// So far, so little

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14 June 2020

Terminals and telnet

by Linus Probert

So… A pandemic entered society and we all got told to stay indoors and keep distance from one another. “No problem” said all the Swedes. “No problem!” said all the programmers. “Living the dream!!!” shouted the Swedish programmers.

Just before this all started I had been spending a lot of time practicing rust, I was just a day or two away from firing up my mandatory slightly larger practice project. Now if you’ve never tried rust I suggest you give it a whirl. It has a great online book which takes you through everything you need to get started in just a short few steps and once you’re through that you realize how intelligently it is made. Especially if you come from a C/C++ background.

But I digress. Rust also comes with a really nice package and build manager named cargo. It’s really handy and it just works like you want it to work. So I was browsing through different crates looking for inspiration when I stumbled upon a really nice looking tui library.

Now, ever since I spent all my spare time playing muds back in my university days I really appreciated a client known as Tinyfugue, even back then it was somewhat unmaintained. But I added to my todo-list that one day I was going to make something similar myself. Call it a passion project.

In the past I have made attempts at building something basic like that to set the foundation for something that I could then expand upon. My first try I got caught up in terminal escape sequence problems. In particular scrolling region. That time I lost interest and other side projects took up my time. The second attempt was a few years back, this time I got the TUI working nicely but the handling of the socket connection gave me problems. In particular being able to read persistently from the socket as well as being able to send as soon as the user provided some input. I realized that some sort of threading was in order. Couldn’t be bothered to read up on it and then lost interest.

This third time I had all the building blocks I needed to get it to work. A nice TUI library, a rock solid, memory safe language with excellent threading capabilities and an entire pandemic worth of time on my hands (ignoring the fact that I have three kids below the age of 8 and a wife that is). This time it was bound to get done!

I found two libraries that covered my base needs termion and libtelnet-rs. Now, since many rust libraries are rather new one library didn’t cover all my needs but my elite understanding of vt102 terminals from previous attempts at this project allowed me to work around and extend the behavior I needed with little hassle. The other library I found some bugs in. Which I dutifully debugged, located, patched and submitted pull requests for like a good little OSS dev.

After two weeks I had a fully functional and usable mud client. After some boasting on /r/muds I came to the understanding that my MVP was indeed MV. But thanks to some dedicated testers and contributors we extended and adapted the software into version 0.2.

So I hereby present Blightmud. A terminal mud-client that covers all my needs as a mud player who doesn’t play much with bells and whistles in my opinion. Feel free to try it out, check it out, scrutinize and improve upon if you have the time, dedication and interest. Compared to alternatives like tintin++ or mudlet it might be a meager contender. Perhaps we’ll catch up one day, who knows.

That’s about it.

// Liq

tags: telnet - mud - mud-client - client - vt102