A Day in a Pile of Work

My personal Web development blog

Valum web micro-framework category

Valum is a web micro-framework written in the Vala programming language. It is a powerful and minimalistic tool build on VSGI, a middleware that supports multiple HTTP servers and communication protocols.

Valum class diagram can provide you a good idea of the internal architecture of the framework. It is a SVG generated by Dia, an good general purpose diagram editor.

To have a better understanding of how VSGI processes a client request, you may consult the client request processing UML sequence diagram.

Valadoc.org Rewrite and More! in Valum

The rewrite of valadoc.org in Vala using Valum has been completed and should be deployed eventually be elementary OS team (see pull #40). There’s a couple of interesting stuff there too:

  • experimental search API using JSON via the /search endpoint
  • GLruCache now has Vala bindings and an improved API
  • an eventual GMysql wrapper around the C client API if extracting the classes I wrote is worth it

In the meantime, you can test it at valadoc2.elementary.io and report any regression on the pull-request.

Valum 0.3 has been patched and improved while I have been working on the 0.4 feature set. There’s a work-in-progress WebSocket middleware, VSGI 1.0 and support for PyGObject planned.

If everything goes as planned, I should finish the AJP backend and maybe consider Lwan.

On the top, there’s Windows support coming, although the most difficult part is to test it. I might need some help there to setup AppVeyor CI.

I’m aware of the harsh discussions about the state of Vala and whether or not it will just end into an abysmal void. I would advocate inertia here: the current state of the language still make it an excelllent candidate for writing GNOME-related software and this is not expected to change.

Posted on .

Announcing Valum 0.3 in Valum

The first release candidate for Valum 0.3 has been launched today!

Get it, test it and be the first to find a bug! The final release will come shortly after along with various Linux distributions packages.

This post review the changes and features that have been introduced since the 0.2. There’s been a lot of work, so take a comfortable seat and brew yourself a strong coffee.

The most significant change has probably been the introduction of Meson as a build system and all the new deployment strategy it now makes possible.

If you prefer avoiding a full install, it’s not possible to use it as a subproject. These are defined as subdirectories of subprojects, which you can conveniently track using git submodules.

project('', 'c', 'vala')

glib = dependency('glib-2.0')
gobject = dependency('gobject-2.0')
gio = dependency('gio-2.0')
soup = dependency('libsoup-2.4')
vsgi = subproject('valum').get_variable('vsgi')
valum = subproject('valum').get_variable('valum')

executable('app', 'app.vala',
           dependencies: [glib, gobject, gio, soup, vsgi, valum])

Once installed, however, all that is needed is to pass --pkg=valum-0.3 to the Vala compiler.

vala --pkg=valum-0.3 app.vala

In app.vala,

using Valum;
using VSGI;

public int main (string[] args) {
    var app = new Router ();

    app.get ("/", (req, res) => {
        return res.expand_utf8 ("Hello world!");

    return Server.@new ("http", handler: app)
                 .run (args);

There’s been a lot of new features and I hope I won’t miss any!

There’s a new url_for utility in Router that comes with named route. It basically allow one to reverse URLs patterns defined with rules and raw paths.

All that is needed is to pass a name to rule, path or any method helper.

I discovered the : notation for named varidic arguments if they alternate between strings and values. This is typically used to initialize GLib.Object.

using Valum;
using VSGI;

var app = new Router ();

app.get ("/", (req, res) => {
    return "<a href=\"%s\">View profile of %s</a>".printf (
        app.url_for ("user", id: "5"), "John Doe");

app.get ("/users/<int:id>", (req, res, next, ctx) => {
    var id = ctx["id"].get_string ();
    return res.expand_utf8 ("Hello %s!".printf (id));
}, "user");

In Router, we also have:

  • asterisk to handle * URI
  • once for performing initialization
  • path for a path-based route
  • rule to replace method
  • register_type rather than a GLib.HashTable<string, Regex>

Another significant change is that the previous state stack has been replaced by a context tree with recursive key resolution. It pretty much maps string to GLib.Value in a non-destructive way.

In terms of new middlewares, you’ll be glad to see all the built-in functionnalities we now support:

  • authentication with support for the Basic scheme via authenticate
  • content negotiation via negotiate, accept and more!
  • static resource delivery from GLib.File and GLib.Resource bundles
  • basic to strip the Router responsibilities
  • subdomain
  • basepath to prefix URLs
  • cache_control to set the Cache-Control header
  • branch on raised status codes
  • perform work safely and don’t let any error leak!
  • stream events with stream_events

Now, which one to cover?

The basepath is my personal favourite, because it allow one to create prefix-agnostic routers.

var app = new Router ();
var api = new Router ();

// matches '/api/v1/'
api.get ("/", (req, res) => {
    return res.expand_utf8 ("Hello world!");

app.use (basepath ("/api/v1", api.handle));

The only missing feature is to retranslate URLs directly from the body. I think we could use some GLib.Converter here.

The negotiate middleware and it’s derivatives are really handy for declaring the available representations of a resource.

app.get ("/", accept ("text/html; text/plain", (req, res, next, ctx, ct) => {
    switch (ct) {
        case "text/html":
            return res.expand_utf8 ("");
        case "text/plain":
            return "Hello world!";
            assert_not_reached ();

There’s a lot of stuff happening in each of them so refer to the docs!

Quick review into Request and Response, we now have the following helpers:

  • lookup_query to fetch a query item and deal with its null case
  • lookup_cookie and lookup_signed_cookie to fetch a cookie
  • cookies to get cookies from a request and response
  • convert to apply a GLib.Converter
  • append to append a chunk into the response body
  • expand to write a buffer into the response body
  • expand_stream to pipe a stream
  • expand_file to pipe a file
  • end to end a response properly
  • tee to tee the response body into an additional stream

All the utilities to write the body come in _bytes and _utf8 variants. The latter properly set the content charset when appliable.

Back into Server, implementation have been modularized with GLib.Module and are now dynamically loaded. What used to be a VSGI.<server> namespace now has become simply Server.new ("<name>"). Implementations are installed in ${prefix}/${libdir}/vsgi-0.3/servers, which can be overwritten by the VSGI_SERVER_PATH environment variable.

The VSGI specification is not yet 1.0, so please, don’t write a custom server for now or if you do so, please submit it for inclusion. There’s some work-in-progress for Lwan and AJP as I speak if you have some time to spend.

Options have been moved into GLib.Object properties and a new listen API based on GLib.SocketAddress makes it more convenient than ever.

using VSGI;

var tls_cert = new TlsCertificate.from_files ("localhost.cert",
var http_server = Server.new ("http", https: true,
                                      tls_certificate: tls_cert);

http_server.set_application_callback ((req, res) => {
    return res.expand_utf8 ("Hello world!");

http_server.listen (new InetSocketAddress (new InetAddress.loopback (SocketFamily.IPV4), 3003));

new MainLoop ().run ();

The GLib.Application code has been extracted into the new VSGI.Application cushion used when calling run. It parses the CLI, set the logger and handle SIGTERM into a graceful shutdown.

Server can also fork to scale on multicore architectures. I’ve backtracked on the Worker class to deal with IPC communication, but if anyone is interested into building a nice clustering system, I would be glad to look into it.

That wraps it up, the rest can be discovered in the updated docs. The API docs should be available shortly via valadoc.org.

I manage to cover this exhaustively with abidiff, a really nice tool to diff two ELF files.

Long-term notes

Here’s some long-term notes for things I couldn’t put into this release or that I plan at a much longer term.

  • multipart streams
  • digest authentication
  • async delegates
  • epoll and kqueue with wip/pollcore
  • schedule future release with the GNOME project
  • GIR introspection and typelibs for PyGObject and Gjs

The GIR and typelibs stuff might not be suitable for Valum, but VSGI could have a bright future with Python or JavaScript bindings.

