UserAgent Debugging Made Easy

Earlier today I saw a recent blog post from Gabor Szabo. In it, he shows a very concise way to handle Basic Authentication using LWP::UserAgent. Now, what if you had a problem running the script? How might you go about debugging it? You could add a bunch of print statements. Maybe dump the request and the response objects. That’s entirely valid, but I want to show you a slightly simpler way of going about it, using LWP::ConsoleLogger::Easy.

Gabor’s original script looks like this:

Let’s run it to see what the output looks like.

Here’s the debugging version. Note the important changes are on lines 4 and 9.

The output we get is:

You can see that the debugging version is just one line longer. I added 2 lines and removed a print statement. It prints out a whole pile of (nicely?) formatted information. Let’s try running it with valid credentials. (Brace yourself, there’s going to be a lot of output.)

You can see that I ran the script with LWPCL_REDACT_HEADERS='Authorization'. That’s a handy flag to use if you want to copy/paste an example when asking for help publicly. It replaced the Authorization header value with [REDACTED]. That’s maybe not a big deal here, but there are cases where it’s more important. See also LWP_REDACT_PARAMS.

Let’s make it prettier. We’ll do this by installing HTML::FormatText::Lynx.

Let’s run it again. I’ll only show you the changed part. Instead of just displaying the text with the HTML stripped away, we get something nicer to look at.

Now, we can also turn down the verbosity of the script by passing a flag to debug_ua(). Any integer from 0-8 will do the trick. Let’s try 6.

Let’s see what we get:

That’s far easier to read now.

This is just a very basic example of what you can do with LWP::ConsoleLogger::Easy. There’s a lot more you can do with it and it’s all laid out for you in the documentation. It really shines when you have a user agent which is going through multiple links or if you’re debugging someone else’s API calls. Have fun with it. It beats inserting arbitrary print statements and it could save you from pulling a lot of your own hair out someday.

Make libwww-perl Great Again ™

You may have noticed that WWW::Mechanize has seen some releases over the last couple of months. No big, breaking changes, but bugs have been fixed and enhancements have been shipped. This module is part of the libwww-perl ecosystem and also a part of the libwww-perl GitHub organization, to which I now also belong. I started pestering people to get involved because these modules, although quite important in the CPAN scheme of things, aren’t really on a regular release cycle. I don’t have the backstory on everything and this is not a complaint about anybody who has commit bits, maint or co-maint. It’s just an observation that a lot of modules on CPAN depend on the modules in this organization. The issue queues are slowly growing and pull requests are going unmerged.

I think there’s a fairly simple solution to all of this and my hope is that we can crowdsource enough mindshare to get this done. (I’m hoping that previous sentence is fully buzzword compliant).

Now, I don’t have a lot of hours of spare time to devote to this stuff in any given week, but this doesn’t all fall to me anyway. What I’d like to see is more eyeballs on the code. If you’d like to get involved or you have an interest in seeing things move along with any of these modules, please go through any outstanding pull requests and issues. Even comments such as “LGTM” (looks good to me) are very helpful. If enough people who know what they’re doing stamp a “LGTM” on a pull request, then that signals that this code is less risky to merge. If people can look into open issues and identify what is or is not a bug and what is or is not RFC-compliant, then that can speed up the issue review cycle as well.

If you’d like to join the libwww-perl org, then that would be great as well. Probably a good first step for that would be to get involved with reviewing open pull requests and issues or even contributing some code.

Here’s a quick summary of the repositories which are currently in the org:

velocity indicates how likely a pull request is likely to get merged. You can see that WWW::Mechanize is the worst offender of the bunch, despite my minimal cleanup attempts. You can mostly ignore WWW::Mechanize::Cached for these purposes as that’s a module I’ve been actively maintaining for a lot of years.

However, you can see that the libwww-perl (LWP::UserAgent) repo, for instance takes about 874 days per pull request before that pull is merged. It takes an average of 165 days before a PR is closed and the remaining open pulls have been open for 801 days each. If you’re looking at over 2 years before the average pull request is merged, you can see how this probably isn’t encouraging people to get involved.

For my part, I’ve added a Travis CI config to all of the repositories and I’ve also converted WWW::Mechanize to use Dist::Zilla. Not all of the repositories are in a passing state, but at least now we have a baseline for passing and failing tests.

