different performance aesthetics, often because one aesthetic really is better suited for their domain, is the source of a lot of online arguments about making fast systems. The different aesthetics also require different bases of knowledge to pursue, like knowledge of data-oriented programming in C++ vs knowledge of abstractions for incrementality like Adapton, so different people may find that one approach seems way easier and better for them than the other.

I try to choose how to dedicate my effort to pursuing each aesthetics on a per project basis by trying to predict how effort in each direction would help. Some projects I know if I code it efficiently it will always hit the performance deadline, others I know a way to drastically cut down on work by investing time in algorithmic design, some projects need a mix of both. Personally I find it helpful to think of different programmers where I have a good sense of their aesthetic and ask myself how they’d solve the problem. One reason I like Rust is that it can do both low-level optimization and also has a good ecosystem and type system for algorithmic optimization, so I can more easily mix approaches in one project. In the end the best approach to follow depends not only on the task, but your skills or the skills of the team working on it, as well as how much time you have to work towards an ambitious design that may take longer for a better result.
techtariat  reflection  things  comparison  lens  programming  engineering  cracker-prog  carmack  games  performance  big-picture  system-design  constraint-satisfaction  metrics  telos-atelos  distributed  incentives  concurrency  cost-benefit  tradeoffs  systems  metal-to-virtual  latency-throughput  abstraction  marginal  caching  editors  strings  ideas  ui  common-case  examples  applications  flux-stasis  nitty-gritty  ends-means  thinking  summary  correlation  degrees-of-freedom  c(pp)  rust  interface  integration-extension  aesthetics  interface-compatibility  efficiency  adversarial 
september 2019 by nhaliday
Unix philosophy - Wikipedia
1. Make each program do one thing well. To do a new job, build afresh rather than complicate old programs by adding new "features".
2. Expect the output of every program to become the input to another, as yet unknown, program. Don't clutter output with extraneous information. Avoid stringently columnar or binary input formats. Don't insist on interactive input.
3. Design and build software, even operating systems, to be tried early, ideally within weeks. Don't hesitate to throw away the clumsy parts and rebuild them.
4. Use tools in preference to unskilled help to lighten a programming task, even if you have to detour to build the tools and expect to throw some of them out after you've finished using them.
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august 2019 by nhaliday
multithreading - C++11 introduced a standardized memory model. What does it mean? And how is it going to affect C++ programming? - Stack Overflow
I like the analogy of abandonment of sequential consistency to special relativity tho I think (emphasis on *think*, not know...) GR might be actually be the more appropriate one
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august 2019 by nhaliday
c++ - mmap() vs. reading blocks - Stack Overflow
The discussion of mmap/read reminds me of two other performance discussions:

Some Java programmers were shocked to discover that nonblocking I/O is often slower than blocking I/O, which made perfect sense if you know that nonblocking I/O requires making more syscalls.

Some other network programmers were shocked to learn that epoll is often slower than poll, which makes perfect sense if you know that managing epoll requires making more syscalls.

Conclusion: Use memory maps if you access data randomly, keep it around for a long time, or if you know you can share it with other processes (MAP_SHARED isn't very interesting if there is no actual sharing). Read files normally if you access data sequentially or discard it after reading. And if either method makes your program less complex, do that. For many real world cases there's no sure way to show one is faster without testing your actual application and NOT a benchmark.
q-n-a  stackex  programming  systems  performance  tradeoffs  objektbuch  stylized-facts  input-output  caching  computer-memory  sequential  applicability-prereqs  local-global 
july 2019 by nhaliday
Errors in Math Functions (The GNU C Library)
For C99, there are no specific requirements. But most implementations try to support Annex F: IEC 60559 floating-point arithmetic as good as possible. It says:

An implementation that defines __STDC_IEC_559__ shall conform to the specifications in this annex.


The sqrt functions in <math.h> provide the IEC 60559 square root operation.

IEC 60559 (equivalent to IEEE 754) says about basic operations like sqrt:

Except for binary <-> decimal conversion, each of the operations shall be performed as if it first produced an intermediate result correct to infinite precision and with unbounded range, and then coerced this intermediate result to fit in the destination's format.

The final step consists of rounding according to several rounding modes but the result must always be the closest representable value in the target precision.

