strange warning

Discussion in 'C Programming' started by Bill Cunningham, May 10, 2014.

  1. Yes, it should. I edited the original with brain in neutral. Thanks.
    Ben Bacarisse, May 14, 2014
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  2. It's like the terms "bit" and "real", as in "real number".
    Real numbers are represented in the computer by bits, so in a sense you
    could say that reals are a subset of the bits. But that's only when you're
    thinking in pure memory layout terms. Reals aren't a subset of bits
    in any higher level or mathematical sense. And in fact a real on a
    digital computer isn't really real. This bit me yesterday. (A line
    was represented by y1 = y2 - epsilon. So of course it wasn't horizontal.
    But there was no ray y = (y1 + y2)/2 which would intersect it.
    You could do it like this.

    void buffer[1024];

    buff[0] = 0; /* illegal, it's a buffer, not an array */

    int mclean_array[] = buffer; /* we've got a McLean array, it's
    empty and of size 0, it uses the memory space buffer */

    mclean_array[0] = 0; /* illegal, the mclean array has length 0 */

    mclean_array.push_back(0); /* legal, as in C++ */
    mclean_array[0] = 42; /* legal now */

    char mclean_array2[] = buffer + mclean_array.memsize(); /*create another
    mclean_array, in the buffer, after the first array, this time holding
    chars */

    mclean_array2.push_back('x'); /* put some data into it */
    mclean_array.push_back(123); /* legal, but we've overwritten mclean_array 2*/

    printf("%c", mclean_array2[0]); /* accepted, technically undefined behaviour,
    we've set up two arrays over the same space in the same buffer, but it's
    C and presumably we know what we're doing, prints a garbage character */

    printf("%d", mclean_array[1]); /* defined and legal, must print 123 */
    Malcolm McLean, May 14, 2014
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  3. Bill Cunningham

    Ian Collins Guest

    I was going to suggest you shift to C++ in response to one of your
    earlier posts, but seeing this it looks like C++'s std::vector and
    std::array would meet your needs.
    Ian Collins, May 14, 2014
  4. Basically yes.
    The idea that an array is a data-representation level object, a buffer
    an implementation-level object, isn't one that I invented, and there
    are plenty of languages which offer arrays but discourage treating them
    as buffers.
    Malcolm McLean, May 14, 2014
  5. All programming languages are fundamentally equivalent.
    So in a high-level language, say Matlab, I can declare a matrix
    of 64K real values, then treat each real as a byte value 0-255.
    Then I can write Z80 instructions, in Matlab code, to move
    the byte values about in that array. Then I can download the
    Zx81 ROM from the web, and write a little Basic program,
    and play Space Invaders.

    So I'm using the Matlab matrix as an array, in one context, as
    a buffer in another, context. To my Matlab Z80 simulator, it's
    an array, even if I set all the values to random on startup, they
    have to have defined values, the Z80 instructions have defined
    effects on them. But to the Space Invaders, it's a buffer, we
    can peek and poke bytes to move the Space Invaders about, it
    doesn't inherently represent or mean anything until we
    give it a meaning.
    Malcolm McLean, May 14, 2014
  6. It's a basic fundamental theorem of computer science. Interestingly, you don't
    have to know it to be a perfectly competent programmer.
    Matlab provides a C interface, so you can implement Matlab functions in
    C, and of course matrices are arrays of doubles, contiguous in memory.
    But Matlab itself has no address of operator. You could rewrite the matrices
    to be column-major, or to use strides, and you wouldn't break any Matlab
    A Matlab matrix is, in my terminology, an "array" rather than a buffer.
    You can't create one with uninitialised values, at least not easily - there
    might be a hack that allows you to defeat the system in Matlab code
    but I'm not aware of it. So typically Matlab programmers create matrices
    initialised to zeroes, or ones, or the identity matrix, whatever makes
    most sense in context.But all programming languages are fundamentally equivalent. Though
    Matlab sees the matrix as defined object, holding data, not as a buffer,
    we can treat it as a buffer again in higher level code. So we can write a
    Z80 simulator, in Matlab, run the ZX81 ROM on it, which includes a
    Basic interpreter, and implement peek and poke. Now in terms of the
    Z80 simulator, we've got a buffer, not an array.
    Malcolm McLean, May 14, 2014
  7. Bill Cunningham

    James Kuyper Guest

    But no such array object exists yet. I consider this a flaw in the
    standard's definition of pointer arithmetic, not in your example code.
    James Kuyper, May 14, 2014
  8. No, not as stated. As most people use the term "programming language",
    it is, in effect, a definition not a theorem.

    If I present you with a new notation for expressing rote sequences of
    computational steps (let's call it BB/1) and I ask you "is this a
    programming language?" you will want to determine two things about it.
    First, is it Turing complete? Can it express every computation that a
    Turing machine can perform? If it isn't, you won't call it a
    programming language. The second thing you'd do is determine if it is
    Turing equivalent, i.e. that there is no computation it can describe
    that can't be computed by a Turning machine. If it passes both tests,
    BB/1 will be declared to be a programming language.

