Category Archives: Open Source

Open Source, Free Software, and similar

The TLS trinity dance

In the curl project we currently support eleven different TLS libraries. That is 8 libraries and the OpenSSL “trinity” consisting of BoringSSL, libressl and of course OpenSSL itself.

You could easily be mislead into believing that supporting three libraries that all have a common base would be reallytrinity easy since they have the same API. But no, it isn’t. Sure, they have the same foundation and they all three have more in common that they differ but still, they all diverge in their own little ways and from my stand-point libressl seems to be the one that causes us the least friction going forward.

Let me also stress that I’m but a user of these projects, I don’t participate in their work and I don’t have any insights into their internal doings or greater goals.


Easy-peacy, very similar to OpenSSL. The biggest obstacle might be that the version numbering is different so an old program that might be adjusted to different OpenSSL features based on version numbers (like curl was) needs some adjusting. There’s a convenient LIBRESSL_VERSION_NUMBER define to detect libressl with.


I regularly build curl against OpenSSL from their git master to get an early head-start when they change things and break backwards compatibility. They’ve increased that behavior since Heartbleed and while I generally agree with their ambitions on making more structs opaque instead of exposing all internals, it also hurts us over and over again when they remove things we’ve been using for years. What’s “funny” is that in almost all cases, their response is “well use this way instead” and it has turned out that there’s an equally old API that is still there that we can use instead. It also tells something about their documentation situation when that is such a common pattern. It’s never been possible to grasp this from just reading docs.


BoringSSL has made great inroads in the market and is used on Android now and more. They don’t do releases(!) and have no version numbers so the only thing we can do is to build from git and there’s no install target in the makefile. There’s no docs for it, they remove APIs from OpenSSL (curl can’t support NTLM nor OCSP stapling when built with it), they’ve changed several data types in the API making it really hard to build curl without warnings. Funnily, they also introduced non-namespaced typedefs prefixed with X509_* that collide with other common headers.

How it can play out in real life

A while ago we noticed BoringSSL had removed the DES_set_odd_parity function which we use in curl. We changed the configure script to look for it and changed the code to survive without it. The lack of that function then also signaled that it wasn’t OpenSSL, it was BoringSSL

BoringSSL moved around things that caused our configure script to no longer detect it as “OpenSSL compliant” because CRYPTO_lock could no longer be found by configure. We changed it to instead search for HMAC_Init and we were fine again.

Time passed and BoringSSL brought back DES_set_odd_parity, so our configure script no longer saw it as BoringSSL (the Android fixed this problem in their git but never sent as the fix). We changed the configure script accordingly to properly use OPENSSL_IS_BORINGSSL instead to detect BoringSSL which was the correct thing anyway and now as a bonus it can thus detect and work with both new and old BoringSSL versions.

A short time after, I again try to build curl against the OpenSSL master branch only to realize they’ve deprecated HMAC_Init that we just recently switched to for detection (since the configure script needs to check for a particular named function within a library to really know that it has detected and can use said library). Sigh, we switched “detect function” again to HMAC_Update. Hopefully this exists in all three and will stick around for a while…

Right now I think we can detect and use all three. It is only a matter of time until one of them will ruin that and we will adapt again.

Blog refresh

Dear reader,

If you ever visited my blog in the past and you see this, you should’ve noticed a pretty significant difference in appearance that happened the other day here.

When I kicked off my blog here on the site back in August 2007 and moved my blogging from advogato to self-host, I installed WordPress and I’ve been happy with it since then from a usability stand-point. I crafted a look based on an existing theme and left it at that.

Over time, WordPress has had its hefty amount of security problems over and over again and I’ve also suffered from them myself a couple of times, and a few times I ended up patching it manually more than once. At one point when I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade to the latest version it didn’t work to upgrade anymore and I postpone it for later.

Time passed, I tried again without success and then more time passed.

I finally fixed the issues I had with upgrading. With a series of manual fiddling I finally managed to upgrade to the latest WordPress and when doing so my old theme was considered broken/incompatible so I threw that out and started fresh with a new theme. This new one is based on one of the simple default ones WordPress ships for free. I’ve mostly just made it slightly wider and edited the looks somewhat. I don’t need fancy. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with WordPress better this time.

