Live Updates in CodeIgniter with Socket.IO and Redis


UPDATE: This is the third of a three part series on CodeIgniter, Redis, and Socket.IO integration. Please be sure to read the other posts as well.
Part 1: A Sample CodeIgniter Application with Login And Session
Part 2: Use Redis instead of MySQL for CodeIgniter Session Data
Part 3: You are here.

Well here it is, folks, the moment I’ve been waiting for :) Real-time updates that actually work! Socket.IO has been integrated to work its magic alongside CodeIgniter. Now when a user is logged in, updates will tumble in like an avalanche with absolutely no refreshes or any user intervention at all! To catch up on what this is all about, be sure to check out A Sample CodeIgniter Application with Login And Session and Use Redis instead of MySQL for CodeIgniter Session Data before reading this.

Take a look at the video above to see the live updates in action. There are three different browser windows open (Chrome, Firefox, and IE9), each logged in with a different user. The top left browser is the Admin, which will get updated when any user posts a message. The Admin is also a member of team one, so when the admin posts a message, members of team one (bottom left) will see it. The browser on the right is team two, so she will not see anyone else’s posts, but the Admin will see what she posts.

* The demo may or may not be working depending on the state of my VPS. Most of my sample projects so far have been hosted on my shared hosting account, but due to the Redis and Node requirement I had to deploy this project to a VPS that I normally use for development and testing. If I am doing some development or testing, then Apache or Node or Redis might not be working properly – hence the video. Your best option really, is to download the code and try it yourself!

The Socket.IO library makes it painfully easy to work with NodeJS (aka, Node). Prior to this project I knew almost nothing about Node other than what had read in a few short books. I still don’t know much about Node, but I know that I like it and will continue to keep investigating it for future projects. One thing in particular that I think pretty cool in this project, is that all of the Node specific functionality (the real-time message updates) runs mostly parallel to the PHP application. So if Node decides to blow up, the application will still work, only without live updates.

Anyway, enough jibber jabber. Here’s the rundown on the changes to the application, and the highlights of the Socket.IO and Node code. Again, this is not meant to be a tutorial, but rather a show and tell and perhaps a nice piece of code for others to experiment with. Use at your own risk.

Installing Socket.IO

First things first: Install Socket.IO. I already had Node and NPM installed, but I needed a spot to create the node ‘server’ within my project. I created a folder in the project root called ‘nodejs’. Through the wonders of Node Package Management (NPM), I installed the socket.io package, as well as the node_redis package. This was done by simply navigating to the nodejs folder and running:

npm install socket.io
npm install redis

Yeah, that’s it. NPM will create a folder called ‘node_modules’ and download all the dependencies necessary to run the packages. After that I created the cisockServer.js file, and I was off to the races.

To get things working right away, I added code similar to the following, just to get things rolling. The first line instantiates Socket.IO and gets a Node server up and running on port 8080. An event handler is created for the ‘connection’ event, which fires whenever a Socket.IO client connects to the server. When this happens, Socket.IO will emit an event with an identifier of ‘startup’ and attach an object with a message. If the client is listening for the ‘startup’ event, it will receive the message.

var io = require('socket.io').listen(8080);

io.sockets.on('connection', function (socket) {
  // Let everyone know it's working
  socket.emit('startup', { message: 'I Am Working!!' });

To actually get the Node server fired up, it’s as easy as node --debug cisocketServer.js to get it going. I added the –debug option because I was using node-inspector for debugging and tracing. There is also an interesting project called Forever available from NodeJitsu that manages one or more Node processes. I use it on my VPS. It’s nice.

