SDF Sample: IPC with Memory Mapped Files

Transferring data between processes in Windows CE is not difficult, and you can avoid using passing data through the message pump using WM_COPYDATA (which I’ve never considered a good idea, BTW).  Sockets and point to point queues are pretty straightforward and well documented for IPC. 

One mechanism that isn’t well covered, and that works well for sharing larger blobs of data, is a memory-mapped file.  The SDF contains a MemoryMappedFile class (in the OpenNETCF.IO namespace) that allows you to use a shared memory region (in ram or on disk – your choice) and to access it just like you would any other stream with Write, Read and Seek.  Here’s a simple example. Yes I realize my synchronization mechanism here isn’t the cleanest, but it conveys the idea with the least code.


using System;
using System.Text;
using OpenNETCF.IO;
using OpenNETCF.Threading;
using System.Diagnostics;
using System.Reflection;
using System.IO;

namespace MMFPeer
class Program
public const string SharedMapName = “MMF_PEER_NAME”;
public const long MaxMapSize = 1024;
public const string SharedMutexName = “MMF_PEER_MUTEX”;
public const string DataReadyEventName = “MMF_PEER_DATA_READY”;

private MemoryMappedFile m_mmf;
private NamedMutex m_mutex;
private EventWaitHandle m_dataReady;

private bool Sending { get; set; }

static void Main(string[] args)
new Program().Run();

public void Run()
var processName = Path.GetFileNameWithoutExtension(Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly().GetName().CodeBase);

// create the MMF
m_mmf = MemoryMappedFile.CreateInMemoryMap(SharedMapName, MaxMapSize);

// create a shared mutex
m_mutex = new NamedMutex(false, SharedMutexName);

// create a data-ready event
m_dataReady = new EventWaitHandle(false, EventResetMode.ManualReset, DataReadyEventName);

// fire up a “listener”
new System.Threading.Thread(ReadProc)
IsBackground = true,
Name = “MMF Peer Reader”

Console.WriteLine(“Memory Mapped File Created. Enter text to send to peer(s)”);

// wait for user input
while (true)
var input = Console.ReadLine();

if (input == null)
input = GetMockInput();
Debug.WriteLine(string.Format(“Platform does not have a Console installed. Sending mock data ‘{0}'”, input));

if (input == “exit”) break;

// prefix our process name so we can tell who sent the data
input = processName + “:” + input;

// grab the mutex
if (!m_mutex.WaitOne(5000, false))
Console.WriteLine(“Unable to acquire mutex. Send Abandoned”);
Debug.WriteLine(“Unable to acquire mutex. Send Abandoned”);

// mark as “sending” so the listener will ignore what we send
Sending = true;

// create a “packet” (length + data)
var packet = new byte[4 + input.Length];
Buffer.BlockCopy(BitConverter.GetBytes(input.Length), 0, packet, 0, 4);
Buffer.BlockCopy(Encoding.ASCII.GetBytes(input), 0, packet, 4, input.Length);

// write the packet at the start
m_mmf.Seek(0, System.IO.SeekOrigin.Begin);
m_mmf.Write(packet, 0, packet.Length);

// notify all clients that data is ready (manual reset events will release all waiting clients)

// yield to allow the receiver to unblock and check the “Sending” flag

// reset the event

// unmark “sending”
Sending = false;

// release the mutex

private int m_inputIndex = -1;
private string[] m_inputs = new string[]

private string GetMockInput()
if (++m_inputIndex >= m_inputs.Length) m_inputIndex = 0;
return m_inputs[m_inputIndex];

private void ReadProc()
var lengthBuffer = new byte[4];
var dataBuffer = new byte[m_mmf.Length – 4];

while (true)
// use a timeout so if the app ends, this thread can exit
if(!m_dataReady.WaitOne(1000, false)) continue;

// avoid receiving our own data
if (Sending)
// wait long enough for the sender to reset the m_dataReady flag

// grab the mutex to prevent concurrency issues
m_mutex.WaitOne(1000, false);

// read from the start
m_mmf.Seek(0, System.IO.SeekOrigin.Begin);

// get the length
m_mmf.Read(lengthBuffer, 0, 4);
var length = BitConverter.ToInt32(lengthBuffer, 0);

// get the data
m_mmf.Read(dataBuffer, 0, length);

// release the mutex so any other clients can receive

// convert to a string
var received = Encoding.ASCII.GetString(dataBuffer, 0, length);

Console.WriteLine(“Received: ” + received);
Debug.WriteLine(“Received: ” + received);

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