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 CSE 332 Winter 2014
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Programming Assignment Guidelines

Platform: You should use Java 7, making appropriate use of generics and JUnit. The course staff will assume you are using the Eclipse IDE, though we won't require this. All the software you need for the course is available for free and is pre-installed on the machines (Windows or Linux) in the department's undergraduate computing labs.

Robustness: Your primary task is to create a working, robust program. This means that your program should produce correct answers on all legal input and produce comprehensible error messages on invalid input. Keep in mind that (unless otherwise mentioned) unreasonably long running time is probably an error. How should you ensure robustness? Well, at the least, try to complete these steps without problems before submitting your code:

  • Compile without warnings or errors. (Notify us of errors in our code.)
  • Run correctly on all test data we give you.
  • Run correctly on test data/test cases of your own. Here is a general list of a few things you might consider testing:
    • "difficult" cases
    • edge cases (e.g. data structure is empty or full, min or max values)
    • incorrect input (we will try to specify what you can assume in terms of input)
    • the empty file
This doesn't guarantee robustness, but it's a good start! Turn in your test cases; they may help us grade your work better (read: give you the maximum possible amount of credit).

Coding clearly: You should always make an effort to write code that is easy for other people to read. In the real world, this is an important skill that is valued higher than cleverness or using the least number of lines/characters possible. In this class, it is important so that we can understand your program and grade it fairly. By reading through your code and comments, we should be able to figure out how your code is organized and why it works (or fails). If we can't, we reserve the right to deduct points. In general we will follow coding style guidelines established in cse 143.

Commenting: One aspect of writing clear code involves commenting your code so that it is clear what it does without reading it line by line (nothing is more boring). Comments should be used: (a) at the top of each file to tell what code it contains, (b) at the top of each function to tell what it does, (c) at the declaration point of important variables, (d) on any lines whose purpose is non-obvious.

Variable names: Variable names should conform with Java conventions (e.g., myVariableName, MyClassName, MY_CONSTANT_NAME) and should give a good idea of what purpose that variable serves in your program.

Coding simply: Although Java allows it, there is no benefit to writing overly complicated statements such as:

    if ((i = myfunc(counter++)) < num_iterations) {
when they could easily be rewritten in a clearer manner:
    i = myfunc(counter);
    if (i < num_iterations) {
Coding should not involve grandstanding or distracting cleverness. It should be like writing English sentences that you truly want someone to understand (including yourself, a few months later).

Speed: As long as your program takes a reasonable amount of time, we will neither dock points nor give bonus points on the basis of speed. In other words, all of your data structures should have the expected asymptotic time and space complexity, but the constants will not generally matter. Robustness and clarity come first!

Using Java Class Libraries: Unless specifically approved or directed to, you should not use Java class libraries in your programming assignments to implement data structures and algorithms that are your responsibility. This rule is admittedly in contrast to many situations in the real world, but a large goal of this course is to fully understand core data structures that are so widely useful that Java provides them in its standard library. Often such understanding comes from implementing them yourself.

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