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253. valarray helper functions are almost entirely useless

Section: [valarray.cons], [valarray.assign] Status: CD1 Submitter: Robert Klarer Opened: 2000-07-31 Last modified: 2016-01-28

Priority: Not Prioritized

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This discussion is adapted from message c++std-lib-7056 posted November 11, 1999. I don't think that anyone can reasonably claim that the problem described below is NAD.

These valarray constructors can never be called:

   template <class T>
         valarray<T>::valarray(const slice_array<T> &);
   template <class T>
         valarray<T>::valarray(const gslice_array<T> &);
   template <class T>
         valarray<T>::valarray(const mask_array<T> &);
   template <class T>
         valarray<T>::valarray(const indirect_array<T> &);

Similarly, these valarray assignment operators cannot be called:

     template <class T>
     valarray<T> valarray<T>::operator=(const slice_array<T> &);
     template <class T>
     valarray<T> valarray<T>::operator=(const gslice_array<T> &);
     template <class T>
     valarray<T> valarray<T>::operator=(const mask_array<T> &);
     template <class T>
     valarray<T> valarray<T>::operator=(const indirect_array<T> &);

Please consider the following example:

   #include <valarray>
   using namespace std;

   int main()
       valarray<double> va1(12);
       valarray<double> va2(va1[slice(1,4,3)]); // line 1

Since the valarray va1 is non-const, the result of the sub-expression va1[slice(1,4,3)] at line 1 is an rvalue of type const std::slice_array<double>. This slice_array rvalue is then used to construct va2. The constructor that is used to construct va2 is declared like this:

     template <class T>
     valarray<T>::valarray(const slice_array<T> &);

Notice the constructor's const reference parameter. When the constructor is called, a slice_array must be bound to this reference. The rules for binding an rvalue to a const reference are in 8.5.3, paragraph 5 (see also Specifically, paragraph 5 indicates that a second slice_array rvalue is constructed (in this case copy-constructed) from the first one; it is this second rvalue that is bound to the reference parameter. Paragraph 5 also requires that the constructor that is used for this purpose be callable, regardless of whether the second rvalue is elided. The copy-constructor in this case is not callable, however, because it is private. Therefore, the compiler should report an error.

Since slice_arrays are always rvalues, the valarray constructor that has a parameter of type const slice_array<T> & can never be called. The same reasoning applies to the three other constructors and the four assignment operators that are listed at the beginning of this post. Furthermore, since these functions cannot be called, the valarray helper classes are almost entirely useless.

Proposed resolution:





[Proposed resolution was modified in Santa Cruz: explicitly make copy constructor and copy assignment operators public, instead of removing them.]


Keeping the valarray constructors private is untenable. Merely making valarray a friend of the helper classes isn't good enough, because access to the copy constructor is checked in the user's environment.

Making the assignment operator public is not strictly necessary to solve this problem. A majority of the LWG (straw poll: 13-4) believed we should make the assignment operators public, in addition to the copy constructors, for reasons of symmetry and user expectation.