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Making Member Functions Exception-Safe

Problem

You are writing a member function and you need it to uphold the basic and strong exception-safety guarantees, namely that it won't leak resources and it won't leave the object in an invalid state if an exception is thrown.

Solution

Be aware of what operations can throw exceptions and do them first, usually in a try/catch block. Once the code that can throw exceptions is done executing, then you can update the object state. Example 9-4 offers one way to make a member function exception-safe.

Example 9-4. An exception-safe member function

class Message {

public:
 Message(int bufSize = DEFAULT_BUF_SIZE) :
 bufSize_(bufSize),
 initBufSize_(bufSize),
 msgSize_(0),
 buf_(NULL) {
 buf_ = new char[bufSize];
 }

 ~Message( ) {
 delete[] buf_;
 }

 // Append character data
 void appendData(int len, const char* data) {
 if (msgSize_+len > MAX_SIZE) {
 throw out_of_range("Data size exceeds maximum size.");
 }
 if (msgSize_+len > bufSize_) {

 int newBufSize = bufSize_;
 while ((newBufSize *= 2) < msgSize_+len);

 char* p = new char[newBufSize]; // Allocate memory
 // for new buffer

 copy(buf_, buf_+msgSize_, p); // Copy old data
 copy(data, data+len, p+msgSize_); // Copy new data

 msgSize_ += len;
 bufSize_ = newBufSize;

 delete[] buf_; // Get rid of old buffer and point to new
 buf_ = p;
 }
 else {
 copy(data, data+len, buf_+msgSize_);
 msgSize_ += len;
 }
 }

 // Copy the data out to the caller's buffer
 int getData(int maxLen, char* data) {
 if (maxLen < msgSize_) {
 throw out_of_range("This data is too big for your buffer.");
 }
 copy(buf_, buf_+msgSize_, data);
 return(msgSize_);
 }

private:
 Message(const Message& orig) {} // We will come to these
 Message& operator=(const Message& rhs) {} // in Recipe 9.5
 int bufSize_;
 int initBufSize_;
 int msgSize_;
 char* buf_;
};

 

Discussion

The class Message in Example 9-4 is a class for holding character data; you might use such a thing to wrap text or binary data as it is passed from one system to another. The member function of interest here is appendData, which appends the caller's data to the data already in the buffer, growing the buffer if necessary. It upholds the strong exception-safety guarantee, though it may not be clear at first glance why this is the case.

Look at this part of appendData:

if (msgSize_+len > bufSize_) {

 int newBufSize = bufSize_;
 while ((newBufSize *= 2) < msgSize_+len);

 char* p = new char[newBufSize];

The point of this block of code is to grow the buffer. I grow the size of the buffer by doubling it until it's big enough. This piece of code is safe because the only part that can throw an exception is the call to new, and I don't update the object state or allocate any other resources before that happens. It will throw bad_alloc if the operating system is unable to allocate the requested piece of memory.

If the memory is allocated successfully, then I can start updating the state of the object by copying the data and updating the member variables:

 copy(buf_, buf_+msgSize_, p);
 copy(data, data+len, p+msgSize_);

 msgSize_ += len;
 bufSize_ = newBufSize;

 delete[] buf_;
 buf_ = p;

None of these operations can throw exceptions, so we are in the clear. (This is only because the data in the buffer is a sequence of chars; see the discussion that follows Example 9-5 for further explanation.)

This solution is simple, and it is the general strategy for making member functions strongly exception-safe: Do everything that might throw an exception first, then, when all of the dangerous work is over with, take a deep breath and update the object state. appendData just uses a temporary variable to hold the new buffer size. This solves the problem with the buffer size, but does it truly uphold the basic guarantee of not leaking resources? Yes, but barely.

copy calls operator= on each element in the sequence that it is copying. In Example 9-4, each element is a char, so we are safe because a single assignment of one character to another can't tHRow anything. But I said, barely, because you shouldn't let the safety of this special case make you think an exception will never come out of copy.

Imagine for a moment that instead of a narrow character buffer, you have to write a Message class that can contain an array of anything. You might write it as a class template to look like Example 9-5.