The Socket.IO Client

A server is all fine-and-dandy, but it won’t do much good without clients. I created a new javascript file in my CodeIgniter assets folder called ‘socket.js’ to hold all of my Socket.IO related client code. I wrapped most of the code in the MY_Socket namespace so it is more easily accessed by the javascript in main.js. The minimum amount of code needed to work with the server code above is what follows. It simply creates a socket connection, then listens for the ‘startup’ event from the socket connection. When the ‘startup’ event occurs, the attached message will be displayed on the console.


  window.MY_Socket = {

    // Instantiate the Socket.IO client and connect to the server
    socket : io.connect('http://localhost:8080'),

    // Set up the initial event handlers for the Socket.IO client
    bindEvents : function() {

    // This just indicates that a Socket.IO connection has begun.
    startupMessage : function(data) {
  } // end window.MY_Socket

  // Start it up!

To get this working, all that is needed are a couple more lines in header.php:

<script src="<?php echo base_url();?>/nodejs/node_modules/socket.io/node_modules/socket.io-client/dist/socket.io.min.js"></script>
<script src="<?php echo base_url();?>/assets/js/socket.js"></script>

Now upon visiting the login screen (or any screen, really), the words, “I am working!” will appear in the console.

Joining A Room

Socket.IO has a concept called rooms, which is a nice way to segment broadcasted messages from a server so only a subset of users receive the message. In this application, users will join a room based on their team numbers. Team 1 will join room 1, and so on. The exception here are admins. Admin users can be on a team, but will receive messages from all users regardless of their team. To handle this, I created another room called ‘admin’.

The room joining process starts when a user is logged in. I added a bit of jQuery code to check the current page for team badges, and if any are found, run the joinRoom function. Another way to do this would be to just put a call to MY_Socket.joinRoom() at the top of /application/views/main.php so it runs whenever the main view is loaded.

init: function () {
  if($('.userTeamBadge').children().length > 0){

So the joinRoom function does some interesting things. First it grabs the cookie named, “ci_session” and reads the value. This value is the session ID set by CodeIgniter. This ID will be used to look up some of the other session information stored in Redis by the application’s MY_Session class. When the session ID is obtained, a ‘joinRoom’ event is emitted with the ID attached. If no session ID is found, then nothing happens. The code below is part of the client code in the socket.js file.

joinRoom : function(){
  // get the CodeIgniter sessionID from the cookie
  var sessionId = readCookie('ci_session');

  if(sessionId) {
    // Send the sessionID to the Node server in an effort to join a 'room'
  } else {
    // If no sessionID exists, don't try to join a room.
    console.log('No session id found. Broadcast disabled.');
    //forward to logout url?

Socket.IO will be listening for the ‘joinRoom’ event on the server. When it hears the event, it will grab the session ID, use it to construct a string that matches the corresponding session key in the Redis database, and get the data associated with that key. The results returned from Redis will contain the rest of the user’s session information, including teamId and isAdmin (indicating if the user is or is not an admin). The result is parsed into a JSON, and the teamId and isAdmin values are used to join the appropriate ‘rooms’.

For any of this to work, a Redis client must be set up to execute Redis commands. The following code is in cisockServer.js.

// Start up a Node server with Socket.IO
var io = require('socket.io').listen(8080);

// Let Node know that you want to use Redis
var redis = require('redis');

// Listen for the client connection event
io.sockets.on('connection', function (socket) {
  // Instantiate a Redis client that can issue Redis commands.
  var rClient = redis.createClient();
  // Handle a request to join a room from the client
  // sessionId should match the Session ID assigned by CodeIgniter
  socket.on('joinRoom', function(sessionId){
    var parsedRes, team, isAdmin;

    // Use the redis client to get all session data for the user
    rClient.get('sessions:'+sessionId, function(err,res){
      parsedRes = JSON.parse(res);
      team = parsedRes.teamId;
      isAdmin = parsedRes.isAdmin;

      // Join a room that matches the user's teamId
      console.log('Joining room ' + team.toString());

      // Join the 'admin' room if user is an admin
      if (isAdmin) {
        console.log('Joining room for Admins');



Send and Receive Messages

When a user posts a new message, the data is sent to the web server using jQuery’s Ajax function. This happens in the App.postMessage function in the main.js file. If the post is successful, a callback function – App.successfulPost – is executed. In order for the post to be successful, it needs to be processed by the CodeIgniter controller method responsible for saving posts to the database. This method – main.post_message – had to be refactored so that it would not only save the message, but also respond to jQuery’s ajax request with the message wrapped up in the HTML template so it can be sent out to other users.

