Archive for the ‘golang’ Category

What I learned rewriting old Perl scripts in Go

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

As part of my project to learn the Go programming language, I decided to rewrite some of my old Perl scripts in the newer language to see what was better, if anything was worse or if things stayed the same.

The scripts are not very glamorous, but are useful for my set up. One is for generating scripts that wrap around rsync in order to keep two directories in synch. The other (which is closely related) is for keeping track of which files have been marked for deletion and keeps deleting them if they reappear. Once one starts to copy files back and forth between directories, deleting files becomes a little bit complicated as the file you delete will keep reappearing unless you delete it everywhere. The script I wrote them before Dropbox and the like had come on the scene. I keep them around as I don’t like to have the only copy of my photos and videos in a folder managed by someone else. They are also useful for folders that have too much content to be stored practically in Dropbox, like virtual machine files, and synching folders on servers via SSH.

I have been meaning to update the scripts and change their behaviour for a while, so a rewrite is a good time to ditch some obsolete features. The synch script generator used to be able to generate batch files to run on Windows. Now, it just creates bash scripts. This is fine (for me) as, on Windows, I use Cygwin for rsync, so bash is not a problem for me as a dependency.

Another change is that the script generator used to silently skip generating a script if a file was in its destination. The thinking was that the generated scripts could be considered scaffolding for more capability that could be added by adding to or amending the scripts. The script should not overwrite these changes. Experience, here and elsewhere, has taught me that this is a nightmare to work with. Generated files should be regeneratable at any time. In light of this, the generated scripts are marked with a warning comment at the top saying that they have been autogenerated and are blasted out of the way when the program is run again, potentially as part of a scheduled task.

The script generation program is at:

https://github.com/robert-impey/generate-synch-scripts

The second program is for making sure that files stay deleted when two folders are synched as described above. This had been at

https://github.com/robert-impey/stay-deleted

However, as the project grew and I need to move code to more than one file I learned that package names in Go should not contain punctuation, so I started a fresh project and moved my code there:

https://github.com/robert-impey/staydeleted

My new version of the program is working correctly. I’ve also added a few new features like deleting old metadata files and an option to run repeatedly at random times, which is useful for running as a scheduled task.

The most immediate advantage that I have found for this script is the ease of distributing a binary generated by the Go compiler. The nature of the software requires that the program runs on every computer in the system, for my set up that includes Windows, macOS and Linux. Getting a perl script with a few library dependencies to run on all those computers was a pain. With Go, it’s been trivial so far.

In order to have a more modern command-line interface, my program now uses spf13’s Cobra library:

https://github.com/spf13/cobra

This has forced me to reorganize my code to some extent. This has been a good thing. However, I’m still very much at the beginning of my Go learning journey. Whilst the program works; the code is a bit of a mess. I’m not sure how to apply the clean code principles (such as SOLID) that I use in my day job writing C# to Go. Perhaps this is one of the main advantages of aiming to be a polyglot developer. Everyone should aim to write readable code in every language. We discuss and come to an agreement about design principles to do with how to use the language’s features in order to make code more readable. When one moves to a new language, you might not know how the language goes about implementing those features or those features don’t exist. What happens then to those design principles? Can they be reformulated for the new language?

Duplicated Line Finding in Go

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

I’m learning to read, write and understand Go at the moment:

https://golang.org/

As part of this, I am reading “The Go Programming Language” by Donovan and Kernighan and completing the exercises in it.

In the first tutorial chapter, there are samples of code for detecting duplicated lines in text files. The technique put forward by book is to use a map of strings to integers, where the key is the line and the value is the count. The programs simply loop over the lines and increment the value for the current line in the map.

An exercise that is left for the reader is adapt one of the existing sample programs to read several files and print the names of the files that contain each duplicated line.

The first problem to overcome is that the names of the files have not be recorded as the input files are being processed. This means that when we come to print the data that we have collected, we have lost that information.

My first approach was to add a map of strings to string slices. The idea was to add the file name to the string slice for that line as each line is read. This works in the sense that we have the list of file names for each line that is duplicated. However, the list of file names will contain duplicates itself if a line is duplicated in a file. I could wrap the code to append the new file name in an “if” statement and check whether that item is already there. However, checking whether a slice contains an item is O(n), which sounds like too much unnecessary work. I needed data structure that discards duplicates so that each item is unique. One way to do this is to use the keys of a map of strings to integers as the values that you wish to keep unique and increment the values of the map.

I created the following map of strings to maps of strings to ints:

lineCountsInFiles := make(map[string]map[string]int)

and incremented the values as simply as:

lineCountsInFiles[line][filename]++

One gotcha that I ran into during execution was that the nested map also needs to be initialized before we can increment the value:

if lineCountsInFiles[line] == nil {
    lineCountsInFiles[line] = make(map[string]int)
}

This caught me because we can increment a value in a map of strings to ints without any initialization as the int has default value that be incremented:

counts[line]++

Once the files have been processed, we have a map from the lines in all the files to a map from the names of the files in which they appear to the counts of each line in that file.

