Parsing GZip Stream Without Looking Back

Some files can exist in two equivalent forms – compressed and uncompressed. One excellent example is .pcap. You can get it as standard .pcap we all know and love but it also comes compressed as .pcap.gz. To open a compressed file in C#, you could pass it to GZipStream – it works flawlessly. However, before doing that you might want to check if you’re dealing with compressed or uncompressed form.

Check itself is easy. Just read first 2 bytes and, if they’re 0x1F8B, you’re dealing with a compressed stream. However, you just consumed 2 bytes and simply handing over file stream to GZipStream will no longer work. If you are dealing with file on a disk, just seek backward and you’re good. But what if you are dealing with streaming data and seeking is not possible?

For .pcap and many more transparently compressed formats, you can simply decide to skip into bread-and-butter of encryption – deflate algorithm. You see, GZip is just a thin wrapper over deflate stream. And quite often it only has a fixed size header. If you move just additional 8 bytes (thus skipping a total of 10), you can use DeflateStream and forget about “rewinding.”

Wanna see example? Check constructor of PcapReader class.

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