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Sometimes I think we need professional certification in this industry. I
supported the ICCP
for a long time.
In addition to certification, which requires
ongoing educational credits to maintain, there ought to be a process for
revoking one's certification, requiring them to pass their exams again.
three strikes against two clods who wasted hours on -- perhaps -- the
dumbest things possible.
Strike 1. Counting
then ponited out that the Microsoft doco is weird because the highest
allowed by ulong is 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 which ends in an odds
remineded him that 2**64 = 18,446,744,073,709,551,616
this was the first time anyone realized how counting from zero works.
If they had actually thought about this, they could have tried a smaller
example. For example three bits. 2**3 = 8. When you enumerate the
values you get 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. The highest value is 2**3-1.
It's not "weird". It's a trivially obvious mathematical fact.
works like this: n values have numbers from 0 to n-1.
Didn't know that? Consider your certification revoked. Even hobbyists
Strike 2. Wrong Tools and Wrong
This is more subtle and involves
two strikes. We'll look at just one of them.
he wanted a spreadsheet of 2 raised to nth power.
put it together and the numbers just looked weird. I then realized that
you type a number that contains more than 15 digits in a cell,
Excel changes any digits past the fifteenth place to zeroes
I felt like saying is that Python has built in this concept of "long
which has unlimited precision and it automatically switches to
of the clods knew Python. Instead of writing a trivial loop in Python,
apparently, clod #1 proceeded to type numbers into a spreadsheet. The
clod didn't compute them -- with formulas or software -- the clod
typed the numbers. Typed. Have Python. Elected to
type. How did they do the calculations? On a pocket calculator? Oh the
Also, additional penalties for
exhaustive enumeration. They sent me the spreadsheet as if it was
somehow important that they could enumerate values between 2**0 and
2**135. No summary or rule. Just a mountain of useless numbers.
3. Floating Point
This is not news. Nor
should it be. Indeed, this should be the first set of questions on the
certification exam. If you can't figure out floating point, you can't
write software. Period. Please find another job in an industry where
you won't waste time on this.
Floating point is
not simple, and everyone should study it before they are allowed to
charge money for creating software. Running random experiments and
exhaustively enumerating values is not studying. That's not even
hobbyist stuff. Try actually reading. Starting with the standard. And
David Goldberg's "What
Every Computer Scientist Should Know About Floating-Point Arithmetic
more than 15 digits in a cell,
Microsoft Excel changes any
digits past the fifteenth place to zeroes
could not have noticed that this is near 2**50. They never looked up
the IEEE floating
representation that -- pretty clearly -- says that there are
only 52 bits of useful information. Wikipedia reminds us that this is
about 15 decimal digits. Rather than look this up, they chose to be
These clods were astonished that
floating-point numbers have a finite mantissa. Astonished that --
empirically -- they had stumbled on the fact that the mantissa is about
How much time did they waste on
this? More importantly, how can they consider their activities to be
"professional"? Unable to count from zero? Using the wrong tools and
exhaustively enumerating the obvious? Not realizing the floating-point
values have limited precision?
it appalling. Their escapades sound like two home hobbyists with their
fist ever copy of C#. Not like professionals.
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