Code like an idiot


Hmm. No matter how good you are at programming, developers will still put bugs in their programs. Including me. Lost a couple of hours today because of this little beauty.

if ((tickCount % lights[i].colourSpeed)!=0 || lights[i].colourSpeed==0)

This code has been working inside HullOS for a couple of years. No problems. However, when I tried to port the code onto a Wemos device it kept crashing with an invalid instruction message.

Wah. The idea is that the code will exit if is not time to update the colour animation (tick count is not an exact multiple of colourSpeed) or if no animation is being performed (colourSpeed is zero). 

It took me a while to figure out what was happening. Turns out this code is wrong, but under some circumstances it will work perfectly well. 

It's all to do with the % (modulus) operator. This gives the remainder that you get if you divide one number by another (or example 7 % 4 would be 3). If the modulus is zero that we have an exact multiple on our hands. So, every time tickCount reaches the next multiple of colourSpeed the program will perform an update. 

Snag is that I've been stupid, in that I use a colourSpeed value of 0 to mean that the light is not being updated. And the behaviour of a C++ program when you do x % 0 is undefined. In other words, any number modulus zero is a stupid question to ask.

To make things worse the fact that I'm doing this bad thing as one half of an or expression means that, depending on the whim of the compiler, the modulus calculation may not get evaluated when colourSpeed is zero. If the code produced by the compiler does the test for zero before the modulus my program works. If the tests are done the other way round the program explodes.

It's an easy fix, just break the single test into two tests so that I control the order they are performed:

if (lights[i].colourSpeed == 0)
if ((tickCount % lights[i].colourSpeed) != 0 )

Now we never use the value of 0 in a modulus expression.  

Oh well, just goes to show that you can learn stuff by doing stuff.....