Coming releases will be much less time-consuming as there’s been a big step to make to have something actually usable. Maybe every 6 months or so.

Posted on and tagged with Vala.

Merged GModule branch! in Valum

Valum now support dynamically loadable server implementation with GModule!

Server are typically looked up in /usr/lib64/vsgi/servers with the libvsgi-<name>.so pattern (although this is highly system-dependent).

This works by setting the RPATH to $ORIGIN/vsgi/servers of the VSGI shared library so that it looks into that folder first.

The VSGI_SERVER_PATH environment variable can be set as well to explicitly provide a directory containing implementations.

To implement a compliant VSGI server, all you need is a server_init symbol which complies with ServerInitFunc delegate like the following:

public Type server_init (TypeModule type_module) {
    return typeof (VSGI.Custom.Server);

public class VSGI.Custom.Server : VSGI.Server {
    // ...

It has to return a type that is derived from VSGI.Server and instantiable with GLib.Object.new. The Vala compiler will automatically generate the code to register class and interfaces into the type_module parameter.

Some code from CGI has been moved into VSGI to provide uniform handling of its environment variables. If the protocol you want complies with that, just subclass (or directly use) VSGI.CGI.Request and it will perform all the required initialization.

public class VSGI.Custom.Request : VSGI.CGI.Request {
    public Request (IOStream connection, string[] environment) {
        base (connection, environment);

For more flexibility, servers can be loaded with ServerModule directly, allowing one to specify an explicit lookup directory and control when the module should be loaded or unloaded.

var cgi_module = new ServerModule (null, "cgi");

if (!cgi_module.load ()) {
    assert_not_reached ();

var server = Object.new (cgi_module.server_type);

I received very useful support from Nirbheek Chauhan and Tim-Philipp Müller for setting the necessary build configuration for that feature.

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Content Negotiation in Valum

I recently finished and merged support for content negotiation.

The implementation is really simple: one provide a header, a string describing expecations and a callback invoked with the negotiated representation. If no expectation is met, a 406 Not Acceptable is raised.

app.get ("/", negotiate ("Accept", "text/xml; application/json",
                         (req, res, next, ctx, content_type) => {
    // produce according to 'content_type'

Content negotiation is a nice feature of the HTTP protocol allowing a client and a server to negotiate the representation (eg. content type, language, encoding) of a resource.

One very nice part allows the user agent to state a preference and the server to express quality for a given representation. This is done by specifying the q parameter and the negotiation process attempt to maximize the product of both values.

The following example express that the XML version is poor quality, which is typically the case when it’s not the source document. JSON would be favoured – implicitly q=1 – if the client does not state any particular preference.

accept ("text/xml; q=0.1, application/json", () => {


Mounted as a top-level middleware, it provide a nice way of setting a Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8 header and filter out non-compliant clients.

using Tmpl;
using Valum;

var app = new Router ();

app.use (accept ("text/html", () => {
    return next ();

app.use (accept_charset ("UTF-8", () => {
    return next ();

var home = new Template.from_path ("templates/home.html");

app.get ("/", (req, res) => {
    home.expand (res.body, null);

This is another step forward a 0.3 release!

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Fork! in Valum

Ever heard of fork?

using GLib;
using VSGI.HTTP;

var server = new Server ("", () => {
    return res.expand_utf8 ("Hello world!");

server.listen (new VariantDict ().end ());
server.fork ();

new MainLoop ().run ();

Yeah, there’s a new API for listening and forking with custom options…

The fork system call will actually copy the whole process into a new process, running the exact same program.

Although memory is not shared, file descriptors are, so you can have workers listening on common interfaces.

I notably tested the whole thing on our cluster at IRIC. It’s a 64 cores Xeon Core i7 setup.

wrk -c 1024 -t 32

With a single worker:

Running 10s test @
  32 threads and 1024 connections
  Thread Stats   Avg      Stdev     Max   +/- Stdev
    Latency    54.35ms   95.96ms   1.93s    98.78%
    Req/Sec   165.81    228.28     2.04k    86.08%
  41741 requests in 10.10s, 5.89MB read
  Socket errors: connect 35, read 0, write 0, timeout 13
Requests/sec:   4132.53
Transfer/sec:    597.28KB

With 63 forks (64 workers):

Running 10s test @
  32 threads and 1024 connections
  Thread Stats   Avg      Stdev     Max   +/- Stdev
    Latency    60.83ms  210.70ms   2.00s    93.58%
    Req/Sec     2.99k   797.97     7.44k    70.33%
  956577 requests in 10.10s, 135.02MB read
  Socket errors: connect 35, read 0, write 0, timeout 17
Requests/sec:  94720.20
Transfer/sec:     13.37MB

It’s about 1500 req/sec per worker and an speedup of a factor of 23. The latency is almost not affected.

Posted on .

Basepath in Valum

I have recently introduced a basepath middleware and I thought it would be relevant to describe it further.

It’s been possible, since a while, to compose routers using subrouting. This is very important to write modular applications.

var app = new Router ();
var user = new Router ();

user.get ("/user/<int:id>", (req, res, next, ctx) => {
    var id = ctx["id"] as string;
    var user = new User.from_id (id);
    res.extend_utf8 ("Welcome %s", user.username);

app.rule ("/user", user.handle);

Now, using basepath, it’s possible to design the user router without specifying the /user prefix on rules.

This is very important, because we want to be able to design the user router as if it were the root and rebase it on need upon any prefix.

var app = new Router ();
var user = new Router ();

user.get ("/<int:id>", (req, res) => {
    res.extend_utf8 ("Welcome %s".printf (ctx["id"].get_string ()))

app.use (basepath ("/user", user.handle));

How it works

When passing through the basepath middleware, request which have a prefix-match with the basepath are stripped and forwarded.

But there’s more!

That’s not all! The middleware also handle errors that set the Location header from Success.CREATED and Redirection.* domains.

user.post ("/", (req, res) => {
    throw new Success.CREATED ("/%d", 5); // rewritten as '/user/5'

It also rewrite the Location header if it was set directly.

user.post ("/", (req, res) => {
    res.status = Soup.Status.CREATED;
    res.headers.replace ("Location", "/%d".printf (5));

Rewritting the Location header is exclusively applied on absolute paths starting with a leading slash /.

It can easily be combined with the subdomain middleware to provide a path-based fallback:

app.subdomain ("api", api.handle);
app.use (basepath ("/api/v1", api.handle));

Posted on .

Just reached 6.3k req/sec in Valum

I often profile Valum’s performance with wrk to ensure that no regression hit the stable release.

It helped me identifying a couple of mistakes n various implementations.

Anyway, I’m glad to announce that I have reached 6.3k req/sec on small payload, all relative to my very lowgrade Acer C720.

The improvements are available in the 0.2.14 release.

  • wrk with 2 threads and 256 connections running for one minute
  • Lighttpd spawning 4 SCGI instances

Build Valum with examples and run the SCGI sample:

./waf configure build --enable-examples
lighttpd -D -f examples/scgi/lighttpd.conf

Start wrk

wrk -c 256


Running 1m test @
  2 threads and 256 connections
  Thread Stats   Avg      Stdev     Max   +/- Stdev
    Latency    40.26ms   11.38ms 152.48ms   71.01%
    Req/Sec     3.20k   366.11     4.47k    73.67%
  381906 requests in 1.00m, 54.31MB read
Requests/sec:   6360.45
Transfer/sec:      0.90MB

There’s still a few things to get done:

  • hanging connections benchmark
  • throughput benchmark
  • logarithmic routing #144

The trunk buffers SCGI requests asynchronously, which should improve the concurrency with blocking clients.

Lighttpd is not really suited for throughput because it buffers the whole response. Sending a lot of data is problematic and use up a lot of memory.

Valum is designed with streaming in mind, so it has a very low (if not neglectable) memory trace.

I reached 6.5k req/sec, but since I could not reliably reproduce it, I prefered posting these results.

