kolba

A framework that shares your beliefs

npm install kolba
12 downloads in the last month

Kolba

A framework that shares your beliefs

Kolba is simple

var Kolba = require('kolba');
var app = new Kolba.App();

app.resource('^/$', function() {
    return 'Hello Kolba!';
});

app.run(3000);

Kolba is a simple web framework for nodeJS, heavily influenced by flask. Aims to provide the structure lacking in frameworks like express without the opinions baked in libraries like Rendr.

Installation

  • Install:
npm install kolba
  • And use:
% node
> var Kolba = require('kolba')
undefined

Big fat disclaimer

This is experimental, Kolba is not production ready.

Kolba uses some Node features that are not documented and may not be supported any more in the future. Play around with it, but do not even think about using it for anything real.

Defining resources

Resources consist of:

  • A regular expression
  • A callback
  • A list of methods (optional)
  • A string defining the returned content type (optional)

This is how you would define a resource:

var Kolba = require('kolba');
var app = new Kolba.App();

app.resource('^/$', function() {
    return 'Hello Kolba!';
}, ['GET'], 'text/plain');

app.run(3000);

The path

The syntax for the regexp used to match the path is defined by XRegExp, an amazing library created by Steven Levithan.

Thanks to XRegExp we can name groups and use them as callback parameters:

app.resource('^/user/(?<uid> [0-9]\+)/$', function(uid) {
    return 'Hello user #' + uid + '!';
}, ['GET'], 'text/plain');

The callback

Callbacks use a simplified version of AngularJS' dependency injection. Any of your callbacks can use the following objects just by declaring it in the signature:

Methods

A list of the methods your resource understands. Should be any of:

  • DELETE
  • GET
  • HEAD
  • OPTIONS
  • POST
  • PUT

You don't have to implement the HEAD and OPTIONS methods, they will be appended to the list and managed automatically by Kolba.

Defaults to ['GET', 'HEAD', 'OPTIONS'].

Content Type

The last parameter is a string defining the content type that your resource returns. This is used to find a suitable callback for a given request. You can avoid setting this explicitly if you define it in Kolba's constructor:

var Kolba = require('kolba');
var app = new Kolba.App({
    'contentType': 'text/plain'
});

app.resource('^/$', function() {
    return 'Hello Kolba!';
});

In this example every resource that doesn't specify explicitly a content type will be treated as text/plain.

Defaults to text/html.

Static resources

To serve static files from a directory there is a special type of resource that receives a mount point and a directory:

app.static('/js', 'static/js');

It will serve only GET requests, and content-types will be guess using node-mime.

% curl -v "http://127.0.0.1:3000/js/kolba.js"
* About to connect() to 127.0.0.1 port 3000 (#0)
*   Trying 127.0.0.1... connected
> GET /js/kolba.js HTTP/1.1
> User-Agent: curl/7.22.0 (x86_64-pc-linux-gnu) libcurl/7.22.0 OpenSSL/1.0.1 zlib/1.2.3.4 libidn/1.23 librtmp/2.3
> Host: 127.0.0.1:3000
> Accept: */*
>
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< X-Powered-By: Kolba
< Content-Type: application/javascript

(...)

This is available for development purposes, but it should not be used in production. Use a specific web server like apache or nginx to serve your static files, not your application server.

This is a very naive implementation, it is not safe to use live.

Accept-header-based resources

I need a shorter name for this, but the concept is very simple; as was mentioned before, a resource consists of:

  • A URL
  • A callback
  • A list of methods
  • The content type it returns

An example is worth a thousand words:

var Kolba = require('kolba');
var app = new Kolba.App();

app.resource('^/$', function() {
    return 'Hello Kolba!';
}, ['GET'], 'text/plain');

app.resource('^/$', function() {
    return {"Hello": "Kolba!"};
}, ['GET'], 'application/json');

app.run(3000);

Note that both resources are mounted under the same path and respond to the same methods. Let's issue a request:

% curl -v http://127.0.0.1:3000/
* About to connect() to 127.0.0.1 port 3000 (#0)
*   Trying 127.0.0.1... connected
> GET / HTTP/1.1
> Accept: */*
>
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< X-Powered-By: Kolba
< Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8
<
Hello Kolba!

