The world’s biggest curl installations

curl is quite literally used everywhere. It is used by a huge number of applications and devices. But which applications, devices and users are the ones with the largest number of curl installations? I’ve tried to come up with a list…

I truly believe curl is one of the world’s most widely used open source projects.

If you have comments, other suggestions or insights to help me polish this table or the numbers I present, please let me know!

Some that didn’t make the top-10

10 million Nintendo Switch game consoles all use curl, more than 20 million Chromebooks have been sold and they have curl as part of their bundled OS and there’s an estimated 40 million printers (primarily by Epson and HP) that aren’t on the top-10. To reach this top-list, we’re looking at 50 million instances minimum…

10. Internet servers: 50 million

There are many (Linux mainly) servers on the Internet. curl and libcurl comes pre-installed on some Linux distributions and for those that it doesn’t, most users and sysadmins install it. My estimate says there are few such servers out there without curl on them.

This source says there were 75 million servers “hosting the Internet” back in 2013.

curl is a default HTTP provider for PHP and a huge percentage of the world’s web sites run at least parts with PHP.

9. Sony Playstation 4: 75 million

Bundled with the Operating system on this game console comes curl. Or rather libcurl I would expect. Sony says 75 million units have been sold.

curl is given credit on the screen Open Source software used in the Playstation 4.

8. Netflix devices: 90 million

I’ve been informed by “people with knowledge” that libcurl runs on all Netflix’s devices that aren’t browsers. Some stats listed on the Internet says 70% of the people watching Netflix do this on their TVs, which I’ve interpreted as possible non-browser use. 70% of the total 130 million Netflix customers makes 90.

libcurl is not used for the actual streaming of the movie, but for the UI and things.

7. Grand Theft Auto V: 100 million

The very long and rarely watched ending sequence to this game does indeed credit libcurl. It has also been recorded as having been sold in 100 million copies.

There’s an uncertainty here if libcurl is indeed used in this game for all platforms GTA V runs on, which then could possibly reduce this number if it is not.

6. macOS machines: 100 million

curl has shipped as a bundled component of macOS since August 2001. In April 2017, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook says that there were 100 million active macOS installations.

Now, that statement was made a while ago but I don’t have any reason to suspect that the number has gone down notably so I’m using it here. No macs ship without curl!

5. cars: 100 million

I wrote about this in a separate blog post. Eight of the top-10 most popular car brands in the world use curl in their products. All in all I’ve found curl used in over twenty car brands.

Based on that, rough estimates say that there are over 100 million cars in the world with curl in them today. And more are coming.

4. Fortnite: 120 million

This game is made by Epic Games and credits curl in their Third Party Software screen.

In June 2018, they claimed 125 million players. Now, I supposed a bunch of these players might not actually have their own separate device but I still believe that this is the regular setup for people. You play it on your own console, phone or computer.

3. Television sets: 380 million

We know curl is used in television sets made by Sony, Philips, Toshiba, LG, Bang & Olufsen, JVC, Panasonic, Samsung and Sharp – at least.

The wold market was around 229 million television sets sold in 2017 and about 760 million TVs are connected to the Internet. Counting on curl running in 50% of the connected TVs (which I think is a fair estimate) makes 380 million devices.

2. Windows 10: 500 million

Since a while back, Windows 10 ships curl bundled by default. I presume most Windows 10 installations actually stay fairly updated so over time most of the install base will run a version that bundles curl.

In May 2017, one number said 500 million Windows 10 machines.

1. Smart phones: 3000 million

I posit that there are almost no smart phones or tablets in the world that doesn’t run curl.

curl is bundled with the iOS operating system so all iPhones and iPads have it. That alone is about 1.3 billion active devices.

curl is bundled with the Android version that Samsung, Xiaomi and OPPO ship (and possibly a few other flavors too). According to some sources, Samsung has something like 30% market share, and Apple around 20% – for mobile phones. Another one billion devices seems like a fair estimate.

Further, curl is used by some of the most used apps on phones: Youtube, Instagram, Skype, Spotify etc. The three first all boast more than one billion users each, and in Youtube’s case it also claims more than one billion app downloads on Android. I think it’s a safe bet that these together cover another 700 million devices. Possibly more.

Same users, many devices

Of course we can’t just sum up all these numbers and reach a total number of “curl users”. The fact is that a lot of these curl instances are used by the same users. With a phone, a game console, a TV and some more an ordinary netizen runs numerous different curl instances in their daily lives.

Summary

Did I ever expect this level of success? No.

 

libcurl gets a URL API

libcurl has done internet transfers specified as URLs for a long time, but the URLs you’d tell libcurl to use would always just get parsed and used internally.

