I recently had a co-worker who needed to instantiate and use a class from an assembly loaded at runtime. The code couldn’t reference the assembly directly for various reasons. This was accomplished relatively easily until he needed to assign the value of an enumerated type. So take the following class definition.

namespace DynamicAssembly
{
    public class MyClass
    {
        public enum MyEnum { ValueA, ValueB, ValueC }

        public MyEnum TheEnumValue { get; set; }
    }
}

From a project, the goal was to load the above assembly dynamically, instantiate a MyClass variable and then set TheEnumValue = MyEnum.ValueB. Really simple in normal code… a little more convoluted in dynamic runtime code. The solution I came up with is the following:

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    var p = Path.GetFullPath(@"..\..\..\DynamicAssembly\bin\Debug\DynamicAssembly.dll");
    var a = Assembly.LoadFile(p);

    var classType = a.GetType("DynamicAssembly.MyClass");
    dynamic classInstance = Activator.CreateInstance(classType);

    var enumType = a.GetType("DynamicAssembly.MyClass+MyEnum");
    var enumValues = enumType.GetEnumNames();
    var enumIndex = Array.IndexOf(enumValues, "ValueB");
    var enumValue = enumType.GetEnumValues().GetValue(enumIndex);

    classInstance.TheEnumValue = (dynamic)enumValue;
}

I would love to hear from you if you know of a better way to accomplish this.

A recent project required me to call some REST apis on a web server from my client application, which was written in C++. What I had to do was very simple, to I first started looking at the WinINet and WinHTTP API families. This quickly turned into me wanting to harm myself or someone else, so I decided to continue searching for a library to help out. I looked at cURLpp and it seemed okay, but then I stumbled across the C++ REST SDK code named Casablanca. Since I have been on a modern C++ kick lately and have been enjoying some of the new things Microsoft has added to the compilers (from the C++11/14 standards), I decided to give this Microsoft-created open-source SDK a look.

My first impressions are that the syntax is a bit complicated and the documentation is very near to non-existent. I was reduced to combing through the provided sample apps to try to figure out what I needed to do, but it wasn’t horribly difficult. A few hours had me on the way to some simple REST calls. My first task was to call one of my APIs with a PUT verb, providing a JSON document in the request body. The following example illustrates this. One interesting thing here is the .get() call that comes on a lot of the SDK objects. This function is what waits for the asynchronous web call to complete, and then returns the result from the call.

http_client cli( U("http://localhost:8080/myservlet") );

//	PUT http://localhost:8080/myservlet/api/computerdata
//
ostringstream_t uri;
uri << U("/api/computerdata");

value body = value::object();
body[U("id")] = value::string( U("COMPUTER") );
body[U("version")] = value::string( U("1.1.1.3") );

http_response response = cli.request( methods::PUT, uri.str(), body.serialize(), U("application/json") ).get();
if ( response.status_code() == status_codes::OK &&
     response.headers().content_type() == U("application/json") )
{
   value json_response = response.extract_json().get();
   ucout << json_response.serialize() << endl;
}
else
{
   ucout << response.to_string() << endl;
}
}

The get call is even more simple, since it doesn't require creating a JSON request body...

http_client cli( U("http://localhost:8080/myservlet") );

//	GET http://localhost:8080/myservlet/api/computerdata/COMPUTER
//
ostringstream_t uri;
uri << U("/api/computerdata/COMPUTER");

http_response response = cli.request( methods::GET, uri.str() ).get();
if ( response.status_code() == status_codes::OK &&
     response.headers().content_type() == U("application/json") )
{
   value json_response = response.extract_json().get();
   ucout << json_response.serialize() << endl;
}
else
{
   ucout << response.to_string() << endl;
}
}

These examples are incredibly simple, but illustrate some of the most basic uses of this SDK. The SDK includes a lot more powerful and complex operations, such as PPL tasks, which is a model for creating asynchronous operations that is based on C++11 stuff. The SDK can be easily included in your package from Visual Studio by using the NuGet package manager to include Casablanca in your project. It will set up all the include paths, etc. for you. The code, samples, and what documentation there is can be found at casablanca.codeplex.com.

So I was recently writing some code to test some performance characteristics of lists and vectors. This was prompted by my watching Bjarne Stroustrup’s keynote from Going Native 2012, where he explains yet another reason why vector should be the favored data structure: it often performs better than list, even when computer science common sense tells us that it should not. (See Bjarne Stroustrup: Why you should avoid Linked Lists (Youtube) for more about that.)

So I was using the Windows performance counter APIs, QueryPerformanceFrequency and QueryPerformanceCounter, and I was using them a LOT, since I was trying to measure what kind of impact each part of the testing had on the system. (E.g., how much relative time did it take to find the point at which we wanted to insert or delete an item vs. how much relative time did the actual insertion or deletion take.)

