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Vorner's random stuff

The Spirit tutorial

Don’t worry, this is not about occult magic. As I’m developing the spirit crate, I’ve decided a small tutorial would really help people to use it. So, this post serves a dual purpose: to show how to use the library (and why) and to ask for help with it.

What does spirit do

I’ve already tried to introduce it in a previous post. The purpose didn’t change since then, though some details did.

In short, when writing a daemon or a service, we have the „muscle“ of the application ‒ whatever we write the daemon for. And we have a whole lot of infrastructure around that: logging, command line parsing, configuration. And while there are Rust libraries for all that, one needs nontrivial amount of boilerplate code to bridge all this together.

Spirit aims to be this bridge. It takes care of signal handling, of combining multiple pieces of configuration together with command line overrides, it allows for reloading the configuration at runtime. In short, it is the glue nobody really wants to write every time. It doesn’t do much itself, it just ties the readily available libraries together. The aim is to save time with the boring stuff and to provide the boring stuff with some bells and whistles one wouldn’t really care to write were it just for this one daemon.

Status of the library and what you can do

The library is past the very early experimental state. I even dare to use it in a production software. The high level design will probably stay the same or very similar as it is, though the API itself might get some changes over time. It feels like it helps a lot with the boilerplate in some cases.

On the other hand, big chunks of functionality are still missing and it feels awkward to use at times. There are likely bugs, the documentation is unsatisfactory and I’m just not good at writing useful log messages.

In other words, the library needs some users, experimentation and people willing to help with polishing, fixing, smoothing rough edges, etc. Opening issues about what doesn’t work or what your use case is helps. Opening PRs to fix them, to fill in TODOs in documentation or to add tests helps even more. I have some ideas what needs to be done (some of them more concrete than others). Some of them are hard, some of them are easy. If you want to help out but don’t know how, please contact me (through github issue or over the email, but it might take me a day or two to answer sometimes), I’ll be glad to discuss what to do, how to do it or even help learning some Rust on the way if it’s what you need (or accept advice on how to do a nicer API if that’s what you feel I need 😇). Every bit counts and it’s definitely more work than I can do alone in my free time.

Also, I’ve only tried it on Linux. It should work on other Unix systems. Changes to make it work on Windows might be needed.

How to use it

Before we start writing code, few words about how the library ‒ or more exactly, group of libraries ‒ works.

The core spirit gives us a singleton Spirit object (well, it doesn’t force you to have just one, it simply doesn’t make any sense to create more) that manages the configuration of the application, its lifetime and signals. The singleton is created by a Builder that allows to bootstrap it, give it some basic information (like where to look for configuration files if none are given on the command line or how does a default configuration look like) and install bunch of callbacks for when configuration changes, when a signal happens, when the application should terminate, etc. Then it runs a provided application body with all these details taken care of.

The command line options and configuration are described by rust structures implementing StructOpt and Deserialize respectively. They are type parameters of both Builder and Spirit and either can be plugged by the Empty structure if not needed.

So, how would this look like? Something like this:

use std::time::Duration;

use serde_derive::Deserialize;
use spirit::{Empty, Spirit};

fn default_interval() -> Duration {
    Duration::from_secs(1)
}

#[derive(Clone, Debug, Default, Deserialize)]
struct Cfg {
    message: String,
    #[serde(with = "serde_humanize_rs", default = "default_interval")]
    interval: Duration,
}

fn main() {
    Spirit::<Empty, Cfg>::new()
        .on_terminate(|| println!("Good bye"))
        .run(|spirit| {
            while !spirit.is_terminated() {
                let cfg = spirit.config();
                println!("{}", cfg.message);
                std::thread::sleep(cfg.interval);
            }
            Ok(())
        });
}

Then, if you create a configuration file with this content:

message = "Hello"
interval = "2s"

And run it:

cargo run -- cfg.toml

It’ll keep saying Hello all over, until you press CTRL+C. Then it’ll say Good bye and exit. If you change the configuration file (while the program is still running) and send a SIGHUP to it, it’ll adapt to it ‒ it’ll start saying the new message if you changed that.

There are few things of note here:

Active and passive configurations

Spirit by default assumes than any part of configuration can change at runtime. For some daemons this is a must, because shutting them down is a big hassle (postgress can take tens of minutes to start up again so you don’t want to restart it just to tweak the configuration a bit, apache lets you add new virtual hosts without stopping serving the previous ones). Sometimes it is just convenience ‒ if you have a service in production and it is misbehaving, it is nice to be able to turn debug logging on in the relevant part while it is still running.

If you don’t like it, you can either turn the background signal processing thread off, or you can selectively warn the user about pieces of configuration you’re not able to adapt to.

If you do like it, you can adapt to new configuration in two ways. We’ve seen the passive way above. Simply, the next time the configuration is needed, a new value automagically appears in the configuration and we just use it. That’s the easy way, but not always enough.

