Template technicality - What does the standard say?

Discussion in 'C++' started by Stephen Horne, Oct 13, 2008.

  1. I've been using Visual C++ 2003 for some time, and recently started
    working on making my code compile in GCC and MinGW. I hit on lots of
    unexpected problems which boil down to the same template issue. A
    noddy mixin layer example should illustrate the issue...

    class Base
    int m_Field;

    Base () : m_Field (0) {}

    template<class T> class Derived : public T
    void Inc ()
    T::m_Field++; // GCC needs the "T::" here - VC++ doesn't

    In the above, the idea is to use Derived<Base>, but GCC (3.4.5 and
    4.1.2) gives error messages even if you never instantiate the

    There are of course examples of similar templates in Stroustrup, but
    because they are incomplete examples, I can't find one that shows an
    inherited member being referenced from within the template class.

    In non-template classes, scope resolution is only needed to access
    inherited members if there is an ambiguity. There is no ambiguity in
    the above - the only place m_Field can come from is the inherited
    class Base via the template parameter T. Following that general
    principle, I don't see any reason why scope resolution should be

    What does the standard say about this - should the scope resolution
    operator be required? If it is required, what's the rationale? If
    there's something in Stroustrup about this, can you point me to the
    right section?
    Stephen Horne, Oct 13, 2008
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  2. Stephen Horne a écrit :
    Look up template-dependant name:
    Michael DOUBEZ, Oct 13, 2008
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  3. Thanks.

    Just read 35.18, 35.19 and 35.20. Now I *know* that the lunatics are
    running the asylum. Different scoping/lookup rules depending on
    whether something is "dependent" or "non-dependent" - pathetic. Next
    it'll be phases of the moon.

    Anyway, now that's done, I just have to figure out why GCC won't let
    me use offsetof in a constant expression - ie in exactly the kind of
    place you're always going to use offsetof. Where the last lot was an
    "oh well, a few hours hunting and fixing" thing, this is a real

    I have huge amounts of data-driven code that *needs* to use offsetof
    in constant expressions to initialise static data. I also have code
    generators that generate code using offsetof in constant expressions.
    It'd be easier to develop my own offshoot of C++ than to never use
    offsetof in constant expressions. It's the kind of thing people have
    been doing in C and C++ since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and frankly,
    if someone has decided to ban it, that someone is a moron.

    Stephen Horne, Oct 13, 2008
  4. GCC does not let you use it as a constant because the standard says so.
    SUCCS, I know, just is. You may get some luck out of using pointer to
    member types.
    You can probably refactor to use pointer to member.

    If you have a code example, post it in a new thread and lets see if we
    can give you a few suggestions.
    Gianni Mariani, Oct 13, 2008
  5. Stephen Horne a écrit :
    You should be able to use it in a constant expression.
    Which version of gcc are you using ?
    Michael DOUBEZ, Oct 13, 2008
  6. What is it that I'm missing, offsetof is a macro, it should be expanded
    before the compiler can even begin worrying about whether an expression
    is constant or not.
    Erik Wikström, Oct 13, 2008
  7. Stephen Horne

    James Kanze Guest

    I'm just guessing, because of course, g++ lets you use a legal
    offsetof as a constant, but I'll bet he's actually trying to use
    it on something that isn't a PODs, which is undefined behavior.
    In that case, g++ generates an error; a lot of compilers will
    just give you some random (constant) value.
    James Kanze, Oct 13, 2008
  8. No - GCC didn't let me use it because it didn't know that the
    class/struct parameter was a class/struct, reason being I needed to
    add 'typename'. GCC was entirely in the right, and I'd even count it
    as a pretty sane aspect of the standard.

    It's a bit strange, actually. The errors suggested that GCC does a
    pointer-casting macro expansion for offsetof, but as far as I can
    tell, what it's supposed to do is macro-expand to a built-in along the
    lines of __offsetof__ (that's probably spelt wrong, but you get the

    Anyway, turns out that's the easier thing to fix. Some of the
    dependent stuff inheritance problems aren't so easy to fix - when they
    work in GCC, they break in VC++ and visa versa. I feel superfluous
    private inline access methods with #ifdef bodies approaching in the
    near future.

