4.2 Input Streams

     

Java's basic input class is java.io.InputStream :

 public abstract class InputStream 

This class provides the fundamental methods needed to read data as raw bytes. These are:

 public abstract int read( ) throws IOException public int read(byte[] input) throws IOException public int read(byte[] input, int offset, int length) throws IOException public long skip(long n) throws IOException public int available( ) throws IOException public void close( ) throws IOException 

Concrete subclasses of InputStream use these methods to read data from particular media. For instance, a FileInputStream reads data from a file. A TelnetInputStream reads data from a network connection. A ByteArrayInputStream reads data from an array of bytes. But whichever source you're reading, you mostly use only these same six methods. Sometimes you don't know exactly what kind of stream you're reading from. For instance, TelnetInputStream is an undocumented class hidden inside the sun.net package. Instances of it are returned by various methods in the java.net package: for example, the openStream( ) method of java.net.URL . However, these methods are declared to return only InputStream , not the more specific subclass TelnetInputStream . That's polymorphism at work once again. The instance of the subclass can be used transparently as an instance of its superclass. No specific knowledge of the subclass is required.

The basic method of InputStream is the noargs read( ) method. This method reads a single byte of data from the input stream's source and returns it as an int from 0 to 255. End of stream is signified by returning -1. The read( ) method waits and blocks execution of any code that follows it until a byte of data is available and ready to be read. Input and output can be slow, so if your program is doing anything else of importance, try to put I/O in its own thread.

The read( ) method is declared abstract because subclasses need to change it to handle their particular medium. For instance, a ByteArrayInputStream can implement this method with pure Java code that copies the byte from its array. However, a TelnetInputStream needs to use a native library that understands how to read data from the network interface on the host platform.

The following code fragment reads 10 bytes from the InputStream in and stores them in the byte array input . However, if end of stream is detected , the loop is terminated early:

 byte[] input = new byte[10]; for (int i = 0; i < input.length; i++) {   int b = in.read( );   if (b  == -1) break;   input[i] = (byte) b; } 

Although read( ) only reads a byte, it returns an int . Thus, a cast is necessary before storing the result in the byte array. Of course, this produces a signed byte from -128 to 127 instead of the unsigned byte from 0 to 255 returned by the read( ) method. However, as long as you're clear about which one you're working with, this is not a major problem. You can convert a signed byte to an unsigned byte like this:

 int i = b >= 0 ? b : 256 + b; 

Reading a byte at a time is as inefficient as writing data one byte at a time. Consequently, there are two overloaded read() methods that fill a specified array with multiple bytes of data read from the stream, read(byte[] input) and read(byte[] input , int offset , int length) . The first method attempts to fill the specified array input . The second attempts to fill the specified subarray of input , starting at offset and continuing for length bytes.

Notice I said these methods attempt to fill the array, not that they necessarily succeed. An attempt may fail in several ways. For instance, it's not unheard of that while your program is reading data from a remote web server over a PPP dialup link, a bug in a switch at a phone company central office will disconnect you and several thousand of your neighbors from the rest of the world. This would cause an IOException . More commonly, however, a read attempt won't completely fail but won't completely succeed, either. Some of the requested bytes may be read, but not all of them. For example, you may try to read 1,024 bytes from a network connection, when only 512 have actually arrived from the server; the rest are still in transit. They'll arrive eventually, but they aren't available at this moment. To account for this, the multibyte read methods return the number of bytes actually read. For example, consider this code fragment:

 byte[] input  = new byte[1024]; int bytesRead = in.read(input); 

It attempts to read 1,024 bytes from the InputStream in into the array input . However, if only 512 bytes are available, that's all that will be read, and bytesRead will be set to 512. To guarantee that all the bytes you want are actually read, place the read in a loop that reads repeatedly until the array is filled. For example:

 int bytesRead   = 0; int bytesToRead = 1024; byte[] input    = new byte[bytesToRead]; while (bytesRead < bytesToRead) {   bytesRead += in.read(input, bytesRead, bytesToRead - bytesRead); } 

This technique is especially crucial for network streams. Chances are that if a file is available at all, all the bytes of a file are also available. However, since networks move much more slowly than CPUs, it is very easy for a program to empty a network buffer before all the data has arrived. In fact, if one of these two methods tries to read from a temporarily empty but open network buffer, it will generally return 0, indicating that no data is available but the stream is not yet closed. This is often preferable to the behavior of the single-byte read( ) method, which blocks the running thread in the same circumstances.

