The TCPProxy

The TCPProxy is a proxy process that you can place in a TCP stream, such as the HTTP connection between your browser and a server. It filters the request and response streams, sending the results to the terminal window (stdout). You can control its behaviour by specifying different filters.

The TCPProxy

The TCPProxy's main purpose is to automatically generate HTTP test scripts that can be replayed with The Grinder's HTTP plugin. Because the TCPProxy lets you see what's going on at a network level it is also very useful as a debugging tool in its own right.

Starting the TCPProxy

You start the TCPProxy with something like:

CLASSPATH=/opt/grinder/lib/grinder.jar
export CLASSPATH

java net.grinder.TCPProxy

Say java net.grinder.TCPProxy -? to get a full list of the command line options.

With no additional options, the TCPProxy will start and display the following information:

Initialising as an HTTP/HTTPS proxy with the parameters:
   Request filters:  EchoFilter
   Response filters: EchoFilter
   Local address:    localhost:8001
Engine initialised, listening on port 8001

This indicates that the TCPProxy is listening as an HTTP proxy on port 8001 (the default, but you can change it with -localPort).

The TCPProxy appears to your browser just like any other HTTP proxy server, and you can use your browser as normal. If you type http://grinder.sourceforge.net into your browser it will display The Grinder home page and the TCPProxy will output all of the HTTP interactions between the browser and the SourceForge site.

The TCPProxy will proxy both HTTP and HTTPS. See below for details on customising the SSL configuration.

Preparing the Browser

You should now set your browser connection settings to specify the TCPProxy as the HTTP proxy. In the browser options dialog, set the proxy host to be the host on which the TCPProxy is running and proxy port to be 8001).

Browser proxy preferences

The relevant options dialog can be accessed by the following steps:

MSIE: Tools -> Internet Options -> Connections -> Local Area Network Settings.
Mozilla/Netscape: Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced - Proxies.
Mozilla/Firefox: Tools -> Options -> General -> Connection Settings.
Opera: Tools -> Preferences -> Advanced -> Network -> Proxy Servers.

It is important to remember to remove any "bypass proxy server" or "No Proxy for" settings that you might have so that all the traffic flows through the TCPProxy and can be captured.

It might also be a good idea to clear out any cache/temporary Internet files that might be on your workstation. On the other hand, you might decide not to do this if you want to record a script representing a frequent user to your site who has images are resources in their browser cache. Also for IE users, changing the temporary Internet files settings to check for a newer version on every visit to a page can be useful.

Temporary Internet Files Settings in IE

Using the EchoFilter

The EchoFilter is the default filter used by the TCPProxy if no options are specified in the startup command. The EchoFilter outputs the stream activity to the terminal. It can be very useful for debugging as described in this FAQ.

Bytes that do not have a printable ASCII representation are displayed in hexadecimal between square brackets. Here's some example output:

------ 127.0.0.1:2263->ads.osdn.com:80 ------
GET /?ad_id=5839&alloc_id=12703&site_id=2&request_id=8320720&1102173982760 HTTP/1.1
Host: ads.osdn.com
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.0; en-US; rv:1.7.5) Gecko/20041107 Firefox/1.0
Accept: image/png,*/*;q=0.5
Accept-Language: en-gb,en-us;q=0.7,en;q=0.3
Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate
Accept-Charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.7
Keep-Alive: 300
Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
Referer: http://sourceforge.net/projects/grinder


--- ads.osdn.com:80->127.0.0.1:2263 opened --
------ ads.osdn.com:80->127.0.0.1:2273 ------
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sat, 04 Dec 2004 15:26:27 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.29 (Unix) mod_gzip/1.3.26.1a mod_perl/1.29
Pragma: no-cache
Cache-control: private
Connection: close
Transfer-Encoding: chunked
Content-Type: image/gif


------ ads.osdn.com:80->127.0.0.1:2273 ------
80B
GIF89ae[00])[00D50000C3C3C3FEFDFD]hhhVVVyyy[F5CCD2D4D4D4CBCBCBD7]'F
    

Information lines are displayed to indicate the end point addresses and direction of the information flow and also whether a connection has just been opened or closed.

Using the HTTP TCPProxy filters

You can use the TCPProxy to generate an HTTP script suitable for use with The Grinder. The Grinder provides a pair of HTTP filters for this purpose. These filters are enabled by the -http command line option.

The first step is to start the TCPProxy with an HTTP filter:

java net.grinder.TCPProxy -console -http > grinder.py

The > grinder.py part of the line sends the script to a file called grinder.py.

