ecl_ipc Documentation


Interprocess mechanisms vary greatly across platforms - sysv, posix, win32, there are more than a few. This package provides an infrastructure to allow for developing cross platform c++ wrappers around the lower level c api's that handle these mechanisms. These make it not only easier to utilise such mechanisms, but allow it to be done consistently across platforms.


Interprocess mechanisms vary substantially across operating systems, though thankfully most support the traditional posix which is also often referred to now as the Single Unix Specification V3 (SUSV3). Nevertheless, where there are differences, the setup will allow abstractions around these so as to provide a single cohesive interface to the interprocess mechanisms.


Include the following at the top of any translation unit which requires this library:

        #include <ecl/ipc.hpp>

        using ecl::Semaphore;
        using ecl::SharedMemory;

You will also need to link to -lecl_ipc.



Used in conjunction with semaphores, shared memory sections provide the fastest way for processes to directly communicate with each other. Usually you reserve a block and then cast in and out of the direct memory addresses allocated within the reserved memory. However, this is not typesafe and error-prone, so the shared memory wrapper here instead allocates a block that is implicitly tied to a data structure. The following steps provide an easy, convenient way to access the reserved memory block through a typesafe and well-structured api.

                struct DataStructure {
                        int i;
                class Data {
                                void readInteger(int i);
                                void writeInteger(int j);

                                void initialise();

                                SharedMemory< DataStructure > sm;
                                Semaphore semaphore;
                                DataStructure *data;

                inline Data::Data() : sm("sm_test"), semaphore("sem_test"), data(NULL) {
                   data =;
                inline Data::readInteger(int i) {
                        i = data->i;
                inline Data::writeInteger(int i) {
                        data->i = i;

Note, ensure you do not use variable length types (such as stl containers) inside the data structure because the shared memory section allocates memory based on the initial size of the data structure.

Also note, initialisation and closure can be a little complicated. With initailisation, you want to ensure that only the first accessor blanks the memory, but there is no way of guaranteeing via the shared memory class that you're the first accessor - in some cases you could be accessing an already reserved block. One way of getting around this is to set a magic number in the data structure and see if that reads rubbish when you initialise. If it does - then appropriately initialise all you data structure variables and set your magic number accordingly - subsequent accesses from different processes should find the correct magic number and not initialise.

With regards to closure, there is no guarantee that you can actually clean up the memory block. If everything runs fine and closes without error, then it will be fine, but if your program crashes in some unforeseen way and not all of the operating system signals are set up (usually too much detail to bother with), then the memory block will remain on the system. Often its easier to get some external script to clean the memory sections.


There are many ways to implement semaphores (especially the counting semaphores on posix), but I've kept it relatively simple here with the task at hand being just to provide a lock that can be used when accessing shared memory. Its usage is very similar to thread mutexes with the only difference being the instantiation via a string identifier (similar to the case for shared memory). Note, on windows semaphores are usually referred to as mutexes (confusing!).

                //...First process
                Semaphore semaphore("test_sem");
                // ... access shared memory here

                //...Second process
                Semaphore semaphore("test_sem");
                // ... access shared memory here

If another semaphore (doesn't have to be the same object, just a semaphore instantiated from the same name) tries to lock an already locked semaphore, it will wait until the first semaphore releases the lock. Be wary of deadlocks.



Could use some fallback for error handling when exceptions are disabled.


Author(s): Daniel Stonier
autogenerated on Wed Aug 26 2015 11:27:28