Now, I don’t have co-maint on most of a lot of the remaining modules, but I’m willing to pester people who do. People can also help by releasing TRIAL distributions so that CPAN testers can smoke the dist before we pester someone to release a module.

So, that’s my plea for today. Please feel free to pitch in and help clean this up. If you rely on these modules at your $work, please find a way to donate a few hours here and there to the upkeep of these modules.

For those of you who are bound to say “what about Mojo::UserAgent or module X”, I have two responses:

2) It’s easier to maintain these modules than to update and re-release all of the CPAN which currently use them

Fortunately, I don’t know of any really terrible bugs which have gone unfixed, but I think if these modules do see active development and releases, then any terrible bugs will be easier to patch and ship if and when they do rear their ugly heads.

Edit: I neglected to mention that there is #lwp on for libwww-perl discussion.

Announcing meta::hack

Every so often, someone asks if they can donate money to MetaCPAN. I usually direct them to CPAN Testers, since (due to our generous hosting sponsors) we’ve generally not had a need for money. You can probably see where I’m going with this. Times have changed. We’re no longer turning financial sponsors away.

Back at the QA Hackathon in Rugby, we had a great group of hackers together and we got a lot of work done. However, as we worked together, it became clear that the size of our job meant that we wouldn’t be able to finish everything we had set out to do over that four day period. There are times when there’s no replacement for getting everyone in the same room together.


The first dedicated MetaCPAN hackathon will be held at the offices of ServerCentral
in Chicago, from November 17th through 20th. The primary goal for this hackathon is to complete MetaCPAN’s transition to Elasticsearch version 2. This will enable the live service to run on a cluster of machines, greatly improving reliability and performance. The hackathon will also give the core team a chance to plan work for the coming 18 months.

The meta::hack event is a hackathon where we’re bringing together key developers to work on the MetaCPAN search engine and API. This will give core team members time to work together to complete the transition to Elasticsearch version 2, and time to discuss gnarly issues and plan the roadmap beyond the v1 upgrade.

MetaCPAN is now one of the key tools in a Perl developer’s toolbox, so supporting this event is a great way to support the Perl community and raise your company’s profile at the same time. This hackathon is by invitation only. It’s a core group of MetaCPAN hackers. We are keeping the group small in order to maintain focus on the v1 API and maximize the productivity of the group.

Why sponsor the MetaCPAN Hackathon?


• If your company uses Perl in any way, then your developers almost certainly use MetaCPAN to find CPAN modules, and they probably use other tools that are built on the MetaCPAN API.
• The MetaCPAN upgrade will improve the search engine and the API for all Perl developers. As a critical tool, we need it to be always available, and fast. This upgrade is a key step in that direction.
• This is a good way to establish your company as a friend of Perl, for example if you’re hiring.



There will be 8 people taking part, including me. Everyone taking part is an experienced senior-level software engineer, and most of them have already spent a lot of time working on MetaCPAN. As noted above, this is an invitational event with a very specific focus.

What is meta::hack?


MetaCPAN was created in late 2010. Version 0 of the MetaCPAN API was built on a very early version of Elasticsearch. For the first 5 years, most of the work on MetaCPAN focussed on improving the data coverage, and the web interface. In that time Elasticsearch has moved on, and we’re now well behind.

The work to upgrade Elasticsearch began in May of 2014. It continued in early Feb of 2015. Later, at the 2015 QA Hackathon in Berlin, Clinton Gormley (who works for Elastic) and I worked on moving MetaCPAN to Elasticsearch version 2. This work was continued at the 2016 QA Hackathon in Rugby, and as a result we now have a beta version in live usage.

The primary goal of meta::hack is to complete the port to Elasticsearch version 2, so the public API and search engine can be switched over. There are a number of benefits:

• Switching from a single server to a cluster of 3 servers, giving a more reliable service and improved performance.
• Once we decommission the old service, we’ll be able to set up a second cluster of 3 machines in a second data centre, for further improvements.
• We’ll be able to take advantage of new Elasticsearch features, like search suggesters.
• We’ll be able to use a new endpoint that has been developed specifically to speed up cpanminus lookups. Cpanminus is probably the most widely used CPAN client these days, so improving this will benefit a large percentage of the community.
• If and when is decommissioned, we’ll be able to handle the extra traffic that will bring with it, and we’ll also have the redundancy to do this safely.
• We’ll be able to shift focus back to bug fixes and new MetaCPAN features.

