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rtorrent XML-RPC with cURL

This post shows how to manually instrument rtorrent’s XML-RPC API. I find the usage instructions on the wiki inadequate, so I wrote my own after getting frustrated.

Ensure that rtorrent is running with scgi_port = set in your rtorrent.rc or using the command line option -o scgi_port=:5000.


If the correct settings are used, rtorrent exposes an XML-RPC interface that can be used to control it. An example request/response looks like this:

  • Request
  • Response
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

See the rtorrent wiki for usage.

Instrumenting API

Here are a few ways I found of intrumenting the rtorrent XML-RPC API. In order from worst to best.


rtorrent implements XML-RPC over the Simple Common Gateway Interface. In short, it’s awful

If you read the spec, it’s very short, you can manually craft SCGI requests and send them to rtorrent with netcat.

$ cat <<EOF | xxd -r | netcat localhost 5000
00000000: 3633 3a43 4f4e 5445 4e54 5f4c 454e 4754  63:CONTENT_LENGT
00000010: 4800 3730 0053 4347 4900 3100 5245 5155  H.70.SCGI.1.REQU
00000020: 4553 545f 4d45 5448 4f44 0050 4f53 5400  EST_METHOD.POST.
00000030: 5245 5155 4553 545f 5552 4900 2f52 5043  REQUEST_URI./RPC
00000040: 3200 2c3c 6d65 7468 6f64 4361 6c6c 3e20  2.,<methodCall>
00000050: 203c 6d65 7468 6f64 4e61 6d65 3e73 7973   <methodName>sys
00000060: 7465 6d2e 6c69 7374 4d65 7468 6f64 733c  tem.listMethods<
00000070: 2f6d 6574 686f 644e 616d 653e 3c2f 6d65  /methodName></me
00000080: 7468 6f64 4361 6c6c 3e                   thodCall>

cURL + nginx

The easiest approach I found uses the nginx ngx_http_scgi_module to do the heavy lifting with SCGI. nginx exposes an HTTP🠖XML-RPC interface which you can use with cURL. Requests are proxied as SCGI to rtorrent.

  1. Install nginx
  2. Configure it as follows:
    http {
       server {
         listen 8888;
         location /RPC2 {
           scgi_pass localhost:5000;
           include scgi_params;
     events {
  3. Start nginx
    $ nginx -c '/nginx.conf' -g 'daemon on;' 
  4. Make your request
    $ cat <<EOF | curl -d @/dev/stdin localhost:8888/RPC2

That’s it.


There’s a tool bundled with the xmlrpc-c library, xmlrpc, that can be used to instrument this API with nginx. It’s not available in all package managers, but its source can be found on this GitHub mirror. If you can find it in your package manager or compile it yourself, I couldn’t get it to build, you can use it as such.

$ xmlrpc localhost:8888 system.listMethods