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Guide to Creating OpenVMS Modular Procedures

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4.6 Monitoring Procedures in the Run-Time Library

The run-time library (RTL) contains several procedures for time and resource monitoring. These RTL procedures and their functions are as follows:

    LIB$SHOW_VM is a resource monitoring procedure that returns the statistics accumulated from calls to LIB$GET_VM and LIB$FREE_VM.
    The following three statistics are returned by default:
    • Number of successful calls to LIB$GET_VM
    • Number of successful calls to LIB$FREE_VM
    • Number of bytes allocated by LIB$GET_VM but not yet deallocated by LIB$FREE_VM

    LIB$SHOW_VM returns these statistics in the formatted form, nnnn.
    LIB$STAT_VM is a resource monitoring procedure that returns to its caller one of the three statistics available from calls to LIB$GET_VM and LIB$FREE_VM. These are the same statistics that are returned by LIB$SHOW_VM. Unlike LIB$SHOW_VM, which returns the statistics in formatted form to SYS$OUTPUT, LIB$STAT_VM returns the specified statistic in a signed longword integer.
    LIB$SHOW_TIMER is a time monitoring procedure that returns the times and counts accumulated since the last call to LIB$INIT_TIMER and displays them on SYS$OUTPUT. A user-supplied action routine may alter this default behavior.
    The following statistics are provided by default:
    • Elapsed real time
    • Elapsed CPU time
    • Count of buffered I/O operations
    • Count of direct I/O operations
    • Count of page faults
    LIB$STAT_TIMER is a time monitoring procedure that returns the same information as LIB$SHOW_TIMER. The difference is that LIB$STAT_TIMER returns the information as an unsigned longword or quadword, whereas LIB$SHOW_TIMER returns the information in the format hhhh:mm:ss:cc for times and the format nnnn for counts. In addition, LIB$STAT_TIMER returns only one of the five available statistics per call.

For more information about these time and resource monitoring procedures, see the OpenVMS RTL Library (LIB$) Manual.

Chapter 5
Integrating Modular Procedures

Modular procedure libraries consist of compiled and assembled object code intended to be associated with a calling program at link time. The linker resolves references to procedures in these libraries when it searches user libraries specified in the LINK command, or when it searches the default system libraries. The program can then call library procedures at run time.

Compaq supplies several procedure libraries, such as the Run-Time Library, that support components of the OpenVMS operating system. You can use procedures in the Run-Time Library to perform frequently used operations by including calls to Run-Time Library procedures in your program. The linker automatically searches the default libraries to resolve references to Run-Time Library procedures. (For information about the procedures available in the Run-Time Library, see the OpenVMS Programming Concepts Manual.)

This chapter briefly describes how you can create your own procedure libraries and shareable images. For more information about creating libraries and shareable images, use the guidelines in the OpenVMS Linker Utility Manual.

5.1 Creating Facility Prefixes

A facility prefix is the group identifier for a set of related procedures contained in a library facility. The facility prefix appears in the procedure name of every procedure in that library facility. An example of a library facility is the Screen Management facility in the Run-Time Library. The names of all the procedures in the Screen Management facility begin with SMG, for example, SMG$ERASE_CHARS.

To create your own facility prefix, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a facility prefix. This prefix can be from 1 to 27 characters in length. However, Compaq recommends that you choose facility prefixes between 2 and 4 characters.
  2. If your facility will be generating messages, you must specify a unique facility number in the message source file. This number can range from 0 to 4095. Any number within this range, and not being used by someone else on your system, is acceptable. This facility number is used by the message utility in generating the condition value for the message.
    Bit 27 (STS$V_CUST_DEF) of a condition value indicates whether that value is supplied by the user or by Compaq. This bit must be 1 if the facility number is user created. For more information, see the OpenVMS System Messages and Recovery Procedures Reference Manual1.
  3. Use the facility prefix when naming all procedures within the new facility. Remember to follow the naming conventions described in Section 3.1.1.


1 This manual has been archived but is available on the OpenVMS Documentation CD-ROM.

5.2 Creating Object Module Libraries

In addition to using the system default object module libraries, you can create your own object module libraries. An object module library that you create can contain object files produced by any language compiler supported by the OpenVMS operating system.