    Pointer-to-member types are a problem for several reasons, portability
    being one of them since VC++ and probably others need you to drop
    nonstandard hints about whether the class is single inheritance,
    multiple inheritance or whatever. And when you do use them, the syntax
    is a mess, and no-one can read it because no-one uses them enough to
    get that used to them. Another one of those untested ideas the
    standards people dreamed up, that don't really work in practice.
    Stephen Horne, Oct 14, 2008
  9. No.

    Read for tone and you'll see I'm seriously pissed off and frustrated,
    and that thing about offsetof was ranting rather than a properly
    organised request for help. For example, no quoted error messages.

    Anyway, I said that GCC wouldn't let me use offsetof in a constant
    expression, which *was* perfectly true. I also said "now I have to
    figure out why" which I have since done.

    The GCC errors directed me to lines that contained nothing much more
    than offsetof, and complained about pointer operators etc that weren't
    there (hence macro expansion). I just recently read the part of the
    GCC manual that tells me it defines offsetof to map to a builtin,
    unless I dreamed that up in a stress-related psychotic episode (it's
    pretty bad when you hallucinate about reading manuals), making the
    macro-expansion-implying errors seem strange.

    Some other code relating to alignment used hand-written code that
    effectively does an offsetof. When GCC complained about that, I fixed
    it by simply using offsetof instead. This seems to suggest GCC is
    actually doing something different to macro expansion, since replacing
    the code that the macro is traditional expanded to with the macro gave
    different behaviour. I guess it doesn't really matter, so long as
    offsetof works, which it does - my problem was due to being in a
    template again, and the need for "typename", which is perfectly
    reasonable for a change.

    You've got my interest, though. Why on earth should offsetof for a
    non-POD struct/field be undefined? POD vs. non-POD shouldn't change
    the layout of a struct. A non-POD struct might act as if it holds
    extra data, though that data is external to the struct, but that has
    nothing to do with offsetof. Some fields may be private and
    inaccessible to offsetof (a compile-time error), some fields may be
    pointers or references (not an error - just means you're referring to
    the pointer), but that applies to POD and non-POD equally.

    Also, it's not as if the macro expansion ever instantiates the type.
    It just "imagines" a hypothetical instance at address zero and takes
    the address of the field.

    About the only thing I can think of which could *almost* legitimately
    screw up offsetof would be overriding the * or -> pointer dereference
    operators, but even if a macro expansion of offsetof uses ->, it uses
    it with a *pointer* left argument rather than the non-pointer object,
    so the override is irrelevant. Same goes if the macro uses * and .

    Can you give me a reference to look this up?

    I mean, the idea that I can't take the offsetof a field in a data
    structure node just because the application is using a non-POD type
    for the contained data is beyond ridiculous.

    In keeping with my generally pissed-off tone, I'll also ask if the
    standards people came up with this one specifically to drive me nuts?
    Or are you just baiting me for fun?
    Stephen Horne, Oct 14, 2008
  10. Stephen Horne

    James Kanze Guest

    I understood that you were pissed off. Still, g++ is fully
    conform with regards to offsetof, and does allow it's use in an
    integral constant expression. So presumably, your real problem
    is elsewhere. And since most compilers don't complain about use
    of offsetof on a non-POD, but g++ does, I made a guess that that
    might be the real problem.
    No it's not. The following code compiles perfectly well with

    #include <cstddef>
    #include <iostream>

    struct S
    int i ;
    int j ;
    int k ;
    } ;

    char a[ offsetof( S, k ) ] ;
    std::cout << sizeof( a ) << std::endl ;
    return 0 ;

    You're doing something else wrong.
    Fine. The problem wasn't due to g++'s expansion of offsetof not
    being a constant integral expression; it was due to a syntax
    error elsewhere.

