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The dynamic nature of ad hoc networks makes system design a challenging task. Mobile ad hoc networks suffer from severe performance problems due to the shared, interference-prone, and unreliable medium. Routes can be unstable due to mobility and energy can be a limiting factor for typical devices such as PDAs, mobile phones, and sensor nodes. In such environments cross-layer architectures are a promising new approach, as they can adapt protocol behavior to changing networking conditions. This article introduces CrossTalk, a cross-layer architecture that aims at achieving global objectives with local behavior. It further compares CrossTalk with other cross-layer architectures proposed. Finally, it analyzes the quality of the information provided by the architecture and presents a reference application to demonstrate the effectiveness of the general approach.