Proxy the File class to places that aren't on the local filesystem
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File Proxy

A toy project to see if I can make a library with no knowledge of an external storage service read files from and write files to that service.

Why would you want to do this? Well, here's an example of reading a CSV:

require 'csv'
  :headers => :first_row) do |row|
  puts row.to_hash.inspect

This causes the CSV library to read the file employees.csv from the local filesystem. What if I have access to that file from a central resource, maybe an HR database, and it's exposed over something like HTTP? Do I really want to deal with downloading that file before I read it? Why can't I just tell CSV where the file lives?

  :headers => :first_row) do |row|
  puts row.to_hash.inspect

I could pass an IO to the CSV library which correctly wrapped the HTTP resource, and that would be perfectly valid and in this case arguable better, but there are plenty of other libraries that don't provide the same degree of flexibility and I want to see if I can support those too. I'd also like to not worry about providing IO wrappers around common things like reading from or writing to objects stored in s3 or on some FTP server.

A word of warning

This is a toy project and I'm not sure I'd use it for anything serious unless there was absolutely no better way. "Better" is, of course, rather subjective, so I'll leave that up to you do decide.

Here are some alternatives that were suggested to me as more sane solutions when talking about this project:

  • Use open-uri to read files
  • Mount the remote service via FUSE

I'm sure there are others - feel free to add your suggestions here.

How is it used and how does it work?

Include the shim into the File class:

require 'file_proxy'
File.class_eval { include FileProxy::Shim }

That little piece of code totally screws with the File class as provided by stdlib. I'd encourage you to read the code to find out exactly the sort of crazy things I'm doing.

From now on, any file access (via File at least) will try to parse the path as an URI. If there's no scheme part to the URI, as will be the case with normal filesystem paths, then proxy back to the original File class ie behaviour should not be changed.

If there is a scheme in the URI then attempt to load the appropriate Proxy behaviour from FileProxy::Proxies::<Scheme>Proxy and call the method which was origianlly called on File from that, passing the same arguments (including blocks, if any) to that method.

Who made this crazy thing?

Craig R Webster wrote most of the madness.

Jon Wood helped work out how to delegate back to the original File class.

Tom Stuart and James Adam tried to talk me into doing something sane (sorry guys) and talked about how to capture the original File class before futzing with it.


Since nothing is complete without a licence, this is released under the terms of the MIT licence, a copy of which is included in the LICENCE file.