Displaying a processes output on a web page with Websockets and Python


A few days ago a colleague of mine asked me how you would pipe the standard output of a process into a browser. I hacked around for a few hours and came up with a websockets based solution (using Twisted and Autobahn.ws) that you can see below (Your browser needs to support WebSockets, sorry IE9 and lower).

This is a live instant-updating tail of this sites web logs (tail -F access_log) with IP addresses omitted:

Edit: Offline for now :(

The code is very simple and can be found below or here on Github. It works like so:

When the file is executed by Python a WebSocketProcessOutputterThingFactory is created, which in turn creates a ProcessProtocol. The ProcessProtocol runs a command of your choosing (specified via the command line) and buffers the last 10 lines in memory. While this is chugging along a websocket client can connect on port 9000 and is added to a list of connected clients, which is managed by the WebSocketProcessOutputterThingFactory. Whenever the ProcessProtocol receives output it passes it to the WebSocketProcessOutputterThingFactory which then blasts that message to all the connected clients via their websocket connection. A bit of JavaScript can then display the data any way it likes.

All of this happens inside Twisted’s event loop, which is pretty cool because its event-driven nature allows you to mix and match protocols (in this case a ProcessProtocol and Websockets), you could send the output over any protocol (IRC, a HTTP stream, whatever) if you wanted.

Overall I’m pretty impressed with Autobahn, even though the docs are a bit crap.

How to use:

Grab the code from the Github repo. You need to install Twisted and AutoBahn, and if you are running this on Windows you also require PyWin32. Once those are all installed you can run the script like so:

python runner.py [shell command to run]


python runner.py tail -F /var/log/nginx/access_log


python runner.py /bin/sh -c "tail -F /var/log/nginx/access.log -n 150 | grep -v static --line-buffered | awk '{\$1=\"\"; print}'"

This should start a websocket server on port 9000, and the supplied index.html should connect to this and display the output. The .html file attempts to connect to localhost:9000, so you may need to change this if your .py file is running somewhere else or on a different port.

The code:

from twisted.internet import reactor, protocol
from autobahn.websocket import WebSocketServerFactory, \
                               WebSocketServerProtocol, \
from twisted.python.log import startLogging, msg
import sys

# Examples:
# runner.py /bin/sh -c "tail -f /var/log/nginx/access.log | grep -v secret_admin_page" --line-buffered | awk '{\$1=\"\"; print}'"
# runner.py tail tail -F /var/log/nginx/access.log

COMMAND_NAME = sys.argv[1]
COMMAND_ARGS = sys.argv[1:]
DEBUG = True

class ProcessProtocol(protocol.ProcessProtocol):
    """ I handle a child process launched via reactor.spawnProcess.
    I just buffer the output into a list and call WebSocketProcessOutputterThingFactory.broadcast when
    any new output is read
    def __init__(self, websocket_factory):
        self.ws = websocket_factory
        self.buffer = []

    def outReceived(self, message):
        self.buffer = self.buffer[-10:] # Last 10 messages please

    def errReceived(self, data):
        print "Error: %s" % data

# https://autobahn.ws/python
class WebSocketProcessOutputterThing(WebSocketServerProtocol):
    """ I handle a single connected client. We don't need to do much here, simply call the register and un-register
    functions when needed.
    def onOpen(self):
        for line in self.factory.process.buffer:

    def connectionLost(self, reason):
        WebSocketServerProtocol.connectionLost(self, reason)
        #super(WebSocketProcessOutputterThing, self).connectionLost(self, reason)

class WebSocketProcessOutputterThingFactory(WebSocketServerFactory):
    """ I maintain a list of connected clients and provide a method for pushing a single message to all of them.
    protocol = WebSocketProcessOutputterThing

    def __init__(self, *args, **kwargs):
        WebSocketServerFactory.__init__(self, *args, **kwargs)
        #super(WebSocketProcessOutputterThingFactory, self).__init__(self, *args, **kwargs)
        self.clients = []
        self.process = ProcessProtocol(self)
        reactor.spawnProcess(self.process,COMMAND_NAME, COMMAND_ARGS, {}, usePTY=True)

    def register(self, client):
        msg("Registered client %s" % client)
        if not client in self.clients:

    def unregister(self, client):
        msg("Unregistered client %s" % client)
        if client in self.clients:

    def broadcast(self, message):
        for client in self.clients:

if __name__ == "__main__":
    print "Running process %s with args %s" % (COMMAND_NAME, COMMAND_ARGS)
    factory = WebSocketProcessOutputterThingFactory("ws://%s:9000" % ("localhost" if LOCAL_ONLY else ""), debug=False)