Top singleton Questions

List of Tags
362
Ewan Makepeace

The Singleton pattern is a fully paid up member of the GoF Patterns Book but lately seems rather orphaned by the developer world. I still use quite a lot of singletons, especially for Factory classes, and while you have to be a bit careful about multithreading issues (like any class actually), I fail to see why they are so awful.

This site especially seems to assume that everyone agrees that Singletons are evil. Why?

Answered By: Jim Burger ( 267)

Paraphrased from Brian Button:

  1. They are generally used as a global instance, why is that so bad? Because you hide the dependencies of your application in your code, instead of exposing them through the interfaces. Making something global to avoid passing it around is a code smell.

  2. They violate the Single Responsibility Principle: by virtue of the fact that they control their own creation and lifecycle.

  3. They inherently cause code to be tightly coupled. This makes faking them out under test rather difficult in many cases.

  4. They carry state around for the lifetime of the app. Another hit to testing since you can end up with a situation where tests need to be ordered which is a big no no for unit tests. Why? Because each unit test should be independent from the other.

352
Jorge Córdoba

What real (i.e. practical) difference exist between a static class and a singleton pattern?

Both can be invoked without instantiation, both provide only with one "instance" and neither of them is threadsafe. Is there any other difference?

Answered By: Jon Skeet ( 186)

What makes you say that either a singleton or a static method isn't thread-safe? Usually both should be implemented to be thread-safe.

The big difference between a singleton and a bunch of static methods is that singletons can implement interfaces (or derive from useful base classes, although that's less common IME), so you can pass around the singleton as if it were "just another" implementation.

My singleton accessor method is usually some variant of:

static MyClass *gInstance = NULL;

+ (MyClass *)instance
{
    @synchronized(self)
    {
        if (gInstance == NULL)
            gInstance = [[self alloc] init];
    }

    return(gInstance);
}

What could I be doing to improve this?

Answered By: Robbie Hanson ( 209)

Another option is to use the +(void)initialize method. From the documentation:

The runtime sends initialize to each class in a program exactly one time just before the class, or any class that inherits from it, is sent its first message from within the program. (Thus the method may never be invoked if the class is not used.) The runtime sends the initialize message to classes in a thread-safe manner. Superclasses receive this message before their subclasses.

So you could do something akin to this:

static MySingleton *sharedSingleton;

+ (void)initialize
{
    static BOOL initialized = NO;
    if(!initialized)
    {
        initialized = YES;
        sharedSingleton = [[MySingleton alloc] init];
    }
}
152
randombits

I suppose my question is exactly what the subject depicts, what does:

class << self

do in Ruby?

Answered By: Chris Jester-Young ( 175)

First, the class << foo syntax opens up foo's singleton class (eigenclass). This allows you to specialise the behaviour of methods called on that specific object.

a = 'foo'
class << a
  def inspect
    '"bar"'
  end
end
a.inspect   # => "bar"

a = 'foo'   # new object, new singleton class
a.inspect   # => "foo"

Now, to answer the question: class << self opens up self's singleton class, so that methods can be redefined for the current self object (which inside a class or module body is the class or module itself). Usually, this is used to define class/module ("static") methods:

class String
  class << self
    def value_of obj
      obj.to_s
    end
  end
end

String.value_of 42   # => "42"

This can also be written as a shorthand:

class String
  def self.value_of obj
    obj.to_s
  end
end

Or even shorter:

def String.value_of obj
  obj.to_s
end

When inside a function definition, self refers to the object the function is being called with. In this case, class << self opens the singleton class for that object; one use of that is to implement a poor man's state machine:

class StateMachineExample
  def process obj
    process_hook obj
  end

private
  def process_state_1 obj
    # ...
    class << self
      alias process_hook process_state_2
    end
  end

  def process_state_2 obj
    # ...
    class << self
      alias process_hook process_state_1
    end
  end

  # Set up initial state
  alias process_hook process_state_1
end

So, in the example above, each instance of StateMachineExample has process_hook aliased to process_state_1, but note how in the latter, it can redefine process_hook (for self only, not affecting other StateMachineExample instances) to process_state_2. So, each time a caller calls the process method (which calls the redefinable process_hook), the behaviour changes depending on what state it's in.

151
Riyaz Mohammed Ibrahim

What is an efficient way to implement a singleton pattern in Java?

Answered By: Stephen Denne ( 218)

Use an enum:

   public enum Foo {
       INSTANCE;
   }

Joshua Bloch explained this approach in his Effective Java Reloaded talk at Google I/O 2008: link to video. Also see slides 30-32 of his presentation (effective_java_reloaded.pdf):

The Right Way to Implement a Serializable Singleton

   public enum Elvis {
       INSTANCE;
       private final String[] favoriteSongs =
           { "Hound Dog", "Heartbreak Hotel" };
       public void printFavorites() {
           System.out.println(Arrays.toString(favoriteSongs));
       }
   }

Edit: An online portion of "Effective Java" says:

"This approach is functionally equivalent to the public field approach, except that it is more concise, provides the serialization machinery for free, and provides an ironclad guarantee against multiple instantiation, even in the face of sophisticated serialization or reflection attacks. While this approach has yet to be widely adopted, a single-element enum type is the best way to implement a singleton."