Tag: software engineering

Entries for tag "software engineering", ordered from most recent. Entry count: 35.

Warning! Some information on this page is older than 5 years now. I keep it for reference, but it probably doesn't reflect my current knowledge and beliefs.

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# March 29th, Kraków - my Next Presentation

Mar 2011

Tomorrow I go to Kraków to give a talk at AGH University of Science and Technology (Akademia Górniczo-Hutnicza). I've been invited by my friends from SKN Shader scientific group (greetings Koshmaar and TeMPOraL :)

The title of my presentation will be "Pułapki programowania obiektowego" ("Pitfalls of Object-Oriented Programming"). The event will take place at 18:30, building B1, room H24. More information is available in this entry on SKN Shader website, as well as Facebook event.

Comments | #events #teaching #c++ #software engineering Share

# Static C++ Code Analysis with PVS-Studio

Mar 2011

By the courtesy of its authors, I have a chance to evaluate PVS-Studio - a static code analyzer for C, C++ and C++0x. This commercial application is installed as a plugin in Visual Studio 2005/2008/2010. Fortunately I have Visual Studio 2008 Professional at home so I could try it with the code of my personal projects. PVS-Studio differs from other tools of this kind, like free Cppcheck, by finding three types of errors or warnings: general, related to OpenMP and 64-bit portability issues.

After opening my solution in Visual Studio, I choose a command from the special menu to analyze all the code.

A progressbar appears while PVS-Studio does the computations, utilizing almost 100% of all 4 CPU cores. Finally, a dockable panel appears with a list of found issues.

The general category warns about exact float comparison with == and stuff like that. It managed to find few places where I forgot the "&" character while passing a vector as const refefence parameter, rightly telling that it will cause "decreased performance". But its greatest find in my CommonLib library code was this unbelievable bug:

Some messages look funny. Should I code some general, abstract, portable, object-oriented, Alexandrescu-style template-based solution here just to avoid copying some code into several similar instructions? :)

I didn't check how the OpenMP validation works because I don't currently use this extension. As for 64-bit compatibility issues, I have lots of them - just because my code is not prepared to be compiled as 64-bit. PVS-Studio seem to do a good job pointing to places where fixed-length 32-bit integers are mixed with pointers, array indexing etc.

Overall, PVS-Studio looks like a good tool for C++ programmers who care about the quality of their code. Finding issues related to OpenMP and 64-bit compatibility can be something of a great value, if only you need such features.

Too bad that PVS-Studio, opposite to Cppcheck, is a Visual Studio plugin, not a standalone application, so it obviously requires you to have a commercial MSVS version and do not work with Express edition. But this is understandable - if you need OpenMP or 64-bit, you probably already use Visual Studio Professional or higher.

PVS-Studio analyzes C, C++ and C++0x. It doesn't work with C++/CLI language, but that's not a big flaw too. I use C++/CLI at work, but I can see it's quite unpopular, niche language. Its compilation or analysis would also be very difficult because it mixes all features from both native C++ and .NET. Even Microsoft didn't find resources to implement IntelliSense for C++/CLI in Visual Studio 2010.

Comments | #tools #c++ #software engineering #visual studio #pvs-studio Share

# Data-Oriented Design - Links and Thoughts

Jan 2011

In April 2008 I've written an essay "Fanatyzm obiektowy" (in Polish, it means "Object-Oriented Fanaticism"). I've always believed there is something wrong with object-oriented programming, that it simply doesn't meet its own objectives and so following it blindly as an ideology not only a programming language mechanics has many pitfalls. Now I'm glad that recently a concept of "Data-Oriented Design" (DOD) emerged and gained popularity among game developers. Here is my try to aggregate all important information on this subject that can be found on the Internet:


Blog entries:


If you know any other good readings on this subject, please leave a comment. I'll update my list.

As far as I can see, focusing more on data instead of objects gives a number of benefits for the code:

Of course DOD doesn't exist in the void. It's related to many other concepts and you can find many good sources of knowledge about each one. Some of them are:

Comments | #software engineering #c++ Share

# Different Ways of Processing Data

Dec 2010

Much is being said about UX these days, while not so much about the art and science of designing good API so libraries can communicate successfully with their users, that is other programmers. I'm interested in the latter for some time and today I'd like to explore the topic of how some data, whether objects or a raw sequence of bytes, can be processed, loaded and saved. I will clarify what I mean in just a moment. I believe the ways to do it can be grouped into several categories, from simplest but most limited way to the most flexible, efficient but difficult to use.

1. The simplest possible interface for loading (or saving) some data is to pass a string with path to file. That's the way we load DLL libraries in WinAPI. Unfortunately it limits the programmer to load object only from physical files, not from other places like memory pointer, where source data could be placed e.g. after decompression or downloading from network.

