ZeroMQ, iOS and Python
1 May 2012
I wrote some example code for you.
Background: last week a coworker asked me what's the flavor du jour in two-way communication between a network server and an iOS app, should he just go with BSD sockets or is there something better? I suggested he should take a look at ZeroMQ. Not that I actually knew very much at all about it, but I had heard the name and seen that some people were pretty enthustiastic about it.
Turns out he had deadlines and wasn't too keen on building the library with an outdated zsh script that didn't seem to work.
I started fiddling with it myself on the weekend to have some idea about what I'm talking about. True enough that the script provided on the web page wasn't up to date, and once I fixed it I got only an ARM binary which isn't very useful in development when you want to test on the iPhone Simulator. After some more poking I finally managed to massage a working fat library out of it. And objc-zmq provided a nice simple Objective-C wrapper around the C API.
Not satisfied with playing with just one unknown technology, I thought I'd do the server in Clojure. After shaving the JNI yak for a couple of hours, trying to build a working version if the Java binding, I decided it wasn't worth it. Python was an easy fallback, but to keep things at least moderately exciting I used gevent which was also something I hadn't tried before.
It worked out pretty nice. The Python server is extremely simple and the iOS app isn't complex either. This hardly counts as a strenuous test of ZeroMQ, but at least from the code perspective it was really pleasant to work with. No hassle with buffers, just complete messages from an extremely simple API that enables the most common communication patterns with a couple of keywords. They wisely keep out of the marshalling business, telling people to use Protocol Buffers or something else for defining message formats.
The example project is available on Bitbucket. It works on my computer at the moment; see the Bitbucket page for details about the bits it requires.