    Maybe you have some other definition of programming language, in which
    case it might well be a theorem, but it's not one I've come across.

    There are various fundamental theorems about what minimal constructs are
    needed for a notation to be Turing complete, and it is widely believed
    that any practical Turing complete notation would be Turing equivalent
    (that's the Church-Turing thesis) but that's not a theorem.

    Ben Bacarisse, May 14, 2014
  9. Most English speakers can use the term "programming language" perfectly
    competently, and they mean a notation that is used to give instructions
    to computers.
    They might well know that Fortran is designed for numerical programming,
    whilst Snobol is designed for non-numerical problems. Then won't know,
    unless they've done a smidgen of computer science, that any Snobol
    program can be rewritten as a Fortran program, and vice versa. It's not
    obvious that this is the case, and as a practical proposition, often it isn't

    Maths is tautology, ultimately. I'm not a mathematician, and I might lack a
    deep insight into the nature of mathematical proof and what a theorem
    is. But, like most native English speakers, I can use the term "theorem"
    competently enough for general use.
    Malcolm McLean, May 14, 2014
  10. Using that definition what you stated as a theorem is not a theorem.
    There are many notations for giving instructions to computers which are
    not Turing complete (many macro processors (C's for example), regular
    expressions, SQL...). You will, maybe, counter by saying "but most
    people don't consider those as programming languages" which was exactly
    my point. Or maybe you will complain that these don't "run" on
    hardware, but that means that, say, Python is not a programming
    Yes, in that narrow sense I was wrong: the claim that the members of the set
    of even numbers are all divisible by two is a theorem.
    Does the "all programming languages are equivalent" theorem have a name?
    Ben Bacarisse, May 14, 2014
  11. And they managed to work Turing completeness into C++ template notation.
    But most people wouldn't consider the subset of C++ that consists of the
    template system as a "programming language", except in a geeky conversation.

    Things like SQL and regular expressions are marginal cases, also html, a
    lot of people use the term "html programming". So in that sense, the claim
    that "all programming languages are equivalent" was wrong. It extends to the
    core members of the set, and many of the marginal members, but not all
    marginal members. That's commonly the case with natural language. Terms
    denote what computer scientists call "fuzzy sets".
    It follows very simply from Turing equivalence. But that wasn't quite what I
    meant when I first said "all programming languages are equivalent". I meant
    that all popular languages in current use are based on a procedural paradigm
    that allows for loops, integer indices, and so on. All (existing, practical, in
    common use) programming languages are fundamentally equivalent in ways
    that go deeper than Turing equivalency.
    What that means is that the ideas "array" and "buffer" are not tied to C, they
    are language independent. In a straightforwards way for the vast majority
    of languages, and kind of for every language, So "all" is the appropriate word.

    Then we have
    That's a kind of misunderstanding. Structures are essentially independent of the
    implementation details. And it's a deep sort of misunderstanding.
    Malcolm McLean, May 14, 2014
  12. I was not commenting on that. I was commenting on what you said was a
    fundamental theorem of computer science. What is it's conventional
    name? I'd like to know which theorem you were thinking of and I can't
    work that out from what you've said about it.

    [At this point the quoting goes wrong and you attribute to me things that
    other people said so I'll just snip the rest.]
    Ben Bacarisse, May 15, 2014
  13. The conventional name is Turing equivalence. This means that any computing
    device many emulate any other, given only unlimited memory or storage
    space. It follows from that that, given a few conditions, any computer
    language may emulate any other. So all languages have a fundamental

    Now you might object that, if we implement a simple Turing machine with
    a pencil, rubber, read head, and infinite paper tape, we can write a
    C compiler for it, but we can't possibly provide O(constant) time
    access to an array. The fundamental theorem is that all computations
    are at root the same thing. The real observation is that most if not
    all rational, practical, in-use etc programming languages on real,
    existing devices will operate in much the same way. That follows
    from the fundamental theorem, but it's not actually imposed by it.
    Everyone who implements an array is going to calculate a memory
    index then index into it, for example. The array may be broken up,
    it may have strides it it, it may have a layer of indirection under
    it via a hash table. But it's still at bottom going to work in the
    same way.

    If you're going to argue, you have to understand natural language.
    You speak English fluently, probably as first language, so you
    do have an intuitive understanding of language which is good enough
    to discuss technical points. Your understanding is not good
    enough for you to participate competently in a philosophical debate.
    You try to nitpick on the word theorem. "Theorem" means, "something
    which is known form pure logical deduction, as opposed to know
    from observation", in normal usage. It might have a technical
    mathematical definition that I an the normal person is unaware
    of, and you can point that out. But you have to be careful that
    you're not just being a clever dick.
    Similarly "programming language" is a class which has core members
    and marginal members. The word "all" doesn't necessarily cover
    the marginal members of the set, it also excludes some special
    case ("All Britons are subjects of the Queen" - well no, not the
    Queen herself, it doesn't mean that the claim is in any normal
    sense false).