Since I have also been boning up on new language features in C++11/14, I decided that I wanted to figure out how to write a function that would take a lambda expression to make this all easy to use. I wanted to be able to call something like the following (which is completely trivial, but shows how I might want to use this functionality):

auto time = my_timer_function([](){ Sleep(500); });

Now the way I have done something like this in the past is to declare a function prototype, and then a function for each thing I want to measure, and then pass them into a function that takes a parameter of the type of the first prototype. If that sounds like it’s a bit hard to follow, that’s just because it’s a bit hard to follow.

Well in C++ they added a few new features to make this much simpler and easy to understand: Lambda expressions and the std::function type. Instead of defining a function prototype (which is always confusing syntax and I almost never get it 100% right the first time), you can use a parameter of type std::function, which is a template that takes the function signature as a parameter. So the following block defines a my_timer_function that takes in a function that looks like void fn( void ), and measures how long that function takes to complete.

auto my_timer_function( std::function fn ) -> double
{
	LARGE_INTEGER countsPerS = { 0 };
	LARGE_INTEGER beginElapsedCounts = { 0 };
	LARGE_INTEGER endElapsedCounts = { 0 };

	VERIFY( QueryPerformanceFrequency( &countsPerS ) );
	VERIFY( QueryPerformanceCounter( &beginElapsedCounts ) );

	//	Call the fn we are supposed to measure
	fn();

	VERIFY( QueryPerformanceCounter( &endElapsedCounts ) );
	return ( double( endElapsedCounts.QuadPart - beginElapsedCounts.QuadPart ) * 1.0 * 1000 / double( countsPerS.QuadPart ) );
}

The magic of the compiler makes it so you can pass this an actual function, or a lambda expression, or even a functor (object that can look like a function). So any of the following will work just fine…

// Lambda expression
auto time = my_timer_function( [](){ Sleep( 2000 ); } );

// Function
void MyFn()
{
	Sleep( 2000 );
}
...
auto time = my_timer_function( MyFn );

// Functor
struct MyFunctor
{
	void operator()()
	{
		Sleep( 2000 );
	}
};
...
auto time = my_timer_function( MyFunctor() );

I was looking through some code examples last week and realized there was a gap in my understanding of the const keyword in C++. I have always written definitions like “const MyClass& c”, but in the code I was reading I was seeing a lot of “MyClass const & c”. Now intuitively I was thinking that this must be basically the same thing, but since I wasn’t entirely positive I decided to do a little research. It turns out that the use of the const keyword is a bit more complicated than I originally thought.

In the two examples I mentioned above, the declarations are functionally equivalent. No difference, just a matter of preference. For myself I find that putting the const keyword first is the most readable. But I understand that some developers prefer the second. I have read that people who prefer to read their declarations right-to-left particularly prefer this, as it reads like “c is a reference to a constant MyClass”, or something like that. I’m not really able to identify one as better than the other, so I will continue to use my own preference in my code, and if I am working with someone elses code who prefers the second form, I can conform to that as well.

But as I delved a bit further into this I started looking at pointer declarations. I have seen const dropped in seemingly random places in a declaration: “<const> int <const> * <const> x”. It turns out that the placement of the const keyword does make a different declaration in some of these cases. The const keyword modifies the item just to its left, unless it is the left-most thing in the expression, when it modifies the item to its right. So “const int * x” is identical to “int const * x”, but “int * const x” is a WHOLE different beast. The first two forms make the int a constant value, while the third makes the POINTER itself a constant value.

To illustrate, here is a sample function that declares the same kind of pointer (to an integer) but with varying styles of using const. In each case, the pointer is used to try to modify the pointed-to integer, and then the pointer itself is updated to point to a different underlying integer. The compiler fails some of these operations depending on the const keywords usage, each of the failures is noted with a comment.

int x = 1;
int x2 = 2;

//	Non-const pointer to an integer
int* p1 = &x;
*p1 = 42;
p1 = &x2;

//	Non-const Pointer to a const integer (two styles)
const int* p2a = &x;
*p2a = 42; // error C3892: 'p2a' : you cannot assign to a variable that is const
p2a = &x2;

int const * p2b = &x;
*p2b = 42; // error C3892: 'p2b' : you cannot assign to a variable that is const
p2b = &x2;

//	Const pointer to a non-const integer
int * const p3 = &x;
*p3 = 42;
p3 = &x2; // error C3892: 'p3' : you cannot assign to a variable that is const

//	Const pointer to a const integer
const int * const p4 = &x;
*p4 = 42; // error C3892: 'p4' : you cannot assign to a variable that is const
p4 = &x2; // error C3892: 'p4' : you cannot assign to a variable that is const