Becoming a Sponsor


Neil Bowers has kindly taken on the task of shepherding the sponsorship process.  (He also wrote the sponsorship prospectus from which I cribbed most of this post.) Please contact Neil or contact me for a copy of the meta::hack sponsorship prospectus.  It contains most of the information listed above as well as the various available sponsorship levels which are available.  Thank you for your help in making this event happen.  We’re looking forward to getting the key people together in one room again and making this already useful tool even better.

Getting to Travis and GitHub Pages Quickly

Disclaimer: I’m sure this functionality exists elsewhere, but this was a fun little thing for me to work on. Also, you’ll need a minimum of git 2.7 for this to work.

Often, when I’m working locally I like to bounce right over to a GitHub repository url to check something. I ended up writing a bit of code to make this easier. While I was at it, I decided it would be nice to have the same thing for Travis URLs. So, I’ve released this as part of Git::Helpers.

When you’re inside a Git repository, you can use gh-open to open a browser window with the GitHub URL of your repository. gh-open also accepts an origin name as an argument, so

would open a tab in your default browser containing your upstream’s URL, assuming you have an origin by that name. Don’t specify a remote name and it will assume origin:

It doesn’t currently care which branch you’re on, but patches welcome (in the kindest sense of the expression).

If you want to check your Travis page for the repository then travis-open will do the same kind of thing. It also accepts an origin name, just as gh-open does:

or defaults to origin if you don’t:

Don’t Forget about URI::Heuristic

Imagine you’ve got some user input that is supposed to be a valid URL, but it’s user input, so you can’t be sure of anything. It’s not very consistent data, so you at least make sure to prepend a default scheme to it. It’s a fairly common case. Sometimes I see it solved this way:

This converts to, but it can be error prone. For instance, what if I forgot to make the regex case insensitive? Actually, I’ve already made a mistake. Did you spot it? In my haste I’ve neglected to deal with https URLs. Not good. URI::Heuristic can help here.

This does exactly the same thing as the example above, but I’ve left the logic of checking for an existing scheme to the URI::Heuristic module. If you like this approach, but you’d rather get a URI object back then try this:


Are we sure this is what we want? Checking the scheme is helpful and even if we weren’t using this module, we’d probably want to do this anyway.

That’s it! This module has been around for almost 18 years now, but it still solves some of today’s problems.

How to Get a CPAN Module Download URL

Every so often you find yourself requiring the download URL for a CPAN module. You can use the MetaCPAN API to do this quite easily, but depending on your use case, you may not be able to do this in a single query. Well, that’s actually not entirely true. Now that we have v1 of the MetaCPAN API deployed, you can test out the shiny new (experimental) download_url endpoint. This was an endpoint added by Clinton Gormley at the QA Hackathon in Berlin. Its primary purpose is to make it easy for an app like cpanm to figure out which archive to download when a module needs to be installed. MetaCPAN::Client doesn’t support this new endpoint yet, but if you want to take advantage of it, it’s pretty easy.

Now invoke your script:

olaf$ perl Plack


After I originally wrote this post, MICKEY stepped up and actually added the functionality to MetaCPAN::Client. A huge thank you to him for doing this. 🙂 Let’s try this again:

That cuts the lines of code almost in half and is less error prone than crafting the query ourselves. I’d encourage you to use MetaCPAN::Client unless you have a compelling reason not to.


This endpoint is experimental.  It might not do what you want in all cases.  See this GitHub issue for reference.  Please add to this issue if you find more cases which need to be addressed.  Having said that, this endpoint should do the right thing for most cases.  Feel free to play with it to see if it suits your needs.

Easy Perl OAuth Integration with Runkeeper and Spotify

I’ve been tooling around with a fun little app that I’m building on evenings and weekends. As part of that work I figured I’d let users authenticate via Runkeeper. Luckily Runkeeper uses OAuth2 and it’s all pretty easy to get going with. I’ve published my very small contribution as Mojolicious::Plugin::Web::Auth::Site::Runkeeper

On a similar note, earlier this year I also released Mojolicious::Plugin::Web::Auth::Site::Spotify

If you’re already using Mojolicious::Plugin::Web::Auth, then these modules will make it trivial for you connect with the Runkeeper and/or Spotify web services.