The terminal output of the TCPProxy looks like:

14/03/06 17:04:25 (tcpproxy): Initialising as an HTTP/HTTPS proxy with the
parameters:
   Request filters:    HTTPRequestFilter
   Response filters:   HTTPResponseFilter
   Local address:      localhost:8001
14/03/06 17:04:27 (tcpproxy): Engine initialised, listening on port 8001

The console (initiated by -console) displays a simple control window that allows the TCPProxy to be shut down cleanly. This is needed because some terminal shells, e.g. Cygwin bash, do not allow Java processes to be interrupted cleanly, so filters cannot rely on standard shut down hooks. The console also allows a user to add ad-hoc commentary to the script during the recording. The console looks like this:

TCPProxy Console

The TCPProxy console will be incorporated into the main console in a future release.

Set your browser to use the TCPProxy as the HTTP proxy as described earlier), and run through your test scenario on your website.

Having finished your run through, press "Stop" on the TCPProxy console and the generated script will be written to grinder.py.

The grinder.py file contains headers, requests and a logical grouping of requests into pages, of the recorded tests.

For example, the headers section:


# The Grinder 3.11-SNAPSHOT
# HTTP script recorded by TCPProxy at 05-Jul-2012 09:20:55

from net.grinder.script import Test
from net.grinder.script.Grinder import grinder
from net.grinder.plugin.http import HTTPPluginControl, HTTPRequest
from HTTPClient import NVPair
connectionDefaults = HTTPPluginControl.getConnectionDefaults()
httpUtilities = HTTPPluginControl.getHTTPUtilities()

# To use a proxy server, uncomment the next line and set the host and port.
# connectionDefaults.setProxyServer("localhost", 8001)

def createRequest(test, url, headers=None):
    """Create an instrumented HTTPRequest."""
    request = HTTPRequest(url=url)
    if headers: request.headers=headers
    test.record(request, HTTPRequest.getHttpMethodFilter())
    return request

# These definitions at the top level of the file are evaluated once,
# when the worker process is started.

connectionDefaults.defaultHeaders = \
  [ NVPair('Accept-Encoding', 'gzip, deflate'),
    NVPair('Accept-Language', 'en-gb,en;q=0.5'),
    NVPair('Cache-Control', 'no-cache'),
    NVPair('User-Agent', 'Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Ubuntu; Linux x86_64; rv:13.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/13.0.1'), ]

headers0= \
  [ NVPair('Accept', 'text/css,*/*;q=0.1'),
    NVPair('Referer', 'http://grinder.sourceforge.net/'), ]

headers1= \
  [ NVPair('Accept', '*/*'),
    NVPair('Referer', 'http://grinder.sourceforge.net/'), ]

headers2= \
  [ NVPair('Accept', 'image/png,image/*;q=0.8,*/*;q=0.5'),
    NVPair('Referer', 'http://grinder.sourceforge.net/'), ]

headers3= \
  [ NVPair('Accept', 'image/png,image/*;q=0.8,*/*;q=0.5'),
    NVPair('Referer', 'http://grinder.sourceforge.net/skin/screen.css'), ]

headers4= \
  [ NVPair('Accept', 'image/png,image/*;q=0.8,*/*;q=0.5'),
    NVPair('Referer', 'http://grinder.sourceforge.net/skin/profile.css'), ]

#....

In the requests section, a request object for each unique URL is created:

url0 = 'http://grinder.sourceforge.net:80'
url1 = 'http://www.ohloh.net:80'
url2 = 'http://sourceforge.net:80'

request101 = createRequest(Test(101, 'GET /'), url0)

request102 = createRequest(Test(102, 'GET profile.css'), url0, headers0)

request103 = createRequest(Test(103, 'GET screen.css'), url0, headers0)

request104 = createRequest(Test(104, 'GET print.css'), url0, headers0)

# ...

Note the use of the createRequest helper function, which was defined earlier. This function creates a HTTPRequest object and instruments its GET, POST, ..., methods to report call statistics against the supplied Test.

Finally the TestRunner class. This section groups the requests into pages and defines each page as a method, sets the sleep interval between requests, and provides an instrumented method for the return of data from the tests:

  # A method for each recorded page.
  def page1(self):
    """GET / (requests 101-131)."""
    result = request101.GET('/', None,
      ( NVPair('Accept', 'text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8'), ))
    self.token_subject = \
      httpUtilities.valueFromBodyURI('subject') # 'Feedback on The Grinder web site index.h...'
    self.token_sitesearch = \
      httpUtilities.valueFromHiddenInput('sitesearch') # 'grinder.sourceforge.net'

    grinder.sleep(176)
    request102.GET('/skin/profile.css')

    request103.GET('/skin/screen.css')

    request104.GET('/skin/print.css')

    request105.GET('/skin/basic.css')

#.....

    return result

  def page2(self):

#.....

  def __call__(self):
    """Called for every run performed by the worker thread."""
    self.page1()      # GET / (requests 101-131)

    grinder.sleep(39)
    self.page2()      # GET project_users.js (requests 201-202)
    self.page3()      # GET pdfdoc.gif (requests 301-305)
    self.page4()      # GET sflogo.php (request 401)
    self.page5()      # GET external-link.gif (request 501)


# Instrument page methods.
Test(100, 'Page 1').record(TestRunner.page1)
Test(200, 'Page 2').record(TestRunner.page2)

#.....