    Now I don't believe you don't know I'm talking about Turing
    equivalence. But what the main thrust of what I was saying
    wasn't a claim about mathematical equivalence. You have to
    understand that the mathematical equivalence is there before
    you can really appreciate what I am saying, however.
    Malcolm McLean, May 15, 2014
  14. Bill Cunningham

    Ian Collins Guest

    Ian Collins, May 15, 2014
  15. "As in elephant, so in E. coli". All biochemistry is fundamentally "the same",
    because all organisms are facing essentially the same problem, and they
    have essentially the same toolset to deal with it.
    It's a similar situation with programming languages. They are bound by
    logical laws rather than physical laws, which gives a limited set of
    fundamental operations. Then, just as all organisms evolved from a common
    ancestor, all processing chips were built by engineers from the same culture,
    using each other's designs. So the "toolkit" is the same.
    Malcolm McLean, May 15, 2014
  16. Turing equivalence is not a theorem, it's a characteristic that a given
    language may or may not have. There might be a theorem that says that a
    given language is Turing equivalent, but I know of no actual theorem
    that says that all languages are Turing equivalent (and in fact there
    could be no such theorem, since not all languages *are* Turing

    I think what you're talking about might be a definition, not a theorem.

    Keith Thompson, May 15, 2014
  17. Bill Cunningham

    James Kuyper Guest

    It's not what the standard defines that's a problem: it's what the
    standard fails to define. It's not a failure to match my model, it's a
    failure by the standard to specify what happens in certain cases. It's
    not just "my" model. Just about everyone has expectations about what
    will happen in those cases, and as far as I know, every compiler I've
    ever used has conformed to those expectations.
    I would have it modified so that it makes sense even when referring to
    pointers that, according to the standard, point at objects that have
    neither a declared type nor an effective type, and which therefore
    cannot, in particular, have an array type. The simplest approach would
    be to specify that there's always an underlying array of char type, and
    to define arithmetic on T* objects in terms of movement though that
    underlying array in steps of sizeof(T).
    It isn't defined at all, formally or not. Adding such a definition would
    resolve the issue I'm talking about, but it has some unfortunate side

    Currently, if you write to a block of dynamically allocated memory using
    an lvalue of float type, it acquires the effective type of 'float'. If
    you subsequently try to read that memory using an lvalue of 'int' type,
    the behavior is undefined (6.5p7). This rule enables optimizations that
    are based upon the assumption that, for example, an lvalue of float type
    never aliases an lvalue of int type. As a result, a function that takes
    a float* argument and an int* argument can read a float value using the
    first pointer, and then write things through the second pointer, and
    never have to worry about having to reload the float value. The int*
    might alias the same memory location as the float*, so that such writes
    might change the value represented when the same memory is read as a
    float. However, the compiler is relieved of the responsibility of
    checking for that possibility, and re-loading the float value, if
    necessary, because 6.5p7 says that it won't be necessary.

    Unions can render such optimizations invalid, but only when the union
    type is in scope, and only for pairs of types both involved in the same
    union. Your approach would have the union always in scope, and since
    it's a universal union, it would affect all possible pairs of object types.
    James Kuyper, May 15, 2014
  18. You're making the same mistake as Ben.

    Of course Turing equivalence is a "theorem". Just as the theorem that
    any two squares are identical part from translation, rotation, and scaling.
    Ok, but what if we're not talking about the Euclidean plane? What about
    Trafalgar square - that's a square, isn't it?

    It becomes tautological. If a computer isn't Turing complete, or if it is
    capable of determining a non-computable function (e.g. if it can use
    natural language), then it's not a "computer". It doesn't mean that
    Turing was saying nothing.
    Malcolm McLean, May 15, 2014
  19. I don't think you are allowed to say that Kiki is wrong.

    Not in this newsgroup.

    BigBusiness types (aka,
    don't hate big government. They *love* big government as a means for
    them to get rich, sucking off the public teat. What they don't like is
    *democracy* - little people actually having the right to vote and stuff
    like that.
    Kenny McCormack, May 15, 2014
  20. Can you give a brief statement of this "theorem"?

    A given language or system either is or is not Turing equivalent.
    A theorem might say that some system or set of systems *are*
    Turing equivalent.

    Using your analogy, "identical to a square apart from translation,
    rotation, and scaling" is not a theorem. "Some particular entity is
    identical ..." or "some set of entities are identical ..." might be a

    You're just misusing the word "theorem", that's all.
    Keith Thompson, May 15, 2014
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