The HTML template responsible for rendering each individual message was separated out into its own view and saved as /application/views/single_posts.php. It was basically just cut and pasted from the main view.

<div class="otherPost well">
  <div class="otherAvatar">
    <img src="../../assets/img/avatars/<?php echo $avatar ?>.png"
         data-title="<span class='badge badge-info'><?php echo $teamId ?></span> <?php echo $firstName ?> <?php echo $lastName ?>"
         data-content="<?php echo $tagline ?>">
  <div class="otherPostInfo">
    <div class="otherPostBody"><p><?php echo $body ?></p></div>
    <div class="otherPostDate"><p class="pull-right"><?php echo $createdDate ?></p></div>

In order to populate that template, CodeIgniter’s Loader.view method was used with the third parameter set to ‘true’ so it will return data instead of immediately rendering the view in the browser. The view is then loaded into the response data as a string, along with the user’s teamId value, and the HTML string that will be prepended to the user’s own message list. The following code is from /application/controller/main.php (the Main controller).

function post_message() {
  ... save message to db code ...

  if ( isset($saved) && $saved ) {
    // Gather up data to fill the message template
    $post_data = array();
    $post_data = $this->user_m->fill_session_data($post_data);
    $post_data['body'] = $saved['body'];
    $post_data['createdDate'] = $saved['createdDate'];

    // Create a message html partial from the 'single_post' template and $post_data
    $broadcastMessage = $this->load->view('single_post',$post_data,true);

    // Create an html snipped for the user's message table.
    $myMessage = "<tr><td>". $saved['body'] ."</td><td>". $saved['createdDate'] ."</td></tr>";

    // Create some data to return to the client.
    $output = array('myMessage'=>$myMessage,

    // Encode the data into JSON
    $output = json_encode($output);

    // Send the data back to the client

The response object is sent back to the jQuery callback function, and it begins the process of broadcasting the message out to all the appropriate users. This really only takes one extra line of code in App.successfulPost.

successfulPost : function( result ) {
  // Send socket.io notification
  MY_Socket.sendNewPost( result.broadcastMessage, result.team );

All this does is send two pieces of information to the MY_Socket.sendNewPost function. The MY_Socket.sendNewPost function will simply take the message and teamId value and send it to the Node server by emitting a Socket.IO event.

sendNewPost : function(msg,team) {

When the ‘newPost’ event is handled on the server, it will relay the message to the appropriate team room, and also to the ‘admin’ room.

socket.on('newPost', function (post,team,sessionId) {
  console.log('Broadcasting a post to team: ' + team.toString());

  // Broadcast the message to the sender's team
  var broadcastData = {message: post, team: team};
  // Broadcast the message to all admins
  broadcastData.team = 'admin';

The ‘broadcastNewPost’ event is emitted twice, and will therefore be handled twice by the client. This is not normally a problem, unless there is an admin with the same teamId as the sender. Then the admin will receive the message twice, and duplicate messages will be displayed on the screen. To correct this, a little logic prevents the message from being displayed twice. The message attached to the ‘broadcastData’ object is forwarded to the App.showBroadcastedMessage function.

// on 'broadcastNewPost' update the message list from other users
updateMessages : function(data) {
  // Because the message is broadcasted twice (once for the team, again for the admins)
  // we need to make sure it is only displayed once if the Admin is also on the same
  // team as the sender.
  if( ( !userIsAnAdmin() && data.team != 'admin') ||
      ( userIsAnAdmin() && data.team === 'admin') ){
    // Send the html partial with the new message over to the jQuery function that will display it.

When the App.showBroadcastedMessage function receives the message, it appends it to the top of the list of messages from other users using simple jQuery.

showBroadcastedMessage : function(messageData) {

Whew. That’s it! The journey is complete.

