Optional authentication and HTTP Basic

Hi all,

I have an app that originally only supported form-based
authentication, and showed pared-down content to unauthenticated
users. I then layered on HTTP Basic authentication using
authenticate_with_http_basic, which worked fine for scripts like LWP/
wget/curl.

However, some web browsers refuse to submit credentials in the URL
(eg. http://username:[email protected]) since they never get a
challenge (401) response, since authentication is purely optional.
This is a bigger problem than one might expect, since there’s a
desktop client in development that requires the ability to login with
HTTP Basic URL auth.

They way I hacked around it was to create an action that looks like
this:

app/controllers/sessions_controller.rb
def challenge
authenticate_or_request_with_http_basic APP_NAME do |login,
password|
@user = User.authenticate(login, password)
end
if @user
self.current_user = @user
render_ok
end
end

so browser clients (including the problematic desktop client) can GET
http://user:[email protected]/sessions/challenge to do explicit HTTP
basic auth.

Is there a better way to do this?

Thanks,
Ian

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