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PERLFAQ8(1)            Perl Programmers Reference Guide            PERLFAQ8(1)

       perlfaq8 - System Interaction ($Revision: 1.17 $, $Date: 2003/01/26
       17:44:04 $)

       This section of the Perl FAQ covers questions involving operating sys-
       tem interaction.  Topics include interprocess communication (IPC), con-
       trol over the user-interface (keyboard, screen and pointing devices),
       and most anything else not related to data manipulation.

       Read the FAQs and documentation specific to the port of perl to your
       operating system (eg, perlvms, perlplan9, ...).  These should contain
       more detailed information on the vagaries of your perl.

       How do I find out which operating system I'm running under?

       The $^O variable ($OSNAME if(3,n) you use English) contains an indication of
       the name of the operating system (not its release number) that your
       perl binary was built for.

       How come exec(3,n,1 builtins)() doesn't return?

       Because that's what it does: it replaces your currently running program
       with a different one.  If you want to keep going (as is probably the
       case if(3,n) you're asking this question) use system() instead.

       How do I do fancy stuff with the keyboard/screen/mouse?

       How you access(2,5)/control keyboards, screens, and pointing devices
       ("mice") is system-dependent.  Try the following modules:

               Term::Cap                   Standard perl distribution
               Term::ReadKey               CPAN
               Term::ReadLine::Gnu         CPAN
               Term::ReadLine::Perl        CPAN
               Term::Screen                CPAN

               Term::Cap                   Standard perl distribution
               Curses                      CPAN
               Term::ANSIColor             CPAN

               Tk                          CPAN

       Some of these specific cases are shown below.

       How do I print something out in(1,8) color?

       In general, you don't, because you don't know whether the recipient has
       a color-aware display device.  If you know that they have an ANSI ter-
       minal that understands color, you can use the Term::ANSIColor module
       from CPAN:

           use Term::ANSIColor;
           print color("red"), "Stop!\n", color("reset(1,7,1 tput)");
           print color("green"), "Go!\n", color("reset(1,7,1 tput)");

       Or like this:

           use Term::ANSIColor qw(:constants);
           print RED, "Stop!\n", RESET;
           print GREEN, "Go!\n", RESET;

       How do I read(2,n,1 builtins) just one key without waiting for a return key?

       Controlling input buffering is a remarkably system-dependent matter.
       On many systems, you can just use the stty command as shown in(1,8) "getc"
       in(1,8) perlfunc, but as you see, that's already getting you into portabil-
       ity snags.

           open(2,3,n)(TTY, "+</dev/tty(1,4)") or die "no tty: $!";
           system "stty  cbreak </dev/tty(1,4) >/dev/tty(1,4) 2>&1";
           $key = getc(TTY);           # perhaps this works
           # OR ELSE
           sysread(TTY, $key, 1);      # probably this does
           system "stty -cbreak </dev/tty(1,4) >/dev/tty(1,4) 2>&1";

       The Term::ReadKey module from CPAN offers an easy-to-use interface that
       should be more efficient than shelling out to stty for each key.  It
       even includes limited support for Windows.

           use Term::ReadKey;
           $key = ReadKey(0);

       However, using the code requires that you have a working C compiler and
       can use it to build and install a CPAN module.  Here's a solution using
       the standard POSIX module, which is already on your systems (assuming
       your system supports POSIX).

           use HotKey;
           $key = readkey();

       And here's the HotKey module, which hides the somewhat mystifying calls
       to manipulate the POSIX termios structures.

           package HotKey;

           @ISA = qw(Exporter);
           @EXPORT = qw(cbreak cooked readkey);

           use strict;
           use POSIX qw(:termios_h);
           my ($term(5,7), $oterm, $echo(1,3x,1 builtins), $noecho, $fd_stdin);

           $fd_stdin = fileno(STDIN);
           $term(5,7)     = POSIX::Termios->new();
           $oterm     = $term->getlflag();

           $echo(1,3x,1 builtins)     = ECHO | ECHOK | ICANON;
           $noecho   = $oterm & ~$echo(1,3x,1 builtins);

           sub cbreak {
               $term->setlflag($noecho);  # ok, so i don't want echo(1,3x,1 builtins) either
               $term->setcc(VTIME, 1);
               $term->setattr($fd_stdin, TCSANOW);

           sub cooked {
               $term->setcc(VTIME, 0);
               $term->setattr($fd_stdin, TCSANOW);

           sub readkey {
               my $key = '';
               sysread(STDIN, $key, 1);
               return $key;

           END { cooked() }


       How do I check whether input is ready on the keyboard?

       The easiest way to do this is to read(2,n,1 builtins) a key in(1,8) nonblocking mode with
       the Term::ReadKey module from CPAN, passing it an argument of -1 to
       indicate not to block:

           use Term::ReadKey;


           if(3,n) (defined ($char = ReadKey(-1)) ) {
               # input was waiting and it was $char
           } else {
               # no input was waiting

           ReadMode('normal');                  # restore normal tty(1,4) settings

       How do I clear(1,3x,3x clrtobot) the screen?

       If you only have do so infrequently, use "system":

           system("clear(1,3x,3x clrtobot)");

       If you have to do this a lot, save the clear(1,3x,3x clrtobot) string(3,n) so you can print it
       100 times without calling a program 100 times:

           $clear_string = `clear(1,3x,3x clrtobot)`;
           print $clear_string;

       If you're planning on doing other screen manipulations, like cursor
       positions, etc, you might wish to use Term::Cap module:

           use Term::Cap;
           $terminal = Term::Cap->Tgetent( {OSPEED => 9600} );
           $clear_string = $terminal->Tputs('cl');

       How do I get the screen size?

