The new emerging NLE for GNU/Linux

this page accounts for some problematic areas, sketchy solutions, nonportable hacks, terrorism and other misdemeanour


Equality of Functors

One of the more important recent additions to the C++ language are function objects. In addition to the features actually provided by the boost implementation, the tr1 report also requires function instances to implement an equality operator. Unfortunately the implementation approach choosen by boost makes a 100% correct implementation of comparision very dificult, if not impossible. Thus, the boost developers refused to implement this feature.

The bad news is that really using the power of opaque function objects quickly drove us (Lumiera) into a situation where such an equalty test and a hash calculation on function objects would be necessary. The whole point of using function objects is the ability to “erase” specific details, which has the downside that the resulting generic objects are opaque and often dificult to manage, when it comes to storing and retrieving objects building on such functors.

Thus I built an hack, based on the implementation details of boost::function. In functor-util.hpp we define a class HijackedFunction, which has the same data layout as the original boost::function. After forcibly casting such an function (reference or pointer) into a HijackedFunction, we’re able to inspect and evaluate the implementation pointers for equality comparison and hash value calculation. This approach works and actually detects copied functions to be equal, but is unable to pinpoint equivalence, e.g. functors bound to the same function with the same arguments through separate but otherwise identical invocations of bind. Besides, should boost or the standard library implementors eventually change the implementation, this workaround will break.

post C++11

As of this writing (1/2016), this still remains an unsolved issue.
The new standard does indeed require a comparison, but only a comparison against nullptr, which is equivalent to the bool conversion. It seems we need more.

Warning what we have here is a really evil hack, and even the notion of “equality” is not correct. We admit that real equality can not be achieved with something like std::function, but in spite of that, we do have our own needs.

TODO investigate what we really need and come up with a better concept…

Binding Placeholders

The standard allows function objects to be partially closed; this is achieved by marking the remaining, unbound arguments in the call to std::bind with some special marker elements, the “argument placeholders”. These are predefined within the standard library as std::placeholders::_1 and consecutive, while the type of these objects remains unspecified as by the standard. But unfortunately we need some augmentation on top of std::bind to help with generic partial application of functions, i.e. we need to close systematically a sequence of arguments, both starting from the front or from the back of the argument list. We need this, because it is a standard functional programming technique. Consequently our helper (function-closure.hpp) will build placeholders on its own, and it needs to feed placeholder types to the generated binders.

Thus we rely on the fact, that the gnu standard library implementation has a templated type std::_Placeholder<i>

Size of standard library facilities

Sometimes we need to know the size of an STL or Boost class, but can’t afford to include the header and just write a sizeof(). Because including some of those headers incurs quite some price in terms of compilation time and even size of the debug executable.

Obviously, a simple solution would be to measure those sizes and hardcode them. But what about portability? To get out of that dilemma, I created a traits class which mimics the implementation memory layout of those facilities in question, simplified as much as possible. As long as the GNU libstdc++ or Boost don’t change their implementation layout, this give us precise and fast size bounds.

When relying on that hack, we should make sure always to place some kind of static_assert into the corresponding implementation files to ensure the real facilites actually do fit into the guessed storage dimensions.