Aug 062009

Assigning reference return value to a variable

When assigning a reference return value to a variable, a copy is made. Here is an example:

This code makes a copy of the name member variable from the References class and puts the copy into the variable n.

Assigning reference return value to a reference variable

When assigning a reference return value to a reference variable, no copy is made. Here is an example:

This code does not make a copy of the name member variable. Instead, the reference variable is now a reference directly to the member variable inside the class.

Passing a reference return value to a method that takes a reference

When you pass the return value from a method that returns a reference directly into a method that takes a reference, no copy is made. Here is an example:

This passes the reference returned directly into the method as a reference. Therefore, no copy is made.

Using a reference method in a comparison operator

This is the same as the method invocation example above because all operators take references.

Mar 062009

I know that .Net 4 is going to have some pretty cool features around dynamic typing and C++0x is also adding some auto typing features. I was thinking about all of this today and realized that what I really use most of the time is an inferred type. Essentially it would infer a new type based on the method’s contents.

Let’s say we have this:

In static languages this fails because Object doesn’t contain the method methodCall. However, what if we told the compiler to create a new interface based on the content of the method? This code would then look like this:

The autotype keyword would cause the compiler to actually create this code:

This would now compile. Next, a caller to this method could pass in any object whose type the compiler could add this interface to. If you called it like this:

The compiler could take the interface it created for this method call and then see if the type passed in could implement that interface. If MyClass has already been compiled, it could do one of two things:

  • If MyClass is accesible as part of the current compilation unit, it could update the compiled Class to implement the interface
  • If it isn’t part of the current compilation unit and isn’t final, it could create a proxy for the call that implements the interface and delegates the call

Not sure yet how #2 really works or if it even makes sense to do it that way, but it seems to be the only way to make it work if the Class is in a JAR or DLL or something like that.

The only issue would be reflection. How could you reflection on the method and then pass an Object to it so that it would not completely blow chunks at runtime? Perhaps the reflective method invocation could determine if the object being passed could be proxied to the dynamic interface and then create a proxy on the fly.

Anyways, just pondering type systems in general today….

Feb 162009

Since I’m doing a lot of C++ these days and working a lot with the STL, I want to jot down some things I’ve had to painfully recall about sorting:

  1. The std::sort function really only works with vector
  2. If you want to sort a set of pointers, you’ll need to create a comparator function or object and use it as a type parameter (uglier than hell)
  3. If you want to sort a list, you MUST call the sort method on the list

#2 looks like this and really sucks to look at:

And if you want to pass that thing around, you have to either pass it like that (nasty) or typedef it. Since I hate all typedefs, macrodefs, etc, I generally pass that nasty full type around.

Jan 052009

After doing quite a bit of C++ recently, I thought I would post my method for getting the current system time in milliseconds in C++ for both Mac OS X and Windows. The Mac version might translate to other Unix platforms, but you’ll have to check the docs or man pages.

Mac OS X

This actually returns a struct that has microsecond precision.


This code gives the milliseconds within the last minute. If you want milliseconds since epoch or some other fixed point in time it will require a bit more math on the SYSTEMTIME struct.

Dec 092008

Just figured this out and it caused me about 3 hours of pain, so I figured I’d post it in case I need to do it again.

You might find this necessary if you have some code like this:

This code will toss strange errors such as EXC_BAD_ACCESS and other kernel alarms. I’m not certain way this happens, but I think it is because Derived in the second example isn’t actually an instance of Base since the compiler doesn’t understand that Base is polymorphic. If you try to apply a dynamic_cast operator rather than the pointer cast (as used in example #2) the compiler will complain. What is probably happening is that at runtime the memory for the Derived is not correct because it was cast to a Base, and the kernel freaks out when you attempt to access something in Derived.

Another classic example of C++’s power causing major issues at runtime. These types of problems are not only tricky to figure out, but really only make sense to the kernel and compiler and aren’t obvious from a OO perspective.

Most modern OO languages would have absolutely no issues with the above code, and all dynamic OO languages wouldn’t even need the casts at all and would duck type the invocations via dynamic method invocation.