With C #, how can I convert an array of binary data bytes into a custom object that models the data?

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Scenario: I have received raw binary data via HTTP and stored the data into a byte array. I have documentation that describes various fields that the binary data can represent, but the actual meaning of the data must be determined at run-time. For example, if the byte that represents the occurrence of an error = 1, then the meaning of the next byte changes.

Using C# with .NET 4, I want to create one or more classes that mirror the fields described in the documentation and then somehow initialize the classes using the byte array of binary data. I would like the solution to minimize code duplication and also to be modular and elegant.

I have looked into creating Serializable classes, but I don't see how that can work since I am starting with a byte array that was not created (and therefore, not serialized) by me.

I have also attempted to use generics and reflection in order to retrieve the sizes and types of the fields contained in custom classes. I then used that information to dynamically slice out data from the byte array and assign it to the corresponding fields. However, this method resulted in a lot of ugly, unmanageable code.

Any advice or pointers on designing an extensible, decoupled solution for this problem would be much appreciated.

Edit: Example of classes containing fields that mirror the fields in the specification

public class PriceHistoryResponse : BinaryResponse
{
    public List<Quote> quotes { get; set; }
    private CountData countData { get; set; }
    private EndingDelimiterSection endingDelimiterSection { get; set; }

    /* This code performs the logic needed to check for optional fields
    and to find the number of times that certain fields are repeated */
    public PriceHistoryResponse(byte[] responseBytes) : base(responseBytes)
    {
        countData = new CountData();
        ParseResponseSection(countData);

        quotes = new List<Quote>();
        for (int i = 0; i < countData.quoteCount; i++)
        {
            quotes.Add(new Quote());

            quotes[i].symbolData = new SymbolData();
            ParseResponseSection(quotes[i].symbolData);

            if (quotes[i].symbolData.errorCode == 1)
            {
                quotes[i].errorData = new ErrorData();
                ParseResponseSection(quotes[i].errorData);
                break;
            }

            quotes[i].chartBarData = new ChartBarData();
            ParseResponseSection(quotes[i].chartBarData);

            quotes[i].chartBars = new List<ChartBar>();
            for (int j = 0; j < quotes[i].chartBarData.chartBarCount; j++)
            {
                quotes[i].chartBars.Add(new ChartBar());
                ParseResponseSection(quotes[i].chartBars[j]);
            }
        }

        endingDelimiterSection = new EndingDelimiterSection();
        ParseResponseSection(endingDelimiterSection);
    }
}

class CountData : IResponseSection
{
    public int quoteCount { get; set; }
}

public class Quote
{
    public SymbolData symbolData { get; set; }
    public ErrorData errorData { get; set; }
    public ChartBarData chartBarData { get; set; }
    public List<ChartBar> chartBars { get; set; }
}

public class SymbolData : IResponseSection
{
   public string symbol { get; set; }
   public byte errorCode { get; set; }
}

public class ErrorData : IResponseSection
{
    public string errorText { get; set; }
}

public class ChartBarData : IResponseSection
{
    public int chartBarCount { get; set; }
}

public class ChartBar : IResponseSection
{
    public float close { get; set; }
    public float high { get; set; }
    public float low { get; set; }
    public float open { get; set; }
    public float volume { get; set; }
    public long timestamp { get; set; }
}


I pasted your code into VS, clicked 'Generate Method Stub' a few times and moved it around some. I guess this would do the trick.

The code you provide is pretty clever, it's a bit like a visitor pattern where overloading switches to the right method.

 public class BinaryResponse {

        private BinaryReader _rdr;
        public BinaryResponse(byte[] responseBytes) {
            _rdr = new BinaryReader(new MemoryStream(responseBytes)); // wrap the byte[] in a BinaryReader to be able to pop the bytes off the top
        }

        protected void ParseResponseSection(CountData countData) {
            countData.quoteCount = _rdr.ReadInt16(); // guessing 64.000 quotes should be enough in one response, the documentation will have the type
        }

        protected void ParseResponseSection(SymbolData symbolData) {
            symbolData.errorCode = _rdr.ReadByte(); // depending on your format, where is the ErrorCOde in the byte[]? the symbol might be first

            int symbolLength = _rdr.ReadInt16(); // if it's not written by a .Net WriteString on the other end better to read this count yourelf
            symbolData.symbol = new string(_rdr.ReadChars(symbolLength)); // read the chars and put into string
        }

        protected void ParseResponseSection(ErrorData errorData) {
            int errorLenth = _rdr.ReadInt16();
            errorData.errorText = new string(_rdr.ReadChars(errorLenth));
        }

        protected void ParseResponseSection(ChartBarData chartBarData) {
            chartBarData.chartBarCount = _rdr.ReadInt16();
        }

        protected void ParseResponseSection(ChartBar chartBar) {
            // check the order with the documentation, also maybe some casting is needed because other types are in the byte[]
            chartBar.close = _rdr.ReadSingle();
            chartBar.high = _rdr.ReadSingle();
            chartBar.low = _rdr.ReadSingle();
            chartBar.open = _rdr.ReadSingle();
            chartBar.timestamp = _rdr.ReadInt64();
        }

        protected void ParseResponseSection(EndingDelimiterSection endingDelimiterSection) {
            int checkValue = _rdr.ReadInt16();
            if (checkValue != 12345) throw new InvalidDataException("Corrupt Response! Expecting End Delimiter"); // assert that the end delimiter is some value
        }
    }

Is this what you're looking for? You didn't say anything about encoding, you may need to take that into account when reading bytes etc.

Regards Gert-Jan