Once you've recorded your script you have two methods that you can use to replay your script:

  1. You can create a simple grinder.properties file and you can replay the recorded scenario with The Grinder. Your properties file should at least set grinder.script to grinder.py.
  2. Alternately you can use the console to distribute your script to an agent and set it as the script to run. Each agent will still need a simple grinder.properties file containing the console address, though you will not need to set the grinder.script property.

The recorded script grinder.py can be edited by hand to suit your needs.

Generating a Clojure script

You can generate a Clojure script using -http clojure on the command line. For example:

java net.grinder.TCPProxy -http clojure -console

Altering the output with custom stylesheet

The TCPProxy HTTP filters installed with -http, -http jython, and -http clojure, each create their output by transforming an XML model of the HTTP request/response stream using an XLST stylesheet.

These standard stylesheets can be found in etc. You can use a stylesheet of of your own making to customise the output of the filter. You should pass the file name of your custom stylesheet as a command line argument directly after -http.

If you want to see the intermediate XML model you can use:

java net.grinder.TCPProxy -http etc/httpToXML.xsl -console

The model confirms to the XML schema etc/tcpproxy-http.xsd.

How to offset test numbers

If sometimes useful to offset test numbers for a test script when running several different scripts together, perhaps using the sequence, or parallel examples from the script gallery. This gives the tests contributed by each script a distinct range of test numbers, which is important because the test number uniquely identifies the test in the console and the data logs.

The HTTP TCPProxy filter allows the recording of a test script with off-setting test numbers. This is done using the HTTPPlugin.initialTest property, which can either be set directly on the command line, or in a file using the -properties option. Here's an example that will start the test numbers at 1000:

java -DHTTPPlugin.initialTest=1000  net.grinder.TCPProxy  -http

Its also simple to offset test values by modifying the script.

Edit the recorded script to replace:

from net.grinder.script import Test

with:

from net.grinder.script import Test as StandardTest

def Test(number, description):
    # Adjust the 1000 to the appropriate offset.
    return StandardTest(number + 1000, description)

Neither technique allows different test scripts to be merged together into one because you also have to alter the identifiers used for headers, URLs, pages, tokens, and so on. If you want to do this, you might consider a custom stylesheet.

How to record additional headers

By default, the following HTTP headers are recorded from the HTTP stream.

  • Accept
  • Accept-Charset
  • Accept-Encoding
  • Accept-Language
  • Cache-Control
  • Referer
  • User-Agent
  • Content-Type
  • If-Modified-Since
  • If-None-Match

Additional headers can be specified with the HTTPPlugin.additionalHeaders system property. The value is a comma-separated list of header names. For example:

java net.grinder.TCPProxy -DHTTPPlugin.additionalHeaders=MyHeader,AnotherHeaderName -http

SSL and HTTPS support

The TCPProxy has SSL support based on Java's JSSE framework.

SSL relationships are necessarily point to point. When you interpose the TCPProxy in SSL communications between a browser and a server you end up with two SSL connections. Each SSL connection has its own set of client and server certificates (both of which are optional).

TCPProxy and SSL

The TCPProxy will negotiate appropriate certificates for both connections using built-in certificates or those from a user-specified Java key store. In particular, the TCPProxy needs a self-signed server certificate for the connection from the browser. By default, the TCPProxy will use a built-in certificate.

When first establishing a connection, your browser will present a warning and confirmation dialog. This is because the built-in certificate isn't authorised by any of the certificate authorities that the browser trusts. Additionally, the built-in certificate authorises localhost so if your server doesn't listen at this address the browser will complain. Choose the "accept this certificate for this session" option.

Warning
The Grinder deliberately accelerates SSL initialisation by using a random number generator that is seeded with a fixed number. This does not hinder SSL communication, but theoretically makes it less secure. No guarantee is made as to the cryptographic strength of any SSL communication using The Grinder.

Advanced users can specify their own server certificate for the connection from the browser, or add client certificates for the connection to the server, using the -keystore, -keystorepassword, and -keystoretype options. See the J2SE/JSSE documentation for how to set up a key store.

