mitsuba 1.8.0

Lightweight 4chan board archive software (like Foolfuuka), in Rust
mitsuba-1.8.0 is not a library.

Mitsuba

Mitsuba is a lightweight 4chan board archiver written in Rust. It continuously monitors a set of 4chan boards, fetches new posts, thumbnails, and optionally full images, and makes them available through an imageboard web UI as well as a read-only JSON API that is compatible with 4chan's official API.

Mitsuba's main goal is to be very lightweight in terms of CPU and memory usage, and Rust helps accomplish this goal. Mitsuba is designed to be easy to deploy and doesn't currently have any runtime dependencies besides needing a Postgresql database.

The intended usage is self-hosting an archive on a low budget, however the Actix based web UI and API are quite performant, and should be capable of scaling to any amount of readers, with much lower resource consumption compared to competing frameworks in other languages, and without the possible latency spikes caused by garbage collection.

Mitsuba does not support "ghost posting" as it's not an imageboard engine. This could be supported in the future with some work (mostly on the front-end) but it requires actual administration tools and an accounts system, neither of which are actually present. What few options Mitsuba has are set through the CLI.

If you want to check it out in the wild, https://mitsuba.world/ always has the latest release running. Most boards there are thumbnail-only, but /vip/ and a few others have full images and files archived.

Features

  • Very quick and easy to set up
  • No runtime dependencies except a running Postgresql database.
  • Single static executable, all assets and dependencies embedded.
  • Extremely lightweight, can run on a budget VPS.
  • Fully integrated: Mitsuba archives boards, threads, and images, serves them through a JSON API and Web UI all in one.
  • Easy administration with a few CLI commands
  • Configurable rate limiter
  • Optional full image download setting per-board
  • Web UI has a field that lets you jump to any post by typing its ID and selecting the board
  • Sha256 image deduplication, doesn't rely on 4chan's MD5 hash
  • Support for S3-compatible image storage backend
  • Reduced database writes: the hash of every post is kept in memory, if a post hasn't changed, no DB operation is performed
  • Can find an image from its original 4chan URL. https://i.4cdn.org/po/1546293948883.png can be found on mitsuba at /po/1546293948883.png

There are some important features missing:

  • No "ghost posting" or posting of any kind. Read only archive.
  • No full text search, or any search really. Can only get to a post or thread from the ID. We want to have search eventually.
  • No admin UI, administration CLI only (but there are only a few things you'd want to change anyways)
  • No administration tools to delete individual posts or images (but you can safely delete an image file from the folder if necessary, it won't be downloaded again)
  • No account system whatsoever (but this makes it inherently secure)
  • No tools for deleting all posts or images from a particular board (This is a planned feature, for now you could just run one instance per board)

Dependencies

You need to have a Postgresql instance available somewhere Mitsuba can reach it with the DATABASE_URL env variable provided. If you get an error about the server not accepting any more connections on startup, you might need to increase your database's max_connections configuration.

Quick Setup

export DATABASE_URL="postgres://user:password@127.0.0.1/mitsuba"
export RUST_LOG=mitsuba=info # Optional, to get feedback
mitsuba add po
mitsuba start

After some threads have been archived, you can visit http://127.0.0.1:8080/po/1 to see your new archive for the /po/ board.

This will only get posts and thumbnails but not full images.

Use mitsuba add po --full-images=true to change that.

Mitsuba will not fetch full images for a post it has already archived previously, unless it has to visit that post again. Currently this means if you enable full images on a board you were already archiving with only thumbnails, Mitsuba won't fetch full images for posts on threads until that particular thread gets a new post.

mitsuba add BOARD and mitsuba remove BOARD are safe to use while mitsuba is running. But in that scenario, they will not take effect until the current archive cycle is completed.

Setup Guide

Mitsuba is designed to be easy and quick to set up. Download a binary build for your system, or clone the repository and build your executable. Currently all static files mitsuba uses are embedded in the executable. You should just be able to run Mitsuba in an empty folder.

Some options need to be passed as environment variables. Mitsuba uses dotenv, which means that instead of setting the environment variables yourself, you can specify their values in a file called .env which must be in the directory you are running the mitsuba executable in. Mitsuba will read this file and apply the environment variables specified with their values.

