python / ctypes / socket / datagram

python / ctypes / socket / datagram

  • Written by Walter Doekes

  • Published on: 2014-10-17

So, I was really simply trying to figure out why talking to my OpenSIPS instance over a datagram unix socket failed. If I had bothered to check the server logs, I would immediately have seen that it was a simple stupid permission issue.

Instead, I ended up reimplementing recvfrom and sendto in Python using the ctypes library. Which was completely useless, since Python socket.recvfrom and socket.sendto already work properly.

To let the time spent on that not go to a complete waste, I give you (and myself) an example of ctypes usage.

For those who don’t know: the ctypes library allows you to call C library functions from Python directly. The lib handles most things for you, but you need to do some manual labour when dealing with structs and pointers. The following snippet might provide a few pointers (hehe) on how to proceed.

For the record, it was these two that I was aiming for:

ssize_t recvfrom(int sockfd, void *buf, size_t len, int flags,
                 struct sockaddr *src_addr, socklen_t *addrlen);

ssize_t sendto(int sockfd, const void *buf, size_t len, int flags,
               const struct sockaddr *dest_addr, socklen_t addrlen);

The Python code; starts with a bunch of imports.

# vim: set ts=8 sw=4 sts=4 et ai:
import ctypes
import os
import socket
import sys

libc = ctypes.CDLL('')

Defines and structs. I called sin_family sa_family to get duck-typing in from_sockaddr.

def SUN_LEN(path):
    """For AF_UNIX the addrlen is *not* sizeof(struct sockaddr_un)"""
    return ctypes.c_int(2 + len(path))

PF_UNIX = socket.AF_UNIX
PF_INET = socket.AF_INET

class sockaddr_un(ctypes.Structure):
    _fields_ = [("sa_family", ctypes.c_ushort),  # sun_family
                ("sun_path", ctypes.c_char * UNIX_PATH_MAX)]

class sockaddr_in(ctypes.Structure):
    _fields_ = [("sa_family", ctypes.c_ushort),  # sin_family
                ("sin_port", ctypes.c_ushort),
                ("sin_addr", ctypes.c_byte * 4),
                ("__pad", ctypes.c_byte * 8)]    # struct sockaddr_in is 16 bytes

Converting to and from those structs. Before calling recvfrom we create a sockaddr with address unset. The recvfrom call will fill it.

# For compatibility with Python-socket, AF_UNIX uses a string address
# and AF_INET uses an (ip_address, port) tuple.

def to_sockaddr(family, address=None):
    if family == socket.AF_UNIX:
        addr = sockaddr_un()
        addr.sa_family = ctypes.c_ushort(family)
        if address:
            addr.sun_path = address
            addrlen = SUN_LEN(address)
            addrlen = ctypes.c_int(ctypes.sizeof(addr))

    elif family == socket.AF_INET:
        addr = sockaddr_in()
        addr.sa_family = ctypes.c_ushort(family)
        if address:
            addr.sin_port = ctypes.c_ushort(socket.htons(address[1]))
            bytes_ = [int(i) for i in address[0].split('.')]
            addr.sin_addr = (ctypes.c_byte * 4)(*bytes_)
        addrlen = ctypes.c_int(ctypes.sizeof(addr))

        raise NotImplementedError('Not implemented family %s' % (family,))

    return addr, addrlen

def from_sockaddr(sockaddr):
    if sockaddr.sa_family == socket.AF_UNIX:
        return sockaddr.sun_path
    elif sockaddr.sa_family == socket.AF_INET:
        return ('%d.%d.%d.%d' % tuple(sockaddr.sin_addr),
    raise NotImplementedError('Not implemented family %s' %

The two functions I was aiming for. Observe how only addr and (in the case of recvfrom) addrlen needs extra ctypes.byref love to ensure that the data is passed through a pointer.

# ssize_t sendto(int sockfd, const void *buf, size_t len, int flags,
#                const struct sockaddr *dest_addr, socklen_t addrlen);

def sendto(sockfd, data, flags, family, address):
    buf = ctypes.create_string_buffer(data)
    dest_addr, addrlen = to_sockaddr(family, address)
    ret = libc.sendto(sockfd, buf, len(data), flags,
                      ctypes.byref(dest_addr), addrlen)
    return ret

# ssize_t recvfrom(int sockfd, void *buf, size_t len, int flags,
#                  struct sockaddr *src_addr, socklen_t *addrlen);

def recvfrom(sockfd, length, flags, family):
    buf = ctypes.create_string_buffer("", length)  # no need to zero it
    src_addr, addrlen = to_sockaddr(family)
    ret = libc.recvfrom(sockfd, buf, length, flags,
                        ctypes.byref(src_addr), ctypes.byref(addrlen))
    assert ret == len(buf.value)
    return buf.value, from_sockaddr(src_addr)

An example echo server, using recvfrom and sendto. Nothing special from now on.

def echo_server(sock, af, bindaddr):
        while True:
            data, addr = recvfrom(sock.fileno(), 4096, 0, af)
            mangled = ''.join(reversed([i for i in data]))
            print 'Got %r from %r, sending response %r' % (data, addr, mangled)
            sendto(sock.fileno(), mangled, 0, af, addr)
        if af == socket.AF_UNIX:

An example client for that echo server.

def send_server(sock, af, bindaddr, addr):
        while True:
                data = raw_input('>> ')
            except EOFError:

            sendto(sock.fileno(), data, 0, af, addr)
            data, addr = recvfrom(sock.fileno(), 4096, 0, af)
            print 'Got %r from %r' % (data, addr)
        if af == socket.AF_UNIX:

It wouldn’t be a real example if you cannot run it.

if __name__ == '__main__':
    if len(sys.argv) in (3, 4) and sys.argv[1] == '-U':
        sock = socket.socket(PF_UNIX, socket.SOCK_DGRAM)
        af = socket.AF_UNIX
        bindaddr = sys.argv[2]
        addr = (len(sys.argv) == 4) and sys.argv[3] or None

    elif len(sys.argv) in (3, 4) and sys.argv[1] == '-I':
        sock = socket.socket(PF_INET, socket.SOCK_DGRAM)
        af = socket.AF_INET
        if len(sys.argv) == 3:
            bindaddr = ('', int(sys.argv[2]))
            addr = None
            bindaddr = ('', 0)
            addr = (sys.argv[2], int(sys.argv[3]))

        print 'Usage:'
        print '  python -U ./echosock'
        print '  echo hello unix socket |'
        print '    python -U ./mysock ./echosock'
        print 'or:'
        print '  python -I 1234  # echoport'
        print '  echo hello internet |'
        print '    python -I 1234'

    if addr:
        send_server(sock, af, bindaddr, addr)
        echo_server(sock, af, bindaddr)

And the invocation looks like this:

$ python -U ./echosock
Got 'Hello World!' from './mysock', sending response '!dlroW olleH'
$ python -U ./mysock ./echosock
>> Hello World!
Got '!dlroW olleH' from './echosock'

I did use ctypes in a useful manner previously, in pysigset. Observe that this works for any C library, not just libc. This may save you from having to code a C wrapper one day.

And a final note to self: remember to check the logs!

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