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Posted 6 Dec 2011

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Simple Network Programming

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6 Dec 2011CPOL5 min read
A simple way to do network programming


When I first started programming approximately 5 years ago, I was dreaming big. I wanted to make a chat system from scratch with no issues that was fast, reliable, and lightweight.

However, most ambitious projects for new programmers get shot down real fast and this was no different. I searched and struggled to find a decent system or decent code that would allow me to do some simple communication with two clients with a centralized server. Apparently, that was rather difficult for me to find (I didn't get good with Google until a few years later) anything that would do exactly what I wanted.

A few years go by and I gathered more skill and I decided, "Hey, I should write that chat system". So I did just that. It stunk, but I learned quite a few things. RattleSnake is an example of the things I learned.


I wanted a flexible system that would take anything I gave it, and produce what I wanted. That sounds really stupid sounding, but bear with me. I wanted to be able to serialize structures, or send custom coded byte arrays without having to change my methods of sending. RattleSnake can do just that.

This started as a pet project and has evolved into something massive. RattleSnake can handle just about whatever you actually want, from Client-Server connections, to even handling UPnP.

RattleSnake has 4 major namespaces:

  • RattleSnake.Client
    • RattleSnake.Client.Client
    • RattleSnake.Client.TcpClientEx
  • RattleSnake.Server
    • RattleSnake.Server.Server
    • RattleSnake.Server.TcpListenerEx
  • RattleSnake.Security
    • RattleSnake.Security.WhirlpoolManaged
      • Please note that this class is not of my creation. I just converted it from C#. The original license and notices with the class are still in place to credit the original authors.
    • RattleSnake.Security.MersenneTwister
      • As with WhirlpoolManaged, I did not create this. I just converted it from C#. The original license and notices with the class are still in place to credit the original authors.
    • RattleSnake.Security.Encryption
  • RattleSnake.UPnP

It's quite clear what each namespace actually contains and what it does.

I had to do a few cases of Inheritance, such as inheriting the TcpClient & TcpListener to provide future functionality (the MyBase.Active() property for example) as I update this project. For now, though, RattleSnake is relatively complete minus a few new features I want to put in.

Using the Code

It's extremely simple to use RattleSnake's Client, Server, UPnP, and Security features. The Client and Server are completely event driven, making it pretty simple to understand.

Here's a quick example of using the Client:

' This is for the Client. 
Dim _rsc As New RattleSnake.Client.RattleSnakeClient() 

' Now perform a connection
_rsc.Connect("", 6110)  

That is all you need to do to perform a connection. But, how do we keep track of when the client connects? What about receiving data, or a disconnection, or even an exception? The RattleSnakeClient class has events to handle all of that:

Public Event ConnectionEstablished(ByVal sender As Object, _
    ByVal e As EventArgs.RattleSnakeClientConnectionEstablishedEventArgs)

This event will fire when a connection is established. The EventArgs passed contains the following properties:

  • IP - Returns the IP address that the client is connected to (as a String).
  • Port - Returns the Port number that the client is connected to (as a Port).
Public Event DataReceived(ByVal sender As Object, _
    ByVal e As EventArgs.RattleSnakeClientDataReceivedEventArgs)

This event will fire when Data comes through the connection. The EventArgs passed contains the following properties:

  • Data - Return a byte array containing all the data that was received.
  • Object - Attempts to return an object that represents the Data received by means of serialization. If the serialization fails, it returns a New Object.
Public Event Exception(ByVal sender As Object, _
    ByVal e As EventArgs.RattleSnakeClientExceptionEventArgs) 

This event will fire when the RattleSnakeClient throws an Exception. The EventArgs passed contains the following properties:

  • Exception - Returns the exception that was thrown.

These events are easy, straightforward, and keep RattleSnake running smoothly.
Sending data is also extremely simple with RattleSnake:

'Define some random data in a Byte Array; filled with junk data or what not.
Dim _data As new Byte(255)

'Now send it with RattleSnake

It is that easy to send data with RattleSnake. It is also possible to simply pass the .BeginSend() method with an Object that is Serializable and have it be sent as well; RattleSnake makes use of that internally.

Disconnection is a breeze as well:


In RattleSnake, unless it's really important, .Disconnect() will always take a True. The True tells RattleSnake to notify the other side that a disconnection is happening. I do this just to make sure that there are no Exceptions raised on the other end that could otherwise be avoided.

Now, a quick overview on the UPnP class in RattleSnake. The UPnP class allows for the quick and easy addition (or removal) of port mappings on UPnP enabled devices. This is a list of the methods, properties, and enumerations of the UPnP class:

  • Protocol
    • TCP
    • UDP
  • Add()
  • Remove()
  • Exists()
  • LocalIP()
  • Print()
  • Dispose()

Each method has XML style comments, so I won't go into much details here, but it's pretty easy to add a port mapping to a UPnP enabled device:

Using rs = New RattleSnake.UPnP.UPnP
        rs.Add(RattleSnake.UPnP.UPnP.LocalIP(), 100, 
    RattleSnake.UPnP.UPnP.Protocol.TCP, "Description")
End Using  

That is all it takes to add a port mapping to a UPnP enabled device. The code adds a mapping to the local IP address, on port 100, with the TCP protocol and a description of "Description". Removing is pretty simple as well:

Using rs = New RattleSnake.UPnP.UPnP
        rs.Remove(100, RattleSnake.UPnP.UPnP.Protocol.TCP)
End Using 

The port that was just added earlier has now been removed. The Add() and Remove() routines internally call Exists() so, as a programmer, it's not required to do it as well (However, the class will throw an ArgumentException()).

RattleSnake, as a whole, should not be riddled with bugs. It has gone through multiple field tests without many errors at all, but if any bugs should pop up, I will try my best to fix them as quickly as possible.

Points of Interest

I should note that RattleSnake has seen its fair share of rewrites. As of 12/5/2011, this is the third rewrite of RattleSnake to provide cleaner and more efficient code. UPnP is a recent addition to RattleSnake and one that took me a bit of research to figure out how to easily do in Windows. I use the term 'easily' rather loosely because it's relatively simple but takes a bit of figuring out to make it work (such as it only works in I believe .NET 3.5 and above as the required Interface isn't exposed in .NET 2.0).


  • 12/5/2011 - Initial release


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

United States United States
I am a professional Software Developer. I work primarily in C# and interact with Microsoft SQL Server at my job. I have been developing software since I was 15 and continue to learn more and more every day.

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