You will find an example.env file in this repository. Copy it and rename it to just .env, then edit its configuration as needed. There are a couple of settings that you need to be aware of right now:

  • DATABASE_URL: you need to specify the connection URI for your Postgresql instance here. In the example file it's postgres://user:password@127.0.0.1/mitsuba . Replace with the correct username and password, as well as address, port and database name. The user needs to either be the owner of the specified database (in this case called mitsuba) if it already exists, or you need to create it yourself.

  • DATA_ROOT: the directory in which to save the image files. This is an optional setting. If you leave it out entirely, Mitsuba will just create a "data" folder in the current working directory, and use that.

  • RUST_LOG: the recommended setting for this is "mitsuba=info". This controls the mitsuba's log output. For now mitsuba uses env_logger which just prints the log information to standard output (the console). If this is not set, you will only see errors and warnings and no other feedback.

The only required setting is DATABASE_URL but RUST_LOG="info" is also recommended. Just use the example.env file contents and change the database URI.

We will refer to the executable as mitsuba in this guide from now on, but on Windows® it is of course called mitsuba.exe .

Run mitsuba help to get a quick usage guide with a list of possible commands:

$ mitsuba help
mitsuba 1.0
High performance board archiver software. Add boards with `add`, then start with `start` command.
See `help add` and `help start`

USAGE:
    mitsuba.exe <SUBCOMMAND>

FLAGS:
    -h, --help       Prints help information
    -V, --version    Prints version information

SUBCOMMANDS:
    add                Add a board to the archiver, or replace its settings.
    help               Prints this message or the help of the given subcommand(s)
    list               List all boards in the database and their current settings. Includes
                       disabled ('removed') boards
    remove             Stop and disable archiver for a particular board. Does not delete any
                       data. Archiver will only stop after completing the current cycle.
    start              Start the archiver, API, and webserver
    start-read-only    Start in read only mode. Archivers will not run, only API and webserver

You can use mitsuba help COMMAND in order to get more detailed information on each command and the possible options:

$ mitsuba help add
Add a board to the archiver, or replace its settings.

USAGE:
    mitsuba.exe add [OPTIONS] <name>

ARGS:
    <name>    Board name (eg. 'po')

FLAGS:
    -h, --help       Prints help information
    -V, --version    Prints version information

OPTIONS:
        --full-images <full-images>    (Optional) If false, will only download thumbnails for this
                                       board. If true, thumbnails and full images. Default is false.

This command will add a database entry for the specified board and its settings. Next time Mitsuba is run, an archiver will start for this board and any other boards you added with add.

As you can see there is only one option in terms of board specific settings.

  • full-images=true will make the archiver download full images (and files) for that board. The default is false, meaning only thumbnails will be downloaded.

Note that any time you use add on a board that was already added before, it enables that board if it was disabled with remove, and replaces the configuration for that board with the values you specify, or the defaults. The previous settings are ignored. So if you had full image download enabled on /po/ previously with a wait time of 100, and then do mitsuba add po, the settings will be reset to the default of no full image download, and wait time of 10.

So let's add our first board, /po/ is a good example because it's the slowest board on 4chan most of the time:

mitsuba add po --full-images=true
Added /po/ Enabled: true, Full Images: true
If mitsuba is running, you need to restart it to apply these changes.

We will get all images, and we'll look for new thread updates 10 minutes after the previous update completes. Let's confirm our changes with the list command which lists all boards added to mitsuba.

$ mitsuba list
/po/ Enabled: true, Full Images: true
1 boards found in database
  • Enabled means the board is currently being actively archived.