Putting everything together looks like this:

// Prints the counts, lines and names of files where
// a line is duplicated
package main
 
import (
    "bufio"
    "fmt"
    "os"
)
 
func main() {
    counts := make(map[string]int)
    lineCountsInFiles := make(map[string]map[string]int)
 
    for _, filename := range os.Args[1:] {
        f, err := os.Open(filename)
        if err != nil {
            fmt.Fprintf(os.Stderr, "Problem reading %v: %v\n", filename, err)
            continue
        }
        input := bufio.NewScanner(f)
        for input.Scan() {
            line := input.Text()
            counts[line]++
            if lineCountsInFiles[line] == nil {
                lineCountsInFiles[line] = make(map[string]int)
            }
            lineCountsInFiles[line][filename]++
        }
        f.Close()
    }
 
    for line, n := range counts {
        if n > 1 {
            fmt.Printf("%d, %v\n", n, line)
            for filename, count := range lineCountsInFiles[line] {
                fmt.Printf("\t%d,%v\n", count, filename)
            }
        }
    }
}

Which is saved here:

https://github.com/robert-impey/CodingExperiments/blob/master/Go/dup-with-names.go

For files like:

apples
coconuts
apples
bananas
apples
bananas

https://raw.githubusercontent.com/robert-impey/CodingExperiments/master/Go/duplicated-fruit.txt

and

apples

https://raw.githubusercontent.com/robert-impey/CodingExperiments/master/Go/more-duplicated-fruit.txt

The output might be something like:

C:\Users\Robert\code\CodingExperiments\Go>dup-with-names.exe duplicated-fruit.txt more-duplicated-fruit.txt
4, apples
        3,duplicated-fruit.txt
        1,more-duplicated-fruit.txt
2, bananas
        2,duplicated-fruit.txt

I write “might be” as the order that keys are retrieved from maps is deliberately undefined.

There are probably lots of ways to solve this problem. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Have you celebrated Baegil yet?

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

A Korean friend asked my wife if our son had celebrated Baegil or 100 days yet. Not being familiar with the celebration, we said that we hadn’t kept track of the days since his birth. I decided to write a little program in Go in order to check what day of one’s life one is currently on.

The program should take the subject’s date of birth as a string from the first command argument. This was simple enough for me to decide against using the flags package and check the command line arguments directly:

if len(os.Args) == 1 {
    os.Stderr.WriteString("Please tell me your date of birth!\n")
} else {
...
}

I wanted to save programming effort and avoid reinventing the square wheel by using a library for handling the dates. The time package from the standard library can represent times and parse strings to time structs.

The time package has a peculiar (but easy to grok) way of specifying date layouts for formatting. Rather than %Y, %h, %s and so on from the standard C library and its descendants, in Go a fixed date where days are 1 and months are 2 and so on is used. So, to parse dates such as “2016-06-20” or “1980-10-28”, we need:

var layout = "2006-01-02"
var dateOfBirth, dOBParseError = time.Parse(layout, os.Args[1])

Full details can be found on this blog post:

https://pauladamsmith.com/blog/2011/05/go_time.html

Of course, a user of the program might not enter a parseable date string, so we need a little bit more error handling:

if dOBParseError != nil {
    fmt.Fprintf(os.Stderr, "Unable to parse your date of birth: %s\n", dOBParseError)
} else {
...
}

Once we have a date of birth, we can perform our arithmetic. The time package has a Since(...) method that can give you the duration of time since a given time struct:

var age = time.Since(dateOfBirth)

For a simple program like this, methods like Since are more convenient than creating a date object of the current time and comparing the given time to it. However, this does create an issue when testing code that does anything to do with time. If your code makes direct use of the system’s clock, your functions are impure as the same input won’t always return the same output. How do you test that a given input produces the correct output? Such tests would only pass at specific times on a given date. The purely functional way to do this is to write your business logic handling functions to accept all the used time objects already created, so that appropriate mocks can be passed in during tests without calling any methods that get data from the system’s clock. Another approach is the override the methods that call the system’s clock so that they return a set time in the test. This is called monkey patching. I’ve heard of people even setting the system clock during the test, but this is likely to have unforeseen consequences, especially on a shared build server.

The time package defines an Hours function for Duration structs but not one for days. A quick and dirty solution to this is the divide the number of hours by 24 and floor the result:

var ageInDays = math.Floor(age.Hours() / 24)

This makes the assumption that every day has exactly 24 hours. What about leap seconds? A person might have a few leap seconds during a lifetime. What if this program is run within a few seconds of midnight? The result might be different from the true result. As we are not using the precise time of birth and are flooring the number of days anyway, this is not too much of a concern. However, if really precise maths is needed or you using the components of one time struct to create a new time struct, inaccuracies can creep into your code. The fun really begins when you need to handle issues like leap years, time zones and seasonal time adjustments. If I ran this code in San Francisco in Winter for someone who was born in Sydney during Daylight Saving Time, would the result be accurate? A more fully developed version of this program would probably use a library to handle the mind boggling complexity of time tracking in the real world.

