Automate your C library type-based overload resolutions with C++17

Every time I work with a C library, I miss the power and capability of the type system C++ provides. That’s why I developed a simple C++17 header-only helper library to pack the multiple type-dependent C-style functions into single overload deduced at compile-time. No external libraries are required. Repo link: https://github.com/MKlimenko/plusifier. Currently, it’s just the header and a compile-time test file, CMake integration coming soon.

UPD: Some of the comments (somewhy I can’t see them now) suggested this lightning talk by Niel Waldren. It is indeed a slightly less bulky solution, but, in my opinion, it won’t trigger a warning with a type conversion mismatch (std::size_t vs plain int) and, due to the usage of std::function, it’s heavier to compile. On my local machine results with the clang-10 via WSL2 it took twice as long to compile: 359 vs 183 ms.

Motivation

Many programming languages can call libraries with the pure C interface. Libraries themselves may be written in various languages, however, it is a de-facto standard for them to have a C interface.

Due to the lack of function overloading in pure C, library maintainers are required to explicitly specify all of the available types for the function. For example, I’d like to list one of my favourite libraries out there, the Intel Integrated Performance Primitives, IPP:

IppStatus   ippsMulC_16s_I(Ipp16s val, Ipp16s* pSrcDst, int len);
IppStatus   ippsMulC_32f_I(Ipp32f val, Ipp32f* pSrcDst, int len);
IppStatus   ippsMulC_64f_I(Ipp64f val, Ipp64f* pSrcDst, int len);
IppStatus   ippsMulC_32fc_I(Ipp32fc val, Ipp32fc* pSrcDst, int len);
IppStatus   ippsMulC_64fc_I(Ipp64fc val, Ipp64fc* pSrcDst, int len);
// ... and so on

If you’re a C++ developer like myself, you may find this mildly irritating to look up and change the function every single time you decide to change the type. And it works poorly with generic (templated) code as well.

Usage and examples

Wrapper object is created in the constructor and then the correct overload is selected in the operator() call:

auto fn = plusifier::FunctionWrapper(/*function overloads*/);

auto dst = fn(/* function arguments... */);

Pointer wrapper object is used similarally:

auto ptr = plusifier::PointerWrapper<PointerType, DeleterFunction>(allocator_function, /* allocator function arguments... */);

Where allocator_function may be both the callable (function pointer, lambda, std::function) as well as the plusifier::FunctionWrapper.

Function overloading

For a more simplified example, suppose we have three functions with a slightly different signature:

int square_s8(const std::int8_t* val, int sz) {
    return 1;
}
int square_s32(const std::int32_t* val, int sz) {
    return 4;
}
int square_fp32(const float* val) {
    return 8;
}

With this library, they may be packed into single object:

auto square = plusifier::FunctionWrapper(square_s8, square_s32, square_fp32);

auto dst_ch = square(arr_ch.data(), 0);     // <-- calls square_s8
auto dst_int = square(arr_int.data(), 0);   // <-- calls square_s32
auto dst_fp32 = square(arr_fp32.data());    // <-- calls square_fp32

It will check if the passed arguments are viable to be used as the arguments for the functions at the compile-time and select the most appropriate overload.

Pointer automation

RAII is the lifesaver in modern C++. However, it’s a bit tedious to mix it with the C-style allocations. One of the approaches would be to use the std::unique_ptr with a custom deleter, but it’s quite excess, so I decided to expand this library a little bit more.

For example, we might have a specified allocation functions for various types:

Ipp8u*      ippsMalloc_8u(int len);
Ipp16u*     ippsMalloc_16u(int len);
Ipp32u*     ippsMalloc_32u(int len);
Ipp8s*      ippsMalloc_8s(int len);
Ipp16s*     ippsMalloc_16s(int len);
Ipp32s*     ippsMalloc_32s(int len);
Ipp64s*     ippsMalloc_64s(int len);
Ipp32f*     ippsMalloc_32f(int len);
Ipp64f*     ippsMalloc_64f(int len);
// and so on...

We’ll wrap all of them into single FunctionWrapper and pass it to the PointerWrapper:

auto ippsMalloc = plusifier::FunctionWrapper(ippsMalloc_8u, ippsMalloc_16u, ippsMalloc_32u, /* etc */);

auto ptr = plusifier::PointerWrapper<Ipp8u, ippsFree>(ippsMalloc, size);

Under the hood

Internals of the class

FunctionWrapper is a variadic template class with the types being the function pointers:

template <typename ... F>
class FunctionWrapper  final {
        static_assert(sizeof...(F) != 0, "FunctionWrapper should be not empty");
        std::tuple<F...> var;
        constexpr static inline std::size_t pack_size = sizeof...(F);
};

First static_assert is used to create a legit compile-time error when there are no functions passed. std::tuple is a heterogeneous container to store those function pointers, and a pack_size is a simple helper constant.

Due to the fact, that there are no references and move semantics in pure C, I’ve decided to omit the perfect forwarding and pass the parameter pack in the constructor as-is, so the constructor is extremely trivial:

FunctionWrapper(F ... functions) : var(functions...) {}

Then there is a function call operator (operator()), overload search and verification routines and small helper functions and classes.

operator()

Function call operator may be split into two parts: compile-time and run-time. First is used to select the correct overload or to indicate the lack of one, while the runtime calls the selected function.

template <typename ... Args>
auto operator()(Args ... args) const {
    // compile-time
    constexpr auto verification_result = VerifyOverload<0, Args...>();
    if constexpr (!verification_result)
        static_assert(NoOverloadFound<F...>(), "No suitable overload is found");

    // run-time
    return std::get<verification_result>(var)(args...);
}

Here the verification_result variable is an object of a simple helper struct with two fields and conversion operators. In the first place, I wanted to use a structured binding, but the compiler told me I’m not supposed to. This struct contains an index of the function inside the tuple and the fact that the correct overload has been found. This flag ended up there due to the recursive nature of the used template metaprogramming approach.

Verification starts at index 0 and iterates up to the end of the tuple.

Function verification

Every iteration, I get the function pointer signature from the tuple, as well as the std::function signature to ease the following metaprogramming. Then there’s an excellent function std::is_invocable_v in the standard library, that allows me to check if the function pointer in the tuple may be called with the type pack passed to the operator(). If we’re good, we would prematurely quit the function, otherwise, we’ll continue iterating, until the very end of the tuple.

If there’s no suitable overload, a function with a failing static_assert is called for better error diagnostics.


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