       If you have Term::ReadKey module installed from CPAN, you can use it to
       fetch the width and height in(1,8) characters and in(1,8) pixels:

           use Term::ReadKey;
           ($wchar, $hchar, $wpixels, $hpixels) = GetTerminalSize();

       This is more portable than the raw(3x,7,8,3x cbreak) "ioctl", but not as illustrative:

           require 'sys/';
           die "no TIOCGWINSZ " unless defined &TIOCGWINSZ;
           open(2,3,n)(TTY, "+</dev/tty(1,4)")                     or die "No tty: $!";
           unless (ioctl(TTY, &TIOCGWINSZ, $winsize='')) {
               die sprintf "$0: ioctl TIOCGWINSZ (%08x: $!)\n", &TIOCGWINSZ;
           ($row, $col, $xpixel, $ypixel) = unpack('S4', $winsize);
           print "(row,col) = ($row,$col)";
           print "  (xpixel,ypixel) = ($xpixel,$ypixel)" if(3,n) $xpixel || $ypixel;
           print "\n";

       How do I ask the user for a password?

       (This question has nothing to do with the web.  See a different FAQ for

       There's an example of this in(1,8) "crypt" in(1,8) perlfunc).  First, you put the
       terminal into "no echo(1,3x,1 builtins)" mode, then just read(2,n,1 builtins) the password normally.
       You may do this with an old-style ioctl() function, POSIX terminal con-
       trol (see POSIX or its documentation the Camel Book), or a call to the
       stty program, with varying degrees of portability.

       You can also do this for most systems using the Term::ReadKey module
       from CPAN, which is easier to use and in(1,8) theory more portable.

           use Term::ReadKey;

           $password = ReadLine(0);

       How do I read(2,n,1 builtins) and write(1,2) the serial port?

       This depends on which operating system your program is running on.  In
       the case of Unix, the serial ports will be accessible through files in(1,8)
       /dev; on other systems, device names will doubtless differ.  Several
       problem areas common to all device interaction are the following:

           Your system may use lockfiles to control multiple access.  Make
           sure you follow the correct protocol.  Unpredictable behavior can
           result from multiple processes reading from one device.

       open(2,3,n) mode
           If you expect to use both read(2,n,1 builtins) and write(1,2) operations on the device,
           you'll have to open(2,3,n) it for update(7,n) (see "open(2,3,n)" in(1,8) perlfunc for
           details).  You may wish to open(2,3,n) it without running the risk of
           blocking by using sysopen() and "O_RDWR|O_NDELAY|O_NOCTTY" from the
           Fcntl module (part of the standard perl distribution).  See
           "sysopen" in(1,8) perlfunc for more on this approach.

       end of line
           Some devices will be expecting a "\r" at the end of each line
           rather than a "\n".  In some ports of perl, "\r" and "\n" are dif-
           ferent from their usual (Unix) ASCII values of "\012" and "\015".
           You may have to give the numeric values you want directly, using
           octal ("\015"), hex ("0x0D"), or as a control-character specifica-
           tion ("\cM").

               print DEV "atv1\012";       # wrong, for some devices
               print DEV "atv1\015";       # right, for some devices

           Even though with normal text files a "\n" will do the trick, there
           is still no unified scheme for terminating a line that is portable
           between Unix, DOS/Win, and Macintosh, except to terminate ALL line
           ends with "\015\012", and strip what you don't need from the out-
           put.  This applies especially to socket(2,7,n) I/O and autoflushing, dis-
           cussed next.

       flushing output
           If you expect characters to get to your device when you print()
           them, you'll want to autoflush that filehandle.  You can use
           select(2,7,2 select_tut)() and the $| variable to control autoflushing (see "$|" in(1,8)
           perlvar and "select(2,7,2 select_tut)" in(1,8) perlfunc, or perlfaq5, ``How do I
           flush(8,n)/unbuffer an output filehandle?  Why must I do this?''):

               $oldh = select(2,7,2 select_tut)(DEV);
               $| = 1;
               select(2,7,2 select_tut)($oldh);

           You'll also see code that does this without a temporary variable,
           as in(1,8)

               select(2,7,2 select_tut)((select(2,7,2 select_tut)(DEV), $| = 1)[0]);

           Or if(3,n) you don't mind pulling in(1,8) a few thousand lines of code just
           because you're afraid of a little $| variable:

               use IO::Handle;

           As mentioned in(1,8) the previous item, this still doesn't work when
           using socket(2,7,n) I/O between Unix and Macintosh.  You'll need to hard
           code your line terminators, in(1,8) that case.

       non-blocking input
           If you are doing a blocking read(2,n,1 builtins)() or sysread(), you'll have to
           arrange for an alarm(1,2) handler to provide a timeout(1,3x,3x cbreak) (see "alarm(1,2)" in(1,8)
           perlfunc).  If you have a non-blocking open(2,3,n), you'll likely have a
           non-blocking read(2,n,1 builtins), which means you may have to use a 4-arg select(2,7,2 select_tut)()
           to determine whether I/O is ready on that device (see "select(2,7,2 select_tut)" in(1,8)

       While trying to read(2,n,1 builtins) from his caller-id box, the notorious Jamie Zawin-
       ski <>, after much gnashing of teeth and fighting with
       sysread, sysopen, POSIX's tcgetattr business, and various other func-
       tions that go bump in(1,8) the night, finally came up with this:

           sub open_modem {
               use IPC::Open2;
               my $stty = `/bin/stty -g`;
               open2( \*MODEM_IN, \*MODEM_OUT, "cu -l$modem_device -s2400 2>&1");
               # starting cu hoses /dev/tty(1,4)'s stty settings, even when it has
               # been opened on a pipe...
               system("/bin/stty $stty");
               $_ = <MODEM_IN>;
               if(3,n) ( !m/^Connected/ ) {
                   print STDERR "$0: cu printed `$_' instead of `Connected'\n";

       How do I decode encrypted password files?

