Assert Idea

assert(...) is a macro in C. That's a BadThing.

Assertions are about testing a boolean condition, and flaming out if the condition is false. It's essentially a way of embedding a unit test in your product, which runs every time.

People can write "assert(x=5);" which has the unintended effect of only setting the value of x when debugging is turned on.

Option one: ShipWithAssertionsOn.

Option two: Declare that calculating an assertion should not access a volatile variable or write to memory outside the stack frame of the assertion. Call these functions side-effect free (SEF).

Option three: DontDoThat.

Only problem is that you suddenly have to know, for everything, whether it writes outside its stack frame. This is an insoluble problem in the general case.

A reasonable solution is to limit the set of assertions to what is obviously SEF. Many functions are obviously SEF. Many of those which are SEF, but not obviously SEF, can be re-written to be more obvious.

This doesn't cover the "assertion smashes stack" problem, but that's rare in practice.

It's a big pain to make the toolchain keep track of what is proven side-effect free. Still, it's probably useful for people who must program at the level where assertions are really useful in the first place. Beyond that, there are UnitTests. This is, indeed, probably the correct boundary for those who insist on using assertions at all.

Several compilers (including GNU C -- ) use the pure keyword to indicate that a function is side-effect-free.

They throw a warning/error if a function with the pure tag directly calls any function that does not have the pure tag. (Indirect calls are caught when that other function is compiled).

It's a big pain to make the toolchain keep track of what is proven side-effect free.

I don't see why. It doesn't seem any more difficult than, say, making sure all the arguments in a function call have the the right types as defined in the function prototype.

Of course, adding the pure tag to a function can be a hassle. You have to track down all the functions it calls and add the pure tag to them, then all the functions *they* call. Reminds me of the const ripple effect (ConstIsaVirus).


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