Re: Garbage Collection - The Trash Begins To Pile Up

"James Kanze" <>
4 Jan 2007 16:32:35 -0500
Le Chaud Lapin wrote:

The same is happening to programming. I do not believe for a second
that a person who does not exercise the discipline traditionally
required of an engineer will be able to build non-trivial systems of
good integrity.

You seem to forget that an important aspect of engineering is
cost (and time to delivery). Anything which reduces cost
without compromizing quality is good. Thus, garbage collection
is good, since it measurably reduces cost, and in addition has a
positive effect on quality as well.

And I do believe that the vast majority of the
engineers who crave GC (in any language) fail to see that, even with
perfect GC, the *mentality* that lead them toward GC in the first place
is will still be present,

Of course the mentality that led me toward garbage collection is
still present. I haven't stopped wanting to reduce cost and
improve quality just because I have garbage collection.

and therefore, even in a perfectly GCed
system, I would *still* be interested in taking a look at their
concoction. I think it would have been hard for such engineers to
build reliable systems to start with,

Most of the systems I've worked on run 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week, for years. In many cases, there are conventional
penalties for down time (something around 5000 Euro per minute
is typical). In others, there is a contractual requirement of
no more than 3.5 sec. downtime per year. And in at least one
case (a locomotive brake system), every failure was
investigated, with possible charges of criminal negligence.

It's because I work on such systems that I'm such a fan of
garbage collection. Anything which increases the reliability of
my code (which garbage collection provably does, because it
increases typesafety) is good, and anything which solves one
problem means more time to analyse the other problems, and avoid
errors there.

and that GC, (like XML was for a
while), is the silver-bullet of the moment.

You are the only person I hear claiming that GC is a silver
bullet. All of the proponents I know are shouting just the
opposite, that is solves one (and only one) problem. Such
statements on your part give the impression that you don't have
any real arguments to present against garbage collection, so you
have to invent them.


I am not sure that this is how things will play out in software
engineering. As mentioned, the material cost of a bad software is

You're kidding. The material cost of errors in the software I
write can be exceedingly high.

If a software engineer speculates about something, tries it and
is wrong, nothing burns. Nothing explodes. There is no recall from
distributing a defective product.

You've got to be kidding. Let an error creep into an ABS brake
system, and you'll see have fast there will be a recall.

Of course, brake systems are a bit special; at that level, you
don't use dynamic memory, period. But even with the other
programs I work on, a programming error can be expensive.

I don't know where you get your impressions about what software
does, or how it is developped, but they certainly don't
correspond to what I see.

James Kanze (GABI Software)
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