Another issue to consider is off by one errors. I’m flooring the number of days in order to say, “days since”. If I enter today’s date, I will get 0 as the subject’s age has not reached one day yet. This might be confusing to someone expecting 1 on the first day and so on. How ages are reckoned changes among different cultures. How Koreans consider their ages is surprising to many foreigners.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Asian_age_reckoning#Korean

Koreans celebrate Baegil on the 100th day, so we would expect the program to return 99 on the appropriate day. A programmatic solution to this might be add 1 to the result and change the wording. Programmers need to consider the audience of their programs carefully and gather requirements fully.

Obviously, you can’t be born in the future and still use the program, so we need a bit more user input checking:

if ageInDays < 0 {
    os.Stderr.WriteString("Wow! I must be talking to a foetus!\n")
} else {
    ...
}

If we’ve made it this far, we can now print the age in days:

fmt.Printf("Days old: %.0f\n", ageInDays)

Putting it all together, this is my program:

package main
 
import (
    "fmt"
    "math"
    "os"
    "time"
)
 
func main() {
    if len(os.Args) == 1 {
        os.Stderr.WriteString("Please tell me your date of birth!\n")
    } else {
        var layout = "2006-01-02"
        var dateOfBirth, dOBParseError = time.Parse(layout, os.Args[1])
 
        if dOBParseError != nil {
            fmt.Fprintf(os.Stderr, "Unable to parse your date of birth: %s\n", dOBParseError)
        } else {
            var age = time.Since(dateOfBirth)
            var ageInDays = math.Floor(age.Hours() / 24)
 
            if ageInDays < 0 {
                os.Stderr.WriteString("Wow! I must be talking to a foetus!\n")
            } else {
                fmt.Printf("Days old: %.0f\n", ageInDays)
            }
        }
    }
}

Entering my son’s date of birth, I see that we still have a couple of days to go:

$ ./daysOld 2016-06-20
Days old: 97

The source code can be found at:

https://github.com/robert-impey/CodingExperiments/blob/master/Go/daysOld.go

Coin Flips with Go

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Following on from my little experiment with flipping coins millions of times, I thought that it would be interesting to write the same program in Go for comparison.

func main() {
    rand.Seed(time.Now().UTC().UnixNano())
 
    var competitionSize, runs int
    flag.IntVar(&competitionSize, "competitionSize", 10, "The size of each coin tossing competition.")
    flag.IntVar(&runs, "runs", 10, "The number of runs of the competition")
 
    flag.Parse()
 
    fmt.Println("heads, tails, flips")
    for i := 0; i < runs; i++ {
        countHeads := 0
        for j := 0; j < competitionSize; j++ {
            countHeads += rand.Intn(2)
        }
 
        fmt.Printf("%d, %d, %d\n", countHeads, competitionSize-countHeads, competitionSize)
    }
}

The basic idea of how to write the program is unchanged in this language. The output showed a similar distribution to the C# program.

However, Go has straightforward command line arguments parsing built into the standard library (like Python or Perl). In C#, there are a number of third party libraries that do this that can be installed via NuGet. I went with Command Line Parser.

To use this, I needed to add a class with properties with attributes to describe my expected options:

class Options
{
    // Taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/eu_referendum/results
    [Option('s', "competitionSize", DefaultValue = 33551983, HelpText = "The size of each coin tossing competition.")]
    public int CompetitionSize { get; set; }
 
    [Option('r', "runs", DefaultValue = 1000, HelpText = "The number of runs of the competition")]
    public int Runs { get; set; }
}

The command line arguments are then parsed in the main method:

var commandLineArgs = new Options();
if (Parser.Default.ParseArguments(args, commandLineArgs))
{
    var runs = commandLineArgs.Runs;
    var flips = commandLineArgs.CompetitionSize;
    ...
}
else
{
    WriteLine("Unable to parse the command line arguments!");
}

While this is not difficult to understand, it is more complicated than it needs to be and requires quite a bit more typing than in the Go program.

10 runs of the referendum simulation in both programs on Windows 10 with an Intel i7 4500U running at 1.8GHz took 7 seconds for the C# program and 13 seconds for the Go program. I wouldn’t take such simple programs very seriously for drawing conclusions about the relative speed of these languages.

The updated C# program and the complete Go program are on GitHub:
https://github.com/robert-impey/CodingExperiments/blob/master/C-Sharp/CoinFlipsAreRandom/CoinFlipsAreRandom/Program.cs
https://github.com/robert-impey/CodingExperiments/blob/master/Go/coinToss.go