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Ask HN: jumping back into C++ after 4 years, what did I miss?
58 points by yid on Apr 22, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 25 comments
For the last 4 years or so, I've been mainly using dynamic languages after coming from a solid C/C++ background. The last 4 years also have happened to be some of the most transformative years for C++. I'm starting a fresh project and want to know what people are using for their C++ ecosystem. In particular, I want to avoid re-inventing the wheel. Feel free to fill in the blanks below:

-- Compilers: g++, clang, anything else?

-- Build systems: do I still have to suffer through autotools?

-- C++11 features: which ones are production ready?

-- Package managers: anything decent at all yet?

-- Testing: unit tests, integration tests, profiling?

-- Debugging: still with gdb? Anything better than valgrind?

-- Threads: still with pthreads?

-- Documentation: anything better than doxygen?

-- Static analysis: anything FOSS out there?

-- RPC libraries: any de facto standard yet?

-- Async programming: still libuv?

-- HTTP client/server libs: I hate cgicc, but have used it.




You're asking more specific questions that what I will cover, and they're good ones. It will be interesting to read how others reply.

For the other people looking, Stroustrup's A Tour of C++ [0] is the guide for getting quickly up to date with the "new C++", C++11 and onwards. It doesn't specifically cover C++14, but if you understand C++11, the few things coming in C++14 are for the most part minor enhancements to what is in C++11.

Scott Meyers should finish up the C++11/14 version of the Effective C++ series this year, and many are waiting for this. For now, his notes Overview of the New C++ (C++11/14) [1] are available for purchase.

If you like videos, there is a wealth of information from last years GoingNative conference [2]. More recently, at this years Build conferece, Herb Sutter gave a presentation on Modern C++: What You Need to Know [3].

Finally, come visit up over on reddit in /r/cpp [4]. Some heavyweights in the C++ world participate there, and the larger portion of participants are similarly knowledgeable in C++ as a whole.

[0] http://www.amazon.com/Tour-In-Depth-Series-Bjarne-Stroustrup...

[1] http://www.aristeia.com/Licensing/personalUse.html

[2] http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/GoingNative/2013?direction=a...

[3] http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2014/2-661

[4] http://www.reddit.com/r/cpp


Definitely take the time to watch the Herb Sutter video (number 3), the first half is mainly about how modern C++ differs from old C++, and the second half is all about how important control over the memory layout of your data is (spatial locality, CPU caches, linear arrays vs lists, etc...). This is one of the most interesting, and most relevant talks about C++ I've seen yet.


Thank you very much for those links. In particular, the Stroustrup book looks phenomenal at less than $20 used for a dead tree version.


For most of your questions my answers are "I don't know" or "probably things haven't changed much (but I haven't gone looking very hard)". I'm still under the impression that valgrind, gdb, libuv, g++/clang, are tools of choice. You didn't mention allocators: maybe try linking with a better malloc: tcmalloc or jemalloc. But I think that was also true 4 years ago.

> C++11 features: which ones are production ready?

What compiler and which standard C++ library are you using?

Generally speaking, any your targeted compilers support. Rvalue references and move semantics are the best and most important C++11 feature. Variadic templates would be the second best, I'd say. Scoped enumerations are nice. And being able to say std:: instead of boost:: in places, with std::bind, std::unique_ptr<T> (not boost::scoped_ptr<T>), std::unique_ptr<T[]>. nullptr_t. Stuff in http://en.cppreference.com/w/cpp/types . Other boring C++11 features like new uses of the "using" keyword.

> Threads: still with pthreads?

You could use C++11 threading stuff, but I'm not inclined to do so.


Just to tick a few points off the list:

- from my experience, gcc4.8, clang3.3 and VStudio2013 all have very solid C++11 support, and it is definitely production ready

- (meta-) build systems: cmake, premake, scons or similar meta-build-systems; these create Makefiles or IDE project files and generally simplify managing the build system for large multiplatform projects

- std::thread, std::atomic and std::chrono are really helpful for multi-platform development, since these areas hadn't been standardized before

- clang/llvm has a nice static analyzer, which is also integrated into the Xcode IDE on OSX (with a funky visualization of the "reasoning flow"), VStudio2013 also has a static analyzer built in

- I use UnitTest++ for unit testing, but I'm sure there are other choices, UnitTest++ has a nice IDE integration both in Xcode and VStudio (basically, the test failure messages are formatted so that they can be parsed by the IDE, and you can simply click on them)

- you can even get C++11 support on somewhat exotic platform like emscripten, std::atomic and std::chronos work, std::thread not because of Javascript's limited threading model

- the new move-semantic is really useful for dynamic container classes, and generally handing complex objects around, and you get these improvements "for free" when using the standard containers

[edit: chronos -> chrono]


On recent C++ projects, I used the TAP [0] test format. It's quite minimalistic and does the job.