MetaCPAN at the 2016 Perl QA Hackathon

Before I start, I’d like to thank our sponsors

This year I once again had the pleasure of attending my 4th Perl QA Hackathon. Before I get into any details, I’d like to thank the organizers: Neil Bowers, Barbie and JJ Allen. They did a fantastic job. It was a very well organized event and really a lot of fun. It was well worth attending and it made a huge difference to the MetaCPAN project.  Thanks also to Wendy for making sure that everyone had what they needed.

Lastly, I’d like to thank all of the sponsors who made this event possible. These companies and individuals understand what makes the QA Hackathon such an important event and I’m happy that they wanted to help make it happen.

The Crew

My focus this year (as always) was working on MetaCPAN, but this time around I had much more help than usual. Leo Lapworth joined us from London for the first two days, working on the sysadmin side. Mickey Nasriachi came in from Amsterdam to work with us on the back end code. Matt Trout spent a lot of his time helping us with debugging and database replication. Sawyer spent a great deal of his time pair programming with us and helping us debug some really thorny issues. Also, what began as a conversation with Joel Berger about a simple MetaCPAN patch resulted in him spending much of his time looking at various issues. He now has a solid understanding of the MetaCPAN stack and we hope he can continue to contribute as we move forward.

We had a really good crew and we were all quite focussed. We removed ourselves from the main hackathon room so that we were able to have our own conversations and be less subject to distracting conversations from other groups. Since we were just outside of the main room we were able to talk with various others as they passed by our table. It was like having a space to ourselves, but we still felt very much a part of the hackathon.

Our main goal was to upgrade MetaCPAN from Elasticsearch 0.20.2 to 2.3.0 I spent a lot of time on this with Clinton Gormley at last year’s hackathon. The upgrade at that time was planned to be a 0.20.2 to a 1.x version. We were optimistic, but it became clear that it was a job that we couldn’t realistically finish. So, we left last year’s hackathon with some good changes, but we weren’t close to being able to deploy them. By this year, Elasticsearch had introduced even more breaking changes as it moved from 1.x to 2.x, so we had to factor those in as well.

For 2016, in the weeks coming up to the hackathon, Leo and I had been pushing a lot of code in preparation for this weekend. Around the same time, Mickey arrived on the scene and really moved things forward with his code changes too. So, we had a small core of developers working on the code well in advance of the hackathon. That’s actually one of the nice things about an event like this. I didn’t just write code when I got here. Having a firm date by which a number of things had to be done forced me to sit down and solve various problems in the weeks leading up to hackathon.

What did we actually get done?

Elasticsearch Cluster

One criticism of MetaCPAN has been a lack of redundancy. We’ve had a good amount of hardware available to us for some time, but we haven’t had a really good way to take advantage of it. Thanks to some of the work leading up to the hackathon, v1 of the API will run on an Elasticsearch cluster of 3 machines (rather than the 1 currently on production box, which is v0). Having a proper cluster at our disposal should make for faster searching and also greater redundancy if one of these machines needs to take an unscheduled break. On the human side, it will be a lot less stressful to lose one machine on a cluster of three than to lose one machine on a cluster of one. We all know these things happen. It’s just a matter of time. So, we’ll be better prepared for when a machine goes down.


Occasionally we need to re-index everything on CPAN. This takes a very long time. The current incarnation of MetaCPAN (v0) uses a script to do this and it can take 12 hours or more to run. If that script runs into some unhandled exception along the way, you have the rare pleasure of starting it up again manually. It needs some babysitting and it’s far from bulletproof. It’s also a bit hard to scale it.

Rather than trying to speed up our current system, we’ve added a Minion queue to our setup. This means that when we re-index CPAN, we add each upload as an item in our queue. We can then start workers on various boxes on the same network and we can run indexing in parallel. In our experiments we ran 17 workers each on 3 different boxes, giving us 51 workers in total. This gives us more speed and also more insight into which jobs have failed, how far along we are with indexing etc. It’s a huge improvement for us.


