24 days of Rust - Cursive

Day 14 - cursive

My first programming IDE back in the 90s was Borland Turbo Pascal. Since the PC that I used at that time was running MS-DOS, it meant no graphical interface. I was so surprised when I ran turbo.exe for the first time and saw complex menus, dialog windows and an editor with code highlighting.

But the world of TUI (text-based user interfaces) doesn't mean only IDEs. Midnight Commander is a very popular and feature-rich file browser. There are even text-based web browsers, such as Lynx or ELinks.

TUI applications tend to use ncurses as the abstraction layer over different terminals. While there are Rust bindings to ncurses, there's another cool library built on top of them. Cursive provides high-level building blocks such as views, menus and layers. It also works on Windows, when built with features = ["pancurses"].

Continue reading »
Written on Dec. 14, 2016

24 days of Rust - zip and lzma compression

The zip crate is the most commonly used Rust library for manipulating ZIP archives. It supports reading and writing .zip files with different compression methods (store, deflate, bzip2).

There are at least three crates for LZMA (de)compression on crates.io. lzma is pure Rust, but currently allows only reading from archives. rust-lzma supports both reading and writing compressed data, but it's a wrapper for liblzma. Similarly the xz2 crate is a binding for liblzma.

Continue reading »
Written on Dec. 13, 2016

24 days of Rust - clap

clap is a fantastic Rust library for Command Line Argument Parsing. It's both easy to use and powerful - in the spirit of Rust philosophy - you get what you pay for. Simple CLI options are simple to define, while complex schemes (think git level of complex) are absolutely doable.

clap is also one of the best examples of what I would call developer marketing in the Rust community. It has a beautiful and informative homepage, an extensive README (including changelog - see note below), a bunch of good examples, even video tutorials! Hats off to Kevin and all clap contributors, you're doing a great job!

Note: Rust crate authors, please, please add changelogs/release notes to your libraries. Coming from Python where it's customary, it struck me that a lot of libraries do not document their changes aside from the commit log. (Oops, I'm guilty of this myself...)

Continue reading »
Written on Dec. 12, 2016

24 days of Rust - nom, part 2

We learned the basic concepts of nom yesterday when we wrote a parser for HTTP headers. HTTP is by its nature a text protocol. nom however always works on bytes (byte array slices, denoted in Rust with &[u8]). This makes it perfectly suitable for parsing binary data as well. There's already a selection of parsers using nom for binary formats such as Redis dump files, MySQL protocol or tar archives. Today we are going to build a simplified WebSocket frame parser.

Continue reading »
Written on Dec. 11, 2016

24 days of Rust - nom, part 1

It's entirely possible that you're walking a happy road of a programmer who never had to write a parser by hand. That's not my case unfortunately. I remember incomprehensible indexing of hideous arrays of characters, a maddening cascade of unmaintainable if-else statements, and futile, indescribable attempts to abstract away parts of this unspeakable monstrosity.

If the above paragraph was hard to parse, good! Putting some Lovecraftian adjectives into a description of events can be a way of coping with terrible experiences. Those dark, eldritch (sorry, couldn't resist one more) days are fortunately over. With parser combinators we can write composable and fast parsers. Rust adds another adjective here: safe. nom is a parser combinator library that works by generating parsing code at compile time with a bunch of macros. It also tries to avoid allocation and work through input bytes without copying.

I decided to split nom article into two parts. Today we're focused on parsing text (well, bytes that contain text), while the next article in the series will cover binary parsing.

This is my first hands-on experience with parser combinators - I'm learning nom as I write this. Feel free to let me know if the examples here could be more nom-idiomatic.

Continue reading »
Written on Dec. 9, 2016