Posted on .

Progress Update in Valum

My up key stopped working, so I’m kind of forced into vim motions.

All warnings have been fixed and I’m looking forward enforcing --experimental-non-null as well.

The response head is automatically written on disposal and the body is not closed explicitly when a status is thrown.

In the mean time, I managed to backport write-on-disposal into the 0.2.12 hotfix.

I have written a formal grammar and working on an implementation that will be used to reverse rules.

VSGI Redesign

There’s some work on a slight redesign of VSGI where we would allow the ApplicationCallback to return a value. It would simplify the call of a next continuation:

app.get ("", (req, res, next) => {
    if (some_condition)
        return next (req, res);
    return res.body.write_all ("Hello world!".data, null);

In short, a boolean returned tells if the request is or will eventually be handled.

The only thing left is to decide what the server will do about not handled requests.

Update (Feb 21, 2016)

This work has been merged and it’s really great because it provides major improvements:

  • no more 404 at the bottom of perform_routing, we use the return value to determine if any route has matched
  • OPTIONS work even if no route has matched: a 404 Not Found would be thrown with the previous approach

Yeah, we are even handling OPTIONS! It produce a 0-length body with the Allow header assigned with a list of available methods for the resource.


The Response class now has a expand and expand_utf8 methods that work similarly to flatten for Request.

app.get ("", (req, res) => {
    return res.expand_utf8 ("Hello world!");

It will deal with writting the head, piping the passed buffer and close the response stream properly.

The asynchronous versions are provided if gio (>=2.44) is available during the build.

SCGI improvements

Everything is not buffered in a single step and resized on need if the request body happen not to hold in the default 4kiB buffer.

I noticed that set_buffer_size literally allocate and copy over data, so we avoid that!

I have also worked on some defensive programming to cover more cases of failure with the SCGI protocol:

  • encoded lengths are parsed with int64.try_parse, which prevented SEGFAULT
  • a missing CONTENT_LENGTH environment variable is properly handled

I noticed that SocketListener also listen on IPv6 if available, so the SCGI implementation has a touch of modernity! This is not available (yet) for FastCGI.

Right now, I’m working on supporting UNIX domain socket for SCGI and libsoup-2.4 implementations.

It’s rolling at 6k req/sec behind Lighttpd on my shitty Acer C720, so enjoy!

I have also fixed errors with the FastCGI implementation: it was a kind of major issue in the Vala language. In fact, it’s not possible to return a code and throw an exception simultaneously, which led to an inconsistent return value in OutputStream.write.

To temporairly fix that, I had to supress the error and return -1. I’ll have to hack this out eventually.

In short, I managed to make VSGI more reliable under heavy load, which is a very good thing.

Posted on .

v0.2.9 Released! in Valum

I have just backported important fixes from the latest developments in this hotfix release.

  • fix blocking accept call
  • async I/O with FastCGI with UnixInputStream and UnixOutputStream
  • backlog defaults to 10

The blocking accept call was a real pain to work around, but I finally ended up with an elegant solution:

  • use a threaded loop for accepting a new request
  • delegate the processing into the main context

FastCGI mutiplexes multiple requests on a single connection and thus, it’s hard to perform efficient asynchronous I/O. The only thing we can do is polling the unique file descriptor we have and to do it correctly, why not reusing gio-unix-2.0?

The streams are reimplemented by deriving UnixInputStream and UnixOutputStream and overriding read and write to write a record instead of the raw data. That’s it!

I have also been working on SCGI: the netstring processing is now fully asynchronous. I couldn’t backport it as it was depending on other breaking changes.

Posted on .

Roadmap for the 0.3 series in Valum

The 0.2 series has focused on bringing the basics that will guide the upcoming features.

Here’s the roadmap for the next release 0.3 of Valum:

  • aggressive optimization based on GLib.Sequence
  • content negociation
  • HTTP authentification (basic and digest)
  • static resource delivery
  • VSGI loader
  • multipart streams
  • typed rule parameters using GType
  • filters
  • Python and Gjs bindings

The following features have been integrated in the trunk:

  • flags for HTTP methods
  • default HEAD to GET (still need to strip the body)
  • routing context rather than a stack that provide states and services
  • shared libraries for VSGI implementations compatible with GLib.TypeModule
  • Router.asterisk to handle asterisk URI *
  • inheritence for Route to split concerns
  • less responsibilities in Route subclasses to encapsulate scopes, types and other features in Router
  • register_type API for the incoming typed parameters

Status handlers has been reworked and cleaned up to cover more cases using a switch block.

  • status handlers are executed in the Router context rather than a double try-catch for consistent behaviours
  • the error message is only used for headers that MUST be part of the response, except for redirection codes

Aggressive Optimizations

Okay, let me calm down. The idea is to bring routing in the O(log n) world by using a GLib.Sequence which consist of a binary tree data structure.

Basically, we have a sequence of Route objects and we try to find in the least number of attempts the next one that accepts a given request.

In short, here’s what should be done:

  • sorting by exclusive criteria (method, version, …)
  • sorting by usage
  • pre-lookup using a trie-based index

I still need to figure out more, it’s all in issue #144.


With the common ground set, this series will bring useful middlewares to process Request and Response efficiently.

To avoid confusion about what a middleware is, I decided to apply the term only to HandlerCallback instances.

Content Negociation

Content negociation is implemented as a set of middlewares which check the request, set the appropriate headers and forward the processing.

If the produced resource is not acceptable, next is called unless NegociateFlags.FINAL is specified. Then, a 406 Not Acceptable is raised.

app.get ("", accept ("text/html", (req, res) => {
    res.body.write_all ("<!DOCTYPE html><html>Hello world!</html>");

app.get ("", accept ("text/plain", (req, res) => {
    res.body.write_all ("Hello world!");
}, NegociateFlags.FINAL));

The latests improvements are awaiting tests.

Static Resources Delivery

Static resources can be served from a path or a resource bundle. It support multiple options:

  • ETag which identify the resource uniquely to prevent transmission
  • Last-Modified (only for path)
  • X-Sendfile if the HTTP server supports it
  • mark the delivered resource as public for caches
  • deliver asynchronously

Delivery from GLib.Resource defaults on the global resources.

The only requirement is to provide a path key in the routing context, which can be easily done with a rule or a regular expression:

using Valum.Static;

app.get ("<path:path>", serve_from_resources (ServeFlags.ENABLE_ETAG));

It’s living here in #143.

Flags for HTTP methods

This is a really nice feature.

HTTP methods are now hanlded as flags in the Router to perform very efficient match.

Standard methods are available in Method enumeration along with the following symbols:

  • ALL to capture all standard method
  • OTHER to capture non-standard method
  • ANY to capture any method

If OTHER is specified, it must be implemented in the matching callback.

all and methods have been removed from Router for obvious reasons and method has been renamed to rule to remain consistent.

app.rule (Method.GET | Method.POST, "", () => {


app.rule (Method.ALL, "", () => {


app.rule (Method.ANY, "", () => {


Method.GET actually stands for Method.ONLY_GET | Method.HEAD so that it can also capture HEAD requests. It’s pretty handy, but I still need to figure out how to strip the produced body.

VSGI Loader

More details here: #130.

Loading of application described as a dynamic module (see GModule for more details) will be brought by a small utility named vsgi. It will be able to spawn instances of the application using a VSGI implementation.

The application has to be written in a specific manner and provide at least one entry point:

public HandlerCallback app;

[CCode (cname = "g_module_check_init")]
public check_init () {
    var _app = new Router ();

    app = _app.handle;

[CCode (cname = "g_module_unload")]
public void unload () {
    app = null;
vsgi --directory=build --server=scgi app:app

All VSGI implementations are loadable and compatible with GLib.TypeModule.

The application is automatically reloaded on SIGHUP and it should be possible to implement live reloading with GLib.FileMonitor to facilitate the development as well as integration of Ivy to beautify the stack trace.