    For the record, g++ defines offsetof as a macro (as required by
    the standard), but that macro expands to something like
    "__builtin_offsetof( t, e )" (which is, IMHO, the only
    reasonable way of implementing it). So what you actually get is
    a compiler built in, which is either a constant integral
    expression, or causes an error, depending on whether the use of
    offsetof is legal or not.
    Because it can't be implemented in the general case, and no one
    considered it worth the effort of specifying when it would be
    legal, and when not, except for a PODS, which is all that is
    necessary for C compatibility (and the only reason it's there is
    for reasons of C compatibility).
    In some cases of inheritance (particularly where virtual
    inheritance is involved), the layout is dynamically defined; the
    compiler doesn't know it. And the "classical" implementation of
    offsetof in C is something like:

    #define offsetof( S, e ) ((size_t)(&(((S*)0)->e)))

    Which is undefined behavior if you write it, but which the
    library implementor can do if he knows that it will get by the

    Many libraries (e.g. Sun CC, VC++) still use something like
    this, and the standards committee didn't want to ban it. And it
    fails as soon as the member is private.
    References could also cause problems. In general, it would
    doubtlessly be possible to loosen the rules somewhat. Doing so
    would require a fairly detailed analysis, however, to ensure
    that the new rules didn't cause any problem for potential
    implementations, and no one on the committee felt the effort was
    worthwhile. (The case of POD was "established practice", from
    To look what up? The standard says quite clearly (§18.1/5):

    The macro offsetof accepts a restricted set of type
    arguments in this International Standard. type shall be
    a POD structure or a a POD union. The result of
    applying the offsetof macro to a field that is a static
    data member or a function member is undefined.
    No. It's a perfectly reasonable constraint.
    Actually, they're just trying to strike a compromise between the
    ideal solution (drop the macro entirely) and C compatibility.
    James Kanze, Oct 14, 2008
  11. Stephen Horne

    James Kanze Guest

    That's not quite true. VC++ does require special compiler
    options to truly be a C++ compiler (but that's true of all
    compilers I know), but if you use them (/vmg, in this case),
    pointers to members cause no problems. (At least that I can
    tell; most of my experience with pointers to members has been
    with pointer to member functions, which definitly don't work
    with VC++ unless you specify this option.)
    Sort of. In practice, there just isn't that much use for
    pointers to members, so there's really no need for a
    particularly simple syntax. And the syntax for using pointers
    to a data member isn't that bad, either, although I can see
    people getting a bit bothered when pointers to member functions
    are involved.
    James Kanze, Oct 14, 2008
  12. No, it was perfectly true. It wouldn't let me use offsetof in a
    constant expression because I was using it wrong. When I use it right,
    it lets me use it. Hence I had to figure out why it wouldn't let me
    use it in order that I could use it right.

    I'm autistic, and you're demanding far more pedantic language from me
    than I ever demanded from anyone else!
    Yes. In my original post, I didn't claim to know why GCC was rejecting
    my usage, and while implying that the standard (rather than GCC) might
    be at fault, I also made it clear that I didn't know yet who was at
    fault. Correct answer - I was at fault. I don't think that really
    needs restating any more.
    I can see that there is a potential problem with a macro expansion
    implementation (rather than GCCs wrapper approach) to offsetof, since
    doing the field reference would access the virtual table/whatever of
    an object that doesn't exist.

    Even so, the layout of the class isn't dynamically defined, it's just
    dynamically accessed. The obvious solution is to not use the
    traditional macro expansion for offsetof, and just provide the actual
    offset of the field using a builtin. Every class/struct has one layout
    defined at compile-time irrespective of what inheritance features it
    uses or anything else.
    Basic principle of C++ as given by Stroustrup - the programmer can do
    anything the language/libraries can do. No special cases just to get
    standard features implemented that can't be replaced by others. Anyone
    is allowed to develop a library.

    If the libraries can do something, I should be well within my rights
    to develop alternative libraries. Standard libraries in particular
    should not need to be implemented using non-standard features.
    At compile time, which it should do. Why should I have the right to
    access private fields using offsetof? Why would I define a data
    structure node and hide some of its fields from myself?
    And therefore likely to be used in container template libraries,
    obviously, where the applications contained data may end up as
    non-pod, thus implying that the data structure nodes that end up
    containing it become non-POD too.

