[erlang-questions] question re. message delivery

Richard A. O'Keefe <>
Wed Sep 27 07:58:34 CEST 2017

(1) I told my concurrent programming class that
     Erlang message delivery should be taken as
     reliable up to the point where communication
     is lost with the receiver, so that *IF* a
     message is received, all previous messages
     from that sender have been received in order.

(2) I also told them that the big problem is
     losing communication for a while and then
     it comes back (e.g., someone accidentally
     pulled a plug and then pushed it back in)
     but that this is why TCP has sequence numbers
     and acks.

(3) I also told them that it is the nature of
     the physical world that when you send someone
     a message (texting on a mobile phone is a
     great example) you can know that you SENT it
     but you can never know they RECEIVED it
     unless they tell you and gave the example of
     my daughter wanting a ride home but my phone's
     extremely limited mailbox filling up so I did
     not get her message until hours later.

(4) As for Joe's general philosophy of belief about
     systems, I'm reminded of Dijkstra's distinction
     between a Sufficiently Large Machine (one which
     is able to run your program without exhausting
     its resources) and a Hopefully Sufficiently
     Large Machine (one which either does the job
     properly or TELLS you it ran into trouble).
     Having learned on a B6700 where the hardware
     checked array subscripts and integer overflow
     -- so that this was not something you could or
     would consider turning off, there being no
     cheaper way to do this -- and then meeting
     the world of PDP-11s and DEC-10s, I quickly
     learned the painful distinction between a
     Hopefully Sufficiently Large Machine (B6700)
     and an Insufficiently Large Machine (the others,
     which just quietly went insane).

     There are all sorts of properties we'd like
     our systems to have, and they sort of
     approximately do, most of the time, but we
     really want to be TOLD when they're unable
     to do their job properly.

     The Armstrong approach, after all, is not
     "ignore errors", but "let it crash".

(5) I've just started looking at the MQTT protocol,
     and noticed that you can ask for
     "at least once", "at most once", or "exactly
     once" delivery.  I suspect that this is another
     area where it's "belief" not proof, and that
     the end-to-end principle applies.

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