Tag Archives: Spindly

The curl year 2012

2012

So what did happen in the curl project during 2012?

First some basic stats

We shipped 6 releases with 199 identified bug fixes and some 40 other changes. That makes on average 33 bug fixes shipped every 61st day or a little over one bug fix done every second day. All this done with about 1000 commits to the git repository, which is roughly the same amount of git activity as 2010 and 2011. We merged commits from 72 different authors, which is a slight increase from the 62 in 2010 and 68 in 2011.

On our main development mailing list, the curl-library list, we now have 1300 subscribers and during 2012 it got about 3500 postings from almost 500 different From addresses. To no surprise, I posted by far the largest amount of mails there (847) with the number two poster being Günter Knauf who posted 151 times. Four more members posted more than 100 times: Steve Holme (145), Dan Fandrich (131), Marc Hoersken (130) and Yang Tse (107). Last year I sent 1175 mails to the same list...

Notable events

I've walked through the biggest changes and fixes and here are the particular ones I found stood out during this otherwise rather calm and laid back curl year. Possibly in a rough order of importance...

  1. We started the year with two security vulnerability announcements, regarding an SSL weakness and an injection flaw. They were reported in 2011 though and we didn't get any further security alerts during 2012 which I think is good. Or a sign that nobody has been looking close enough...
  2. We got two interesting additions in the SSL backend department almost simultaneously. We got native Windows support with the use of the schannel subsystem and we got native Mac OS X support with the use of Darwin SSL. Thanks to these, we can now offer SSL-enabled libcurls on those operating systems without relying on third party SSL libraries.
  3. The VERIFYHOST debacle took off with "security researchers" throwing accusations and insults, ending with us releasing a curl release with the bug removed. It did however unfortunately lead to some follow-up problems in for example the PHP binding.
  4. During the autumn, the brokeness of WSApoll was identified, and we now build libcurl without it and as a result libcurl now works better on Windows!
  5. In an attempt to allow libcurl-using applications to avoid select() and its problems, we introduced the new public function curl_multi_wait. It avoids the FD_SETSIZE limit and makes it harder to screw up...
  6. The overly bloated User-Agent string for the curl tool was dramatically shortened when we cut out all the subsystems/libraries and their version numbers from the string. Now there's only curl and its version number left. Nice and clean.
  7. In July we finally introduced metalink support in the curl tool with the curl 7.27.0 release. It's been one of those things we've discussed for ages that finally came through and became reality.
  8. With the brand new HTTP CONNECT support in the test suite we suddenly could get much improved test cases that does SSL or just tunnel through an HTTP proxy with the CONNECT request. It of course helps us avoid regressions and otherwise improve curl and libcurl.

What didn't happen

  1. I made an attempt to get the spindly hacking going, but I've mostly failed with that effort. I have personally not had enough time and energy to work on it, and the interest from the rest of the world seems luke warm at best.
  2. HTTP pipelining. Linus Nielsen Feltzing has a patch series in the works with a much improved pipelining support for libcurl. I'll write a separate post about it once it gets in. Obviously we failed to merge it before the end of the year.
  3. Some of my friends like to mock me about curl not being completely IPv6 friendly due to its lack of support for Happy Eyeballs, and of course they're right. Making curl just do two connects on IPv6-enabled machines should be a fairly small change but yet I haven't yet managed to get into actually implementing it...
  4. DANE is SSL cert verification with records from DNS thanks to DNSSEC. Firefox has some experiments going and Chrome already supports it. This is a technology that truly can improve HTTPS going forwards and allow us to avoid the annoyingly weak and broken CA model...

I won't promise that any of these will happen during 2013 but I can promise there will be efforts...

The Future

I wrote a separate post a short while ago about the HTTP2 progress, and I expect 2013 to bring much more details and discussions in that area. Will we get SRV record support soon? Or perhaps even URI records? Will some of the recent discussions about new HTTP auth schemes develop into something that will reach the internet in the coming year?

In libcurl we will switch to an internal design that is purely non-blocking with a lot of if-then-that-else source code removed for checks which interface that is used. I'll make a follow-up post with details about that as well as soon as it actually happens.

Our Responsibility

curl and libcurl are considered pillars in the internet world by now. This year I've heard from several places by independent sources how people consider support by curl to be an important driver for internet technology. As long as we don't have it, it hasn't really reached everyone and that things won't get adopted for real in the Internet community until curl has it supported. As father of the project it makes me proud and humble, but I also feel the responsibility of making sure that we continue to do the right thing the right way.