Example 9-5. A generic message class

template
class MessageGeneric {

public:
 MessageGeneric(int bufSize = DEFAULT_BUF_SIZE) :
 bufSize_(bufSize),
 initBufSize_(bufSize),
 msgSize_(0),
 buf_(new T[bufSize]) {}

 ~MessageGeneric( ) {
 delete[] buf_;
 }

 void appendData(int len, const T* data) {
 if (msgSize_+len > MAX_SIZE) {
 throw out_of_range("Data size exceeds maximum size.");
 }
 if (msgSize_+len > bufSize_) {

 int newBufSize = bufSize_;
 while ((newBufSize *= 2) < msgSize_+len);

 T* p = new T[newBufSize];

 copy(buf_, buf_+msgSize_, p); // Can these throw?
 copy(data, data+len, p+msgSize_);

 msgSize_ += len;
 bufSize_ = newBufSize;

 delete[] buf_; // Get rid of old buffer and point to new
 buf_ = p;
 }
 else {
 copy(data, data+len, buf_+msgSize_);
 msgSize_ += len;
 }
 }

 // Copy the data out to the caller's buffer
 int getData(int maxLen, T* data) {
 if (maxLen < msgSize_) {
 throw out_of_range("This data is too big for your buffer.");
 }
 copy(buf_, buf_+msgSize_, data);
 return(msgSize_);
 }

private:
 MessageGeneric(const MessageGeneric& orig) {}
 MessageGeneric& operator=(const MessageGeneric& rhs) {}
 int bufSize_;
 int initBufSize_;
 int msgSize_;
 T* buf_;
};

Now you have to be more careful, because you can't make assumptions about the target type. For example, how do you know that T::operator= won't throw? You don't, so you have to be prepared for that possibility.

Wrap the calls to copy in a try block:

try {
 copy(buf_, buf_+msgSize_, p);
 copy(data, data+len, p+msgSize_);
}
catch(...) { // I don't care what was thrown; all I know
 delete[] p; // is that I have to clean up after myself,
 throw; // then rethrow.
}

Since you are catching any type that is thrown with the ellipsis operator, you can rest assured that if T::operator= throws, you will catch it and be able to clean up the heap memory you just allocated.

Strictly speaking, copy doesn't actually throw anything, T::operator= does. This is because copy (and the rest of the algorithms in the standard library) are generally exception-neutral, which means that if whatever it is invoking throws an exception, it will propagate it to the caller and not eat it (catch it and not rethrow). It reserves the right to catch exceptions, do some clean-up, then rethrow them, but ultimately anything that is thrown by a class or function the standard library is using will find its way to the caller.

Making your member functions exception-safe is tedious work. It requires that you consider all possible points where an exception can be thrown and that you deal with them the right way. When can an exception be thrown? Anywhere a function call is made. Operators for native data types can't throw, and destructors should never throw, but anything else, be it a standalone function, member function, operator, constructor, and so on, is a potential source of an exception. Examples Example 9-5 and Example 9-6 provide examples that use a narrow scope of exceptions. The classes contain very few member variables, and the behavior of the class is discrete. As the number of member functions and variables increase, and you introduce inheritance and virtual functions, remaining strongly exception-safe becomes more challenging.

Finally, as with most application requirements, you only need to be as exception-safe as you need to be. In other words, if you are writing a dialog-based wizard for generating web pages, your development schedule will probably preclude the necessary research and testing for making it strongly exception-safe. Thus, it may be acceptable to your client for users to encounter the occasional, ambiguous error message, "Unknown error, aborting." On the other hand, if you are writing software that controls the angle of a helicopter rotor, your client will probably push for more safety assurances than the occasional "Unknown error, aborting" message.

Building C++ Applications

Code Organization

Numbers

Strings and Text

Dates and Times

Managing Data with Containers

Algorithms

Classes

Exceptions and Safety

Streams and Files

Science and Mathematics

Multithreading

Internationalization

XML

Miscellaneous

Index

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C++ Cookbook
Secure Programming Cookbook for C and C++: Recipes for Cryptography, Authentication, Input Validation & More
ISBN: 0596003943
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 241
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