Yes, the data is indeed delayed and the non-blocking call does return undef every now and then. This is why I call get_channel() repeatedly from get_response() and accumulate the results until I see the prompt.
The reason I can't do blocking calls is because the channel will never EOF or return a short buffer unless I tell the host to "exit" and terminate the connection. Not cool if I want to execute more commands based on the output from a previous command.
Time flies when you don't know what you're doing
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