[ed.: The list of other such correctly rounded functions is included in the IEEE-754 standard (which I've put w/ the C1x and C++2x standard drafts) under section 9.2, and it mainly consists of stuff that can be expressed in terms of exponentials (exp, log, trig functions, powers) along w/ sqrt/hypot functions.

Fun fact: this question was asked by Yeputons who has a codeforces profile.]
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july 2019 by nhaliday
history - Why are UNIX/POSIX system call namings so illegible? - Unix & Linux Stack Exchange
It's due to the technical constraints of the time. The POSIX standard was created in the 1980s and referred to UNIX, which was born in the 1970. Several C compilers at that time were limited to identifiers that were 6 or 8 characters long, so that settled the standard for the length of variable and function names.
We carried out a family of controlled experiments to investigate whether the use of abbreviated identifier names, with respect to full-word identifier names, affects fault fixing in C and Java source code. This family consists of an original (or baseline) controlled experiment and three replications. We involved 100 participants with different backgrounds and experiences in total. Overall results suggested that there is no difference in terms of effort, effectiveness, and efficiency to fix faults, when source code contains either only abbreviated or only full-word identifier names. We also conducted a qualitative study to understand the values, beliefs, and assumptions that inform and shape fault fixing when identifier names are either abbreviated or full-word. We involved in this qualitative study six professional developers with 1--3 years of work experience. A number of insights emerged from this qualitative study and can be considered a useful complement to the quantitative results from our family of experiments. One of the most interesting insights is that developers, when working on source code with abbreviated identifier names, adopt a more methodical approach to identify and fix faults by extending their focus point and only in a few cases do they expand abbreviated identifiers.
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july 2019 by nhaliday
Panel: Systems Programming in 2014 and Beyond | Lang.NEXT 2014 | Channel 9
- Bjarne Stroustrup, Niko Matsakis, Andrei Alexandrescu, Rob Pike
- 2014 so pretty outdated but rare to find a discussion with people like this together
- pretty sure Jonathan Blow asked a couple questions
- Rob Pike compliments Rust at one point. Also kinda softly rags on dynamic typing at one point ("unit testing is what they have instead of static types").

What is Systems Programming, Really?:
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july 2019 by nhaliday
The Law of Leaky Abstractions – Joel on Software
[TCP/IP example]

All non-trivial abstractions, to some degree, are leaky.


- Something as simple as iterating over a large two-dimensional array can have radically different performance if you do it horizontally rather than vertically, depending on the “grain of the wood” — one direction may result in vastly more page faults than the other direction, and page faults are slow. Even assembly programmers are supposed to be allowed to pretend that they have a big flat address space, but virtual memory means it’s really just an abstraction, which leaks when there’s a page fault and certain memory fetches take way more nanoseconds than other memory fetches.

- The SQL language is meant to abstract away the procedural steps that are needed to query a database, instead allowing you to define merely what you want and let the database figure out the procedural steps to query it. But in some cases, certain SQL queries are thousands of times slower than other logically equivalent queries. A famous example of this is that some SQL servers are dramatically faster if you specify “where a=b and b=c and a=c” than if you only specify “where a=b and b=c” even though the result set is the same. You’re not supposed to have to care about the procedure, only the specification. But sometimes the abstraction leaks and causes horrible performance and you have to break out the query plan analyzer and study what it did wrong, and figure out how to make your query run faster.


- C++ string classes are supposed to let you pretend that strings are first-class data. They try to abstract away the fact that strings are hard and let you act as if they were as easy as integers. Almost all C++ string classes overload the + operator so you can write s + “bar” to concatenate. But you know what? No matter how hard they try, there is no C++ string class on Earth that will let you type “foo” + “bar”, because string literals in C++ are always char*’s, never strings. The abstraction has sprung a leak that the language doesn’t let you plug. (Amusingly, the history of the evolution of C++ over time can be described as a history of trying to plug the leaks in the string abstraction. Why they couldn’t just add a native string class to the language itself eludes me at the moment.)

- And you can’t drive as fast when it’s raining, even though your car has windshield wipers and headlights and a roof and a heater, all of which protect you from caring about the fact that it’s raining (they abstract away the weather), but lo, you have to worry about hydroplaning (or aquaplaning in England) and sometimes the rain is so strong you can’t see very far ahead so you go slower in the rain, because the weather can never be completely abstracted away, because of the law of leaky abstractions.

