## Wednesday, September 24, 2008

### Resolution of the Universe

I attended a talk by Stuart Kauffman about systems biology, complexity, information theory, and related topics. It inspired the following crackpot theory / misunderstanding of Kauffman's ideas about the nature of the relationship between theory and reality.

Let's take physics.

• N = Newton
• E = Einstein
• Q = Quantum physics

Now, let's imagine an ill-defined concept that I'll call resolution (as in screen resolution). R(N) is a measure of the explanitory power or detail of the theory N (Newtonian physics).

R(N) < R(E) < R(Q)

Right? So is there such a thing as R(reality)? Or is the resolution of reality infinite? It's certainly true that theories are only useful when R(theory) << R(system being described). What use is a theory of Universe sized complexity?

I'm willing to guess is that there is a finite (although large) R(reality). And that there's some sort of Heisenberg/Goedel-like limit to how close any theory can come to accurately describing reality, regardless of how high the R of the theory is. More and more advanced theories asymptotically approach this limit.

## Tuesday, September 23, 2008

### Eclipse templates and import statements

I was encouraged by this guy to make better use of Eclipse's code templates. I've used templates for a while for boilerplate code like adding a log4j logger to a class, like this:

```class Foo {
private static final Logger log = Logger.getLogger(Foo.class);
...
}
```

Using templates, I just have to type 'l4j' and cntl-space and there I go. One thing that had been plaguing me is that I still had to cnt-space again to add the imports, and thanks to Sun's needless duplication of effort, I had to select the log4j Logger over the lame java.util.Logger.

Little did I know about the \${import} and \${importStatic} variables. The following template gives me the required imports for free.

```\${imp:import(org.apache.log4j.Logger)}
private static final Logger log = Logger.getLogger(\${enclosing_type}.class);```

```\${imp:import(org.junit.Test)}
\${impst:importStatic('org.junit.Assert.*')}
```

With enough Eclipse templates, Java might not drive me completely batshit after all. I love it when I file a bug and the feature already exists. Thanks, Eclipse.

## Sunday, September 21, 2008

### Generics hurt my head some more

As previously mentioned, generics hurt my head. Sun's Java generics tutorial calls Collections.max() one of the subtlest examples of the use of generics.

`public static <T extends Object & Comparable<? super T>> T max(Collection<? extends T> coll)`

Subtle is one word for it. Anyway, to my walnut-sized brain, generics are confusing; maybe too confusing to be worth it. Was ClassCastException really a major problem for anybody?

Generics can be used in two places. Generic classes, like List<T>, and generic methods, like Collections.max().

As I learned in Programming Languages 505, return types are covariant while method parameters are contravariant (see the wikipedia entry). Generics, because they can be used to parameterize both return types and method parameters, are invariant. Keeping this in mind explains a lot. Thus, List<String> is not a subtype of List<Object>. This leads to a lot of confusion, particularly because Arrays in Java took the opposite choice. String[] is a subtype of Object[]. Aaarg!

Wildcards attempt to mitigate this problem, with extends and super.

```List<? extends Flapdoodle>
TreeSet(Comparator<? super E> c)```

I pronounce List<?> as "list of WTF". You're really supposed to say it's an unbounded wildcard type. Seems about as annoying as @SuppressWarnings("unchecked").

#### Effective Java 2nd Ed., Generics

For more confusing information, see the Generics chapter out of Effective Java, 2nd Ed. (Thanks to Joe Bowbeer for the pointer!):

• Produce-extends, consumer-super
In other words, if a parameterized type represents a T producer, use <? extends T>; if it represents a T consumer, use <? super T>.
• Private helper method for wildcard capture
• Typesafe heterogeneous containers

### Source Control and Continuous integration

#### Version Control:

Continuous integration:

All the cool kids are on github. ...and I still thought SVN was new and hip. Guess I'm behind the times.

