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Re: [vox-tech] C - passing chars and pointer to chars
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Re: [vox-tech] C - passing chars and pointer to chars


I am not sure if this is the full story or not(or whether its standard or not, 
this is just my opinion. YMMV)  Its pretty rare in my experience to pass by 
value chars(either unsigned or signed), I mean look at functions like memset 
and strchr, they take ints for what usually is a char. So when you pass 
strings around(which are pointers to character), it probably concerns itself 
more with the signedness.  I am curious how you compiled?  Did you 
have -Wall ?  If not, does that change things?  


On Friday 02 June 2006 08:31 am, Peter Jay Salzman wrote:
> I've been learning Java's JNI API, and came across something about C that I
> never knew.
> There are 3 types of char:
>    char
>    signed char
>    unsigned char
> My understanding of the standard says that char can either be of type
> "signed char" or "unsigned char"; it's implementation specific.  By
> assigning "c = 255" I found that on my own platform (GNU/x86) a char is
> implemented as a "signed char".  I think I remember reading that on Apple
> platforms, it's implemented as an "unsigned char".
> According to the gcc info page:
>      Ideally, a portable program should always use `signed char' or
>      `unsigned char' when it depends on the signedness of an object.
>      But many programs have been written to use plain `char' and expect
>      it to be signed, or expect it to be unsigned, depending on the
>      machines they were written for.  This option, and its inverse, let
>      you make such a program work with the opposite default.
> *    The type `char' is always a distinct type from each of `signed
> *    char' or `unsigned char', even though its behavior is always just
> *    like one of those two.
> char is a *distinct type* from "signed char" or "unsigned char".  That
> surprised me.  So I did some experimentation and here's what I found.
> Apparently, there's no problem assigning the different chars to each other.
> The compiler does the automatic conversion:
>    char          a = 0;
>    signed char   b = 0;
>    unsigned char c = 0;
>    a = b; a = c;    // fine.
>    b = a; b = c;    // fine.
>    c = a; c = b;    // fine.
> You can even pass the different types of char to functions that take
> other types of char:
>    void takesAChar( char x, signed char y, unsigned char z );
>    takesAChar(a, b, c); takesAChar(a, c, b);  // fine.
>    takesAChar(b, a, c); takesAChar(b, c, a);  // fine.
>    takesAChar(c, b, a); takesAChar(c, a, b);  // fine.
> What the compiler complains about is passing *pointers* to different
> types of char:
>    void takesACharPtr( char *x, signed char *y, unsigned char *z );
>    takesACharPtr(&a, &b, &c); takesACharPtr(&a, &c, &b);  // warnings.
>    takesACharPtr(&b, &a, &c); takesACharPtr(&b, &c, &a);  // warnings.
>    takesACharPtr(&c, &a, &b); takesACharPtr(&c, &b, &a);  // warnings.
> The warning is:
>    pointer targets in passing argument foo of bar differ in signedness.
> I'm trying to understand this.  I'm fairly sure the standard says that all
> 3 types of char must have the same width.  For pointer operations like:
>    char s[] = "hello";
>    unsigned char *cptr = s;
>    ++cptr;
>    putc( *cptr, stdout );
> will correctly print "e" because "char" and "unsigned char" have the same
> width, and when we add one to cptr, it points to the correct location in
> memory.
> What I'm getting at is this.  Because all the chars have the same width, it
> doesn't matter WHAT kind of pointer you pass in to a function: char, signed
> char, or unsigned char.  Pointer arithmetic just works, and it works
> because they all have the same width.
> On the other hand, the data is what gets mangled if you don't use the
> correct type:
>    char c = 255;
>    printf("%d", c);
> prints, as expected, -1.  Not 255.
> So it seems to me that if the compiler complains about anything, it should
> complain about passing a different type of char, not a different type of
> char *.
> Why does gcc 4 complain about passing different "char *" and not "char"?
> And is this because of the standard or is it gcc specific?
> Thanks!
> Pete
> _______________________________________________
> vox-tech mailing list
> vox-tech@lists.lugod.org
> http://lists.lugod.org/mailman/listinfo/vox-tech
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