This is a helper class to handle binary packed data, especially to represent ExeFormat structures.

The implementation is in metasm/exe_format/serialstruct.rb.


The class defines some class methods, such as:

These methods can be used directly in subclass definitions, e.g.

  class MyHeader < SerialStruct
     dword :signature
     dword :length

This will associate the sequence of fields to this structure, which is used in the #encode and #decode methods. These methods rely on an ExeFormat instance to define the corresponding decode_dword and encode_dword methods.

You can then simply call:

  hdr = MyHeader.decode(myexefmt)

which will call myexefmt.decode_word twice to populate the signature and length fields of the MyHeader.instance.

You can also redefine the #decode method to handle special cases.

The fields defined this way can be assigned a default value that will be used when encoding the structure. The syntax is:

   dword :fieldname, defaultvalue

If you have a long sequence of identically-typed fields, you can use the plural form:

   dwords :f1, :f2, :f3, :f4

To define your own field types, you should create a new subclass and call the new_field class method. For integral fields, use new_int_field(fldname) that will automatically define the decode/encode routines, and create the plural form.

  class MyStruct < SerialStruct
    new_int_field :zword
    zwords :offset, :length

Symbolic constants

The class has built-in support for symbolic constants and bit fields.

For exemple, suppose you have a numeric :type field, which corresponds to a set of numeric constants TYPE_FOO TYPE_BAR TYPE_LOL. You can use:

    TYPES = { 2 => 'FOO', 3 => 'BAR', 4 => 'LOL' }
    dword :type
    fld_enum :type, TYPES

With this, the standard '#decode' method will first decode the numeric value of the field, and then lookup the value in the enum hash to find the corresponding symbol, and use it as the field value. If there is no mapping, the numeric value is retained. The reverse operation is done with #encode.

For the bitfields, the method is fld_bits, and the software will try to match OR-ed values from the bitfield to generate an array of symbols.

    BITS = { 1 => 'B1', 2 => 'B2', 4 => 'B4' }
    dword :foo
    fld_bits :foo, BITS

which will give, for the numeric value 0x15, ["B1", "B4", 0x10]

The hashes used for fld_bits or fld_enum can be dynamically determined, by using the block version of those methods. The block will receive the ExeFormat instance and the SerialStruct instance, and should return the Hash. This can be useful when a bitfield signification varies given some generic property of the exe, eg the target architecture.


It is also possible to define a hook that will be called at some point during the object binary decoding. It will receive the exe and struct instances.

  class Header < SerialStruct
    dword :machine
    decode_hook { |exe, hdr| raise "unknown machine" if hdr.machine > 4 }
    dword :bodylength