Multipart I/O Streams

The multipart stream is essential for any web application that would let clients submit files.

The implementation will be compatible with Soup.MultipartInputStream.

app.post ("", (req, res) => {
   var multipart_body = new MultipartInputStream (req.headers, req.body);

   InputStream? part;
   MessageHeaders part_headers;
   while (part = multipart_body.next_part (out part_headers) != null) {
      if (part_headers.get_content_disposition ())

Typed Rule Parameters

The use of GType to interpret and convert rule parameters is essential for an optimal integration with GLib.

The idea is to declare types on the Router and attempt a conversion before pushing the parameter on the context.

app.register_type ("int", /\w+/, typeof (int));

app.get ("<int:i>", (req, res, next, ctx) => {
    var i = ctx["i"].get_int ();

Type conversion can be registered with GLib.Value.register_transform_func:

Value.register_transform_func (typeof (string),
                               typeof (int),
                               (src, ref dest) => {
    dest = (Value) int.parse ((string) src);

One useful approach would be to reverse that process to generate URLs given a rule.

Posted on .

Quick Update in Valum

I couldn’t touch the framework much these last days due to my busy schedule, so I just wanted to write a few words.

I like the approach used by Express.js to branch in the routing by providing a forward callback and call it if some conditions are met.

It is used for content negociation and works quite nicely.

app.get ("", accept ("text/html", (req, res, next) => {
    // user agent understands 'text/html'

    // well, finally, it's not available
    next (req, res);

app.get ("", (req, res) => {
    // user agent wants something else

Other negociator are provided for the charset, encoding and much more. All the wildcards defined in the HTTP/1.1 specification are understood.

The code for static resource delivery is almost ready. I am finishing some tests and it should be merged.

It supports the production of the following headers (with flags):

  • ETag
  • Last-Modified
  • Cache-Control: public

And can deliver resources from a GResource bundle or a GFile path path. This also means that any GVFS backends are supported.

If the resource is not found, next is invoked to dispatch the request to the next handler.

One last thing is GSequence, which store a sorted sequence in a binary tree. I think that if we can sort Route objects in some way, this could provide a really effective routing in logarithmic time.

Or using a Trie

Posted on .

Sixteenth Week Update in Valum

This last weekly update marks the final release of valum-0.2 and a couple of things happened since the last beta release:

  • code and documentation improvements
  • handle all status codes properly by using the message as a payload
  • favour read_all over read and write_all over write for stream operations
  • all and methods now return the array of created Route objects
  • move cookies-related utilities back to VSGI
  • sign and verify for cryptographically secure cookies
  • filters and converters for Request and Response

I decided to move the cookies-related utilities back into VSGI, considering that VSGI provide a layer over libsoup-2.4 and cookies utilities are simply adapting to the Request and Response objects.

I introduced sign and verify to perform cookie signature and verification using HMAC.

using Soup;
using VSGI;

var cookie = new Cookie ("name", "value", ...);

cookie.@value = Cookies.sign (cookie, ChecksumType.SHA512, secret);

string @value;
if (Cookies.verify (cookie.@value, ChecksumType.SHA512, secret, out @value)) {
    // cookie is authentic and value is stored in @value

The signing process uses a HMAC signature over the name and value of the cookie to guarantee that we have produced the value and associated it with the name.

The signature is computed as follow:

HMAC (algorithm, secret, HMAC (algorithm, secret, value) + name) + value


  • the algorithm is chosen from the GChecksumType enumeration
  • the secret is chosen
  • the name and value are from the cookie

The documentation has been updated with the latest changes and some parts were rewritten for better readability.

Filters and converters

Filters and converters are basis to create filters for Request and Response objects. They allow a handling middleware to apply composition on these objects to change their typical behaviour.

Within Valum, it is integrated by passing the Request and Response object to the NextCallback.

app.get ("", (req, res, next) => {
    next (req, new BufferedResponse (res));
}).then ((req, res) => {
    // all operations on res are buffered, data are sent when the
    // stream gets flushed
    res.write_all ("Hello world!".data, null);

These are just a beginning and the future releases will introduce a wide range of filters to create flexible pipelines.

Work on Mirdesign testcases

I have been actively working on Mirdesign testcases and finished its API specification.

  • final API specification
  • poll for status update
  • grammar productions and tokens implementation in JavaScript to generate code from an AST

The work on grammar productions and tokens in JavaScript will eventually lead to a compliant implementation of Mirdesign which will be useful if we decide to go further with the project. The possible outcome would be to provide all the capabilities of the language in an accessible manner to people in the field.

To easily integrate dependencies, Browserify is used to bundle relevant npm packages.

  • store.js to store data in localStorage with multiple fallbacks
  • codemirror to let user submit its own design
  • lex to lex a Mirdesign input
  • numeral to generate well formatted number according to Mirdesign EBNF
  • fasta-parser to parse a fasta input

I updated the build system to include the JS compilation with Google Closure Compiler and generation of API documentation with Swagger in the parallel build. I first thought using another build system specialized in compiling front-end applications, but waf is alread well adapted for our needs.

    rule   = 'browserify ${SRC} | closure-compiler --js_output_file ${TGT} -',
    target = 'mirdesign.min.js',
    source = 'mirdesign.js')

Google Closure Compiler performs static type checking, minification and generation of highly optimized code. It was essential to ensure type safety for the use of productions and tokens.

JSDocs is used to produce the documentation for the productions, tokens as well as the code backing the user interface.

I decoupled the processing function from the ThreadPool as we will eventually target a cluster using TORQUE to perform computation.

Long-term features:

  • API key to control resource usage
  • monitor CPU usage per user
  • theme for the user interface

Posted on .

Fourteenth Week Update in Valum

The 0.2.0-beta has been released with multiple improvements and features that were described in the preceeding update. It can be downloaded from GitHub as usual or installed from the Docker image.

The documentaion has been nicely improved with more contextual notes to put emphasis on important points.

The framework has reached a really good level of stability and I should promptly release a stable version in the coming week.

There’s a couple of features I think that could be worth in the stable release:

  • listen to multiple sources (socket, file descriptor, )
  • listen to an arbitrary socket using a descriptive URL

I have implemented a lookup function for cookies which finds a cookie in the request headers by its name.

var cookie = Cookies.lookup ("session", req.headers);


I started working more seriously on the side project as I could meet up with Nicolas Scott to discuss what kind of web applications will be developed with Valum.

Mirdesign HIV prototype built with Semantic UI.

But first, let me briefly introduce you to his work. He works on µRNA simulations using a modified version of an algorithm that performs matches between two sets: µRNA and genes (messaging RNA) from a cell line.

He developed a language that let one efficiently describe and execute simulations. It does not have a name, but the whole thing is named Mirdesign, “Mir” standing for µRNA.

The web application will become a showcase for his work by providing specific testcases his language can actually describe. It consists of two layers:

  • an API written with Valum and backed by a worker pool, memcached, MySQL and JSON documented here with Swagger
  • a client written with Semantic UI that consumes the API

As of now, we decided to go on with a HIV testcase that would let one select a cell line, the amount of µRNA to pour and some extra genes that could be specified or extracted from a FASTA file.

If it works well, other testcases will be implemented to cover yet unexplored aspects of Mirdesign.

There’s still a couple of things to work out:

  • parsing the FASTA file (fasta will be used)
  • generating a Mirdesign word from user input
  • exposing (partially) the MySQL database through the web API
  • change the processing backend (TORQUE or other cluster)

Posted on and tagged with Mirdesign and Valum.

Twelvth week update (from 29/06/15 to 17/07/15) in Valum

I have been very busy in the last weeks so this update will cover the work of three weeks instead of a typical bi-weekly update.

There’s no release announcement as I have been working on the assignment I have to realize with the framework and steadily worked toward the 0.2.0-beta release.

