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PERLFAQ9(1)            Perl Programmers Reference Guide            PERLFAQ9(1)

       perlfaq9 - Networking ($Revision: 1.15 $, $Date: 2003/01/31 17:36:57 $)

       This section deals with questions related to networking, the internet,
       and a few on the web.

       What is the correct form of response from a CGI script?

       (Alan Flavell <> answers...)

       The Common Gateway Interface (CGI) specifies a software interface
       between a program ("CGI script") and a web server (HTTPD). It is not
       specific to Perl, and has its own FAQs and tutorials, and usenet group,

       The original CGI specification is at:

       Current best-practice RFC draft at: http://CGI-Spec.Golux.Com/

       Other relevant documentation listed in:

       These Perl FAQs very selectively cover some CGI issues. However, Perl
       programmers are strongly advised to use the module, to take care
       of the details for them.

       The similarity between CGI response headers (defined in(1,8) the CGI speci-
       fication) and HTTP response headers (defined in(1,8) the HTTP specification,
       RFC2616) is intentional, but can sometimes be confusing.

       The CGI specification defines two kinds of script: the "Parsed Header"
       script, and the "Non Parsed Header" (NPH) script. Check your server
       documentation to see what it supports. "Parsed Header" scripts are sim-
       pler in(1,8) various respects. The CGI specification allows any of the usual
       newline representations in(1,8) the CGI response (it's the server's job to
       create an accurate HTTP response based on it). So "\n" written in(1,8) text
       mode is technically correct, and recommended. NPH scripts are more
       tricky: they must put out a complete and accurate set(7,n,1 builtins) of HTTP transac-
       tion response headers; the HTTP specification calls for records to be
       terminated with carriage-return and line-feed, i.e ASCII \015\012 writ-
       ten in(1,8) binary mode.

       Using gives excellent platform independence, including EBCDIC
       systems. selects an appropriate newline representation
       ($CGI::CRLF) and sets binmode as appropriate.

       My CGI script runs from the command line but not the browser.  (500
       Server Error)

       Several things could be wrong.  You can go through the "Troubleshooting
       Perl CGI scripts" guide at


       If, after that, you can demonstrate that you've read(2,n,1 builtins) the FAQs and that
       your problem isn't something simple that can be easily answered, you'll
       probably receive a courteous and useful reply to your question if(3,n) you
       post it on comp.infosystems.www.authoring.cgi (if(3,n) it's something to do
       with HTTP or the CGI protocols).  Questions that appear to be Perl
       questions but are really CGI ones that are posted to
       comp.lang.perl.misc are not so well received.

       The useful FAQs, related documents, and troubleshooting guides are
       listed in(1,8) the CGI Meta FAQ:


       How can I get better error(8,n) messages from a CGI program?

       Use the CGI::Carp module.  It replaces "warn" and "die", plus the nor-
       mal Carp modules "carp", "croak", and "confess" functions with more
       verbose and safer versions.  It still sends them to the normal server
       error(8,n) log.

           use CGI::Carp;
           warn "This is a complaint";
           die "But this one is serious";

       The following use of CGI::Carp also redirects errors to a file(1,n) of your
       choice, placed in(1,8) a BEGIN block to catch compile-time warnings as well:

           BEGIN {
               use CGI::Carp qw(carpout);
               open(2,3,n)(LOG, ">>/var/local/cgi-logs/mycgi-log")
                   or die "Unable to append to mycgi-log: $!\n";

       You can even arrange for fatal errors to go back to the client browser,
       which is nice(1,2) for your own debugging, but might confuse the end user.

           use CGI::Carp qw(fatalsToBrowser);
           die "Bad error(8,n) here";

       Even if(3,n) the error(8,n) happens before you get the HTTP header out, the mod-
       ule will try to take care of this to avoid the dreaded server 500
       errors.  Normal warnings still go out to the server error(8,n) log (or wher-
       ever you've sent them with "carpout") with the application name and
       date stamp prepended.

       How do I remove HTML from a string(3,n)?

       The most correct way (albeit not the fastest) is to use HTML::Parser
       from CPAN.  Another mostly correct way is to use HTML::FormatText which
       not only removes HTML but also attempts to do a little simple format-
       ting of the resulting plain text.

       Many folks attempt a simple-minded regular expression approach, like
       "s/<.*?>//g", but that fails in(1,8) many cases because the tags may con-
       tinue over line breaks, they may contain quoted angle-brackets, or HTML
       comment may be present.  Plus, folks forget to convert entities--like
       "&lt;" for example.

       Here's one "simple-minded" approach, that works for most files:

           #!/usr/bin/perl -p0777

       If you want a more complete solution, see the 3-stage striphtml program
       in(1,8) .

