Tag Archives: wget

Bjarni got the award 2010

The Nordic Free Software Award 2010 was given the Icelandic hacker Bjarni Rúnar Einarsson.

The formal handing over of the prize was done during the social event at FSCONS 2010, with hundreds of free software hackers attending and a lot joy. Bjarni was also immediately invited to participate in the NFSA jury for next year, in an attempt to start a tradition of getting former winners on the jury.

NFSA-award

I’m happy to say that I served in the jury for the award this year. We were a bunch of Nordic free software enthusiasts in there, involving several previous winners. The winner this year, Bjarni Rúnar, was selected by us having a nomination process in which we received I believe 11 names and then a subsequent voting within the jury.

I did the press release draft and Karsten from FSFE polished it into something much better. I think that will go out early this week and I am now even mentioned as press contact for Sweden about the award. The FSFE posted their announcement, including my last name wrongly spelled…

The social event then went on with lots of free software talks with cool people from the entire Nordic region, and I certainly met a whole bunch of friendly hackers I didn’t know before. It was also great fun to run into Giuseppe, the current wget maintainer.

(The picture might just be a fake.)

cookie order

I’ve previously mentioned the IETF httpstate working group several times, and here’s some insights into one topic we’re currently discussing:

HTTP Cookie: sort order

The current httpstate draft for the updated cookie spec says that cookies that are sent to a server with the Cookie: header in a HTTP request need to be sorted. They must be sorted primarily on path length and secondary on creation-time.

According to others on the http-state mailinglist, that’s exactly what the major browsers do already and they thus think we should document that as that’s how cookies work.

During these discussions I’ve learned that cookies with the same name that have been specified with different paths, will all be sent in the request and thus they need to be sent in a particular order and in fact even the original Netscape “spec” said so. I agree with this and I’ve also modified libcurl to act accordingly.

I hold the position that only cookies that have identical names need this treatment and that’s what we must specify. Implementers however will most likely find that sorting all cookies at once will be easier.

The secondary sort key, the creation-time, is much more questionable. Why would the server care about that? How can they even rely on that?

Previously in this discussion (back in August 2009) I checked other open source cookie implementations to see how they deal with cookie sorting. I learned that perl’s LWP does sort them based on path length but on nothing else. The following tools did no sorting at all: wget, curl, libsoup, pavuk, lftp and aria2. I have no doubts that we can find more if we would search for more implementations in more languages and environments.

Specifying that sorting is a MUST on path length will still keep LWP and the next curl version compliant. Specifying that they MUST sort on creation-date as well will then make all of these projects non-conforming.

One problem I have in the cookie discussion in general is that the (5?) major browsers pretty much all behave the same and while the 5 major browsers have almost 100% of the web browser market for users, we cannot then automatically assume that they have 100% of the HTTP client or cookie-using client market. We just don’t know how many applications, tools and frameworks exist out there that aren’t actually browsers but still are using cookies.

Of course, I want to say that creation-time sorting is pointless but I have nothing to back that up with. No numbers. The other side of the discussion has a bunch of browsers that sort like this already, but no numbers or evidence if servers rely on this or how many that do.

Can any reader of this find a site out there that depends on the cookie order being sorted on creation-date?

(Reminder: the charter for the HTTPSTATE working group is to document existing widely used practices. It is not to solve problems or to fix problems in the existing cookie protocol. We all know and acknowledge that cookies as they currently work are quite flawed and painful.)

Code re-use is fun

Back in 2003 I wrote up support for the HTTP NTLM authentication method for libcurl. Happy with my achievement, I later that year donated a GPL licensed version of my code to the Wget project (which also was my first contact with the signed paper stuff with the GNU/FSF to waive my copyright claims and instead hand them over). What was perhaps not so amusing with this code was when both curl and Wget 2005 were discovered to have the same security flaw due to my mistakes in this code shared by both projects!

Just recently, the neon project seems to be interested in taking on the version I adjusted somewhat for them, so possibly the third HTTP code is soon using this. Yeah I posted it on their mailing list back then so it has been sitting there in the archives maturing for some 6 years by now…

I also happened to fall over the SSH Tunnel Creator tool, which I’ve never used myself, that apparently snatched my neon donation (quite according to what the license allowed of course) and used it in their tool to do NTLM!