One reason the law of leaky abstractions is problematic is that it means that abstractions do not really simplify our lives as much as they were meant to. When I’m training someone to be a C++ programmer, it would be nice if I never had to teach them about char*’s and pointer arithmetic. It would be nice if I could go straight to STL strings. But one day they’ll write the code “foo” + “bar”, and truly bizarre things will happen, and then I’ll have to stop and teach them all about char*’s anyway.


The law of leaky abstractions means that whenever somebody comes up with a wizzy new code-generation tool that is supposed to make us all ever-so-efficient, you hear a lot of people saying “learn how to do it manually first, then use the wizzy tool to save time.” Code generation tools which pretend to abstract out something, like all abstractions, leak, and the only way to deal with the leaks competently is to learn about how the abstractions work and what they are abstracting. So the abstractions save us time working, but they don’t save us time learning.
People think a lot about abstractions and how to design them well. Here’s one feature I’ve recently been noticing about well-designed abstractions: they should have simple, flexible and well-integrated escape hatches.
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july 2019 by nhaliday
Computer latency: 1977-2017
If we look at overall results, the fastest machines are ancient. Newer machines are all over the place. Fancy gaming rigs with unusually high refresh-rate displays are almost competitive with machines from the late 70s and early 80s, but “normal” modern computers can’t compete with thirty to forty year old machines.


If we exclude the game boy color, which is a different class of device than the rest, all of the quickest devices are Apple phones or tablets. The next quickest device is the blackberry q10. Although we don’t have enough data to really tell why the blackberry q10 is unusually quick for a non-Apple device, one plausible guess is that it’s helped by having actual buttons, which are easier to implement with low latency than a touchscreen. The other two devices with actual buttons are the gameboy color and the kindle 4.

After that iphones and non-kindle button devices, we have a variety of Android devices of various ages. At the bottom, we have the ancient palm pilot 1000 followed by the kindles. The palm is hamstrung by a touchscreen and display created in an era with much slower touchscreen technology and the kindles use e-ink displays, which are much slower than the displays used on modern phones, so it’s not surprising to see those devices at the bottom.


Almost every computer and mobile device that people buy today is slower than common models of computers from the 70s and 80s. Low-latency gaming desktops and the ipad pro can get into the same range as quick machines from thirty to forty years ago, but most off-the-shelf devices aren’t even close.

If we had to pick one root cause of latency bloat, we might say that it’s because of “complexity”. Of course, we all know that complexity is bad. If you’ve been to a non-academic non-enterprise tech conference in the past decade, there’s a good chance that there was at least one talk on how complexity is the root of all evil and we should aspire to reduce complexity.

Unfortunately, it's a lot harder to remove complexity than to give a talk saying that we should remove complexity. A lot of the complexity buys us something, either directly or indirectly. When we looked at the input of a fancy modern keyboard vs. the apple 2 keyboard, we saw that using a relatively powerful and expensive general purpose processor to handle keyboard inputs can be slower than dedicated logic for the keyboard, which would both be simpler and cheaper. However, using the processor gives people the ability to easily customize the keyboard, and also pushes the problem of “programming” the keyboard from hardware into software, which reduces the cost of making the keyboard. The more expensive chip increases the manufacturing cost, but considering how much of the cost of these small-batch artisanal keyboards is the design cost, it seems like a net win to trade manufacturing cost for ease of programming.


If you want a reference to compare the kindle against, a moderately quick page turn in a physical book appears to be about 200 ms.
almost everything on computers is perceptually slower than it was in 1983

linux terminals:
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july 2019 by nhaliday
c++ - Which is faster: Stack allocation or Heap allocation - Stack Overflow
On my machine, using g++ 3.4.4 on Windows, I get "0 clock ticks" for both stack and heap allocation for anything less than 100000 allocations, and even then I get "0 clock ticks" for stack allocation and "15 clock ticks" for heap allocation. When I measure 10,000,000 allocations, stack allocation takes 31 clock ticks and heap allocation takes 1562 clock ticks.

so maybe around 100x difference? what does that work out to in terms of total workload?

Recent work shows that dynamic memory allocation consumes nearly 7% of all cycles in Google datacenters.

