C++11 constexpr and maybe UDL

Posted on October 20, 2012

I was looking further into the uses of constexpr, which can be used to resolve expressions at compile time. This may increase compile time, but it can be useful for not recalculating values at runtime.

That’s what constexpr is for, the compiler will select constant expressions which are fed to constexpr functions, and resolve them then and there. This can be especially useful for variantly long data, such as strings. For non-constant expressions, they’ll be determined at runtime, so the function will be compiled and available with the same logic.

There are restrictions though, it practically has to be functional, but it also has to conform to C++ syntax. The result is that you can’t have variables or if statements or loops inside them.

I first made an imperative version which I could debug with and step through. After I had something satisfactory, I made a constexpr version, which used recursion to get to the end of a string.

Though I’m bummed that user defined literals aren’t as supported. GCC 4.7 and Clang 3.1 support it, but most linux distros are still on 4.6 (Though I have tested using 4.7 and it works nicely, but it required getting a test dev install). Mac’s Apple Clang 4.1 is a bit deceiving. They have different version numbers than actual clang. The rest of the version string says based on LLVM 3.1svn, which only means that it was grabbed between 3.0 and 3.1.

So, I can’t use User Defined Literals (ULDs) yet.

The source I tested with is as follows:

#include <iostream>
using namespace std;

unsigned long attrID2(const char * ls){
   const unsigned long golden = 0x9E3779B97f4A7C15;
    unsigned long result = 0;
    int offset = 0;
    for(int i=0; ls[i] != 0; i++,offset = (offset + 1) % sizeof(long)){
        const unsigned long p = ((long)ls[i] << (offset*8));
        const unsigned long p2 = ((long)1 << (i%(sizeof(long)*8))) & golden;
        result = ~0 & (result ^ p ^ p2);
    return result;

unsigned long constexpr attrID3(const char * ls, long val = 0, unsigned int depth = 0, unsigned int offset = 0) {
    return *ls
                ~0 & (val ^ ((long)*ls << (offset*8)) ^ (((long)1 << (depth%(sizeof(long)*8))) & 0x9E3779B97f4A7C15)),
                (offset+1) % sizeof(long))

unsigned long constexpr operator "" _attr(char const * ls, std::size_t n){
    return attrID3(ls);

int main(int argc, const char * argv[])
    const char * test = "Some test text here";
    unsigned long a,b,c,d,e,f;
    char test2[] = "meh";
    a = attrID2(test);
    b = attrID3(test);
    c = attrID2(test2);
    d = attrID3(test2);
    test2[1] = 'a';
    e = attrID2(test2);
    f = attrID3(test2);
    cout << hex;
    cout << a << endl;
    cout << b << endl;
    cout << c << endl;
    cout << d << endl;
    cout << e << endl;
    cout << f << endl;
    return 0;

If you’re curious as to what the 0x9E3779B97f4A7C15 is about, it’s a magic constant being

\(\begin{equation} \frac{2^{64}}{\varphi} \end{equation}\)

Which is to say, 2 to the power of 64 (the range of numbers of a 64-bit processor / data type) divided by the golden ratio.

I’ve seen this elsewhere used in encryption and stuff, but a 32 bit constant instead. I don’t know how useful it will be, other than I hope it will be sufficiently random to reduce collisions.

You can do operator "" _attr("some string") which will work, but that defies the whole anti-verbosity of being able to do "some string"_attr with suffix notation.

ULDs do not need to be constexpr, but I believe the same principles apply.

I’m also planning to drop plans to support windows using MSVC. I’ll probably go with codeblocks using GCC 4.X in the future.

Why does Microsoft have to be so behind the times?