sobota, 28 listopada 2015

Implicit conversion - the enemy

I wrote:

    result += string_utils::pad_left(string, '0');

I forget that pad_left signature is string, int, char and the char parameter has a default value. My mistake, without doubts.

This is another example of dark sides of the implicit conversions. C++ converts between characters and integers seamlessly. These two beast are distinct in the nature. Of course characters are represented by the numbers, however it's an implementation detail.

One can say: you made a mistake and now blame the language. No, I blame language's design. I'm afraid that we end up with something like Integer and int to overcome such problems.

Lesson learned: never use default parameters in public API (surprise!)

niedziela, 22 listopada 2015

Another C++ nasty feature

I'm fond of C++ weirdness, really. This language is full of traps, and it shocks me once in a while.

Let's look at this piece of code, a part of a larger module:

void validate_date() {

    // ...

    boost::optional<unsigned> clock_hour;
    boost::optional<unsigned> am_pm_clock;
    // ... fill these fields

    if (some sanity check failed) {
        report_error("user has entered wrong time: %d %s",
            *am_pm_clock ? "AM" : "PM");

We would expect that in case of an error following line will be reported: "user has entered wrong time: 123 PM". Obvious. But please look closer at the code, do you see any mistake? There is one... dirty... hard to notice. I'll give you a minute.

So, the mistake is lack of comma between expressions *clock_hour and *am_pm_clock. However, the code is valid! It compiles! And it took me a little longer than a minute to understand what happened. Explanation is:
  • *clock_hour evaluates to expression of type unsigned;
  • then compiler sees * - a multiplication operator;
  • so checks if multiplication of unsigned (on the left side) with boost::optional<unsigned> (on the right side) is possible;
  • it is, because boost::optional<T> has conversion operator to type T.
We can rewrite the whole expression, now it should be clear:

    ((*clock_hour) * unsigned(am_pm_clock)) ? "AM" : "PM"

In result method is called with a single parameter of type cont char*.

It's bizarre, it's terrible. A language should help a programmer. In my opinion implicit conversions is the worst feature of C++.

niedziela, 15 listopada 2015

Short report from code::dive 2015

Few days ago I attended code::dive 2015, an IT conference in Wrocław, Poland. It was a one-day conference with a great number of presentations. There were four stages and five sessions, in total 20 talks. Impressive number! But an attender had to choose his own path of just five lectures. I think the decision was pretty difficult. Sometimes less is better. Read more