Use Redis instead of MySQL for CodeIgniter Session Data

UPDATE: This is the second of a three part series on CodeIgniter, Redis, and Socket.IO integration. Please be sure to read the other posts as well.
Part 1: A Sample CodeIgniter Application with Login And Session
Part 2: You are here.
Part 3: Live Updates in CodeIgniter with Socket.IO and Redis

In my effort to add awesome real-time live updates to a plain ol’ CodeIgniter application, I decided to move the session information usually stored in a database table to a key-value store – namely, Redis. Not only does this alleviate some load from the MySQL database, but it also provides an easy way to expose user session data to a NodeJS server. This will be important in the future when adding Socket.IO.

The process for converting my existing application to use Redis rather than MySQL was painfully simple. It was pretty much just a handful of step-by-step instructions via the command line, and voila! PHP and Redis! BFFs 4Ever!

Here were the basic steps I followed:

1. Install Redis

Simply follow the instructions on in the Redis quickstart guide. These instructions were written for linux, and should work on most distributions. It might work on a Mac, but I’m not sure. Windows… you’re on your own. Below is the tl;dr version with just the commands.

wget http://download.redis.io/redis-stable.tar.gz
tar xvzf redis-stable.tar.gz
cd redis-stable

cd src
sudo cp redis-server /usr/local/bin/
sudo cp redis-cli /usr/local/bin/

sudo mkdir /etc/redis
sudo mkdir /var/redis

sudo cp utils/redis_init_script /etc/init.d/redis_6379
sudo cp redis.conf /etc/redis/6379.conf
sudo mkdir /var/redis/6379

From the Redis Quickstart Guide:

Edit the configuration file, making sure to perform the following changes:
Set daemonize to yes (by default it is set to no).
Set the pidfile to /var/run/redis_6379.pid (modify the port if needed).
Change the port accordingly. In our example it is not needed as the default port is already 6379.
Set your preferred loglevel.
Set the logfile to /var/log/redis_6379.log
Set the dir to /var/redis/6379 (very important step!)

sudo update-rc.d redis_6379 defaults
/etc/init.d/redis_6379 start

Boom. Done.

2. Install phpredis

PHP needs an extension to talk to Redis. There are a few options for this listed on the Redis site. I went with phpredis by Nicolas Favre-Felix mainly because it is required for the My_Session class used below. It’s also a great project that is still updated frequently.

To install, follow the directions in the README for your system. The default directions worked just fine for me.

git clone https://github.com/nicolasff/phpredis.git
./configure [--enable-redis-igbinary]
make && make install

Then add extension=redis.so to /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini and /etc/php5/cli/php.ini (if you are using Apache on linux). Finally, restart Apache.

Done, son.

3. Configure CodeIgniter to use Redis for session data storage

Finally, we just drop one class into the application’s library folder, and add a couple of lines to the config file to get everything working.

Really. That’s it. I’m not joking. It’s that easy.

Grab the MY_Session.php class from Ming Zhou’s gist: https://gist.github.com/zhouming/3672207 and drop it into /application/libraries. CodeIgniter will automatically use it as a subclass of Session. Most of the essential functions are overridden by My_Session so that Redis is used to store session data that will be used to authenticate user sessions while the application is running. The only thing left is to add the following two lines to /application/config/config.php:

$config['redis_host'] = 'localhost';
$config['redis_port'] = '6379';

Obvously you will need to change ‘localhost’ to the IP address of your Redis server if it is on a different machine from your application.

And that’s it! The application is Redis ready!

Note: I’ve added the MY_Session class and some installation notes to the ci_sock project in my GitHub repo, just in case the links become broken or you want an easy reference.

