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SubjectRe: Coding style - a non-issue
On Sat, Dec 01, 2001 at 08:57:17AM +0000, Alan Cox wrote:
> > Here's a characteristic good Linux design method ,( or call it "less than random
> > mutation method" if that makes you feel happy): read the literature,
> > think hard, try something, implement it
>
> That assumes computer science is a functional engineering discipline. Its
> not, at best we are at the alchemy stage of progression. You put two things
> together it goes bang and you try to work out why.

Recently, our correspondent from Wales wrote:
... the changes have been done and
tested one at a time as they are merged. Real engineering process is the
only way to get this sort of thing working well.

I really dislike this "alchemy" stuff. It's demeaning and misleading.
All the alchemists ever managed to create were cases of mercury
poisoning.


> In many of these fields there is no formal literature. The scientific paper
> system in computer science is based on publishing things people already
> believe. Much of the rest of the knowledge is unwritten or locked away in
> labs as a trade secret, and wil probably never be reused.
>
> Take TCP for example. The TCP protocol is specified in a series of
> documents. If you make a formally correct implementation of the base TCP RFC
> you won't even make connections. Much of the flow control behaviour, the
> queueing and the detail is learned only by being directly part of the
> TCP implementing community. You can read all the scientific papers you
> like, it will not make you a good TCP implementor.

And you can hack away all you want, you'll never get TCP to work either.
This stuff is a mixture of theory and practice and
whether your theory is picked up from years of experience, boozy
arguments, and thinking, or from a strictly supervised
tour of the library it's theory all the same.
CS is like any other skilled field. There's a difference between a guy
who knows how to hammer and a master carpenter.

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