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Follow-up: Golang Quirk: Number-strings starting with "0" are Octals

Kaushal Modi

Follow-up post to my earlier post on octals in Golang – Feedback to reactions that varied from ridicule to helpfulness to empathy.

This is a post in the “Golang Octals” series.

2018-04-23Follow-up: Golang Quirk: Number-strings starting with "0" are Octals
2018-04-18Golang Quirk: Number-strings starting with "0" are Octals

First of all—I get it. Golang is not the only language that has this odd behavior related to octals. But following the foot-steps of ancestor languages in this particular aspect does not mean that Golang is doing the Right Thing™.

I got many interesting comments at:

Here are some highlights.

zcdopizocioics from Hacker News

The strconv function simply acts in the same manner as the language does, see https://play.golang.org/p/rg0VwhCDVB%5FC. The idea for strconv originates in c (see atoi etc), and c also has 0-octal notation. Go is simply mimicing c in this regard.

My replyI just wished the octals needed a stricter prefix like “0o” as they are not very common compared to decimal and hex (in my experience at least).

karmakaze from Hacker News

A better solution is to always provide the base (e.g. 10) rather than using 0 if you don’t want special interpretation of ‘0x’ and ‘0’ prefixes. That should be in Hugo. The problem is not with the golang library which was well documented and always worked as such. By placing any blame on the golang library, there’s less incentive to fix Hugo.

My replyThat’s a valid point. I have made that suggestion to the Hugo devs. Someone on Reddit also suggested using strconv.Atoi() instead of ParseInt(). I have added to the suggestion too.

/u/shekelharmony from Reddit

This isn’t really a quirk of Go - the documentation says exactly how strconv.ParseInt() works, and you would only get that behavior by intentionally setting the second argument to 0. If you’re always working with decimals, you might use strconv.Atoi() instead since it only takes one argument. You could say it’s a quirk of Hugo though, since it sounds like they don’t have a function for parsing decimals at all.

My reply.. I’ll definitely forward your suggestion with the Hugo dev team. (I then do that, which I linked above.)

/u/FascinatedBox from Reddit

Java and C both have this and it’s incredibly stupid. Every once in a while some noob thinks that leading zeroes don’t matter (they shouldn’t). So they write a number like 0123 and it doesn’t come out to 123 but there is nothing you can look up to figure out why. There’s no function you’re calling to say “okay, why is function X doing this transformation?” It’s really not hard to have some sort of a prefix. We have a prefix for binary numbers when languages have that. We have one for hex. Why not octal. My language uses 0c to denote octal so that people don’t accidentally fall into this trap. I added that in precisely because I saw someone in a programming class get burned by accidental octal. I knew what the problem was right away, because I’m a PL nerd. But a lot of people don’t want octal, and they certainly aren’t expecting it.

My replyThank you. Exactly my point.. We have prefixes for binary and hexadecimal. So I find it odd that octal is given a special treatment by it not needing a prefix! And Golang was created in 2009; it shouldn’t have blindly ported that from C. And who IS writing octal literals today, so furiously, in so much abundance, that they cannot afford using a normal prefix like 0o? Kudos to Python for obsoleting the 0 octal prefix in lieu of 0o in Python 3.

/u/stone_henge from Reddit

poor guy, he just goes on and on about it forever, no way for anyone to step in in the middle of it and point out to him that he’s being dumb.

My replyYup. Poor, dumb, me.

/u/Noughmad from Reddit

The handling of octal numbers in C is stupid, I have been bitten by it especially when trying to align multiple numbers with a different number of digits. There should be some non-digit identifier (and not O because it looks to much like 0 in a fixed-width font) used for specifying octal numbers, like x for hexadecimal and now b for binary. But once again, C gets a pass because it was made over 40 years ago. Go doesn’t have this excuse.

My replyThank you. Exactly.

/u/pingpong from Reddit

Relevant golang bugs, where people try to fix octal: golang issue #22671, golang issue #151, golang issue #12711.

My replyGreat! So I am not alone.


You can enjoy more of such comments by visiting the Reddit thread linked above.

I would though welcome constructive comments below, or if you prefer, at one of those reddit/HN threads linked above.

Conclusion #

Golang is a modern language born in 2009. It could have fixed this by requiring a more logical prefix like 0o for Octals. Or can it still?

At least I hope that parsing of numbers in front-matter in Hugo gets fixed as it’s unlikely for folks to use octal numbers there.

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