The active way is registering a callback to be notified of the changes. There are actually two, with different power. The simpler but less flexible one is on_config. It is just told the configuration changed when it already happened, like this:

.on_config(|cmd_line, new_cfg| {
    debug!("Current cmdline: {:?} and config {:?}", cmd_line, new_cfg);
})

The more complex one is config_validator. That one is run as part of loading the configuration and it can refuse it. In such case, errors are printed and the old configuration stays until the user fixes the problem and tries to load it again. It also can tweak the new configuration before it is applied (like, putting values within limits and warning about it instead of outright refusing it) and it can schedule an action to happen once all the validators have run, either on success or failure. The idea is, some configuration needs to be tried out to see if it works, so the success allows to install it and failure to roll it back in case some other validator said no.

Helpers

A helper is something that modifies a builder. A FnOnce(Builder) -> Builder is a helper, but more things can be so. This allows parts of configuration to plug themselves into the builder without knowing each other. It also allows libraries to provide pieces of functionality that can be plugged in with the with method. That allows the library to register multiple callbacks at once, in interdependent manner.

There are also configuration helpers. These are kind of building blocks for the configuration, a fragment that can be put in there. Then, when registered with an extractor function (one that extracts the fragment out of the whole configuration), an action (what that is depends on the type of fragment) and a name, they do the magic to handle reloading that bit of configuration.

An example can be a fragment to configure a TCP listening socket. The action would be what happens with a new connection. All the rest ‒ binding to a port, configuring a lot of details about how to listen and doing all the accepting, shutting it down when it changes and building a new one, etc, is done by the helper.

The other example is logging.

Logging

While there are few helpers directly in spirit, most of them live in other related crates. So, let’s go shopping ‒ we want spirit-log here to give us logging.

So, first, we import it:

use spirit_log::{Cfg as Logging, Opts as LogOpts};

Then, we put the fragments into our configuration structure. We also want to put the LogOpts into our command line options structure (we have to create one, Empty is no longer good enough). We wouldn’t have to, but it allows the user to override logging on command line, which is convenient when trying things out.

#[derive(Clone, Debug, StructOpt)]
struct Opts {
    #[structopt(flatten)]
    log: LogOpts,
}

#[derive(Clone, Debug, Default, Deserialize)]
struct Cfg {
    message: String,
    #[serde(with = "serde_humanize_rs", default = "default_interval")]
    interval: Duration,

    #[serde(flatten)]
    log: Logging,
}

Cool, so now we can add this to our configuration, if we want to log both to stderr and a file, with different options.

[[logging]]
level = "DEBUG"
type = "stderr"

[[logginng]]
level = "INFO"
type = "file"
filename = "/tmp/example.log"
clock = "UTC"
format = "machine"

But this’ll only allow parsing the configuration. We need to make the configuration active. First, let’s write our extractors ‒ little functions that take the whole configuration or command line structure and produce the relevant bit. We could use an in-place closure, but the expected signature allows us to actually write it as a method of the structure, which looks more tidy.

impl Opts {
    fn logging(&self) -> LogOpts {
        self.log.clone()
    }
}

impl Cfg {
    fn logging(&self) -> Logging {
        self.log.clone()
    }
}

And then just put it into the builder. That one will take care of initializing our loggers and replacing them when the configuration changes. It’ll even reopen the log files on SIGHUP, which makes integration with logrotate seamless.

.config_helper(Cfg::logging, Opts::logging, "logging")

Other helpers

Besides logging, there are already helpers for other things:

And there’s a long wish-list for other helpers and integrations. Not all of them are obvious how to do or thought through. This is part of why it seems a lot of work to make Spirit more usable ‒ it would be great if one could just come, throw several configuration helpers/fragments in there and be done with everything but the application specific logic.

And I’m sure people will discover more things that could be reusable and shared between people.

The full example

It’s still longer than I’d have liked, but considering how much functionality it provides already (eg. the logging configuration, composing of configuration, etc), it’s not that bad. Some derive might help with that (but someone would have to write it first).

use std::time::Duration;

use log::debug;
use serde_derive::Deserialize;
use spirit::Spirit;
use spirit_log::{Cfg as Logging, Opts as LogOpts};
use structopt::StructOpt;

fn default_interval() -> Duration {
    Duration::from_secs(1)
}

#[derive(Clone, Debug, StructOpt)]
struct Opts {
    #[structopt(flatten)]
    log: LogOpts,
}

#[derive(Clone, Debug, Default, Deserialize)]
struct Cfg {
    message: String,
    #[serde(with = "serde_humanize_rs", default = "default_interval")]
    interval: Duration,

    #[serde(flatten)]
    log: Logging,
}

impl Opts {
    fn logging(&self) -> LogOpts {
        self.log.clone()
    }
}

impl Cfg {
    fn logging(&self) -> Logging {
        self.log.clone()
    }
}

fn main() {
    Spirit::<Opts, Cfg>::new()
        .on_terminate(|| println!("Good bye"))
        .config_helper(Cfg::logging, Opts::logging, "logging")
        .on_config(|cmd_line, new_cfg| {
            debug!("Current cmdline: {:?} and config {:?}", cmd_line, new_cfg);
        })
        .run(|spirit| {
            while !spirit.is_terminated() {
                let cfg = spirit.config();
                println!("{}", cfg.message);
                std::thread::sleep(cfg.interval);
            }
            Ok(())
        });
}

Also, there’s a bit longer example in the repository, showing possibilities of some more helpers.