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The Source Code Challenge

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I managed to find a bit of free time to get back to my Jpeg2000 decoder this week. Unfortunately it's so long since I last worked on it I've lost track of where I was. I did have lots of notes, but the source code is so impenetrable it would still take me a while to get back up to speed. I say "would". Instead I found another open source Jpeg2000 codec, this time written in Java. Hopefully between the two sources I've be able to get a more solid grasp on the format and accelerate my progress. I keep wondering whether I ought to just buy a copy of the spec.

Because two major concurrent projects isn't enough I also keep getting distracted by other random issues. This week I decided to look into parsing. I've written parsers before, even a very simple parser generator. I've also used Boost.Spirit a few times (and I'd love to learn how to use it better, maybe something to get distracted by some other month). This time however I decided to forget everything I new and research from scratch. It's funny what you can learn when you do this. I didn't research in too much depth, but it didn't take me too long to come across Parsing Expression Grammars (PEGs) and Packrat parsers, neither of which I remember coming across before.

I'm not completely sold on Packrat parsing - it looks great for simple parsing but not so good for more complex parsing due to the complexity of changing state - but Parsing Expression Grammars seem really useful. I quickly hacked together a simple recursive descent parser for mathematical expressions, along with a generator using an equivalent grammar. After getting the parser working I spent a bit of time working on error handling, for which some of the details mentioned in the Packrat parser paper I was reading were very useful. All-in-all it was an interesting diversion and next time I need a parser I'll have a slightly better foundation to start from.

Finally, I present you with The Source Code Challenge(TM). If you remember (assuming anyone actually reads this drivel regularly) a few weeks ago I was freeing up hard drive space to install Medieval II: Total War. I vaguely wondered at the time how much of my hard disk was filled with source code. This week I decided to find out. The Source Code Challenge(TM) is for you to do the same. The target to beat is 27 505 files (.c, .cpp, .h & .hpp) or 537 175 479 bytes (512MB!). Admittedly a large proportion of that come from six compilers with attendant include folders, plus boost, but it's still an awful lot of source code!

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Boost.Spirit is fueled by baby kittens fed through a ricer then distilled with wine made from the juices of hundreds of pure innocent virgins. That's all you really need to know about it. That, and the fact that looking at the implementation will burn your eyes out.

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