       You spend lots and lots of money on dedicated hardware, but this is
       bound to get you talked about.

       Seriously, you can't if(3,n) they are Unix password files--the Unix password
       system employs one-way encryption.  It's more like hashing than encryp-
       tion.  The best you can check is whether something else hashes to the
       same string.  You can't turn a hash back into the original string.
       Programs like Crack can forcibly (and intelligently) try to guess pass-
       words, but don't (can't) guarantee quick success.

       If you're worried about users(1,5) selecting bad passwords, you should
       proactively check when they try to change their password (by modifying
       passwd(1,5)(1), for example).

       How do I start a process in(1,8) the background?

       Several modules can start other processes that do not block your Perl
       program.  You can use IPC::Open3, Parallel::Jobs, IPC::Run, and some of
       the POE modules.  See CPAN for more details.

       You could also use

           system("cmd &")

       or you could use fork as documented in(1,8) "fork" in(1,8) perlfunc, with further
       examples in(1,8) perlipc.  Some things to be aware of, if(3,n) you're on a Unix-
       like system:

       STDIN, STDOUT, and STDERR are shared
           Both the main process and the backgrounded one (the "child"
           process) share the same STDIN, STDOUT and STDERR filehandles.  If
           both try to access(2,5) them at once, strange things can happen.  You
           may want to close(2,7,n) or reopen these for the child.  You can get
           around this with "open(2,3,n)"ing a pipe(2,8) (see "open(2,3,n)" in(1,8) perlfunc) but on
           some systems this means that the child process cannot outlive the

           You'll have to catch the SIGCHLD signal(2,7), and possibly SIGPIPE too.
           SIGCHLD is sent when the backgrounded process finishes.  SIGPIPE is
           sent when you write(1,2) to a filehandle whose child process has closed
           (an untrapped SIGPIPE can cause your program to silently die).
           This is not an issue with "system("cmd&")".

           You have to be prepared to "reap" the child process when it fin-

               $SIG{CHLD} = sub { wait };

               $SIG{CHLD} = 'IGNORE';

           You can also use a double fork. You immediately wait() for your
           first child, and the init daemon will wait() for your grandchild
           once it exits.

                   unless ($pid = fork) {
                           unless (fork) {
                       exec(3,n,1 builtins) "what you really wanna do";
                       die "exec(3,n,1 builtins) failed!";
                   exit(3,n,1 builtins) 0;

           See "Signals" in(1,8) perlipc for other examples of code to do this.
           Zombies are not an issue with "system("prog &")".

       How do I trap control characters/signals?

       You don't actually "trap" a control character.  Instead, that character
       generates a signal(2,7) which is sent to your terminal's currently fore-
       grounded process group, which you then trap in(1,8) your process.  Signals
       are documented in(1,8) "Signals" in(1,8) perlipc and the section on ``Signals''
       in(1,8) the Camel.

       Be warned that very few C libraries are re-entrant.  Therefore, if(3,n) you
       attempt to print() in(1,8) a handler that got invoked during another stdio
       operation your internal structures will likely be in(1,8) an inconsistent
       state, and your program will dump core.  You can sometimes avoid this
       by using syswrite() instead of print().

       Unless you're exceedingly careful, the only safe things to do inside a
       signal(2,7) handler are (1) set(7,n,1 builtins) a variable and (2) exit.  In the first case,
       you should only set(7,n,1 builtins) a variable in(1,8) such a way that malloc() is not
       called (eg, by setting a variable that already has a value).

       For example:

           $Interrupted = 0;   # to ensure it has a value
           $SIG{INT} = sub {
               syswrite(STDERR, "ouch\n", 5);

       However, because syscalls restart by default, you'll find that if(3,n)
       you're in(1,8) a "slow" call, such as <FH>, read(2,n,1 builtins)(), connect(), or wait(),
       that the only way to terminate them is by "longjumping" out; that is,
       by raising an exception.  See the time-out handler for a blocking
       flock(1,2)() in(1,8) "Signals" in(1,8) perlipc or the section on ``Signals'' in(1,8) the
       Camel book.

       How do I modify the shadow(3,5) password file(1,n) on a Unix system?

       If perl was installed correctly and your shadow(3,5) library was written
       properly, the getpw*() functions described in(1,8) perlfunc should in(1,8) theory
       provide (read-only) access(2,5) to entries in(1,8) the shadow(3,5) password file.  To
       change the file(1,n), make a new shadow(3,5) password file(1,n) (the format varies
       from system to system--see passwd(1,5) for specifics) and use pwd_mkdb(8) to
       install it (see pwd_mkdb for more details).

       How do I set(7,n,1 builtins) the time(1,2,n) and date?

       Assuming you're running under sufficient permissions, you should be
       able to set(7,n,1 builtins) the system-wide date and time(1,2,n) by running the date(1) pro-
       gram.  (There is no way to set(7,n,1 builtins) the time(1,2,n) and date on a per-process
       basis.)  This mechanism will work for Unix, MS-DOS, Windows, and NT;
       the VMS equivalent is "set(7,n,1 builtins) time(1,2,n)".

