Zero Tolerance Essay

793 words - 3 pages

This week I picked up some code from a colleague for review. To me, part and parcel of the review process is rebuilding the code - I want to check that I get the same hex (i.e., output) file as has been checked in to our version control system for release. And sure enough, this time I did.

But I also got 16 warning messages. The compiler spat out a variety of messages, including warnings of integer truncation, and what looked like notes the developer had written to himself - "This could be done faster with pointers" and the like.

What did this mean? Was I using a different compiler version than the developer? Was my version smarter about flagging potential coding errors? It seemed unlikely, as I got the same hex file. This almost certainly indicated that we were using the same compiler. Also, there was the matter or all those notes-to-self. Those were clearly there for a reason. How did he know it would be faster with pointers? Presumably he'd coded that up to test it, as otherwise he couldn't know that it would be faster? If he had, and it was, why hadn't he used it?

I spent a while scratching my head over this before going to see the developer. "Oh yeah, I had a look at those, the real warnings are all fine. Nothing to worry about. And the others are just reminders to myself.". And the comments about pointers and the like? "It's always faster to do that code with pointers, I just didn't have the time. That's just a reminder in case I look at this again."

Well, that was fine for him, as he'd written the code. But at some point somebody else was going to look at it. Maybe a customer would report a bug, and a colleague would be assigned to fixing it. Maybe we'd want to add some new features. Maybe we'd want to use this code as the basis for another product with similar functionality. Or maybe, as in this case, a reviewer would pick up the code.

In all of these scenarios, Joe Bloggs engineer would pick up some allegedly working code, hit build, be faced with a screenful of warnings, and freeze like a rabbit trapped in headlights. Hampered as he would be by a lack of...

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