Possible problems while using Trf


Some remarks regarding the work with binary data (and this package) in general:

  1. Whatever you do, do not forget to switch the used channels into binary mode, i.e. execute ``fconfigure <channel> -translation binary''. Not doing this will produce all kind of strange errors, even on unix machines, as the default translation mode (``auto'') will not only convert CR LF into LF, but a single CR as well!
  2. If you want to use fileevents in combination with stacked channels make sure that all channels in the stack are nonblocking, i.e. execute ``fconfigure <channel> -blocking 0'' for them. Not doing so may cause the system to hang in a read/gets procedure. This is independent of client or server. The reason is that a transform uses internally 'Tcl_Read', even if the user called 'gets', thus waiting for more information usually not coming. Especially in a line oriented protocol. See the remarks about buffering below too.
  3. This version of Trf generates artificial 'readable' events to flush out any information waiting in the various buffers of the stack. For older versions a 'gets' or 'read' in a fileevent script has to be wrapped into a loop reading data until exhaustion ([gets <channel> line] <0).
  4. Using transformation procedures (as in this package) introduces an additional level of buffering because they are permitted to buffer all characters they are unable to process immediately. This may mess up especially interprocess communication, a notoriously problematic field. A not so improbable scenario would be the addition of encryption to enhance security. Using a blockcipher here may lead to the following problem (a line-oriented protocol is assumed):
    • The sender produces a line and writes it into the channel, waiting for a response from the receiver afterward.
    • The channel system invokes the blockcipher to encrypt the line, but not all characters are encrypted due to the length of the line not being a multiple of the blocksize. Especially the EOL-character is neither encrypted, nor transmitted.
    • The receiver decrypts the blocks it got, then waits for the EOL character.
    The solution here would be the usage of a blockcipher in CFB mode and shift = 1 or that of a stream cipher, as both of these would encrypt single characters without buffering. Data compression is another good candidate for such a situation. Because of this I decided to include the number of characters buffered by a certain transformation in its description.

© Andreas Kupries
Last update at Mon Aug 20 22:52:26 PDT 2001