It’s actually not until recent years I discovered libntlm, and while I don’t know how good it was back in the days when I wrote my first NTLM stuff I generally think using existing libs is the better idea…

murl for extended curlness

I’m a firm believer in the old unix mantra of letting each tool do its job and do it well, and pass on the rest of the work to the next tool. I’ve always stated that curl should remain this way and that it should remain within its defined walls and not try to do everything.

But time passes and more and more ideas are thrown up in the air, or in some cases directly at me, and the list of things that we could do but don’t due to this philosophical limit of remaining focused has grown. It currently includes at least:

  • metalink support
  • recursive HTML downloads
  • recursive/wildcard FTP transfers
  • bittorrent support
  • automatic proxy configuration
  • simultaneous/parallel download support

Educated readers of course immediately detect that this list (if implemented) would make a tool that basically does what wget already does (and a lot more) and I’ve explicitly said for a decade that curl is not a wget clone. Maybe it is time for us (me?) to reevaluate that sentiment – at least in some sense.

I don’t want to sacrifice the concepts that have worked so fine for curl under so many years, so I’m still firmly against stuffing all this into curl (or libcurl). That simply will not happen with me at the wheel.

A much more interesting alternative would be to instead start working on a second tool within the curl project: murl. A tool that does basically everything that curl already does, but also opens the doors for adding just about everything else we can cram in and that is still related to data transfers. That would include, but not be restricted to, all the fancy stuff mentioned in the list above!

No the name murl is not set in stone, nor is this whole idea anything but plain and early thoughts thrown out at this point so it may or may not actually take off. It will probably depend on if I get support and help from fellow hackers to get started and moving along.

cURL

Getting cacerts for your tools

As the primary curl author, I’m finding the comments here interesting. That blog entry “Teaching wget About Root Certificates” is about how you can get cacerts for wget by downloading them from curl’s web site, and people quickly point out how getting cacerts from an untrusted third party place of course is an ideal situation for an MITM “attack”.

Of course you can’t trust any files off a HTTP site or a HTTPS site without a “trusted” certificate, but thinking that the curl project would run one of those just to let random people load PEM files from our site seems a bit weird. Thus, we also provide the scripts we do all this with so that you can run them yourself with whatever input data you need, preferably something you trust. The more paranoid you are, the harder that gets of course.

On Fedora, curl does come with ca certs (at least I’m told recent Fedoras do) and even if it doesn’t, you can actually point curl to use whatever cacert you like and since most default installs of curl uses OpenSSL like wget does, you could tell curl to use the same cacert your wget install uses.

This last thing gets a little more complicated when one of the two gets compiled with a SSL library that doesn’t easily support PEM (read: NSS), but in the case of curl in recent Fedora they build it with NSS but with an additional patch that allows it to still be able to read PEM files.

Fresh CA Cert Bundle Anyone?

cURLThe popular ca extract service on the curl web site converts the Firefox ca certs into a PEM file suitable for use with curl, wget or anything else OpenSSL-based that likes PEM formatted CA cert bundles.

The main script was fixed yesterday as it was previously getting a nightly source code snapshot to get the “magic” file to convert from, but I noticed they stopped updating the nightly source snapshots a good while ago so the updates had stopped!

Now, the script only gets the actually needed certdata file and converts it, so now it downloads a lot less data in vain and it also thus runs much faster. Now the PEM files offered on that page are up-to-date with the most recent Firefox.

wget going libcurl?

Micah Cowan is the current maintainer of GNU Wget, and he recently posted a long mail to the wgetA gnu head! mailing list titled “Thoughts on Wget 1.x, 2.0“.

Two fun quotes for the curious who don’t feel like reading the whole post:

1. On the subject of making wget deal with multiple simultanous connections/requests: The obvious solution to that is to use c-ares, which does exactly that: handle DNS queries asynchronously. Actually, I didn’t know this until just now, but c-ares was split off from ares to meet the needs of the curl developers.