That's not too bad actually. Seems like I shouldn't worry about shifting from heap to stack/globals unless profiling says it's important, particularly for non-oly stuff.

edit: Actually, factor x100 for 7% is pretty high, could be increase constant factor by almost an order of magnitude.

edit: Well actually that's not the right math. 93% + 7%*.01 is not much smaller than 100%
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june 2019 by nhaliday
C++ Core Guidelines
This document is a set of guidelines for using C++ well. The aim of this document is to help people to use modern C++ effectively. By “modern C++” we mean effective use of the ISO C++ standard (currently C++17, but almost all of our recommendations also apply to C++14 and C++11). In other words, what would you like your code to look like in 5 years’ time, given that you can start now? In 10 years’ time?
“Within C++ is a smaller, simpler, safer language struggling to get out.” – Bjarne Stroustrup


The guidelines are focused on relatively higher-level issues, such as interfaces, resource management, memory management, and concurrency. Such rules affect application architecture and library design. Following the rules will lead to code that is statically type safe, has no resource leaks, and catches many more programming logic errors than is common in code today. And it will run fast - you can afford to do things right.

We are less concerned with low-level issues, such as naming conventions and indentation style. However, no topic that can help a programmer is out of bounds.

Our initial set of rules emphasize safety (of various forms) and simplicity. They may very well be too strict. We expect to have to introduce more exceptions to better accommodate real-world needs. We also need more rules.


The rules are designed to be supported by an analysis tool. Violations of rules will be flagged with references (or links) to the relevant rule. We do not expect you to memorize all the rules before trying to write code.

This will be a long wall of text, and kinda random! My main points are:
1. C++ compile times are important,
2. Non-optimized build performance is important,
3. Cognitive load is important. I don’t expand much on this here, but if a programming language or a library makes me feel stupid, then I’m less likely to use it or like it. C++ does that a lot :)
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june 2019 by nhaliday
c++ - Why is size_t unsigned? - Stack Overflow
size_t is unsigned for historical reasons.

On an architecture with 16 bit pointers, such as the "small" model DOS programming, it would be impractical to limit strings to 32 KB.

For this reason, the C standard requires (via required ranges) ptrdiff_t, the signed counterpart to size_t and the result type of pointer difference, to be effectively 17 bits.

Those reasons can still apply in parts of the embedded programming world.

However, they do not apply to modern 32-bit or 64-bit programming, where a much more important consideration is that the unfortunate implicit conversion rules of C and C++ make unsigned types into bug attractors, when they're used for numbers (and hence, arithmetical operations and magnitude comparisions). With 20-20 hindsight we can now see that the decision to adopt those particular conversion rules, where e.g. string( "Hi" ).length() < -3 is practically guaranteed, was rather silly and impractical. However, that decision means that in modern programming, adopting unsigned types for numbers has severe disadvantages and no advantages – except for satisfying the feelings of those who find unsigned to be a self-descriptive type name, and fail to think of typedef int MyType.

Summing up, it was not a mistake. It was a decision for then very rational, practical programming reasons. It had nothing to do with transferring expectations from bounds-checked languages like Pascal to C++ (which is a fallacy, but a very very common one, even if some of those who do it have never heard of Pascal).
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june 2019 by nhaliday
Analysis of Current and Future Computer Science Needs via Advertised Faculty Searches for 2019 - CRN
Differences are also seen when analyzing results based on the type of institution. Positions related to Security have the highest percentages for all but top-100 institutions. The area of Artificial Intelligence/Data Mining/Machine Learning is of most interest for top-100 PhD institutions. Roughly 35% of positions for PhD institutions are in data-oriented areas. The results show a strong interest in data-oriented areas by public PhD and private PhD, MS, and BS institutions while public MS and BS institutions are most interested in Security.
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june 2019 by nhaliday
What every computer scientist should know about floating-point arithmetic
Floating-point arithmetic is considered as esoteric subject by many people. This is rather surprising, because floating-point is ubiquitous in computer systems: Almost every language has a floating-point datatype; computers from PCs to supercomputers have floating-point accelerators; most compilers will be called upon to compile floating-point algorithms from time to time; and virtually every operating system must respond to floating-point exceptions such as overflow. This paper presents a tutorial on the aspects of floating-point that have a direct impact on designers of computer systems. It begins with background on floating-point representation and rounding error, continues with a discussion of the IEEE floating point standard, and concludes with examples of how computer system builders can better support floating point.