A Sample CodeIgniter Application with Login And Session

Code Igniter App Screenshot


UPDATE: This is the third of a three part series on CodeIgniter, Redis, and Socket.IO integration. Please be sure to read the other posts as well.
Part 1: You are here.
Part 2: Use Redis instead of MySQL for CodeIgniter Session Data
Part 3: Live Updates in CodeIgniter with Socket.IO and Redis

I was assigned to work on a PHP project a few weeks back that utilized the CodeIgniter framework. I’ve used MVC frameworks in the past in other languages, and because CodeIgniter does not deviate too far from common MVC patterns, it was pretty easy to pick up. To get myself up to speed, I put together a sample project based of what I learned from the documentation and a few tutorials. It’s a small microblogging app with very basic user auth and CRUD functionality. The basics of it go like this…

  • User login screen with basic password authentication.
  • Each user is assigned a ‘team’ number. Users can only view posts from their teammates.
  • An admin can view all posts from all users.
  • Each user has a ‘tagline’.
  • The tagline can be edited by clicking on it and typing something new (modern browsers only, as it uses ‘contenteditable’)
  • Hovering over a user’s avatar reveals the username and tagline for that user.
  • Admins can create new user accounts.
  • A user’s own messages appear below their profile. This is limited by 5 posts, currently.
  • Careful, there is not much form validation going on at the moment.

Building it gave me a good feel for the basic mechanics of CodeIgniter and allowed me to brush up on some PHP. The real motivation behind this project, however, is to eventually work in a Socket.IO implementation to allow real time updates for the user. I’ve been eyeing NodeJS for quite some time now, but never really had cause to use it. Fortunately, the project I was working on needed a more robust and scalable ‘real time’ framework to replace a rudimentary long-polling system. Socket.IO would have been a pretty good solution, in my opinion. Unfortunately, the project was cancelled before I could get started. But since I’ve already got the ball rolling on this sample application, I figure I might as well finish, and learn a few things in case a situation like this arises again. You never know…

The Setup

The front end of the application uses Twitter Bootstrap for styling and layout, jQuery for client-side interactivity, PHP and CodeIgniter for most of the functionality, and MySQL for data storage. This is a fairly common toolset that runs on most L/W/M/AMP-style environment stacks. The code available on GitHub has everything you need to run the app yourself, provided you have a web server, MySQL, and PHP 5.3 or greater.

You’ll need to create a database (preferably called ‘cisock’), and then import cisock.sql in the root of the ‘partOne’ folder in the repository. You can do this with the following command from the command line (be sure to change ‘yourusername’ and ‘/path/to/’ to match your local setup):

mysql -u yourusername -p -h localhost cisock < /path/to/cisock.sql

Once you’ve gotten the code checked out into your web root and the SQL imported, you’ll need to do some slight configuration before getting started. In ‘part_one/application/config/config.php’ you will need to change line 17 to reflect your local URL. If you simply cloned the project directly into your ‘localhost’ web root, then no changes will likely be needed. A similar fix is necessary in ‘part_one/assets/js/main.js’ line 6. The context root of your application goes here. Again, if you cloned to your web root, the default value should be fine. Ideally, the context root should only have to be configured in one place, but it is what it is for now.

Secondly, the settings in ‘part_one/application/config/database.php’ must be set to reflect your local database configuration. The following entries are specific to your local environment:

$db['default']['hostname'] = 'localhost';
$db['default']['username'] = 'yourdatabaseusernamehere';
$db['default']['password'] = 'yourdatabasepasswordhere';
$db['default']['database'] = 'cisock'; //or use the database name you chose, if it is different

Once that is done, you should be able to navigate your browser to the /part_one/ directory and see the login screen.