Additionally, I added a captcha that now forces users to solve an easy math problem to submit anything to the blog to help me fight spam, and perhaps even more to solve a problem I have with spambots creating new users. I removed over 3300 users yesterday that never posted anything that has been accepted.

Enjoy.  Now back to our regular programming!

The last HTTP Workshop day

This workshop has been really intense days so far and this last and forth Workshop day did not turn out differently. We started out the morning with the presentation: Caching, Intermediation and the Modern Web by Martin Thomson (Mozilla) describing his idea of a “blind cache” and how it could help to offer caching in a HTTPS world. It of course brought a lot of discussions and further brainstorming on the ideas and how various people in the room thought the idea could be improved or changed.

Immediately following that, Martin continued with a second presentation describing for us a suggested new encryption format for HTTP based on the JWE format and how it could possible be used.

The room then debated connection coalescing (with HTTP/2) for a while and some shared their experiences and thoughts on the topic. It is an area where over-sharing based on the wrong assumptions certainly can lead to tears and unhappiness but it seems the few in the room who actually have implemented this seemed to have considered most of the problems people could foresee.

Support of Trailers in HTTP was brought up and we discussed its virtues for a while vs the possible problems with supporting it and what possible caveats could be, and we also explored the idea of using HTTP/2 push instead of trailers to allow servers to send meta-data that way, and that then also doesn’t necessarily have to follow after the transfer but can in fact be sent during transfer!

Resumed uploads is a topic that comes back every now and then and that has some interest. (It is probably one of the most frequently requested protocol features I get asked about.) It was brought up as something we should probably discuss further, and especially when discussing the next generation HTTP.

At some point in the future we will start talking about HTTP/3. We had a long discussion with the whole team here on what HTTP/3 could entail and we also explored general future HTTP and HTTP/2 extensions and more. A massive list of possible future work was created. The list ended up with something like 70 different things to discuss or work on, but of course most of those things will never actually become reality.

With so much possible or potential work ahead, we need to involve more people that want to and can consider writing specs and to show how easy it apparently can be, Martin demoed how to write a first I-D draft using the fancy Internet Draft Template Repository. Go check it out!

Poul-Henning Kamp brought up the topic of “CO2 usage of the Internet” and argued for that current and future protocol work need to consider the environmental impact and how “green” protocols are. Ilya Grigorik (Google) showed off numbers from http‘s data and demoed how easy it is to use the big query feature to extract useful information and statistical info out of the vast amount of data they’ve gathered there. Brad Fitspatrick (Google) showed off his awesome tool h2i and how we can use it to poke on and test HTTP/2 server implementations in a really convenient and almost telnet-style command line using way.

Finally, Mark Nottingham (Akamai) showed off his service that runs HTTP against a site, checks its responses and reports with details exactly what it responds and why and provide a bunch of analysis and informational based on that.

Such an eventful day really had to be rounded off with a bunch of beers and so we did. The HTTP Workshop of the summer 2015 ended. The event was great. The attendees were great. The facilities and the food were perfect. I couldn’t ask for more. Thanks for arranging such a great happening!

I’ll round off showing off my laptop lid after the two new stickers of the week were applied. (The HTTP Workshop one and an Apache one I got from Roy):


… I’ll get up early tomorrow morning and fly back home.

HTTPS and HTTP/2 plans for my sites

I produce a fair amount of open source code. I make that code available online. curl is probably the most popular package.

People ask me how they can trust that they are actually downloading what I put up there. People ask me when my source code can be retrieved over HTTPS. Signatures and hashes don’t add a lot against attacks when they all also are fetched over HTTP…


SSL padlockI really and truly want to offer HTTPS (only) for all my sites.  I and my friends run a whole busload of sites on the same physical machine and IP address (,,,,, and many more) so I would like a solution that works for all of them.

