Grillo, a Terminal Based Chat Server and Client

January 03, 2011  /  Home

I recently came across the Rosetta Code Project. It’s a community contributed wiki that contains hundreds of solutions to programming problems, implemented in hundreds of different programming languages, which is great source of entertainment for a programming languages enthusiast such as myself. The main focus of the project isn’t to demonstrate individual solutions on their own, but to provide comparisons between different programming languages and how they approach the same task.

The wiki also contains various dynamic reports, such as which tasks have yet to be implemented for each particular programming language. I took a look at the Python page to see if there were any interesting tasks remaining that I could potentially provide a solution to, and as I expected there were only a few relatively obscure tasks that were yet to have solutions provided.

One task remaining for Python that did catch my eye was to demonstrate a simple chat server using sockets. I’ve always been especially fond of network programming, from web crawlers to XMLRPC to lower level sockets, I seem to really enjoy writing code that runs over the Internet without necessarily being related to web development, so I went ahead and added a Python solution for the chat server task.

I honestly had so much fun working on this that I decided to extend it even further. Firstly I refactored it into a more object oriented approach which allowed for creating both server and client tools which could be run concurrently using separate threads of control. I then added several commands that could be run directly in chat by any user, for example listing the current users who were logged in.

I then decided to publish the code for my chat server and client onto both GitHub and Bitbucket, after giving it the name “Grillo”. It’s named after the Italian phone of the same name, developed in 1965. They both share the common theme of being a very small communications device for their class, while being implemented with relatively basic technology.

Given that there are many richer and more powerful applications available for implementing the features Grillo provides, at the least it serves as a good example of how to do basic socket programming in Python, as well as a demonstrating some simple tricks for controlling threads. At the best case someone will pick up the code base and extend it further in ways I haven’t anticipated — here’s hoping!

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