Applications that pass in URLs to libcurl would of course still very often need to parse URLs, create URLs or otherwise handle them, but libcurl has not been helping with that.

At the same time, the under-specification of URLs has led to a situation where there’s really no stable document anywhere describing how URLs are supposed to work and basically every implementer is left to handle the WHATWG URL spec, RFC 3986 and the world in between all by themselves. Understanding how their URL parsing libraries, libcurl, other tools and their favorite browsers differ is complicated.

By offering applications access to libcurl’s own URL parser, we hope to tighten a problematic vulnerable area for applications where the URL parser library would believe one thing and libcurl another. This could and has sometimes lead to security problems. (See for example Exploiting URL Parser in Trending Programming Languages! by Orange Tsai)

Additionally, since libcurl deals with URLs and virtually every application using libcurl already does some amount of URL fiddling, it makes sense to offer it in the “same package”. In the curl user survey 2018, more than 40% of the users said they’d use an URL API in libcurl if it had one.

Handle based

Create a handle, operate on the handle and then cleanup the handle when you’re done with it. A pattern that is familiar to existing users of libcurl.

So first you just make the handle.

/* create a handle */
CURLU *h = curl_url();

Parse a URL

Give the handle a full URL.

/* "set" a URL in the handle */
curl_url_set(h, CURLUPART_URL,
    "https://example.com/path?q=name", 0);

If the parser finds a problem with the given URL it returns an error code detailing the error.  The flags argument (the zero in the function call above) allows the user to tweak some parsing behaviors. It is a bitmask and all the bits are explained in the curl_url_set() man page.

A parsed URL gets split into its components, parts, and each such part can be individually retrieved or updated.

Get a URL part

Get a separate part from the URL by asking for it. This example gets the host name:

/* extract host from the URL */
char *host;
curl_url_get(h, CURLUPART_HOST, &host, 0);

/* use it, then free it */
curl_free(host);

As the example here shows, extracted parts must be specifically freed with curl_free() once the application is done with them.

The curl_url_get() can extract all the parts from the handle, by specifying the correct id in the second argument. scheme, user, password, port number and more. One of the “parts” it can extract is a bit special: CURLUPART_URL. It returns the full URL back (normalized and using proper syntax).

curl_url_get() also has a flags option to allow the application to specify certain behavior.

Set a URL part

/* set a URL part */
curl_url_set(h, CURLUPART_PATH,
  "/index.html", 0);

curl_url_set() lets the user set or update all and any of the individual parts of the URL.

curl_url_set() can also update the full URL, which also accepts a relative URL in case an existing one was already set. It will then apply the relative URL onto the former one and “transition” to the new absolute URL. Like this;

/* first an absolute URL */
curl_url_set(h, CURLUPART_URL,
  "https://example.org:88/path/html", 0);

/* .. then we set a relative URL "on top" */
curl_url_set(h, CURLUPART_URL,
   "../new/place", 0);

Duplicate a handle

It might be convenient to setup a handle once and then make copies of that…

CURLU *n = curl_url_dup(h);

Cleanup the handle

When you’re done working with this URL handle, free it and all its related resources.

curl_url_cleanup(h);

Ship?

This API is marked as experimental for now and ships for the first time in libcurl 7.62.0 (October 31, 2018). I will happily read your feedback and comments on how it works for you, what’s missing and what we should fix to make it even more usable for you and your applications!

We call it experimental to reserve the right to modify it slightly  going forward if necessary, and as soon as we remove that label the API will then be fixed and stay like that for the foreseeable future.

See also

The URL API wiki page.

DoH in curl

DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) is being designed (it is not an RFC quite yet but very soon!) to allow internet clients to get increased privacy and security for their name resolves. I’ve previously explained the DNS-over-HTTPS functionality within Firefox that ships in Firefox 62 and I did a presentation about DoH and its future in curl at curl up 2018.

We are now introducing DoH support in curl. I hope this will not only allow users to start getting better privacy and security for their curl based internet transfers, but ideally this will also provide an additional debugging tool for DoH in other clients and servers.

Let’s take a look at how we plan to let applications enable this when using libcurl and how libcurl has to work with this internally to glue things together.

How do I make my libcurl transfer use DoH?

There’s a primary new option added, which is the “DoH URL”. An application sets the CURLOPT_DOH_URL for a transfer, and then libcurl will use that service for resolving host names. Easy peasy. There should be nothing else in the transfer that changes or appears differently. It’ll just resolve the host names over DoH instead of using the default resolver!

What about bootstrap, how does libcurl find the DoH server’s host name?

Since the DoH URL itself typically is given using a host name, that first host name will be resolved using the normal resolver – or if you so desire, you can provide the IP address for that host name with the CURLOPT_RESOLVE option just like you can for any host name.