Now let's add the Accept: application/json header to tell the server that we want a JSON response this time:

% curl -v http://127.0.0.1:3000/ -H "Accept: application/json"
* About to connect() to 127.0.0.1 port 3000 (#0)
*   Trying 127.0.0.1... connected
> GET / HTTP/1.1
> Accept: */*
>
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< X-Powered-By: Kolba
< Content-Type: application/json
<
{"Hello": "Kolba!"}

When Kolba receives a request, reads the Accept header sent by the browser and picks the callback that understands that format.

So what?

This way of defining resources allows you to have one URL return different formats. When you request a resource using a web browser, you will get an HTML representation of the content, but when your single page application (SPA) kicks in, it will request the information in JSON format.

Some examples:

app.resource('^/users$', function() {
    // Generate full HTML page

    return html;
}, ['GET'], 'text/html');

app.resource('^/users$', function() {
    // Generate partial HTML for AHAH/PJAX use

    return partial;
}, ['GET'], 'ajax/html');

app.resource('^/users$', function() {
    // Just send the raw data as JSON

    return json;
}, ['GET'], 'application/json');

That way your pages will be rendered in the server on the first hit, and the consecutive renders will be done in the client.

You can (and should) abstract the common logic away. The JSON object generated by the last resource, for example, could be fed into any of the HTML resources to generate their templates.

Return codes

This table shows clearly which status code will be returned when looking up the correct resource for a given request:

+--------+--------+--------+--------+
| Path   | Method | Accept | Code   |
+--------+--------+--------+--------+
| false  | false  | false  | 404    |
| false  | false  | true   | 404    |
| false  | true   | false  | 404    |
| false  | true   | true   | 404    |
| true   | false  | false  | 405    |
| true   | false  | true   | 405    |
| true   | true   | false  | 406    |
| true   | true   | true   | 200    |
+--------+--------+--------+--------+

Middlewares

You can control when you middlewares get executed: as soon as a request is received or right before it gets sent to the client.

app.beforeRequest(function(request) {
    // do something
});

app.resource('^/$', function() {
    return 'Yo!';
});

app.afterRequest(function(response) {
    // do something else
});

Request middlewares

You can define request middlewares with the app.beforeRequest() method. When a request comes, this is the first thing that gets executed.

Every middleware is executed asynchronously, but not in parallel. Only when one has finished, the next one starts. But if one returns a value different from undefined the execution is aborted and whatever was returned gets sent to the client:

app.beforeRequest(function(response) {
    response.setStatusCode(451);
    response.setBody('Unavailable for legal reasons');

    return response
});

app.resource('^/$', function() {
    // This will never get executed
    return 'Yo!';
});

Response middlewares

The app.afterRequest() method defines a response middleware:

app.afterRequest(function(response) {
    response.setHeader('Content-Type', 'application/x-gzip');
    response.setBody(gzip(response.getBody()));

    return response
});

The response middlewares get called right before the response is sent to the client. This lets you apply any transformation on the response, like this example shows, which gzips the body.

Unlike the request middlewares, when a response middleware returns a value, the execution won't be interrupted. Instead, the response will be updated with that value and the next middleware will be called. This will happen asynchronously, but it is also sequential.

Interceptors

It is possible to intercept a response based on its status code:

app.on(200, function(response) {
    return response.getBody() + '\n\n  -- Powered by Kolba';
});

Note: Be careful when modifying the body, make sure you are not breaking the format that the resource returned.

This allows you to define handlers for errors in a consistent way:

Note: You can only set 1 interceptor per status code.

app.on(404, function() {
    return 'Sorry, what?';
});

app.on(500, function() {
    return 'Something went terribly wrong';
});

Interceptors are called right before the response middlewares.

Post mortems

If you want to execute a maintenance task after the response was sent to the client, i.e. logging, use a post mortem:

app.postMortem(function(response) {
    logging.logResponse(response);
});

How Kolba treats return values

Kolba embraces the dynamic nature of JavaScript and uses it to provide some handy flexibility. There are 4 types of values your resources can return, which will be treated differently.

String

Will be treated as the body of the response.

app.resource('^/$', function() {
    return 'Yo!';
});

Integer

Will be treated as the resource's status code.

app.resource('^/$', function() {
    // Magic happens here

    if (thingsWentWrong) {
        return 500;
    }
});

Response object

Will be used as is.

app.resource('^/$', function(response) {
    response.setBody('Yo!');

    return response;
});

Promise object

Must resolve to any of the 3 types above.

var Promise = require('kolba').Promise;

app.resource('^/$', function() {
    var deferred = Promise.defer();

    process.nextTick(function() {
        deferred.resolve('Yo!');
    });

    return deferred.promise;
});

The Promise object is a thin wrapper around cujojs' when. You can use any promise library actually, as long as it complies with the Promises/A+ spec.