Alongside, I have been working on feature for the 0.3 serie which will introduce middlewares. I have prototyped the following:

  • HTTP authentication (basic and digest)
  • content negociation
  • static resources

I have also introduced then in Route, which is a really handy feature to create handling sequences and implemented the trailer from the chunked encoding.

Update from Colomban!

I had an unexpected update from the developer of CTPL, Colomban Wendling. We have talked a few weeks ago about the possibilities of having GObject Introspection into the library so that we could generate decent bindings for Vala.

He’s got something working and I will try to keep a good eye on the work so that we can eventually ship a better binding for the templating engine.

CTPL is a good short-term solution for templating and if the library evolves and integrates new features, it could possibly be a replacement for a possible Mustache implementation.

The two big issues with CTPL is the lack of basic features:

  • filters
  • mapping
  • array of array

Filters let one attach a function to the environment so that it can be applied on the variables instead of pre-processing the data.

Mappings could be easily implemented if Ctpl.Environ would be allowed to contain themselves.

Containers are limited to hold scalars of the same type, which is quite restrictive and prevents many usages.

Working prototype

I have a working prototype for the assignment that I will briefly describe here.

In order to expose the algorithm developed by Nicolas Scott for his Ph. D thesis, I decided to describe a RESTful API with the following endpoints:

PUT /task
GET /task/{uuid}
DELETE /task/{uuid}
GET /task/{uuid}/results
GET /tasks
GET /statistics

The task is still a very generic concept as I do not know much about what kind of data will be poured into the program.

  1. client submits a task with its data
  2. the task is created (stored in memcached) and then queued in a ThreadPool
    • the pool eventually process the task in a worker thread
  3. client requests the results of the task and either one of the following scenario occurs:
    • the task is queued or processing and a 4xx is thrown
    • the task is completed and the result is transmitted

I have finished bindings for libmemcachedutil, which provides a connection pool which has roughly doubled the throughput.

There’s still a few things to do:

  • GLib.MainLoop integration for libmemcached bindings to let the loop schedule request processing and memcached operations
  • client based on Semantic UI (in progress…)

Semantic UI has nice API mapping capabilities that will be very useful to present the data interactively.

The project will be containerized and shipped probably on Google Compute Engine as it supports Docker.


This feature is really handy as it is common to reuse the matching process for a sequence of handling callbacks. I will be introduced in the 0.3 branch as it will work nicely along middlewares.

app.get ("", (req, res, next) => {
    // step 1
}).then ((req, res, next) => {
    // step 2
}).then ((req, res) => {
    // step 3

Posted on .

Shipping Valum on Docker in Valum

It’s now official, we have a Docker container that provides the framework and let you deploy an application easily.

Posted on and tagged with Docker.

Writting bindings for libmemcached in Valum

In the past day, I have been working on writting bindings for libmemcached so that I can use it on my project assignment.

I bound the error.h, server.h, server_list.h, storage.h, touch.h and quit.h headers.

It is now possible, from Vala, to do the following operations:

  • querying the server about the last error
  • add a server from tcp, udp, UNIX socket with an optional weight
  • parsing servers list
  • store values with operations like set, add, replace, append and prepend
  • touch entries to update their expiration timestamp
  • quit the memcached server connection
  • interacting with an instance

I plan to write the complete binding to dig a little more the language. The hardest part still remain, but it should be done neatly.

  • the asynchronous result API with mget and fetch_result
  • various callbacks
  • SASL and other external dependencies

Posted on and tagged with Memcached.

Toward a first release in Valum

I’m working on the beta release that should bring minor improvements and more definitive APIs.

  • JSON example and documentation with json-glib
  • final renaming to ensure a quality and elegant API
  • CGI and SCGI implementations

The next step is a stable 0.2.0 release which should happen in the coming weeks.

  • RPM packaging and distribution (see Valum on COPR)
  • Docker container example using the RPM package

Invocation in the Router context

This feature was missing from the last release and solves the issue of calling next when performing asynchronous operations.

When an async function is called, the callback that will process its result does not execute in the routing context and, consequently, does not benefit from any form of status handling.

app.get ("", (req, res, next) => {
    res.body.write_async ("Hello world!".data, () => {
        next (); // if next throws anything, it's lost

What invoke brings is the possibility to invoke a NextCallback in the context of any Router, typically the current one.

app.get ("", (req, res, next) => {
    res.body.write_async ("Hello world!".data, () => {
        app.invoke (req, res, next);

It respects the HandlerCallback delegate and can thus be used as a handling middleware with the interesting property of providing an execution context for any pair of Request and Response.

The following example will redirect the client as if the redirection was thrown from the API router, which might possibly handle redirection in a particular manner.

app.get ("api", (req, res) => {
    // redirect old api calls
    api.invoke (req, res, () => { throw new Redirection ("http://api.example.com"); })

As we can see, it offers the possibility of executing any NextCallback in any routing context that we might need and reuse behiaviours instead of reimplementing them.

RPM packaging

I wrote a specfile for RPM packaging so that we can distribute the framework on RPM-based distributions like Fedora and openSUSE. The idea is to eventually offer the possibility to install Valum in a Docker container to facilitate the deployment of web services and applications.

I have literally no knowledge about Debian packaging, so if you would like to give me some help on that, I would appreciate.

Posted on .

Ninth week update (from 15/06/15 to 26/06/15) in Valum

The past week were higly productive and I managed to release the 0.2.0-alpha with a very nice set of features.

There are 38 commits separating v0.1.4-alpha and v0.2.0-alpha tags and they contain a lot of work.

Click the arrow to see the 38 commits descriptions. 1f9f7da Version bump to 0.2.0-alpha. 0ecbf22 Fixes 9 warnings for the VSGI implementations. 64df1f5 Test for the ChunkedConverter. cc9f320 Fixes libsoup-2.4 (<2.50) output stream operations. de27c7b Renames Server.application for Server.handle. f302255 Improvments for the documentation. c6587a0 Removes reference to connection in Response. 5232c48 Write the head when a status is handled to avoid an empty message. 61961ee Fixes the code formatting for the handling process. 05aca66 Improves the documentation about asynchronous processing. 41ce7a7 Removes timeout as it is not usable with the processing model. 42bbfc7 Updates waf to 1.8.11 and uses the valac threading fix. 7588cf2 Exposes head_written as a property in Response. 4754131 Merge branch '0.2/redesign-async-model' 409e920 Updates the documentation with 0.2/* changes. acf6200 Explicitly closes with async operations. 22d8c54 Provides SimpleIOStream for gio-2.0 (<2.44). eeaeee1 Considers 0-sized chunk as ending chunk in ChunkedConverter. 86b0752 Provides write_head and write_head_async to write status line and headers. 11e3a34 Uses reference counting to free a request resources. 19dc0e2 Replaces VSGI.Application with a delegate. 53e6f24 Ignores the HTTP query in 'REQUEST_URI' environment variable. 5596323 Improves testability of FastCGI implementation and provide basic tests. fb6b0c4 FastCGI streams uses polling to perform read and write operations. 3ec5a22 Tests for the libsoup-2.4 implementation of VSGI. 869fe00 Fixes 2 compilation warnings. dfc98e4 Adds a transparent gzip compression example using ZLibCompressor. 79f9b18 Write request http_version in response status line. 937ceb2 Avoid relying on states to write status line and headers. e73ebd6 Properly close the request and response body in end default handler. fc57bf0 Documentation for converters. 384fd97 Reimplements chunked streams with a Converter. c7c718c Renames raw_body of base_stream in Response. 0479739 steal_connection is available with libsoup-2.4 (>=2.50) 2a25d8d Set Transfer-Encoding for chunked in Router setup with HTTP/1.1. c8ebad7 Writes status line and headers in end if it's not already done. 1678cb1 Uses ChunkedOutputStream by default in Response base implementation. bb10337 Uses real stream by VSGI implementations.