If done using the resolver, the resolved address will then be kept in libcurl’s DNS cache for a short while and the DoH connection will be kept in the regular connection pool with the other connections, making subsequent DoH resolves on the same handle much faster.

How do I use this from the command line?

Tell curl which DoH URL to use with the new –doh-url command line option:

$ curl --doh-url https://dns-server.example.com https://www.example.com

How do I make my libcurl code use this?

curl = curl_easy_init();
curl_easy_setopt(curl, CURLOPT_URL,
                 "https://curl.haxx.se/");
curl_easy_setopt(curl, CURLOPT_DOH_URL,
                 "https://doh.example.com/");
res = curl_easy_perform(curl);

Internals

Internally, libcurl itself creates two new easy handles that it adds to the existing multi handles and they are then performing two HTTP requests while the original transfer sits in the “waiting for name resolve” state. Once the DoH requests are completed, the original transfer’s state can progress and continue on.

libcurl handles parallel transfers perfectly well already and by leveraging the already existing support for this, it was easy to add this new functionality and still work non-blocking and even event-based correctly depending on what libcurl API that is being used.

We had to add a new little special thing that makes libcurl handle the end of a transfer in a new way since there are now easy handles that are created and added to the multi handle entirely without the user’s knowledge, so the code also needs to remove and delete those handles when they’re done serving their purposes.

Was this hard to add to a 20 year old code base?

Actually, no. It was surprisingly easy, but then I’ve also worked on a few different client-side DoH implementations already so I had gotten myself a clear view of how I wanted the functionality to work plus the fact that I’m very familiar with the libcurl internals.

Plus, everything inside libcurl is already using non-blocking code and the multi interface paradigms so the foundation for adding parallel transfers like this was already in place.

The entire DoH patch for curl, including documentation and test cases, was a mere 1500 lines.

Ship?

This is merged into the master branch in git and is planned to ship as part of the next release: 7.62.0 at the end of October 2018.

curl 7.61.1 comes with only bug-fixes

Already at the time when we shipped the previous release, 7.61.0, I had decided I wanted to do a patch release next. We had some pretty serious HTTP/2 bugs in the pipe to get fixed and there were a bunch of other unresolved issues also awaiting their treatments. Then I took off on vacation and and the HTTP/2 fixes took a longer time than expected to get on top of, so I subsequently decided that this would become a bug-fix-only release cycle. No features and no changes would be merged into master. So this is what eight weeks of only bug-fixes can look like.

Numbers

the 176th release
0 changes
56 days (total: 7,419)

102 bug fixes (total: 4,640)
151 commits (total: 23,439)
0 new curl_easy_setopt() options (total: 258)

0 new curl command line option (total: 218)
46 contributors, 21 new (total: 1,787)
27 authors, 14 new (total: 612)
  1 security fix (total: 81)

Notable bug-fixes this cycle

Among the many small fixes that went in, I feel the following ones deserve a little extra highlighting…

NTLM password overflow via integer overflow

This latest security fix (CVE-2018-14618) is almost identical to an earlier one we fixed back in 2017 called CVE-2017-8816, and is just as silly…

The internal function Curl_ntlm_core_mk_nt_hash() takes a password argument, the same password that is passed to libcurl from an application. It then gets the length of that password and allocates a memory area that is twice the length, since it needs to expand the password. Due to a lack of checks, this calculation will overflow and wrap on a 32 bit machine if a password that is longer than 2 gigabytes is passed to this function. It will then lead to a very small memory allocation, followed by an attempt to write a very long password to that small memory buffer. A heap memory overflow.

Some mitigating details: most architectures support 64 bit size_t these days. Most applications won’t allow passing in passwords that are two gigabytes.

This bug has been around since libcurl 7.15.4, released back in 2006!

Oh, and on the curl web site we now use the CVE number in the actual URL for all the security vulnerabilities to make them easier to find and refer to.

HTTP/2 issues

This was actually a whole set of small problems that together made the new crawler example not work very well – until fixed. I think it is safe to say that HTTP/2 users of libcurl have previously used it in a pretty “tidy” fashion, because I believe I corrected four or five separate issues that made it misbehave.  It was rather pure luck that has made it still work as well as it has for past users!

Another HTTP/2 bug we ran into recently involved us discovering a little quirk in the underlying nghttp2 library, which in some very special circumstances would refuse to blank out the stream id to struct pointer mapping which would lead to it delivering a pointer to a stale (already freed) struct at a later point. This is fixed in nghttp2 now, shipped in its recent 1.33.0 release.

Windows send-buffer tuning

Making uploads on Windows from between two to seven times faster than before is certainly almost like a dream come true. This is what 7.61.1 offers!

