mcrover now monitors Plex server

mcrover is now monitoring my Plex server.
This was more work than expected. A big part of the issue here is that the REST API uses XML. I’ve always disliked using XML. It’s a nice technology, but when it comes to open source libraries for C++, it’s always been lacking.

Long ago, I used Xerces. Not because it’s the best, but because it was the only liberally licensed library with support for DTD and Schema validation. That is still the case today. Unfortunately, it’s very cumbersome to use and is written in old C++ (as in C++ 1998). There’s a lot of boilerplate, a considerable amount of global state (very bad for multithreaded applications), and a lot of the memory management is left to the application. I can’t imagine anyone today is using it in production.

But I plunged ahead anyway. Sadly, it was a mistake. Somewhere it was stomping on the stack, often in ways that caused problems deep inside openssl (which I don’t use directly, instead using boost::beast and boost::certify). The stack corruption caused problems trying to debug, and I didn’t have the time to figure it out. And of course I’m always suspicious of openssl, given the fact that it’s written in C and many of us lived through Heartbleed and many other critical openssl vulnerabilities. To be honest, we’ve been in desperate need of a really good, modern (and in at least C++11) C++ implementation of TLS for more than a decade. Of course I could rant about our whole TLS mess for hours, but I’ll spare you.

Time being of the essence, I switched to pugixml. I don’t need DTD/Schema validation. Problem gone, a lot less code, and a much more modern API (much harder to shoot yourself in the foot).

Inside mcrover, I’m using XPath on the XML returned by Plex. The internal code is generic; it would not be much work to support other Web applications with XML interfaces. The XPath I look for in the XML is a configuration item, and really the only reason I have something specific for Plex is their use of an API token. But the configuration is generic enough that supporting other XML Web applications shouldn’t be difficult.

At any rate, what I have now works. So now I don’t get blackholed fixing a Plex issue when I haven’t used it for months and something has gone wrong. I know ahead of time.

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