       Here are some tricky cases that you should think about when picking a

           <IMG SRC = "foo.gif" ALT = "A > B">

           <IMG SRC = "foo.gif"
                ALT = "A > B">

           <!-- <A comment> -->

           <script>if(3,n) (a<b && a>c)</script>

           <# Just data #>

           <![INCLUDE CDATA [ >>>>>>>>>>>> ]]>

       If HTML comments include other tags, those solutions would also break
       on text like this:

           <!-- This section commented out.
               <B>You can't see me!</B>

       How do I extract URLs?

       You can easily extract all sorts of URLs from HTML with "HTML::Sim-
       pleLinkExtor" which handles anchors, images, objects, frames, and many
       other tags that can contain a URL.  If you need anything more complex,
       you can create your own subclass of "HTML::LinkExtor" or
       "HTML::Parser".  You might even use "HTML::SimpleLinkExtor" as an exam-
       ple for something specifically suited to your needs.

       You can use URI::Find to extract URLs from an arbitrary text document.

       Less complete solutions involving regular expressions can save you a
       lot of processing time(1,2,n) if(3,n) you know that the input is simple.  One solu-
       tion from Tom Christiansen runs 100 times faster than most module based
       approaches but only extracts URLs from anchors where the first
       attribute is HREF and there are no other attributes.

               #!/usr/bin/perl -n00
               # qxurl -
               print "$2\n" while m{
                   < \s*
                     A \s+ HREF \s* = \s* (["']) (.*?) \1
                   \s* >

       How do I download a file(1,n) from the user's machine?  How do I open(2,3,n) a file(1,n)
       on another machine?

       In this case, download means to use the file(1,n) upload feature of HTML
       forms.  You allow the web surfer to specify a file(1,n) to send(2,n) to your web
       server.  To you it looks like a download, and to the user it looks like
       an upload.  No matter what you call it, you do it with what's known as
       multipart/form-data encoding.  The module (which comes with Perl
       as part of the Standard Library) supports this in(1,8) the start_multi-
       part_form() method, which isn't the same as the startform() method.

       See the section in(1,8) the documentation on file(1,n) uploads for code
       examples and details.

       How do I make a pop-up menu(3x,n,n tk_menuSetFocus) in(1,8) HTML?

       Use the <SELECT> and <OPTION> tags.  The module (available from
       CPAN) supports this widget, as well as many others, including some that
       it cleverly synthesizes on its own.

       How do I fetch an HTML file(1,n)?

       One approach, if(3,n) you have the lynx text-based HTML browser installed on
       your system, is this:

           $html_code = `lynx -source $url`;
           $text_data = `lynx -dump $url`;

       The libwww-perl (LWP) modules from CPAN provide a more powerful way to
       do this.  They don't require lynx, but like lynx, can still work
       through proxies:

           # simplest version(1,3,5)
           use LWP::Simple;
           $content = get($URL);

           # or print HTML from a URL
           use LWP::Simple;
           getprint "";

           # or print ASCII from HTML from a URL
           # also need HTML-Tree package from CPAN
           use LWP::Simple;
           use HTML::Parser;
           use HTML::FormatText;
           my ($html, $ascii(1,7));
           $html = get("");
           defined $html
               or die "Can't fetch HTML from";
           $ascii(1,7) = HTML::FormatText->new->format(parse_html($html));
           print $ascii(1,7);

       How do I automate an HTML form submission?

       If you're submitting values using the GET method, create a URL and
       encode the form using the "query_form" method:

           use LWP::Simple;
           use URI::URL;

           my $url = url('');
           $url->query_form(module => 'DB_File', .RE This package contains: .RS 4 .PD 0 .HP 4 advzip Recompression and test utility for zip files .HP 4 advpng Recompression utility for png files .HP 4 advmng Recompression utility for mng files .HP 4 advdef Recompression utility for deflate streams in .png, .mng and .gz files .PD .RE" href="/man.cgi/1/readme">readme => 1);
           $content = get($url);

       If you're using the POST method, create your own user agent and encode
       the content appropriately.

           use HTTP::Request::Common qw(POST);
           use LWP::UserAgent;

           $ua = LWP::UserAgent->new();
           my $req = POST '',
                          [ module => 'DB_File', .RE This package contains: .RS 4 .PD 0 .HP 4 advzip Recompression and test utility for zip files .HP 4 advpng Recompression utility for png files .HP 4 advmng Recompression utility for mng files .HP 4 advdef Recompression utility for deflate streams in .png, .mng and .gz files .PD .RE" href="/man.cgi/1/readme">readme => 1 ];
           $content = $ua->request($req)->as_string;

       How do I decode or create those %-encodings on the web?

       If you are writing a CGI script, you should be using the module
       that comes with perl, or some other equivalent module.  The CGI module
       automatically decodes queries for you, and provides an escape() func-
       tion to handle encoding.