Upload buffer size increased

In tests triggered by the fix above, it was noticed that curl did not meet our performance expectations when doing uploads on really high speed networks, notably on localhost or when using SFTP. We could easily double the speed by just increasing the upload buffer size. Starting now, curl allocates the upload buffer on demand (since many transfers don’t need it), and now allocates a 64KB buffer instead of the previous 16KB. It has been using 16KB since the 2001, and with the on-demand setup and the fact that computer memories have grown a bit during 17 years I think it is well motivated.

A future curl version will surely allow the application to set this upload buffer size. The receive buffer size can already be set.

Darwinssl goes ALPN

While perhaps in the grey area of what a bugfix can be, this fix  allows curl to negotiate ALPN using the darwinssl backend, which by extension means that curl built to use darwinssl can now – finally – do HTTP/2 over HTTPS! Darwinssl is also known under the name Secure Transport, the native TLS library on macOS.

Note however that macOS’ own curl builds that Apple ships are no longer built to use Secure Transport, they use libressl these days.

The Auth Bearer fix

When we added support for Auth Bearer tokens in 7.61.0, we accidentally caused a regression that now is history. This bug seems to in particular have hit git users for some reason.

-OJ regression

The introduction of bold headers in 7.61.0 caused a regression which made a command line like “curl -O -J http://example.com/” to fail, even if a Content-Disposition: header with a correct file name was passed on.

Cookie order

Old readers of this blog may remember my ramblings on cookie sort order from back in the days when we worked on what eventually became RFC 6265.

Anyway, we never did take all aspects of that spec into account when we sort cookies on the HTTP headers sent off to servers, and it has very rarely caused users any grief. Still, now Daniel Gustafsson did a glorious job and tweaked the code to also take creation order into account, exactly like the spec says we should! There’s still some gotchas in this, but at least it should be much closer to what the spec says and what some sites might assume a cookie-using client should do…

Unbold properly

Yet another regression. Remember how curl 7.61.0 introduced the cool bold headers in the terminal? Turns out I of course had my escape sequences done wrong, so in a large number of terminal programs the end-of-bold sequence (“CSI 21 m”) that curl sent didn’t actually switch off the bold style. This would lead to the terminal either getting all bold all the time or on some terminals getting funny colors etc.

In 7.61.1, curl sends the “switch off all styles” code (“CSI 0 m”) that hopefully should work better for people!

Next release!

We’ve held up a whole bunch of pull requests to ship this patch-only release. Once this is out the door, we’ll open the flood gates and accept the nearly 10 changes that are eagerly waiting merge. Expect my next release blog post to mention several new things in curl!

Blessed curl builds for Windows

The curl project is happy to introduce official and blessed curl builds for Windows for download on the curl web site.

This means we have a set of recommended curl packages that we advice users on Windows to download.

On Linux, macOS, cygwin and pretty much all the other alternatives you have out there, you don’t need to go to random sites on the Internet and download a binary package provided by a (to you) unknown stranger to get curl for your system. Unfortunately that is basically what we have forced Windows users into doing for a few years since our previous maintainer of curl builds for Windows dropped off the project.

These new official curl builds for Windows are the same set of builds Viktor Szakats has been building and providing to the community for a long time already. Now just with the added twist that he feeds his builds and information about them to the main curl site so that users can get them from the same site and thus lean on the same trust they already have in the curl brand in general.

These builds are reproducible, provided with sha256 hashes and a link to the full build log. Everything is public and transparently done.

All the hard work to get these builds in this great shape was done by Viktor Szakats.

Go get it!

Project curl governance

Over time, we’ve slowly been adjusting the curl project and its documentation so that we might at some point actually qualify to the CII open source Best Practices at silver level.

We qualified at the base level a while ago as one of the first projects which did that.

Recently, one of those issues we fixed was documenting the governance of the curl project. How exactly the curl project is run, what the key roles are and how decisions are made. That document is now in our git repo.

curl

The curl project is what I would call a fairly typical smallish open source project with a quite active and present project leader (me). We have a small set of maintainers who independently are allowed to and will merge commits to git (via pull-requests).

Any decision or any code change that was done or is about to be done can be brought up for questioning or discussion on the mailing list. Nothing is ever really seriously written in stone (except our backwards compatible API). If we did the wrong decision in the past, we should reconsider now.

Oh right, we also don’t have any legal entity. There’s no company or organization behind this or holding any particular rights. We’re not part of any umbrella organization. We’re all just individuals distributed over the globe.

Contributors

No active contributor or maintainer (that I know of) gets paid to work on curl regularly. No company has any particular say or weight to decide where the project goes next.

Contributors fix bugs and add features as part of our daily jobs or in their spare time. We get code submissions for well over a hundred unique authors every year.