       However, if(3,n) all you want to do is change your time(1,2,n) zone, you can proba-
       bly get away with setting an environment variable:

           $ENV{TZ} = "MST7MDT";                  # unixish
           $ENV{'SYS$TIMEZONE_DIFFERENTIAL'}="-5" # vms
           system "trn comp.lang.perl.misc";

       How can I sleep(1,3)() or alarm(1,2)() for under a second?

       If you want finer granularity than the 1 second that the sleep(1,3)() func-
       tion provides, the easiest way is to use the select(2,7,2 select_tut)() function as docu-
       mented in(1,8) "select(2,7,2 select_tut)" in(1,8) perlfunc.  Try the Time::HiRes and the
       BSD::Itimer modules (available from CPAN, and starting from Perl 5.8
       Time::HiRes is part of the standard distribution).

       How can I measure time(1,2,n) under a second?

       In general, you may not be able to.  The Time::HiRes module (available
       from CPAN, and starting from Perl 5.8 part of the standard distribu-
       tion) provides this functionality for some systems.

       If your system supports both the syscall() function in(1,8) Perl as well as
       a system call like gettimeofday(2), then you may be able to do some-
       thing like this:

           require 'sys/';

           $TIMEVAL_T = "LL";

           $done = $start = pack(3,n,n pack-old)($TIMEVAL_T, ());

           syscall(&SYS_gettimeofday, $start, 0) != -1
                      or die "gettimeofday: $!";

              # DO YOUR OPERATION HERE #

           syscall( &SYS_gettimeofday, $done, 0) != -1
                  or die "gettimeofday: $!";

           @start = unpack($TIMEVAL_T, $start);
           @done  = unpack($TIMEVAL_T, $done);

           # fix microseconds
           for ($done[1], $start[1]) { $_ /= 1_000_000 }

           $delta_time = sprintf "%.4f", ($done[0]  + $done[1]  )
                                        ($start[0] + $start[1] );

       How can I do an atexit() or setjmp()/longjmp()? (Exception handling)

       Release 5 of Perl added the END block, which can be used to simulate
       atexit().  Each package's END block is called when the program or
       thread ends (see perlmod manpage for more details).

       For example, you can use this to make sure your filter(1,3x,3x curs_util) program managed
       to finish its output without filling up the disk:

           END {
               close(2,7,n)(STDOUT) || die "stdout close(2,7,n) failed: $!";

       The END block isn't called when untrapped signals kill(1,2,1 builtins) the program,
       though, so if(3,n) you use END blocks you should also use

               use sigtrap qw(die normal-signals);

       Perl's exception-handling mechanism is its eval() operator.  You can
       use eval() as setjmp and die() as longjmp.  For details of this, see
       the section on signals, especially the time-out handler for a blocking
       flock(1,2)() in(1,8) "Signals" in(1,8) perlipc or the section on ``Signals'' in(1,8) the
       Camel Book.

       If exception handling is all you're interested in(1,8), try the excep- library (part of the standard perl distribution).

       If you want the atexit() syntax (and an rmexit() as well), try the
       AtExit module available from CPAN.

       Why doesn't my sockets program work under System V (Solaris)?  What
       does the error(8,n) message "Protocol not supported" mean?

       Some Sys-V based systems, notably Solaris 2.X, redefined some of the
       standard socket(2,7,n) constants.  Since these were constant across all archi-
       tectures, they were often hardwired into perl code.  The proper way to
       deal with this is to "use Socket" to get the correct values.

       Note that even though SunOS and Solaris are binary compatible, these
       values are different.  Go figure.

       How can I call my system's unique C functions from Perl?

       In most cases, you write(1,2) an external module to do it--see the answer to
       "Where can I learn about linking C with Perl? [h2xs, xsubpp]".  How-
       ever, if(3,n) the function is a system call, and your system supports
       syscall(), you can use the syscall function (documented in(1,8) perlfunc).

       Remember to check the modules that came with your distribution, and
       CPAN as well---someone may already have written a module to do it. On
       Windows, try Win32::API.  On Macs, try Mac::Carbon.  If no module has
       an interface to the C function, you can inline a bit of C in(1,8) your Perl
       source with Inline::C.

       Where do I get the include files to do ioctl() or syscall()?

       Historically, these would be generated by the h2ph tool, part of the
       standard perl distribution.  This program converts cpp(1) directives in(1,8)
       C header files to files containing subroutine definitions, like
       &SYS_getitimer, which you can use as arguments to your functions.  It
       doesn't work perfectly, but it usually gets(3,n) most of the job done.  Sim-
       ple files like errno.h, syscall.h, and socket.h were fine, but the hard
       ones like ioctl.h nearly always need to hand-edited.  Here's how to
       install the *.ph files:

           1.  become super-user
           2.  cd /usr/include
           3.  h2ph *.h */*.h

       If your system supports dynamic loading, for reasons of portability and
       sanity you probably ought to use h2xs (also part of the standard perl
       distribution).  This tool converts C header files to Perl extensions.
       See perlxstut for how to get started with h2xs.

       If your system doesn't support dynamic loading, you still probably
       ought to use h2xs.  See perlxstut and ExtUtils::MakeMaker for more
       information (in(1,8) brief, just use make perl instead of a plain make to
       rebuild perl with a new static extension).

       Why do setuid perl scripts complain about kernel problems?

