Our hex program will be more useful if it can read the names of an input and output file from its command line, i.e., if it can process the command line arguments. But... Where are they?
Before a UNIX® system starts a program, it
pushes some data on the stack, then jumps at the
_start label of the program. Yes, I said jumps, not calls. That
means the data can be accessed by reading
The value at the top of the stack contains the number of command line arguments.
It is traditionally called
argc, for "argument count."
Command line arguments follow next, all
them. These are typically referred to as
argv, for "argument
value(s)." That is, we get
argv[argc-1]. These are not the actual arguments, but pointers to
arguments, i.e., memory addresses of the actual arguments. The arguments themselves are
NUL-terminated character strings.
argv list is followed by a NULL pointer, which
is simply a
0. There is more, but this is enough for our
purposes right now.
Note: If you have come from the MS-DOS® programming environment, the main difference is that each argument is in a separate string. The second difference is that there is no practical limit on how many arguments there can be.
Armed with this knowledge, we are almost ready for the next version of hex.asm. First, however, we need to add a few lines to system.inc:
First, we need to add two new entries to our list of system call numbers:
%define SYS_open 5 %define SYS_close 6
Then we add two new macros at the end of the file:
%macro sys.open 0 system SYS_open %endmacro %macro sys.close 0 system SYS_close %endmacro
Here, then, is our modified source code:
%include 'system.inc' %define BUFSIZE 2048 section .data fd.in dd stdin fd.out dd stdout hex db '0123456789ABCDEF' section .bss ibuffer resb BUFSIZE obuffer resb BUFSIZE section .text align 4 err: push dword 1 ; return failure sys.exit align 4 global _start _start: add esp, byte 8 ; discard argc and argv pop ecx jecxz .init ; no more arguments ; ECX contains the path to input file push dword 0 ; O_RDONLY push ecx sys.open jc err ; open failed add esp, byte 8 mov [fd.in], eax pop ecx jecxz .init ; no more arguments ; ECX contains the path to output file push dword 420 ; file mode (644 octal) push dword 0200h | 0400h | 01h ; O_CREAT | O_TRUNC | O_WRONLY push ecx sys.open jc err add esp, byte 12 mov [fd.out], eax .init: sub eax, eax sub ebx, ebx sub ecx, ecx mov edi, obuffer .loop: ; read a byte from input file or stdin call getchar ; convert it to hex mov dl, al shr al, 4 mov al, [hex+eax] call putchar mov al, dl and al, 0Fh mov al, [hex+eax] call putchar mov al, ' ' cmp dl, 0Ah jne .put mov al, dl .put: call putchar cmp al, dl jne .loop call write jmp short .loop align 4 getchar: or ebx, ebx jne .fetch call read .fetch: lodsb dec ebx ret read: push dword BUFSIZE mov esi, ibuffer push esi push dword [fd.in] sys.read add esp, byte 12 mov ebx, eax or eax, eax je .done sub eax, eax ret align 4 .done: call write ; flush output buffer ; close files push dword [fd.in] sys.close push dword [fd.out] sys.close ; return success push dword 0 sys.exit align 4 putchar: stosb inc ecx cmp ecx, BUFSIZE je write ret align 4 write: sub edi, ecx ; start of buffer push ecx push edi push dword [fd.out] sys.write add esp, byte 12 sub eax, eax sub ecx, ecx ; buffer is empty now ret
.data section we now have two new variables,
fd.out. We store the
input and output file descriptors here.
.text section we have replaced the references
.text section now starts with a simple error
handler, which does nothing but exit the program with a return value of
1. The error handler is before
_start so we are within a short distance from where the errors
Naturally, the program execution still begins at
_start. First, we remove
argv from the stack: They are of no interest to us (in
this program, that is).
This register is particularly suited for pointers, as we can handle NULL pointers with
argv is not NULL,
we try to open the file named in the first argument. Otherwise, we continue the program
as before: Reading from
stdin, writing to
stdout. If we fail to open the input file (e.g., it does not
exist), we jump to the error handler and quit.
If all went well, we now check for the second argument. If it is there, we open
the output file. Otherwise, we send the output to
we fail to open the output file (e.g., it exists and we do not have the write
permission), we, again, jump to the error handler.
The rest of the code is the same as before, except we close the input and output
files before exiting, and, as mentioned, we use
Our executable is now a whopping 768 bytes long.
Can we still improve it? Of course! Every program can be improved. Here are a few ideas of what we could do:
Have our error handler print a message to
Add error handlers to the
stdin when we open an input file,
stdout when we open an output file.
Add command line switches, such as
-o, so we can list the input and output files in any order, or
perhaps read from
stdin and write to a file.
Print a usage message if command line arguments are incorrect.
I shall leave these enhancements as an exercise to the reader: You already know everything you need to know to implement them.