Algorithms are a Computer Programmer's best friend

Dennis Faas's picture

After typing up some heavy-duty Gazette articles this week, I thought I'd take a break and just shoot the breeze.

Yeah, yesterday's article was pretty hardcore. I kind of figured that it would be over the head of some readers... but maybe that's the kind of stuff you need to appreciate.

Hey, I never understood everything while I was at the University of Windsor as a Computer Science undergraduate. My biggest problem when learning / reading new information was accepting the fact that I didn't understand it.

It's hard to visualize things that you don't understand. Eventually I just accepted that this was something that I needed to learn and to try my best to incorporate it in the big mess of information already swimming inside my mind.

Anyway, as for what is happening on the Infopackets website:

I am about 90% complete the Gazette "table-of-contents-generating program" that I've been working on. Actually, since the last time I talked about it, I completely re-wrote the program using a different algorithm.

A what? An algorithm?

An algorithm is a fancy word used to describe a method. For example: you can create an algorithm for describing how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Something like:

  • Get off the chair
  • Walk to the kitchen
  • Grab a some bread
  • Get some peanut butter and jelly
  • Grab a knife
  • Spread the peanut butter on the bread
  • Spread the jelly on top of the peanut butter
  • That is a sample algorithm for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

    Good computer programmers (people who write programs / software that you use) will sit down and write an algorithm before they actually start to write the program. I can't say that I've ever followed this methodology * all the time * but I can tell you it makes life simpler when there is a big task to do.

    Anyway, I rewrote Gazette "table-of-contents-generating program".

    It works a lot better because this time I used an algorithm, rather than "programming as I go". If using the latter method, you can end up with a big mess of computer code and it makes it difficult to change things around. That's why I ended up rewriting my table-of-contents-generating program.

    By the way, I've come up with an official name for the program. It's called Why gupdate? Well, it's a Gazette Updating program. The .PL extension is for PERL, which the program was written in.

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