3.4.3 Variable Tracing

In addition to variable bindings, TclObject also supports tracing of both C++ and Tcl instance variables. A traced variable can be created and configured either in C++ or Tcl. To establish variable tracing at the Tcl level, the variable must be visible in Tcl, which means that it must be a bounded C++/Tcl or a pure Tcl instance variable. In addition, the object that owns the traced variable is also required to establish tracing using the Tcl trace method of TclObject. The first argument to the trace method must be the name of the variable. The optional second argument specifies the trace object that is responsible for tracing that variable. If the trace object is not specified, the object that own the variable is responsible for tracing it.

For a TclObject to trace variables, it must extend the C++ trace method that is virtually defined in TclObject. The Trace class implements a simple trace method, thereby, it can act as a generic tracer for variables.

class Trace : public Connector {
        virtual void trace(TracedVar*);

Below is a simple example for setting up variable tracing in Tcl:

        # $tcp tracing its own variable cwnd_
        $tcp trace cwnd_

        # the variable ssthresh_ of $tcp is traced by a generic $tracer
        set tracer [new Trace/Var]
        $tcp trace ssthresh_ $tracer

For a C++ variable to be traceable, it must belong to a class that derives from TracedVar. The virtual base class TracedVar keeps track of the variable's name, owner, and tracer. Classes that derives from TracedVar must implement the virtual method value, that takes a character buffer as an argument and writes the value of the variable into that buffer.

class TracedVar {
        virtual char* value(char* buf) = 0;
        TracedVar(const char* name);
        const char* name_;      // name of the variable
        TclObject* owner_;      // the object that owns this variable
        TclObject* tracer_;     // callback when the variable is changed

The TclCL library exports two classes of TracedVar: TracedInt and TracedDouble. These classes can be used in place of the basic type int and double respectively. Both TracedInt and TracedDouble overload all the operators that can change the value of the variable such as assignment, increment, and decrement. These overloaded operators use the assign method to assign the new value to the variable and call the tracer if the new value is different from the old one. TracedInt and TracedDouble also implement their value methods that output the value of the variable into string. The width and precision of the output can be pre-specified.

Tom Henderson 2011-11-05