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From: Johan Torp (johan.torp_at_[hidden])
Date: 2008-05-28 05:55:39

Frank Mori Hess-2 wrote:
> It's occurred to me that support for reference counting futures (which
> Peter Dimov has suggested a couple times) could be added simply by adding
> a method to the promise class
> bool promise::has_future() const;
> The has_future query would not alter the state of the promise (it wouldn't
> put it into some unusable "expired" state). It would simply allow the
> promise-setting thread to query if there are any futures and take whatever
> action it chooses. So it wouldn't put any burden on someone who wants to
> code a fire-and-forget function that returns a future that may be safely
> discarded. In a typical implementation, has_future might boil down to a
> call of shared_ptr::unique().
> This works because threads don't block waiting on promises, only on
> futures. When a future's promise is destroyed without ever being
> fulfilled, action has to be taken to give the waiting futures an exception
> to prevent a thread from blocking forever in vain. But if a promise's
> last future disappears, it doesn't need to take any action. All it needs
> to do is provide a query that can be used by interested code to detect
> that fact.
> Also, for debugging a
> unsigned promise::future_count() const;
> method could be provided, which might be implemented by returning the
> value
> of shared_ptr::use_count minus one.
> Any thoughts? These functions could be added independently of whether or
> not an explicit future::cancel() is supported.

Do you propose to remove reference counting from futures and use
shared_ptr<future<..>> instead?

I believe the main motivation for a unique_future was to be able to move
large/expensive types in the get-function instead of copying them.

shared_future<R> requires it's client to copy the data to move it into their
own data structures. It has the following signature:
R const & get() const;

unique_future<R> moves the value out of the future and is "consumed" once
get() has been called. It has the following signature:
R&& get();

I don't like having both shared_future and unique_future either. One could
perhaps distinguish between move-get and const_ref-get somehow and only
allow the former if use_count == 1. One problem is that the promise
typically belongs to some other thread and new futures can be created
concurrently after having queried use_count. Another option is declaring
whether the future is unique or shared as a parameter in the futures
constuctor. An exception could be thrown if you try to create more futures
from a uniquely "owned" promise.

Not distuinguishing between unique and shared might remove some type safety
and clarity in user code. Some of the N2627 future proposal authors can
probably provide more insight.


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