Any other object that doesn't match any of these will be simply serialized and sent to the client.

How Kolba treats Response objects

In every case, even when you return a Response object, the contents of it will be used to update the original response, it won't overwrite it. Feel free to instantiate a new Response, but keep in mind that when you return it, the values that you didn't set explicitly won't be empty.

Say that you want to overwrite the X-Powered-By header:

var Response = require('kolba').Response;

app.resource('^/$', function() {
    var response = new Response();

    response.setBody('Hola');

    return response;
});

This won't remove it, because you didn't set a different one. If Kolba took the response as is, you would need to redefine every single attribute manually.

var Response = require('kolba').Response;

app.resource('^/$', function() {
    var response = new Response();

    response.setHeader('X-Powered-By', 'Vegetables');
    response.setBody('Hola');

    return response;
});

Request

The Request object will contain information about the request in progress. Specifically, it contains the following public attributes:

  • path
  • method

And the following public methods:

  • getHttpRequest
  • get
  • acceptedTypes
  • getHeader

You can access the Request object from anywhere in your application simply by running:

var request = require('kolba').getCurrentRequest();

Read more about this in The magic behind getCurrentRequest().

httpRequest

This is the Request object generated by Node. Whenever you need an attribute that it's not directly provided by Kolba's Request object, call the getHttpRequest() method or get('attributeName'). This will get that attribute from the original request object.

Response

This object is just a representation of the response that will be sent to the client. Unlike Node's Response object, this is not responsible for sending the actual response to the client.

That will be done by the RequestLocals object.

Events

Thanks to node's Domains, you can create your own EventEmitter object which will be automatically binded to the current request. That way you don't have to worry about concurrency.

Usually when you have 2 (or more) concurrent requests being processed by the same thread you have to be very careful that the events emitted in one of them don't pollute the others. As you may already know, Node is single threaded, which means that you have to handle this cases yourself. Kolba takes care of that for you.

The magic behind getCurrentRequest()

You may have noticed the following line already:

var request = require('kolba').getCurrentRequest();

This allows you to access the request from any point in your application. Here I will explain how it works.

In frameworks like flask you can access the request information simply by importing it:

from flask import request

That is possible because flask uses thread locals (provided by Werkzeug's Context Locals) which is, basically, variables local to the current thread (but your application will see them as globals). That's how flask knows which of the current requests being processed you are asking for.

Node runs in a single thread, every incoming request will be served by the same thread, so this is not possible. However, Node provides a mechanism to mimic this behaviour, called domains.

From Node's documentation:

Domains provide a way to handle multiple different IO operations as a single group. If any of the event emitters or callbacks registered to a domain emit an error event, or throw an error, then the domain object will be notified, rather than losing the context of the error in the process.on('uncaughtException') handler, or causing the program to exit immediately with an error code.

In short, domains are a way to handle errors (and events in general) in a simpler way. As a side effect, you can also store information which will be globally accessible to the current domain. Your application will be sandboxed, which allows Kolba to simulate a thread locals behaviour.

This is very useful not only because prevents different requests from polluting each other (overwriting each other's variables) but also provides a mechanism for intra-request communication, i.e. triggering events that will be only delivered to listeners inside that same request.

Cons

The problem with this approach is that if you use it, your application will be relying on a global variable to function, and that can be bad.

You don't have to use it, though. You can ask for the request on your resource and pass it around.

app.resource('^/$', function(resource) {
    var view = new HomeView(resource);

    return view.render();
});

It's up to you.

With great power...

Don't inject information in the request object. Don't treat it as a global variable for you to store information. Treat it as immutable, read-only.

Remember that thanks to V8 optimizations reusing objects is very efficient, as long as you don't transform them at runtime. Kolba doesn't currently support sessions, which would be the way for you to persist the state of your application between requests. Use cookies for that.

Read more about Node's event loop and V8's memory management if you are interested in this subject.

Wish list

  • Modularized applications
  • The end of hunger in the world
  • A better slogan
  • Benchmarks
  • Sessions
npm loves you