Finally, we take a look at the start command:

$ mitsuba help start
Start the archiver, API, and webserver

USAGE:
    mitsuba.exe start [OPTIONS]

FLAGS:
    -h, --help       Prints help information
    -V, --version    Prints version information

OPTIONS:
        --archiver-only <archiver-only>        (Optional) If true, will only run the archiver and
                                               not the web ui or the web API. If false, run
                                               everything. Default is false.
        --burst <burst>                        (Optional) Max burst of requests started at once.
                                               Default is 10.
        --jitter-min <jitter-min>              (Optional) Minimum amount of jitter to add to rate-
                                               limiting to ensure requests don't start at the same
                                               time, in milliseconds. Default is 200ms
        --jitter-variance <jitter-variance>    (Optional) Variance for jitter, in milliseconds.
                                               Default is 800ms. Jitter will be a random value
                                               between min and min+variance.
        --max-time <max-time>                  (Optional) Maximum amount of time to spend retrying a
                                               failed image download, in seconds. Default is 600s
                                               (10m).
        --rpm <rpm>                            (Optional) Max requests per minute. Default is 60.

This command starts the archiver(s) for the boards we added, as well as the web UI to browse the archives and the JSON API. There are various options, all are related to rate-limiting for the archiver, except one: archiver-only.

--archiver-only=true will start mitsuba as just an archiver. Posts will be fetched, images downloaded, but there is no web UI or API to actually see the archived content. This option is not particularly useful, but it will use considerably less RAM, going down to ~9-17MB. You can run the web UI and API separately with mitsuba start-read-only. You can even run multiple instances of the web UI at the same time if you want, as it's read-only like the name implies.

--rpm is the main rate-limiter option. It decides how many requests per minute are performed by mitsuba against 4chan's API and image servers, globally. All of the rate limiter settings are global for all boards and images, but note that images and API-calls (which are used to fetch threads) are counted separately in the rate limiting.

This means that if you set say, RPM to 60, mitsuba will perform 60 requests per minute (at most, on average it will be much less depending on how many threads get updated) against 4chan's API to fetch new threads it finds, and it will do 60 requests per minute to fetch images, for a global total of 120 requests per minute done at most across all boards and all images. This separation ensures that even if there's a large backlog of images to download, mitsuba can continue to fetch new posts at the same time, without the two interfering with each other.

We can now start our archiver with mitsuba start. It will start its work of archiving the board, /po/. After a while you can browse your archive by visiting http://127.0.0.1:8080/po/1

You can start a read-only instance of mitsuba, which will only serve the web UI and API but not archive anything, with mitsuba start-read-only.

You can separate the archiver and the public web UI/API by running the archiver by itself using mitsuba start --archiver-only=true, and then launch mitsuba start-read-only separately. This means you can stop or restart the archiver, add new boards to be archived, without any visible disruption to users who are just browsing your archive. You can also run multiple instances of mitsuba start-read-only if you want, or run the full archiver and web UI with mitsuba start along with additional read-only instances.

Web UI

The web UI is currently made to look and work exactly like 4chan's Yotsuba Blue theme, except it's the same on every board (even non-worksafe boards). We also include 4chan's official default "inline extension" with all of its features and options (the inline extension is licensed as MIT).

The JS code has been slightly modified through trial and error to work correctly with Mitsuba. If you find an issue, file a bug report.

In other works, Mitsuba's UI looks and works (almost) exactly like 4chan's UI because it is exactly the same. This was simply the easiest short term solution, and it allows us to leverage the fact that our API is the same as 4chan's, which makes the inline extension work. In the future, we want to customize the theme with different colors at least, to distinguish it, and add features that are suited to an archive.

The Web UI also works with Javascript disabled, just like 4chan's UI does.

Most of 4chan's features are correctly displayed in the Web UI. One limitation is that currently only real country flags are supported, and "troll flags" (eg. "Anarcho Capitalist" flag) are simply not displayed in the UI. However, these are only enabled on one board (/pol/).

Also all capcode posts (Mod, Admin, Manager, etc) will be displayed the same as "Moderator" with no distinction between roles. These posts are extremely rare anyways (besides, Moderator, which is displayed correctly), and I don't think there are even any up currently, and the distinction doesn't seem super important. Might be fixed eventually.

The Flash board also has some features we haven't implemented but Flash is dead anyway.

Note:

Currently the web UI is very inflexible when it comes to URLs. For example for a thread, you have to visit /[board]/thread/[id] , something like /po/thread/570368/welcome-to-po will get you a 404 because of the trailing welcome-to-po.

Index pages need to have the index number in the URL explicitly, so /po/1 for example works, but /po/ by itself returns 404. This is WIP. Also, there is no homepage / whatsoever.

