Murray's Blog

Glom 1.13/14 using boost::python

Finally Figured Out boost::python

After lots of experimentation and two previous failed attempts, Glom now uses boost::python, with very little use of the nasty Python C API remaining. This should make it easier to add Python API to easily access and set field/record/table/database details from the Python that’s used in calculated fields or button scripts.

Useful Things I Now Know about boost::python

boost::python is no fun to get started with, but it’s now far easier for me to use than the Python C API.

I’ve mentioned the awful boost::python documentation before. Here are some essential things that I figured out, which are not really documented. This is thanks to helpful people on the boost::python mailing list. Corrections welcome – there’s so much here that some of it must be wrong.

None of this is very obvious or pleasant. If anyone had their first real C++ experience with boost::python then I’d forgive them for being put off C++ for good. I love C++ so that would be unfortunate.

“Converting” between C and C++ object types

C++ to C: To get the underlying PyObject* from a boost::python::object (awful docs), when you need to use a C function:

PyObject* cobject = theobject.ptr();

To test for a boost::python::object with a null underlying PyObject*, do:


Do not do if(cppobject). That tests if the python object is actually a boolean that is PyTrue.

C to C++: To get a boost::python::object for a PyObject*, when you received one from a C function, but you then need to use the result in a C++ function, or just want the improved memory management:

Using boost::python with your own wrapped C++ classes.


Boost has no .pc files

boost is a complete pain as a dependency. I understand that they don’t want to freeze API or ABI, because it’s a place for gradually improving API, though I think they should just have regular stable/devel phases with parallel installs. But I can’t forgive how difficult it is to get the header and linker options to use boost libraries. There are some m4 macros out there but they are hacky and fragile, and don’t actually work for boost::python. It shouldn’t be hard to provide pkg-config .pc files, so you wouldn’t need to do any compilation or linker checks in configure at all. I hacked some m4 code together based on some existing stuff, but I couldn’t recommend it.

So distro packagers won’t enjoy this new dependency. Sorry.

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