I can do this by buying certs, either a lot of individual ones or a few wildcard ones and then all servers would be covered. But the cost and the inconvenience of needing a lot of different things to make everything work has put me off. Especially since I’ve learned that there is a better solution in the works!

Let’s Encrypt will not only solve the problem for us from a cost perspective, but they also promise to solve some of the quirks on the technical side as well. They say they will ship certificates by September 2015 and that has made me wait for that option rather than rolling up my sleeves to solve the problem with my own sweat and money. Of course there’s a risk that they are delayed, but I’m not running against a hard deadline myself here.


Related, I’ve been much involved in the HTTP/2 development and I host my “http2 explained” document on my still non-HTTPS site. I get a lot of questions (and some mocking) about why my HTTP/2 documentation isn’t itself available over HTTP/2. I would really like to offer it over HTTP/2.

Since all the browsers only do HTTP/2 over HTTPS, a prerequisite here is that I get HTTPS up and running first. See above.

Once HTTPS is in place, I want to get HTTP/2 going as well. I still run good old Apache here so it might be done using mod_h2 or perhaps with a fronting nghttp2 proxy. We’ll see.

HTTP Workshop 2015, day -1

http workshopI’ve traveled to a rainy and gray Münster, Germany, today and checked in to my hotel for the coming week and the HTTP Workshop. Tomorrow is the first day and I’m looking forward to it probably a little too much.

There is a whole bunch of attendees coming. Simply put, most of the world’s best brains and the most eager implementers of the HTTP stacks that are in use today and will be in use tomorrow (with a bunch of notable absentees of course but you know you’ll be missed). I’m happy and thrilled to be able to take part during this coming week.

daniel weekly

daniel weekly screenshot

My series of weekly videos, in lack of a better name called daniel weekly, reached episode 35 today. I’m celebrating this fact by also adding an RSS-feed for those of you who prefer to listen to me in an audio-only version.

As an avid podcast listener myself, I can certainly see how this will be a better fit to some. Most of these videos are just me talking anyway so losing the visual shouldn’t be much of a problem.

A typical episode

I talk about what I work on in my open source projects, which means a lot of curl stuff and occasional stuff from my work on Firefox for Mozilla. I also tend to mention events I attend and HTTP/networking developments I find interesting and grab my attention. Lots of HTTP/2 talk for example. I only ever express my own personal opinions.

It is generally an extremely geeky and technical video series.

Every week I mention a (curl) “bug of the week” that allows me to joke or rant about the bug in question or just mention what it is about. In episode 31 I started my “command line options of the week” series in which I explain one or a few curl command line options with some amount of detail. There are over 170 options so the series is bound to continue for a while. I’ve explained ten options so far.

I’ve set a limit for myself and I make an effort to keep the episodes shorter than 20 minutes. I’ve not succeed every time.


The 35 episodes have been viewed over 17,000 times in total. Episode two is the most watched individual one with almost 1,500 views.

Right now, my channel has 190 subscribers.

The top-3 countries that watch my videos: USA, Sweden and UK.

Share of viewers that are female: 3.7%

server push to curl

The next step in my efforts to complete curl‘s HTTP/2 implementation, after having made sure downloading and uploading transfers in parallel work, was adding support for HTTP/2 server push.

push sign

A quick recap

HTTP/2 Server push is a way for the server to initiate the transfer of a resource. Like when the client asks for resource X, the server can deem that the client most probably also wants to have resource Y and Z and initiate their transfers.

The server then sends a PUSH_PROMISE to the client for the new resource and hands over a set of “request headers” that a GET for that resource could have used, and then it sends the resource in a way that it would have done if it was requested the “regular” way.

The push promise frame gives the client information to make a decision if the resource is wanted or not and it can then immediately deny this transfer if it considers it unwanted. Like in a browser case if it already has that file in its local cache or similar. If not denied, the stream has an initial window size that allows the server to send a certain amount of data before the client has to give the stream more allowance to continue.

It is also suitable to remember that server push is a new protocol feature in HTTP/2 and as such it has not been widely used yet and it remains to be seen exactly how it will become used the best way and what will turn out popular and useful. We have this “immaturity” in mind when designing this support for libcurl.

