By using this site, you agree to our updated Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use. Manage your Cookies Settings.
446,238 Members | 1,787 Online
Bytes IT Community
+ Ask a Question
Need help? Post your question and get tips & solutions from a community of 446,238 IT Pros & Developers. It's quick & easy.

accessing protected data members of instance of parent class

P: n/a
Hi,

Given: I have a class with protected or private data members, some of
them without accessor methods. It's someone else's class, so I can't
change it. (eg, I can't add accessor methods to the parent class, and I
can't make some "helper" class a friend of the parent class to help in
accessing the data.)

Problem: I want to derive a class that has a copy constructor that
properly copies those data members.

What I tried:
1. I tried using memcpy() to copy all the data members. That always
crashed if the derived class contained virtual functions (?!), and
sometimes even more times than that.

class Derived
{.....
public:
Derived(Parent& rhs)
{
memcpy(this, &rhs, sizeof(Parent));
}
}

*** What gives? Why doesn't this work?
I'm guessing I'm not copying rhs into the proper portion of Derived's
memory layout. :-/

2. I tried static_casting the parent class to the derived class, so that
I could gain access to its data members directly.

class Derived
{.....
public:
Derived(Parent& rhs)
{
dataMemberX = static_cast<Derived&>(rhs).dataMemberX;
}
}

*** Is this *safe*? ie, Is it safe to static_cast from one instance down
to a *derived* class, even if that instance wasn't originally created of
the derived type?

Seems to me that sometimes this will work (as it has every time I've
*tried* it), and sometimes I'll get a mem access exception because the
derived class is bigger than the parent class.

3. *** Anyone have better suggestions for what else I might try? ;-)
Hacks are welcome, as long as they're "safe".

Thanks!
Suzanne

Jul 22 '05 #1
Share this Question
Share on Google+
5 Replies


P: n/a
"Suzanne Vogel" <su*************@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:3f**********@news.unc.edu...
| Given: I have a class with protected or private data members, some of
| them without accessor methods. It's someone else's class, so I can't
| change it. (eg, I can't add accessor methods to the parent class, and I
| can't make some "helper" class a friend of the parent class to help in
| accessing the data.)
|
| Problem: I want to derive a class that has a copy constructor that
| properly copies those data members.
|
| What I tried:
| 1. I tried using memcpy() to copy all the data members.

This leads to undefined behavior (except for PODs=C-like structs).
| 2. I tried static_casting the parent class to the derived class,
| so that I could gain access to its data members directly.
....
| *** Is this *safe*? ie, Is it safe to static_cast from one instance down
| to a *derived* class, even if that instance wasn't originally created of
| the derived type?

No, formally not. Although it will work on many implementations if you
only access base class members and avoid any virtual/dynamic methods.
| 3. *** Anyone have better suggestions for what else I might try? ;-)
| Hacks are welcome, as long as they're "safe".

You haven't said wheter the Parent class had an accessible
copy-constructor.
But the nice clean way to do it is:
class Derived : public Parent // this relationship assumed
{.....
public:
Derived(Parent& rhs)
: Parent( rhs ) // initialize Parent sub-object with rhs
{
// ... whatever else is needed ...
}
};
I hope this helps,
Ivan
--
http://ivan.vecerina.com/contact/?subject=NG_POST <- e-mail contact form
Jul 22 '05 #2

P: n/a
> | Given: I have a class with protected or private data members, some of
| them without accessor methods. It's someone else's class, so I can't
| change it. (eg, I can't add accessor methods to the parent class, and I
| can't make some "helper" class a friend of the parent class to help in
| accessing the data.)
|
| Problem: I want to derive a class that has a copy constructor that
| properly copies those data members.
[snip]
| 3. *** Anyone have better suggestions for what else I might try? ;-)
| Hacks are welcome, as long as they're "safe".

You haven't said wheter the Parent class had an accessible
copy-constructor.
No, the parent class does not have a copy constructor -- or even an
assignment operator. :-( But thanks for the suggestion.