To recap:
  1. Clone the repo
  2. Set up the database and import the tables from cisock.sql
  3. Edit database.php and also config.php and main.js if necessary

The Code

I tried to follow suggested CodeIgniter conventions as closely as possible. As such, the file and directory structure is pretty much as it is out of the box. I altered /application/config/routes.php to set the login controller as the entry point for the application like so:

$route['default_controller'] = "login";

The index method in /application/controllers/login.php checks to see if the user is logged in, and if not will redirect to the login screen by calling the show_login function. The code immediately below is login/index – which will run when application’s url is loaded in the browser.

function index() {
    if( $this->session->userdata('isLoggedIn') ) {
    } else {

Because the ‘isLoggedIn’ session variable starts out as false, the show_login() function is called. The ‘false’ argument indicates that an error message is not to be shown.

function show_login( $show_error = false ) {
    $data['error'] = $show_error;


That last line there: $this->load->view('login',$data); is what opens up the login view ( /application/views/login.php ). When the user types in credentials and clicks the ‘sign-in’ button, the login_user function is called through a normal form POST as indicated by this line of code in /application/views/login.php: <?php echo form_open('login/login_user') ?>. The form_open function is part of CodeIgniter’s Form Helper, which generates the form’s HTML for you.

The login/login_user function gives us our first taste of a CodeIgniter model. It loads up an instance of a user model and calls the validate_user method on that model, passing it the email and password typed in by the user. Take a look at the code below for the entire sequence.

  function login_user() {
      // Create an instance of the user model

      // Grab the email and password from the form POST
      $email = $this->input->post('email');
      $pass  = $this->input->post('password');

      //Ensure values exist for email and pass, and validate the user's credentials
      if( $email && $pass && $this->user_m->validate_user($email,$pass)) {
          // If the user is valid, redirect to the main view
      } else {
          // Otherwise show the login screen with an error message.

In the ‘user’ model, a couple of interesting things happen. First, a query is built using CodeIgniter’s ActiveRecord implementation. The username and password entered by the user are compared to the user table in the database to see if the credentials exist. If so, the corresponding record in the database will be retrieved. If that happens, the data retrieved from the database will be used to set session variables using the set_session function of CodeIgniter’s Session class. All the code for this is in /application/model/user_m.php and can be seen below.

var $details;

function validate_user( $email, $password ) {
    // Build a query to retrieve the user's details
    // based on the received username and password
    $this->db->where('email',$email );
    $this->db->where( 'password', sha1($password) );
    $login = $this->db->get()->result();

    // The results of the query are stored in $login.
    // If a value exists, then the user account exists and is validated
    if ( is_array($login) && count($login) == 1 ) {
        // Set the users details into the $details property of this class
        $this->details = $login[0];
        // Call set_session to set the user's session vars via CodeIgniter
        return true;

    return false;

function set_session() {
    // session->set_userdata is a CodeIgniter function that
    // stores data in a cookie in the user's browser.  Some of the values are built in
    // to CodeIgniter, others are added (like the IP address).  See CodeIgniter's documentation for details.
    $this->session->set_userdata( array(
            'name'=> $this->details->firstName . ' ' . $this->details->lastName,

So now that the user is authenticated and their session info is set in a cookie, CodeIgniter will take an extra step and store the user’s IP address, session ID, user agent string and last activity timestamp in the database. So when the user logs out, closes the browser, or is idle for too long, the session will expire and be cleared from the database. If someone with a cookie containing the same session ID then tries to connect to the application, it will be invalid because it won’t match any of the sessions stored in the database. Check out the Session class documentation for a more thorough explanation.

So now that the user is logged in, the ‘main’ controller can do its thing. The show_main function runs just before loading the main view, and does a number of things to prepare for displaying the view to the user. The user’s details are used to change certain parts of the view, such as which posts to display (team only, or everyone) and the admin controls.

The show_main function grabs some data from the user’s session, retrieves all the user’s posted messages, counts the total number of messages posted by the user, and retrieves the messages from other users. All of this info is placed into the $data object and passed to the ‘main’ view (/application/views/main.php). Much of the heavy lifting is taken care of by ActiveRecord commands in the Post model (/application/model/post_m).

That’s about it, as far as logging in goes. Now that everything is set up using conventional CodeIgniter practices, I can begin the process of converting the server side session data to be stored in Redis, rather than in a MySQL table…

See Part 2: Use Redis instead of MySQL for CodeIgniter Session Data
and Part 3: Live Updates in CodeIgniter with Socket.IO and Redis

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