Does Java have anything akin to a smart pointer for referenced objects?

I am using hashtables to hold shared values (resources).  When the values stored in the hashtable are no longer referenced externally, I wish to have the value reference in the hashtable removed so the value object can be garbage collected.  Thus I have two related questions:
1) How in Java can one tell how many references there are to a given object?
2) Is there some Java equivalent to a C++ smart pointer class but for references?
TaurusAsked:
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CEHJCommented:
1. The JVM knows what references are being kept
2. Not necessary since objects no longer referenced are garbage collected


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TaurusAuthor Commented:
The hashtable reference to a given value object will not be released.   I know there is a so called weakhashtable but I'm looking for something akin to a smart pointer class.  I need to know when these values are no longer being referenced from "outside" the hashtable and my POS.
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lwinkenbCommented:
Java objects pretty much behave like smart pointers themselves.  There are many types of smart pointers, and they all do different things, but there are two main functionalities they are used for.

1.) Reference counting.  This is unnecessary for the java programmer, because the JVM keeps track of reference counts, and deletes the object automatically when it reaches 0.

2.) Auto deleting objects referenced by the smart pointer when the pointer is deleted.  Java automatically does this as well.  Let's say you have a java object that references another java object.  When the first object loses all it's references, it will be deleted by GC.  The second object will automatically get deleted as well assuming it is not being referenced by another object somewhere else.

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CEHJCommented:
>>
I need to know when these values are no longer being referenced from "outside" the hashtable and my POS.
>>

Not sure what you mean by 'POS' but you might be able to do this using reference objects and a reference queue. Instead of your object being the value in the hash table it would be the referent of a reference object. The reference object would be created in conjunction with a reference queue and then added as the key's value in the hash table. When the value gets garbage collected it will be added to the reference queue. This can then be polled. Null objects can then have their keys and values (the reference objects) removed. Hey presto, no lingering objects!

Here's an article on something similar:

http://builder.com.com/5100-6386-1049546.html

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CEHJCommented:
:-)
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