*** Any suggestions that do *not* require the parent to have a copy
constructor or assignment operator?

eg, I have an idea: I've broadened my scope from requiring copying done
within the copy constructor, to permitting it down from outside. The
difference here is that I'm typecasting the derived instance *up* to the
parent class (rather than trying to typecast the parent down to the
derived class, which is unsafe).

*** Is this safe & guaranteed to work in all cases?

Parent* p = new Parent(...);
Derived* d = new Derived();
memcpy(static_cast<Parent*>(d), p, sizeof(Parent)); // copy p to d

Thanks again!

Suzanne
But the nice clean way to do it is:
class Derived : public Parent // this relationship assumed
{.....
public:
Derived(Parent& rhs)
: Parent( rhs ) // initialize Parent sub-object with rhs
{
// ... whatever else is needed ...
}
};
I hope this helps,
Ivan


Jul 22 '05 #3

P: n/a
"Suzanne Vogel" <su*************@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:3f********@news.unc.edu...
| > You haven't said wheter the Parent class had an accessible
| > copy-constructor.
|
| No, the parent class does not have a copy constructor -- or even an
| assignment operator. :-( But thanks for the suggestion.

Sorry to be picky here, but you have to be specific.
If the parent class doesn't have (*declare*) a copy-constructor or
assignment operator, a default compiler-generated implementation
of these functions will exist and be accessible.
If the parent class defines them as public or protected members,
they can only be used.
Only if those members are declared as private will you not
be able to use the solution I suggested.

| *** Any suggestions that do *not* require the parent to have a copy
| constructor or assignment operator?

If both of these operations as declared as *private* in the parent,
the C++ standard will not allow you to portably work around the
intent of what has been written.

| *** Is this safe & guaranteed to work in all cases?
|
| Parent* p = new Parent(...);
| Derived* d = new Derived();
| memcpy(static_cast<Parent*>(d), p, sizeof(Parent)); // copy p to d

I would stay away from memcpy. It does lead to real problems
(not only in theory, though it depends on the contents of Parent).

If you really need a hack, the following might be more
reliable:

// File: Derived.cpp
#define private public //illegal, but typically works in practice...
#include "Parent.h"
#undef private
//... other includes ...
// and use the copy-constructor of Parent,
// as suggested in my previous reply

hth -Ivan
--
http://ivan.vecerina.com/contact/?subject=NG_POST <- e-mail contact form
Jul 22 '05 #4

P: n/a
> | No, the parent class does not have a copy constructor -- or even an
| assignment operator. :-( But thanks for the suggestion.

Sorry to be picky here, but you have to be specific.
If the parent class doesn't have (*declare*) a copy-constructor or
assignment operator, a default compiler-generated implementation
of these functions will exist and be accessible.
(Let's call this the "copy constructor method" -- for the discussion below.)

Durn, I forgot! *blush* Yes, the parent class doesn't declare a copy
constructor, so it has the default. The default copy constructor copies
ptr values, but that's okay because we can write a little method to
allocate new memory (assigning new ptr values to our new object).

Thanks! :-)
I would stay away from memcpy. It does lead to real problems
(not only in theory, though it depends on the contents of Parent).
eg, I found that if some of the data members in Parent are NULL, then
memcpy() results in a NULL ref exception (even *if* I try to allocate
new memory to the child data members). Strange.
If you really need a hack, the following might be more
reliable:

// File: Derived.cpp
#define private public //illegal, but typically works in practice...
#include "Parent.h"
#undef private
//... other includes ...
// and use the copy-constructor of Parent,
// as suggested in my previous reply


(Let's call this the "macro hack method" -- for the discussion below.)

Ah, yes, defining keywords as macros. (I just saw that done for "new"
somewhere.) ;-) Dangerous if someone tries to use class Derived in with
*precompiled* Parent code, I'd think (because then the "private" macro
wouldn't have been defined when Parent was compiled).

