[JDEV] [Client Lib 1.0]

Jeremie jeremie at jabber.org
Wed Feb 3 17:45:50 CST 1999


This is a rough draft!  

CLI=Command Line Interface

I want Jabber to be 100% accessible EASILY through the command line.  This
is not nearly as easy as one might think.  Since an authenticated
connection must be made and maintained to the server, there will always
need to be a background process.  Data often trickles into that background
process from the server, the user should be notified immediately about
some of it(incoming messages), and later about other data(status changes). 
This requires the background process to attach to the users TTY and send
messages, similar to unix talk. 

There are three models that need to be addressed.  A main background
process that runs server-wide and handles all users, similar to unix talk.
A process that runs and forks when the user logs in under that users
shell/account(so the user can still use Jabber CLI tools even if the
server admin doesn't support it server-wide).  Thirdly, each app starts
and maintains it's own connection to the server when it runs.

What I would like to see happen, is a static library written with simple
functions that any app that wants to talk to a jabber server can call, and
it doesn't have to worry about how it's talking to the server.  This
library can try/support each of the ways above. 

This will all resolve around a hidden folder in the users home dir,
~/.jabber/ and a few files in there, "secret", "config" and "port".  The
secret file will contain some simple config data like
"<user>username</user><pass>mypassword</pass>".  This file should be
protected so that ONLY the user can read it, 0700.  Now, say the sysadmin
has a system wide background process running. when it notices that a user
logs in or is logged in, it will scan that user's home dir, and upon
finding a ~/.jabber/secret it will fork a process, setuid for that user,
and connect to the jabber server defined in "config".  It will also start
listening on a random unused high port above 10000 or so, and save that
port in ~/.jabber/port.  Any CLI jabber utilities used by the user will
check for the port file and connect to that port to talk to the jabber
server.  Any incoming messages will be sent to the users TTY. 

Lets say that the sysadmin hasn't installed this background process
server-wide.  Then if the user wants to still use Jabber, they can setup
the ~/.jabber folder and put something like "jabber -background" in their
shell startup script and it will do the same thing, connect to the server,
log in, listen on a local high port, and put that port in the
~/.jabber/port file.  All CLI utilities will work identically. 

What if the user has never configured Jabber and uses a CLI utility?  The
library would, after not finding any config data, fork a background
process and log into the server anonymously.  All CLI utilities would work
normally at that point. 

The last scenario is a GUI Jabber client that is compiled with the
library, it could then share the same login/connection as all CLI apps, it
would just display the current status graphically. 


Here are some proposed CLI apps:

 jwrite:	Compose/send simple messages, either typed or from STDIN
 jmesg:		Change/check current status, online, offline, away, etc... 
 jwho:		View roster and status of users on your roster.  Add/remove entries
 jtalk:		Start a threaded chat-like message communication with a user

 jabber:
	This is the main app, allowing you to fork a background log in, or
run interactively and browse/compose messages, change status, check
roster, all the same functionality in an interactive app.  It's possible
that all of the other apps are just hard links to this one since it will
contain all of the needed functionality. 


This all sounds great, and should work fairly cleanly, but there needs to
be a special API of calls in the library, as well as a special protocol
between the background process and the intermittently run CLI apps.  This
is because the background process will pool messages and status updates,
and the CLI apps will just ask for them when they are run.  Hmm... I'm
thinking that we might be able to make this REALLY easy, where the apps
just use a standard IO just like they were talking to the real server, but
when talking to this background process the process acts just like a
"caching proxy" where all packets are passed on through it to the real
server, but incoming messages and status's of other users are cached, and
when say "jwho" asks for the roster, it might be cached in the proxy and
sent down to "jwho" along with the status's of the users that were cached. 
The only exception would be that maybe the user wanted to browse or
re-read incoming messages, so when they were doing that with the "jabber"
app, it would send a special message that would be intercepted by the
proxy telling it to dump X number of recent messages to the "jabber" app. 
Are there any situations that this wouldn't work? 


It would be great to build the library with built in simple exposed
callable functions to do Jabber things simply, like
message("recipient at server","subject","real message content") and could be
statically linked to any app that wanted to do Jabber stuff... all the CLI
apps could be based around this library.  It would make writing a Jabber
client painless, you wouldn't need to know/understand XML, the protocol,
or anything like that.


IMHO, this is an important area that needs lots of work and meshing out.











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