Some of these commits were introduced prior to the seventh week update, the exact date can be checked from GitHub.

In summary,

  • asynchronous processing with RAII
  • steal the connection for libsoup-2.4 implementation
  • write_head and write_head_async
  • head_written property to check if the status line and headers has been written in the response

I am working toward a stable release with that serie, the following releases will bring features around a solid core in a backward-compatible manner.

Three key points for what’s coming next:

  • middlewares
  • components
  • documentation
  • distribution (RPM, Debian, …)
  • deployment (Docker, Heroku, …)

Finishing the APIs

All the features are there, but I really want to take some time to clean the APIs, especially ensuring that naming is correct to make a nice stable release.

I have also seeked feedback on Vala mailing list, so that I can get some reviews on the current code.

Asserting backward compatibility

Eventually, the 0.2.0 will be released and marked stable. At this point, we will have a considerable testsuite that can be used against following releases.

According to semantic versionning (the releasing model we follow), any hoftix or minor releases has to guarantee backward-compatibility and it can easily be verified by running the testsuite from the preceeding release against the new one.

Once we will have an initial stable release, it would be great to setup a hook to run the older suites in the CI.

What’s next?

There is a lot of work in order to make Valum complete and I might not be done by the summer. However, I can get it production-grade and usable for sure.

CGI and SCGI implementations are already working and I will integrate them in the 0.3.0 along with some middlewares.

Middlewares are these little piece of processing that makes routing fun and they were thouroughly described in the past posts. The following features will make a really good start:

  • content negociation
  • internationalization (extract the domain from a request)
  • authentication (basic, digest, OAuth)
  • cache (E-Tag, Last-Modified, …)
  • static resource serving from File or Resource
  • jsonify GObject

They will be gradually implemented in minor releases, but first they must be thought out as there won’t be no going-backs.

I plan to work a lot on optimizing the current code a step further by passing it in Valgrind and identify the CPU, memory and I/O bottlenecks. The improvments can be released in hotfixes.

Valum will be distributed on two popular Linux distributions at first: Ubuntu and Fedora. I personally use Fedora and it would be a really great platform for that purpose as it ships very innovative open source software.

Once distributed, it will be possible to install the software package in a container like Docker or a hosting service like Heroku and make development a pleasing process and large-scale deployment possible.

Posted on .

Release for tomorrow! in Valum

Tomorrow, I will be releasing the first version of the 0.2 serie of Valum web micro-framework.

There’s still a couple of tests to make to ensure that everything is working perfectly and I will distribute the 0.2.0-alpha.

This serie will target an eventually stable release after which rules will be enforced to ensure API compatibility. It will definately mark the end of the last days prototyping.

Good night y’all!

Posted on .

0.1.4-alpha released! in Valum

I am happy to announce the release of a 0.1.4-alpha version of Valum web micro-framework that bring minor improvments and complete CLI options for VSGI.Soup.


The cookies were moved from VSGI to Valum since it’s only an abstraction over request and response headers. VSGI aims to be a minimal protocol and should provide just enough abstraction for the HTTP stack.

CLI options for VSGI.Soup

This is quite of a change and brings a wide range of new possibilities with the libsoup-2.4 implementation. It pretty much exposes Soup.Server capabilities through CLI arguments.

In short, it is now possible to:

  • listen to IPv4 or IPv6 only
  • listen from a file descriptor
  • liste from all network interfaces (instead of locally) with --all
  • enable HTTPS and specify a certificate and a key
  • set the Server header with --server-header
  • prevent Request-URI from being url-decoded with --raw-paths

The implementation used to listen from all interfaces, but this is not a desired behiaviour. The --all flag will let the server listen on all interfaces.

The behiaviour for --timeout has been fixed and now relies on the presence of the flag to enable a timeout instead of a non-zero value. This brings the possibility to set a timeout of value of 0.

There is some potential work for supporting arbitrary socket, but it would require a new dependency gio-unix that would only support UNIX-like systems.

Posted on .

Seventh week update 1/06/15 to 12/06/15 in Valum

Since the 0.1.0-alpha release, I have been releasing a bugfix release every week and the APIs are continuously stabilizing.

I have released 0.1.2-alpha with a couple of bugfixes, status code handlers and support for null as a rule.

I have also released a 0.1.3-alpha that brought bugfixes and the possibility to pass a state in next.

Along with the work on the current releases, I have been working on finishing the asynchronous processing model and developed prototypes for both CGI and SCGI protocols.

Passing a state!

It is now possible to transmit a state when invoking the next continuation so that the next handler can take it into consideration for producing its response.

The HandlerCallback and NextCallback were modified in a backward-compatible way so that they would propagate the state represented by a Value?.

The main advantage of using Value? is that it can transparently hold any type from the GObject type system and primitives.

This feature becomes handy for various use cases:

  • pass a filtered stream over the response body for the next handler
  • compute and transmit in separate handlers
    • the computation handler is defined once and pass the result in next
    • different handlers for transmitting different formats (JSON, XML, HTML, plain text, …)
  • fetch data common to a set of routes
  • build a component like a session or a model from the request and pass it to the next route

This example shows how a state can be passed to conveniently split the processing in multiple middlewares and obtain a more modular application.

app.scope ("user/<int:id>", (user) => {
    // fetch the user in a generic manner
    app.all (null, (req, res, next) => {
        var user = new User.from_id (req.params["id"]);

        if (user.loaded())
            throw new ClientError.NOT_FOUND ("User with id %s does not exist.".printf (req.params["id"]));

        next (user);

    // GET /user/{id}/
    app.get ("", (req, res, next, state) => {
        User user = state;
        next (user.username);

    // render an arbitrary JSON object
    app.all (null, (req, res, next, state) => {
        var generator = new Json.Generator ();

        // generate compacted JSON
        generator.pretty = false;

        generator.set_root (state);

        generator.to_stream (res.body);

It can also be used to build a component like a Session from the request cookies and pass it.

app.all (null, (req, res, next) => {
    for (var cookie in  req.cookies)
        if (cookie.name == "session")
            { next (new Session.from_id (cookie.value)); return; }
    var session = new Session ();
    // create a session cookie
    res.cookies.append (new Cookie ("session", session.id));

This feature will integrate very nicely with content negociation middlewares that will be incorporated in a near future. It will help solving typical case where a handler produce a data and other handlers worry about its transmission in a desired format.

app.get ("some_data", (req, res, next) => {
    next ("I am a state!");

app.matcher (accept ("application/json"), (req, res, next, state) => {
    // produce a json response
    res.write ("{\"message\": \"%s\"}".printf (state.get_string ()));

app.matcher (accept ("application/xml"), (req, res, next, state) => {
    // produce a xml response
    res.write ("<message>%s</message>".printf (state.get_string ()))

This new feature made it into the 0.1.3-alpha release.

Toward a minor release!

I have been delayed by a bug when I introduced the end continuation to perform request teardown and I hope I can solve it by friday. To avoid blocking the development, I have been introducing changes in the master branch and rebased the 0.2/* upon them.

The 0.2.0-alpha will introduce very important changes that will define the asynchronous processing model we want for Valum:

  • write the response status line and headers asynchronously
  • end continuation invoked in synchronous or asynchronous contexts
  • assign the bodies to filter or redirect them
  • lower-level libsoup-2.4 implementation that takes advantage of non-blocking stream operations
  • polling for FastCGI to perform non-blocking operations

Most of these changes have been implemented and will require tests to ensure their correctness.

Some design changes have pushed the development a bit forward as I think that the request teardown can be better implemented with reference counting.

Two major changes improved the processing:

  • the state of a request is not wrapped in a connection, which is typically implemented by an IOStream
  • the request and response hold the connection, so whenever both are out of scope, the connection is freed and the resources are released

Not all implementation provide an IOStream, but it can easily be implemented and used to free any resources in its destructor.

