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Thinking in Java
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New I/O

The Java “new” I/O library, introduced in JDK 1.4 in the java.nio.* packages, has one goal: speed. In fact, the “old” I/O packages have been reimplemented using nio in order to take advantage of this speed increase, so you will benefit even if you don’t explicitly write code with nio. The speed increase occurs in both file I/O, which is explored here,[65] and in network I/O, which is covered in Thinking in Enterprise Java.

The speed comes from using structures that are closer to the operating system’s way of performing I/O: channels and buffers. You could think of it as a coal mine; the channel is the mine containing the seam of coal (the data), and the buffer is the cart that you send into the mine. The cart comes back full of coal, and you get the coal from the cart. That is, you don’t interact directly with the channel; you interact with the buffer and send the buffer into the channel. The channel either pulls data from the buffer, or puts data into the buffer.

The only kind of buffer that communicates directly with a channel is a ByteBuffer—that is, a buffer that holds raw bytes. If you look at the JDK documentation for java.nio.ByteBuffer, you’ll see that it’s fairly basic: You create one by telling it how much storage to allocate, and there are a selection of methods to put and get data, in either raw byte form or as primitive data types. But there’s no way to put or get an object, or even a String. It’s fairly low-level, precisely because this makes a more efficient mapping with most operating systems.

Three of the classes in the “old” I/O have been modified so that they produce a FileChannel: FileInputStream, FileOutputStream, and, for both reading and writing, RandomAccessFile. Notice that these are the byte manipulation streams, in keeping with the low-level nature of nio. The Reader and Writer character-mode classes do not produce channels, but the class java.nio.channels.Channels has utility methods to produce Readers and Writers from channels.

Here’s a simple example that exercises all three types of stream to produce channels that are writeable, read/writeable, and readable:

//: c12:GetChannel.java
// Getting channels from streams
// {Clean: data.txt}
import java.io.*;
import java.nio.*;
import java.nio.channels.*;

public class GetChannel {
  private static final int BSIZE = 1024;
  public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
    // Write a file:
    FileChannel fc =
      new FileOutputStream("data.txt").getChannel();
    fc.write(ByteBuffer.wrap("Some text ".getBytes()));
    fc.close();
    // Add to the end of the file:
    fc =
      new RandomAccessFile("data.txt", "rw").getChannel();
    fc.position(fc.size()); // Move to the end
    fc.write(ByteBuffer.wrap("Some more".getBytes()));
    fc.close();
    // Read the file:
    fc = new FileInputStream("data.txt").getChannel();
    ByteBuffer buff = ByteBuffer.allocate(BSIZE);
    fc.read(buff);
    buff.flip();
    while(buff.hasRemaining())
      System.out.print((char)buff.get());    
  }
} ///:~


For any of the stream classes shown here, getChannel( ) will produce a FileChannel. A channel is fairly basic: You can hand it a ByteBuffer for reading or writing, and you can lock regions of the file for exclusive access (this will be described later).

One way to put bytes into a ByteBuffer is to stuff them in directly using one of the “put” methods, to put one or more bytes, or values of primitive types. However, as seen here, you can also “wrap” an existing byte array in a ByteBuffer using the wrap( ) method. When you do this, the underlying array is not copied, but instead is used as the storage for the generated ByteBuffer. We say that the ByteBuffer is “backed by” the array.

The data.txt file is reopened using a RandomAccessFile. Notice that you can move the FileChannel around in the file; here, it is moved to the end so that additional writes will be appended.

For read-only access, you must explicitly allocate a ByteBuffer using the static allocate( ) method. The goal of nio is to rapidly move large amounts of data, so the size of the ByteBuffer should be significant—in fact, the 1K used here is probably quite a bit smaller than you’d normally want to use (you’ll have to experiment with your working application to find the best size).

It’s also possible to go for even more speed by using allocateDirect( ) instead of allocate( ) to produce a “direct” buffer that may have an even higher coupling with the operating system. However, the overhead in such an allocation is greater, and the actual implementation varies from one operating system to another, so again, you must experiment with your working application to discover whether direct buffers will buy you any advantage in speed.

Once you call read( ) to tell the FileChannel to store bytes into the ByteBuffer, you must call flip( ) on the buffer to tell it to get ready to have its bytes extracted (yes, this seems a bit crude, but remember that it’s very low-level and is done for maximum speed). And if we were to use the buffer for further read( ) operations, we’d also have to call clear( ) to prepare it for each read( ). You can see this in a simple file copying program:

//: c12:ChannelCopy.java
// Copying a file using channels and buffers
// {Args: ChannelCopy.java test.txt}
// {Clean: test.txt} 
import java.io.*;
import java.nio.*;
import java.nio.channels.*;

public class ChannelCopy {
  private static final int BSIZE = 1024;
  public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
    if(args.length != 2) {
      System.out.println("arguments: sourcefile destfile");
      System.exit(1);
    }
    FileChannel 
      in = new FileInputStream(args[0]).getChannel(),
      out = new FileOutputStream(args[1]).getChannel();
    ByteBuffer buffer = ByteBuffer.allocate(BSIZE);
    while(in.read(buffer) != -1) {
      buffer.flip(); // Prepare for writing
      out.write(buffer);
      buffer.clear();  // Prepare for reading
    }
  }
} ///:~


You can see that one FileChannel is opened for reading, and one for writing. A ByteBuffer is allocated, and when FileChannel.read( ) returns -1 (a holdover, no doubt, from Unix and C), it means that you’ve reached the end of the input. After each read( ), which puts data into the buffer, flip( ) prepares the buffer so that its information can be extracted by the write( ). After the write( ), the information is still in the buffer, and clear( ) resets all the internal pointers so that it’s ready to accept data during another read( ).

The preceding program is not the ideal way to handle this kind of operation, however. Special methods transferTo( ) and transferFrom( ) allow you to connect one channel directly to another:


//: c12:TransferTo.java
// Using transferTo() between channels
// {Args: TransferTo.java TransferTo.txt}
// {Clean: TransferTo.txt} 
import java.io.*;
import java.nio.*;
import java.nio.channels.*;

public class TransferTo {
  public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
    if(args.length != 2) {
      System.out.println("arguments: sourcefile destfile");
      System.exit(1);
    }
    FileChannel 
      in = new FileInputStream(args[0]).getChannel(),
      out = new FileOutputStream(args[1]).getChannel();
    in.transferTo(0, in.size(), out);
    // Or:
    // out.transferFrom(in, 0, in.size());
  }
} ///:~


You won’t do this kind of thing very often, but it’s good to know about.
Thinking in Java
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   Reproduced courtesy of Bruce Eckel, MindView, Inc. Design by Interspire