Float Toy:
"you must use an epsilon when dealing with floats" is a knee-jerk reaction of programmers with a superficial understanding of floating-point computations, for comparisons in general (not only to zero).

This is usually unhelpful because it doesn't tell you how to minimize the propagation of rounding errors, it doesn't tell you how to avoid cancellation or absorption problems, and even when your problem is indeed related to the comparison of two floats, it doesn't tell you what value of epsilon is right for what you are doing.


Regarding the propagation of rounding errors, there exists specialized analyzers that can help you estimate it, because it is a tedious thing to do by hand.

This was part of HW1 of CS24:
In particular, simply summing n numbers in sequence has a worst-case error that grows proportional to n, and a root mean square error that grows as {\displaystyle {\sqrt {n}}} {\sqrt {n}} for random inputs (the roundoff errors form a random walk).[2] With compensated summation, the worst-case error bound is independent of n, so a large number of values can be summed with an error that only depends on the floating-point precision.[2]

In numerical analysis, pairwise summation, also called cascade summation, is a technique to sum a sequence of finite-precision floating-point numbers that substantially reduces the accumulated round-off error compared to naively accumulating the sum in sequence.[1] Although there are other techniques such as Kahan summation that typically have even smaller round-off errors, pairwise summation is nearly as good (differing only by a logarithmic factor) while having much lower computational cost—it can be implemented so as to have nearly the same cost (and exactly the same number of arithmetic operations) as naive summation.

In particular, pairwise summation of a sequence of n numbers xn works by recursively breaking the sequence into two halves, summing each half, and adding the two sums: a divide and conquer algorithm. Its worst-case roundoff errors grow asymptotically as at most O(ε log n), where ε is the machine precision (assuming a fixed condition number, as discussed below).[1] In comparison, the naive technique of accumulating the sum in sequence (adding each xi one at a time for i = 1, ..., n) has roundoff errors that grow at worst as O(εn).[1] Kahan summation has a worst-case error of roughly O(ε), independent of n, but requires several times more arithmetic operations.[1] If the roundoff errors are random, and in particular have random signs, then they form a random walk and the error growth is reduced to an average of {\displaystyle O(\varepsilon {\sqrt {\log n}})} O(\varepsilon {\sqrt {\log n}}) for pairwise summation.[2]

A very similar recursive structure of summation is found in many fast Fourier transform (FFT) algorithms, and is responsible for the same slow roundoff accumulation of those FFTs.[2][3]
However, these encouraging error-growth rates only apply if the trigonometric “twiddle” factors in the FFT algorithm are computed very accurately. Many FFT implementations, including FFTW and common manufacturer-optimized libraries, therefore use precomputed tables of twiddle factors calculated by means of standard library functions (which compute trigonometric constants to roughly machine precision). The other common method to compute twiddle factors is to use a trigonometric recurrence formula—this saves memory (and cache), but almost all recurrences have errors that grow as O(n‾√) , O(n) or even O(n2) which lead to corresponding errors in the FFT.


There are, in fact, trigonometric recurrences with the same logarithmic error growth as the FFT, but these seem more difficult to implement efficiently; they require that a table of Θ(logn) values be stored and updated as the recurrence progresses. Instead, in order to gain at least some of the benefits of a trigonometric recurrence (reduced memory pressure at the expense of more arithmetic), FFTW includes several ways to compute a much smaller twiddle table, from which the desired entries can be computed accurately on the fly using a bounded number (usually <3) of complex multiplications. For example, instead of a twiddle table with n entries ωkn , FFTW can use two tables with Θ(n‾√) entries each, so that ωkn is computed by multiplying an entry in one table (indexed with the low-order bits of k ) by an entry in the other table (indexed with the high-order bits of k ).

[ed.: Nicholas Higham's "Accuracy and Stability of Numerical Algorithms" seems like a good reference for this kind of analysis.]
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may 2019 by nhaliday
Frama-C is organized with a plug-in architecture (comparable to that of the Gimp or Eclipse). A common kernel centralizes information and conducts the analysis. Plug-ins interact with each other through interfaces defined by the kernel. This makes for robustness in the development of Frama-C while allowing a wide functionality spectrum.