HMODULE WINAPI LoadLibrary(__in LPCTSTR lpFileName);

2. Solution to this problem is an API that allows loading data from either file or memory. Some example can be texture loading in D3DX (extension to DirectX), where separate functions are available that take either path to a disk file (LPCTSTR pSrcFile), pointer to a buffer in memory (LPCVOID pSrcData, UINT SrcDataSize) or Windows resource identifier (HMODULE hSrcModule, LPCTSTR pSrcResource).

HRESULT D3DXCreateTextureFromFile(
  __in LPDIRECT3DDEVICE9 pDevice,
  __in LPCTSTR pSrcFile,
  __out LPDIRECT3DTEXTURE9 *ppTexture);
HRESULT D3DXCreateTextureFromFileInMemory(
  __in LPDIRECT3DDEVICE9 pDevice,
  __in LPCVOID pSrcData,
  __in UINT SrcDataSize,
  __out LPDIRECT3DTEXTURE9 *ppTexture);
HRESULT D3DXCreateTextureFromResource(
  __in LPDIRECT3DDEVICE9 pDevice,
  __in HMODULE hSrcModule,
  __in LPCTSTR pSrcResource,
  __out LPDIRECT3DTEXTURE9 *ppTexture);

Another possible approach is to utilize single function and interpret given pointer as either string with file path or a direct memory buffer, depending on some flags. That's the way you can load sound samples in FMOD library:

FMOD_RESULT System::createSound(
  const char * name_or_data,
  FMOD_MODE mode,
  FMOD::Sound ** sound

Where name_or_data is "Name of the file or URL to open, or a pointer to a preloaded sound memory block if FMOD_OPENMEMORY/FMOD_OPENMEMORY_POINT is used."

3. That's more flexible, but sometimes an object is so big that it's not efficient or even possible to load/uncompress/download its full contents into memory before creating a real resource or do some processing. What's needed is an interface to process smaller chunks of data at time. One of ways to do it is defining an interface with callbacks that the library will call to query for additional piece of data. Then we can implement this interface to read data from any source we wish, whether simple disk file, compressed archive or a network socket. When we want to load an object, we call appropriate function passing pointer to our implementation of the interface. During this call our code is called back and asked to read data. For example, that's the way we can load sounds in Audiere library. The interface for reading data is:

class File : public RefCounted {
  ADR_METHOD(int) read(void* buffer, int size) = 0;
  ADR_METHOD(bool) seek(int position, SeekMode mode) = 0;
  ADR_METHOD(int) tell() = 0;

4. A step futher towards more flexibility and generality is the concept of streams, like from Java, C# or Delphi. These object-oriented languages define in their standard libraries an abstract base class for input (for reading data) and output stream (for writing data) that can be implemented in many possible ways. For example, Java's InputStream class defines methods:

void close()
int read()
int read(byte[] b)
int read(byte[] b, int off, int len)
void reset()
long skip(long n)

Many derived classes are provided. Some of them read/write data from real sources like file or network connection, while others process data (for example compress, encrypt) and pass them to another stream. This way a chain of responsibilities can be created where we write data to a stream that compresses them and pass them to another stream, which encrypts them and passes them to the one that does buffering and finally write the data to the stream that saves it to a file. It's my favourite approach right now, although it has a drawback - an overhead for virtual method calls in each stream for each piece of data read or written. This inefficiency can be minimized by controlling granularity - processing a buffer of reasonable size at time, never byte-after-byte.

5. Finally, there is the most direct, low-level approach which is also most flexible and efficient, but at the same time very difficult to use properly. I'm talking about a single function that takes pointers to input and output buffers, as well as some structure containing current state and processes a piece of data. It consumes some/all data from input buffer (by advancing some pointer or counter) and produces new data to the output buffer. There are no callbacks. The interface is neither "push" (where we write data) or "pull" (where we read data), but both at time. That's the way zlib compression library works (which I complained about here, in Polish), as well as LZMA SDK (which I described here).

typedef struct z_stream_s {
  Bytef  *next_in;  /* next input byte */
  uInt   avail_in;  /* number of bytes available at next_in */
  uLong  total_in;  /* total nb of input bytes read so far */

  Bytef  *next_out; /* next output byte should be put there */
  uInt   avail_out; /* remaining free space at next_out */
  uLong  total_out; /* total nb of bytes output so far */

  char   *msg;    /* last error message, NULL if no error */
  struct internal_state FAR *state; /* not visible by applications */
} z_stream;

ZEXTERN int ZEXPORT deflate OF((z_streamp strm, int flush));

Comments | #software engineering #c++ Share

# A Random Thought on Over-Generalizing

Jul 2010

I don't post next part of the description of my reflection system yet. Instead I just want to share a small thought that came to my mind today. It's about over-generalizing, over-engineering, writing overly-abstract code or however you call it. Using too much OOP is not only the matter of code perfomance, but something deeper, more ideological. Interesting blog entries about this topic are: 5 Stages of Programmer Incompetence (see "The Abstraction Freak" paragraph) and Criminal Overengineering @ yield thought, Smartness overload and Smartness overload - addendum @ mischief.mayhem.soap. A Counterpoint can be found at cbloom rants. And finally here is my idea:

