Building on our Simple XOR application

In this post we’re going to pick up our simple xorer application where we left off. We wanted to add the ability to read in a ‘key’ (string of characters) and a file containing ‘plain text’ from the command line. Then xor the ‘key’ against the ‘plain text’ and output the resulting ‘cipher text’ to a file. If you do not have the previous code, it’s hosted on github.

To start let’s reorganize our project a bit. Create a spec directory for our tests. Create a lib directory for our xorer module. Create a bin directory for our executable.

cd simple-xorer
mkdir {bin,lib,spec}

Now let’s separate our test code from our implementation code. Create a new file spec/xorer_spec.rb move the following code from xorer.rb into it:

require './lib/xorer'

describe Xorer do
it 'converts a character to a byte' do
expect(Xorer.char_to_byte('a')).to be(97)
end

it 'converts a byte to a binary string' do
expect(Xorer.byte_to_binary_string(97)).to eql('1100001')
end

it 'xors two binary values' do
expect(Xorer.xor(0, 0)).to eql('0')
end

it 'xors two binary strings' do
expect(Xorer.xor('1100001', '1100010')).to eql('0000011')
end

it 'converts a binary string to a byte' do
expect(Xorer.binary_string_to_byte('1100001')).to eql(97)
end

it 'converts a byte to a character' do
expect(Xorer.byte_to_char(97)).to eql('a')
end
end

Notice the require './lib/xorer' at the top of the file. This is important since our next step is to move xorer.rb to lib/xorer.rb. This tells rspec where to find our implementation code.

mv xorer.rb lib/xorer.rb

Let’s run our tests and make sure everything is still passing.

$ rspec

Xorer
converts a character to a byte
converts a byte to a binary string
xors two binary values
xors two binary strings
converts a binary string to a byte
converts a byte to a character

Finished in 0.00141 seconds
6 examples, 0 failures

Great, with that clean up out of the way we can focus on adding more functionality to our application. I imagine running our application from the command line with the following syntax:

bin/xorer mykey test.txt ciphertext.txt

So the user must pass in the ‘key’ as the first argument, followed by the input or ‘plain text’ file, and lastly the output or ‘cipher text’ file.

Then to reverse the ‘cipher text’ the user would simply run:

bin/xorer mykey ciphertext.txt plaintext.txt

So let’s create a test.txt file to work with:

$ cat > test.txt
This is a test...
^D

We are piping in input from the terminal to a new file that we are naming test.txt all in one step. The ^D (press control+d) tells the terminal we want to stop inputing text and return to the the prompt.

Now let’s create our bin/xorer file. This will be a ruby file. To make it executable we need to do a few things.

touch bin/xorer
chmod +x bin/xorer

Now add the shebang line to the very top of the file and output a simple Hello World!:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

puts "Hello World!"

If we run it we should see the following output:

$ bin/xorer
Hello World!

Now let’s make sure the user passes the right amount of arguments onto the command line. Remove the ‘hello world’ line, and add the following:

require './lib/xorer'

if ARGV[0].nil? || ARGV[0].empty?
puts "need a key"
exit 1
else
key = ARGV[0]
end

if ARGV[1].nil? || ARGV[1].empty?
puts "need an input file"
exit 1
else
input_file = ARGV[1]
end

if ARGV[2].nil? || ARGV[2].empty?
puts "need an output file"
exit 1
else
output_file = ARGV[2]
end

Now if you try to pass in the wrong arguments you will get an error message and the application with quit.

$ bin/xorer
need a key

$ bin/xorer mykey
need an input file

$ bin/xorer mykey test.txt
need an output file

$ bin/xorer mykey test.txt ciphertext.txt
$

Let’s create a run method in our Xorer module that accepts the 3 necessary parameters. Open lib/xorer.rb and add the following:

module Xorer
...
def self.run(key, input_file, output_file)
end
...
end

In our bin/xorer file let’s add a call to the Xorer.run()

...
Xorer.run(key, input_file, output_file)

In order to work with the ‘key’ we need to convert the the string value to binary string.

module Xorer
...
def self.bytes_to_binary_array(bytes)
bytes_binary_array = []
bytes.each_byte do |b|
bytes_binary_array << self.byte_to_binary_string(b)
end
bytes_binary_array
end
...
def self.run(key, input_file, output_file)
key_binary_array = bytes_to_binary_array(key)
end
...
end

We need to do the same thing for the ‘plain text’ file. Since in ruby a String and File both have the each_byte method available to them we do not have to change bytes_to_binary_array. We just need to get a file handle and pass that into the bytes_to_binary_array method.

module Xorer
...
def self.run(key, input_file, output_file)
...
plaintext_file = File.open(input_file, 'rb')
plaintext_binary_array = bytes_to_binary_array(plaintext_file)
plaintext_file.close
end
...
end

I am not going to write a test for bytes_to_binary_array this since we are already testing the underlying method byte_to_binary_string which produces the binary string from the byte.

