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From: Andy Little (andy_at_[hidden])
Date: 2006-06-07 08:15:15

Hi David,

"David A. Greene" wrote
> I've been waiting in anticipation of pqs for some time. I've had to
> work with dimensioned values several times and could really have used
> the compile-time checking pqs offers. It is also, IMHO, one of the
> best practical examples of template metaprogramming.
> - Please always explicitly state in your review, whether you think the
> library should be accepted into Boost.
> I'm disappointed that for now, I would have to reject the library from
> Boost. I definitely want to see this library make it in but there is
> one big drawback that's a showstopper for me. Everything is based on
> powers of 10. More on this below.
> There are also some improvements I'd like to see that I don't consider
> showstoppers. I'll comment on those below as well.
> - What is your evaluation of the design?
> The everyday user interface is fine. The myriad of concepts and
> classes to model them can be overwhelming, however. This might be
> addressed with better documentation.

Yep. I hope I can address that, firstly by changing the layout.

> I don't understand the t1_quantity name. It doesn't convey any useful
> information to me. It needs a better name.

OK. I'm working on it ... !

> Unit naming:
> pqs::length::m - Can we also have pqs::length::meter & metre?
> (Can always typedef this, I suppose)

There have been a couple of requests for this. (BTW meter is acceptable by the
SI , but metre is not IIRC.)
The longer names work ok for units such as meters, but:


is quite a handful, while:

   acceleration::millimeters_div_seconds_squared acc;

is a real handful compared with:

  acceleration::mm_div_s2 acc;

> pqs::velocity::m_div_s - m_per_s? I know this is discussed in
> the documentation but again, typedefs
> might be nice to have.

The use of 'div' is meant to stand in for 'divided by' as laid down in 'The
Guide for the international System of Units' section 7.12.

I'm open to changing the rules by which these typedefs are formed, but I would
prefer a consensus around one scheme, on grounds that two entities meaning the
same thing is never a good idea, also bearing in mind that it needs to be
useable over a wide range of various units as shown above.

> Output:
> 1 kg.m+2.s-2 - What does this mean? It wasn't clear to me when
> I first saw it. Why not use ^ or ** for power?

Again if there is a consensus I will add it but I guess I figured that it was
redundant. Does it aid comprehensibility? :

1 kg.m^+2.s^-2

If it does I am happy to use it.

BTW The output above is that of a so-called 'anonymous quantity'. The concepts
of named and anonymous quantities are an answer to a problem that you dont
recognise until you start delving into the mysteries of units, namely that two
or more quantities can have the same dimension. This happens in the case of
torque and energy for example. If assigned to a named_quantity output is
sometimes better:

1 kg.m+2.s-2 // anonymous quantity
1 J //energy
1 N.m //torque

> Why even have the concept of a prefix_offset? It seems unnecessarily
> confusing to me. Why does mass default to kg rather than g? If these
> special cases are really needed, then the documentation needs to
> explain why. Otherwise, I would prefer that everything work similarly
> to reduce complexity.

The kilogram rather than the gramme is a base unit in the SI. I think that the
history has to do with the emergence of the SI system from the C.G.S system.
Presumably they decided that the gramme from the C.G.S system was too small a
unit, the mystery then being why C.G.S used centimeters in the first place.
Whatever. I agree the whole thing is a logicians nightmare. I'm just the

> The big problem with the design is the assumption that every quantity
> prefix is based on a power of 10. That's fine for SI units but my
> hope is that pqs will go beyond just SI. It already does with the
> incoherent_units so there is some precedent here.

The major issue..

> Even before pqs was put up for formal review, I had planned to make
> use of it in some computer simulator work that I'm doing. The ability
> to create units like Megabytes and Mibibytes would help tremendously.
> Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to create a unit that uses
> prefixes that are powers of 2. It might be ok to "fake" it if the
> calculations always stayed within one system (Mibibytes, Kibibytes,
> etc.) but as soon as one wants to convert Mibibytes to Megabytes it
> falls apart.

OK. Firstly I should point out that bytes and their units arent physical
quantities and so according to my self imposed rules re PQS, I ( and the SI)
dont cover them under physical quantities. Second as far as I know the binary
prefixes arent intended to apply to physical quantities but are only for use in
the so-called 'electrotechnology' field.:

Unfortunately I dont know whether the relevent standards bodies have plans to
change that or not.

However in its raw form , it is possible to use the library to model other
entities than physical quantities. The assignment of a particular base dimension
to one of the fields in the dimension is arbitrary really and you could use the
core of the library for your own purposes. I should show an example of this type
of use. The problem is that you need to add all your own functionality and that
is the major work.

Having said that I will look into how feasible it is to enable the use of
alternate units. I could probably tighten the use of base 10 to the particular
unit type and uses a traits scheme to allow other bases to be used.

> If this can already be done, I'd be overjoyed to be corrected. But I
> could not puzzle it out from the documentation or a cursory look
> through the implementation.

No. You are correct. Its hard wired currently.

> This is a big gap for me and prevents the use of pqs in most of the
> day-to-day work that I do.
> There's also the question of what base_dimension these would fit
> under. "Amount of substance?" It would be nice to be able to extend
> the types of base_dimension but I recognize that this could be very
> difficult given the design of pqs::meta::dimension and classes that
> depend on it.

