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Flexible handling of I/O channels.

Project description

The PLIB.IO package contains classes that encapsulate various forms of client/server I/O channels.

Note: PLIB.IO works with Python 2.7. If you are using Python 3, see the PLIB3.IO package, available at

The script for PLIB.IO uses the setuputils helper module, which helps to automate away much of the boilerplate in Python setup scripts. This module is available as a separate release at

The PLIB.IO Packages and Modules

The comm sub-package provides utilities for managing and communicating with child threads and processes. This is shipped as a separate plib sub-package from io, so it can be used independently of the io code.

The base sub-package contains base classes that implement common basic functionality that is built on by the rest of PLIB.IO.

Most of the remaining sub-packages fall into four main categories:

  • Device Types: socket and serial. Each device type has a BaseClient and BaseServer class; the socket type also has a BaseRequest class. These will usually not need to be used directly; they are used by the I/O mode classes, and are factored out so that each I/O mode sees the same API for a given device type.

  • Channel Types: The comm sub-package contains classes that implement the basic functionality of the three types of I/O channels: clients, servers, and “persistent” (the latter is only available with the async I/O mode–see below). Each I/O mode then builds on these base classes to implement its specific channels.

  • I/O modes: async and blocking (the latter does not just mean synchronous: it includes a forking TCP socket server). Each I/O mode has a client and server class for both device types, and a request class for the socket device type: the class names are SerialClient, SerialServer, SocketClient, SocketServer, and BaseRequestHandler. The async type also has “persistent” classes, which support full-duplex asynchronous communication; these are the PersistentSerial, PersistentSocket, and PersistentRequestHandler classes. Mixin versions of these classes (class names with Mixin at the end) are also provided, for use if alternate data handling is desired (see next bullet), but it is normally not necessary to use these “by hand”–see “automatic mixins” below.

  • Data Handling: the I/O mode classes given above include basic data handling, but it is very basic: the only way it can detect that a “message” has been fully received is to detect a closed channel. For some applications this is enough, but often more sophisticated and robust data handling is needed. The data sub-package provides three mixin classes for this purpose, ShutdownReadWrite, TerminatorReadWrite and ReadWrite. The first of these detects the end of a received message by a shutdown of the other end of the data channel, but keeps the channel open to allow further writes (all the other classes default to closing the channel when the other end closes). The other two classes allow the detection of multiple “messages” in the data stream, either by detecting a “terminator” string or by having each message include its length at the beginning. These classes also format outgoing messages the same way.

There is also a mixins sub-package containing classes that are used as mixins by the other sub-packages, and a classes sub-package containing higher-level classes that use the API. Finally, there is a utils module that implements the automatic mixin functionality described below.

Automatic Mixins

To derive your own client or server classes with alternate data handling “by hand”, you would need to use the “mixin” versions of the appropriate I/O mode classes, and splice the data handling class into the middle of the base class list; for example:

from import SerialClientMixin, SerialBase
from import TerminatorReadWrite

class AsyncSerialClientWithTerminator(SerialClientMixin,
    TerminatorReadWrite, SerialBase): pass

This is a bit clumsy, but necessary since the read/write handling has to be before the client/server class in the MRO, but after the base device type, for the cooperative super calls that underlie the functionality to work properly. However, since the pattern is the same in each case, it can be automated, and this has been done in the async and blocking sub-package namespaces, so that instead of doing the above class construction “by hand”, you can just append a suffix to your desired class name, thus:

from import SerialClientWithTerminator

The WithTerminator suffix (or, alternately, WithShutdown or WithReadWrite) will cause the equivalent of the above class definition to occur on the fly, so that the resulting class appears in the namespace (of course the namespace has the same capability). Once this has happened the first time, however, the class definition is stored in the appropriate namespace, so additional imports of the same class name (in different modules of your application) will not re-do the “on the fly” construction; they will just retrieve the same class object that was previously constructed.

The above machinery is also made available for use with your own custom read/write handling classes; the async and blocking sub-packages each export a get_readwrite_class function that does the same on-the-fly class definition as above, but with your custom read/write class instead of one of the built-in ones. All you have to do is pass the function the name of your desired I/O class and your custom read/write class object:

from import async

class CustomReadWrite(object):
    # class definition

MyAsyncSerialClient = async.get_readwrite_class('SerialClient',

API Notes: One of the goals of this sub-package is to provide a common, consistent API for all the different types of I/O, so that switching one specific implementation of a certain functionality for another can be done transparently to the rest of your application’s code. Thus, all of the usable classes follow the same basic pattern of mixing in the various pieces of functionality: from left to right in a class’s MRO, one finds the type of endpoint (a client or server mixin class, which may be specialized to the type of I/O), the type of data formatting, if any (a mixin class from the ReadWrite module), and the type of I/O, including device type (socket, serial port, etc.), mode (non-blocking/asynchronous vs. blocking), and basic data handling. Also, each endpoint type has a common API independent of the specific type of I/O and mode; a client can always use the client_communicate method to send data to the server and receive a response; a server can always use the serve_forever method to start itself; and all I/O objects override the same methods to implement application-specific functionality: process_data, to deal with data as it comes in, and query_done, to determine when the I/O channel should be closed. (To see examples of all this in action, look at the test suite in and the library module for it,; the library module can use the same mixin classes to implement test functionality for all of the different mixes of I/O classes in the test suite.)


To install PLIB.IO, you can simply run:

$ python install

at a shell prompt from the directory into which you unzipped the source tarball (the same directory that this README file is in). This will install PLIB and then run each of the post-install scripts in the scripts directory.

Example Programs

PLIB.IO comes with example programs that illustrate key features of the package. After installation, these can be found in the $PREFIX/share/plib/examples directory. If you have a POSIX system (Linux or Mac OSX), the plib-setup-examples post-install script will install symlinks to the example programs in the $PREFIX/bin directory.

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