Overview

minibsdiff: a miniature, portable version of bsdiff Build Status

Colin Percival's bsdiff is a popular tool for creating and applying patches to binary software. This is a stripped down copy of bsdiff that's designed to be portable and reusable as a library in your own software (if you wanted to say, create your own update system.) Many people end up reusing bsdiff (it's stable, well-known, works great, and has a good license,) but I haven't found a standalone copy of the library somewhere that I could easily reuse, so I wrote one.

This code is based on bsdiff v4.3.

The main differences:

  • Control and data blocks in the patch output are not bzip2 compressed. You'll have to apply your own compression method. This is a very important part of bsdiff's design, and if you don't apply a compression method at some level when using this library, it won't buy you anything. Please see the 'Usage' section below.

  • Patches produced by this library are incompatible with those produced by the classic bsdiff tool. (The header format has changed appropriately so they are both incompatible with each other.) You're encouraged to change this when using the library yourself - see 'Usage' below.

  • The code has been refactored into a reusable API (documented below) consisting of a few simple functions in bsdiff.h and bspatch.h. It should be easily usable from any programming language. It has zero external dependencies.

  • It works everywhere (even under MSVC.)

  • There's a simple example included that should show you how to get started.

  • Because there are no external dependencies and it's so small, minibsdiff is great place to start if you need to customize bsdiff yourself! You'll inevitably want to do this as time goes on, and most of the work is done for you.

Usage

Building

Copy bsdiff.{c,h}, bspatch.{c,h}, minibsdiff-config.h and {stdbool,stdint}-msvc.h in your source tree and you're ready to go. You shouldn't need any special build settings for it to Just Work(TM).

API

#include "bsdiff.h"
#include "bspatch.h"

/*-
 * Determine the maximum size of a patch between two files. This function
 * should be used to allocate a buffer big enough for `bsdiff` to store
 * its output in.
 */
off_t bsdiff_patchsize_max(off_t oldsize, off_t newsize);

/*-
 * Create a binary patch from the buffers pointed to by oldp and newp (with
 * respective sizes,) and store the result in the buffer pointed to by 'patch'.
 *
 * The input pointer 'patch' must not be NULL, and the size of the buffer must
 * be at least 'bsdiff_patchsize_max(new,old)' in length.
 *
 * Returns -1 if `patch` is NULL, the 'patch' buffer is not large enough, or if
 * memory cannot be allocated.
 * Otherwise, the return value is the size of the patch that was put in the
 * 'patch' buffer.
 *
 * This function is memory-intensive, and requires max(17*n,9*n+m)+O(1) bytes
 * of memory, where n is the size of the new file and m is the size of the old
 * file. It runs in O((n+m) log n) time.
 */
int bsdiff(u_char* oldp, off_t oldsize,
           u_char* newp, off_t newsize,
           u_char* patch, off_t patchsize);

/*-
 * Determine if the buffer pointed to by `patch` of a given `size` is
 * a valid patch.
 */
bool bspatch_valid_header(u_char* patch, ssize_t patchsz);

/*-
 * Determine the size of the new file that will result from applying
 * a patch. Returns -1 if the patch header is invalid, otherwise returns
 * the size of the new file.
 */
ssize_t bspatch_newsize(u_char* patch, ssize_t patchsize);

/*-
 * Apply a patch stored in 'patch' to 'oldp', result in 'newp', and store the
 * result in 'newp'.
 *
 * The input pointers must not be NULL.
 *
 * The size of 'newp', represented by 'newsz', must be at least
 * 'bspatch_newsize(oldsz,patchsz)' bytes in length.
 *
 * Returns -1 if memory can't be allocated, or the input pointers are NULL.
 * Returns -2 if the patch header is invalid. Returns -3 if the patch itself is
 * corrupt.
 * Otherwise, returns 0.
 *
 * This function requires n+m+O(1) bytes of memory, where n is the size of the
 * old file and m is the size of the new file. It does no allocations.
 * It runs in O(n+m) time.
 */
int bspatch(u_char* oldp,  ssize_t oldsz,
            u_char* patch, ssize_t patchsz,
            u_char* newp,  ssize_t newsz);

Building the example program.

For an full example of using the API, see minibsdiff.c, which roughly reimplements the standard bsdiff/bspatch in a single tool (without compression.) To build it:

  • Running make on Linux or OS X. If you have MinGW installed and on your PATH then you can do make MinGW=YES which will build an .exe on Windows.

  • There is a CMakeLists.txt file you can use to generate Ninja, MSVC or MinGW makefile projects for Windows as well. You can of course use cmake on Linux/OS X as well.

Customization notes.

You can change the patch file's magic number by modifying BSDIFF_CONFIG_MAGIC in minibsdiff-config.h. It must be 8 bytes long (anything beyond that will be ignored.) This library by default has the magic number MBSDIF43.


You should really, really, really compress the output in some way. Whether or not you do that directly in the diff/patch routines or on the result you get from calling them is irrelevant. If you don't do this, bsdiff will buy you nothing.

Briefly, bsdiff is based on the concept of finding approximate matches between two executable files, and calculating and storing their bytewise differences in the patch file. The patch format is roughly composed of a control block specifying how to add and insert changes from the new executable into the old one, and a difference block actually composed of the differences.

Binary updates to software packages tend to have disproportionate amounts of binary-level differences from just a few source code changes. The key observation however is that most code is still the same, but relocated in such a way that things like internal pointers are always offset in a predictable manner. For example, if you have a single translation unit with 5 functions, and you fix a small bug in this code and ship it to users, the symbolic representation has not changed all that much, but the change will result in executable differences affecting all 5 functions, such that e.g. relative pointers must all be adjusted properly, across all of them.

But even then, many of these 'relocations' will be small (a byte or two,) and more than that, they will often be very regular, meaning the differences are highly redundant, and thus compressible.

As a result, an uncompressed patch from bsdiff is roughly on par with the new file in size, but compression can reduce it's size dramatically due to repeated data in the differences (by a factor of 10x or 20x.) In fact, without some sort of compression, it practically defeats the purpose of using it in the first place!

Not having compression by default is still a feature, though - it keeps the library simple and portable, and you can layer it in however you want because the source is small and easy to hack. But realistically, you'll always want to compress it at one point or another in the Real World.

Here are some good compression libraries you might be interested in:

In my non-scientific experiments, bzip at compression level 9 gives the best output size out of all the ones listed above. It's obviously worth sacrificing compression time/speed for smaller updates that decompress quickly.

Join in

File bugs in the GitHub issue tracker.

Master git repository:

  • git clone https://github.com/thoughtpolice/minibsdiff.git

There's also a BitBucket mirror:

  • git clone https://bitbucket.org/thoughtpolice/minibsdiff.git

If you're going to submit a pull request or send a patch, sign off on your changes by using git commit -s. I manage the Signed-off-by field like git: by signing off, you acknowledge that the code you are submitting for inclusion abides by the license of the project. An Acked-by field states that someone has reviewed this code, and at the very least it is not completely insane.

Authors

See AUTHORS.txt.

License

2-clause BSD. See LICENSE.txt for terms of copyright and redistribution.