2. Following the first reasoning, they can indeed get away with even less work if they base that work on an existing solution: While I’ve talked about not reinventing the wheel, using existing packages to save us the trouble of having to maintain portable async code, higher-level buffered-IO and network comm code, etc, I’ve been neglecting one more package choice. There is, after all, already a Free Software package that goes beyond handling asynchronous network operations, to specifically handle asynchronous _web_ operations; I’m speaking, of course, of libcurl. There would seem to be some obvious motivation for simply using libcurl to handle all asynchronous web traffic, and wrapping it with the logic we need to handle retries, recursion, timestamping, traversing, selecting which files to download, etc. Besides async web code, of course, we’d also automatically get support for a number of various protocols (SFTP, for example) that have been requested in Wget.libcurl

I am of course happy to see that the consideration exists – even if this won’t go further than just expressed in a mail. I did ventilate this idea to the wget people back in 2001, and even though we’re now more than six years down the road since then the situation is now even more clear: libcurl is a much more capable and proven transport layer solution and it supports much more protocols than wget is/does.

Me biased? naaah… 🙂

curl vs wget, really

Ok, since people truly and actually often ask me about what the differences are between curl and Wget, it might be suitable to throw in my garbage here and state the main differences as I see them. Please consider my bias towards curl since after all, curl is my baby – but I have contributed code to Wget as well.

curl

  • Features and is powered by libcurl -a cross-platform library with a stable API that can be used by each and everyone. This difference is major since it creates a completely different attitude on how to do things internally. It is also slightly harder to make a library than a “mere” command line tool.
  • Pipes. curl is more in the traditional unix-style, it sends more stuff to stdout, and reads more from stdin in a “everything is a pipe” manner.cURL
  • Return codes. curl returns a range of defined and documented return codes for various (error) situations.
  • Single shot. curl is bascially made to do single-shot transfers of data.It transfers just the URLs that
    the user specifies, and does not contain any recursive downloading logic or any sort of HTML parser.
  • More protocols. curl supports FTP, FTPS, HTTP, HTTPS, SCP, SFTP, TFTP, TELNET, DICT, LDAP, LDAPS and FILE at the time of this writing. Wget supports HTTP, HTTPS and FTP.
  • More portable. Ironically curl builds and runs on lots of more platforms than wget, in spite of their attempts to keep things conservative. For example, VMS, OS/400, TPF and other more “exotic” platforms that aren’t straight-forward unix clones.
  • More SSL libraries and SSL support. curl can be built with one out of four different SSL/TLS libraries, and it offers more control and wider support for protocol details.
  • curl (or rather libcurl) supports more HTTP authentication methods, and especially when you try over HTTP proxies.

wget

  • Wget is command line only. There’s no lib or anything. Personally I’ve always disliked the project doesn’t provide a man page as they stand in the GNU side of this and consider “info” pages to be the superior way to document things like this. I strongly disagree.
  • Recursive! Wget’s major strong side compared to curl is its ability to download recursively, or even just download everything that is referred to from a remote resource, be it a HTML page or a FTP directory listing.A gnu head!
  • Older. Wget has traces back to 1995, while curl can be tracked back no longer than 1997.
  • Less developer activity. While this can be debated, I consider three metrics here: mailing list activity, source code commit frequency and release frequency. Anyone following these two projects can see that the curl project has a lot higher pace in all these areas, and it has indeed been so for several years.
  • HTTP 1.0. Wget still does its HTTP operations using HTTP 1.0, and while that is still working remarkably fine and hardly ever is troublesome to the end-users, it is still a fact. curl has done HTTP 1.1 since March 2001 (while still offering optional 1.0 requests).
  • GPL. Wget is 100% GPL v2, which I believe is going v3 really soon when they release their next release. curl is MIT licensed.
  • GNU. Wget is part of the GNU project and all copyrights are assigned to them etc. The curl project is entirely stand-alone and independent with no organization parenting at all.

This turned out to be a long post and it might in fact be usable to save for the future, so I’m also posting this as a more permanent doc on my site on this URL: http://daniel.haxx.se/docs/curl-vs-wget.html. So possible updates will be done there. Do let me know if you have further evident differences or if you disagree with me on details here!