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Subject: Re: [boost] [optional] Safe optional
From: Matt Calabrese (rivorus_at_[hidden])
Date: 2014-11-17 03:40:04

On Sun, Nov 16, 2014 at 11:04 PM, Andrzej Krzemienski <akrzemi1_at_[hidden]>

> Hi Everyone,
> I would like to run an idea through everyone in this list. There is a
> recurring complaint about Boost.Optional that it allows you to do "unsafe"
> things:
> 1. Inadvertent mixed comparisons between T and optional<T>
> 2. Unintended conversion from T to optional<T>
> 3. "Unchecked" access to the contained object, which causes an UB when
> performed on an uninitialized optional object.
> There are valid reasons why optional is defined the way it is defined. But
> at the same time the complaints above are also valid. This makes some
> people abandon Boost.Optional and use their own alternative.

I don't immediately see the problem with the mixed comparisons between T
and optional T... except maybe confusion regarding optional<bool> or
bool-like types. Is this what you're referring to? If so, then I sort of
disagree that it's a legitimate problem. If you are not talking about
issues relating to bool or have some really compelling optional<bool>
cases, can you point me to examples as to why this is suggested to be
unsafe. I don't really care that much about the mixed comparisons, but I
consider them pretty benign and if people find it useful then I won't
remove it unless the current uses are fully considered.

As for #2, I think I agree that conversion should probably be more explicit
and is potentially a step in a positive direction.

As for #3, if you are implying the alternative is to throw an exception,
then I'd say that's a flat-out no. That's a logic error and we shouldn't
throw an exception. The only thing that comes of that is people using the
exception for basic control flow -- if they knew the optional didn't point
to anything, then they wouldn't be dereferencing it. If they THOUGHT the
optional pointed to something and it didn't, then they have a bug, which
means the way to "handle" it is to fix the code. If they don't know at the
time of the access whether there was something there or not, then they
shouldn't deference it, using an exception for control flow. In that last
case, they should either be explicitly branching or they should use some
kind of visitation. If you're not talking about exceptions, then what
exactly are you proposing?

Regardless, if people come to an agreement on changes, I'm much more in
favor of simply making breaking changes to the current optional rather than
introducing another one. It's unfortunate for a type as fundamental and
widely used as optional, but people will get over it, especially if it
makes it closer to the standard proposal.

-Matt Calabrese

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