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SubjectRe: Coding style - a non-issue
Peter Waltenberg wrote:
> The problem was solved years ago.
> "man indent"
> Someone who cares, come up with an indentrc for the kernel code, and get it
> into Documentation/CodingStyle
> If the maintainers run all new code through indent with that indentrc
> before checkin, the problem goes away.
> The only one who'll incur any pain then is a code submitter who didn't
> follow the rules. (Exactly the person we want to be in pain ;)).
> Then we can all get on with doing useful things.

IMEO, there is but one source as reference for coding style: A book by
the name of "Code Complete". (Sorry, I can't remember the author and I
no longer have a copy. Maybe my Brother will chime in here and fill in
the blanks since he still has his copy.)

Outside of that, every place I have worked as a programmer, with a team
of programmers, had a style that was adhered to almost religiously. In
many cases the style closely followed "Code Complete". In the case of
the kernel, as Alan and others have mentioned, there IS a Linux kernel
coding style.

In 99% of the Linux code I have seen, the style does indeed "suck". Why?
Consider a new coder coming in for any given task. S/he knows nothing
about the kernel and needs to get up to speed quickly. S/he starts
browsing the source - the ONLY definitive explanation of what it does
and how it works - and finds:

- Single letter variable names that aren't simple loop counters and
must ask "What the h*** are these for?"
- No function/file comment headers explaining what the purpose of the
function/file is.
- Very few comments at all, which is not necessarily bad except...
- The code is not self documenting and without comments it takes an
hour to figure out what function Foo() does.
- Opening curly braces at the end of a the first line of a large code
block making it extremely difficult to find where the code block begins
or ends.
- Short variable/function names that someone thinks is descriptive but
really isn't.
- Inconsistent coding style from one file to the next.
- Other problems.

After all, the kernel must be maintained by a number of people and those
people will come and go. The only real way to keep bugs at a minimum,
efficiency at a maximum, and the learning curve for new coders
acceptable is consistent coding style and code that is easily
maintained. The things I note above are not a means to that end. Sure,
maybe Bob, the designer and coder of bobsdriver.o knows the code inside
and out without need of a single comment or descriptive
function/variable name, but what happens when Bob can no longer maintain
it? It's 10,000 lines of code, the kernel is useless without it, it
broke with kernel 2.6.0, and Joe, the new maintainer of bobsdriver.o, is
having a hell of a time figuring out what the damn thing does.

An extreme case? Maybe, but how many times does someone come in to
development and have to spend more hours than necessary trying to figure
out how things work (or are supposed to work) instead of actually
writing useful code?

Paul G. Allen
UNIX Admin II ('til Dec. 3)/FlUnKy At LaRgE (forever!)
Akamai Technologies, Inc.
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