Minion has more than one possible back end. We’ve chosen to go with Postgres. This means that we now have Postgres installed for the first time and also available for other uses. Matt Trout has been working on Postgres replication for us so that we have some redundancy for our queues as well. Once that is available, he can also write a Pg schema which MetaCPAN can use as part of the back end. This means that at some future date we could begin to store our data in both Pg and Elasticsearch. This would give us a hybrid approach, allowing us to use Elasticsearch for the things it does well and a relational database for the kinds of queries which a NoSQL store doesn’t handle well or at all in some cases.

As a historical footnote, the original version of the API first inserted into an SQLite database and then dumped that data into Elasticsearch. We may eventually come full circle and use a similar approach with Postgres.

RAM Disk

As part of Leo’s sysadmin work, he has set up a RAM disk for the indexer to use when unpacking tarballs. Even if this only saves a fraction of a second per archive, when you’re indexing 500,000 archives, even a small savings of time can be a win.

Elasticsearch Upgrade

Currently production runs on Elasticsearch version 0.20.2.  Our work this weekend has pushed us to using 2.3.0. Part of what has been holding us back is the many breaking changes which are involved in this particular upgrade. Much of our efforts at the hackathon were directed towards dealing with these various breaking changes. We haven’t quite tackled all of them yet, but we’re very close.

Deploying and Indexing a Beta Cluster

We now have a cluster of machines running our v1 beta.  I will publish the URLs as soon as we are ready for feedback.

Please note that our API versioning does not follow the Elasticsearch versioning. This frees us up to change API endpoints etc outside of the scope of another Elasticsearch upgrade.

CPAN River Integration

Joel Berger submitted a patch to integrate CPAN River statistics into the /distribution endpoint. The actual data will be provided by Neil Bowers. The patch to add this data to the /distribution endpoint has already been merged to the v1 branch and there has been some work done by Barbara to work on a front end display for the data. Integration

I had a chance to speak with Paul Johnson about I had initially put together an integration for his site 2 years ago at the QA Hackathon. I thought the integration was fine, but I ran into enough resistance from the MetaCPAN team that this pull request was never merged. We’ve now agreed on a way to move forward with this which will make everybody happy. There are open tickets on both the front and back end of MetaCPAN to address this.

Debian Packaging Information

Book is working on adding some information which can be used to correlate modules with their corresponding Debian packages. Once this is finished, this data can also be added to the distribution endpoint. The integration itself is pretty simple and will work much like the CPAN River.

Changes files

Graham Knopf wasn’t able to attend the QA Hackathon, but he did spend some time hacking from home. He has a patch in to alter how changes files are displayed.

Moving Towards Test2::Harness

I spoke with Chad Granum on the evening before the hackathon and I mentioned that we were using Test::Aggregate, one of the few distributions which was not yet playing nicely with Test2. I wasn’t too worried about this since we pin our dependencies via Carton but also because I’d been hoping to move away from it. I had been thinking about Test::Class::Moose as an alternative, but I didn’t want to go to the trouble of setting up test runners etc. Something simpler would be nice. Chad showed me Test2::Harness, which would give us the same advantages of running under Test::Aggregate. It looks great and should be available shortly. In the meantime I’ve gutted the Test::Aggregate logic from the tests and we’re running everything the old fashioned (slower) way for the time being. A switch to Test2::Harness in the near future should be trivial.


As part of our general cleanup, I released MetaCPAN::Moose. This is a simple bit of code which imports MooseX::StrictConstructor and namespace::autoclean into any class which uses it. After writing the code and the tests, I showed it to Sawyer. He sat down and immediately rewrote it using Import::Into. The code was now at least 50% smaller than it previously was and it was a lot cleaner. The tests continued to pass, so I was happy to release that to CPAN.

Moving forward we’re going to publish a few more of our internal modules to CPAN. These will serve several purposes:

  • It will be useful to us as a way of sharing code between various apps which we have. We use Carton to manage various app installs, so sharing code can be tricky. We didn’t want to go the submodule route unless we really have to.
  • Some people may also find this code useful. It’s a good way to showcase our logic as a way of doing things (like setting up your own custom Moose type library). People could learn from it.
  • Alternatively, people might look at it and realize it’s terrible. At this point they’ll hopefully hack on it and send pull requests. Because this code is standalone with its own test suite, the overhead of getting started will be much, much less than it is for hacking on the rest of CPAN.