Dictator

As a founder of the project and author of more than half of all commits, I am what others call, a Benevolent Dictator. I can veto things and I can merge things in spite of objections, although I avoid that as far as possible.

I feel that I generally have people’s trust and that the community expects me to be able to take decisions and drive this project in an appropriate direction, in a fashion that has worked out fine for the past twenty years.

I post all my patches (except occasional minuscule changes) as pull-requests on github before merge, to allow comments, discussions, reviews and to make sure they don’t break any tests.

I announce and ask for feedback for changes or larger things that I want to do, on the mailing list for wider attention. To bring up discussions and fish for additional ideas or for people to point out obvious mistakes. May times, my calls for opinions or objections are met with silence and I will then take that as “no objections” and more forward in a way I deem sensible.

Every now and then I blog about specific curl features or changes we work on, to highlight them and help out the user community “out there” to discover and learn what curl can do, or might be able to do soon.

I’m doing this primarily on my spare time. My employer also lets me spend some work hours on curl.

Long-term

One of the prime factors that has made curl and libcurl successful and end up one of the world’s most widely used software components, I’m convinced, is that we don’t break stuff.

By this I mean that once we’ve introduced functionality, we struggle hard to maintain that functionality from that point on and into the future. When we accept code and features into the project, we do this knowing that the code will likely remain in our code for decades to come. Once we’ve accepted the code, it becomes our responsibility and now we’ll care for it dearly for a long time forward.

Since we’re so few developers and maintainers in the project, I can also add that I’m very much aware that in many cases adopting code and merging patches mean that I will have to fix the remaining bugs and generally care for the code the coming years.

Changing governance?

I’m dictator of the curl project for practical reasons, not because I consider it an ideal way to run projects. If there were more people involved who cared enough about what and how we’re doing things we could also change how we run the project.

But until I sense such an interest, I don’t think the current model is bad – and our conquering the world over the recent years could also be seen as a proof that the project at least sometimes also goes in a direction that users approve of. And we are after all best practices certified.

I realize I come off sounding like a real-world dictator when I say things like this, but I genuinely believe that our governance is based on necessity and what works, not because we have to do it this way.

I’ve run the project since its inception 1998. One day I’ll get bored or get run over by a bus. Then at the very least will the project need another way to run…

Silver level?

We’re only two requirements away from Best Practices Silver level compliance and we’ve been discussing a bit lately (or perhaps: I’ve asked the question) whether the last criteria are actually worth the trouble for us or not.

  1. We need to enforce “Signed-off-by” lines in commits to maintain Developers Certificate of origin. This is easy in itself and I’ve only held this off this long because we’ve had zero interest or requirements for this from contributors and users. Added administration for little gain.
  2. We’re asked to provide an assurance case:a description of the threat model, clear identification of trust boundaries, an argument that secure design principles have been applied, and an argument that common implementation security weaknesses have been countered.” – This is work we haven’t done and a document we don’t have. And again: nobody has actually ever asked for this outside of this certificate form.

Do you think we should put in the extra effort and check off the final two requirements as well? Do you think they actually make the project better?

A hundred million cars run curl

One of my hobbies is to collect information about where curl is used. The following car brands feature devices, infotainment and/or navigation systems that use curl – in one or more of their models.

These are all brands about which I’ve found information online (for example curl license information), received photos of or otherwise been handed information by what I consider reliable sources (like involved engineers).

Do you have curl in a device installed in another car brand?

List of car brands using curl

Baojun, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Holden, Hyundai, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Opel, Renault, Seat, Skoda, Subaru, Suzuki, Tesla, Toyota, VW and Vauxhall.

All together, this is a pretty amazing number of installations. This list contains eight (8) of the top-10 car brands in the world 2017! And all the top-3 brands. By my rough estimate, something like 40 million cars sold in 2017 had curl in them. Presumably almost as many in 2016 and a little more in 2018 (based on car sales stats).

Not too shabby for a little spare time project.

How to find curl in your car

Sometimes the curl open source license is included in a manual (it includes my name and email, offering more keywords to search for). That’s usually how I’ve found out many uses purely online.

Sometimes the curl license is included in the “open source license” screen within the actual infotainment system. Those tend to list hundreds of different components and without any search available, you often have to scroll for many minutes until you reach curl or libcurl. I occasionally receive photos of such devices.

Related: why is your email in my car and I have toyota corola.

Update: I added Tesla and Hyundai to the list after the initial post. The latter of those brands is a top-10 brand which bumped the counter of curl users to 8 out of the top-10 brands!

How to DoH-only with Firefox

Firefox supports DNS-over-HTTPS (aka DoH) since version 62.

