pcap_loop(3PCAP) man page
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#include <pcap/pcap.h> typedef void (*pcap_handler)(u_char *user, const struct pcap_pkthdr *h,
const u_char *bytes); int pcap_loop(pcap_t *p, int cnt,
pcap_handler callback, u_char *user); int pcap_dispatch(pcap_t *p, int cnt,
pcap_handler callback, u_char *user);
pcap_dispatch() processes packets from a live capture or ``savefile'' until cnt packets are processed, the end of the current bufferful of packets is reached when doing a live capture, the end of the ``savefile'' is reached when reading from a ``savefile'', pcap_breakloop() is called, or an error occurs. Thus, when doing a live capture, cnt is the maximum number of packets to process before returning, but is not a minimum number; when reading a live capture, only one bufferful of packets is read at a time, so fewer than cnt packets may be processed. A value of -1 or 0 for cnt causes all the packets received in one buffer to be processed when reading a live capture, and causes all the packets in the file to be processed when reading a ``savefile''.
Note that, when doing a live capture on some platforms, if the read timeout expires when there are no packets available, pcap_dispatch() will return 0, even when not in non-blocking mode, as there are no packets to process. Applications should be prepared for this to happen, but must not rely on it happening.
callback specifies a pcap_handler routine to be called with three arguments: a u_char pointer which is passed in the user argument to pcap_loop() or pcap_dispatch(), a const struct pcap_pkthdr pointer pointing to the packet time stamp and lengths, and a const u_char pointer to the first caplen (as given in the struct pcap_pkthdr a pointer to which is passed to the callback routine) bytes of data from the packet. The struct pcap_pkthdr and the packet data are not to be freed by the callback routine, and are not guaranteed to be valid after the callback routine returns; if the code needs them to be valid after the callback, it must make a copy of them.
The bytes of data from the packet begin with a link-layer header. The format of the link-layer header is indicated by the return value of the pcap_datalink(3PCAP) routine when handed the pcap_t value also passed to pcap_loop() or pcap_dispatch(). https://www.tcpdump.org/linktypes.html lists the values pcap_datalink() can return and describes the packet formats that correspond to those values. The value it returns will be valid for all packets received unless and until pcap_set_datalink(3PCAP) is called; after a successful call to pcap_set_datalink(), all subsequent packets will have a link-layer header of the type specified by the link-layer header type value passed to pcap_set_datalink().
Do NOT assume that the packets for a given capture or ``savefile`` will have any given link-layer header type, such as DLT_EN10MB for Ethernet. For example, the "any" device on Linux will have a link-layer header type of DLT_LINUX_SLL or DLT_LINUX_SLL2 even if all devices on the system at the time the "any" device is opened have some other data link type, such as DLT_EN10MB for Ethernet.
pcap_dispatch() returns the number of packets processed on success; this can be 0 if no packets were read from a live capture (if, for example, they were discarded because they didn't pass the packet filter, or if, on platforms that support a packet buffer timeout that starts before any packets arrive, the timeout expires before any packets arrive, or if the file descriptor for the capture device is in non-blocking mode and no packets were available to be read) or if no more packets are available in a ``savefile.'' It returns PCAP_ERROR_BREAK if the loop terminated due to a call to pcap_breakloop() before any packets were processed, PCAP_ERROR_NOT_ACTIVATED if called on a capture handle that has been created but not activated, or PCAP_ERROR if another error occurs. If your application uses pcap_breakloop(), make sure that you explicitly check for PCAP_ERROR and PCAP_ERROR_BREAK, rather than just checking for a return value < 0.
In libpcap versions before 1.5.0, the behavior when cnt was 0 was undefined; different platforms and devices behaved differently, so code that must work with these versions of libpcap should use -1, not 0, as the value of cnt.