[FRPythoneers] Re: [lug] MEAS Data file format

David dajo at frii.com
Wed Aug 16 12:54:36 MDT 2000


First let me write that I hope that this endeavour is highly
successful for you.  The negative stuff that follows is meant to be
devil's advocate rantings.

I suspect that, in the long run, this effort will be less than you
would like it to be.  People have been trying to standardise (computer
stuff) for 50 years, and they still are doing it EVEN AT the national
standards organisation!

The problem you alluded to in your first posting:
   have tried to make this simple so that it has a chance of being used by
   someone who would normally just create a row and column set of data.
The value of peoples' "give a !beep!" coefficient varies enormously
and I doubt that you will be able to achieve standards adherence to
the degree required to make this really work.

I think that you have done the easy bit, although what you have done
will work nicely for up to, say, four people.  The hard work you have
not mentioned.  Some other people may be actually destructive, but,
ignoring them, also you will have misteaks or well-intentioned
misunderstandings, and, of course, the all-important "gotta get it
done now!" and lack of willingness to correct errors "just to make it
fit that system".  All of these things will cause problems with
smooth-running, so then you will need a system administrator as things
get bigger.  Whether or not mis-match problems actually MATTER I do
not know; but if they do not matter why are you doing it?

Here are a few questions that come to mind immediately, that is, as
fast as I can type them.

** Why are some keywords terminated with a colon and some with a
space, or perhaps a linefeed?

** What does a blank line mean?

** What happens when a user uses commas instead of spaces to separate
STANDARDS, as you did?
#FILENAME: stdsdat
#STANDARDS:   814211, 814212, 814214

** Why have two kinds of comment? # and #COMMENT

* You might have problems with all-numeric dates if you try
  international data exchange.  Is the Fourth of July represented as
  4-7-yy or 7-4-yy?  I choose this particular date intentionally, if
  you do not get it read the sentence very carefully.  New Year's day
  is easy because it is the same in each system - or is that a

As I wrote at the beginning, I wish you luck; but, then, I believe in
formats, conventions, no literals in code, comments in code, software
engineering, formalisms, etc.  Those who are anti-intellectual deny
the need for such things

Here are my two suggestions.

* Write a grammar for your data file format (you do not need to admit
  to anyone that you did it).  A grammar will aid you ENORMOUSLY as
  you proceed later.  You will need to parse things, you will need to
  handle errors, you will need to define semantics, you will need to
  make enhancements without messing-up what has gone before.  If you
  believe that a grammar is not necessary, perhaps because what you
  are suggesting is too simple for that, then see my comment above
  about anti-intellectualism in computing.

* I have no idea how practical this is in your setting.  But you might
  consider an alternative (actually an addition) to defining a
  file-format: provide a library of (object-oriented?) functions that
  enable people to write your standard files without even knowing that
  they are doing it.  If the calls are dead-easy, you might find that
  people use the functions because it is even simpler than writing
  code that creates a flat file.  This approach clearly implies an
  adminstrator (i.e., the code maintainer - for *all* the languages
  that might be used); but, equally, enables fearsome quality control
  to satisfy your other objectives.

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