For more information about creating object module libraries, see the OpenVMS Linker Utility Manual.

5.3 Creating Shareable Image Libraries

If you have a collection of procedures you expect a number of users to use, you can group these procedures into a shareable image library. A shareable image library is similar to an object library, except that it has been prelinked so that all references between procedures in the library have already been resolved.

A shareable image has the following advantages:

  • Conserves memory space
    Several processes can share a single copy of a shareable image rather than each process retrieving its own copy from the disk.
  • Conserves disk storage space
    Programs linked to a shareable image share a single disk copy of the library code rather than each program including the code in its own executable image.
  • Shortens link time
    Because the internal references in the library have already been resolved, there is less work for the linker.
  • Allows for updates without relinking
    You can supply a new version of a shareable image that can automatically be used by all programs linked to it without the need for the users to relink their programs.

For more information about creating shareable image libraries, see the OpenVMS Linker Utility Manual.

Chapter 6
Maintaining Modular Procedures

This chapter describes important aspects of maintaining modular procedures. Specifically, it covers the following topics:

  • Making your procedures upwardly compatible
  • Performing regression testing
  • Adding arguments to existing routines
  • Updating libraries

6.1 Making Your Procedures Upwardly Compatible

Upward compatibility is very important when maintaining procedures. If a procedure is upwardly compatible, changes and updates to the procedure do not affect executing and using previous versions of that procedure.

For example, imagine a user-written procedure named LIB_TOTAL_BILL. The calling sequence for this procedure is as follows:


Assume that the user who wrote this procedure decided to update the procedure so that it could be used to calculate the total bill for credit-card customers. To do this, a third argument, interest, must be added. To be upwardly compatible, adding the argument interest must not conflict with the way the procedure was previously run. The new calling sequence would be as follows:

CALL LIB_TOTAL_BILL (sale, tax [,interest])

The procedure should be written so that the user can still call the procedure as it was called before, simply omitting the interest argument.

If, in the updated version of this procedure, the user can still follow the calling sequence of the previous versions, the procedure is said to be upwardly compatible.

To ensure that your procedures are compatible with future versions of a shareable image, see the OpenVMS Linker Utility Manual.

6.2 Regression Testing

Regression testing is a method of ensuring that new features added to a procedure do not affect the correct execution of previously tested features. In regression testing, you run established software tests and compare test results with expected results. If the actual results do not agree with what you expected, the software being tested may have errors. If errors do exist, the software being tested is said to have regressed.

Regression testing includes the following steps, as shown in Figure 6-1:

  1. Create tests by writing command files to test your software.
  2. Organize files to allow easy access to tests as they are needed.
  3. Run tests as follows:
    • To run a single test, submit its command file to the batch queue.
    • To run multiple tests, create a command file that submits each test to the batch queue.
  4. Calculate the expected test results either by hand or by using previously tested software.
  5. Compare actual test results to the results you expected. If there are inconsistencies, repeat your calculation in step 4. If the inconsistency still exists, examine the changes you have made to the software to discover the error.

Figure 6-1 Regression Testing

It is important to write new tests and repeat the regression testing steps every time you add new functionality to the procedure. If you do not do so, the procedure may regress while the errors go undetected.

6.3 Adding Arguments to Existing Routines

During the normal course of maintenance, it sometimes becomes necessary to pass new or additional information to an existing procedure rather than create a new procedure. This new information can be passed to the procedure in one of the following two ways:

  • Directly, by adding new arguments to the procedure
  • Indirectly, using an argument block

6.3.1 Adding New Arguments to the Procedure

There are two rules you must follow when directly adding new arguments to a procedure:

  • New arguments must be added at the end of the existing argument list.
  • New arguments must be optional.

It is important that new arguments be added at the end of the existing argument list to maintain upward compatibility. If you change the order of the existing arguments by placing the new argument at the beginning or middle of the list, all applications written with the previous version of the procedure will no longer work.

Your procedure should also treat the new argument as an optional argument. If the new argument is required, applications that used the previous version of the procedure are invalidated.