    Which is presumably why Sun CC, VC++ etc do it. But as you say, it's
    still *special* behaviour that only compiler vendors are allowed to
    use for their library, and therefore it violoates the stated
    principles of the C++ language.

    Actually, technically not the case in my code, since I don't use the
    application type directly within the node - just a proxy that has the
    same size and alignment, to be initialised later with placement new
    etc, which is technically POD. But even so, that's just because of the
    specific data structures I'm using, which need to leave some items
    uninitialised a bit like the overhead items in a vector.

    In other words, I got lucky - but you can bet that others didn't.
    Thankyou. That is a useful reference, yes, and my requesting it is
    hardly worthy of the "To look what up?".

    In my current circumstances, paying for the standard would mean not
    eating for a week, and in any case, finding a reference for something
    specific in what is presumably a rather large standard is bound to be
    non-trivial, whereas you were likely to know the reference since you
    were already telling me what the rules are.
    A constraint that means C data structure code cannot be adapted and
    wrapped in a C++ template? IIRC, one of the basic design principles of
    C++ is that people should be able to adapt their C libraries without a
    complete rewrite.

    A constraint that even you admit that the standards guys had to allow
    compiler writers to break because they couldn't make their libraries
    work otherwise?

    That's what you call reasonable!
    Really. And I suppose the modern solution is the member pointer, which
    simply doesn't work at all for low level work.

    For high level work, it doesn't do the most obvious useful job
    (delegates) properly. In itself perfectly reasonable since it can be
    used to implement a library that does.

    But we're talking about replacing offsetof for low-level data
    structure work.

    For that, it is overengineered in that it handles a bunch of special
    cases that real applications simply don't need. Its mummy-knows-best
    safety rules (which are entirely inappropriate for low level code)
    mean that it can't be used for many obvious tasks without
    reinterpret-casting, and you can't cast it safely because of all those
    unwanted special cases and their unknown implementations. The whole
    thing is such a disaster that some compilers need you to drop
    nonstandard hints (single inheritance, multiple inheritance, etc) in
    order to use a member pointer at all.

    The only pretence that member pointers have to being suitable for
    low-level work is the unnecessarily cryptic syntax.

    In short, it's another seems-like-a-nice-idea invention put into the
    standard by people who were feeling creative, and not subjected to
    testing in the real world prior to announcing that it would be part of
    the standard. Then people got overcommitted to it and determined to
    keep it even though it doesn't work.

    An experiment that we now can't get rid of, like exception
    specifications on function declarations, which are just as broken
    (your black boxes are no longer black, and even nested black-boxes
    cannot be replaced, many layers down, without probably violating all
    the exception specifications running through layers of yours and other
    peoples code) but at least no-ones trying to force anyone to use them.

    As I said in another post, whatever happened to simply formalizing
    existing best practice? - the supposed remit of standards authorities.
    Experimental features should be implemented as compiler-specific
    extensions and only standardized *after* they have proved their worth.

    You know - like the alignment features that no-one bothered to
    standardise despite at least two opportunities, that have been proving
    their worth as non-standard compiler extensions for decades.

    Trying to bully people into using member-pointers won't fix the flaws.
    offsetof is needed, like it or not. Without it, there is simply *NO*
    sane way for library developers to develop production quality
    containers. As the standards people are clearly aware, or else they
    wouldn't be exempting compiler writers from the rules they impose on
    Stephen Horne, Oct 14, 2008
  13. This from the guy who just declared that offsetof is only there for C
    compatibility, and shouldn't be used.

    OK - what's the alternative, then?

    You give the impression of being someone who does serious work, and
    has almost certainly worked on containers and other low-level
    libraries. To hold these opinions, I can only guess that you're either
    benefiting from the compiler-vendors I-can-but-you-can't clause, or
    else you're one of the standards guys - quite possibly both.


    BTW - the syntax for pointers to data members is itself overly cryptic
    since the scope resolution operator is effectively overloaded. As so
    often in C++, the syntax you are reading seemingly deliberately avoids
    telling you what it's doing - you have to refer back to declarations
    that are potentially in another universe far far away in order to read
    virtually anything. Is this a class or a namespace? Is that a normal
    member or static? Is C++ a more secure encryption protocol than RSA? -
    no, because authorised readers can't decrypt it either.

