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Archive for mai 2011

Excel, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, or when developers think rules do not apply to them

Before programming, programmers usually go to school at least till the age of 16 (and then there is also high school and university for some of them). During the secondary school, pupils all learn the order of operations in mathematics. In particular, they all learn that -4^2 = -16, because exponents always take precedence over +, -, * and /. There is no exception to this rule, except in the world of spreadsheets, including Excel, OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Here, there are some developers (I hope not all of them) who either never went to school, or preferred to sleep during maths classes. Why? Because in their world, -4^2 = 16. Arghh! In the world of spreadsheets, only Gnumeric developers seem to have gone to school and remember what their maths teachers told them, and Gnumeric works just fine. Oh, and guess what? Scientific tools like Gnuplot and Mathematica also return -16, as well as Perl and Python and probably mostly everything else which exists in the world.

But when you report this bug to the OpenOffice (see also here) and LibreOffice Bugzilla installations, you are considered as being completely dumb:

OpenOffice bug 24271 comment 1:

"you're wrong. The function works according to the
 mathematical rules.

 -4^2 is -4*-4 or 16"

OpenOffice bug 24271 comment 27:

"Result of input '=-2^4' can't be anything else than (-2)^4!
 Here the '-' can't be anything else than an algebraic sign,
 interpretation as a subtraction operator for  '-(2^4) is
 completely useless like a mathematical expression '/3'"

LibreOffice bug 37271 comment 1:

"Imho LibO "intuitively" correctly recognizes the difference
 between a "Sign of a number" ant the subtraction operator. 

 I disagree with reporter's interpretation. [...]
 Please provide information concerning public available
 mathematical sources supporting your thesis."

These last two comments are from the same developer (one who definitely never went to school). The OpenOffice bug has been marked as INVALID, and the LibreOffice bug has been marked as NOTABUG (a synonym but more polite bug resolution to say INVALID). It’s just unacceptable that developers intentionally ignore mathematicals rules which are universally accepted across the whole world, and decide to reimplement their own rules, and then treat users who are totally right as if they said that 1+1=3. A more respectful (but still unsatisfying) bug resolution would have been WONTFIX with the comment that the reporters of the bugs are right, but due to the way Excel works, and for compatibility reasons with Excel, they are forced to do this incorrect statement that -X^2 = (-X)^2. Also, the helper assistant should pop up and warn the user about this misbehavior.

I hope the developers who wrote these comments above are not the ones who write the core code of OpenOffice/LibreOffice! Else I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that 1+1=3 is finally correct too. :)

Catégories:Bugzilla, Mozilla
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