Search Result for "fencepost error":
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The Jargon File (version 4.4.7, 29 Dec 2003):fencepost error
n.

1. [common] A problem with the discrete equivalent of a boundary condition,
often exhibited in programs by iterative loops. From the following problem:
?If you build a fence 100 feet long with posts 10 feet apart, how many
posts do you need?? (Either 9 or 11 is a better answer than the obvious
10.) For example, suppose you have a long list or array of items, and want
to process items m through n; how many items are there? The obvious answer
is n - m, but that is off by one; the right answer is n - m + 1. A program
that used the ?obvious? formula would have a fencepost error in it. See
also zeroth and off-by-one error, and note that not all off-by-one
errors are fencepost errors. The game of Musical Chairs involves a
catastrophic off-by-one error where N people try to sit in N - 1 chairs,
but it's not a fencepost error. Fencepost errors come from counting things
rather than the spaces between them, or vice versa, or by neglecting to
consider whether one should count one or both ends of a row.

2. [rare] An error induced by unexpected regularities in input values,
which can (for instance) completely thwart a theoretically efficient binary
tree or hash table implementation. (The error here involves the difference
between expected and worst case behaviors of an algorithm.)

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (30 December 2018):fencepost error
lamp-post error

1. (Rarely "lamp-post error") A problem with the discrete
equivalent of a boundary condition, often exhibited in
programs by iterative loops.  From the following problem: "If
you build a fence 100 feet long with posts 10 feet apart, how
many posts do you need?"  (Either 9 or 11 is a better answer
than the obvious 10).

For example, suppose you have a long list or array of items,
and want to process items m through n; how many items are
there?  The obvious answer is n - m, but that is off by one;
the right answer is n - m + 1.  The "obvious" formula exhibits
a fencepost error.

are fencepost errors.  The game of Musical Chairs involves a
catastrophic off-by-one error where N people try to sit in N -
1 chairs, but it's not a fencepost error.  Fencepost errors
come from counting things rather than the spaces between them,
or vice versa, or by neglecting to consider whether one should
count one or both ends of a row.

2. (Rare) An error induced by unexpected regularities in input
values, which can (for instance) completely thwart a
theoretically efficient binary tree or hash coding
implementation.  The error here involves the difference
between expected and worst case behaviours of an algorithm.

[Jargon File]

(1994-12-01)
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