Example of loading a dynamic library into a running host process.
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Dynamic Library Loading Example

This is a small but complete example, written in C, which shows:

  • How to build a host executable into which a dynamic library can be loaded.
  • How to build a dynamic library with intentional holes.
  • How to load and use such a library within a host runtime, using the dlsym() family of functions.

This is the sort of thing that needs to be done in a general language runtime that supports runtime loading of additional libraries.

In this case, the host executable exports a function named hook, and it expects each library to export a function called run. You run host passing it the file names of one or more libraries. It opens each library, looks up the run function, and calls it.

The code has been tested on OS X (compiled with Clang) and Linux (compiled with Gcc and Clang, and running in a Gnu environment).

Subdirectories of this project

  • etc — Miscellaneous support files.

  • host — The host executable.

  • all-good — Library example. It is a proper library, importing hook, exporting run, and defining library constructor and destructor functions.

  • missing-export — Library example. It should succeed in loading and initializing, but it should fail to run, because it does not export the symbol run. The host always tries to look that symbol up.

  • missing-import — Library example. It should fail to load, because it attempts to import the symbol notFound, which is not exported by the host.

  • weak-import — Library example. It is a proper library despite the fact that it attempts to import the symbol notFound, which is not exported by the host. It succeeds, because it declares the symbol reference as "weak", which means that it gets set to NULL when the library is loaded.


To test the code, run the test script in the base directory of the project. You should see something like this:

$ ./test
Building: host
Building: all-good
Building: missing-import
Building: missing-export
Building: weak-import

./all-good/all-good.lib: Loading
>>> init() called inside all-good.
./all-good/all-good.lib: Running
>>> run() called inside all-good.
./all-good/all-good.lib: Closing
>>> shutdown() called inside all-good.
./all-good/all-good.lib: Done.

./missing-export/missing-export.lib: Loading
>>> init() called inside missing-export.
./missing-export/missing-export.lib: Running
Trouble looking up `run`: dlsym(0x7fe2c9c03940, run): symbol not found
./missing-export/missing-export.lib: Closing
>>> shutdown() called inside missing-export.
./missing-export/missing-export.lib: Done.

./missing-import/missing-import.lib: Loading
./missing-import/missing-import.lib: Trouble loading: dlopen(./missing-import/missing-import.lib, 6): Symbol not found: _notFound
  Referenced from: ./missing-import/missing-import.lib
  Expected in: flat namespace
 in ./missing-import/missing-import.lib

./weak-import/weak-import.lib: Loading
>>> init() called inside weak-import.
./weak-import/weak-import.lib: Running
>>> run() called inside weak-import.
>>> Properly found that `notFound == NULL`.
./weak-import/weak-import.lib: Closing
>>> shutdown() called inside weak-import.
./weak-import/weak-import.lib: Done.

If you have multiple C compilers available, you can select which one to use by setting the ${CC} environment variable before running, e.g.:

$ CC=clang ./test


Contributions welcome! See the guidelines.