       Some operating systems have bugs in(1,8) the kernel that make setuid scripts
       inherently insecure.  Perl gives you a number of options (described in(1,8)
       perlsec) to work around such systems.

       How can I open(2,3,n) a pipe(2,8) both to and from a command?

       The IPC::Open2 module (part of the standard perl distribution) is an
       easy-to-use approach that internally uses pipe(2,8)(), fork(), and exec(3,n,1 builtins)() to
       do the job.  Make sure you read(2,n,1 builtins) the deadlock warnings in(1,8) its documenta-
       tion, though (see IPC::Open2).  See "Bidirectional Communication with
       Another Process" in(1,8) perlipc and "Bidirectional Communication with Your-
       self" in(1,8) perlipc

       You may also use the IPC::Open3 module (part of the standard perl dis-
       tribution), but be warned that it has a different order of arguments
       from IPC::Open2 (see IPC::Open3).

       Why can't I get the output of a command with system()?

       You're confusing the purpose of system() and backticks (``).  system()
       runs a command and returns exit(3,n,1 builtins) status information (as a 16 bit value:
       the low 7 bits are the signal(2,7) the process died from, if(3,n) any, and the
       high 8 bits are the actual exit(3,n,1 builtins) value).  Backticks (``) run a command
       and return what it sent to STDOUT.

           $exit_status   = system("mail-users");
           $output_string = `ls`;

       How can I capture STDERR from an external command?

       There are three basic ways of running external commands:

           system $cmd;                # using system()
           $output = `$cmd`;           # using backticks (``)
           open(2,3,n) (PIPE, "cmd |");       # using open(2,3,n)()

       With system(), both STDOUT and STDERR will go the same place as the
       script's STDOUT and STDERR, unless the system() command redirects them.
       Backticks and open(2,3,n)() read(2,n,1 builtins) only the STDOUT of your command.

       You can also use the open3() function from IPC::Open3.  Benjamin Gold-
       berg provides some sample code:

       To capture a program's STDOUT, but discard its STDERR:

           use IPC::Open3;
           use File::Spec;
           use Symbol qw(gensym);
           open(2,3,n)(NULL, ">", File::Spec->devnull);
           my $pid = open3(gensym, \*PH, ">&NULL", "cmd");
           while( <PH> ) { }
           waitpid($pid, 0);

       To capture a program's STDERR, but discard its STDOUT:

           use IPC::Open3;
           use File::Spec;
           use Symbol qw(gensym);
           open(2,3,n)(NULL, ">", File::Spec->devnull);
           my $pid = open3(gensym, ">&NULL", \*PH, "cmd");
           while( <PH> ) { }
           waitpid($pid, 0);

       To capture a program's STDERR, and let its STDOUT go to our own STDERR:

           use IPC::Open3;
           use Symbol qw(gensym);
           my $pid = open3(gensym, ">&STDERR", \*PH, "cmd");
           while( <PH> ) { }
           waitpid($pid, 0);

       To read(2,n,1 builtins) both a command's STDOUT and its STDERR separately, you can re-
       direct them to temp files, let the command run, then read(2,n,1 builtins) the temp

           use IPC::Open3;
           use Symbol qw(gensym);
           use IO::File;
           local *CATCHOUT = IO::File->new_tempfile;
           local *CATCHERR = IO::File->new_tempfile;
           my $pid = open3(gensym, ">&CATCHOUT", ">&CATCHERR", "cmd");
           waitpid($pid, 0);
           seek $_, 0, 0 for \*CATCHOUT, \*CATCHERR;
           while( <CATCHOUT> ) {}
           while( <CATCHERR> ) {}

       But there's no real need for *both* to be tempfiles... the following
       should work just as well, without deadlocking:

           use IPC::Open3;
           use Symbol qw(gensym);
           use IO::File;
           local *CATCHERR = IO::File->new_tempfile;
           my $pid = open3(gensym, \*CATCHOUT, ">&CATCHERR", "cmd");
           while( <CATCHOUT> ) {}
           waitpid($pid, 0);
           seek CATCHERR, 0, 0;
           while( <CATCHERR> ) {}

       And it'll be faster, too, since we can begin processing the program's
       stdout immediately, rather than waiting for the program to finish.

       With any of these, you can change file(1,n) descriptors before the call:

           open(2,3,n)(STDOUT, ">logfile");

       or you can use Bourne shell file-descriptor redirection:

           $output = `$cmd 2>some_file`;
           open(2,3,n) (PIPE, "cmd 2>some_file |");

       You can also use file-descriptor redirection to make STDERR a duplicate
       of STDOUT:

           $output = `$cmd 2>&1`;
           open(2,3,n) (PIPE, "cmd 2>&1 |");

       Note that you cannot simply open(2,3,n) STDERR to be a dup of STDOUT in(1,8) your
       Perl program and avoid calling the shell to do the redirection.  This
       doesn't work:

           open(2,3,n)(STDERR, ">&STDOUT");
           $alloutput = `cmd args`;  # stderr still escapes

       This fails because the open(2,3,n)() makes STDERR go to where STDOUT was going
       at the time(1,2,n) of the open(2,3,n)().  The backticks then make STDOUT go to a
       string(3,n), but don't change STDERR (which still goes to the old STDOUT).