As stated above, once out of the realm of physical quantities its up to you what
you assign the base dimensions too.
I would guess you would certainly need two base quantities, time and bytes to
start with.
I could provide the ability to customise the number of available dimension
'slots' via a macro. This might speed compilation for users that regularly only
use length, mass, and time for example.

> - What is your evaluation of the implementation?
> I did not thoroughly review the implementation, just glanced at it to
> answer some questions. Obviously it does not seem to fulfill my
> requirements as I stated above. I suspect it will be a bit of work to
> introduce the new flexibility.

Maybe :-)

The primary goal is to stay squarely inside the SI framework and cover that
ground comprehensively That is a huge project in itself, however I will see how
easy it is to customise the units base.

> - What is your evaluation of the documentation?
> This needs a lot of work. It seems to assume a deep understanding of
> SI standards and terminology (beyond the unit names and what they
> mean) and introduces lots of terms itself (abstract_quantity,
> named_quantity, concrete_quantity, etc.). The presentation is
> overwhelming.

As discussed before, I think moving the definition of terms to the back of the
docs will go a good way to solve this.

> Some specific suggestions:
> In the introduction section, we have the following statements about
> rationale:
> Increases programmer satisfaction
> What does this mean, exactly? It's very vague and subjective.

I guess it is subjective, as its from experience. Before using PQS I remember
shuffling back and forth between docs and source files trying to rmemeber what
units variable x was in.

> enhances productivity
> How, apart from other rationales given?

Again it saves time because the type rather than docs contains more information.

 My suggestion would be
> to organize the rationale like this:

> * Increases programmer satisfaction and enhances productivity.
> * Strong type checking enforces dimensional integrity, catching
> calculation errors at compile time.
> * Automated unit conversion reduces drudgery.
> * Self documenting, helps code clarity.

OK. That sort of makes sense :-)

> This is done better in the Rationale section itself. Make the
> presentation in these two sections similar in structure.


> The ERD was confusing to me. Can this be drawn in UML or a
> close-to-some-standard way?

OK. I will need to figure that out. My knowledge of UML is pretty much
non-existent currently.

> Reading through the documentation, one is confronted with the
> ginormous definitions page almost right away. I'd prefer to see some
> simple examples of use first. The "Getting started" page is a good
> start, but would be improved by removing references to the more
> esoteric terms. Those can come later. The definitions page itself
> needs many more code examples (for example, for named_quantity). It
> took me a long time to begin to understand what these terms really
> mean and I'm still not all the way there yet.

The intent was that the reader would ignore this section after acknowledging it
there. Unfortunately the layout wasnt as I visualised it and the reader
obviously doesnt do what I thought they would!

> I found the colored links to the terms all over the documentation to
> be distracting. It really interrupted the flow of the text. It would
> be better to make these links that look like ordinary text but are
> highlighted/underlined when the cursor moves over them. The links
> need to be there but they should be less intrusive.

OK. I would guess that is a CSS issue.

> Typos (fixes in brackets):
> [t1_quantity features]
> The t1_quantity has many similar features to an [a] built-in type...
> Where used the type returned by typeof will not[neither] be a
> reference nor have cv-qualifiers.
> [abstract_quantity_id]
> The abstract_quantity_id has two roles, the first of which is to
> distinguish between different but dimensionally_equivalent[ ]
> abstract_quantities.
> [Unary operations example]
> [c]ondition_true
> [Addition and subtraction]
> If one type has a coherent_unit and the other has an incoherent_unit
> the operand with the incoherent_unit will first be converted to a
> t1_quantity in the nearest coherent_unit( simply found by setting the
> incoherent_unit[']s[ ]unit_multiplier to 1)
> [unit_output_symbol]
> A text symbol representing the unit[ ]of a concrete_quantity in
> stream output.
> [Lots of these missing spaces, underscores and first letters of
> example code through the documentation. Too many to enumerate.]
> [Stream output overview]
> The output of units for stream output functions for t1_quantities
> resolves to 3[three] output formats

OK. I will have a good comb through the docs.

> - What is your evaluation of the potential usefulness of the library?
> Very. IMHO strong typing is essential when designing large systems.
> - Did you try to use the library? With what compiler? Did you have
> any problems?
> I was going to do some experiments to create my own quantities as
> described above, but I could not figure out how to do it, so I did not
> do any testing.
> - How much effort did you put into your evaluation? A glance? A quick
> reading? In-depth study?
> In-depth reading of the documentation with a clear idea of how I wanted
> to extend the framework. Unfortunately, I discovered that I could not
> do what I'd hoped to accomplish.
> - Are you knowledgeable about the problem domain?
> In the same way most scientists and engineers are. I'm certainly no
> authority on the formal SI standards. I do have a large amount of
> experience in computer simulation and have run into the need for this
> kind of package for "computer units" over and over. It would be nice
> to have a package that went beyond the SI and its rigid assumptions.

I will look into the possibility of customising base used by units and see if I
can provide an example of using the library outside the SI.

Thanks for the review.

Andy Little

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