## Saturday, September 20, 2008

### Building Teams

I must be getting old. I voluntarily went to a non-technical talk by Jared Richardson about building teams for software development. Now I'm blogging about it. And using the term "blogging". Evidently, I've finally gone stark raving batshit.

• Interaction
• Mentoring
• Learning
• Vision
• Fun

• Isolation
• Immaturity
• Apathy
• Thrashing
• Feuding
• Boredom

#### Practices

• Daily Meetings
• Code Reviews
• Team-wide Architecture
• Test Automation
• The List (of work by priority)

## Friday, September 12, 2008

### Generics solution

Previously, generics were hurting my head. The generics tutorial has this to say about the problem that is at issue here:

Wildcards are designed to support flexible subtyping [...]. Generic methods allow type parameters to be used to express dependencies among the types of one or more arguments to a method and/or its return type.

The solution here (thanks to Eric Jain) uses a generic method to express the dependency between the type Features in the Container passed into renderMap's getRendererFor(...) function and the type of Renderer returned. The renderer must be able to render that type of feature.

```package generics.solution;

// We have a hierarchy of specialized subtypes of feature.
class Feature {
}

class SpecialFeature extends Feature {
}

// Features of a given kind are accessed through containers
interface Container<F extends Feature> {
public Iterable<F> features();
}

// We want to draw features in various specialized ways.
interface Renderer<F extends Feature> {
public void render(Iterable<? extends F> features);
}

class SpecialRenderer implements Renderer<SpecialFeature> {
public void render(Iterable<? extends SpecialFeature> features) {
// render special features
}
}

// Which renderer we use for a given container of features gets
// configured at runtime. This holds the mapping between renderers
// and containers.
interface RendererMap {
public <F extends Feature> Renderer<? super F> getRendererFor(Container<F> container);
}

class RenderingScheduler {
RendererMap rendererMap;

public void render(Iterable<Container<? extends Feature>> containers) {
for (Container<? extends Feature> container : containers) {
render(container);
}
}

public <F extends Feature> void render(Container<F> container) {
Renderer<? super F> renderer = rendererMap.getRendererFor(container);
renderer.render(container.features());
}
}
```

Update: Generics hurt my head some more.

## Thursday, September 11, 2008

Here's a little generics problem, in the form of some code:

```package generics.question;

// We have a hierarchy of specialized subtypes of feature.
class Feature {
}

class SpecialFeature extends Feature {
}

// Features of a given kind are accessed through containers
interface Container<T extends Feature> {
public Iterable<T> foos();
}

class SpecialContainer implements Container<SpecialFeature> {
public Iterable<SpecialFeature> foos() {
return null;
}
}

// We want to draw features in various specialized ways.
interface Renderer<V extends Feature> {
public void render(Iterable<V> foos);
}

class SpecialRenderer implements Renderer<SpecialFeature> {
public void render(Iterable<SpecialFeature> foos) {
// render Subfoo objects
}
}

// Which renderer we use for a given container of features gets
// configured at runtime. This holds the mapping between renderers
// and containers.
interface RendererMap {
Renderer<? extends Feature> getRendererFor(Container<? extends Feature> container);
}

class RenderingScheduler {
RendererMap rendererMap;

public void render(Iterable<Container<? extends Feature>> containers) {
for (Container<? extends Feature> container : containers) {
Renderer<? extends Feature> renderer = rendererMap.getRendererFor(container);

// The following line produces a compile error:
//   The method render(Iterable<capture#3-of ? extends Feature>) in
//   the type Renderer<capture#3-of ? extends Feature> is not
//   applicable for the arguments (Iterable<capture#4-of ? extends
//   Feature>)
renderer.render(container.foos());

// this works, but... ug.
// How are these type parameters helping me again?
Renderer<Feature> r = (Renderer<Feature>)renderer;
Iterable<Feature> foos = (Iterable<Feature>)container.foos();
r.render(foos);
}
}
}
```
Update: Solution! ...and generics hurt my head some more.