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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Enumerating Enums

January 28, 2014

Every programming language has its defects; sometimes large, sometimes subtle; often causing irks. One thing that has been bugging me for a while (and many others, as you can see if you use Google) is the impossibility of enumerating enums from basic language constructs. You just can’t. Using the STL (and C++ 2011), however, you can have a somewhat elegant solution.

The solution I propose in this post is robust as it does not depend on the actual values of enums nor on that they can be mapped onto integers. We arrived at this solution (we being me and people on the ##c++ channel on Freenode, especially user “moonchild”) and I think it (almost) solves the problem of enumerating enums.

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Yet More __builtins

January 21, 2014

So last week we saw how to use some of GCC’s built-ins, this week, let’s have a look at how we can create our own, if need be. Say because you need to have access to some instruction and that GCC does not offer the corresponding built-in.


To do so, we’ll use a bit of the C preprocessor and GCC’s inline assembly extension.

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More __builtins

January 14, 2014

Last week we discussed GCC intrinsics a bit. This week, let’s have a look at what kind of speed-ups we can get, and how the use of intrinsics affect code generation.


Sometimes, I do strange things. I mean, my experiments aren’t necessarily self-evident, and sometimes, I need performance from primitives that usually are not bottlenecks—such as computing the GCD. This time, I need to get k and b in n=2^k+b as fast as possible. Let’s have a look at how intrinsics help us.

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GCC Built-ins

January 7, 2014

In the discussion of The Speed of GCD, Daniel Lemire remarked that one could use the compiler-specific intrinsic function __builtin_ctz to get a good speed-up on binary GCD. That remark made me look into all the others intrinsics and built-ins offered by GCC.


Let’s have a look to at least a few of them!

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December 17, 2013

Let’s consider a rather simple puzzle:


where each letter is assigned a value from 0 to 9. How would you solve

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Enumerating 32 bits Floats

November 5, 2013

This week, let’s go back to (low level) programming, with IEEE floats. To unit test a function of float, it does not sound unreasonable to just enumerate them all. But how do we do that efficiently? Clearly f++ will not get us there.


Nor will the machine-epsilon (the std::numeric_limits::epsilon()) because this value works fine around 1, but as the value diverges from 1, the epsilon basically becomes useless. We would either need a magnitude-dependent epsilon (which the standard library does not provide) or a way of enumerating explicitly the floats in increasing or decreasing order (something also not provided by the standard library). Well, let’s see how we can do that

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The Substitution Cipher

October 29, 2013

Some time ago, we presented the Caesar Cipher, developed a simple language model that allowed us to break the cipher relatively easily. This week, we will look at (simple) substitution ciphers.


Superficially, substitution ciphers seem much stronger than Caesar’s
cipher because, rather than just using shifting of the alphabet, it uses an
arbitrary substitution, for example,

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Two Features I’d Like to See in C and C++

October 1, 2013

This week, let’s discuss two features I’d really like to see in C and
C++; one trivial, one not so trivial.


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