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¤)♦(C Programming-V)♦(¤ - a.guide.to.computer



¤)♦(C Programming-V)♦(¤
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C has a static weak typing type system that shares some similarities with that of other ALGOL descendants such as Pascal. There are built-in types for integers of various sizes, both signed and unsigned, floating-point numbers, characters, and enumerated types (enum). C99 added a boolean datatype. There are also derived types including arrays, pointers, records (struct), and untagged unions (union).
C is often used in low-level systems programming where escapes from the type system may be necessary. The compiler attempts to ensure type correctness of most expressions, but the programmer can override the checks in various ways, either by using a type cast to explicitly convert a value from one type to another, or by using pointers or unions to reinterpret the underlying bits of a value in some other way.
[edit]Pointers
C supports the use of pointers, a very simple type of reference that records, in effect, the address or location of an object or function in memory. Pointers can be dereferenced to access data stored at the address pointed to, or to invoke a pointed-to function. Pointers can be manipulated using assignment and also pointer arithmetic. The run-time representation of a pointer value is typically a raw memory address (perhaps augmented by an offset-within-word field), but since a pointer's type includes the type of the thing pointed to, expressions including pointers can be type-checked at compile time. Pointer arithmetic is automatically scaled by the size of the pointed-to data type. (See Array-pointer interchangeability below.) Pointers are used for many different purposes in C. Text strings are commonly manipulated using pointers into arrays of characters. Dynamic memory allocation, which is described below, is performed using pointers. Many data types, such as trees, are commonly implemented as dynamically allocated struct objects linked together using pointers. Pointers to functions are useful for callbacks from event handlers.
A null pointer is a pointer that explicitly points to no valid location. Even though it is created by setting a pointer to literal zero '0', it is not necessarily zero.[14] Dereferencing a null pointer is therefore undefined, typically resulting in a run-time error. Null pointers are useful for indicating special cases such as no next pointer in the final node of a linked list, or as an error indication from functions returning pointers. In code, null pointers are usually represented by 0 or NULL, and logically evaluate to false.
Void pointers (void *) point to objects of unknown type, and can therefore be used as "generic" data pointers. Since the size and type of the pointed-to object is not known, void pointers cannot be dereferenced, nor is pointer arithmetic on them allowed, although they can easily be (and in many contexts implicitly are) converted to and from any other object pointer type.
Careless use of pointers is potentially dangerous. Because they are typically unchecked, a pointer variable can be made to point to any arbitrary location, which can cause undesirable effects. Although properly-used pointers point to safe places, they can be made to point to unsafe places by using invalid pointer arithmetic; the objects they point to may be deallocated and reused (dangling pointers); they may be used without having been initialized (wild pointers); or they may be directly assigned an unsafe value using a cast, union, or through another corrupt pointer. In general, C is permissive in allowing manipulation of and conversion between pointer types, although compilers typically provide options for various levels of checking. Some other programming languages address these problems by using more restrictive reference types.
[edit]Arrays
Array types in C are traditionally of a fixed, static size specified at compile time. (The more recent C99 standard also allows a form of variable-length arrays.) However, it is also possible to allocate a block of memory (of arbitrary size) at run-time, using the standard library's malloc function, and treat it as an array. C's unification of arrays and pointers (see below) means that true arrays and these dynamically-allocated, simulated arrays are virtually interchangeable. Since arrays are always accessed (in effect) via pointers, array accesses are typically not checked against the underlying array size, although the compiler may provide bounds checking as an option. Array bounds violations are therefore possible and rather common in carelessly written code, and can lead to various repercussions, including illegal memory accesses, corruption of data, buffer overruns, and run-time exceptions.
C does not have a special provision for declaring multidimensional arrays, but rather relies on recursion within the type system to declare arrays of arrays, which effectively accomplishes the same thing. The index values of the resulting "multidimensional array" can be thought of as increasing in row-major order.
Multidimensional arrays are commonly used in numerical algorithms (mainly from applied linear algebra) to store matrices. The structure of the C array is well suited to this particular task. However, since arrays are passed merely as pointers, the bounds of the array must be known fixed values or else explicitly passed to any subroutine that requires them, and dynamically sized arrays of arrays cannot be accessed using double indexing. (A workaround for this is to allocate the array with an additional "row vector" of pointers to the columns.)
C99 introduced "variable-length arrays" which address some, but not all, of the issues with ordinary C arrays.
See also: C string
[edit]Array-pointer interchangeability
A distinctive (but potentially confusing) feature of C is its treatment of arrays and pointers. The array-subscript notation x[i] can also be used when x is a pointer; the interpretation (using pointer arithmetic) is to access the (i + 1)th object of several adjacent data objects pointed to by x, counting the object that x points to (which is x[0]) as the first element of the array.
Formally, x[i] is equivalent to *(x + i). Since the type of the pointer involved is known to the compiler at compile time, the address that x + i points to is not the address pointed to by x incremented by i bytes, but rather incremented by i multiplied by the size of an element that x points to. The size of these elements can be determined with the operator sizeof by applying it to any dereferenced element of x, as in n = sizeof *x or n = sizeof x[0].
Furthermore, in most expression contexts (a notable exception is as operand of sizeof), the name of an array is automatically converted to a pointer to the array's first element; this implies that an array is never copied as a whole when named as an argument to a function, but rather only the address of its first element is passed. Therefore, although function calls in C use pass-by-value semantics, arrays are in effect passed by reference.
The number of elements in a declared array x can be determined as sizeof x / sizeof x[0].
An interesting demonstration of the interchangeability of pointers and arrays is shown below. The four assignments are equivalent and each is valid C code.
/* x is an array OR a pointer. i is an integer. */