You can instruct your Firefox to only use DoH and never fall-back and try the native resolver; the mode we call trr-only. Without any other ability to resolve host names, this is a little tricky so this guide is here to help you. (This situation might improve in the future.)

In trr-only mode, nobody on your local network nor on your ISP can snoop on your name resolves. The SNI part of HTTPS connections are still clear text though, so eavesdroppers on path can still figure out which hosts you connect to.

There’s a name in my URI

A primary problem for trr-only is that we usually want to use a host name in the URI for the DoH server (we typically need it to be a name so that we can verify the server’s certificate against it), but we can’t resolve that host name until DoH is setup to work. A catch-22.

There are currently two ways around this problem:

  1. Tell Firefox the IP address of the name that you use in the URI. We call it the “bootstrapAddress”. See further below.
  2. Use a DoH server that is provided on an IP-number URI. This is rather unusual. There’s for example one at 1.1.1.1.

Setup and use trr-only

There are three prefs to focus on (they’re all explained elsewhere):

network.trr.mode – set this to the number 3.

network.trr.uri – set this to the URI of the DoH server you want to use. This should be a server you trust and want to hand over your name resolves to. The Cloudflare one we’ve previously used in DoH tests with Firefox is https://mozilla.cloudflare-dns.com/dns-query.

network.trr.bootstrapAddress– when you use a host name in the URI for the network.trr.uri pref you must set this pref to an IP address that host name resolves to for you. It is important that you pick an IP address that the name you use actually would resolve to.

Example

Let’s pretend you want to go full trr-only and use a DoH server at https://example.com/dns. (it’s a pretend URI, it doesn’t work).

Figure out the bootstrapAddress with dig. Resolve the host name from the URI:

$ dig +short example.com
93.184.216.34

or if you prefer to be classy and use the IPv6 address (only do this if IPv6 is actually working for you)

$ dig -t AAAA +short example.com
2606:2800:220:1:248:1893:25c8:1946

dig might give you a whole list of addresses back, and then you can pick any one of them in the list. Only pick one address though.

Go to “about:config” and paste the copied IP address into the value field for network.trr.bootstrapAddress. Now TRR / DoH should be able to get going. When you can see web pages, you know it works!

DoH-only means only DoH

If you happen to start Firefox behind a captive portal while in trr-only mode, the connections to the DoH server will fail and no name resolves can be performed.

In those situations, normally Firefox’s captive portable detector would trigger and show you the login page etc, but when no names can be resolved and the captive portal can’t respond with a fake response to the name lookup and redirect you to the login, it won’t get anywhere. It gets stuck. And currently, there’s no good visual indication anywhere that this is what happens.

You simply can’t get out of a captive portal with trr-only. You probably then temporarily switch mode, login to the portal and switch the mode to 3 again.

If you “unlock” the captive portal with another browser/system, Firefox’s regular retries while in trr-only will soon detect that and things should start working again.

much faster curl uploads on Windows with a single tiny commit

These days, operating system kernels provide TCP/IP stacks that can do really fast network transfers. It’s not even unusual for ordinary people to have gigabit connections at home and of course we want our applications to be able take advantage of them.

I don’t think many readers here will be surprised when I say that fulfilling this desire turns out much easier said than done in the Windows world.

Autotuning?

Since Windows 7 / 2008R2, Windows implements send buffer autotuning. Simply put, the faster transfer and longer RTT the connection has, the larger the buffer it uses (up to a max) so that more un-acked data can be outstanding and thus enable the system to saturate even really fast links.

Turns out this useful feature isn’t enabled when applications use non-blocking sockets. The send buffer isn’t increased at all then.

Internally, curl is using non-blocking sockets and most of the code is platform agnostic so it wouldn’t be practical to switch that off for a particular system. The code is pretty much independent of the target that will run it, and now with this latest find we have also started to understand why it doesn’t always perform as well on Windows as on other operating systems: the upload buffer (SO_SNDBUF) is fixed size and simply too small to perform well in a lot of cases

Applications can still enlarge the buffer, if they’re aware of this bottleneck, and get better performance without having to change libcurl, but I doubt a lot of them do. And really, libcurl should perform as good as it possibly can just by itself without any necessary tuning by the application authors.

Users testing this out

Daniel Jelinski brought a fix for this that repeatedly poll Windows during uploads to ask for a suitable send buffer size and then resizes it on the go if it deems a new size is better. In order to figure out that if this patch is indeed a good idea or if there’s a downside for some, we went wide and called out for users to help us.

The results were amazing. With speedups up to almost 7 times faster, exactly those newer Windows versions that supposedly have autotuning can obviously benefit substantially from this patch. The median test still performed more than twice as fast uploads with the patch. Pretty amazing really. And beyond weird that this crazy thing should be required to get ordinary sockets to perform properly on an updated operating system in 2018.

