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node-ffi

Node.js Foreign Function Interface Build Status

Attention node-ffi users! v1.0 has been released! See the API changes page.

node-ffi is a Node.js addon for loading and calling dynamic libraries using pure JavaScript. It can be used to create bindings to native libraries without writing any C++ code.

It also simplifies the augmentation of node.js with C code as it takes care of handling the translation of types across JavaScript and C, which can add reams of boilerplate code to your otherwise simple C. See the example/factorial for an example of this use case.

WARNING: node-ffi assumes you know what you're doing. You can pretty easily create situations where you will segfault the interpreter and unless you've got C debugger skills, you probably won't know what's going on.

Example

var ffi = require('ffi');

var libm = ffi.Library('libm', {
  'ceil': [ 'double', [ 'double' ] ]
});
libm.ceil(1.5); // 2

// You can also access just functions in the current process by passing a null
var current = ffi.Library(null, {
  'atoi': [ 'int', [ 'string' ] ]
});
current.atoi('1234'); // 1234

For a more detailed introduction, see the node-ffi tutorial page.

Requirements

  • Linux, OS X, Windows, or Solaris.
  • libffi comes bundled with node-ffi; it does not need to be installed on your system.
  • The current version is tested to run on node v0.6, v0.7, and v0.8.

Installation

$ npm install ffi

Note: When installing on Windows, you'll need to invoke npm install ffi from within a Mozilla Build (direct link) command window.

Source Install / Manual Compilation

To compile from source it's easiest to use node-gyp:

$ npm install -g node-gyp

Now you can compile node-ffi:

$ git clone git://github.com/rbranson/node-ffi.git
$ cd node-ffi
$ node-gyp configure build

Types

The types that you specify in function declarations correspond to ref's types system. So see its docs for a reference if you are unfamiliar.

V8 and 64-bit Types

Internally, V8 stores integers that will fit into a 32-bit space in a 32-bit integer, and those that fall outside of this get put into double-precision floating point numbers. This is problematic because FP numbers are imprecise. To get around this, the methods in node-ffi that deal with 64-bit integers return strings and can accept strings as parameters.

Call Overhead

There is non-trivial overhead associated with FFI calls. Comparing a hard-coded binding version of strtoul() to an FFI version of strtoul() shows that the native hard-coded binding is orders of magnitude faster. So don't just use the C version of a function just because it's faster. There's a significant cost in FFI calls, so make them worth it.

License

MIT License. See the LICENSE file.

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