turing complete with a stack of 0xdeadbeef

Writing by tag: floating-point

When should you use Decimal instead of Double?

01 February 2022

In Swift there are 13 numeric types. Like most other programming languages, Swift provides signed integers of various sizes, corresponding unsigned integers, and a few floating-point types. But if you’ve been developing apps for Apple platforms for any amount of time, you’ll recognize another numeric type — Decimal (aka NSDecimalNumber). When we build the model layer of an app, it’s important to choose the right type for the task we want to accomplish. For example, if we are counting ticket sales for an event, then Int (or possibly UInt) would be the most appropriate type. But if we are calculating sales tax, then we’ll need to use a floating-point type. You likely know that Double is more precise than Float, but what about Decimal? When should you reach for Decimal instead?


Floating-point Swift, ulp, and epsilon

Exploring floating-point precision 01 October 2017
Updated: 18 April 2018

Epsilon. ε. The fifth letter of the Greek alphabet. In calculus, an arbitrarily small positive quantity. In formal language theory, the empty string. In the theory of computation, the empty transition of an automaton. In the ISO C Standard, 1.19e-07 for single precision and 2.22e-16 for double precision.

The other day I was attempting to use FLT_EPSILON (which I later learned was laughably incorrect) when the Swift 4 compiler emitted a warning saying that FLT_EPSILON is deprecated and to use .ulpOfOne instead. What the hell is ulpOfOne? I read the documentation and then everything made sense — ha, just kidding. The FloatingPoint.ulpOfOne docs generously describe the static variable as the unit in the last place of 1.0 — whatever that means. Let’s find out.