It is a vicious circle. Here is how it works:

But I believe this is true only to some degree. We obviously need a general, universal code sometimes not to do the same, monotonous or error-prone work over and over again. That's why we create and use libraries. And that's why I've coded my reflection system :)

New: I can see similar vicious cycle in a programming language development, inspired by an article I've read today: Google engineer calls Java and C++ too complicated. For me it looks like this: software engineers, companies and committees develop very sophisticated programming languages because they want them to be as much general and universal as possible so developers don't have to learn and use many specialized languages for different purposes. Developers don't like to learn many new programming languages because they have bad experience from learning and using such universal, spohisticated languages.

Comments | #software engineering #philosophy Share

# Programmer Incompetence?

Jun 2010

Today I'll be a little more philosophical, of course in terms of programming philosophy ;) I manage a long list of Web addresses I'd like to visit in my free time (which I gather mostly from Twitter) and today I've visited these two places:

They reminded me of my old thought that on the way of mastering the art of programming there is no such thing as diversity - no place for personal preferences that would be only a matter of taste, like favorite music. There is usually only one correct path. All the good practices and solutions are just a function of what do you want to do and what technologies do you use. I constantly learn stuff, interact with programmers better than me as well as observe and talk to these who just start their adventure in the programming world. From all these experiences I can see that there usually is a single, correct solution or the way of thinking about simply anything. The one who doesn't agree with it is just not "mature" enough to be able to see that. Another sad truth is that this "maturing" process cannot be accelerated - one can read about the "correct" way but just rejects it until he will come to it by himself.

I especially like the 5 Stages of Programmer Incompetence entry. Here is my self-diagnosis against its points:

Comments | #software engineering #philosophy Share

# Some Thoughts about Library Design

May 2010

Much has been said about designing good user interface, whether for desktop applications, websites or games. There are whole books available about GUI design and even this year's IGK-7'2010 conference featured two lectures about the interface in games. But what about interfaces for programmers?

I can't find much about the rules of good library API design and I believe there is much to say in this subject. I only know The Little Manual of API Design written by Jasmin Blanchette from Trolltech/Nokia, one of the creators of Qt library (thanks for the link Przemek!). There is also a blog entry about Math Library, which is quite interesting. Inspired by it, I've came up with a general thought that you cannot have all the following features when designing a library and its API, you have to choose 2 or 3 of them and make some compromise:

I think some patterns and best practices as well as some anti-patterns could be found when you look at interfaces of many libraries. Maybe I'll post some more of my thoughts on this subject in the future. In the meantime, do you know any other resources about API design?

Comments | #philosophy #software engineering #libraries Share

# The Concept of Immutability and Descriptor

Nov 2009

An object of some class represents a piece of data, chunk of memory or other resource along with methods to operate on it. It should also automatically free these resources in destructor. But how should modifying these data look like? There are two possible approaches. As an example, let's consider a fictional class to encapsulate Direct3D 9 Vertex Declaration (I'll show my real one in some future blog entry). A Vertex Declaration is an array of D3DVERTEXELEMENT9 structures, which can be used to create IDirect3DVertexDeclaration9 object. First solution is to define class interface in a way that data inside can be modified at any time.

class MyMutableVertexDecl
  // Creates an empty declaration.
  // Frees all allocated resources.
  // Copies data from another object
  void CopyFrom(const MyMutableVertexDecl &src);
  // Deletes all internal data so object becomes empty again.
  void Clear();
  bool IsEmpty() const;
  // I/O (Serialization)
  void SaveToStream(IStream &s) const;
  void LoadFromStream(IStream &s);
  // Reading of underlying data
  size_t GetElemCount() const;
  const D3DVERTEXELEMENT9 & GetElem(size_t index) const;
  // Modification of underlying array
  void SetElem(const D3DVERTEXELEMENT9 &elem, size_t index);
  void AddElem(const D3DVERTEXELEMENT9 &elem);
  void InsertElem(const D3DVERTEXELEMENT9 &elem, size_t index);
  void RemoveElem(size_t index);
  IDirect3DVertexDeclaration9 * GetD3dDecl() const;
  std::vector<D3DVERTEXELEMENT9> m_Elems;
  IDirect3DVertexDeclaration9 *m_D3dDecl;

This approach seems very nice as you can create your object any time you wish and fill it with data later, as well as change this data whenever you need to. But at the same time, a question emerges: when to (re)create "destination" IDirect3DVertexDeclaration9 from the "source" D3DVERTEXELEMENT9 array? Each time the array is modified? Or maybe each time the IDirect3DVertexDeclaration9 is retrieved? Optimal solution for the interface above would be to do lazy evaluation, that is to recreate IDirect3DVertexDeclaration9 whenever it is retrieved for the first time since last time the D3DVERTEXELEMENT9 array have been modified. But...

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