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.

Embedded Control Library

    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.

Compiling & Linking

    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.

            - Formulate a data structure of fixed size.
            - Create a wrapper class that includes a semaphore, shared memory object, a read/write interface and pointer to the data.
            - Instantiate the shared memory using with the data structure as a template argument.
            - Point to the data section stored in the shared memory.
            - Initialise the data section (if its the first accessor).
            - Establish the read/write interface which will internally use semaphores to access the shared memory.
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.

Unit Tests

    - src/test/semaphores.cpp
    - src/test/semaphores_timed.cpp
    - src/test/shared_memory.cpp


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


- <b>May 11</b> : Updated with better posix and exception handling.
- <b>Mar 11</b> : Moved process priorities to threads.
    - <b>May 09</b> : Posix @ref ecl::SharedMemory "shared memory" structures.
    - <b>May 09</b> : Binary process locks via posix @ref ecl::Semaphore "semaphores".
    - <b>May 09</b> : Posix static methods for process handling.

Author(s): Daniel Stonier
autogenerated on Mon Jun 10 2019 13:08:17