    With the C heritage, that was unavoidable. With new C++ features such
    as member pointers, it was a choice made at a time when the people
    involved should have learned the lessons of the past. Why not simply
    use a keyword. If nothing else was practical, there's certainly all
    those reserved underscore-prefixed names.

    With rarely used features, IMO, it's *especially* important to have a
    keyword - something to look up in your reference guide when you
    encounter it in someone elses code and don't know what it is. The
    overloaded nature of operator symbols makes this difficult to
    impossible unless you already know which variation of the symbol is
    being used.

    Operator symbols should be there for frequently used everyone-knows-it
    features, not for obfuscation. If you test new ideas as
    compiler-specific extensions before standardizing them, you should
    have some idea which features should be handled which *before* you
    commit to everyone living with them for the next 50 years.
    Stephen Horne, Oct 14, 2008
  14. Stephen Horne

    Ian Collins Guest

    Maybe James, like me, in many years of C++ development has never needed
    pointers to members, or offsetof. Before you ask, most of my work has
    been low level libraries.
    Ian Collins, Oct 14, 2008
  15. Stephen Horne

    peter koch Guest

    The implementor is allowed to do more than the ordinary developer as
    he controls the environment and can have special, supporting code.
    I do not believe it is so cryptic, as soon as you become familiar with
    it. And this, I suppose, is the case for most constructs.
    No. Your idea about the standards committee is quite wrong. The
    pointer-to-member is necessary, and offsetof can not be replace it.
    You can't violate an exception specification, but I agree that the
    general case is not so useful. The empty exception-specification comes
    in handy now and then, however.
    What did you have in mind?
    What do you need alignment for? I know there are special cases where
    specific alignment can be an advantage, but in general there is very
    little need for alignment, and for those,
    offsetof is not needed - you can't use it in the general case.
    What? Could yo please tell me for what containers you need offsetof?
    If you look at the implementation of the standard library, you'll find
    no offsetof used, so they certainly are not "absolutely" needed.

    peter koch, Oct 14, 2008
  16. Stephen Horne

    James Kanze Guest

    But that had nothing to do with the fact that it was a constant
    expression. That was pure coincidence.
    :) The problem with C++ (and all other computer languages I
    know) is that they are pedantic. Talking about them generally
    requires a great deal more precision and pedantry than for other

    Sorry, but when virtual inheritance is involved, it's
    dynamically defined. At least with all of the compilers I know,
    and I don't think it's possible to implement it otherwise.
    The problem is that you can't provide it as a constant
    expression if there is virtual inheritance.
    That's false.
    Another basic principle: as close to C as possible (but no
    closer). The only reason offsetof is in C++ is because it is in
    C. C compatibility, however, doesn't apply if you're trying to
    use it on something which can't be defined in C.