Debugging tools have improved quite a bit. I suggest you take a look at asan [1] for memory related errors. Also, tsan [2] looks very promising for data races detection. I think both tools have been integrated within LLVM/Clang/GCC.

Also, you might want to take a look at tracing tools such as (shameless plug!) LTTng [3] for userspace.

Static analysis tools are quite "en vogue" right now. IMO, nothing comes close to Coverity Scan [4]. It's free for open source projects, but you will have to fork (quite) a bit of money to run this tool on proprietary applications. On the other hand, purely FOSS static-analyzer such as clang-analyzer and cppcheck can catch nasty errors. I would suggest using a mix of all these tools.

[0] - http://testanything.org/testing-with-tap/c-plus-plus.html

[1] - https://code.google.com/p/address-sanitizer/

[2] - https://code.google.com/p/data-race-test/wiki/ThreadSanitize...

[3] - http://lttng.org/ust

[4] - https://scan.coverity.com/


Compilers: visual studio is a very respectable C++ compiler nowadays. It lags slightly behind clang and g++, but is the compiler of choice on windows. clang is now the equal of g++. Unless you have a reason not to, use visual studio on windows, clang on mac os x, and either clang or g++ on linux.

Build systems: cmake seems increasingly popular nowadays, but doesn't solve all autotools related issues.

C++11: If you are willing to require a reasonably recent version of each compiler, you can happily use almost every C++11 feature. auto and decltype are the two which I use the most day to day, and greatly help simplify code. If you are willing to use the very most recent version of clang or g++ (by which I mean gcc 4.9, released a couple of days ago), there is almost complete C++14 support. C++14 is mostly a cleanup, the only significant thing I have been using is generic lambda functions (lambda functions are in C++11).

Debugging: on mac there is lldb, never tried running it on linux. clang and g++ now have 'sanitizers' built in. I haven't use the g++ one, the clang memory sanitizer catches several bugs which valgrind misses (as valgrind is poor at detecting stack related issues).

Threads: C++11 has std::thread. It works fine for me but I don't do anything super fancy.


> use visual studio on mac

If only :(


Typo fixed :) (which now makes this comment make nos sense. I agree Visual Studio is better than Xcode).


For testing, I've used and like the googletest unit test framework: https://code.google.com/p/googletest/

For C++ features, definitely check out lambda functions and the STL algorithms. With lambdas the standard algorithms are much, much easier to use. Herb Sutter in a talk said something to the effect of just forget the whole idea of function objects and use lambdas.

Will also be useful to familiarize yourself with the C++11 pointer types, unique_ptr and shared_ptr. I try to never write code that invokes new/free directly and instead just use those pointer types.

Also seconding picking up A Tour of C++ by Stroustrup. It's not a long read and will get you up to speed on all the important changes. I think it's a very exciting time to be using C++!


Clang has static analysis http://clang-analyzer.llvm.org

Valgrind is still what I use and see recommended

Still using doxygen

C++11: lambdas

Kind of hoping people chime in on some of your questions.


As for the core C++ language, rvalue references, lambdas and variadic templates are probably the biggest additions.

Lambdas and variadic templates are optional, but you need to be aware of rvalue references and move semantics, which enable optimizations previously unavailable. If you write functions for which it might be advantageous to move values rather than copy them, such as transferring ownership of dynamically allocated memory from one instance of a class to another, then you should consider using rvalue references.


[deleted]


I think you replied to the wrong post.


I use Doxygen.

C++11 Lambda's, threads, auto, smart_ptr

C++14 shared mutex's look interesting.


I have to say Doxygen has matured considerably in the last 4 years. Color me impressed.


Indeed. Coupled with "Dash" I have a lot of documentation at my finger tips...


For HTTP, Microsoft recently opensourced a C++ Rest SDK called CasaBlanca [0].

For debugging, I'm still partial to the Visual Studio debugger when appropriate, though it doesn't seem to be able to debug lambdas very well.

Also possibly missed the hype train for "replacement" languages like D, Go, and Rust. We'll see where that goes. Some people are really excited.

[0]: http://casablanca.codeplex.com/


I'm also returning to C++ as well.

Throwing that out there - Will pay over $100 for books, videos, tutorials on cutting-edge C++ tutorials to get back in the game.


well, maybe we could form a simple mailing list and we could just do an ask/answer type situation. I spent the last year writing a game in C++ and ready to start my second.

I run my own mail server, I could set something up. There a lot of lists/forums out there but they all seem snooty and dont like obvious newb questions.

EDIT: Here is a new group. Lets use it to help each other out so we all become better: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/community-c-plus-plu...



I would love to be on the mailing list too. I just wonder if we just go with a google group, or a github repo of "best c++ practical patterns" and use its mailing list. Not doubting your admin skills, but these companies just have more resource to keep things more stable.


Please include me in the mailing list as well.


Consider me interested.


Jason created a group where everyone from here can ask and share https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/community-c-plus-plu...


Maybe offtopic but did you try to look golang[1]?

[1] http://golang.org




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