The Cutest Littlest Forkbomb

February 24, 2015

In one of his last tweets @levans posted the cutest Rust-lang fork bomb:

fn main(){std::thread::spawn(main);main()}

at 42 characters longs, which he sees like a sign. Excluding headers, you can do even shorter in C++:

main(){boost::thread x(main);main();}

It’s not really a terrifying forkbomb (as Linux, for e.g., kills everything after a while because processes run out of memory), and we could have done much worse with a process-level (rather than a thread-level) forkbomb:

main() { fork(); main(); }

This variant creates separate processes… none of which individualy can exhaust its memory! Don’t try this one on your main box (but it could be fun in a virtual machine).


Stirling’s series

December 2, 2014

Last week, we had a look at how g++ handles tail-recursion. Turns out it does a great job. One of the example used for testing the compiler was the factorial function, n!.


We haven’t pointed it out, but the factorial function in last week’s example computed the factorial modulo the machine-size (unsigned) integer. But what if we want to have the best possible estimation?

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Of tails.

November 25, 2014

In a previous post, I explored the effect of pruning on a recursive function, namely, the Collatz function. Richard (see comment) asked “does your compiler know about tail recursion?”. Well, I didn’t know for sure. Let’s find out.


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Perfect Hashing (part I)

September 9, 2014

A few days ago, a friend asked me how to write, if even possible, a hash function that had no collisions. Of course, it’s relatively easy to get a reasonably good hash function that will give the expected amount of collisions (especially when used as usual, modulo the size of the table). But what if we do not want collisions at all? What can we do?


There are some hash functions, known as perfect hash function, that will yield a different hash for every key from a a priori known set of keys, say K. Are they hard to build? Fortunately, not really. Can we exploit the uniqueness of the hashed value to speed look-ups up? Yes, but it’s a bit more complicated.

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Yet Another Square Root Algorithm (part II)

May 6, 2014

last week, we saw that we could use a (supposed) efficient machine-specific instruction to derive good bounds (but not very tight) to help binary search-based and Newton-based square root extraction algorithms go faster. Last week, we saw that the technique did lead to fewer iterations in both algorithms.


Now, does the reduced number of iterations translate into actual, machine speed-up?

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Consider Simplicity, Verily.

April 1, 2014

If you’re a perfectionist, it’s really hard to limit the efforts you put into developing code. A part of you wants to write the perfect code, while another reminds you that you haven’t time for that, and you will have to settle for good enough code. Today’s entry is exactly this: an ambitious design that was reduced to merely OK code.


I needed to have an exporter (but no importer) to CSV format for C++. One of the first thing that came to mind is to have a variant-like hierarchy that can store arbitrary values, each specific class having its own to_string function, and then have some engine on top that can scan a data structure and spew it to disk as CSV. That’s ridiculously complicated—very general—but ridiculously complicated.

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Short Pointers

February 4, 2014

One good thing with 64 bits addresses, is that you can, in principle, use essentially as much memory as you want—the address space certainly exceeds today’s computers’ capabilities. One bad thing, especially when you create lots of objects and need plenty of pointers, is that 64 bits pointers are big. They use 8 bytes of memory. One or two pointers aren’t a problem, of course, but what if your data structure is a sparse graph, each node being mostly pointers, and that you need to create a very large graph?


One solution is to use stretch codes, as I proposed a while ago, trading off precision of addressing for shorter pointers. However, unless you rewrite the memory allocator, the technique won’t play well with the default new. Another solution is to store just barely the number of bits (rounded to bytes) necessary to hold an address. Can we do this? If so, how?

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