Binary File I/O


To store sheet data on disk, it is necessary to write it as binary, not ascii. It may also be important to store other data along with the sheet or sheets, such as camera information. Binary file I/O is handled through the coprocessor.

The binary file protocol is intended to be used also for device files (e.g. a serial line) if an implementation includes them. When fast response is required, however, it may be better to add a specific function to the coprocessor. This might apply, for example, to a fast camera interface.

Binary files

The following functions are used to manage pointers, called ports, to binary files. The list command is provided, like the list commands for storage groups and windows, to allow the user to close unwanted open binary ports. Notice that all binary ports will be closed if the coprocessor is restarted (e.g. when linking a new compiled function).

Writing objects

The binary-write operation is used to write whole objects to the file, as units and is similar to the scheme write function. This is the recommended method of storing images.

These functions generate errors if they fail.

The Envision binary storage format is documented in [ADD POINTER TO PAGE OF DETAILS]. Briefly, each object is written out as a tag indicating what type of object it is, followed by its contents, and finally an end tag. Because file size is dominated by the packed bytes of data from large sheets, details of the tagging format and the representations for small objects (e.g. lists, strings) will never be critical.

The format permits nested objects (e.g. a list of lists of sheets) and multiple objects within a file. Thus, a local format can be created by building a suitable scheme structure (e.g. a vector containing objects of diverse types) and saving it using binary-write.

Notice that, when a sheet is written to a file, all critical information is stored with it, so that it can be completely reconstructed when read from the file. This include, in particular, the dimensions of the sheet. All data for each sheet is written, regardless of how large its focus area is.

When several sheets share a common storage area, the writer ought to store the shared data only once. However, that is not the case at this time: assume that each sheet will be written independently and, when they are read back from the file, they will not belong to the same storage group.

Writing bytes

To handle foreign file formats, compressed formats, and device files, it is also possible to write raw bytes to a binary file. Write-byte and read-byte are used to read and write single bytes.

The sheet operations write-bytes and read-bytes are available for writing a large number of bytes efficiently,

Write-bytes writes the contents of a sheet to a file as packed bytes. The sheet must be a 1D 8-bit-deep integer-grid, declared to have no missing values. Any scaling or offset of the codomain values is ignored. Only the focus area of the sheet is written. This feature is useful you have filled only part of a fixed-length buffer. It returns the number of bytes actually written.

Write-bytes cannot be applied to a 2D sheet. This is a deliberate design decision:

The user must decide how to order the 2D sheet, copy its contents to a 1D sheet using a suitable user-defined coprocessor function, and then write the 1D sheet.

Read-bytes reads the next n bytes, returning them as a 1D sheet. The returned sheet is always n bytes long. It also returns the number of bytes actually read. If the number read is less than the number requested, then a sheet of length n is still returned, but the extra values at the end of the sheet are unspecified as to what their contents are.

If the optional sheet argument is supplied, read-bytes uses it rather than allocating new storage. The function fills in the focus area of the sheet. An error is generated if this sheet's focus area is shorter than n or the wrong type.


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