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Host Byte Order & Network Byte Order

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Convert the Natives!

We've now been lead right into the next section. There's been too much talk about this Network to Host Byte Order conversion--now is the time for action!

All righty. There are two types that you can convert: short (two bytes) and long (four bytes). These functions work for the unsigned variations as well. Say you want to convert a short from Host Byte Order to Network Byte Order. Start with "h" for "host", follow it with "to", then "n" for "network", and "s" for "short": h-to-n-s, or htons() (read: "Host to Network Short").

It's almost too easy...

You can use every combination of "n", "h", "s", and "l" you want, not counting the really stupid ones. For example, there is NOT a stolh() ("Short to Long Host") function--not at this party, anyway. But there are:

htons() -- "Host to Network Short"

htonl() -- "Host to Network Long"

ntohs() -- "Network to Host Short"

ntohl() -- "Network to Host Long"
Now, you may think you're wising up to this. You might think, "What do I do if I have to change byte order on a char?" Then you might think, "Uh, never mind." You might also think that since your 68000 machine already uses network byte order, you don't have to call htonl() on your IP addresses. You would be right, BUT if you try to port to a machine that has reverse network byte order, your program will fail. Be portable! This is a Unix world! (As much as Bill Gates would like to think otherwise.) Remember: put your bytes in Network Byte Order before you put them on the network.

A final point: why do sin_addr and sin_port need to be in Network Byte Order in a struct sockaddr_in, but sin_family does not? The answer: sin_addr and sin_port get encapsulated in the packet at the IP and UDP layers, respectively. Thus, they must be in Network Byte Order. However, the sin_family field is only used by the kernel to determine what type of address the structure contains, so it must be in Host Byte Order. Also, since sin_family does not get sent out on the network, it can be in Host Byte Order.

 

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