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Low level dynamic linking

When using the low level procedures to do your dynamic linking, you have complete control over which library is loaded when and what get's done with it.

primitive: dynamic-link library
Find the shared library denoted by library (a string) and link it into the running Guile application. When everything works out, return a Scheme object suitable for representing the linked object file. Otherwise an error is thrown. How object files are searched is system dependent.

Normally, library is just the name of some shared library file that will be searched for in the places where shared libraries usually reside, such as in `/usr/lib' and `/usr/local/lib'.

primitive: dynamic-object? val
Determine whether val represents a dynamically linked object file.

primitive: dynamic-unlink dynobj
Unlink the indicated object file from the application. The argument dynobj should be one of the values returned by dynamic-link. When dynamic-unlink has been called on dynobj, it is no longer usable as an argument to the functions below and you will get type mismatch errors when you try to.

primitive: dynamic-func function dynobj
Search the C function indicated by function (a string or symbol) in dynobj and return some Scheme object that can later be used with dynamic-call to actually call this function. Right now, these Scheme objects are formed by casting the address of the function to long and converting this number to its Scheme representation.

Regardless whether your C compiler prepends an underscore `_' to the global names in a program, you should not include this underscore in function. Guile knows whether the underscore is needed or not and will add it when necessary.

primitive: dynamic-call function dynobj
Call the C function indicated by function and dynobj. The function is passed no arguments and its return value is ignored. When function is something returned by dynamic-func, call that function and ignore dynobj. When function is a string (or symbol, etc.), look it up in dynobj; this is equivalent to

(dynamic-call (dynamic-func function dynobj #f))

Interrupts are deferred while the C function is executing (with SCM_DEFER_INTS/SCM_ALLOW_INTS).

primitive: dynamic-args-call function dynobj args
Call the C function indicated by function and dynobj, just like dynamic-call, but pass it some arguments and return its return value. The C function is expected to take two arguments and return an int, just like main:

int c_func (int argc, char **argv);

The parameter args must be a list of strings and is converted into an array of char *. The array is passed in argv and its size in argc. The return value is converted to a Scheme number and returned from the call to dynamic-args-call.

When dynamic linking is disabled or not supported on your system, the above functions throw errors, but they are still available.

Here is a small example that works on GNU/Linux:

(define libc-obj (dynamic-link "libc.so"))
=> #<dynamic-object "libc.so">
(dynamic-args-call 'rand libc-obj '())
=> 269167349
(dynamic-unlink libc-obj)
=> #<dynamic-object "libc.so" (unlinked)>

As you can see, after calling dynamic-unlink on a dynamically linked library, it is marked as `(unlinked)' and you are no longer able to use it with dynamic-call, etc. Whether the library is really removed from you program is system-dependent and will generally not happen when some other parts of your program still use it. In the example above, libc is almost certainly not removed from your program because it is badly needed by almost everything.

The functions to call a function from a dynamically linked library, dynamic-call and dynamic-args-call, are not very powerful. They are mostly intended to be used for calling specially written initialization functions that will then add new primitives to Guile. For example, we do not expect that you will dynamically link `libX11' with dynamic-link and then construct a beautiful graphical user interface just by using dynamic-call and dynamic-args-call. Instead, the usual way would be to write a special Guile<->X11 glue library that has intimate knowledge about both Guile and X11 and does whatever is necessary to make them inter-operate smoothly. This glue library could then be dynamically linked into a vanilla Guile interpreter and activated by calling its initialization function. That function would add all the new types and primitives to the Guile interpreter that it has to offer.

>From this setup the next logical step is to integrate these glue libraries into the module system of Guile so that you can load new primitives into a running system just as you can load new Scheme code.

There is, however, another possibility to get a more thorough access to the functions contained in a dynamically linked library. Anthony Green has written `libffi', a library that implements a foreign function interface for a number of different platforms. With it, you can extend the Spartan functionality of dynamic-call and dynamic-args-call considerably. There is glue code available in the Guile contrib archive to make `libffi' accessible from Guile.

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