If you fail to provide a key store with a valid server certificate (hard to do now The Grinder has a built in certificate), you may get a No available certificate corresponds to the SSL cipher suites which are enabled exception, and your browser may report that it cannot communicate as it has no common encryption algorithms. Internet Explorer likes to be different. If start the TCPProxy without a valid server certificate and then connect through it using Internet Explorer, the TCPProxy will report "SSL peer shut down incorrectly. The browser will just spin away until it times out. The easiest way to provide a server certificate is to copy the testkeys file from the JSSE samples distribution and start the proxy using:

java net.grinder.TCPProxy -keyStore testkeys -keyStorePassword passphrase

Using the TCPProxy with other proxies

The TCPProxy can be used with other HTTP/HTTPS proxies.

Chained proxies

Use the -httpproxy option to specify the host name and port of the proxy. Use the -httpsproxy option only if your HTTPS proxy requires separate settings.

Using the TCPProxy as a port forwarder

It is normally most useful to use the TCPProxy in its HTTP Proxy mode as described above.

When using the TCPProxy as a debugging tool it occasionally is useful to use it in port forwarding mode. This mode is enabled when one or more of -remotehost and -remoteport are specified. In port forwarding mode, the TCPProxy simply listens on localhost:localport and forwards to remotehost:remoteport.

To understand why HTTP Proxy mode is usually better than port forwarding mode when using a browser, consider what happens if the remote server returns a page with an absolute URL link back to itself. If you click on the link, the browser will contact the server directly, bypassing the TCPProxy. Another disadvantage is that you can't use the TCPProxy with more than one remote sever.

Summary of TCPProxy options

Option Description
Commonly used options
-console Display a simple console that has a control button that allows The TCPProxy to be shut down cleanly. This can help in certain situations where a hard kill of the TCPProxy process would lose output that is still buffered in memory.
-http [stylesheet] Adds a standard request filter and response filter to produce a Jython script for The Grinder suitable for use with the HTTP plugin. The default filter generates a Jython script and is equivalent to -http jython. Alternatively, use clojure to produce a Clojure script, or the output can be customised completely by providing the file name of an XSLT style sheet.
-requestfilter filter Add a request filter. filter can be the name of a class that implements net.grinder.tools.tcpproxy.TCPProxyFilter or one of NONE, ECHO. The option can be specified multiple times, in which case the filters are invoked one after another. If the not specified, the default ECHO filter is used.
-responsefilter filter Add a response filter. filter can be the name of a class that implements net.grinder.tools.tcpproxy.TCPProxyFilter or one of NONE, ECHO. The option can be specified multiple times, in which case the filters are invoked one after another. If the not specified, the default ECHO filter is used.
-localhost host Set the host name or IP address to listen on. This must correspond to an interface of the machine the TCPProxy is started on. The default is localhost.
-localport port Set the port to listen on. The default is 8001.
-keystore file Specify a custom key store. Usually the built-in keystore is good enough so -keystore does not need to be specified.
-keystorepassword password Set the key store password. Only used if -keystore is set. Optional for some key store types.
-keystoretype type Set the key store type. Only used if -keystore is set. If not specified, the default value depends on JSSE configuration but is usually jks.
Less frequently used options
-properties file Specify a file containing properties that are passed on to the filters.
-remotehost host Set the host name or port the TCPProxy should connect to in port forwarding mode. The TCPProxy starts in port forwarding mode if either -remotehost or -remoteport is set. The default is localhost.
-remoteport port Set the port the TCPProxy should connect to in port forwarding mode. The TCPProxy starts in port forwarding mode if either -remotehost or -remoteport is set. The default is 7001.
-timeout seconds Set an idle timeout. This is how long the TCPProxy will wait for a request before timing out and freeing the local port. The TCPProxy will not time out if there are active connections.
-httpproxy host port Specify that output should be directed through another HTTP/HTTPS proxy. This may help you reach the Internet. This option is not supported in port forwarding mode.
-httpsproxy host port Specify that output should be directed through a HTTPS proxy. Overrides any -httpproxy setting. This option is not supported in port forwarding mode.
-ssl Use SSL in port forwarding mode. This will make both the TCPProxy's local socket and the connections to the target server use SSL. The default HTTP Proxy mode ignores this option and always listens as an HTTP proxy and an HTTPS proxy.
-colour Specify that a simple colour scheme should be used to distinguish request streams from response schemes. This uses terminal control codes that only work on ANSI compliant terminals.
-component class Register a component class with the filter PicoContainer.
-debug Make PicoContainer chatty.