Enter libcurl

When setting up a transfer over HTTP/2 with libcurl you do it with the multi interface to make it able to work multiplexed. That way you can set up and perform any number of transfers in parallel, and if they happen to use the same host they can be done multiplexed but if they use different hosts they will use separate connections.

To the application, transfers pretty much look the same and it can remain agnostic to whether the transfer is multiplexed or not, it is just another transfer.

With the libcurl API, the application creates an “easy handle” for each transfer and it sets options in that handle for the upcoming transfer. before it adds that to the “multi handle” and then libcurl drives all those individual transfers at the same time.

Server-initiated transfers

Starting in the future version 7.44.0 – planned release date in August, the plan is to introduce the API support for server push. It couldn’t happen sooner because I missed the merge window for 7.43.0 and then 7.44.0 is simply the next opportunity. The wiki link here is however updated and reflects what is currently being implemented.

An application sets a callback to allow server pushed streams. The callback gets called by libcurl when a PUSH_PROMISE is received by the client side, and the callback can then tell libcurl if the new stream should be allowed or not. It could be as simple as this:

static int server_push_callback(CURL *parent,
                                CURL *easy,
                                size_t num_headers,
                                struct curl_pushheaders *headers,
                                void *userp)
  char *headp;
  size_t i;
  FILE *out;

  /* here's a new stream, save it in a new file for each new push */
  out = fopen("push-stream", "wb");

  /* write to this file */
  curl_easy_setopt(easy, CURLOPT_WRITEDATA, out);

  headp = curl_pushheader_byname(headers, ":path");
    fprintf(stderr, "The PATH is %s\n", headp);

  return CURL_PUSH_OK;

The callback would instead return CURL_PUSH_DENY if the stream isn’t desired. If no callback is set, no pushes will be accepted.

An interesting effect of this API is that libcurl now creates and adds easy handles to the multi handle by itself when the callback okeys it, so there will be more easy handles to cleanup at the end of the operations than what the application added. Each pushed transfer needs get cleaned up by the application that “inherits” the ownership of the transfer and the easy handle for it.


The headers passed along in that frame will contain the mandatory “special” request ones (“:method”, “:path”, “:scheme” and “:authority”) but other than those it really isn’t certain which other headers servers will provide and how this will work. To prepare for this fact, we provide two accessor functions for the push callback to access all PUSH_PROMISE headers libcurl received:

  • curl_pushheader_byname() lets the callback get the contents of a specific header. I imagine that “:path” for example is one of those that most typical push callbacks will want to take a closer look at.
  • curl_pushheader_bynum() allows the function to iterate over all received headers and do whatever it needs to do, it gets the full header by index.

These two functions are also somewhat special and new in the libcurl world since they are only possible to use from within this particular callback and they are invalid and wrong to use in any and all other contexts.

HTTP/2 headers are compressed on the wire using HPACK compression, but when access from this callback all headers use the familiar HTTP/1.1 style of “name:value”.

Work in progress

A build toolAs I mentioned above already, this is work in progress and I welcome all and any comments or suggestions on how this API can be improved or tweaked to even better fit your needs. Implementing features such as these usually turn out better when there are users trying them out before they are written in stone.

To try it out, build a libcurl from the http2-push branch:

And while there are docs and an example in that branch already, you may opt to read the wiki version of the docs:

The best way to send your feedback on this is to post to the curl-library mailing list, but if you find obvious bugs or want to provide patches you can also opt to file issues or pull-requests on github.

picturing curl’s future

development graph

There will be more stuff over time in the cURL project. Exactly which stuff and how long time it takes for everything, we don’t know. It depends largely on who works on what and how much time said persons can spend on implementing the stuff they work on…

I suspect we might be able to do things slightly faster over time, which is why the red arrow isn’t just a straight line.

I drew this little picture inspired from discussions with friends after a talk I did about curl and how development works in an open source project such as this. We know we will work on things that will improve the products but we don’t see exactly what very far in advance. I tweeted this picture a few days ago, and it turned out very popular.