API

Mitsuba features a read-only JSON API that is designed to be compatible with 4chan's official API. Because of that, we will not fully document it here, since that would be redundant. You can read their documentation, because the URIs and data returned are mostly the same. There are a few (non-breaking) differences that are explained below (of course, besides the difference that this API is not served from 4chan's domains, but instead from your own server).

First, currently, only the Threads and Indexes endpoints have been implemented. In addition to that, we added an endpoint to serve individual posts.

  • Threads: /[board]/thread/[op ID].json Serves a full 4chan thread, in the same format the official API uses.
  • Indexes: /[board]/[1-...].json Serves the content of a board's index page. This is the default page you see when you visit a board, for example https://boards.4channel.org/po/ . On 4chan there are normally only 15 index pages, going for example from /po/1.json to /po/15.json. On Mitsuba, since old threads are never deleted, there are as many pages as are needed to list all of the threads currently on the archive. Once there are no more threads, higher index numbers will return a 404 status code. This means you can easily scrape a mitsuba archive getting progressively higher indexes until it 404s. However note that the order is the same as on 4chan, so it's not guaranteed to remain consistent. The order is based on which thread has had the most recent new post, not when the thread was first archived. Also pages don't contain full threads, but only the OP and a few posts.

In addition to these endpoints, we have implemented a /[board]/post/[ID].json endpoint that just serves a single post by itself. Using this, you can get a post even if you only know its own ID and not the OP's.

There's also one extra endpoint that's entirely specific to Mitsuba: /boards-status.json, this returns the same data as the CLI's list command, but in JSON format.

Differences with 4chan API

The main difference with 4chan's API is that every post also contains a board field with the name of the board it is in.

In addition to that, in every situation where 4chan's API would not return a field, we instead return that field with a default value.

The only types present in 4chan's API are integers and strings, so for integers the value would 0 and for strings it's an empty string. This means that all JSON posts returned by our API are guaranteed to contain all 37 fields that a post could contain, no matter the board or type of post. For example, on 4chan's side, sticky field is only ever set on OP posts, and its value is 1 if it is set. On our side, if it wasn't set by 4chan, it would be present but set to 0.

In practice this should not cause any issues with existing code targeting 4chan's API as long as you are checking the truthiness of each field rather than just its presence. Arguably, this should be easier to handle in most languages, since all fields are always guaranteed to be present.

Images

In addition to the API being compatible, we also support getting the images from the same paths 4chan uses.

For example, if an image on 4chan is served from https://i.4cdn.org/po/1546293948883.png, Mitsuba will serve it under /po/1546293948883.png and its corresponding thumbnail will be /po/1546293948883s.jpg just like on the original site.

This allows you to get an image from the archive even if you only have the original link (which might be dead now) and don't know the post or thread ID.

Note that this is intended to help you find lost images, but it's not the correct way to serve them to many users. Visiting these links involves a database lookup every time because we store images differently compared to how 4chan does it.

You can see the correct link for static images being used on the web UI. The URL is based on the image's MD5 hash as supplied by 4chan, but encoded in Base32.

For example, for the previous image, the link to the full image would be /img/full/XG/XGKR4ZPAOXQFKUPYY43ETQPPKQ.png , the thumbnail is at /img/thumb/XG/XGKR4ZPAOXQFKUPYY43ETQPPKQ.jpg .

The /img/ path serves all images directly from disk. Mitsuba looks in your DATA_ROOT folder, which is data by default, and serves the images folder within from this path (/img/). So you can find all the images in there.

Commands

Use mitsuba help to get a list of commands and their descriptions, mitsuba help COMMAND to see the options specific to each command.

List

mitsuba list

Returns the list of boards currently known to the archiver. Includes "removed" boards that are not being archived, which are set as Enabled: False.

Add

mitsuba add BOARD [options]

Adds a board to the database if not present, and sets it to enabled. Next time the archiver is started it will archive this board as well. If the board was not present or disabled when this command was run, and Mitsuba's archiver is currently running, you need to restart it before the board actually starts being archived.