I don’t think generally publishing internal logic to CPAN is a good idea, but for the above stated reasons, I think the code that we are talking about is well suited for this.

CPANTesters Data

We used to import CPAN Testers data into MetaCPAN using an SQLite database which they provided. At some point this database became unavailable. I’m encouraged to hear that this may not be a permanent state of affairs. If something can be worked out, the MetaCPAN can once again easily import testers data into its API using the database.

Somewhere out there I can hear someone complaining that this isn’t RESTful or whatever, but for this amount of data involved, it’s actually a good fit. I did discuss with Doug what a REST API for this might look like, but to be honest, that would potentially be much more work than just creating the database on some arbitrary schedule and publishing it.

Interesting Things I Learned From Random Conversations:

  • Matt Trout suggests abandoning MooseX::Types and moving our type checking to Type::Tiny. I’m on board with that, but it’s not a priority right now.
  • I learned from Sawyer that a simple speed optimization is switching to a Perl which is compiled without taint. Also he recommended some XS modules for header and cookie handling. The XS part wasn’t news to me, but it’s something I’ll keep in mind for future and certainly something I can make sure we do with MetaCPAN.

    Edit and caveat: As far as compiling Perl without taint mode goes, Sawyer was kind enough to refer me to some relevant p5p messages: Apparently there is some performance to be gained, but whether or not it’s worthwhile for you likely depends very much on the behaviour of your application.

  • I heard (once again) that Devel::Confess is a “better” tool for debugging. I’ve been using it for a while now and am very happy with it. I’m not the only one.
  • From Mickey, I learned about Devel::QuickCover, which sounds like an interesting way to get a first pass at coverage data.
  • I now know how to pronounce Upasana.
  • I learned that I’m not the only person who has no clue how to read a flame graph.
  • After a lengthy conversation with Matt Trout on the Thursday it wasn’t until I said, “hang on, I’ll send you the link on IRC” that he looked at his screen and then looked back up and said, “oh, that’s who you are”. I guess I could have introduced myself formally when he first sat down, but eventually we got there.
  • After seeing the Roost laptop stand in action, I think I need one.

Unrelated to MetaCPAN

Karen Etheridge was able to merge my fix to allow MooseX::Getopt to play nicely with init_arg. It’s a bug that has bitten me on more than one occasion. The fix has now been released.

After a conversation with BINGOS on Sort::Naturally, he got me co-maint on that module so that I can look at addressing an outstanding issue.

In Conclusion

For me, it was a great few days for moving the project along and socially quite fun. I got to see a bit of London on my arrival and spend a few hours at the British Museum, which I last visited about 20 years ago. In the afternoon, Leo was kind enough to drive me up to Rugby. Leo, Mickey and Joel were among the people whom I have spoken with on IRC but had never met in person. Making those real life connections is great.

On a practical level, I mostly started looking the correct way when crossing the street, but I wouldn’t bet anyone else’s safety on my ability to do the right thing there. Most of my ride from the airport to Leo’s office consisted of me feeling quite sick to my stomach as part of me really wanted the driver to switch to the correct right side of the road. London rush hour traffic and narrow streets with two way traffic probably didn’t help.

It was nice to see RJBS get a special show of thanks for his years as pumpking and also to witness the passing of the torch to Sawyer, who will do a fantastic job as he takes over. Also the tradition of publicly thanking the organizers has continued, which is a nice part of the weekend.

I should mention that this year there were no special outings. No video game museum tours, no chance to see how Chartreuse is made. Not even a trip to the set of Downton Abbey. That meant a few extra hours of hacking, bug squashing etc, which is nice too. I’m sure that deep down inside Neil really wanted to take us to a filming of Coronation Street, but he resisted the urge in order to further the goal of productivity.

All in all, I felt it was an extremely productive week for me and for MetaCPAN in general. My sincere thanks go out to the gang for having had me along once again this year.

Adding History to fpp (Facebook PathPicker)

I’ve been a fan of fpp (Facebook PathPicker) since I first heard about it. I had long been looking for something like this and had even considered writing it myself. Fortunately someone else spared me the work and did a much better job than I would have.