I also realize that this position of ours is not automatically glued to us, we need to keep up the good stuff to make it stick.

cURL

HTTP2, SPDY and spindly right now

SPDYOn November 28, the HTTPbis group within the IETF published the first draft for the upcoming HTTP2 protocol. What is being posted now is a start and a foundation for further discussions and changes. It is basically an import of the SPDY version 3 protocol draft.

There's been a lot of resistance within the HTTPbis to the mandated TLS that SPDY has been promoting so far and it seems unlikely to reach a consensus as-is. There's also been a lot of discussion and debate over the compression SPDY uses. Not only because of the pre-populated dictionary that might already be a little out of date or the fact that gzip compression consumes a notable amount of memory per stream, but also recently the security aspect to compression thanks to the CRIME attack.

Meanwhile, the discussions on the spdy development list have brought up several changes to the version 3 that are suggested and planned to become part of the version 4 that is work in progress. Including a new compression algorithm, shorter length fields (now 16bit) and more. Recently discussions have brought up a need for better flexibility when it comes to prioritization and especially changing prio run-time. For like when browser users switch tabs or simply scroll down the page and you rather have the images you have in sight to load before the images you no longer have in view...

I started my work on Spindly a little over a year ago to build a stand-alone library, primarily intended for libcurl so that we could soon offer SPDY downloads for it. We're still only on SPDY protocol 2 there and I've failed to attract any fellow developers to the project and my own lack of time has basically made the project not evolve the way I wanted it to. I haven't given up on it though. I hope to be able to get back to it eventually, very much also depending on how the HTTPbis talk goes. I certainly am determined to have libcurl be part of the upcoming HTTP2 experiments (even if that is not happening very soon) and spindly might very well be the infrastructure that powers libcurl then.

We'll see...

HTTP2 Expression of Interest: curl

For the readers of my blog, this is a copy of what I posted to the httpbis mailing list on July 12th 2012.

Hi,

This is a response to the httpis call for expressions of interest

BACKGROUND

I am the project leader and maintainer of the curl project. We are the open source project that makes libcurl, the transfer library and curl the command line tool. It is among many things a client-side implementation of HTTP and HTTPS (and some dozen other application layer protocols). libcurl is very portable and there exist around 40 different bindings to libcurl for virtually all languages/enviornments imaginable. We estimate we might have upwards 500
million users
or so. We're entirely voluntary driven without any paid developers or particular company backing.

HTTP/1.1 problems I'd like to see adressed

Pipelining - I can see how something that better deals with increasing bandwidths with stagnated RTT can improve the end users' experience. It is not easy to implement in a nice manner and provide in a library like ours.

Many connections - to avoid problems with pipelining and queueing on the connections, many connections are used and and it seems like a general waste that can be improved.

HTTP/2.0

We've implemented HTTP/1.1 and we intend to continue to implement any and all widely deployed transport layer protocols for data transfers that appear on the Internet. This includes HTTP/2.0 and similar related protocols.

curl has not yet implemented SPDY support, but fully intends to do so. The current plan is to provide SPDY support with the help of spindly, a separate SPDY library project that I lead.

We've selected to support SPDY due to the momentum it has and the multiple existing implementaions that A) have multi-company backing and B) prove it to be a truly working concept. SPDY seems to address HTTP's pipelining and many-connections problems in a decent way that appears to work in reality too. I believe SPDY keeps enough HTTP paradigms to be easily upgraded to for most parties, and yet the ones who can't or won't can remain with HTTP/1.1 without too much pain. Also, while Spindly is not production-ready, it has still given me the sense that implementing a SPDY protocol engine is not rocket science and that the existing protocol specs are good.

By relying on external libs for protocol and implementation details, my hopes is that we should be able to add support for other potentially coming HTTP/2.0-ish protocols that gets deployed and used in the wild. In the curl project we're unfortunately rarely able to be very pro-active due to the nature of our contributors, which tends to make us follow the rest and implement and go with what others have already decided to go with.

I'm not aware of any competitors to SPDY that is deployed or used to any particular and notable extent on the public internet so therefore no other "HTTP/2.0 protocol" has been considered by us. The two biggest protocol details people will keep mention that speak against SPDY is SSL and the compression requirements, yet I like both of them. I intend to continue to participate in dicussions and technical arguments on the ietf-http-wg mailing list on HTTP details for as long as I have time and energy.

HTTP AUTH

curl currently supports Basic, Digest, NTLM and Negotiate for both host and proxy.

Similar to the HTTP protocol, we intend to support any widely adopted authentication protocols. The HOBA, SCRAM and Mutual auth suggestions all seem perfectly doable and fine in my perspective.

