Best search algorithm to find condition within a range

Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at
Thu Apr 9 19:35:34 CEST 2015

On Fri, 10 Apr 2015 02:25 am, Marko Rauhamaa wrote:

> Chris Angelico <rosuav at>:
>> As far as it's concerned, it's impossible for a CPU register to
>> arbitrarily change without notice. It's equally impossible for the
>> addition of two positive signed integers to result in a negative
>> integer.
> The standard says that any program that takes a signed integer out of
> its valid range is broken and deserves anything that happens to it.
> I say it's the standard that is broken.

It's not so much the undefined behaviour part that gets me. That's bad
enough. But the concept that having the compiler ignore what you write in
the source code because you've accidentally hit some undefined part of the
spec *is a feature* rather than a horrible, horrible design flaw that blows
my mind.

A *sane* language developer would insist that if the compiler is smart
enough to detect a bug, say a pointer which might be null but is
dereferenced regardless, it should *stop compiling and tell you*, not treat
it as an excuse to do something radically different from what the source
code says. Calculating the wrong result really quickly is not an
optimization except in the minds of crazy people, its a bug.

Code intended to sanitize untrusted code was turned into a no-op.

A check that a pointer wasn't null was removed by the compiler, creating an
exploitable vulnerability.

I've come to the conclusion that C is the PHP of low level languages. Like
PHP, it's popularity is at least in part due to its lack of consistency and
psychotic design. That, I think, is the secret of success for some
languages: you appeal to the cowboy coders by giving them something tricky
to use, but not too tricky, something which doesn't require the discipline
and intellectual rigour (and/or cleverness) of writing code which is
actually correct, so long as they can write code which is *almost* correct
and have it mostly work. What do a few buffer overflows, seg faults, and
incorrect results matter when the resulting code runs like a rocket?

C: calculating more wrong answers in less time than any other language!

Of course not all C programmers are cowboys. Linux Torvalds has a reputation
for a zero-tolerance attitude towards kernel bugs, and a take-no-prisoners
attitude to anyone who might break userspace code due to changes in the
kernel. But I think that the vast number of C/C++ exploitable bugs is proof
that most C coders lack either the skill or inclination to write correct C
code. Even the Linux kernel contains bugs. Things were bad enough in the
old days of classical C compilers, but modern C optimizing compilers may
actively counteract your code as you have written it. How that isn't
considered an outright malicious act, I don't know.


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