It’s no exaggeration to say that I use this utility every day at $work. In fact I use it many times per hour. It’s part of my normal workflow now. For example, I like to pipe the output of git status to fpp and then pick and choose some unit tests I’ve edited and then run them. I may need to do this many times over the course of a day. The problem is that fpp doesn’t have a proper built in history. Having to go through this process of picking through the output of a git status many times per day is a bit of a time sink. It’s still maybe faster than what I would have done before, but it feels like jumping through hoops. I want to be able to replay any command I’ve just run. It should be easy, right?

As it happens, there’s already a file which fpp creates after each run. It’s found in ~/.fpp/ and it’s executable. So, my first attempt at solving this problem was to add a shell alias: alias redo='sh ~/.fpp/'. This lets me re-run the _very last_ command which I’ve just run via fpp. I now have instant replay.

However, if I’ve used fpp for something else in the meantime, the results of that command replace whatever was in ~/.fpp/ I can’t magically get back to the penultimate command which I ran, since it’s now lost forever. After playing with this for a few hours, I realized that I really do need to be able to replay my entire history, since I want to be able to pick an arbitrary command and re-run it. Having to remember exactly what I did last before running redo was getting to be frustrating.

As part of the process, I found an open Github issue for fpp history. After I commented it on it, @pcottle made the following very helpful suggestion, which was to alias fpp and wrap it with my own history logic. That seemed like a good idea. So let’s look at what we have to work with.

On my machines, ~/.fpp/ generally looks something like this, where the _second last_ line in the file contains the line which I want to re-execute. (There’s a blank line which starts the file, but my syntax highlighter seems to be stripping it away here).

I figured I could pretty easily grab this line from ~/.fpp/ and log it to my own history file. I’d then add a little functionality to make it all easier to work with. I had thought about doing this in Perl, but just keeping everything in my .bashrc file felt like it was going to be the most portable solution. I didn’t want to have to do anything more complicated than updating and sourcing my dot files in order to get this to work.

The code which I came up with does the following:

  • Appends the second last line of ~/.fpp/ to my own history file every time fpp is run
  • Adds a --redo flag, which execs the last line of the history file, when there are no accompanying arguments
  • Adds a --history flag which will print the contents of this history file to the screen, with accompanying line numbers
  • Execs an arbitrary line from the history file if --redo is supplied with a positive integer. (The integers correspond to the line numbers provided by fpp --history). So, fpp --redo 10 execs line 10 from fpp --history. It’s a bit like !10 to get to command 10 after running history in your shell.
  • Execs an abitrary line from the history file (moving backwards) if --redo is supplied with a negative integer. ie fpp --redo -1 execs the last line in the file. fpp --redo -2 execs the second last line etc

I’m not by any stretch an expert in shell scripting, so I did a lot of searching on StackOverflow, copy/pasting and bugging my colleagues at $work. Eventually and quite happily I’ve come up with an incantation which suits my needs.

This is what I added to my .bashrc. Usage is contained inline, in the comments.

This will get out of date over time, so the canonical version should always be found in my dot-files repo.

If you’d like to see something like this built into fpp itself, it wouldn’t hurt to bump the issue I mentioned above. I hope someone finds this helpful.

HTTP::Response may have a different definition of success than you do

This has bitten me before, so I thought it was worth writing about. This RT ticket explains it better than I can, but let me sum things up here.

Consider this code:

99 times out of 100, this will do what you mean. Occasionally it doesn’t.

What is the definition of success? In this case it means that there’s an HTTP response code in the 200s.

Q: What happens if you’ve gotten a 200 response code in the server headers but (for example) there’s a problem with the response body?

A: is_success still returns true.

is_success gives you a technically correct answer, but in this case technically correct isn’t always helpful because something else may have genuinely gone wrong.

Consider what happens in this case where HTML::HeadParser is not installed.

If you want to check for success with confidence, you may want to check the ‘X-Died’ header as well.

That seems like a lot of work, so I’ve proposed a workaround that will at least warn on the fact that the ‘X-Died’ header exists. I don’t know what the right answer is, but I do know that the current behaviour is confusing.