Windows XP isn’t affected at all by this fix, and we’ve seen tests running as VirtualBox guests in NAT-mode also not gain anything, but we believe that’s VirtualBox’s “fault” rather than Windows or the patch.

Landing

The commit is merged into curl’s master git branch and will be part of the pending curl 7.61.1 release, which is due to ship on September 5, 2018. I think it can serve as an interesting case study to see how long time it takes until Windows 10 users get their versions updated to this.

Table of test runs

The Windows versions, and the test times for the runs with the unmodified curl, the patched one, how much time the second run needed as a percentage of the first, a column with comments and last a comment showing the speedup multiple for that test.

Thank you everyone who helped us out by running these tests!

Version Time vanilla Time patched New time Comment speedup
6.0.6002 15.234 2.234 14.66% Vista SP2 6.82
6.1.7601 8.175 2.106 25.76% Windows 7 SP1 Enterprise 3.88
6.1.7601 10.109 2.621 25.93% Windows 7 Professional SP1 3.86
6.1.7601 8.125 2.203 27.11% 2008 R2 SP1 3.69
6.1.7601 8.562 2.375 27.74% 3.61
6.1.7601 9.657 2.684 27.79% 3.60
6.1.7601 11.263 3.432 30.47% Windows 2008R2 3.28
6.1.7601 5.288 1.654 31.28% 3.20
10.0.16299.309 4.281 1.484 34.66% Windows 10, 1709 2.88
10.0.17134.165 4.469 1.64 36.70% 2.73
10.0.16299.547 4.844 1.797 37.10% 2.70
10.0.14393 4.281 1.594 37.23% Windows 10, 1607 2.69
10.0.17134.165 4.547 1.703 37.45% 2.67
10.0.17134.165 4.875 1.891 38.79% 2.58
10.0.15063 4.578 1.907 41.66% 2.40
6.3.9600 4.718 2.031 43.05% Windows 8 (original) 2.32
10.0.17134.191 3.735 1.625 43.51% 2.30
10.0.17713.1002 6.062 2.656 43.81% 2.28
6.3.9600 2.921 1.297 44.40% Windows 2012R2 2.25
10.0.17134.112 5.125 2.282 44.53% 2.25
10.0.17134.191 5.593 2.719 48.61% 2.06
10.0.17134.165 5.734 2.797 48.78% run 1 2.05
10.0.14393 3.422 1.844 53.89% 1.86
10.0.17134.165 4.156 2.469 59.41% had to use the HTTPS endpoint 1.68
6.1.7601 7.082 4.945 69.82% over proxy 1.43
10.0.17134.165 5.765 4.25 73.72% run 2 1.36
5.1.2600 10.671 10.157 95.18% Windows XP Professional SP3 1.05
10.0.16299.547 1.469 1.422 96.80% in a VM runing on Linux 1.03
5.1.2600 11.297 11.046 97.78% XP 1.02
6.3.9600 5.312 5.219 98.25% 1.02
5.2.3790 5.031 5 99.38% Windows 2003 1.01
5.1.2600 7.703 7.656 99.39% XP SP3 1.01
10.0.17134.191 1.219 1.531 125.59% FTP 0.80
TOTAL 205.303 102.271 49.81% 2.01
MEDIAN 43.51% 2.30

administrative purgatory

 your case is still going through administrative processing and we don’t know when that process will be completed.

Last year I was denied to go to the US when I was about to travel to San Francisco. Me and my employer’s legal team never got answers as to why this happened so I’ve personally tried to convince myself it was all because of some human screw-up. Because why would they suddenly block me? I’ve traveled to the US almost a dozen times over the years.

The fact that there was no reason or explanation given makes any theory as likely as the next. Whatever we think or guess might have happened can be true. Or not. We will probably never know. And I’ve been told a lot of different theories.

Denied again

In early April 2018 I applied for ESTA again to go to San Francisco in mid June for another Mozilla All Hands conference and… got denied. The craziness continues. This also ruled out some of the theories from last year that it was just some human error by the airline or similar…

As seen on the screenshot, this decision has no expire date… While they don’t provide any motivation for not accepting me, this result makes it perfectly clear that it wasn’t just a mistake last year. It makes me view last year with different eyes.

Put in this situation, I activated plan B.

Plan B

I then applied for a “real” non-immigrant visa – even though it feels that having been denied ESTA probably puts me in a disadvantage for that as well. Applying for this visa means filling in a 10-something-page “DS-160” form online on a site that sometimes takes minutes just to display the next page in the form where they ask for a lot of personal details. After finally having conquered that obstacle, I paid the 160 USD fee and scheduled an appointment to appear physically at the US embassy in Sweden.