Here is where we run into our first problem. Our ‘key’ needs to be the same amount of characters as our ‘plain text’. If they are not the same length we will not be able to xor the characters correctly. If we try to xor this it will result in an error similar to the following:

$ bin/xorer mykey test.txt ciphertext.txt
/Users/mattweppler/developer/projects/xorer/lib/xorer.rb:15:in `binary_string_to_byte': undefined method `*' for nil:NilClass (NoMethodError)

So let’s make sure the ‘key’ is at least the same length. If it is not the remaining characters of the ‘key’ should just be ignored.

Do you have a test for that?

describe Xorer do
...
it 'adjusts the length of the key & input file to the same length' do
key = 'mykey'
input = "This is a test...\n"
key_binary_array = Xorer.bytes_to_binary_array(key)
input_binary_array = Xorer.bytes_to_binary_array(input)

expected = ["1101101", "1111001", "1101011", "1100101", "1111001", "1101101", "1111001", "1101011", "1100101", "1111001", "1101101", "1111001", "1101011", "1100101", "1111001", "1101101", "1111001", "1101011"]

expect(Xorer.adjust_key_length(key_binary_array, input_binary_array)).to eql(expected)
end
end

Does the test pass?

$ rspec

Xorer
converts a character to a byte
converts a byte to a binary string
xors two binary values
xors two binary strings
converts a binary string to a byte
converts a byte to a character
adjusts the length of the key & input file to the same length (FAILED - 1)

Failures:

1) Xorer adjusts the length of the key & input file to the same length
Failure/Error: expect(Xorer.adjust_key_length(key_binary_array, input_binary_array)).to eql(expected)
NoMethodError:
undefined method `adjust_key_length' for Xorer:Module
# ./spec/xorer_spec.rb:36:in `block (2 levels) in <top (required)>'


Finished in 0.00148 seconds
7 examples, 1 failure

Failed examples:

rspec ./spec/xorer_spec.rb:28 # Xorer adjusts the length of the key & input file to the same length

Write just enough code for the test to pass

module Xorer
...
def self.adjust_key_size(key_binary_array, input_binary_array)
if key_binary_array.size != input_binary_array.size
if key_binary_array.size < input_binary_array.size
times = input_binary_array.size / key_binary_array.size
key_binary_array *= times + 1
end
key_binary_array = key_binary_array[0...input_binary_array.size]
end
end
...
def self.run(key, input_file, output_file)
...
self.adjust_key_size(key_binary_array, input_binary_array)
...
end
...
end

Does the test pass?

$ rspec

Xorer
converts a character to a byte
converts a byte to a binary string
xors two binary values
xors two binary strings
converts a binary string to a byte
converts a byte to a character
adjusts the length of the key & input file to the same length

Finished in 0.00167 seconds
7 examples, 0 failures

The next issue we will face is the possibility that the binary arrays will not be the same size. Take for instance the character T and . from our test.txt file. T becomes ... and . becomes .... If we try to xor this it will result in an error similar to the following:

$ bin/xorer mykey test.txt ciphertext.txt
/Users/mattweppler/developer/projects/xorer/lib/xorer.rb:98:in `^': nil can't be coerced into Fixnum (TypeError)

So we need to pad the binary array with 0’s. First we need to find out the length of the largest binary array.

Do you have a test for that?

describe Xorer do
...
it 'returns the length of the largest array element' do
input = "This is a test...\n"
input_binary_array = Xorer.bytes_to_binary_array(input)
expected = 7
expect(Xorer.largest_length(input_binary_array)).to eql(expected)
end
...
end

Write just enough code for the test to pass

module Xorer
...
def self.largest_length(binary_strings)
largest = 0
binary_strings.each do |string|
largest = (largest > string.size) ? largest : string.size
end
largest
end
...
def self.run(key, input_file, output_file)
...
key_largest = self.largest_length(key_binary_array)
input_largest = self.largest_length(input_binary_array)
largest = (key_largest > input_largest) ? key_largest : input_largest
...
end
end

Does the test pass?

