Thursday, October 11, 2007

A simple HTTPS server

Recently, I've been working on an AJAX application in my spare time and there's something I could really use: a simple network data store.

A JavaScript application isn't very useful without some persistent data. However this usually requires running a web server. My original idea was to distribute the application as a file which is loaded from the local disk. At this point you may be saying, "Wait a minute JavaScript running in a browser can't access the local disk." But scripts can read and write to the local disk if they are loaded from disk instead of the Internet. See TiddlyWiki for a great example of a useful application that uses this design. The problem though, is what happens when you want to sync the data from the AJAX application across multiple computers. Well, once again, it looks like I need a web server after all.

So I set out to build a simple server. All it really needs to do is allow applications to store and retrieve data. To make sure that the data remains a secret, the traffic will be sent over an HTTPS connection. Access to certain directories and files on the server will be granted only to select users, so usernames and passwords are required too. Since I've been working with Python recently, I tried to see if it was possible to create a simple HTTPS server which could handle GET and POST requests and perform dynamic behavior. I found a great example on activestate.com which uses an open SSL .pem file. The instructions in the article made setting up this server a breeze. I've been working on a customized version of the above example, but it isn't quite ready. As usual, stay tuned :)
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