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Introduction to Perl 5.10 for Unix System Administrators

(Perl 5.10 without excessive complexity)

by Dr Nikolai Bezroukov

Contents : Foreword : Ch01 : Ch02 : Ch03 : Ch04 : Ch05 : Ch06 : Ch07 : Ch08 :

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Ch. 6 Subroutines and Functions

Version 0.86


The art of decomposition of a program into a set of functions is a pretty tricky are. One of the first discussion belongs to Parnas. He tried to demonstrate that it is almost always incorrect to begin the decomposition of a system into modules on the basis of a flowchart or program text (see "On the Criteria To Be Used in Decomposing Systems into Modules" published by the Communications of the ACM.). But after almost 30 years after the publication of the paper his suggestions looks somewhat naive (all he proposed is some lexical analysis of the sentences). In reality the creation of subroutines can be top-down or bottom up. In top down approach this is a process of factorization when you find repeatable patterns in programming code and generalize them into subroutine. In bottom up approach you create some abstract machine with higher level operations represented by subroutines and then try to write your solution in term of those abstract higher level operations (modifying and tuning them to the problem as your understanding of the task in hand improves). Parnas made a good point that the programmer who knows data structures and algorithms well is better than programmer who do not -- the former is able to approach problems from several paradigms and, for example, compiler construction is one such very powerful paradigm that can be used. Also see Summary of Design Readings for a short abstract and An Integrated Representation for Software Development and Discovery for a useful discussion).

Some subroutines are almost always present in most programs. For example the subroutine that prints and/or writes to a log file a warning or an error message is a typical example of "unique" subroutines. Die in Perl is an example of a primitive solution of this program within the language framework. Another one is the subroutine for analysis of input arguments passed to the program. Perl standard modules provide several solution to this problem.

In the past there was a special area computer science called modular programming that tried to study this program and refine the language features that made decomposition of the problem into subroutines easier and created subroutines less dependent upon each other. The idea of namespaces as a very important component of modularization came out of this research. It was the dominant approach to the "programming in large" before OO became fashionable.

Generally you want to organize your code into pieces that are easy to understand and work with and that are more or less separate from each other and communicate only using minimum number of variables. In practice, when you create your program from a simple prototype into full-blown production program, subroutines are often an afterthought because in a process of making the program more complex you notice that two fragments of code are similar enough to factor them into subroutines. And in version three or four of five your decomposition looks so ugly that you start plan to rewrite it but postponed it until version seven because codebase became too large ;-) In general modular programming can help you to hide the details so that readers of your source code can better understand the overall structure of your program, but good decomposition for a large problem is not easy to achieve.

In bastardized form the idea of creation of the catalog of classic decompositions within the OO paradigm is present in so called "programming pattern" movement.

Overview of Literature

Perl documentation contains a section called perlsub which is authoritative for the topic and should be read first.

A good publicly available introduction can be found in Learning Perl, 3rd Edition- Chapter 4- Subroutines. It does not cover the scope rules too well, though.

The other notable free source is Subroutines and References in Perl

There are also several valuable articles



Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy


War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes


Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Haterís Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D

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