Tuesday, November 10, 2015

c# delegates - 2 fundamental categories

Update: java 8 lambda. [[mastering lambds]] P 5 mentions AA BB DD as use cases for Command pattern

AA -- is the main topic of the book
BB -- https://docs.oracle.com/javase/tutorial/java/javaOO/lambdaexpressions.html
DD -- http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/articles/java/lambda-1984522.html and http://www.drdobbs.com/jvm/jdk-getting-a-head-start-with-lambdas/240008174
--
Today I finally feel ready to summarize the 2 usage categories of c# delegates. If you are new like me, it's better to treat them as 2 unrelated constructs. Between them, the underlying technical similarities are relevant only during initial deep dive, and become less important as you see them in various patterns (or "designs").

In java, these features are probably achieved using interface + other constructs. Dotnet supports interfaces too, but in some contexts offers more "specialized" constructs in the form of delegates. As shown below, in such a context interfaces are usable but less than delegates.

Most tutorials would start with unicast delegate, without the inv list.

Coming from a java or c++ background, you will want to find a counterpart or close equivalent to delegates. Almost hopeless for BB. For AA there are quite a few, which adds to the confusion.

AA) lambda as function AAArgument
* I believe compiler converts such a lambda into a STATIC method (there's really no host object) then bind it to a delegate Instance
* often returns something
* Usually _stateless_, usually without captured variables.
* predominantly unicast
* Action, Func and Predicate are often used in this context, but you can also use these 3 constructs as closures, which is a 3rd category beyond AA and BB
* Domain? Linq; functor argument as per Rajesh of OC
* Before java 8, often implemented as an interface or an anonymous inner class

BB) event field Backed by a multicast delegate instance (See other posts on "newsletter")
* Usually NON-STATIC methods, esp. in GUI context
* Usually returns void
* A callback method is usually _stateful_, because the callback method often does its job with "self-owned" i.e. this.someField objects, beyond the argument objects passed in
* event is a pseudo _f i e l d_ in a class. Static field or non-static field are both common.
* Domain? GUI + asynchronous WCF
* we must register the callback method with the event source.
** can lead to memory leak
* in java, implemented by several callback Objects supporting a common interface (cf swing)


Some of the other categories --
CC) CCClosure -- stateful, seldom passed in as a func arg
DD) thread start
EE) Passing in a delegate instance as a function input is the lambda usage (AA). How about returning from a function? P83 [[c#precisely]] shows examples to return an anon delegate instance. This is an advanced and non-trivial unicast use case. The underlying anon method is usually static and stateless

In a source code with AA, we see lots of custom delegate Types created on the fly.

In a source code with BB, delegate Instances take center stage, since each instance is assigned to a ... pseudo field. The delegate type is less complicated.

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