Because you cannot assume that all previously written applications will be rewritten to include the procedure's new argument, the procedure must test for the argument's presence before attempting to access it. If the procedure does not verify the presence of the new argument and attempts to access that argument when it is not present, the results will be unpredictable.

The passing mechanism of the new argument must conform to the guidelines in Section 2.2.1.

6.3.2 Using Argument Blocks

By using an argument block, you can avoid adding multiple arguments to your procedure. When an argument block is used, the calling program passes a single argument to the called procedure. This argument is the address of an argument block. The argument block is a block of information containing any information agreed on by the calling and called procedures. This information is required by the called procedure to perform its task.

The argument block is simply a contiguous piece of virtual memory. The information contained in the argument block can be numeric or scalar data, descriptors, bit vectors, and so on. The format is agreed on by the users of the procedure and its writer.

The first longword in the argument block contains the length of the block. The length can be in bytes or longwords, but it must be agreed on by both the calling program and the called process, and be implemented and documented as such.

One example of an argument block is the signal argument vector used in condition handling. A condition handler is called with a signal argument vector and a mechanism argument vector. Each vector is an example of an argument block. The signal argument vector in Figure 6-2 is an example of an argument block.

Figure 6-2 One Type of Argument Block, the Signal Argument Vector

The signal argument vector contains the number of longwords of actual information in its first longword. What information actually follows depends on the condition value of the signal.

Note that if you lengthen an argument block to provide new information to a called procedure, your procedure should check the length of the argument block for validity before attempting to access the information. As with adding new arguments directly to a procedure, the calling program may have been written to pass the previous, shorter argument block. If your procedure does not check and attempts to access information past the end of the actual argument block, the results will be unpredictable.

6.4 Updating Libraries

Any time you make modifications or enhancements to modular procedures that are a part of a library, you must update the library containing the procedures to reflect the new or changed procedures.

6.4.1 Updating Object Libraries

If the updated procedures are in an object library, the library must be updated so that subsequent access to that library by LINK or other commands will access the object modules for the new or changed procedures.

To update an object library, use the LIBRARY command with the REPLACE qualifier, as follows:

$ LIBRARY /REPLACE library-name filespec[,...]

In this example, library-name is the name you have given the library. The default file type for library-name is OLB. The name of an object module is filespec. The default file type for filespec is OBJ.

6.4.2 Updating Shareable Images

If the updated procedures are part of a shareable image, you must relink the shareable image so that it contains the new or changed versions of any updated object modules. If you add new procedures, you must update and recompile the transfer vector (on VAX systems) or symbol vector (on Alpha systems) before relinking the shareable image. If you add new modules, you must update the linker options file before relinking. If you add new procedures and new modules, you must update the transfer vector (on VAX systems) or symbol vector (on Alpha systems) and the linker options file. If you change the transfer vector (on VAX systems) or symbol vector (on Alpha systems), you must increment the minor identification value of the GSMATCH by one. You can then relink the shareable image.

For more information about updating shareable images, see the OpenVMS Linker Utility Manual.

Appendix A
Summary of Modular Programming Guidelines

This appendix summarizes the modular programming guidelines that are described in this manual. References to the appropriate sections appear after each guideline. The word Optional appears before the section reference if the guideline is not required to maintain modularity.

A.1 Coding Rules

The coding rules in this section pertain to all procedures. These rules are grouped in the following categories:

  • Calling interface
  • Initialization
  • Exception conditions
  • AST reentrancy
  • Resource allocation
  • Format and content of coded modules
  • Upward compatibility

Detailed descriptions of the rules for each of these categories are presented in the sections that follow.

