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This problem is frequently solved using conditional compilation and "byte swapping," something like this:
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short x; fread(&x,sizeof(x),l,stdin); # i f d e f BIG-ENDIAN / a swap b y t e s a/ x = ((x&OxFF) << 8) 1 ((x>>8) & OXFF); #endif
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This approach becomes unwieldy when many two- and four-byte integers are being exchanged In practice, the bytes end up being swapped more than once as they pass from place to place If the situation is bad for short, it's worse for longer data types, because there are more ways to permute the bytes Add in the variable padding between structure members, alignment restrictions, and the mysterious byte orders of older machines, and the problem looks intractable
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Use a fmed byte order for data exchange There is a solution Write the bytes in a canonical order using portable code:
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unsigned s h o r t x ; putchar(x >> 8) ; putcharcx & OxFF);
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/a /a
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w r i t e high- order b y t e a/ w r i t e low- order b y t e a/
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then read it back a byte at a time and reassemble it:
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unsigned s h o r t x ; x = getchar() << 8 ; x I = getchar() & OxFF;
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/a /a
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read high- order b y t e a/ read low- order b y t e a/
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The approach generalizes to structures if you write the values of the structure members in a defined sequence, a byte at a time, without padding It doesn't matter what byte order you pick; anything consistent will do The only requirement is that sender and receiver agree on the byte order in transmission and on the number of bytes in each object In the next chapter we show a pair of routines to wrap up the packing and unpacking of general data Byte-at-a-time processing may seem expensive, but relative to the I10 that makes the packing and unpacking necessary, the penalty is minute Consider the X Window system, in which the client writes data in its native byte order and the server must unpack whatever the client sends This may save a few instructions on the client end, but the server is made larger and more complicated by the necessity of handling multiple byte orders at the same time-it may well have concurrent big-endian and littleendian clients-and the cost in complexity and code is much more significant Besides, this is a graphics environment where the overhead to pack bytes will be swamped by the execution of the graphical operation it encodes The X Window system negotiates a byte order for the client and requires the server to be capable of both By contrast, the Plan 9 operating system defines a byte
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SECTION 87
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order for messages to the file server (or the graphics server) and data is packed and unpacked with portable code, as above In practice the run-time effect is not detectable; compared to U0, the cost of packing the data is insignificant Java is a higher-level language than C or C++ and hides byte order completely The libraries provide a S e r i a l i z a b l e interface that defines how data items are packed for exchange If you're working in C or C++, however, you must do the work yourself The key point about the byte-at-a-time approach is that it solves the problem, without #ifdefs, for any machines that have &bit bytes We'll discuss this further in the next chapter Still, the best solution is often to convert information to text format, which (except for the CRLF problem) is completely portable; there is no ambiguity about representation It's not always the right answer, though Time or space can be critical, and some data, particularly floating point, can lose precision due to roundoff when passed through p r i n t f and scanf If you must exchange floating-point values accurately, make sure you have a good formatted I10 library; such libraries exist, but may not be part of your existing environment It's especially hard to represent floating-point values portably in binary, but with care, text will do the job There is one subtle portability issue in using standard functions to handle binary it files- is necessary to open such files in binary mode:
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FILE *fin;
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f i n = fopen(binary-file c = getc(fin);
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"rb") ;
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If the 'b' is omitted, it typically makes no difference at all on Unix systems, but on Windows systems the first control-Z byte (octal 032, hex 1A) of input will terminate reading (we saw this happen to the s t r i n g s program in 5) On the other hand, using binary mode to read text files will cause \ r to be preserved on input, and not generated on output
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