[Haskell-cafe] StablePtr's and castStablePtrToPtr

Duncan Coutts duncan.coutts at worc.ox.ac.uk
Fri Jul 28 08:01:54 EDT 2006

On Tue, 2006-07-25 at 22:16 -0400, DeeJay-G615 wrote:
> I have a query which is asked out of interest's sake...
> I'm essentially looking for an affirmation of what I think I already 
> understand (or some info if I'm deluded ;)).
> To put this in context...
> I have some C code...
>    typedef int func(void *);
>    void from_maybe_int(void *val, func *my_func)
>    {
>      int i;
>      i = my_func(val);
>      printf("value within C: %d\n", i);
>    }

For greater clarity you might like to use HsStablePtr in place of void*.

> And some Haskell code...
>    type FromMaybeInt = StablePtr (Maybe Int) -> IO CInt
>    foreign import ccall "wrapper"
>            wrapFromMaybeInt :: FromMaybeInt
>                             -> IO (FunPtr FromMaybeInt)
>    foreign import ccall "from_maybe_int"
>            cFromMaybeInt :: StablePtr (Maybe Int)
>                          -> FunPtr GetJust
>                          -> IO ()
>    functionToPass :: FromMaybeInt
>    functionToPass sPtr = do
>      m <- deRefStablePtr sPtr
>      case m of
>        Nothing -> return (-1)
>        Just i -> return (fromIntegral i)
>    main :: IO ()
>    main = do sPtr <- newStablePtr (Just 3) -- for example
>              funPtr <- wrapFromMaybeInt functionToPass
>              cFromMaybeInt sPtr funPtr
>              freeStablePtr sPtr
> The compiled program works fine. However I wanted to check this was 
> correct usage. As in, is perfectly fine to pass a value of type 
> StablePtr a into C?

Yes, that's exactly the point of a StablePtr, to be able to pass it to C
and then get it back and get a Haskell value out of it.

Your usage of it looks fine to me.

> Am I correct in thinking that StablePtr is defined as a void pointer in 
> C?

Right. The FFI spec defines it in HsFFI.h as:

typedef void * HsStablePtr;

> From my very limited understanding of C, it is also the case that you 
> can implicitly cast a void pointer to any other pointer type and 
> vice-versa. Some appear to deem it bad practice if you explictly give 
> the cast.

True. In this case it hardly matters because you are not allowed to
directly dereference the pointer in C anyway as it's not guaranteed to
point to any valid location. Indeed in GHC's implementation it doesn't.
It's just a token which you can pass back to Haskell land.

> So therefore I am somewhat hazy on the use for castStablePtrToPtr. I 
> found the ghc docs to be quite cryptic for this function.
> Google dug up a few examples of it's use in PUGS... which has lead me to 
> think that the function is purely for type 'convience' in Haskell. Is 
> this the case or am I missing a use case here?

So when you export a StablePtr to C using an FFI declaration like your

   foreign import ccall "from_maybe_int"
           cFromMaybeInt :: StablePtr (Maybe Int)
                         -> FunPtr GetJust
                         -> IO ()

The StablePtr is automatically converted to the C void *. The
castStablePtrToPtr function just allows you to do that same conversion
but inside Haskell.

This might be useful if the StablePtr has to be put into or removed from
a C structure.

> Disclaimer: My knowledge and experience of C is somewhat limited. 
> Ironically I have started playing with C by way of Haskell. (Sick and 
> twisted I know).

I find C & Haskell a good combination for practical stuff. Their
strengths and weaknesses complement each other quite well.


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