Three heavyweight plug-ins that are used by the other plug-ins:

- Eva (Evolved Value analysis)
This plug-in computes variation domains for variables. It is quite automatic, although the user may guide the analysis in places. It handles a wide spectrum of C constructs. This plug-in uses abstract interpretation techniques.
- Jessie and Wp, two deductive verification plug-ins
These plug-ins are based on weakest precondition computation techniques. They allow to prove that C functions satisfy their specification as expressed in ACSL. These proofs are modular: the specifications of the called functions are used to establish the proof without looking at their code.

For browsing unfamiliar code:
- Impact analysis
This plug-in highlights the locations in the source code that are impacted by a modification.
- Scope & Data-flow browsing
This plug-in allows the user to navigate the dataflow of the program, from definition to use or from use to definition.
- Variable occurrence browsing
Also provided as a simple example for new plug-in development, this plug-in allows the user to reach the statements where a given variable is used.
- Metrics calculation
This plug-in allows the user to compute various metrics from the source code.

For code transformation:
- Semantic constant folding
This plug-in makes use of the results of the evolved value analysis plug-in to replace, in the source code, the constant expressions by their values. Because it relies on EVA, it is able to do more of these simplifications than a syntactic analysis would.
- Slicing
This plug-in slices the code according to a user-provided criterion: it creates a copy of the program, but keeps only those parts which are necessary with respect to the given criterion.
- Spare code: remove "spare code", code that does not contribute to the final results of the program.
- E-ACSL: translate annotations into C code for runtime assertion checking.
For verifying functional specifications:

- Aoraï: verify specifications expressed as LTL (Linear Temporal Logic) formulas
Other functionalities documented together with the EVA plug-in can be considered as verifying low-level functional specifications (inputs, outputs, dependencies,…)
For test-case generation:

- PathCrawler automatically finds test-case inputs to ensure coverage of a C function. It can be used for structural unit testing, as a complement to static analysis or to study the feasible execution paths of the function.
For concurrent programs:

- Mthread
This plug-in automatically analyzes concurrent C programs, using the EVA plug-in, taking into account all possible thread interactions. At the end of its execution, the concurrent behavior of each thread is over-approximated, resulting in precise information about shared variables, which mutex protects a part of the code, etc.
Front-end for other languages

- Frama-Clang
This plug-in provides a C++ front-end to Frama-C, based on the clang compiler. It transforms C++ code into a Frama-C AST, which can then be analyzed by the plug-ins above. Note however that it is very experimental and only supports a subset of C++11
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may 2019 by nhaliday
c - Aligning to cache line and knowing the cache line size - Stack Overflow
To know the sizes, you need to look it up using the documentation for the processor, afaik there is no programatic way to do it. On the plus side however, most cache lines are of a standard size, based on intels standards. On x86 cache lines are 64 bytes, however, to prevent false sharing, you need to follow the guidelines of the processor you are targeting (intel has some special notes on its netburst based processors), generally you need to align to 64 bytes for this (intel states that you should also avoid crossing 16 byte boundries).

To do this in C or C++ requires that you use the standard aligned_alloc function or one of the compiler specific specifiers such as __attribute__((align(64))) or __declspec(align(64)). To pad between members in a struct to split them onto different cache lines, you need on insert a member big enough to align it to the next 64 byte boundery


sysctl hw.cachelinesize
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may 2019 by nhaliday
One week of bugs
If I had to guess, I'd say I probably work around hundreds of bugs in an average week, and thousands in a bad week. It's not unusual for me to run into a hundred new bugs in a single week. But I often get skepticism when I mention that I run into multiple new (to me) bugs per day, and that this is inevitable if we don't change how we write tests. Well, here's a log of one week of bugs, limited to bugs that were new to me that week. After a brief description of the bugs, I'll talk about what we can do to improve the situation. The obvious answer to spend more effort on testing, but everyone already knows we should do that and no one does it. That doesn't mean it's hopeless, though.


Here's where I'm supposed to write an appeal to take testing more seriously and put real effort into it. But we all know that's not going to work. It would take 90k LOC of tests to get Julia to be as well tested as a poorly tested prototype (falsely assuming linear complexity in size). That's two person-years of work, not even including time to debug and fix bugs (which probably brings it closer to four of five years). Who's going to do that? No one. Writing tests is like writing documentation. Everyone already knows you should do it. Telling people they should do it adds zero information1.

