Sunday, August 12, 2007


For quite sometime I have used Lucian Wischik's Zip Utils, a set of zipping and unzipping functions that work very well both under Win32 and Windows CE. This code has allowed me to do a lot of fun stuff both on the desktop (specialized installers) and on devices (an HTML browser for ZIP files).

Recently I had to use this code to write a specialized device installer (no cabs) for a consumer application that runs on all sorts of devices. This installer was designed to extract files from a ZIP on the desktop and copy the extracted files to the device over an ActiveSync connection. I used Zip Utils to extract the data and RAPI to copy the expanded files to the device. This works but can be slow on some devices. Wouldn't it be great if I could expand the files on the device while having the source ZIP file on the PC? I would surely make the whole thing faster because the RAPI transport times are a big bottleneck in this whole process.

Due to time constraints, the installer is now shipping like this: data is expanded on the PC and copied to the device. Now I'm starting to write an application that will update the device code and data. Interestingly most of the static data is stored on ZIP files on the device and the updater must extract specific files on the ZIPs in order to know some details. The problem is that some of these ZIP files are over 2 MB and copying them to the PC just to extract one tiny file is out of the question due to slow transfer times.

No options here: I had to roll up my sleeves and started to read Lucien's code in order to see what could be done. This was no walk in the park because he uses a very packed code indentation, and understanding the code was not easy at first. Then I noted that all the ZIP file access methods were neatly encapsulated in specific functions (like lufopen, lufread and so on) so it would be quite easy to replace the desktop file access functions with RAPI's.

My approach was to expand the LUFILE structure and include a set of function pointers that would be initialized with the regular API when the ZIP file is on the PC and with RAPI's when the ZIP file is on the device. After 20 minutes the code was working and I was able to write a very simple command line unzipper (get the code here).

Now I want to solve the first problem I had: efficiently unzipping a file to a CE device. This will require a RAPI DLL on the device that will have all the decompression code. When this is ready I will publish the results in an article. Stay tuned.

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