I acquired an “extraction of the population register” (“personbevis” in Swedish) from the Swedish tax authorities – as required (including personal details of my parents and siblings), I got myself a new mugshot printed on photo paper and was lucky enough to find a date for an appointment not too far into the future.

Appointment

I spent the better part of a fine Tuesday morning in different waiting lines at my local US embassy where I eventually was called up to a man at a counter behind a window. I was fingerprinted, handed over my papers and told the clerk I have no idea why I was denied ESTA when asked, and no, I have not been on vacation in Iraq, Iran or Sudan. The clerk gave me the impression that’s the sort of thing that is the common reason for not getting ESTA.

When I answered the interviewer’s question that I work for Mozilla, he responded “Aha, Firefox?” – which brightened up my moment a little.

Apparently the process is then supposed to take “several weeks” until I get to know anything more. I explained that I needed my passport in three weeks (for another trip) and he said he didn’t expect them to be done that quickly.  Therefore I got the passport back while they process my application and I’m expected to mail it to them when they ask for it.

The next form

When I got back home again, I got an email from “the visa unit” asking me to fill in another form (in the shape of a Word document). And what a form it is! It might be called “OMB 1405-0226” and has this fancy title:

“SUPPLEMENTAL QUESTIONS FOR VISA APPLICANTS”

Among other things it requires me to provide info about all trips abroad (with dates and duration) I’ve done over the last 15 years. What aliases I use on social media sites (hello mr US visa agent, how do you like this post so far?), every physical address I’ve lived at in the last 15 years, information about all my employers the last 15 years and every email address I’ve used during the last 5 years.

It took me many hours digging through old calendars, archives and memories and asking around in order to fill this in properly. (“hey that company trip we did to Germany back in 2005, can you remember the dates?”) As a side-note: it turns out I’ve been in the US no less than nine times the last fifteen years. In total I managed to list sixty-five different trips abroad for this period.

How do I submit my filled-in form, with all these specific and very private details from my life for the last 15 years, back to “the visa unit”? By email. Good old insecure, easy to snoop on, email! At least I’m using my own mail server (and it is configured to prefer TLS for connections) but that’s a small comfort.

Is it worth it?

This is a very time and energy consuming process – I understand why this puts people off and simply make them decide its not worth it to go there. And of course I understand that I’m in a lucky position where I’ve not had to deal with this much in the past.

I have many friends and contacts in the US in both my personal and professional life. I would be sad if I couldn’t go there ever again. It would give me grief personally since it’ll limit where I can go on vacation and who out of my friends I can visit, but it will also limit my professional life as interesting Mozilla, Internet, open source and curl related events that I’d like to attend are frequently hosted there.

What’s happening?

So the weeks came and went and on May 29th,  six weeks after I was interviewed at the embassy, I checked the online service that allows me to check my application progress. It said “Case Created: April 17” and the following useful addition “Case Last Updated: April 17”.

Wat? Did something go fatally wrong here? I emailed the embassy to double-check. I got this single sentence response back:

Dear Sir,

You don't have to do anything, your case is still going through administrative processing and we don't know when that process will be completed.

In my life I’ve visited a whole series of countries for which I’ve been required to apply for a visa. None of them have ever taken more than a few weeks, including countries with complicated bureaucracy like India and China. What are they doing all this time?

At the time of this writing, more than 100 days have passed and I have still not heard back from them. I know this is unusually long and I have a strong suspicion this means they will deny me visa, but for some reason they want to keep me unaware for a while more.

No All Hands in the US

I clearly underestimated the time this required so I missed our meeting in SF this year again…

Mozilla has since then announced that a number of the forthcoming All Hands conferences in the coming years will be held outside of the US. Unfortunately several of them are to be held in Canada, and there are indications that having being denied entry to the US means that Canada will deny me as well. But I have yet to test that!

Why they deny me?

Me knowingly, I’ve never broken a law, rule or regulation that would explain this. Some speculations me and others can think of include…

  1. I’m the main author of curl, a tool that is used in a lot of security research and proof of concept exploits of security vulnerabilities
  2. I’m the main author of libcurl, a transfer library that is one of the world’s most widely used software components. It is subsequently also used extensively by malware and other offensive and undesired software.
  3. I use the name haxx.se domain for many of my sites and email address etc. haxx or hacking could be interpreted by some, not as “To program a computer in a clever, virtuosic, and wizardly manner” but as the act to “gain unauthorized access to data in a system or computer”.
  4. It’s been suggested that my presence at multiple conferences in the US over the years could’ve been a violation of the ESTA rules – but the rules explicitly allow this. I have not violated the ESTA rules.

Administrative Processing

It’s been 102 days now. I’m not optimistic.

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