24 Nov 10

sizeof dynamically allocated arrays in c

The MAX(a,b) macro bug I posted last was something I had done before. Today and Yesterday I spent a good few hours running over my old mistakes.

What’s a difference between:

unsigned char *dynArray = malloc(500);
unsigned char trueArray[500];

well, Today’s arrrrrrg is that sizeof (dynArray) is just the size of a pointer, not the size of the array as you would get when doing sizeof(trueArray).

assert(sizeof(dynArray)  == sizeof(unsigned char*));      //ok
assert(sizeof(trueArray) == sizeof(unsigned char) * 500); //ok
assert(sizeof(dynArray)  == sizeof(trueArray));           //fails

It’s likely that you knew this, and I had learned this at one point, and thought ‘hmm, how interesting’ while scratching my chin. But I have obviously forgotten it as I was using sizeof(dynArray) to iterate/initialize my array. I have to give credit to the phrases pointer-array-equivalence and somehow my comfort of using malloc(sizeof(*myPointer)) to confusing me into the conclusion that sizeof(dynArray) would really evaluate to 500. I remember writing that line and saying to myself rather convincingly that this is the right way to get the size of an array. It thus royally sucked debugging the actual code since I tend to start reverting the snippets that I am least convinced of first. But debugging the confusion process is actually quite nice. And now I’m pretty sure I’m not going to do that gotcha again. That’s my consolation sherlock.