-------//-------

FYI, below is my complete test program, hacks and all. Only the copy
constructor method (and the macro hack method) is 100% reliable. I have
no questions. :-)
--Suzanne

#include <iostream>

#define COUT std::cout
#define FLUSH std::flush

#define private public //----- BEGIN HACK -----

class Parent
{
private:
int* mX;
protected:
int* mY;
public:
int* mZ;
public:
Parent(int* x=NULL, int* y=NULL, int* z=NULL) : mX(x), mY(y), mZ(z)
{
if (mX==NULL) mX = new int(3);
if (mY==NULL) mY = new int(5);
if (mZ==NULL) mZ = new int(7);
}
virtual ~Parent() { delete mX; delete mY; delete mZ; }

void print() { COUT << "(" << mX << ", " << mY << ", " << mZ << ")\n"
<< "(" << *mX << ", " << *mY << ", " << *mZ <<
")\n----------------\n" << FLUSH; }
};

#undef private //----- END HACK -----

class Derived : public Parent
{
public:
Derived() {}
//************************************************** ***********************
// WORKS

//************************************************** ***********************
Derived(Parent& rhs) : Parent(rhs) { fixupPtrs(); }

//************************************************** ***********************

Derived& copy1(Parent& p) // WARNING: Works here iff ptrs are
non-NULL -- but undefined in general
{
memcpy(this, static_cast<Derived*>(&p), sizeof(Derived));
fixupPtrs();
return *this;
}
Derived& copy2(Parent& p) // WARNING: Works here iff ptrs are
non-NULL -- but undefined in general
{
memcpy(static_cast<Parent*>(this), &p, sizeof(Parent));
fixupPtrs();
return *this;
}
Derived& copy3(Parent& p) // WARNING: Works here iff "private" is
macro #define'd as "protected" or "public"
{
Derived& d = static_cast<Derived&>(p);
mX = d.mX!=NULL ? new int(*(d.mX)) : new int(3);
mY = d.mY!=NULL ? new int(*(d.mY)) : new int(5);
mZ = d.mZ!=NULL ? new int(*(d.mZ)) : new int(7);
return *this;
}
Derived& copy4(Parent& p) // WARNING: Senseless crap -- and
sometimes gives NULL ref exception!!
{
const_cast<Derived*>(this) = &(Derived(p));
fixupPtrs();
return *this;
}

private: // Give this object different ptrs from (but the same values
as) the parent from which it was copied
void fixupPtrs() { mX = new int(*mX); mY = new int(*mY); mZ = new
int(*mZ); }
};

int main(int argc, char** argv)
{
Parent* p = new Parent();
Derived* d = new Derived();

COUT << "//////////////////////// Parent: ///////////////////////\n";
p->print();

// ----- All of these are *unsafe* -----
COUT << "//////////////////////// Derived: ///////////////////////\n";
d->copy1(*p).print();
d->copy2(*p).print();
d->copy3(*p).print();
//d->copy4(*p).print(); // Yeeks, gives NULL ref exception

// ----- This is *safe* -----
COUT << "//////////////////////// Derived: ///////////////////////\n";
Derived* d2 = new Derived(*p);
d2->print();

delete p;
delete d;
delete d2;
}

Jul 22 '05 #5

P: n/a
>> // File: Derived.cpp
#define private public //illegal, but typically works in practice...
#include "Parent.h"
#undef private
//... other includes ...
// and use the copy-constructor of Parent,
// as suggested in my previous reply
(Let's call this the "macro hack method" -- for the discussion below.)

Ah, yes, defining keywords as macros. (I just saw that done for "new"
somewhere.) ;-) Dangerous if someone tries to use class Derived in with
*precompiled* Parent code, I'd think (because then the "private" macro
wouldn't have been defined when Parent was compiled).


Public, private and protected qualifiers are compile-time only;
--i.e.: they are not retained in (compiled) object code.
#define private public //----- BEGIN HACK -----

class Parent
{ ....(snip)...};

#undef private //----- END HACK -----


The above will indeed affect other code using the base class. Do the
hack in the derived class header file:

//-----------------------------------------------
#define private protected //----- BEGIN HACK -----
#include "parent.h"
#undef private //----- END HACK -----

class Derived : public Parent
{
...
};
//-----------------------------------------------
But given that you said that the parent class has its compiler default
copy constructor intact; I don't see the need to hack it in the first
place...

Jul 22 '05 #6

This discussion thread is closed

Replies have been disabled for this discussion.