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One interesting bug with cast's.

, 7 Oct 2012 CPOL
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I have faced with one rather interesting bug which was related to a wrong usage of casts. It is a great pleasure for me to share the results of the research.


I have faced with one rather interesting bug which was related to a wrong usage of casts. It is a great pleasure for me to share the results of the research. So the details are below. (For more details please take a look at my other article

Bug description 

In one of the projects I was involved we had a class "C" derived from two classes "A" and "B".

class  A
    void funcA1();
    void funcA2();
    int field1; 

class  B 
    void funcB1();
    void funcB2();
    int field1;  

class  C : public A, public B 
    void funcC1();
    void funcC2();
    int field1;  

We had a vector of pointers on C class and a function to find the index of a given pointer.

B* ptr = reinterpret_cast<B*>(cPointer);
int index = FindIndex(vectorOfCPointers, ptr);  

Inside of  FindIndex function we had a following code: 

for (size_t i = 0; i < ptrVector.size(); ++i)
    if (ptr == static_cast<B*>(
        return i; 
return -1; 

The result of this function was always -1, so it was look like that there is no object even if it was there.


I think that it's easy to understand how to fix this bug. We should just change reinterpret_cast outside the function onto static_cast. We will get a different pointer values with a different casts. For example if  cPtr is equal to 0x11223344 as a result of casts we will get a following values:  

static_cast<B*>(cPtr)  will be  0x11223348

reinterpret_cast<B*>(cPtr) will be  0x11223344


Let's find out why did it happened. First of all we should know that object without virtual functions is represented in memory like a simple structure. It has all its fields placed in memory with the same order like they were declared in a class definition. For example if we have a class like this:

class SomeClass
    int a;
    int b;
    int c; 

And we have a pointer "ptr" on the object of that class. We can have a direct access to class fields like this.

int * aPtr = (int*)ptr; 
int* bPtr = ((int*)ptr ) + 1; 
int* cPtr = ((int*)bptr) + 1;    

So what will happened in a case of multiple inheritance? For example we have our classes A, B, and C. Class C in memory will look like a sequence of classes A, B and C. And the pointer to the C class will point the sequence of fields of A class, fields of B class and finally fields of C class.

 cPtr   ->Class A members 

Class B members 

Class C members

So what should happen if we want to cast cPtr to the bPtr? Right, we should add the size of A members to cPtr, so we will get bPtr points on the B class.

Class A members 
bPtr  -> Class B members 
Class C members 
 As we can see static_cast did that transformation but reinterpret_cast did not.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Sergey Vystoropskiy
Software Developer Marmalade
Ukraine Ukraine
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Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 2 PinmemberWolfgang_Baron8-Oct-12 10:09 
Questionstatic_cast and reinterpret_cast Pinmemberftai7-Oct-12 22:31 
QuestionMaybe a good tip PinmvpPaulo Zemek7-Oct-12 4:37 
GeneralMy vote of 3 PinmemberStefan_Lang2-Oct-12 6:52 
GeneralRe: My vote of 3 Pinmemberykachanov3-Oct-12 17:24 
GeneralRe: My vote of 3 PinmemberStefan_Lang3-Oct-12 23:35 
QuestionMy vote of 5 PinmemberSafarTimura2-Oct-12 4:34 
I think this points to a great example of why and how pointers are so confusing to developers who are starting out. I know I struggled with pointers in the beginning and starting to teach new developers these skills reminds me of how hard these concepts are to grasp sometimes.
I good little article and to the point.
James Binary Warrior.

AnswerRe: My vote of 5 PinmemberSergey Vystoropskiy2-Oct-12 5:44 
GeneralMy vote of 3 Pinmembergwiazdorrr1-Oct-12 10:48 
GeneralRe: My vote of 3 PinmemberSergey Vystoropskiy1-Oct-12 11:06 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberkanalbrummer1-Oct-12 5:17 
GeneralRe: My vote of 5 PinmemberSergey Vystoropskiy1-Oct-12 5:41 
SuggestionThis is by design PinmemberJohann Anhofer1-Oct-12 0:45 
GeneralRe: This is by design PinmemberSergey Vystoropskiy1-Oct-12 1:32 
GeneralRe: This is by design PinmemberDmitriy Iassenev3-Oct-12 8:03 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberStNickolay30-Sep-12 9:06 

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