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<Some Rules for Safer Java Programming ⁄ >

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Sometime around 1997, a programmer colleague of mine was wrestling with what seemed like an intractable C++ bug. When he asked me for advice, I suggested, "You've probably exceeded the boundary of an array." This was (and still is) one of the most common C/C++ errors. He was amazed when a code check revealed that this was indeed the problem! Far from displaying god-like omniscience, this was just a case of the programming languages of the day requiring abstract rules and guidelines such as the one described. In fact, this conversational exchange was probably repeated all over the world by C++ developers! If that suggestion hadn't worked, I'd have suggested checking for other errors such as null pointer access, erroneous file I/O access, and so on. If none of those worked, I'd have suggested running the code with a debugger. It's all about rules!

Times and technologies have changed. The Java Runtime Environment now throws an exception if you exceed the boundary of an array. So, if you're guilty of this particular sin (as we all have been), you'll get to hear about it quickly enough! If you forget to handle the exception, your program is aborted. The reality is this: Each technology provides its own fertile ground for error, and Java is no exception. In this article, I look at a few issues that that can cause serious problems in Java code, and outline a few handy techniques for avoiding such problems.

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