The Lazy Programmer

April 5, 2009

A Python snippet for reading binary data

Filed under: Programming,Python — ferruccio @ 7:31 pm
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I’ve been experimenting using Python to read data from binary files and started to notice the following pattern in my code.

  1. Read a block of binary data.
  2. Use struct.unpack() to break out individual fields.
  3. Create a dictionary from those fields using the appropriate key names.


January 5, 2009

Returning multiple values from a function in C++

Filed under: C#,Programming — ferruccio @ 10:22 pm
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Ideally all functions should return just one value. There are many times, however, when returning more than one value makes a function so much more convenient. The classic example of this convenience is file input. When we read data from a file we want to know two things: Did we reach the end of the file? and if not, what is the next piece of data from the file.

Sometimes, we can encode multiple return values into one. For many of us, the first C idiom we learned from K&R is processing input a character at a time:

int ch;
while ((ch = getchar()) != EOF) {
    // do character processing...

This works because the EOF macro was set to something outside the range of valid characters (usually -1). While this approach can work fairly well for simple cases, it quickly breaks down as the types we wish to return get more complex.


November 18, 2008

Functional C++

Filed under: C#,Programming — ferruccio @ 9:56 pm
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It’s been awhile since my last post. It was near the end of a product shipping cycle and, well, you know how that goes. Then I got a bit addicted to stackoverflow and spent way too much time each night reading and answering  questions. Eventually, I started a couple of side-projects which may eventually yield something interesting to write about.

Anyway, a little over a month ago, I answered a question on Stack Overflow titled “What is the one programming skill you always wanted to master but haven’t had time?” I didn’t have to think much to come up with an answer to that: Functional Programming.

I understand some of the fundamental concepts behind functional programming and occasionally I dabble a bit with LISP or I read a bit more of SICP but the practical applications of FP have been elusive to me.


August 10, 2008

Adding a lock() statement to C++

Filed under: C#,Multi-threading,Programming — ferruccio @ 9:43 am
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One of the things I like about C# that I miss in C++ is the lock() statement. It provides a simple way to control access to an object across multiple threads.

When I first started writing Windows apps, I used the Windows critical section API directly. After getting tired of EnterCriticalSection/LeaveCriticalSection, (I suspect like everybody else) I created a CriticalSection class that was a simple wrapper around the raw API.

Eventually, I got around to using mutexes from the Boost Thread class. You can create a scope guard whose destructor releases its referenced object, but it still lacks the simple elegance and clarity of being able to say:

lock (some-object) {
    do something to some-object


February 26, 2008

Learn to Tango with D

Filed under: Books,Opinion — ferruccio @ 9:38 pm
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A brief review of the book and the language.

Learn to Tango with D

In the fall of 1980, I built my first computer. It was a HeathKit H89. I was a high school sophomore at the time and spent every dime I made over that summer to buy a computer kit. I had taught myself BASIC and 8080 Assembly Language programming by reading every book and magazine that I could get my hands on. I had managed to audit a Pascal programming course at a nearby college (nearly two hours by public transportation) and I was eager to try out some of these newly learned language skills.


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