$ rspec

Xorer
converts a character to a byte
converts a byte to a binary string
xors two binary values
xors two binary strings
converts a binary string to a byte
converts a byte to a character
adjusts the length of the key & input file to the same length
returns the length of the largest array element

Finished in 0.00174 seconds
8 examples, 0 failures

Next we pad with zeros:

Do you have a test for that?

describe Xorer do
...
it 'pads a binary string with zeros for the given length' do
actual = "1010"
expected = "00001010"
expect(Xorer.pad_with_zeros(8, actual)).to eql(expected)
end
...
end

Write just enough code for the test to pass

module Xorer
...
def pad_with_zeros(length, binary_string)
if binary_string.size < length
zeros = length - binary_string.size
binary_string = (binary_string.reverse << ('0' * zeros)).reverse
end
binary_string
end
...
def self.run(key, input_file, output_file)
...
key_binary_array.map! do |value|
self.pad_with_zeros(largest, value)
end

plaintext_binary_array.map! do |value|
self.pad_with_zeros(largest, value)
end
...
end
end

Does the test pass?

$ rspec

Xorer
converts a character to a byte
converts a byte to a binary string
xors two binary values
xors two binary strings
converts a binary string to a byte
converts a byte to a character
adjusts the length of the key & input file to the same length
returns the length of the largest array element
pads a binary string with zeros for the given length

Finished in 0.00187 seconds
9 examples, 0 failures

Now that all our tests are passing and we have all of the functionality in place, it’s time to put the finishing touch on the application. Let’s open a file to write to, and xor each element in the binary array, then convert the binary string to a byte, and convert the byte to a character, and lastly write the value to a file.

module Xorer
...
def self.run(key, input_file, output_file)
...
self.write_xord_to_file(output_file, plaintext_binary_array, key_binary_array)
end
...
def self.write_xord_to_file(output_file, key_binary_array, input_binary_array)
File.open(output_file, 'wb') do |f|
0.upto(input_binary_array.size - 1) do |idx|
xord = xor(key_binary_array[idx], input_binary_array[idx])
byte = self.binary_string_to_byte(xord)
char = self.byte_to_char(byte)
f.write char
end
end
...
end

Let’s see the fruits of our labor:

$ bin/xorer mykey test.txt ciphertext.txt
$ cat ciphertext.txt
9Y
KYWCWa
$ bin/xorer mykey ciphertext.txt plaintext.txt
$ cat plaintext.txt
This is a test...

So as you can see the cipher text looks nothing like our plain text. I am going to stop here. I had initially wanted to refactor some of the methods by using the ruby built in pack and unpack methods. Here are a few examples of how to use unpack:

irb> "This is a test...\n".unpack('B*')
=> ["010101000110100001101001011100110010000001101001011100110010000001100001001000000111010001100101011100110111010000101110001011100010111000001010"]

irb> "This is a test...\n".unpack('C*')
=> [84, 104, 105, 115, 32, 105, 115, 32, 97, 32, 116, 101, 115, 116, 46, 46, 46, 10]

irb> "This is a test...\n".unpack('C*').map {|e| e.to_s 2}
=> ["1010100", "1101000", "1101001", "1110011", "100000", "1101001", "1110011", "100000", "1100001", "100000", "1110100", "1100101", "1110011", "1110100", "101110", "101110", "101110", "1010"]

Check the ruby documentation and if you feel like experimenting a little further, you can refactor some of the methods we’ve created to use pack and unpack instead of our implementation. Also take a look at benchmarking in ruby and benchmark any changes you make.

Ruby provides methods to benchmark and report the time used to execute Ruby code.

require 'benchmark'

n = 50000
Benchmark.bm(7) do |x|
x.report("for:") { for i in 1..n; a = "1"; end }
x.report("times:") { n.times do ; a = "1"; end }
x.report("upto:") { 1.upto(n) do ; a = "1"; end }
end

Hope this was somewhat helpful, and if you have any comments or feedback please let me know. You can view the source code hosted on github.

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