[fpc-pascal] Strings and objects crossing dll boundaries

Mark Morgan Lloyd markMLl.fpc-pascal at telemetry.co.uk
Thu Jun 14 12:20:12 CEST 2012

kyan wrote:
> Hello all,
> A couple of questions regarding handling of strings, dynamic arrays
> and objects -especially exceptions- when writing programs that use
> shared libraries (.dll, .so).

This seems to be a hot topic at the moment.

> In Delphi we have the option of either using packages to ensure that
> there is only one instance of the memory allocator or use ShareMem.pas
> that installs a memory allocator that can handle memory allocations
> across libraries. Given that in FPC/Lazarus there are no "packages" in
> the Delphi sense what is the equivalent of ShareMem.pas? Is it
> cmem.pp?

Yes. A reference to cmem should appear as the first entry in the uses 
statement of earliest-executed unit, i.e. assuming Lazarus this is the 
.lpr file. If using heaptrc this has to be put as the next entry, FPC's 
-gh won't work, but I don't know to what extent having heaptrc in both 
the main program and the library is workable (and various people are 
currently mentioning heaptrc problems possibly caused by inadvertent 

> Regarding objects, in Delphi an object cannot safely cross dll
> boundaries because separate class record(s) for it exist in each
> executable file. OK, actually it can if one is certain that the class
> records compiled in each executable are identical.

Agreed. However I'd suggest better terminology would be something like 
"cannot safely be referenced across", simply saying "crossing" is too 
evocative of "crossing a 64K boundary" for us old-timers :-)

Having said that, I'm successfully referencing (non-short) strings 
across the divide, doing a deep-copy of TMenuItems from a form designed 
in the shared library (which is there purely as a placeholder for menu 
entries, and executing click events associated with menu items (which 
work because they get a sender when invoked). I'm moving onto more 
complex stuff shortly /but/ due to design requirements will be handling 
this by passing parseable text commands, i.e. the backend can tell the 
frontend to change the UI state (without full knowledge of the current 
state) and the frontend can tell the backend to change state (with the 
same limitation).

> But if an exception
> crosses dll boundaries then you are in trouble, because the operator
> "is" does not work due to the class pointer that points to another
> Exception class record than the one known by the handling executable.

Generally agreed.

> The best way to solve this is to put the class Exception at least
> inside a package that all executables use so at least "is" will work
> for Exception. Is there a way to handle this problem in FPC that does
> not have packages?

Not knowing, can't say. Looking at the larger picture, I don't know how 
one best debugs operation as control is transferred from the main 
program into the shared library, bearing in mind that this might be 
important since the library might have all the tricky code.

Mark Morgan Lloyd
markMLl .AT. telemetry.co .DOT. uk

[Opinions above are the author's, not those of his employers or colleagues]

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