    And the reason offsetof was introduced into C (invented by the C
    committee) was precisely because there is no way to do this in
    C. That's the justification for a lot of things in the library:
    anything concerning I/O, for example.
    Actually, you could legitimately argue just the opposite. If
    there's no way of implementing something in the standard
    language, you must offer something in the library which does it.
    Thus, I/O, memory management, and in the next version, threads.
    So how do you propose implementing <iostream> (or <stdio.h>)?
    Or the function "time()"? Or malloc() and free()? Things that
    can't be implemented using standard features must be provided by
    the library. That's a basic principle, and has been since C.
    Why should you have the right to find the offset of a data
    member, period?
    ??? I don't understand what you're trying to say. There's
    certainly no need of offsetof in a container.
    More likely, they do it that way because that's the way the
    implemented it in C, some 25 or 30 years ago. And since it's
    something that is almost never used, and has no real use in
    cleanly written code, there's been no presure on them to improve
    I've yet to see any library code which uses it. I have needed
    to force alignment at times in some of my code; that's why I
    developed my max align types.
    What is its current price? IIRC, it's well under $100.
    Finding all of the relevant passages in the standard IS
    distinctly non-trivial. And how. But I really wasn't too sure
    whether you were asking about what the standard said, or some
    references concerning the rationale---why it said it. There is
    no printed or online rationale for the C++ standard; what I know
    about why certain things are as they are is from speaking with
    people who were involved, or in some cases, because I was
    involved myself.
    C data structure code will only use PODS. Asking it to support
    more will require rewriting.
    I don't believe that anyone considered the possibility that the
    C libraries would use templates. (I wonder why?)
    You don't seem to understand. The macro is there because it is
    present in the C version of the library, and there doesn't seem
    to be any justifying necessity to drop it. No one I know has
    ever found a use for it, however, so it didn't seem reasonable
    to invest any added work to define what additional cases (not
    present in C) could be made to work.
    In order to define what the modern solution would be, you first
    have to define the problem. As I said, I've yet to find a
    problem for which offsetof was a solution.
    Having written parts of OS kernel code in C++, a garbage
    collector in C++, marshalling and demarshalling code in C++, and
    who knows what all else, I can say from experience that you
    don't know what you're talking about. You do need a few
    casts---it's normal that more dangerous actions are readily
    visible---but C++ is quite effective at this level.
    I've not used member pointers that much either, and not really
    at a low level.
    Actually, empty exception specifications are very useful.
    They're used in the standard at times, for a reason.
    There is a fine line which needs to be tread. I personally
    think that C++98 did go to far with "experimenting". But don't
    forget that when the committee started work, there were no
    templates, and no exceptions. The initial project from ISO
    specified existing practice, plus exceptionally useful
    extensions, naming templates, exceptions and garbage collection
    as examples of the latter.
    Offsetof is not needed. The proof: no one is using it, even in
    Bullshit. I've used several different pre-standard libraries,
    and several different implementations of the standard library,
    and none of them use offsetof.
    Bullshit. The C committee first defined it as a macro because
    someone, somewhere, thought that it might be useful. Turns out
    that it wasn't, but you can't remove it once it's there.
    James Kanze, Oct 14, 2008
  17. Stephen Horne

    James Kanze Guest

    What problem do they solve? I've used pointer to member
    functions a couple of times, but never a pointer to a data
    Neither. I've just never found any need for pointers to a data
    member. Nor offsetof. They're solutions looking for a problem.

    And FWIW, I've implemented a full C standard library, and
    several pre-standard container libraries for C++. I've also
    implemented marshalling/demarshalling code for low-level data
    communications, persistency and the like. And memory management
    (globale operator new()/operator delete()). I have needed some
    non-standard features: open(),read(),write(),close(), etc. for
    my implementation of <stdio.h>, sbrk() for my implementation of
    malloc/free (this was before mmap() was an option), etc. Even
    today, I need non-standard features for some of my work.

    There are some important features which are missing in C++. The
    possibility to specify alignment, for example. (I actually
    wrote a proposal for this for the C90 standard, but I think I
    submitted it a bit too late.) And some support for full data
    synchronization in the standard library; I can't use fstream for
    persistency because of this. More generally, the absence of
    garbage collection means I have to write a lot of code which
    would otherwise be unnecessary.

    I can't see any need for offsetof, however.
    James Kanze, Oct 15, 2008
  18. I'm sorry, but it's basic textbook. The compiler determines what is
    inherited and places each inherited class at a particualar offset
    within the derived class, as if it were member data (which it is).

    Every inherited class gets a fixed offset, thus every inherited member
    gets a fixed offset (ignoring statics etc). Those offsets may not
    apply for classes that inherit this derived class, due to the sharing
    aspect for virtual inheritance, but that's besides the point - right
    at the start I said it was necessary to name the right struct/class.

