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From: Raoul Gough (RaoulGough_at_[hidden])
Date: 2002-04-01 08:08:03

I have some suggestions about the existing boost::weak_ptr (I hope this is
the right forum to post these issues).

Firstly, operator= and the copy constructor can currently make use of an
invalid pointer value. This kind of thing has been discussed on
comp.lang.c++.moderated, and I think the consensus was that reading an
invalid pointer value is *undefined behaviour* even in the absence of
dereferencing. Consider the following case:

shared_ptr<X> sp1 (new X);
weak_ptr<X> wp1 (sp1);

sp1.reset (); // Invalidate wp1.px
weak_ptr<X> wp2 (wp1) // Copies invalid pointer value
wp2 = wp1; // Copies invalid pointer value

The problem is that the raw pointer value (the px member variable) becomes
invalid once its target object is deleted (see section para 4). To
be safely portable, it would be better for operator= and the copy
constructor to use the other object's get() member function to ensure that
the px value is only read if known to be valid. IIRC, the real-world
argument against even looking at an invalid pointer value was that some
architectures may use registers which perform address validation or even
cause pre-fetching of memory pages.

Secondly, I believe it would be better for the get() method to throw or
assert when called on an invalidated pointer, instead of transparently
returning 0. In my opinion, there is a fundamental difference between the
two states (null and invalid) which is not observable with the current
interface. The addition of a member function like "bool is_valid() const;"
would also allow the user code to decide how to deal with an invalid
pointer, instead of merging the two distinct states into the one (null)

The big advantage of considering invalid.get() an error is that code which
then works without error using weak_ptr would have *exactly* unchanged
semantics using a plain pointer replacement. This allows (for example) a
debug build/release build choice between weak_ptr<T> and T* for performance
reasons. If weak_ptr<T> silently returns null on invalid pointers, then this
guarantee cannot be made - what would be undefined use on a plain pointer is
not detected by the weak_ptr.

Raoul Gough.

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