All three read( ) methods return -1 to signal the end of the stream. If the stream ends while there's still data that hasn't been read, the multibyte read( ) methods return the data until the buffer has been emptied. The next call to any of the read( ) methods will return -1. The -1 is never placed in the array. The array only contains actual data. The previous code fragment had a bug because it didn't consider the possibility that all 1,024 bytes might never arrive (as opposed to not being immediately available). Fixing that bug requires testing the return value of read( ) before adding it to bytesRead . For example:

 int bytesRead=0; int bytesToRead=1024; byte[] input = new byte[bytesToRead]; while (bytesRead < bytesToRead) {   int result = in.read(input, bytesRead, bytesToRead - bytesRead);   if (result == -1) break;   bytesRead += result; } 

If you do not want to wait until all the bytes you need are immediately available, you can use the available() method to determine how many bytes can be read without blocking. This returns the minimum number of bytes you can read. You may in fact be able to read more, but you will be able to read at least as many bytes as available() suggests. For example:

 int bytesAvailable = in.available( ); byte[] input = new byte[bytesAvailable]; int bytesRead = in.read(input, 0, bytesAvailable); // continue with rest of program immediately... 

In this case, you can assert that bytesRead is exactly equal to bytesAvailable . You cannot, however, assert that bytesRead is greater than zero. It is possible that no bytes were available. On end of stream, available( ) returns 0. Generally, read(byte[] input , int offset , int length) returns -1 on end of stream; but if length is 0, then it does not notice the end of stream and returns 0 instead.

On rare occasions, you may want to skip over data without reading it. The skip( ) method accomplishes this task. It's less useful on network connections than when reading from files. Network connections are sequential and normally quite slow, so it's not significantly more time-consuming to read data than to skip over it. Files are random access so that skipping can be implemented simply by repositioning a file pointer rather than processing each byte to be skipped .

As with output streams, once your program has finished with an input stream, it should close it by invoking its close() method. This releases any resources associated with the stream, such as file handles or ports. Once an input stream has been closed, further reads from it throw IOException s. However, some kinds of streams may still allow you to do things with the object. For instance, you generally won't want to get the message digest from a java.security.DigestInputStream until after the data has been read and the stream closed.

4.2.1 Marking and Resetting

The InputStream class also has three less commonly used methods that allow programs to back up and reread data they've already read. These are:

 public void mark(int readAheadLimit) public void reset( ) throws IOException public boolean markSupported( ) 

In order to reread data, mark the current position in the stream with the mark( ) method. At a later point, you can reset the stream to the marked position using the reset( ) method. Subsequent reads then return data starting from the marked position. However, you may not be able to reset as far back as you like. The number of bytes you can read from the mark and still reset is determined by the readAheadLimit argument to mark( ) . If you try to reset too far back, an IOException is thrown. Furthermore, there can be only one mark in a stream at any given time. Marking a second location erases the first mark.

Marking and resetting are usually implemented by storing every byte read from the marked position on in an internal buffer. However, not all input streams support this. Before trying to use marking and resetting, check to see whether the markSupported() method returns true. If it does, the stream supports marking and resetting. Otherwise, mark( ) will do nothing and reset( ) will throw an IOException .

In my opinion, this demonstrates very poor design. In practice, more streams don't support marking and resetting than do . Attaching functionality to an abstract superclass that is not available to many, probably most, subclasses is a very poor idea. It would be better to place these three methods in a separate interface that could be implemented by those classes that provided this functionality. The disadvantage of this approach is that you couldn't then invoke these methods on an arbitrary input stream of unknown type, but in practice, you can't do that anyway because not all streams support marking and resetting. Providing a method such as markSupported( ) to check for functionality at runtime is a more traditional, non-object-oriented solution to the problem. An object-oriented approach would embed this in the type system through interfaces and classes so that it could all be checked at compile time.


The only two input stream classes in java.io that always support marking are BufferedInputStream and ByteArrayInputStream . However, other input streams such as TelnetInputStream may support marking if they're chained to a buffered input stream first.



Java Network Programming
Java Network Programming, Third Edition
ISBN: 0596007213
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 164

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