You can set some options for the board, which are stored in the database. help add to get more information on the options. If you don't specify an option, it will be set to the default value. Even if the board was already in the database, and the setting was different, if you use add, the setting will be reset to the default value unless you specify a different value.

Remove

mitsuba remove BOARD

Does not remove a board from the database, does not delete any of its data, posts or images.

What it does do is disable a board. That is, it stops being archived. The archiver for this board will complete its current cycle if it's in the middle of one, and then shut down. Other boards will not be affected.

This also does not affect the Web UI or the API. Data that was already archived for this board is still served like normal, just it won't be updated.

You can enable a board again by using add, however this doesn't apply until you restart mitsuba.

Start

mitsuba start

Starts the archivers and the web UI and web API server. There are various settings you can check with help start, most of them are settings for the rate limiter.

The option --archiver-only=true will only start the archiver without the API or web UI. This is useful if you want to start the web UI/API separately using start-read-only, this setup allows you to restart or stop the archiver without causing any disruption to the public facing website.

Start Read Only

mitsuba start-read-only

Starts the web UI and API, without the archivers. You can run as many instances of Mitsuba in this read-only mode as you wish.

Administration

Mitsuba does not come with any admin UI besides the CLI commands above.

There are no commands to purge a board from the database or delete its images.

Images are stored in the same folders for all boards so you can't easily remove all the images just for one board, and some images might have been posted on multiple boards.

Thumbnails and full images are stored in different folders (full and thumb) so you can delete all full images (for all boards) by just deleting that entire folder if you want to.

However, if you really need to delete a particular image, you can just delete the file. The images on disk are never read, and whether an image has been downloaded or not is tracked in the database. So Mitsuba doesn't know that the image was removed from disk, and will never download it again, because it would be marked as already present.

It's safe to delete any of the images on disk, but of course they will return 404s if someone tries to access them.

We want to eventually have some convenient CLI tools for administration. Maybe a web UI in the future, but that's a bigger endeavour.

Future

Some features that might be added:

  • Search: this is by far the biggest missing feature. I wanted to have this in 1.0 but I didn't have the time. Ideally, we should have full text search for post content and titles, names and such, plus all the advanced search options foolfuuka has. There are multiple ways to go about this, right now I am considering two. The first option is to use Postgresql full text search. This is limited, but it actually does have all the features realistically needed for our use case, and it doesn't add any external dependencies. This would ensure search is always available. The second option is using meilisearch which is a rust full text search engine that is both lightweight and easy to set up, it works well out of the box. This would give us more capabilities, it is very flexible. But it's an external dependency that users would have to download and run separately like Postgresql itself. So I am hesitant to add it, and it would have to be optional, making search not always available. On the other hand, using something like elasticsearch would be a huge dependency that I'm not willing to take, and it requires a lot more configuration. Also it's the opposite of lightweight among web servers.
  • purge BOARD command, to delete all archived data relative to a particular board. Would delete all posts, and all images that were only posted on that board, while preserving images also present on others. Would have option to only delete full images and preserve thumbnails and post data.
  • hide ID command, to hide a particular post from being served by the API, or an entire thread if the ID is of a thread OP. Would simply mark the post as "hidden" on the database, without deleting, it, but it would no longer be publically visible. Mainly meant in cases where someone was doxxed and asked to have the info taken down. This would also have an option to delete the images associated with the post or thread that aren't present on other posts, while still keeping them marked as downloaded, so they would not be downloaded again.
  • check command, to check the image store for corruption or missing images. This would first scan the database to see all images that are marked as downloaded, and then ensure that they exist on disk, hash the files to compare MD5s to make sure they are not corrupted. If an image is missing or corrupted, it would correct the database, and mark it as absent. Might also delete images that are on disk but aren't tracked in the database.
  • Object storage (S3 compatible) option to store images. This is not very difficult to implement by itself, but it requires handling more error cases, for example retrying when an upload to the object storage provider fails. Right now if an image fails to be saved to disk, it is dropped immediately and no retries are made. But with a remote storage provider more things can fail, and they might only fail temporarily.

At the moment a full imageboard engine with posting and administration is considered out of scope, however if you are interested in working on that, you should make an issue to discuss it.