Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reflection and auto-boxing

In an earlier post I discovered that the way reflection handles synthetic bridge methods is somewhat lacking. Here is another reflection issue, this time a known problem: 6176992 - sort of paradox in a box.

Apparently Class#isAssignableFrom does not handle auto-boxing so if you have a method that returns a boolean, Boolean.class.isAssignableFrom(method.getReturnType()) will evaluate to false. I played with it a bit further, and if you have a method that takes an int, MyClass.class.getMethod(methodName, Integer.class) yields NoSuchMethodException.

I expected these API's to return a non-primitive class because Method#invoke accepts only Objects and translates them internally, and it worked long before auto-boxing feature was added to Java. However, after giving this more thought, I decided that it's unfair to complain that the API's return exact types, also a primitive type does not extend or inherit its boxed counterpart and Javadoc describes the behavior of isAssignableFrom impeccably - the method supports widening reference conversion only (chapter 5.1.5 in the 3rd edition of Java Language Specification).

Nevertheless, Java Language Specification also defines widening primitive conversion (chapter 5.1.2) and (un)boxing (in 5.1.7 and 5.1.8) and I think it is fair to ask for a utility method that tests the compatibility of 2 classes that represent primitive types and a utility for boxing and un-boxing of classes. So what I'm really asking for is a java.lang.reflect.Primitive class, that provides some static utilities just like java.lang.reflect.Array does.

Until then, I am going to create my own utility for boxing/un-boxing - a Function<Class,Class> of course :-)


Javin @ FIX Protocol Tutorial said...

Autoboxing is a great feature provided by JAVA5 but using it blindly may result in very subtle problem which will take hours and hours to
debug and find. to read more see the link
What is the problem while using '==' in autoboxing world in Java 5 ?


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