C# – Bit fields in C#

bit-fieldsc++

I have a structure which I need to populate and write to disk (several actually).

An example is:

byte-6    
bit0 - original_or_copy  
bit1 - copyright  
bit2 - data_alignment_indicator  
bit3 - PES_priority  
bit4-bit5 - PES_scrambling control.  
bit6-bit7 - reserved  

In C I might do something like the following:

struct PESHeader  {
    unsigned reserved:2;
    unsigned scrambling_control:2;
    unsigned priority:1;
    unsigned data_alignment_indicator:1;
    unsigned copyright:1;
    unsigned original_or_copy:1;
};

Is there any way to do this in C# that would enable me to access the bits using the struct dereferencing dot operator?

For a couple of structures, I can just do bit shifting wrapped in an accessor function.

I have loads of structures to handle in this way, so I'm looking for something that's easier to read and quicker to write.

Best Solution

I'd probably knock together something using attributes, then a conversion class to convert suitably attributed structures to the bitfield primitives. Something like...

using System;

namespace BitfieldTest
{
    [global::System.AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Field, AllowMultiple = false)]
    sealed class BitfieldLengthAttribute : Attribute
    {
        uint length;

        public BitfieldLengthAttribute(uint length)
        {
            this.length = length;
        }

        public uint Length { get { return length; } }
    }

    static class PrimitiveConversion
    {
        public static long ToLong<T>(T t) where T : struct
        {
            long r = 0;
            int offset = 0;

            // For every field suitably attributed with a BitfieldLength
            foreach (System.Reflection.FieldInfo f in t.GetType().GetFields())
            {
                object[] attrs = f.GetCustomAttributes(typeof(BitfieldLengthAttribute), false);
                if (attrs.Length == 1)
                {
                    uint fieldLength  = ((BitfieldLengthAttribute)attrs[0]).Length;

                    // Calculate a bitmask of the desired length
                    long mask = 0;
                    for (int i = 0; i < fieldLength; i++)
                        mask |= 1 << i;

                    r |= ((UInt32)f.GetValue(t) & mask) << offset;

                    offset += (int)fieldLength;
                }
            }

            return r;
        }
    }

    struct PESHeader
    {
        [BitfieldLength(2)]
        public uint reserved;
        [BitfieldLength(2)]
        public uint scrambling_control;
        [BitfieldLength(1)]
        public uint priority;
        [BitfieldLength(1)]
        public uint data_alignment_indicator;
        [BitfieldLength(1)]
        public uint copyright;
        [BitfieldLength(1)]
        public uint original_or_copy;
    };

    public class MainClass
    {
        public static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            PESHeader p = new PESHeader();

            p.reserved = 3;
            p.scrambling_control = 2;
            p.data_alignment_indicator = 1;

            long l = PrimitiveConversion.ToLong(p);


            for (int i = 63; i >= 0; i--)
            {
                Console.Write( ((l & (1l << i)) > 0) ? "1" : "0");
            }

            Console.WriteLine();

            return;
        }
    }
}

Which produces the expected ...000101011. Of course, it needs more error checking and a slightly saner typing, but the concept is (I think) sound, reusable, and lets you knock out easily maintained structures by the dozen.

adamw

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