I hope this can make it in the trunk by friday, just in time for the lab meeting.

New implementation prototypes

I have been working on CGI and SCGI prototypes as these are two very important protocols for the future of VSGI.

CGI implements the basic CGI specification which is reused in protocols like FastCGI and SCGI. The great thing is that they can use inheritence to reuse behiaviours from CGI like the environment extraction to avoid code duplication.

Posted on .

Rebasing Valum in Valum

In order to keep a clean history of changes, we use a rebasing model for the development of Valum.

The development often branches when features are too prototypical to be part of the trunk, so we use branch to maintain these different states.

Some branches are making a distinct division in the development like those maintaining a specific minor release.

  • master
  • 0.1/*
  • 0.2/*

They are public and meant to be merged when the time seems appropriate.

At some point of the development, we will want to merge 0.2/* work into the master branch, so the merge is a coherent approach.

When rebasing?

However, there’s those branches that focus on a particular feature that does not consist of a release by themselves. Typically, a single developer will focus on bringing the changes, propose them in a pull request and adapt them with others reviews.

It is absolutely correct to push --force on these submissions as it is assumed that the author has authority on the matter and it would be silly for someone else to build anything from a work in progress.

If changes have to be brought, amending and rewritting history is recommended.

If changes are brought on the base branch, rebasing the pull request is also recommended to keep things clean.

The moment everyone seems satisfied with the changes, it gets merged. GitHub creates a merge commit even when fast-forwarding, but it’s okay considering that we are literally merging and it has the right semantic.

Let’s just take a typical example were we have two branches:

  • master, the base branch
  • 0.1/route-with-callback, a branch containing a feature

Initially, we got the following commit sequence:

master -> route-with-callback

If a hotfix is brought into master, 0.1/route-with-callback will diverge from master by one commit:

master -> hotfix
master -> route-with-callback

Rebasing is appropriate and the history will be turned into:

master -> hotfix -> route-with-callback

When the feature’s ready, the master branch can be fast-forwarded with the feature. We get that clean, linear and comprehensible history.

How do I do that?

Rebasing is still a cloudy git command and can lead to serious issues from a newcomer to the tool.

The general rule would be to strictly rebase from a non-public commit. If you rebase, chances are that the sequence of commits will not match others, so making sure that your history is not of public authority is a good starter.

git rebase -i is what I use the most. It’s the interactive mode of the rebase command and can be used to rewrite the history.

When invoked, you get the rebasing sequence and the ability to process each commit individually:

  • squash will meld two commits
  • fixup is like squash, but will discard the squashed commit message
  • reword will prompt you for editing the commit message

I often stack work in progress in my local history because I find it easier to manage than stashes. When I introduce new changes on my prototypes, I fixup the appropriate commit.

However, you can keep a cleaner work environment and branch & rebase around, it’s as appropriate. You should do what you feel the best with to keep things manageable.

Hope that’s clear enough!

Posted on and tagged with git.

0.1.1-alpha released! in Valum

Valum 0.1.1-alpha has been released, the changeset is described in the fifth week update I published yesterday.

You can read the release notes on GitHub to get a better idea of the changeset.

I am really proud of announcing that release as it bring two really nice features:

  • next continuation in the routing process
  • all and methods

These two features completely replace the need for a setup signal. It’s only a matter of time before teardown disappear with the end continuation and status handling that the 0.2.0-alpha release will bring.

I expect the framework to start stabilizing on the 0.2.* branch when the asynchronous processing model will be well defined and VSGI more solid.

Okay, I’m back to work now ;)

Posted on .

Fifth week update 18/05/15 to 29/05/15 in Valum

These past two weeks, I have bee working on a new release 0.2.0-alpha and fixed a couple of bugs in the last release.

To make thing simple, this report will cover what have been introduced in 0.1.1-alpha and 0.2.0-alpha releases separately.

The 0.2.0-alpha should be released by the fifth of june (05/05/15) and will introduce the so awaited asynchronous processing model.

As of right now

I have fixed a couple of bugs, backported minor changes from the 0.2.0-alpha and introduced minor features for the 0.1.1-alpha release.

Here’s the changelog:

e66277c Route must own a reference to the handler.
ec89bef Merge pull request #85 from valum-framework/0.1/methods
b867548 Documents all and methods for the Router.
42ecd2f Binding a callback to multiple HTTP methods.
e81d4d3 Documents how errors are handled with the next continuation.
5dd296e Example using the next continuation.
ec16ea7 Throws a ClientError.NOT_FOUND in process_routing.
fb04688 Introduces Next in Router.
79d6ef5 Support HTTPS URI scheme for FastCGI.
29ce894 Uses a synchronous request processing model for now.
e105d00 Configure option to enable threading.
5f8bf4f Request provide HTTPVersion information.
0b78178 Exposes more GObject properties for VSGI.
33e0864 Renames View splice function for stream.
3c0599c Fixes a potential async bug with Soup implementation.
91bba60 Server documentation.

It is not possible to access the HTTP version in the Request, providing useful information about available features.

I fixed the --threading option and submitted a patch to waf development that got merged in their trunk.

FastCGI implementation honors the URI scheme if it sets the HTTPS environment variable. This way, it is possible to determine if the request was secured with SSL.

I enforced a synchronous processing model for the 0.1.* branch since it’s not ready yet.

It is now possible to keep routing if we decide that a handler does not complete the user request processing. The next continuation is crafted to continue routing from any point in the route queue. It will also propagate Redirection, ClientError and ServerError up the stack.

app.get ("", (req, res, next) => {
    next ();

app.get ("", (req, res) => {
    res.write ("Hello world!".data);

It is now possible to connect a handler to multiple HTTP methods at once using all and methods functions in the router.

The Route is safer and keep a strong reference to the handler callback. This avoid a potentially undesired deallocation.

Changes for the next release

The next release 0.2.0-alpha will focus on the asynchronous processing model and VSGI specification.

In short,

  1. the server receives a user request
  2. the request is transmitted to the application with a continuation that release the request resources
  3. the application handles the pair of request and response:
    • it may invoke asynchronous processings
    • it returns as fast as possible the control to the server and avoid any synchronous blocking on I/O
    • it must invoke the end continuation when all processing have completed so that the server can release the resources
  4. the server is ready to receive a new request

The handler is purely synchronous, this is why it is not recommended to perform blocking operations in it.

app.get ("", (req, res, end) => {
    res.write ("Hello world!".data);
    res.close ();
    end ();

This code should be rewritten with write_async and close_async to return the control to the server as soon as possible.

app.get ("", (req, res, end) => {
    res.write_async ("Hello world".data, Priority.DEFAULT, null,
                 () => {
        res.close_async (Priority.DEFAULT, null, () => {
            end ();

Processing asynchronously has a cost, because it delegates the work in an event loop that awaits events from I/O.

The synchronous version will execute faster, but it will not scale well with multiple requests and significant blocking. The asynchronous model will outperform this easily due to a pipeline effect.

VSGI improvments

Request and Response now have a base_stream and expose a body that may filter what’s being written in the base_stream. The libsoup-2.4 implementation uses that capability to perform chunked transfer encoding.

There is no more inheritence from InputStream or OutputStream, but this can be reimplemented using FilterInputStream and FilterOutputStream.

I have implemented a ChunkedConverter to convert data into chunks of data according to RFC2126 section 3.6.1.

It can also be used to do transparent gzip compression using the ZlibCompressor.

Soup reimplementation

The initial implementation was pretty much a prototype wrapping a MessageBody with an OutputStream interface. It is however possible to steal the connection and obtain an IOStream that can be exposed.

MessageBody would usually worry about transfer encoding, but since we are working with the raw streams, some work will have to be done in order to provide that encoding capability.

In HTTP, transfer encoding determines how the message body will be transmitted to its recipient. It provides information to the client about what amount of data will be transfeered.