x[i] = 1; /* equivalent to *(x + i) */
*(x + i) = 1;
*(i + x) = 1;
i[x] = 1; /* equivalent to *(i + x) */
Note that although all four assignments are equivalent, only the first represents good coding style. The last line might be found in obfuscated C code.
Despite this apparent equivalence between array and pointer variables, there is still a distinction to be made between them. Even though the name of an array is, in most expression contexts, converted into a pointer (to its first element), this pointer does not itself occupy any storage, unlike a pointer variable. Consequently, what an array "points to" cannot be changed, and it is impossible to assign a value to an array variable. (Array values may be copied, however, e.g., by using the memcpy function.)
[edit]Memory management

One of the most important functions of a programming language is to provide facilities for managing memory and the objects that are stored in memory. C provides three distinct ways to allocate memory for objects:
Static memory allocation: space for the object is provided in the binary at compile-time; these objects have an extent (or lifetime) as long as the binary which contains them is loaded into memory. Static variables are automatically initialized to zero upon memory allocation.
Automatic memory allocation: temporary objects can be stored on the stack, and this space is automatically freed and reusable after the block in which they are declared is exited
Dynamic memory allocation: blocks of memory of arbitrary size can be requested at run-time using library functions such as malloc from a region of memory called the heap; these blocks persist until subsequently freed for reuse by calling the library function free
These three approaches are appropriate in different situations and have various tradeoffs. For example, static memory allocation has no allocation overhead, automatic allocation may involve a small amount of overhead, and dynamic memory allocation can potentially have a great deal of overhead for both allocation and deallocation. On the other hand, stack space is typically much more limited and transient than either static memory or heap space, and dynamic memory allocation allows allocation of objects whose size is known only at run-time. Most C programs make extensive use of all three.
Where possible, automatic or static allocation is usually preferred because the storage is managed by the compiler, freeing the programmer of the potentially error-prone chore of manually allocating and releasing storage. However, many data structures can grow in size at runtime, and since static allocations (and automatic allocations in C89 and C90) must have a fixed size at compile-time, there are many situations in which dynamic allocation must be used. Prior to the C99 standard, variable-sized arrays were a common example of this (see malloc for an example of dynamically allocated arrays).
Automatically and dynamically allocated objects are only initialized if an initial value is explicitly specified; otherwise they initially have indeterminate values (typically, whatever bit pattern happens to be present in the storage, which might not even represent a valid value for that type). If the program attempts to access an uninitialized value, the results are undefined. Many modern compilers try to detect and warn about this problem, but both false positives and false negatives occur.
Another issue is that heap memory allocation has to be manually synchronized with its actual usage in any program in order for it to be reused as much as possible. For example, if the only pointer to a heap memory allocation goes out of scope or has its value overwritten before free() has been called, then that memory cannot be recovered for later reuse and is essentially lost to the program, a phenomenon known as a memory leak. Conversely, it is possible to release memory too soon and continue to access it; however, since the allocation system can re-allocate or itself use the freed memory, unpredictable behavior is likely to occur. Typically, the symptoms will appear in a portion of the program far removed from the actual error, making it difficult to track down the problem. Such issues are ameliorated in languages with automatic garbage collection.
[edit]Libraries

The C programming language uses libraries as its primary method of extension. In C, a library is a set of functions contained within a single "archive" file. Each library ...


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