Result Serialisation

The results of a are serialised for passing to the control host. Chopsticks provides its own serialisation format to achieve security [1] while providing flexibility.

For simplicity, you can imagine this behaves like JSON, extended to support most common Python types including tuple and set.


Generally Python primitive types are serialisable; classes are not. Currently all of these Python types are serialisable:

The serialisation format also provides identity references, which can make for more efficient encoding of certain types of structures. This also means that self-referential (recursive) structures are supported.

Unicode strings vs bytes

As you may be aware, the distinction between “strings” and “bytes” was not clear in Python 2.

If you’re lucky enough to be using Python 3 on both the control host and remote hosts, you can stop reading this section now. Python 3 has a strict separation between bytes and strings and this just works.

If you’re using Python 2 on both ends, you will also have few problems. You can use byte strings (str), but they must contain only ASCII characters. unicode strings will work transparently.

For sending between Python 2 and Python 3, Chopsticks maps types in a way designed to minimise functional problems. The upshot of this is that Python 2’s str is treated as a str in Python 3. The problem presented by this is that genuine 8-bit byte strings have no explicit type in Python 2.

Chopsticks provides a chopsticks.pencode.Bytes wrapper that allows 8-bit binary data to be passed over the tunnel:

from chopsticks.pencode import Bytes

def my_method():
    return Bytes(b'\xa3100')

The full compatibility table is this:

Sending from type to Py2 to Py3
Python 2 ASCII str str str
Python 2 non-ASCII str forbidden
Python 2 unicode unicode str
Python 2 pencode.Bytes str bytes
Python 3 str unicode str
Python 3 bytes str bytes
Python 3 pencode.Bytes str bytes
[1]Pickle is not suitable, because this could allow malicious software installed on remote hosts to compromise the control machine by executing arbitrary code. Executing arbitrary code in the other direction, of course, is the point of Chopsticks.