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I struggle with learning. I have to practice, and keep practicing, in order for something to stick. I don't do much C++ (once every month maybe) so I am constantly going over the same stuff.

I need some tasks to do so I can really understand pointers and their uses in the real world, rather than reading scenarios. I've created my own link list, but I want more advanced stuff like using pointer arithmetic and pointers and functions.

If anyone could provide some real world tasks to deepen my knowledge and experience with pointers I would be thankful.

I'm ok with data types because of my Java experience.

Look forward to some challenges (not too hard mind).


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6 Answers

Some possible project ideas:

  • Write a malloc implementation. Replace the system malloc with it in a non-trivial program and benchmark. Now make it faster.
  • Implement a generic red-black tree. Allow the user to pass in function pointers for key/value destruction and comparison
  • Implement a B+-tree using memory mapping. Now add write-ahead logging.
  • Write a simple language interpreter with garbage collection.
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  • Implement your own red-black tree, with search, insertion, and deletion.
  • Implement your own linked lists, with iteration, insertion, and deletion.
  • Implement your own string manipulation algorithms, including substring searching.
  • Implement your own minimal Scheme implementation. ;-)
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Implement your own collection types (lined list, map, whatever), and then implement a generic version of them using void*. That's what I did anyway and it taught me a lot.

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Ok: write a memory pool library.

You'll have to work with:

  • pointers, lot of pointers ("pointers, pointers everywhere!"- not Herb Sutter ;) )
  • memory allocation/allocators
  • raw memory manipulation
  • templates (you will need this)
  • object memory tracking
  • etc.

Also, provide different pooling strategies/policies and associated standard allocators.

I think you'll touch both low and high levels of abstractions using pointers in implementing this. Disclaimer : it's not an easy task. If you can do better than boost::pool (that's possible and really wanted) you would contribute to a better world.

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Do the Great Tree-List Recursion Problem. Without looking at the solution first. Then look at the solution. Determine where your answer varies from the solution, and why. Maybe try it without the STL first time around, then with the STL.

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For a small but thoroughly demented challenge, figure out what this prints without compiling/running it first:

// Credit (or blame) for this code goes to Thad Smith of Boulder County CO.

char *c[] = { "ENTER", "NEW", "POINT", "FIRST" };
char **cp[] = { c+3, c+2, c+1, c };
char ***cpp = cp;

    printf("%s", **++cpp);
    printf("%s ", *--*++cpp+3);
    printf("%s", *cpp[-2]+3);
    printf("%s\n", cpp[-1][-1]+1);
    return 0;

Don't let this scare you too much though -- although you obviously can abuse pointers this way, no sane person would ever write real code like this.

And to anybody who actually has written real code like this, well, shame on you (and your manager for letting it happen)!

This isn't really pointer abuse though -- it's more order of operations abuse. –  Billy ONeal Jun 16 '11 at 23:42
@Billy: Some of both, I think. –  Jerry Coffin Jun 16 '11 at 23:54
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