    We are dealing with a class/struct and a member. No dynamic issues as
    there is no dynamic object in the first place.
    Yes you can, as mentioned above. The problem is that you're imagining
    casting-through-the-class-hierarchy issues where none exist.
    Back at you.
    You know damn well what the context is here, and you know damn well
    that Stroustrup and others have made a big deal of the supposed fact
    that the C++ standard library *provides* tools, but only as one
    choice. That they are explicitly acknowledged to be not perfect for

    There is nothing about a container library that inherently requires
    you to look outside of the language for the necessary tools. If C++
    cannot allow programmers to develop containers without requiring
    non-standard features, it's a joke.
    Because without it, C++ is not fit for purpose, period.
    Rubbish, but beside the point.

    If you explicitly encourage people to bring C code and skillsets into
    C++, you cannot complain when they do so.
    I'm on benefits. After the rent topup fraud (local governments way of
    avoiding paying full housing benefit - they simply define "market
    rent" to be around 2/3 of the cheapest market rent available and
    refuse to pay the rest) my budget for everything that is not a fixed
    bill is 35 UKP per week at best. I guess I could save a bit by not
    showering and not wearing deoderant. It's not my preferred option.
    I was asking for rationale as well, IIRC, but only if you know it. I'm
    not holding you responsible except to the extent that you appear to be
    complicit ;-)
    A *STANDARD* technique for moving to C++ is to wrap old C code in
    templates or other adaptors, with minimal rewriting - which you
    clearly know. As you say...
    So it is of course blatantly obvious that people will use templates
    with old C libraries.
    This is trivial.

    I need to reference a field in a struct (not a particular instance). I
    control the definition of the struct, but some fields take types that
    are template parameters (and can therefore be a source of non-PODness)
    In some cases, these are the fields I need to reference - but I don't
    need to reference (or even know about) members within those
    template-parameter types.

    My template is a thin wrapper around non-typesafe data-driven code.
    The field-reference needs to be stored as an initialised value in a
    static data block - a bit like a closure.

    Doing this with member pointers seems to cause compilers to choke -
    they don't want to treat the member pointer as a constant expression
    for whatever reason each particular compiler comes up with, that
    reason varying from compiler to compiler depending on the compromises
    they made with member pointer implementation.

    Hence offsetof, which is a simple, easy to use way around this issue
    and - once you're confident of your access functions - perfectly safe

    At least until someone decides to restrict it.

    *Maybe* compilers are better at handling member pointers now, but not
    in my experience as of yet (bare in mind that I've just scratched the
    surface with GCC - other than that my most recent compilers are VC++
    2003 and Borland C++ 5.02) and in any case they certainly weren't
    working when I was writing the initial code for these containers .

    Which I tried to write according to the best pseudo-standards and
    promises available to me at the time - an edition of Stroustrup that I
    gave away when I bought the special edition. Only I couldn't, so I did
    what worked instead.
    Can you define the rules in which casting from one member pointer type
    to another is safe, independent of any one compiler? I'll bet you
    can't because these casts are explicitly undefined.

    In other words, as soon as you declare that you need to cast member
    pointers to get anything done, you equally declare that using member
    pointers in any portable library is at best problematic and

    I have nothing against more dangerous approaches when they are needed,
    but I found that member pointers simply didn't work, so managing the
    risk involved with offsetof was my only option. offsetof was the
    *best* option at the time, chosen after trying and rejecting member
    pointers because they didn't work.

    If using member pointers requires casts that make it dangerous, just
    what is the benefit relative to offsetof anyway? I say better to use a
    tool where you know how it works (it's not implementation specific or
    variable dependent on things you can't know), and which therefore
    allows you to manage the risks.
    Empty exception specifications are a special case which has value, but
    that's not a justification for the full exception specification part
    of the language. Sometimes, extending and generalizing a good idea is
    a bad idea.
    By your own argument, people have used it in some pretty important
    libraries in C, which have now become C++ libraries. Ergo it is used
    in both C and C++. In standard library implementations, no less.
    Stephen Horne, Oct 15, 2008
  19. Stephen Horne

    Ian Collins Guest

    Cutting though the waffle, why?

    I've been using C++ for everything from drivers to libraries to GUIs as
    a major part of my day job for many years and I've never had cause to
    find the offset of a data member.
    Ian Collins, Oct 15, 2008
  20. Search for "thin wrapper" in the post.
    Stephen Horne, Oct 15, 2008
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