Compiling Boost with STLPort on Windows

I couldn’t find a concise howto on compiling Boost with STLPort on Windows, so here it is:

  1. Download Boost. I used version 1.44, I have heard people have struggled with earlier versions.
  2. In the Boost root directory, open project-config.jam. Add the following line:
    using stlport : STLPORT_VERSION : C:/PATH_TO_STLPORT/stlport : C:/PATH_TO_STLPORT/lib ;
    , substituting STLPORT_VERSION for you version of STLPort, and PATH_TO_STLPORT to you STLPort directory.
  3. Build Boost: bjam stdlib=stlport stage. If you want to build a static lib, add link=static runtime-link=static.

My setup:

  • Boost 1.44
  • STLPort 5.2.1
  • Visual Studio 2008

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Show Me Your Signature, and I’ll Tell You Who You Are

When you write your function signatures, you have a choice between passing values, pointers or references. You might be able to make any of them work for the compiler, but what do they tell the user?

Note that even though pointers and reference are somewhat related, and mostly communicate the same thing, they have different suggestions about ownership.


1: Pass by value

void foo(Bar b); I need to copy your object, because I need to modify it, and you don’t want to see the change. (Except for built-in types, which are usually passed by value even though they are not modified by the function.)

2: Pass by reference/pointer

void foo(Bar& b); void foo(Bar* b); I need a reference to your object, in order to modify it, beacuse you need to see the change.

3: Pass by reference to const

void foo(const Bar& b); void foo(const Bar * b); I won’t need to modify your object, and I don’t want to pay the price of a copy.

You could argue that 1 just means I will leave your object alone, and doesn’t say anything about modification. But if you aren’t going to modify it, you should use 3, so I think 1 explicitly states that the object is going to be modified (invisibly to the caller). Unless of course the argument is a built-in type.

Return values

1: Return by value

Bar foo(); Here, take this object and do whatever you want with it, I won’t touch it again. It’s yours.

2: Return a reference

Bar& foo(); There is an object over here that you can use. Someone else might silently change it, though. By the way, I own it, and it is my responsibility to delete it. (If foo() is a non-static member function, you can usually assume that won’t happen until the object on which it is called goes out of scope. If foo() is a static function, you can usually assume this won’t happen until the program exits.)

3: Return a pointer

Bar* foo(); There is an object over here that you can use. Someone else might silently change it, though. By the way, I might delete it at any time. Or maybe that’s your responsibility, and if you don’t, you’ll have a memory leak. But I won’t tell you which one it is! You need more information to be sure, for instance the documentation. Often, you can also deduce ownership from the situation. A singleton retains ownership, a factory does not.

4: Return a reference/pointer to const

const Bar& foo(); const Bar* foo(); There is an object over here that you can use, and I promise it won’t change, even if I still own it. Rules of deletion are as in 2. The reason I don’t list the ownership issues for the pointer in this case, is that I think const is an indication that ownership is retained. If it was not, why use const at all?

A Summary of “const”, Part One

Over the last two weeks, I have mentioned const a couple of times.

const is an often used keyword in C++ (though I would like to see people use it even more), and the different uses can be confusing. In this post I will try to summarize the most common uses:

Constant variables

Constant variables are simple, they cannot be changed after initialization:

const int answer = 43; //Cannot be changed  (even though I know you want to)
answer = 42; //Nope, not today.

Constant pointers

Constant pointers are a bit more involved, as the pointer can either be constant itself, point to something constant, or both, or none:

int x = 1;
const int c = 43;

const int * p1 = &c; //Non-const pointer to something const
p1 = &x; //So we can change what it points to
         //(Also note that a pointer to const can point to something non-const).

int * const p2 = &x; //Const pointer to something non-const.
p2 = c; //Not allowed, cannot change what it points to
*p2 = 2; //But can change the thing it points to

int * p3 = &c; //Cannot point to something const with a pointer to non-const
int * const p4 = &c; //Not even with a const pointer

const int * const p5 = &x; //Const ponter to something const
p5 = &c; //Cannot change what it points to
*p5 = 2; //Cannot change the thing it points to either

//And just to confuse things, it doesn't matter on which side of the type you put const, so the following are both a non-const pointer to a const int:

const int * d = &c;
int const * e = &c;
*d = 42; //Not allowed
*e = 42; //Not allowed

Const and functions

const can also be used with functions:

//Passing arguments as reference to const is a best practice, since this allows
//you to avoid copying, and still promise the caller that his object won't
//be modified.
void f(const string& s);

But there is one more use with const and functions, that is const member functions. Here, const applies to the method itself, not the parameters. A const member function promises to not modify the object on which it is called:

struct Foo {
    int getFoo() const; //Will not modify the object on which it is called
    int getMore(); //Might change the object on which it is called

int doFoo(const Foo& foo) {
    foo.getFoo(); //Ok
    foo.getMore(); //Not ok, cannot call non-const methods on const objects

Functions can also return const variables and pointers, but I’ll cover that in a follow-up where I’ll also cover operators. (Operators are in essence functions, but there is more to say about them.)