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Thinking in C++
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Dynamic storage allocation

You never know the maximum amount of storage you might need for a CStash, so the memory pointed to by storage is allocated from the heap. The heap is a big block of memory used for allocating smaller pieces at runtime. You use the heap when you don’t know the size of the memory you’ll need while you’re writing a program. That is, only at runtime will you find out that you need space to hold 200 Airplane variables instead of 20. In Standard C, dynamic-memory allocation functions include malloc( ), calloc( ), realloc( ), and free( ). Instead of library calls, however, C++ has a more sophisticated (albeit simpler to use) approach to dynamic memory that is integrated into the language via the keywords new and delete.

The inflate( ) function uses new to get a bigger chunk of space for the CStash. In this situation, we will only expand memory and not shrink it, and the assert( ) will guarantee that a negative number is not passed to inflate( ) as the increase value. The new number of elements that can be held (after inflate( ) completes) is calculated as newQuantity, and this is multiplied by the number of bytes per element to produce newBytes, which will be the number of bytes in the allocation. So that we know how many bytes to copy over from the old location, oldBytes is calculated using the old quantity.

The actual storage allocation occurs in the new-expression, which is the expression involving the new keyword:

new unsigned char[newBytes];

The general form of the new-expression is:

new Type;

in which Type describes the type of variable you want allocated on the heap. In this case, we want an array of unsigned char that is newBytes long, so that is what appears as the Type. You can also allocate something as simple as an int by saying:

new int;

and although this is rarely done, you can see that the form is consistent.

A new-expression returns a pointer to an object of the exact type that you asked for. So if you say new Type, you get back a pointer to a Type. If you say new int, you get back a pointer to an int. If you want a new unsigned char array, you get back a pointer to the first element of that array. The compiler will ensure that you assign the return value of the new-expression to a pointer of the correct type.

Of course, any time you request memory it’s possible for the request to fail, if there is no more memory. As you will learn, C++ has mechanisms that come into play if the memory-allocation operation is unsuccessful.

Once the new storage is allocated, the data in the old storage must be copied to the new storage; this is again accomplished with array indexing, copying one byte at a time in a loop. After the data is copied, the old storage must be released so that it can be used by other parts of the program if they need new storage. The delete keyword is the complement of new, and must be applied to release any storage that is allocated with new (if you forget to use delete, that storage remains unavailable, and if this so-called memory leak happens enough, you’ll run out of memory). In addition, there’s a special syntax when you’re deleting an array. It’s as if you must remind the compiler that this pointer is not just pointing to one object, but to an array of objects: you put a set of empty square brackets in front of the pointer to be deleted:

delete []myArray;

Once the old storage has been deleted, the pointer to the new storage can be assigned to the storage pointer, the quantity is adjusted, and inflate( ) has completed its job.

Note that the heap manager is fairly primitive. It gives you chunks of memory and takes them back when you delete them. There’s no inherent facility for heap compaction, which compresses the heap to provide bigger free chunks. If a program allocates and frees heap storage for a while, you can end up with a fragmented heap that has lots of memory free, but without any pieces that are big enough to allocate the size you’re looking for at the moment. A heap compactor complicates a program because it moves memory chunks around, so your pointers won’t retain their proper values. Some operating environments have heap compaction built in, but they require you to use special memory handles (which can be temporarily converted to pointers, after locking the memory so the heap compactor can’t move it) instead of pointers. You can also build your own heap-compaction scheme, but this is not a task to be undertaken lightly.

When you create a variable on the stack at compile-time, the storage for that variable is automatically created and freed by the compiler. The compiler knows exactly how much storage is needed, and it knows the lifetime of the variables because of scoping. With dynamic memory allocation, however, the compiler doesn’t know how much storage you’re going to need, and it doesn’t know the lifetime of that storage. That is, the storage doesn’t get cleaned up automatically. Therefore, you’re responsible for releasing the storage using delete, which tells the heap manager that storage can be used by the next call to new. The logical place for this to happen in the library is in the cleanup( ) function because that is where all the closing-up housekeeping is done.

To test the library, two CStashes are created. The first holds ints and the second holds arrays of 80 chars:

//: C04:CLibTest.cpp
//{L} CLib
// Test the C-like library
#include "CLib.h"
#include <fstream>
#include <iostream>
#include <string>
#include <cassert>
using namespace std;

int main() {
  // Define variables at the beginning
  // of the block, as in C:
  CStash intStash, stringStash;
  int i;
  char* cp;
  ifstream in;
  string line;
  const int bufsize = 80;
  // Now remember to initialize the variables:
  initialize(&intStash, sizeof(int));
  for(i = 0; i < 100; i++)
    add(&intStash, &i);
  for(i = 0; i < count(&intStash); i++)
    cout << "fetch(&intStash, " << i << ") = "
         << *(int*)fetch(&intStash, i)
         << endl;
  // Holds 80-character strings:
  initialize(&stringStash, sizeof(char)*bufsize);"CLibTest.cpp");
  while(getline(in, line))
    add(&stringStash, line.c_str());
  i = 0;
  while((cp = (char*)fetch(&stringStash,i++))!=0)
    cout << "fetch(&stringStash, " << i << ") = "
         << cp << endl;
} ///:~

Following the form required by C, all the variables are created at the beginning of the scope of main( ). Of course, you must remember to initialize the CStash variables later in the block by calling initialize( ). One of the problems with C libraries is that you must carefully convey to the user the importance of the initialization and cleanup functions. If these functions aren’t called, there will be a lot of trouble. Unfortunately, the user doesn’t always wonder if initialization and cleanup are mandatory. They know what they want to accomplish, and they’re not as concerned about you jumping up and down saying, “Hey, wait, you have to do this first!” Some users have even been known to initialize the elements of a structure themselves. There’s certainly no mechanism in C to prevent it (more foreshadowing).

The intStash is filled up with integers, and the stringStash is filled with character arrays. These character arrays are produced by opening the source code file, CLibTest.cpp, and reading the lines from it into a string called line, and then producing a pointer to the character representation of line using the member function c_str( ).

After each Stash is loaded, it is displayed. The intStash is printed using a for loop, which uses count( ) to establish its limit. The stringStash is printed with a while, which breaks out when fetch( ) returns zero to indicate it is out of bounds.

You’ll also notice an additional cast in

cp = (char*)fetch(&stringStash,i++)

This is due to the stricter type checking in C++, which does not allow you to simply assign a void* to any other type (C allows this).

Thinking in C++
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire