;; Copyright (c) 2011 nklein software
;; MIT License. See included LICENSE.txt file for licensing details.
# USerial v0.8.2011.06.02
Patrick Stein <firstname.lastname@example.org>
* [Buffer Handling](#buffer-handling)
+ [Buffer-related Types and Constants](#buffer-types)
+ [Creating Buffers](#make-buffer)
+ [Using a Buffer](#with-buffer)
+ [Manipulating and Querying Buffer Sizes](#buffer-manip)
+ [Adding and Retrieving Bytes](#add-byte)
* [Serializing and Unserializing](#serializing)
+ [Serializing and Unserializing](#serialize)
+ [Serializing and Unserializing Multiple Items](#serialize*)
+ [Defining New Serializers](#define-serializers)
+ [Function Call Serialization](#serializing-funcall)
+ [Pre-defined Serializers](#predefined-serializers)
* [Sample Application: Game Protocol](#protocol)
+ [Logging In](#login)
+ [Placing Ships](#placing)
## <a name="obtaining">Obtaining</a>
* The USerial home page: [http://nklein.com/software/unet/userial/][userial]
* The tarball: [userial_0.8.2011.06.02.tar.gz][tarball]
* The signature: [userial_0.8.2011.06.02.tar.gz.asc][sig]
* The main git repository: [http://git.nklein.com/lisp/libs/userial.git/][git]
* Browsable git mirror: [https://github.com/nklein/userial][github]
* Issue reporting: [https://github.com/nklein/userial/issues][issues]
## <a name="overview">Overview</a>
The USerial library is a general purpose library for serializing
items into byte buffers and unserializing items back out of byte
buffers. The ["Buffer Handling" section](#buffer-handling) below
describes the various ways one can manipulate USerial buffers.
The ["Serializing and Unserializing" section](#serializing) below
describes the different tools the USerial library provides for
creating serializers and the serializers that the library provides
out of the box. The ["Sample Application: Game Protocol" section](#protocol)
below describes how one might put all of these functions to use in
preparing network packets for a simple game.
The USerial library uses the [ContextL][contextl] library to
provide versioned serialization. The ContextL library allows
one to define layers and then define functions within those layers.
The `serialize` and `unserialize` functions in the USerial library
are ContextL layered functions. As such, one can define a
hierarchy of ContextL layers and define serialize functions for
different items at different points in the hierarchy.
For example, suppose one wanted to implement versions 1.0, 1.1, and
1.0.1 with both 1.1 and 1.0.1 extending 1.0 but unrelated to each
other. One could use ContextL's `deflayer` macro as follows:
(deflayer :v1.1 (:v1.0))
(deflayer :v1.0.1 (:v1.0))
Then, one could use the USerial library's `make-list-serializer` macro
to create a serializer that encodes a list of integers as a list of
16-bit integers in version 1.0 and as a list of 32-bit integers in
version 1.1. (This assumes one has serializers already for `:int16`
and `:int32` which USerial has by default.)
(make-list-serializer :list-of-int :int16 :layer :v1.0)
(make-list-serializer :list-of-int :int32 :layer :v1.1)
Then, the appropriate serialization would occur depending on
which layer is activated in ContextL.
(serialize :list-of-int '(3 4 5))) => encoded as :int16
(serialize :list-of-int '(3 4 5))) => encoded as :int16
(serialize :list-of-int '(3 4 5))) => encoded as :int32
Note: if versioning is not yet a consideration, one can omit the
`layer` keyword parameter to the `make-list-serializer` to simply
define the default serializer and unserializer for the `:list-of-int`
## <a name="buffer-handling">Buffer Handling</a>
To serialize, one needs a place to put the data. To unserialize, one
needs a place from which to fetch the data. Some libraries choose to
implement such things as streams. The USerial library serializes to
and unserializes from memory buffers because the primary goal for this
library is to facility assembly and disassembly of datagram packets.
The USerial library uses adjustable arrays of unsigned bytes with fill
pointers. The fill pointer is used to track the current position in
the buffer for serializing or unserializing. The buffers are
automatically resized to accomodate the serialized data.
The basic types and constants used for buffer-related operations are
described in the
["Buffer-related Types and Constants" section](#buffer-types) below.
The USerial library provides a function for allocating a new buffer.
This function is described in the
["Creating Buffers" section](#make-buffer) below.
USerial library routines use the buffer in the special variable
`*buffer*`. There is a macro one can use to execute a body of
statemets with a particular buffer. This macro is described in the
["Using a Buffer" section](#with-buffer) below.
There are a variety of functions provided to allow one to
query and manipulate the size of USerial buffers. These functions
are described in the
["Manipulating and Querying Buffer Sizes" section](#buffer-manip)
There are some basic functions for adding an unsigned byte to
a buffer and retrieving an unsigned byte from a buffer. Those
functions are described below in the
["Adding and Retrieving Bytes" section](#add-byte).
#### <a name="buffer-types">Buffer-related Types and Constants</a>
The USerial buffers are adjustable arrays of unsigned bytes with fill
pointers. The array is adjustable so that it can be easily grown as
needed to accomodate serialized data. It has a fill pointer that is
used to track the current length of serialized data (as distinguished
from the current allocated capacity of the array) or the current point
from which data will be unserialized.
(deftype buffer () '(array (unsigned-byte 8) (*)))
When one creates a USerial buffer, one can provide the initial
capacity for the buffer. If no initial capacity is given for the
buffer, a default size is used.
(defconstant +default-buffer-capacity+ 32768)
When one is adding bytes to a buffer, it would be very inefficient to
reallocate the buffer each time an additional byte of space is needed.
To this end, when the USerial library needs to increase the size of a
buffer it adds at least the minimum of the current buffer size and
(defconstant +default-buffer-expand+ 8192)
For example, if the buffer were currently 256 bytes when the buffer
needed to grow by a byte, it would be expanded to 512 bytes. If the
buffer were currently 10,000 bytes when the buffer needed to grow by a
byte, it would be expanded to 18,192 bytes.
### <a name="make-buffer">Creating Buffers</a>
The buffer allocator itself is the `make-buffer` function. It takes
an optional parameter specifying the initial capacity of the buffer.
(ftype (function (&optional (integer 1 *)) buffer) make-buffer)
(defun make-buffer (&optional initial-capacity)
As the buffer will be resized as needed, this parameter need not be
set high enough to accomodate any and all serializations. It is
provided merely to keep from having to reallocate the buffer several
times if one can provide a decent, probable upper bound on the
serialized size of the contents.
### <a name="with-buffer">Using a Buffer</a>
The following macro allows one to specify the buffer to use for the
Userial library calls dynamically within the body.
(defmacro with-buffer (buffer &body body))
This macro assigns the dynamic variable `*buffer*` to be
the given buffer for the duration of the body.
(declaim (special *buffer*))
To retrieve the current value of `*buffer*`, one can use the
(defun get-buffer ())
### <a name="buffer-manip">Manipulating and Querying Buffer Sizes</a>
When serializing a buffer, the `buffer-length` function returns
the current length of the serialized data within the buffer. When
unserializing a buffer, the `buffer-length` function returns the
current length of the serialized data which has already been
unserialized from the buffer.
(ftype (function () (integer 0 array-dimension-limit)) buffer-length)
(defun buffer-length ()
The current allocated size of a buffer can be queried with the
`buffer-capacity` function. One can `(setf ...)` the
`buffer-capacity` if needed to explicitly modify the amount of
buffer space allocated.
(ftype (function () (integer 0 array-dimension-limit)) buffer-capacity)
(defun buffer-capacity ()
(setf (buffer-capacity) (integer 0 array-dimension-limit))
One can advance the current position within the buffer either to save
space for later serialization or to skip over bytes during
(ftype (function (&optional (integer 0 array-dimension-limit)) buffer)
(defun buffer-advance (&optional (amount 1))
If not specified, the `buffer-advance` function advances by a single
One can reset the current position within the buffer back to the
beginning to begin unserializing a serialized buffer, to fill in
places that one skipped during the first stage of serialization, or to
re-use the same buffer for the next serialization.
(ftype (function () buffer) buffer-rewind)
(defun buffer-rewind ()
### <a name="add-byte">Adding and Retrieving Bytes</a>
At its base, the buffer class is an adjustable array of unsigned bytes.
To add a byte to a buffer, one can use the following function. This
function will expand the buffer if needed, place the given byte at
the current fill pointer and advance the fill pointer.
(ftype (function (uchar &key (:buffer buffer)) buffer) buffer-add-byte)
(defun buffer-add-byte (byte &key (buffer *buffer*))
Similarly, to retrieve an unsigned byte from a buffer, one can use
the following function. This function will retrieve the byte at
the current fill pointer and advance the fill pointer.
(ftype (function () (values uchar buffer))
(defun buffer-get-byte ())
## <a name="serializing">Serializing and Unserializing</a>
The ultimate purpose of the USerial library is to allow one to
serialize and unserialize data. To this end, the library defines two
ContextL layered functions that dispatch on a keyword parameter. These
ContextL layered functions are described in the
["Serializing and Unserialize Layered Functions" section](#serialize) below.
There are some macros that facilitate serializing and unserializing
sequences of items. These macros are described in the
["Serializing and Unserializing Multiple Items" section](#serialize*)
There are other macros which facilitate defining new serialize
and unserialize methods for common situations. These macros are
described in the
["Defining New Serializers" section](#define-serializers) below.
There is a way to create a pair of functions where one serializes
its arguments to a buffer and the other unserializes those arguments
and executes a given body. This is described in the
["Function Call Serialization"](#serializing-funcall) section below.
There are a variety of pre-defined `serialize` and `unserialize` methods.
These are describe in the ["Pre-defined Serializers"](#predefined-serializers)
### <a name="serialize">Serialize and Unserialize Layered Functions</a>
The ContextL layered function used to serialize items takes a keyword
as its first parameter, a value as its second parameter, and optional
key arguments. The keyword is used to dispatch the appropriate
implementation of the function for the given value. The serialize
methods serialize the value into `*buffer*` and return `*buffer*`.
(ftype (function (symbol t &key &allow-other-keys) buffer)
(keyword value &key &allow-other-keys))
The ContextL layered function used to unserialize items takes a
keyword as its first parameter and optional key arguments. The
keyword is used to dispatch the appropriate implementation of the
function. The unserialize methods unserialize a value from `*buffer*`
and return the value and `*buffer*`.
(ftype (function (symbol &key &allow-other-keys) (values t buffer))
(keyword &key &allow-other-keys))
### <a name="serialize*">Serializing and Unserializing Multiple Items</a>
For most purposes, one wants to serialize more than one thing into a
given buffer. The USerial library provides some convenience macros
so that one is not forced to explicitly call serialize or unserialize
for each item. Here is an example of explicitly calling the serialize
method for each item.
(serialize :opcode :login)
(serialize :string login-name)
(serialize :string password)
(serialize :login-flags '(:hidden))
The first such macro is `serialize*`. With this macro, one specifies
the keywords and values explicitly. With it, the above example
could be serialized as follows.
(serialize* :opcode :login
To unserialize from the resulting buffer, one could explicitly call
unserialize for each item in the buffer storing each item explicitly
into a place.
(let (opcode login-name password flags)
(setf opcode (unserialize :opcode)
login-name (unserialize :string)
password (unserialize :string)
flags (unserialize :login-flags))
To do the same sort of thing more directly, one can use the
`unserialize*` macro. This macro allows one to unserialize
from a given buffer into given places using given keywords
on which to dispatch.
(let (opcode login-name password flags)
(unserialize* :opcode opcode
Another way one might have used explicit calls to unserialize
is to replace the `let` construct in the above with a
`let*` and unserialize each variable as it is created.
(let* ((opcode (unserialize :opcode))
(login-name (unserialize :string))
(password (unserialize :string))
(flags (unserialize :login-flags)))
To condense the above, one can use the `unserialize-let*` macro. It
takes a list of keyword/variable-names, a buffer (which is not
optional), and a body of statements to execute while the named
variables are in scope. Note: the buffer argument here is required.
(unserialize-let* (:opcode opcode
Suppose one wanted to unserialize into a list (as this is Lisp after all).
One could explicitly call unserialize for each item in the list.
(list (unserialize :opcode)
To eliminate a great deal of typing the word `unserialize`, one can
use the `unserialize-list*` macro. The macro takes a list of keywords
and an optional buffer. It returns a list as the first value and the
buffer as the second value.
(unserialize-list* '(:opcode :string :string :login-flags))
Note: `unserialize-list*` is a function rather than a macro (hence
the quote before the list in the above example).
For items in classes or structs, one can serialize and unserialize
them using slots or accessors. If one had a `person` struct with
slots `name`, `age`, and `hair-color`, one might do either of the
following to serialize an instance `*person-instance*`.
Similarly, one could then unserialize that data in either of the
The `unserialize-slots*` and `unserialize-accessors*` return
the object as the first return value and the buffer as the
second return value. One can reasonably use `(make-person)`
or some other factory in place of the `*person-instance*` in
the above examples.
### <a name="define-serializers">Defining New Serializers</a>
This section describes some macros available for creating serialize
and unserialize methods. Many of these macros allow keyword
parameters `layer` and `extra`. If the `layer` keyword parameter is
given, then the serializer and unserializer generated will be in the
ContextL layer specified. If the `extra` keyword parameter is given,
those extra keywords are available for the serializer and
unserializer. This will be more clear after some examples.
At the most basic level, one can define a serializer using the
`define-serializer` macro and the corresponding unserializer using
(define-serializer (key value &key layer extra)
(define-unserializer (key &key layer extra)
For example, assuming there is already a `:float32` encoder, one might
define a serializer that serializes a vector's offset from a specified
reference point and define an unserializer that does the inverse given
the same reference point.
(define-serializer (:offset-vector point :extra (reference))
(serialize* :float32 (- (vec-x point) (vec-x reference))
:float32 (- (vec-y point) (vec-y reference))))
(define-unserializer (:offset-vector :extra (reference))
(unserialize-let* (:float32 dx :float32 dy) buffer
(make-vec :x (+ (vec-x reference) dx)
:y (+ (vec-y reference) dy))))
If version `:v2.0` extended vectors to three dimensions, then one
would could add an additional serializer in layer `:v2.0`.
(define-serializer (:offset-vector point
(serialize* :float32 (- (vec-x point) (vec-x reference))
:float32 (- (vec-y point) (vec-y reference))
:float32 (- (vec-z point) (vec-z reference))))
Almost every protocol requires the encoding and decoding of
integer values. To make it easy to create as many of these
types as one's application requires, the USerial library defines
a macro which creates a serialize and unserialize method for
an integer that is a given number of bytes long. The macro
takes two arguments: the key used to specify the method
and an integer number of bytes.
(make-int-serializer key bytes &key layer)
For example, to make serialize and unserialize methods for
signed bytes and signed quadwords with signed quadwords only
available when layer `:v1.2` is active, one could simply call:
(make-int-serializer :signed-byte 1)
(make-int-serializer :signed-quadword 8 :layer :v1.2)
This macro will serialize integers in big-endian
[two's complement][twos-comp] form for the greatest compatibility with
Similarly, if one wanted to create serialize and unserialize
methods for unsigned bytes and unsigned doublewords, one could
use the following macro:
(make-uint-serializer key bytes &key layer)
(make-uint-serializer :unsigned-byte 1)
(make-uint-serializer :unsigned-doubleword 4)
Note: the `bytes` argument to the `make-int-serializer` and
`make-uint-serializer` macros must be a constant value available
at the time the macro is expanded.
To serialize floating point numbers, one must have a function
that encodes floating point numbers into an integer representation
and a function that decodes the integer representation back into
a floating point number. Then, one can use the `make-float-serializer`
macro which takes a key used to specify the method, a lisp type for the
floating point number, a constant number of bytes for the encoded
values, an encoder, and a decoder.
(make-float-serializer key type bytes encoder decoder &key layer)
For example, the following would create serializers that
encode rational numbers (technically not floating point, I know)
as 48-bit fixed point numbers with 16-bits devoted to the fractional portion
and 32-bits devoted to the integer portion.
(make-float-serializer :fixed-32/16 rational 6
#'(lambda (rr) (round (* rr 65536)))
#'(lambda (ii) (/ ii 65536)))
The USerial library defines macros for helping one encode bit fields
(to represent choices where more than one possibility at a time is
acceptable) and enumerations (to represent choices where only a single
selection can be made). These macros take a keyword used to specify the
method and a list of choices.
(make-bitfield-serializer :wants (:coffee :tea :sega) &key layer)
(make-enum-serializer :direction (:left :right :up :down) &key layer)
With the bit field serializer, one can specify a single option
or a list of zero or more options. With the enumeration serializer,
must specify a single option.
(serialize :wants :tea)
(serialize :wants nil)
(serialize :wants '(:tea :sega))
(serialize :direction :up)
When unserializing, the bit field will always return a list even when there
is a single item in it as in the `:tea` example above.
To facilitate serializing and deserializing classes and structs,
the USerial library provides macros which create serializers and
unserializers for items based on slots or accessors. These macros
take a key used to specify the methods, a factory form used by the
unserialize method to create a new instance of the class or struct,
and a plist of key/name pairs where the name is a slot name for the
slot serializers or an accessor name for the accessor serializers and
the key with each name specifies how to serialize the value in that
An example will help to clarify the previous paragraph.
Suppose one had a simple struct listing a person's name, age, and
(defstruct person name age color)
One could create the following serialize and unserialize pairs to
allow encoding the data for internal use (where all data is available)
or for public use (where the age is kept secret).
(make-slot-serializer (:person-internal pp (make-person))
:string name :uint8 age :string color)
(make-accessor-serializer (:person-public pp
(make-person :age :unknown))
:string person-name :string person-color)
An optional `layer` keyword argument can be given following the three
required parts of the opening form of each of those macros. The
first item in the opening form of each of those macros is the keyword
used to identify the serializer and unserializer. The second item in
the opening form of each of those macros is the variable name used as
a keyword parameter in the unserialize method to allow one to pass in
a pre-initialized version of the object. The third item in the opening
form of each of those is a factory used in the unserializer to create
a new instance of a person if one is not given.
(unserialize :person-public) => newly created person
(unserialize :person-public :pp *instance*) => *instance*
Here is a simple session showing the above in action. The following
code first defines a function which serializes a value using a given
key to a new buffer, rewinds the buffer, and unserializes from the
buffer using the key.
CL-USER> (defun u-s (key value)
(serialize key value)
(nth-value 0 (unserialize key))))
CL-USER> (defvar *p* (make-person :name "Patrick"
CL-USER> (u-s :person-internal *p*)
#S(PERSON :NAME "Patrick" :AGE 40 :COLOR "Green")
CL-USER> (u-s :person-public *p*)
#S(PERSON :NAME "Patrick" :AGE :UNKNOWN :COLOR "Green")
One can also define a serialize/unserialize pair for a list
where each item uses the same serializer. For example, one
can do the following:
(make-list-serializer :string-list :string)
(serialize :string-list (list "a" "b" "c" "d"))
The `make-list-serializer` can also take a `layer` keyword parameter.
The `make-list-serializer` encodes the length of the list, then
the elements. If the length is known from context, one might
instead use the `make-vector-serializer` which serializes a
sequence of a given length and unserializes to a vector. The
`make-vector-serializer` macro takes three parameters: the key
to use for this serializer, the key used to encode each element
of the sequence, and the length of the sequence. For example,
one might have something like this:
(make-vector-serializer :vec3 :float32 3)
(make-vector-serializer :pixel :uint8 3)
(make-vector-serializer :pixel :uint8 4 :layer :v2.0)
The USerial library allows one to create serializers with slots
or accessors which allow a portion of the struct (or class) slots
to be used as a key on the unserializing side to locate the object. An
example should serve to illustrate. Given the above `person` struct
and a `find-person-by-name` function, one might create a serializer
which encodes a person's name and a new color such that the
unserializing side will find the person struct for the named person
and set the color.
(:string (person-name found-person) pname)
;; store the color and then change it locally
(defparameter *p* (make-person :name "Patrick" :age 40 :color "Green"))
(serialize :set-person-color (make-person :name "Patrick" :color "Orange")
;; restore the serialized color "Green"
=> #S(PERSON :NAME "Patrick" :AGE 40 :COLOR "Orange")
One can incorporate more variables into either the key or the values
and use either slots or accessors.
(make-key-slot-serializer (:change-person-attrs found-person
(:string name pname)
(make-key-slot-serializer (:change-color-by-name-and-age found-person
(:string name p-name
:uint8 age p-age)
(find-person-by-name-and-age p-name p-age))
The USerial library allows one to create serializers which
unserialize into global variables. For example, suppose one
had global variables `*moderator*` and `*author*`. One could
use the `:person-internal` serializer above create a serializer
that lets one serialize a person that will be unserialized
into one of the above variables.
(defparameter *moderator* (make-person :name "Patrick"
(defparameter *author* nil)
(make-global-variable-serializer (:global-person :person-internal)
;; serialize the moderator and clear it
(serialize :global-person '*moderator*)
(setf *moderator* nil)
;; rewind the buffer and restore the moderator
*moderator* => #S(PERSON :NAME "Patrick" :AGE 40 :COLOR "Green")
The USerial library allows one to alias serializers. For example,
if one were encoding object ids as unsigned 32-bit integers, one
could do either of the following:
(make-uint-serializer :object-id 4)
(make-alias-serializer :object-id :uint32)
The alias is not a direct alias. It will involve one more function
call that using the direct serializer, but it provides a convenient,
self-documenting way to describe equivalent serializations.
### <a name="serializing-funcall">Function Call Serialization</a>
Using the `define-serializing-funcall` macro, one can create
a function which serializes its arguments to a buffer and a
corresponding function which unserializes those arguments to
execute a function body. The macro takes two introductory
forms and then a body. The first introductory form contains
the name for the serializing function, the name for the
unserializing function, and an optional `layer` keyword
argument. The second form contains a USerial-enhanced
lambda list for the function. The enhanced lambda list
precedes each required, optional, or keyword parameter
with a USerial serialization keyword.
(define-serializing-funcall (func-to-buffer func-from-buffer &key layer)
For example, given the `person` struct used in the previous
section, one might choose to do something like this:
(define-serializing-funcall (prep-set-person-age do-set-person-age)
(:string name :uint8 age)
(let ((pp (find-person-by-name name)))
(setf (person-age pp) age))
Then, the sending side of the application can serialize a call to
this function as follows:
(prep-set-person-age "Patrick" 39)
=> #(7 80 97 116 114 105 99 107 39)
The receiving side of the application can unserialize this function
and invoke the given function body (assuming that `find-person-by-name`
succeeds for "Patrick").
=> #S(PERSON :NAME "Patrick" :AGE 39 :COLOR "Green")
#(7 80 97 116 114 105 99 107 39)
One can use required, `&optional`, `&rest`, `&key`, and `&aux`
parameters. The required, `&optional`, and `&key` parameters
must all be given a serialization keyword. The `&rest` and
`&aux` parameters do not use a serialization keyword.
The serialization side does not accept `&allow-other-keys`.
If the enhanced lambda list contains `&allow-other-keys`, it can
be used on the unserializing side.
Any `&optional` and `&key` parameters are given their defaults
as compiled on the receiving side. So, if one serializes a function call,
sends that buffer to a second machine which has different default
values for some parameters, the values used for defaults will be
those compiled on the receiving side. As such, the description
of default values on the sending side may not necessarily reflect
the default values that the receiving side will actually use.
It is up to the application programmer whether this possibility
is worth the expense of explicitly specifying the parameter on
the sending side even if the desired value is the default.
### <a name="predefined-serializers">Pre-defined Serializers</a>
The USerial library defines some commonly required serializers.
For symbols, the USerial library defines serializers (and
unserializers) for `:keyword` and `:symbol`.
(serialize :keyword :foobie)
(serialize :symbol 'cl:first)
For signed integers, the USerial library defines the following
serializers (and unserializers): `:int8` for signed bytes, `:int16`
for signed 16-bit integers, `:int32` for signed 32-bit integers,
`:int64` for signed 64-bit integers, and `:int` for arbitrarily
For unsigned integers, the USerial library defines the
following serializers: `:uint8` for unsigned bytes, `:uint16`
for unsigned 16-bit integers, `:uint24` for unsigned 24-bit integers,
`:uint32` for unsigned 32-bit integers, `:uint48` for unsigned
48-bit integers, `:uint64` for unsigned 64-bit integers, and
`:uint` for arbitrarily large unsigned integers.
For floating point numbers, the USerial library defines the `:float32`
serializer for encoding `single-float` values as 32-bit IEEE floating
point numbers and the `:float64` serializer for encoding
`double-float` values as 64-bit IEEE floating point numbers. The
USerial library uses the [ieee-float library][ieee] to encode
and decode floating point numbers.
For arbitrary byte sequences, the USerial library defines the
`:bytes` serializer. These are encoded as a `:uint` length
and then the raw bytes. To include a raw sequence of bytes
in the serialization without the length ahead of it, one can
use the `:raw-bytes` serializer.
(serialize :raw-bytes byte-array
&key (start 0) (end (length bytes-array)))
(unserialize :raw-bytes byte-array
&key output (start 0) (end (length output)))
For strings, the USerial library defines the `:string` serializer for
encoding strings as UTF-8 encoded sequences of arbitrary length. The
USerial library uses the [trivial-utf-8 library][utf] to
encode and decode UTF-8 strings.
For enumerated types, the USerial library defines the `:boolean`
serializer for encoding an option that will be either `nil` or `t`.
## <a name="protocol">Sample Application: Game Protocol</a>
This example shows how one might use the tools above to serialize
the data that would need to be exchanged between a client and
server to implement a two-player game similar to Milton-Bradley's
For this game, there will be a server and two clients. Each
client will begin the game by placing his ships on an (2K+1)x(2K+1) board.
The board will have coordinates ranging from -K through +K in both
the X and Y axis. Ships will have to be placed either horizontally
or vertically at integer coordinates. All ships are three units
in length. It takes only one missile shot to sink a ship.
Once the ships are placed, regular play begins. During his turn
during regular play, a client can either ping or fire. Each
client begins with a defined amount of energy available with which
to ping and a defined number of missiles.
If the client chooses to ping, the client chooses the radius of the
ping and its center of origin. The server will calculate the distance
from the center of origin to each enemy ship within the specified
radius from the origin, round those distances to the nearest integer,
and reply to the client with that list.
If the client chooses to fire, the client chooses the location upon
which to fire. The server will respond to the client to tell him
whether the shot was a hit or a miss.
### <a name="opcodes">Opcodes</a>
To facilitate handling of received messages, each message will begin
with an opcode identifying the message type. Some messages will be
sent only from the client to the server. Others will be sent only
from the server to the client.
(:login :place-ship :ping :fire))
(:welcome :ack :sunk :shot-results))
The message-receiving portion on the server side could then do
something like this:
(defun handle-message-from-client (message)
(ecase (unserialize :client-opcodes)
(:login (handle-login-message message))
(:place-ship (handle-place-ship-message message))
(:ping (handle-ping-message message))
(:fire (handle-ping-message message)))))
### <a name="login">Logging In</a>
To begin a game, the client sends a message to the server with
opcode `:login`. The message declares the player's name,
which board sizes the client will play, and an optional name of
an opponent that the client is waiting to play.
(:small :medium :large :huge))
(defun make-login-message (name &key opponent small medium large huge)
(let ((sizes (append (when small '(:small))
(when medium '(:medium))
(when large '(:large))
(when huge '(:huge)))))
(serialize* :client-opcode :login
:boolean (if opponent t nil))
(serialize :string opponent))
On the receiving side, the server might do something like the
following (given that it already read the opcode from the message
as it had in the previous section).
(defun handle-login-message (message)
(unserialize-let* (:string name
(assert (plusp (length name)))
(assert (plusp (length sizes)))
(has-opponent (unserialize-let* (:string opponent)
(match-or-queue name sizes opponent)))
(t (match-or-queue name sizes))))))
When the server finds a match for the requested game, it composes
welcome messages to each client. The welcome message contains the
size of the board in squares, the number of ships each player has,
the amount of ping energy each player has, the number of missiles
each player has, and the name of the opponent.
(defun make-welcome-message (squares ships energy missiles opponent)
(serialize* :server-opcode :welcome
Suppose the client had a class it was using to track the current
state of the game. The client could then use a slot-serializer
or accessor-serializer to parse the incoming welcome message.
The client could then handle the welcome message as follows (assuming
the opcode has already been unserialized from the message buffer):
(defun handle-welcome-message (message)
(unserialize-let* (:game-state-from-welcome game-state)
;; do anything with this game state here
### <a name="placing">Placing Ships</a>
To place ships, a client specifies the center coordinate of the
ship and whether the ship is oriented horizontally or vertically.
(make-enum-serializer :orientation (:horizontal :vertical))
(defun make-place-ship-message (x y orientation)
(serialize* :client-opcode :place-ship
The server could read the coordinates and orientation into local
variables before calling a method to add the ship to the map.
(defun handle-place-ship-message (message)
(let (x y orientation)
(unserialize* :int8 x
(add-ship-to-map x y
:is-vertical (eql orientation
### <a name="pinging">Pinging</a>
To perform a ping move, a client encodes a radius and a center
for the ping.
(serialize* :client-opcode :ping
:int 8 y))
Here, the server will decode the ping request into a list to send to
its routine to calculate the reply.
(unserialize-list* '(:float32 :int8 :int8))))
Supposing the return from `calculate-ping-response` is a list of
distances to ships, the ack message could be encoded like this:
(serialize* :server-opcodes :ack
:uint16 (length hits))
(mapcar #'(lambda (d) (serialize :uint8 d)) hits))
### <a name="firing">Firing</a>
To send a fire message, the client just sends the coordinates of
the location upon which to fire.
(serialize* :client-opcodes :fire
If the server determines the shot was a hit, it must send a sunk
message to the opponent. Either way, a shot results message must
be sent to the client.
(make-enum-serializer :shot-result (:hit :miss))
(defun make-sunk-message (x y)
(serialize* :server-opcodes :sunk
(defun make-shot-results-message (hit)
(serialize* :server-opcodes :shot-results
:shot-result (if hit :hit :miss))))