Friday, June 18, 2010

Blessed Mother of Commented-out Code

It's the little things in life that give pleasure, isn't it? Like the lovely comment below, which has adorned a source file at my company for nearly sixteen (16) years now (meaning the file is at least 5 years older than the company).

/*****************************#if (0) //[
// Marked code has been deleted   -- XXXX (18 August, 1994)
// No need to check whether the value is X/X/X
// Only the size is to be checked which has been done

      char  val;

      val=tolower(*((char*) var)->getValue());
      if ((val != 'X') && (val != 'X') && (val != 'X'))
          return 0;
   #endif //]

There are many facets to this beautiful gem. First you'll notice that there is a nice C++-style // comment -- complete with the date and the signature of Mr. XXXX -- itself commented out by a C-style /* comment. Too bad the dead code isn't commented with //, so that my grep for tolower would have stood out as unnecessary.

But look, really the /* is there to comment out an #if 0. The guy must have wanted emacs to colorize the dead code as a comment -- I don't think emacs had font-lock back then, but there was the hilit19 package.

Still, you can't be too careful, so let's also wrap that code up in a [[[DELETED ... ]]], in case there is some human that can't read the C comments and the if-0, but who will understand what "triple-bracket DELETED" means.

Finally, it appears the conditional was originally written as #if (0) [ ... ] -- was that ever legal C? -- but when that wouldn't compile, the brackets had to be commented out, because every character in this file is too precious to ever delete. This must be the bad code afterlife. You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

How did all this happen? Is it an accumulation of different commenting-out strategies that occurred over time? Or is it just an unfortunate snapshot of one man's frenzied efforts to remove 3 lines of code without actually deleting anything? Sadly, we can only speculate on what happened, because these lines entered our repository in exactly this condition over 10 years ago.

I love deleting dead code, but I can't touch this one. It's an antique. And so ugly that it's beautiful.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Csh Skips Last Line in Script

Oh, joy.  I've found another thing to hate about csh.  If the last line of your script doesn't have a newline after it, that line won't be executed.  It will be silently ignored.  That isn't very useful.

If emacs knows you are editing a shell script, it will automatically put a newline at the end if you didn't do it yourself.  But if you have an ordinary text file that you will run with source, it better have a newline at the end.  You can get emacs to either ensure that or warn you about it by adding one of the following lines to your .emacs file:

;; Quietly add a newline if missing.
  (setq require-final-newline t)

  ;; Ask if you want a newline at end of file.
  (setq require-final-newline 'ask)

Googling for this problem, I found another nice csh rant.

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