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Head First sharpen your pencil question

Max Benjamin

Joined: Apr 12, 2006
Posts: 13
I'm going through Head First Java and I've come to one of the "sharpen your pencil" questions that is giving me a little trouble. It's on page 291 regarding autoboxing:

So, yes it does compile but gives a null pointer exception at runtime. Am I understanding the code correctly?

*A new reference variable "t" is created that refers to:
*A new instance of the TestBox class is created
*This new TestBox object has a Integer wrapper object that holds an int "i" variable and TestBox has a int instance variable "j".

Is the null pointer exception comming from "i" not having been set to a particular int(so it's essentially wraping null) and then attempting to set "j" to null? Would the correct term be autoboxing null?

I wish the sharpen your pencil answers were available for the later chapters. So Java has pointers after all?

help appreciated,
Jeroen T Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 21, 2006
Posts: 1847
you're trying to unbox null. That might be undefined behaviour though I'd guess it could have been implemented as resolving to 0 in this specific case.

Java has no pointers, at least none you, the programmer, can access.

abhishek jain

Joined: Aug 18, 2004
Posts: 4
Hi Max,

There is an obvious compile time error (incompitable types) at line ...
i = j;

I am surprised how come you have compiled your code ??

Plese check whether you have compiled the same source file ?
Jesper de Jong
Java Cowboy
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Aug 16, 2005
Posts: 15045

Originally posted by abhishek jain:
There is an obvious compile time error (incompitable types) at line ...

Not if you are using Java 5.0. Check this out: Autoboxing

In Max's case, the Integer i is null. At the line "j = i", Java tries to unbox a null reference. In a pre-5.0 version of Java this is equivalent to:

j = i.intValue();

That throws a NullPointerException if i is null.

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Bryan Incognito

Joined: May 16, 2006
Posts: 7
Max -

I agree with you. I wish that the Sharpen Pencil exercises had answers for later chapters as well!!

So, to your question:
In Chapter 4 (Page 84 in the second edition) of the HeadFirst book, it says that references that you don't initialize in your code by yourself are given a default initialization of null.

So, in your example from the book, Integer i is given a value of Null when you create the TestBox object. When you try to do "j=i;", autoboxing comes into play, which will automatically try to get the int value from Integer i and assign it to int j.

It automatically does something similar to:

j = i.intValue();

But since Integer i is null, you get a null pointer exception.

Java does not have pointers, but only references; if a method is called on a null reference, then you'll get that exception.

I hope that this clears things up.

I agree. Here's the link:
subject: Head First sharpen your pencil question
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