Two possible transfeer encoding exist:

  • use the Content-Length header, the recipient expects to receive that number of bytes
  • use chunked in Transfer-Encoding header, the recipient expects to receive a chunk size followed by the content of the chunk

TCP guarantees the order of packets and thus, the order of the received chunks.

I implemented an OutputStream capable of encoding written data according to the header of the response. It can be composed with other streams from the GIO api, which is more flexible than a MessageBody.

The response exposes two streams:

  • output_stream, the raw and protected stream
  • body, the public and safe for transporting the message body

Some implementations (CGI, FastCGI, etc…) delegate the transfer encoding responsbiility to the HTTP server.

Status handling

The setup and teardown approach have been deprecated in favour of next continuation and status handling.

Handler can be connected to status thrown during the processing of a request.

If a status handler throws a status, it will be captured by the Router. This can be used to cancel the effect of a redirection for instance.

Likewise, status handling can invoke end to end the request processing and next to delegate the work to the next status handler in the queue.

app.status (404, (req, res, end) => {
    end ();

app.status (302, (req, res, next) => {

Roadmap (long-term stuff)

More to come, but I have already a few ideas

  • handling of multipart/* messages issue #81
  • polling for FastCGI issue #77
  • implementation for SCGI issue #60
  • middlewares issue #51
  • reverse rule-based routes issue #45
  • get CTPL Vala bindings right with GI (GObject Introspection)
  • more converters for more common web encoding (base64, urlencoded, etc…)

FastCGI streams can benefit from polling and reimplementing them is planned. APIs would remain the same as all would happen under the hood.

Reversing rules and possibly regular expression would make URLs in web application much easier to maintain.

CTPL has a hand-written binding and it would be great to just generate them with GI.

Posted on .

Third week update! 11/05/15 to 22/05/15 in Valum

In the past two weeks, I’ve been working on the roadmap for the 0.1.0-alpha release.


gcov has been fully integrated to measure code coverage with cpp-coveralls. gcov works by injecting code during the compilation with gcc.

You can see the coverage on coveralls.io, it’s updated automatically during the CI build.

Current master branch coverage: Coverage Status

The inconvenient is that since coveralls measures coverage from C sources using valac generated C code, it is not possible to identify which regions are covered in Vala. However, it is still possible to identify these regions in the generated code.

Asynchronous handling of requests

I changed the request handling model to be fully asynchronous. VSGI.Application handler have become an async function, which means that every user request will be processed concurrently as the server can immediatly accept a new request.

Merged glib-application-integration in the trunk

The branch was sufficiently mature to be merged in the trunk. I will only work on coverage and minor improvements until I reach the second alpha release.

It brings many improvements:

  • VSGI.Server inherit from GLib.Application, providing enhancements described in the Roadmap for 0.1.0-alpha
  • setup and teardown in the Router for pre and post processing of requests
  • user documentation improvments (Sphinx + general rewrites)
  • optional features based on gio-2.0 and libsoup-2.4 versions

0.1.0-alpha released!

I have released a 0.1.0-alpha version. For more information, you can read the release notes on GitHub, download it and try it out!

Posted on and tagged with gcc.

Roadmap for 0.1.0-alpha in Valum

0.0.1 is far behind what will be introduced in 0.1.0-alpha. This release will bring new features and API improvements.

We are releasing a new alpha since the first version was a working but incomplete prototype.

Along with the changes already introduced, the release will be ready as soon as the following will be done:

  • merge complete FastCGI integration in the trunk, which include integration of GLib.Application in the server design
  • api documentation (improvments and merge of valadoc branch)
  • improve user documentation
  • more tests and a measured coverage with gcov

Integration of GLib.Application is really cool. It basically provide any written application with a GLib.MainLoop to process asynchronous tasks and signals to handle startup and shutdown events right from the Server.

using Valum;
using VSGI.Soup;

var app    = new Router ();
var server = new Server (app);

// unique identifier for your application
app.set_application_id ("your.unique.application.id");

app.get("", (req, res) => {
    res.write ("Hello world!".data);

server.startup.connect (() => {
    // no request have been processed yet
    // initialize services here (eg. database, memcached, ...)

server.shutdown.connect (() => {
    // called after the mainloop finished
    // all requests have been processed

server.run ();

Moreover, application can access a DBusConnection and obtain environment data or request external services.

This sample uses the org.freedesktop.hostname DBus service to obtain information about the hosting environment. Note that you can use DBus to perform IPC between workers fairly easily in Vala.

var connection = server.get_dbus_connection ();

app.get ("hostname", (req, res) => {
    // asynchronous dbus call
    connection.call.begin (
        "org.freedesktop.hostname",  // bus name
        "/org/freedesktop/hostname", // object path
        "org.freedesktop.hostname",  // interface
        null, // no arguments
        VariantType.STRING, // return type
        -1, // timeout
        (obj, r) => {
            var hostname = connection.call.end (r);
            res.write (hostname.get_string ().data);

GLib.Application are designed to be held and released so that it can quit automatically whenever it’s idle (with a possible timout). Gtk uses it to count the number of opened windows, we use it to measure the number of processing requests.

Past a certain timeout after the last release, the worker will terminate.

If you have a long-running operation to process asynchronously that does not involve writting the response (in which case, you are better blocking), you have to hold the application to keep it alive while it’s processing.

What next?

The next release will be more substantial:

  • middlewares
  • components (if relevant)
  • improve VSGI specification
    • more signals to handle external events
    • better documentation to guide implementations
  • new VSGI implementations (SCGI & CGI)
  • extract VSGI (if ready)

I decided to go ahead for a Mustache implementation that targets GLib and GObject. I’m still surprised that it hasn’t been done yet. It is clearly essential to bring Vala in general purpose web development. The development will be in a separate project here on GitHub and it will not block the release of the framework.

GResource API is really great and it would be truly amazing to bundle Mustache templates like we already do with CTPL.

Posted on .

First week update! 04/05/15 to 08/05/15 in Valum

As part of the first week, I have to produce an initial document describing what I will be working on during the semester. Once it’s written down, I will post it on this blog.

I have already a good idea of what I would like to work on:

  • finish VSGI specification
  • second alpha release & feedback from communities
  • SCGI implementation
  • mustache implementation for GLib
  • more tests and awesomeness

The first alpha release is already 4 years old and this one bring such radical changes that we’re almost starting over. Therefore, a second alpha release will permit us to tease the targeted audience and obtain recommendations to build the very best framework.

SCGI is a very simple protocol to communicate HTTP messages over streams. It will take a real advantage of the GIO stream API and I am sure this could become an efficient way to serve web application in production.

Mustache (or any templating engine) is essential if we want to bring Valum outside the web service development. I plan to provide a GLib implementation so that it can be used anywhere. CTPL will remain the default templating engine for its simplicity and convenience as it covers quite well simple UI requirements.

Testing is part of any sane software development process. I will focus on providing quality software that does not break easily.

Subsequent weeks will contain more sustained posts that will describe what have been done, so stay put!

Posted on and tagged with Vala.

Project accepted! in Valum

The project was accepted!

I will officially work on Valum this summer under the direction of François Major at the IRIC lab.

As part of the evaluation, I will be have the opportunity to demonstrate the framework potential with an assignment. Also, I am required to keep track of the project advancements, so keep in touch with the Valum category of my blog!

Posted on and tagged with valum.

Presentation of Valum at the IRIC lab team in Valum

I have presented the framework to the IRIC team. They do research in bio-informatics.

I covered the following points:

  • history of Vala
  • presentation of Valum
  • code examples
  • middleware architecture
  • framework architecture
  • justification
  • objectives
  • application

You can access the presentation PDF and the source in Markdown. It is generated by pandoc, beamer and LaTeX.

Build the template with:

pandoc -t beamer -V theme:Rochester --latex-engine xelatex -o presentation.pdf presentation.md

Posted on and tagged with vala and web.