However, if there's no proper logout mechanism provided for HTTP auth I don't forsee any particular desire from browser vendor or web site creators to use any of these just like they don't use the older ones either to any significant extent. And for automatic (non-browser) uses only, I'm not sure there's motivation enough to add new auth protocols to HTTP as at least historically we seem to rarely be able to pull anything through that isn't pushed for by at least one of the major browsers.

The "updated HTTP auth" work should be kept outside of the HTTP/2.0 work as far as possible and similar to how RFC2617 is separate from RFC2616 it should be this time around too. The auth mechnism should not be too tightly knit to the HTTP protocol.

The day we can clense connection-oriented authentications like NTLM from the HTTP world will be a happy day, as it's state awareness is a pain to deal with in a generic HTTP library and code.

Travel for fun or profit

As a protocol geek I love working in my open source projects curl, libssh2, c-ares and spindly. I also participate in a few related IETF working groups around these protocols, and perhaps primarily I enjoy the HTTPbis crowd.

Meanwhile, I'm a consultant during the day and most of my projects and assignments involve embedded systems and primarily embedded Linux. The protocol part of my life tends to be left to get practiced during my "copious" amount of spare time - you know that time after your work, after you've spent time with your family and played with your kids and done the things you need to do at home to keep the household in a decent shape. That time when the rest of the family has gone to bed and you should too but if you did when would you ever get time to do that fun things you really want to do?

IETF has these great gatherings every now and then and they're awesome places to just drown in protocol mumbo jumbo for several days. They're being hosted by various cities all over the world so often I deem them too far away or too awkward to go to, also a lot because I rarely have any direct monetary gain or compensation for going but rather I'd have to do it as a vacation and pay for it myself.

IETF 83 is going to be held in Paris during March 25-30 and it is close enough for me to want to go and HTTPbis and a few other interesting work groups are having scheduled meetings. I really considered going, at least to meet up with HTTP friends.

Something very rare instead happened that prevents me from going there! My customer (for whom I work full-time since about six months and shall remain nameless for now) asked me to join their team and go visit the large embedded conference ESC in San Jose, California in the exact same week! It really wasn' t a hard choice for me, since this is my job and being asked to do something because I'm wanted is a nice feeling and position - and they're paying me to go there. It will also be my first time in California even though I guess I won't get time to actually see much of it.

I hope to write a follow-up post later on about what I'm currently working with, once it has gone public.

The first month of Spindly

Let me entertain you with some info and updates from the Spindly project. (Unfortunately we don't have any logo yet so I don't get to show it off here.)

Since I announced my intention to proceed and write the SPDY library on my own instead of waiting for libspdy to get back to life, I have worked on a number of infrastructure details.

I converted the build to use autotools and libtool to help us really make it a portable library. I made all test cases run without memory leaks and this took some amount of changes of libspdy since it was clearly not written with carefully checking memory and there were also a lot of unnecessarily small mallocs(). Anyone who does malloc() of 8 bytes should reconsider what they're doing.

Since I've had to bugfix the libspdy so much, change structs and APIs and add new functions that were missing I decided that there's no point in us trying to keep the original libspdy code or code style intact anymore so I've re-indented the whole code base to a style I like better than the original style.

I've started to write the fundamentals of a client and server demo application that is meant to use the Spindly API to implement both sides. They don't really do much yet but the basics are in place. I've worked more on my idea of what the spindly API should look like. I've written the code for a few functions from that API and I've also added a few tests for them.

Most of this work has been made by me and me alone with no particular feedback or help by others. I continue to push my changes to github without delay and I occasionally announce stuff on the mailing list to keep interested people up to date. Hopefully this will lead to someone else joining in sooner or later.

The progress has not been very fast, not only because I've had to do a lot of thinking about how the API should ideally work to be really useful, but also because I have quite a lot of commitments in other open source projects (primarily curl and libssh2) that require their amount of time, not to mention that my day job of course needs proper attention.

We offer a daily snapshot of the code if you can't use or don't want to use git.

Upcoming

I intend to add more functions from the API document, one by one and test cases for each as I go along. In parallel I hope to get the demo client and server to run so that the API proves to actually work properly.

I want the demo client and server also to allow them to run interop tests against other implementations and I want them to be able to speak SPDY with SSL switched off - for debugging reasons. Later on, I hope to be able to use the demo server in the curl test suite so that I can test that the curl SPDY integration works correctly.

We need to either fix "check" (the unit test suite) to work C89 compatible or replace it with something else.

Want to help?

If you want to help, please subscribe to the mailing list, get familiar with the code base, study the API doc and see if it makes sense to you and then help me get that API turned into code...