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Modern C++ Isn't Scary

Jason Steinhauser on August 16, 2019

C++ has a reputation for being an obtuse, antiquated language that is only for neckbeards and angry professors. Sure, it's fast, but why do you wan... [Read Full]
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What's scary about C++ is not the syntax. Yeah it looks a bit weird these days and all but that's not the problem. (I programmed in C++ for 10 years)

The problem is best illustrated with books like "Effective C++" and "More Effective C++" aka. "The 100 things you have to bear in mind to avoid inadvertently creating a memory leak".

With the addition of more features in the language I'm pretty sure they've created another 100 things that you need to bear in mind to avoid implicit memory leaks. So the surface area of expertise needed to do this increases.

At some point it just becomes easier to select a cleaner language.

 

This is exactly it!! There seem to be 2 ways to do memory: the first is to let the developer handle memory like in C. The second is to let the language handle memory, like in GC languages or in Rust.

If you let the developer handle memory that's all fine. Using malloc() and free() is actually easy once you get used to it. You have to figure out when objects get created and when they get destroyed, and plan things out accordingly, but it generally works out. Which is why memory leaks in C programs are rare and, for good code, easy to fix.

Letting the language handle the memory is also fine. You get a performance hit, at least traditionally with GC (can't speak for Rust. haven't used it), but in most cases it's worth it to free the developer of having to think about memory usage, and allow him to spend more time thinking about other problems or writing code.

However, what you get in C++ is an attempt to get the best of both worlds. It does this, not by having some sort of unifying idea like Rust's ownership thing (again, haven't used), but by adding on features (stuff the developer has to worry about), as if that's going to fix anything. It seems only to be digging a bigger hole for itself.

 

The problem isn't with malloc and free (or new and delete in the case of C++).. but with things like implict object creating when returning values the wrong way, or by improperly setting up copy constructors and things like that. Or the need to make destructors virtual if you use inheritance (don't do it? memory leak)

If it only was a matter of new/delete then it would be simple, like C is.
C++ is unwieldy.. too many rules. There are better, more productive languages these days.

 

I am extraordinarily confused when it comes to the C++ community. On the one hand they encourage code reuse: it's OOP after all. On the other, code becomes obsolete if it's not using the latest practices (last 5 years).

 

At some point, most languages take a turn for the better, or for the worse. Maybe C++ is finally heading in the right direction. Thanks

 

I've been considering starting a C++ project about 5 minutes ago and what discouraged me in the end is the absence of dependencies management. Is there any good solution for that? Development inside Docker? An emerging dependencies management solution?

Thanks :)

 

A lot of libraries are being built with CMake now, which makes it pretty easy to do dependency management. I've also had good luck with vcpkg from Microsoft. They're not as full featured as yarn, mix, or Maven yet, but they're a lot better than a decade ago!

 

Oh yes CMake is definitely a step forward, but you still need a package manager (other that apt I mean). I've looked a bit, there is things like Conan coming up but I have no idea the actual value of them.

 

Amazing post! I also wanted people to know that Modern C++ is great and should be used more frequently than Traditional C++ but there are very less people who know about it as no good books and documentation for beginners.

I myself have learned from 5 blogs, GitHub, drafting papers, some books etc.

 

Excellent! I'm glad to hear that it was helpful for you!

C++ does have a ways to go to have the tooling that languages developed decades later have. I think a lot of it has to do with backwards compatibility, and honestly I'm glad to see languages like Rust and GoLang come along and try to address those issues in new ways.

And I agree, leave C alone! It does exactly what it needs to do, and quite efficiently.

Other languages just take care of this stuff.. you don't need to worry about it.
C++ is by default leaky.. its like a gun that unless you aim it perfectly will always shoot you in the foot.
Its possible to write good code, but there's a lot to take in to get it right.

I'd say if you don't declare your destructor virtual, you've made a dangerous coding error and the compiler should tell you so. But everything is on manual in C++ (except for the proliferation of memory leaks).

Leave our beloved C devoid of any new unnecessary "features" 😁

 

Great post, as someone who has been eyeing C++ from the sideline I've indeed seen a lot of improvement with C++14 and especially 17, enough to make me want to start using it more.

I'm still waiting for modules to drop before I really dive into C++ though. The whole headers & include system is just a little too archaic and messy for my taste (coming from JS modules and Rust's module system).

 

Modules are getting a little better. vcpkg from Microsoft does a decent job, and a lot of projects that are built with CMake can be included directly from their Github repos like GoLang.

 

I spent a while in modern c++ I liked it but it's still really verbose. I am working in rust and find the experience more enjoyable. But don't let that stop anyone modern c++ really is easier.

 

Tbh I see this synthax way worse then the old one. But it should be my bias...

 

I completely respect your opinion. I'm curious to know what you don't like about it though!

 

Well I started using c++ a lot of years ago and I've never found the new auto/for stuff really terse. When I say I prefer the old synthax I mean that in c++ I always iterate over indeces 'for(int i...)'.
Other languages are different. I heavily use 'array.map()' in JS, or a ton of 'foreach' in .net, and analogous constructs in Python.
But c++... No they have added more noise to my eyes. It is a matter of taste, nothing really technical: just taste.

The same goes with the whole pointer stuff. Ok, smart pointer are a thing. But when I code with pointers I prefer to stay low level... It chrushes my mind to understand all the cool new stuff and I end adding more bugs!

Let consider that nowdays I use c++ for hi perf computations only (machine vision) so the context can also add bias...

 

This definitely makes me want to (finally) take a look at C++. Thanks for sharing, this is awesome!

 

more like unnecessarily evil..

for example if you do inheritance you better remember to make your destructor virtual. Lots and lots of these rules..

 

Maybe, but try to convince my manager...

 

What does your manager want to use? Or is he/she/they just wary of C++ in general?

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