       Note that you must use Bourne shell (sh(1)) redirection syntax in(1,8) back-
       ticks, not csh(1)!  Details on why Perl's system() and backtick and
       pipe(2,8) opens all use the Bourne shell are in(1,8) the versus/csh.whynot arti-
       cle in(1,8) the "Far More Than You Ever Wanted To Know" collection in(1,8) .  To capture a command's
       STDERR and STDOUT together:

           $output = `cmd 2>&1`;                       # either with backticks
           $pid = open(2,3,n)(PH, "cmd 2>&1 |");              # or with an open(2,3,n) pipe(2,8)
           while (<PH>) { }                            #    plus a read(2,n,1 builtins)

       To capture a command's STDOUT but discard its STDERR:

           $output = `cmd 2>/dev/null`;                # either with backticks
           $pid = open(2,3,n)(PH, "cmd 2>/dev/null |");       # or with an open(2,3,n) pipe(2,8)
           while (<PH>) { }                            #    plus a read(2,n,1 builtins)

       To capture a command's STDERR but discard its STDOUT:

           $output = `cmd 2>&1 1>/dev/null`;           # either with backticks
           $pid = open(2,3,n)(PH, "cmd 2>&1 1>/dev/null |");  # or with an open(2,3,n) pipe(2,8)
           while (<PH>) { }                            #    plus a read(2,n,1 builtins)

       To exchange a command's STDOUT and STDERR in(1,8) order to capture the
       STDERR but leave its STDOUT to come out our old STDERR:

           $output = `cmd 3>&1 1>&2 2>&3 3>&-`;        # either with backticks
           $pid = open(2,3,n)(PH, "cmd 3>&1 1>&2 2>&3 3>&-|");# or with an open(2,3,n) pipe(2,8)
           while (<PH>) { }                            #    plus a read(2,n,1 builtins)

       To read(2,n,1 builtins) both a command's STDOUT and its STDERR separately, it's easiest
       to redirect them separately to files, and then read(2,n,1 builtins) from those files
       when the program is done:

           system("program args 1>program.stdout 2>program.stderr");

       Ordering is important in(1,8) all these examples.  That's because the shell
       processes file(1,n) descriptor redirections in(1,8) strictly left to right order.

           system("prog args 1>tmpfile 2>&1");
           system("prog args 2>&1 1>tmpfile");

       The first command sends both standard out and standard error(8,n) to the
       temporary file.  The second command sends only the old standard output
       there, and the old standard error(8,n) shows up on the old standard out.

       Why doesn't open(2,3,n)() return an error(8,n) when a pipe(2,8) open(2,3,n) fails?

       If the second argument to a piped open(2,3,n)() contains shell metacharacters,
       perl fork()s, then exec(3,n,1 builtins)()s a shell to decode the metacharacters and
       eventually run the desired program.  If the program couldn't be run,
       it's the shell that gets(3,n) the message, not Perl. All your Perl program
       can find out is whether the shell itself could be successfully started.
       You can still capture the shell's STDERR and check it for error(8,n) mes-
       sages.  See "How can I capture STDERR from an external command?" else-
       where in(1,8) this document, or use the IPC::Open3 module.

       If there are no shell metacharacters in(1,8) the argument of open(2,3,n)(), Perl
       runs the command directly, without using the shell, and can correctly
       report whether the command started.

       What's wrong with using backticks in(1,8) a void context?

       Strictly speaking, nothing.  Stylistically speaking, it's not a good
       way to write(1,2) maintainable code.  Perl has several operators for running
       external commands.  Backticks are one; they collect the output from the
       command for use in(1,8) your program.  The "system" function is another; it
       doesn't do this.

       Writing backticks in(1,8) your program sends a clear(1,3x,3x clrtobot) message to the readers
       of your code that you wanted to collect the output of the command.  Why
       send(2,n) a clear(1,3x,3x clrtobot) message that isn't true?

       Consider this line:

           `cat /etc/termcap`;

       You forgot to check $? to see whether the program even ran correctly.
       Even if(3,n) you wrote

           print `cat /etc/termcap`;

       this code could and probably should be written as

           system("cat /etc/termcap") == 0
               or die "cat program failed!";

       which will get the output quickly (as it is generated, instead of only
       at the end) and also check the return value.

       system() also provides direct control over whether shell wildcard pro-
       cessing may take place, whereas backticks do not.

       How can I call backticks without shell processing?

       This is a bit tricky.  You can't simply write(1,2) the command like this:

           @ok = `grep @opts '$search_string' @filenames`;

       As of Perl 5.8.0, you can use open(2,3,n)() with multiple arguments.  Just
       like the list forms of system() and exec(3,n,1 builtins)(), no shell escapes happen.

          open(2,3,n)( GREP, "-|", 'grep', @opts, $search_string, @filenames );
          chomp(@ok = <GREP>);
          close(2,7,n) GREP;

       You can also:

           my @ok = ();
           if(3,n) (open(2,3,n)(GREP, "-|")) {
               while (<GREP>) {
                   push(@ok, $_);
               close(2,7,n) GREP;
           } else {
               exec(3,n,1 builtins) 'grep', @opts, $search_string, @filenames;

       Just as with system(), no shell escapes happen when you exec(3,n,1 builtins)() a list.
       Further examples of this can be found in(1,8) "Safe Pipe Opens" in(1,8) perlipc.

       Note that if(3,n) you're use Microsoft, no solution to this vexing issue is
       even possible.  Even if(3,n) Perl were to emulate fork(), you'd still be
       stuck, because Microsoft does not have a argc/argv-style API.

       Why can't my script read(2,n,1 builtins) from STDIN after I gave it EOF (^D on Unix, ^Z
       on MS-DOS)?

