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I'm a jack of all uses, durable and strong,
but useful in childish construction too.

Desired alike by man- and women-kind;
wanted by most all, obtained but by few.

When shortened, I'm an impartial judge of prisoners in math;
Some are changed; all set free.
But for a discrete gift, the whole truth I'll gladly tell
if I'm used programmatically.

What am I?
(spacing is intentional)

Edit for slight hint, since everyone's guesses seem too general:
Every line, as well as the title, is specifically necessary (though the second verse could be applied to a number of things. But to extend that verse: the only people who can obtain (the answer) are those who can stomach the work.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just to clarify, because it's a common typo: did you intend "discrete" (consisting of or characterized by distinct or individual parts) or "discreet" (prudent; circumspect; unobtrusive)? $\endgroup$ – VictorHenry Jun 17 '15 at 8:06
  • $\begingroup$ I meant discrete ;) almost a play on words. $\endgroup$ – HammerN'Songs Jun 17 '15 at 15:32
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The answer is:

Abs or ABS

I'm a jack of all uses, durable and strong, but useful in childish construction too.

ABS is Acrylonitrile_butadiene_styrene which is a material used for construction, but also for toys like Legos

Desired alike by man- and women-kind; wanted by most all, obtained but by few.

Everybody wants sexy abs! (abdominal muscles)

When shortened, I'm an impartial judge of prisoners in math; Some are changed; all set free.

Abs is short for absolute value, which when in "bar" form is |x|, which surrounds a number, making it a prisoner. After resolution, some numbers (negative) are changed, all are set free (removed from the bars)

But for a discrete gift, the whole truth I'll gladly tell if I'm used programmatically.

The | is used as a representation for OR in programming, which returns a discrete TRUE or FALSE value.

As for the title:

ABS is Anti-lock Braking System, which helps stop your car in bad weather like rain and snow.

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ All but the 4th line are exactly correct :) the grouping of lines in the riddle was intentional. $\endgroup$ – HammerN'Songs Jun 17 '15 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ @HammerN'Songs Is my answer for the fourth line on the right track? I have an idea of how to refine it, but if it's completely off the mark I'll go digging for other ideas. $\endgroup$ – VictorHenry Jun 17 '15 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ I think ABS is Anti-lock Braking System. $\endgroup$ – dennisdeems Jun 17 '15 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ Programmatically you have the abs function, but unless you want the word function used in the answer then I'm not really adding anything to this answer! $\endgroup$ – bye Jun 17 '15 at 22:27
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    $\begingroup$ Yea, I guess he got close enough. It was the abs function, specifically how (for most of the languages I've used) it usually takes only integers (discrete numbers) as input, and returns whole numbers. $\endgroup$ – HammerN'Songs Jun 17 '15 at 22:34
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Looks to me like this is about

Equality (or ==)

I'm a jack of all uses, durable and strong, but useful in childish construction too.

Not too sure about this, but I remember an old joke from school where 1+1 = window (you draw a square with the 1s making the left and right sides, the = making the top and bottom, and the + forming the panes in the middle.

Desired alike by man- and women-kind; wanted by most all, obtained but by few.

Everyone wants to be equal

When shortened, I'm an impartial judge of prisoners in math; Some are changed; all set free.

= is used in math equations, sometimes to "change" operands into a result

But for a discrete gift, the whole truth I'll gladly tell if I'm used programmatically.

When used in programming "==" evaluates the truth of a condition

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  • $\begingroup$ That actually fits fairly well, but I'm sorry it isn't what I'm looking for. All verses (as well as the title) reference or link to the answer, in fairly direct ways. Also many of the words were chosen specifically. $\endgroup$ – HammerN'Songs Jun 17 '15 at 6:15
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I'll try again - is it:

Absolution / Absolute value?

I'm a jack of all uses, durable and strong,
but useful in childish construction too.

Durable and strong perhaps a referece to the 'walls' that surround a number when finding the absolute value |n|. Or maybe a reference to absolute strength of muscles?

Desired alike by man- and women-kind;
wanted by most all, obtained but by few.

Most people want absolution for their sins.

When shortened, I'm an impartial judge of prisoners in math;
Some are changed; all set free.

When shortened to Abs - used in math to find the absolute value, some numbers are changed (negative numbers) but once calculated they are set free from the "walls".

But for a discrete gift, the whole truth I'll gladly tell
if I'm used programmatically.

Not entirely sure about the discrete part =/

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  • $\begingroup$ It is not integration/integrals, but part of your reasoning is extremely close to the answer. $\endgroup$ – HammerN'Songs Jun 17 '15 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ Updated answer to try again! $\endgroup$ – alexmc Jun 17 '15 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ That's essentially right:) but the only correct reasoning is for the third section. Can anyone get the rest? As a hint, the answer specifically is three letters long. Also remember to relate it to the title. $\endgroup$ – HammerN'Songs Jun 17 '15 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ I think I know the answer but want to see if alexmc will get it. If I'm right, the answer is all but given away in the hint. $\endgroup$ – dennisdeems Jun 17 '15 at 17:46
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    $\begingroup$ Haha, so close! Great riddle anyway :)! $\endgroup$ – alexmc Jun 17 '15 at 18:07
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Are you a

bootstrap?

I'm a jack of all uses, durable and strong, but useful in childish construction too.

They are usually durable and strong, I don't know about the childish construction. If you see it as a more general strap, you could utilise it for a lot more uses.

Desired alike by man- and women-kind; wanted by most all, obtained but by few.

They can be found on boots both for males and females, but generally you do not just obtain bootstraps, you obtain boots. Few people would actually obtain only the bootstraps (for repair purposes, I guess).

When shortened, I'm an impartial judge of prisoners in math; Some are changed; all set free.

I am fairly sure this points to the prisoners dilemma, although I can't get what the judges role could be named or what this has to do with straps. I fail on this one I guess.

But for a discrete gift, the whole truth I'll gladly tell if I'm used programmatically.

In programming you can use bootstrapping, for example in discrete event simulation.

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1
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I think you are a:

star (or *)

I'm a jack of all uses, durable and strong,

Not completely sure about this yet

but useful in childish construction too.

A block puzzle, where the kids have to fit the objects (star, square, triangle etc.) into the right hole.

Desired alike by man- and women-kind;
wanted by most all, obtained but by few.

Everybody wants to become a star! unfortunately only a few succeed.

When shortened, I'm an impartial judge of prisoners in math;
Some are changed; all set free.

not sure about this

But for a discrete gift, the whole truth I'll gladly tell
if I'm used programmatically.

The * in programming is a wildcard, and can be used for every character

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1
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Are you a:

%

I'm a jack of all uses, durable and strong,

Used to describe the completion or saturation of something

but useful in childish construction too.

A see-saw?

Desired alike by man- and women-kind;
wanted by most all, obtained but by few.

Everyone wants 100%

When shortened, I'm an impartial judge of prisoners in math;
Some are changed; all set free.

No idea

But for a discrete gift, the whole truth I'll gladly tell
if I'm used programmatically

It'll give the modulus.

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0
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My answer is:

value

Let's see what we got here:

I'm a jack of all uses, durable and strong,
but useful in childish construction too.

Something of value can be use in every way we can imagine

Desired alike by man- and women-kind;
wanted by most all, obtained but by few.

Everyone of us desire 'value' (self-value in this case)

When shortened, I'm an impartial judge of prisoners in math;
Some are changed; all set free.

If a value is 'shortened' that may mean that is divided by

But for a discrete gift, the whole truth I'll gladly tell
if I'm used programmatically.

In programming, the value of something (say, a variable) gives 'the truth'

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