Using C++11 Lambdas As Qt Slots

Qt Library

Qt Framework

I have an old codebase I started writing using the Qt 3.x framework—a little while before Qt4 was released. It’s still alive! I still work on it, keeping up-to-date with Qt and C++ as much as possible, and I still ship the product. Over the years I have moved the codebase along through Qt4 to Qt5, and on to compilers supporting C++11. One of the things I’ve sometimes found a little excessive is declaring slots for things that are super short and won’t be reused.

Here’s a simplified example from my older code that changes the title when a project is “dirty” (needs to be saved):

(Aside: If you are wondering about my naming convention, I developed a style when using Qt early on (c. 2000) where signals are named signalFoo() and slots are named slotFoo(). This way I know at a glance what the intent is. If I’m about to modify a slot function I might take an extra minute to look around since most IDEs can’t tell syntactically where it’s used in a SLOT() macro. In this case you have to search for it textually.)

Thanks to C++11 lambdas and Qt’s ongoing evolution, these short slots can be replaced by a more succinct syntax. This avoids having to declare a method in your class declaration and shortens your implementation code. Both desirable goals!

Let’s take a look.

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Compiling OpenCV On Mac OS X 10.6

A couple of years ago I needed to do some basic image processing and found OpenCV. OpenCV is a BSD-licensed library for digital image processing which implements several hundred computer vision algorithms. Unfortunately compiling it on the Mac was not straightforward—requiring Fink or MacPorts—and the one existing Mac framework was out of date and no longer maintained.

OpenCV Library

OpenCV Library

Fast forward to last week. I had another requirement for some image processing magic and I thought I’d check out OpenCV again. What a difference! It’s now really easy to compile and use on the Mac. I didn’t find a writeup online on how to compile on the Mac—the one on the OpenCV site is out of date—so I thought I’d write up a short summary for future reference and any Googlers out there in internet land.

Here’s how I did it…

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Point Cloud Library on Mac OS X: A Build Diary

I’ve been using and contributing to various open source projects for almost 20 years. I love the fact that we can leverage each other’s work and help other developers save time instead of reinventing the wheel or fighting the same problem a thousand times over. Open source tools and libraries make what I do possible.  Whenever I use open source, I like to compile from the source so I can contribute back to the projects – even if only little patches for fixing compilation warnings, clarifying error messages, or adding to documentation.  I used to enjoy configuration and build challenges – such as tweaking and compiling my own Linux kernels – but that’s behind me now.  I just want things to work.

I’m a solo developer working on a commercial cross-platform Mac OS X/Windows application.  This means that I have to be careful how I allocate my development time since I also have research to conduct and a business to run.  Part of this is maintaining control of my development “ecosystem”.  The more moving pieces there are – tools, 3rd party libs, etc. – the more overhead, and the less time I have for actual development.  Keeping it simple means saving myself a lot of time.  It also makes it quick and easy to bring short-term contractors on board.

I started to investigate open source tools for processing point clouds for a future version of my software – I want to handle scan data from FARO and Leica scanners.  I quickly zeroed in on the Point Cloud Library which is a BSD-licensed library to read, visualize, manipulate, and process point clouds. It looks like exactly what I need and includes a bunch of capabilities I don’t understand in the least, but seem like they might be useful in the future as I learn about it. Most of the capabilities are too advanced for me to contribute much to them directly, but I thought I’d be able to contribute “around the edges”, so I wanted to build it from source.

Point Cloud Library

Point Cloud Library

This article is a blow-by-blow account of the steps I took while trying to build the Point Cloud Library (PCL) on Mac OS X 10.6 starting with the information from PCL’s Compiling from Source page. The first thing I tried to do is build and link PCL with only the mandatory dependencies. After that, I’ll want to look at the optional pieces and build them if I need them.

As I was working through it, I put together notes for myself on what I did in case I had to do it again or have a contractor do it.  As with most other things I have on this site, I thought at least one other person might benefit through the power of Google, so I decided to put the notes up here verbatim.  Knowing what I know now, I could shorten this dramatically into “Steps to Build PCL on Mac OS X” [even though I haven’t been successful yet], but I decided it might be interesting to show the action-packed sequences of what actually happened…

I hope this is taken in the spirit it’s intended – documentation of some of the problems just getting PCL to configure and build, along with what I hope are some constructive recommendations [at the end of this voluminous tome]. [Warning: I get a little rant-like in the last commentary section – it’s not directed specifically at the PCL, but software development projects in general.]

I have to point out that the PCL guys have been great, answering my initial question quickly, and they’ve been encouraging [so far – hope they still are after this!]. This doesn’t always happen in open source projects, so it’s great to see. They deserve a lot of credit for their work, which is of great value to many  developers and companies worldwide.  All the developers and supporting companies are super-awesome for making this library available as open source. Very much appreciated!

[If you want to skip the gruesome details – don’t forget they’re action-packed! – I list some bugs and recommendations near the end.]

So… here we go!

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QString::toStdString, QString::fromStdString, and -no-stl

I use the Qt library in my day-to-day development work. I build my Qt libraries directly from the git repository and they are configured specifically for my projects. On the Mac OS X side, this is the command line I use:

The Windows one is similar:

You will notice that I am explicitly removing a whole bunch of stuff – SVG, WebKit, audio, etc.. The time it takes to build the Qt libraries is not insignificant and since I typically track the git repo, I don’t want to waste time building things I will not be using in my projects. The WebKit code takes an extraordinary amount of time to build, for example. I also don’t want to build things into the libs that I’m not going to be using for my commercial software – such as STL. One of the problems this poses, however, is how to handle build problems with other projects I want to build, for example the GUI for the open-source Cppcheck program.

For the most part the projects I’m interested in don’t use any of the capabilities I’m eliminating from my Qt build, but one option has been problematic for a couple of projects: -no-stl. This is because the projects use the functions QString::toStdString() and QString::fromStdString() which do not exist when you build Qt with the -no-stl option. While STL may be available to the source you are building, it was not compiled into the Qt libs, so this causes an error.

When I try to build Cppcheck using my own Qt build, I get errors like this:

../gui/mainwindow.cpp: In member function ‘Settings MainWindow::GetCppcheckSettings()’: ../gui/mainwindow.cpp:457: error: ‘class QString’ has no member named ‘toStdString’

../gui/threadresult.cpp: In member function ‘virtual void ThreadResult::reportOut(const std::string&)’: ../gui/threadresult.cpp:42: error: ‘fromStdString’ is not a member of ‘QString’

Solutions?

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qmake and the Info.plist File

I use the Qt library and qmake to build my bloodstain pattern analysis software. qmake is a great tool for cross-platform development because it lets you use one relatively succinct description [a .pro file] to generate Xcode projects, MSVC projects, and makefiles. On the Mac OS X side of things, I use one qmake .pro file to generate three xcode projects: release, beta, and demo. My directory structure looks like this:

Example File Structure

Example File Structure

Overall this works well, but there’s an issue with the Info.plist file.

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