A.1.1 Calling Interface

  • Calls to procedures must follow the OpenVMS Calling Standard. Some elements of this standard restrict procedures to a subset of the OpenVMS Calling Standard to increase the ability of procedures to call each other. (See OpenVMS Programming Interfaces: Calling a System Routine1.)
  • A procedure makes no assumptions about its environment other than those of this standard. In particular, to operate as specified, a procedure neither makes assumptions about, or places requirements on, the calling program.
  • A procedure should not call other procedures or system services if the resulting combination violates this standard from the calling program's viewpoint. A procedure can call other procedures or system services that do not follow optional elements of this standard. However, if the resulting combination (as seen from the calling program) does not follow the optional elements, the calling procedure must indicate such nonconformance in its documentation. (See Section 3.1.3.)
  • A modular procedure must provide to its callers an interface that allows the callers to follow all required elements of this standard.
  • Each module should only contain a single public entry point. (Optional.)
  • On VAX systems, when a procedure uses a JSB entry point, it should also provide an equivalent call entry point to maintain language independence. Although JSB calling sequences may execute faster than procedure calls, an explicit JSB linkage to an external routine may not be provided in some high-level languages. (Optional. See Section 2.3.)
  • The order of required arguments should be the same as that of the hardware instructions; namely, read, modify, and write. Optional arguments follow in the same order. However, if a function value is large or is of type string, the first argument specifies where to store the function value, and all other arguments are shifted one position to the right. (See Section 2.2.4.)
  • A procedure's caller should indicate omitted trailing optional arguments either by passing argument list entries that contain zero or by passing a shortened argument list. However, system services require trailing arguments and do not adhere to this guideline. (Optional. See Section 2.2.5.)
  • String arguments should always be passed by descriptor. (See Section 4.2.)
  • Procedures must not accept data from, nor return data to, their calling programs by using implicit overlaid PSECTs or implicit global data areas. All arguments accepted from or returned to the calling program must use the argument list and function value registers. (See Section 2.2.2.)
  • A procedure cannot assume that the implicit outputs of procedures it calls will remain unchanged if subsequently used as implicit inputs to those procedures or to companion procedures. (See Section 2.2.2.)
  • On VAX systems, position-independent references (in a module) to another PSECT must use longword relative addressing so the linker can correctly allocate the data PSECT anywhere with respect to the code PSECT, no matter how many code modules are included.
  • On VAX systems, external references must use general-mode addressing to allow the referenced procedures to be put in a shareable image without requiring changes to the calling program.
  • Procedures cannot require their callers to pass dynamic string descriptors. (See Section 4.2.)
  • Some procedure interface specifications retain state information from one call to the next, even though the procedures are not resource allocating. The interface specification uses one of the following techniques (in order of decreasing preference) to permit sequences of calls from independent parts of a program by either eliminating the use of static storage or overcoming its limitations:
    • The interface specification consists of a sequence of calls to a set of one or more procedures --- the first procedure allocates and returns (as an output argument to the calling program) one of the following:
      • The address of heap storage
      • Another processwide identifying value

      This argument is passed to the other procedures explicitly by the calling program, and the last procedure deallocates any heap storage or processwide identifying value.
    • The procedure's caller allocates all storage and passes the address on each call.
    • The interface specification consists of a single call, where the calling program passes the address of one or more action routines and arguments to be passed to them. The procedure calls the action routines during its execution. Results are retained by the procedure across calls to the action routines. (No static storage used.)
    • The interface specification consists of a sequence of calls to a set of one or more procedures. The first procedure saves the contents of any still-active static storage on a push-down stack in heap storage, and the last procedure restores the old contents of static storage. Static storage is made available for implicit arguments to be passed from one procedure to the next in the sequence of calls (unknown to the calling program). However, if an exception can occur anywhere in the sequence, the calling program must establish a condition handler that calls the last procedure in the event of a stack unwind (to restore the old contents of static storage).

A.1.2 Initializing

  • If a procedure requires initialization once for each image activation, it is done without the caller's knowledge by one of the following:
    • Initializing at compile time
    • Initializing at link time
    • Adding a dispatch address to PSECT LIB$INITIALIZE
    • Testing and setting a statically allocated, first-time flag on each call
  • A procedure must not use LIB$INITIALIZE to establish a condition handler before the main program is called if its action can conflict with that of other condition handlers established before the main program. For more information about initializing modular procedures, see Section 3.2.

A.1.3 Reporting Exception Conditions

A procedure must not print error or informational messages either directly or by calling the $PUTMSG system service. It must either return a condition value in R0 as a function value or call LIB$SIGNAL or LIB$STOP to output all messages. (LIB$SIGNAL and LIB$STOP can be called either directly or indirectly.) (See Section 2.5.)


1 This manual has been archived but is available on the OpenVMS Documentation CD-ROM.

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