       Some stdio's set(7,n,1 builtins) error(8,n) and eof flags that need clearing.  The POSIX
       module defines clearerr() that you can use.  That is the technically
       correct way to do it.  Here are some less(1,3) reliable workarounds:

       1   Try keeping around the seekpointer and go there, like this:

               $where = tell(LOG);
               seek(LOG, $where, 0);

       2   If that doesn't work, try seeking to a different part of the file(1,n)
           and then back.

       3   If that doesn't work, try seeking to a different part of the file(1,n),
           reading something, and then seeking back.

       4   If that doesn't work, give up on your stdio package and use sys-

       How can I convert my shell script to perl?

       Learn Perl and rewrite it.  Seriously, there's no simple converter.
       Things that are awkward to do in(1,8) the shell are easy to do in(1,8) Perl, and
       this very awkwardness is what would make a shell->perl converter nigh-
       on impossible to write.  By rewriting it, you'll think about what
       you're really trying to do, and hopefully will escape the shell's pipe-
       line datastream paradigm, which while convenient for some matters,
       causes many inefficiencies.

       Can I use perl to run a telnet or ftp session?

       Try the Net::FTP, TCP::Client, and Net::Telnet modules (available from
       CPAN). will also
       help for emulating the telnet protocol, but Net::Telnet is quite proba-
       bly easier to use..

       If all you want to do is pretend to be telnet but don't need the ini-
       tial telnet handshaking, then the standard dual-process approach will

           use IO::Socket;             # new in(1,8) 5.004
           $handle = IO::Socket::INET->new('')
                   || die "can't connect to port 80 on $!";
           if(3,n) (fork()) {               # XXX: undef means failure
               select(2,7,2 select_tut)($handle);
               print while <STDIN>;    # everything from stdin to socket(2,7,n)
           } else {
               print while <$handle>;  # everything from socket(2,7,n) to stdout
           close(2,7,n) $handle;
           exit(3,n,1 builtins);

       How can I write(1,2) expect in(1,8) Perl?

       Once upon a time(1,2,n), there was a library called (part of the
       standard perl distribution), which never really got finished.  If you
       find it somewhere, don't use it.  These days, your best bet is to look(1,8,3 Search::Dict)
       at the Expect module available from CPAN, which also requires two other
       modules from CPAN, IO::Pty and IO::Stty.

       Is there a way to hide perl's command line from programs such as "ps"?

       First of all note that if(3,n) you're doing this for security reasons (to
       avoid people seeing passwords, for example) then you should rewrite
       your program so that critical information is never given as an argu-
       ment.  Hiding the arguments won't make your program completely secure.

       To actually alter the visible command line, you can assign to the vari-
       able $0 as documented in(1,8) perlvar.  This won't work on all operating
       systems, though.  Daemon programs like sendmail(1,8) place their state
       there, as in:

           $0 = "orcus [accepting connections]";

       I {changed directory, modified my environment} in(1,8) a perl script.  How
       come the change disappeared when I exited the script?  How do I get my
       changes to be visible?

           In the strictest sense, it can't be done--the script executes as a
           different process from the shell it was started from.  Changes to a
           process are not reflected in(1,8) its parent--only in(1,8) any children cre-
           ated after the change.  There is shell magic(4,5) that may allow you to
           fake it by eval()ing the script's output in(1,8) your shell; check out
           the comp.unix.questions FAQ for details.

       How do I close(2,7,n) a process's filehandle without waiting for it to com-

       Assuming your system supports such things, just send(2,n) an appropriate
       signal(2,7) to the process (see "kill(1,2,1 builtins)" in(1,8) perlfunc).  It's common to first
       send(2,n) a TERM signal(2,7), wait a little bit, and then send(2,n) a KILL signal(2,7) to
       finish it off.

       How do I fork a daemon process?

       If by daemon process you mean one that's detached (disassociated from
       its tty(1,4)), then the following process is reported to work on most Unix-
       ish systems.  Non-Unix users(1,5) should check their Your_OS::Process module
       for other solutions.

          Open /dev/tty(1,4) and use the TIOCNOTTY ioctl on it.  See tty(1,4) for
           details.  Or better yet, you can just use the POSIX::setsid() func-
           tion, so you don't have to worry about process groups.

          Change directory to /

          Reopen STDIN, STDOUT, and STDERR so they're not connected to the
           old tty.

          Background yourself like this:

               fork && exit(3,n,1 builtins);

       The Proc::Daemon module, available from CPAN, provides a function to
       perform these actions for you.

       How do I find out if(3,n) I'm running interactively or not?

       Good question.  Sometimes "-t STDIN" and "-t STDOUT" can give clues,
       sometimes not.

           if(3,n) (-t STDIN && -t STDOUT) {
               print "Now what? ";

       On POSIX systems, you can test whether your own process group matches
       the current process group of your controlling terminal as follows:

           use POSIX qw/getpgrp tcgetpgrp/;
           open(2,3,n)(TTY, "/dev/tty(1,4)") or die $!;
           $tpgrp = tcgetpgrp(fileno(*TTY));
           $pgrp = getpgrp();
           if(3,n) ($tpgrp == $pgrp) {
               print "foreground\n";
           } else {
               print "background\n";

       How do I timeout(1,3x,3x cbreak) a slow event?

       Use the alarm(1,2)() function, probably in(1,8) conjunction with a signal(2,7) han-
       dler, as documented in(1,8) "Signals" in(1,8) perlipc and the section on ``Sig-
       nals'' in(1,8) the Camel.  You may instead use the more flexible Sys::Alarm-
       Call module available from CPAN.