Given that people aren't going to put any effort into testing, what's the best way to do it?

Property-based testing. Generative testing. Random testing. Concolic Testing (which was done long before the term was coined). Static analysis. Fuzzing. Statistical bug finding. There are lots of options. Some of them are actually the same thing because the terminology we use is inconsistent and buggy. I'm going to arbitrarily pick one to talk about, but they're all worth looking into.


There are a lot of great resources out there, but if you're just getting started, I found this description of types of fuzzers to be one of those most helpful (and simplest) things I've read.

John Regehr has a udacity course on software testing. I haven't worked through it yet (Pablo Torres just pointed to it), but given the quality of Dr. Regehr's writing, I expect the course to be good.

For more on my perspective on testing, there's this.

Everything's broken and nobody's upset:
From the perspective of a user, the purpose of Hypothesis is to make it easier for you to write better tests.

From my perspective as the primary author, that is of course also a purpose of Hypothesis. I write a lot of code, it needs testing, and the idea of trying to do that without Hypothesis has become nearly unthinkable.

But, on a large scale, the true purpose of Hypothesis is to drag the world kicking and screaming into a new and terrifying age of high quality software.

Software is everywhere. We have built a civilization on it, and it’s only getting more prevalent as more services move online and embedded and “internet of things” devices become cheaper and more common.

Software is also terrible. It’s buggy, it’s insecure, and it’s rarely well thought out.

This combination is clearly a recipe for disaster.

The state of software testing is even worse. It’s uncontroversial at this point that you should be testing your code, but it’s a rare codebase whose authors could honestly claim that they feel its testing is sufficient.

Much of the problem here is that it’s too hard to write good tests. Tests take up a vast quantity of development time, but they mostly just laboriously encode exactly the same assumptions and fallacies that the authors had when they wrote the code, so they miss exactly the same bugs that you missed when they wrote the code.

Preventing the Collapse of Civilization [video]:
- Jonathan Blow

NB: DevGAMM is a game industry conference

- loss of technological knowledge (Antikythera mechanism, aqueducts, etc.)
- hardware driving most gains, not software
- software's actually less robust, often poorly designed and overengineered these days
- *list of bugs he's encountered recently*:
- knowledge of trivia becomes [ed.: missing the word "valued" here, I think?]more than general, deep knowledge
- does at least acknowledge value of DRY, reusing code, abstraction saving dev time
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may 2019 by nhaliday
c++ - Why is the code in most STL implementations so convoluted? - Stack Overflow
A similar questions have been previously posed:

Is there a readable implementation of the STL

Why STL implementation is so unreadable? How C++ could have been improved here?


Neil Butterworth, now listed as "anon", provided a useful link in his answer to the SO question "Is there a readable implementation of the STL?". Quoting his answer there:

There is a book The C++ Standard Template Library, co-authored by the original STL designers Stepanov & Lee (together with P.J. Plauger and David Musser), which describes a possible implementation, complete with code - see

See also the other answers in that thread.

Anyway, most of the STL code (by STL I here mean the STL-like subset of the C++ standard library) is template code, and as such must be header-only, and since it's used in almost every program it pays to have that code as short as possible.

Thus, the natural trade-off point between conciseness and readability is much farther over on the conciseness end of the scale than with "normal" code.


About the variables names, library implementors must use "crazy" naming conventions, such as names starting with an underscore followed by an uppercase letter, because such names are reserved for them. They cannot use "normal" names, because those may have been redefined by a user macro.

Section "Global names" §1 states:

Certain sets of names and function signatures are always reserved to the implementation:

Each name that contains a double underscore or begins with an underscore followed by an uppercase letter is reserved to the implementation for any use.

Each name that begins with an underscore is reserved to the implementation for use as a name in the global namespace.

(Note that these rules forbid header guards like __MY_FILE_H which I have seen quite often.)


Implementations vary. libc++ for example, is much easier on the eyes. There's still a bit of underscore noise though. As others have noted, the leading underscores are unfortunately required. Here's the same function in libc++:
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may 2019 by nhaliday
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