In addition to continuing to fix bugs in the WebVTT JavaScript validator, I have decided to take a look at possible ways to write our unit tets. In class, Humph mentioned some pretty neat modules for node like node-ffi, which allows one to bind JavaScript to C functions. Why do this in the first place? Personally, as much as I love C, I wouldn’t want to write a test suite in it. I’ve had experience writing unit tests in JavaScript and Ruby and JS was definitely a more pleasant langauge for me to use. By using a tool such as node-ffi, we can write JavaScript that will test our C code.

Getting started with node-ffi

The first thing I did was create a new git branch to work off of. You can view that git branch here to track my status! I created a new folder within tests called unit. This is where my code will live.

First, we need to install node-ffi and other required modules.

npm install ref node-ffi ref-struct

ref and ref-struct are used to define C types and structs in JavaScript, respectively.

Now that we have our tools installed, I started a script called harness.js. This is what I have done so far:

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var ref = require('ref');
var ffi = require('ffi');
var StructType = require('ref-struct');

// define types
var voidPtr = ref.refType(ref.types.void);
var webvtt_cue_fn_ptr = ref.refType(voidPtr);
var webvtt_error_fn_ptr = ref.refType(voidPtr);
var webvtt_timestamp = ref.types.double;
var webvtt_cue = ref.refType(voidPtr);
var webvtt_bytearray = ref.refType(voidPtr);
var webvtt_int8 = ref.types.int8;
var webvtt_int16 = ref.types.int16;
var webvtt_int32 = ref.types.int32;
var webvtt_int64 = ref.types.int64;
var webvtt_uint8 = ref.types.uint8;
var webvtt_uint16 = ref.types.uint16;
var webvtt_uint32 = ref.types.uint32;
var webvtt_uint64 = ref.types.uint64;
var webvtt_int = ref.types.int;
var webvtt_char = ref.types.char;
var webvtt_short = ref.types.short;
var webvtt_long = ref.types.long;
var webvtt_longlong = ref.types.longlong;
var webvtt_uint = ref.types.uint;
var webvtt_uchar = ref.types.uchar;
var webvtt_ushort = ref.types.ushort;
var webvtt_ulong = ref.types.ulong;
var webvtt_ulonglong = ref.types.ulonglong;
var webvtt_byte = ref.types.uint8;
var webvtt_bool = ref.types.int;
var webvtt_length = ref.types.uint32;
var webvtt_status = ref.types.int;

// define structs
var webvtt_parser = StructType({
state: webvtt_uint,
bytes: webvtt_uint,
line: webvtt_uint,
column: webvtt_uint,
read: webvtt_cue_fn_ptr,
error: webvtt_error_fn_ptr,
userdata: voidPtr,
mode: webvtt_bool,
finish: webvtt_bool,
flags: webvtt_uint,
cue: webvtt_cue,
truncate: ref.types.int,
line_pos: webvtt_uint,
line_buffer: webvtt_bytearray,
tstate: webvtt_uint,
token_pos: webvtt_uint,
token: webvtt_byte
});
// create binding to libwebvtt
var libwebvtt = ffi.Library('./libwebvtt.a', {
'webvtt_parse_chunk': [ webvtt_status, [webvtt_parser, voidPtr, webvtt_uint] ],
'webvtt_finish_parsing': [ webvtt_status, [webvtt_parser] ],
'webvtt_parse_cuetext': [ webvtt_status, [ webvtt_parser, webvtt_uint ] ]
});


console.log("Reached end!");

Starting at the top, we include our node modules. I wish a dependency system was built-in to JavaScript but npm and node do the job in this context. Next, using the ref module, we define a bunch of different types. This would be the equivalent of writing typedef statements in C/C++. You can see in the util.h of our parser that we typedef many primatives in order for the code to be portable across platforms. I’m not 100% sure if I’m implementing the types correctly on the node-ffi side, though. For instance, I’m not sure how enumerations should be handled. Right now, I am treating them as integers. I figure this would translate well to C enums. I believe you can also use pointers by calling .ref() or .deref() on pointer type variables to reference or dereference it.

I defined one structure with ref-struct so far, the webvtt_parser struct. However, I’m not sure if this is necessary. I believe I may be able to use void pointers in place of structs with node-ffi. This is something I’m going to have to experiment with.

Line 56 contains the real meat of node-ffi. This is where we create our binding to the C library. The Library method will takes a name of the library, and a dictionary of arrays containing information about the library’s API. For each method, we define: the method’s name, its return type, and a list of the types of arguments taken.

At this point, running the program will throw an error. The library we referenced in the Library method, ‘libwebvtt’, cannot be found! From what I understand, node-ffi requires either a dll or so file to link to. So my next goal is to compile a shared object file, or so file, from our libwebvtt code. Humph gave me a temporary solution for now, being a commaand to compile a shared object file:

gcc -dynamiclib -undefined suppress -flat_namespace \
obj/development-10.8.0-i386/libwebvtt/alloc.o \
obj/development-10.8.0-i386/libwebvtt/bytearray.o obj/development-10.8.0-i386/libwebvtt/cue.o \
obj/development-10.8.0-i386/libwebvtt/cuetext.o obj/development-10.8.0-i386/libwebvtt/error.o \
obj/development-10.8.0-i386/libwebvtt/lexer.o obj/development-10.8.0-i386/libwebvtt/parser.o \
obj/development-10.8.0-i386/libwebvtt/string.o -o libwebvtt.dylib

Does this work? Will I be able to create a node-ffi binding after this step? Stay tuned for the thrilling middle of this story!