       The alarm(1,2)() function is not implemented on all versions of Windows.
       Check the documentation for your specific version(1,3,5) of Perl.

       How do I set(7,n,1 builtins) CPU limits?

       Use the BSD::Resource module from CPAN.

       How do I avoid zombies on a Unix system?

       Use the reaper code from "Signals" in(1,8) perlipc to call wait() when a
       SIGCHLD is received, or else use the double-fork technique described in(1,8)
       "How do I start a process in(1,8) the background?" in(1,8) perlfaq8.

       How do I use an SQL database?

       The DBI module provides an abstract interface to most database servers
       and types, including Oracle, DB2, Sybase, mysql, Postgresql, ODBC, and
       flat files.  The DBI module accesses each database type through a data-
       base driver, or DBD.  You can see a complete list of available drivers
       on CPAN: .  You can read(2,n,1 builtins)
       more about DBI on .

       Other modules provide more specific access: Win32::ODBC, Alzabo, iodbc,
       and others found on CPAN Search: .

       How do I make a system() exit(3,n,1 builtins) on control-C?

       You can't.  You need to imitate the system() call (see perlipc for sam-
       ple code) and then have a signal(2,7) handler for the INT signal(2,7) that passes
       the signal(2,7) on to the subprocess.  Or you can check for it:

           $rc = system($cmd);
           if(3,n) ($rc & 127) { die "signal(2,7) death" }

       How do I open(2,3,n) a file(1,n) without blocking?

       If you're lucky enough to be using a system that supports non-blocking
       reads (most Unixish systems do), you need only to use the O_NDELAY or
       O_NONBLOCK flag from the Fcntl module in(1,8) conjunction with sysopen():

           use Fcntl;
           sysopen(FH, "/foo/somefile", O_WRONLY|O_NDELAY|O_CREAT, 0644)
               or die "can't open(2,3,n) /foo/somefile: $!":

       How do I install a module from CPAN?

       The easiest way is to have a module also named(5,8) CPAN do it for you.
       This module comes with perl version(1,3,5) 5.004 and later.

           $ perl -MCPAN -e shell

           cpan shell -- CPAN exploration and modules installation (v1.59_54)
           ReadLine support enabled

           cpan> install Some::Module

       To manually install the CPAN module, or any well-behaved CPAN module
       for that matter, follow these steps:

       1   Unpack the source into a temporary area.

               perl Makefile.PL


               make test

               make install

       If your version(1,3,5) of perl is compiled without dynamic loading, then you
       just need to replace step 3 (make) with make perl and you will get a
       new perl binary with your extension linked in.

       See ExtUtils::MakeMaker for more details on building extensions.  See
       also the next question, ``What's the difference between require and

       What's the difference between require and use?

       Perl offers several different ways to include code from one file(1,n) into
       another.  Here are the deltas between the various inclusion constructs:

           1)  do $file(1,n) is like eval `cat $file(1,n)`, except the former
               1.1: searches @INC and updates %INC.
               1.2: bequeaths an *unrelated* lexical scope on the eval'ed code.

           2)  require $file(1,n) is like do $file(1,n), except the former
               2.1: checks for redundant loading, skipping already loaded files.
               2.2: raises an exception on failure to find, compile, or execute $file.

           3)  require Module is like require "", except the former
               3.1: translates each "::" into your system's directory separator.
               3.2: primes the parser to disambiguate class Module as an indirect object.

           4)  use Module is like require Module, except the former
               4.1: loads the module at compile time(1,2,n), not run-time.
               4.2: imports symbols and semantics from that package to the current one.

       In general, you usually want "use" and a proper Perl module.

       How do I keep my own module/library directory?

       When you build modules, use the PREFIX and LIB options when generating

           perl Makefile.PL PREFIX=/mydir/perl LIB=/mydir/perl/lib

       then either set(7,n,1 builtins) the PERL5LIB environment variable before you run
       scripts that use the modules/libraries (see perlrun) or say

           use lib '/mydir/perl/lib';

       This is almost the same as

           BEGIN {
               unshift(@INC, '/mydir/perl/lib');

       except that the lib module checks for machine-dependent subdirectories.
       See Perl's lib for more information.

       How do I add the directory my program lives in(1,8) to the module/library
       search path?

           use FindBin;
           use lib "$FindBin::Bin";
           use your_own_modules;

       How do I add a directory to my include path (@INC) at runtime?

       Here are the suggested ways of modifying your include path:

           the PERLLIB environment variable
           the PERL5LIB environment variable
           the perl -Idir command line flag
           the use lib pragma, as in(1,8)
               use lib "$ENV{HOME}/myown_perllib";

       The latter is particularly useful because it knows about machine depen-
       dent architectures.  The pragmatic module was first included
       with the 5.002 release of Perl.

       What is and where do I get it?

       It's a perl4-style file(1,n) defining values for system networking con-
       stants.  Sometimes it is built using h2ph when Perl is installed, but
       other times it is not.  Modern programs "use Socket;" instead.

       Copyright (c) 1997-2003 Tom Christiansen and Nathan Torkington.  All
       rights reserved.

       This documentation is free; you can redistribute it and/or modify it
       under the same terms as Perl itself.

       Irrespective of its distribution, all code examples in(1,8) this file(1,n) are
       hereby placed into the public domain.  You are permitted and encouraged
       to use this code in(1,8) your own programs for fun or for profit as you see
       fit.  A simple comment in(1,8) the code giving credit would be courteous but
       is not required.

perl v5.8.5                       2004-04-23                       PERLFAQ8(1)

References for this manual (incoming links)