Parsing and stuff

I’ve been busy doing lots of different stuff recently (going to my first ever wedding, recording my first ever CD). But in the computer world, I got a few emails last week from people asking about C++ parsing, so I updated my Parsing C++ page to bring it up to date. Whilst updating it this morning, I realised that I make a strong distinction between “real problems” which are interesting and worthwhile to solve, as opposed to other kinds of problems which are just annoying and timeconsuming. C++ parsing falls in the latter category, which is surprising since I’d personally use a C++ parsing toolkit quite a lot. But it should be a non-problem. Languages should be designed so that they’re easy for humans and computers to parse. End of story. A language which fails this test is plain bad. Writing glue code between API’s is another annoying problem. I’d rather spend my time on Real problems. But what do I mean by “real” problems in programming? I’m not entirely sure myself. Problems which are not specific to a particular programming language, or to a particular hardware architecture, I guess. But at the same time, I’m interested in using computers as tools to achieve some purpose – learn about electromagnetism for example. I think I’ve just got to a point in my life where I’m looking back over what I’ve done in the past 10 or so year, and planning how to spend the next 10 years, and wanting to make sure I actively choose what to do rather than passively ending up doing something.

I enjoyed Kim’s summary of the Composable Memory Transactions paper. I like these kind of mini-summaries of papers, since my list of “papers to read” grows faster than I can keep up with. To most people, “concurrency” means threads and mutexes. This is a horribly primitive way of approaching concurrency – notoriously difficult for us puny humans to get right, and little better than a house of cards. Higher level models such as CSP are much better for building safe, stable programs. I don’t think I’d really explictly understood the importance of this kind of composability before, but clearly it’s a vital ingredient in building larger and larger systems.

I’ve also discovered the dirtsimple blog, which has provided lots of interesting reading.