       The best source of detailed information on URI encoding(3,n) is RFC 2396.
       Basically, the following substitutions do it:

           s/([^\w()'*~!.-])/sprintf '%%%02x', ord $1/eg;   # encode

           s/%([A-Fa-f\d]{2})/chr hex $1/eg;            # decode

       However, you should only apply them to individual URI components, not
       the entire URI, otherwise you'll lose information and generally mess
       things up.  If that didn't explain it, don't worry.  Just go read(2,n,1 builtins) sec-
       tion 2 of the RFC, it's probably the best explanation there is.

       RFC 2396 also contains a lot of other useful information, including a
       regexp(3,n) for breaking any arbitrary URI into components (Appendix B).

       How do I redirect to another page?

       Specify the complete URL of the destination (even if(3,n) it is on the same
       server). This is one of the two different kinds of CGI "Location:"
       responses which are defined in(1,8) the CGI specification for a Parsed Head-
       ers script. The other kind (an absolute URLpath) is resolved internally
       to the server without any HTTP redirection. The CGI specifications do
       not allow relative URLs in(1,8) either case.

       Use of is strongly recommended.  This example shows redirection
       with a complete URL. This redirection is handled by the web browser.

             use CGI qw/:standard/;

             my $url = '';
             print redirect($url);

       This example shows a redirection with an absolute URLpath.  This redi-
       rection is handled by the local web server.

             my $url = '/CPAN/index.html';
             print redirect($url);

       But if(3,n) coded directly, it could be as follows (the final "\n" is shown
       separately, for clarity), using either a complete URL or an absolute

             print "Location: $url\n";   # CGI response header
             print "\n";                 # end of headers

       How do I put a password on my web pages?

       To enable authentication for your web server, you need to configure
       your web server.  The configuration is different for different sorts of
       web servers---apache does it differently from iPlanet which does it
       differently from IIS.  Check your web server documentation for the
       details for your particular server.

       How do I edit my .htpasswd and .htgroup files with Perl?

       The HTTPD::UserAdmin and HTTPD::GroupAdmin modules provide a consistent
       OO interface to these files, regardless of how they're stored.  Data-
       bases may be text, dbm, Berkeley DB or any database with a DBI compati-
       ble driver.  HTTPD::UserAdmin supports files used by the `Basic' and
       `Digest' authentication schemes.  Here's an example:

           use HTTPD::UserAdmin ();
                 ->new(DB => "/foo/.htpasswd")
                 ->add($username => $password);

       How do I make sure users(1,5) can't enter values into a form that cause my
       CGI script to do bad things?

       See the security references listed in(1,8) the CGI Meta FAQ


       How do I parse a mail(1,8) header?

       For a quick-and-dirty solution, try this solution derived from "split(1,n)"
       in(1,8) perlfunc:

           $/ = '';
           $header = <MSG>;
           $header =~ s/\n\s+/ /g;      # merge(1,8) continuation lines
           %head = ( UNIX_FROM_LINE, split(1,n) /^([-\w]+):\s*/m, $header );

       That solution doesn't do well if(3,n), for example, you're trying to main-
       tain all the Received lines.  A more complete approach is to use the
       Mail::Header module from CPAN (part of the MailTools package).

       How do I decode a CGI form?

       You use a standard module, probably  Under no circumstances
       should you attempt to do so by hand!

       You'll see a lot of CGI programs that blindly read(2,n,1 builtins) from STDIN the num-
       ber of bytes equal to CONTENT_LENGTH for POSTs, or grab QUERY_STRING
       for decoding GETs.  These programs are very poorly written.  They only
       work sometimes.  They typically forget to check the return value of the
       read(2,n,1 builtins)() system call, which is a cardinal sin.  They don't handle HEAD
       requests.  They don't handle multipart forms used for file(1,n) uploads.
       They don't deal with GET/POST combinations where query fields are in(1,8)
       more than one place.  They don't deal with keywords in(1,8) the query

       In short, they're bad hacks.  Resist them at all costs.  Please do not
       be tempted to reinvent the wheel.  Instead, use the or (available from CPAN), or if(3,n) you're trapped in(1,8) the module-
       free land of perl1 .. perl4, you might look(1,8,3 Search::Dict) into (available
       from ).

       Make sure you know whether to use a GET or a POST in(1,8) your form.  GETs
       should only be used for something that doesn't update(7,n) the server.  Oth-
       erwise you can get mangled databases and repeated feedback mail(1,8) mes-
       sages.  The fancy word for this is ``idempotency''.  This simply means
       that there should be no difference between making a GET request for a
       particular URL once or multiple times.  This is because the HTTP proto-
       col definition says that a GET request may be cached by the browser, or
       server, or an intervening proxy.  POST requests cannot be cached,
       because each request is independent and matters.  Typically, POST
       requests change or depend on state on the server (query or update(7,n) a
       database, send(2,n) mail(1,8), or purchase a computer).

       How do I check a valid mail(1,8) address?

       You can't, at least, not in(1,8) real time.  Bummer, eh?

       Without sending mail(1,8) to the address and seeing whether there's a human
       on the other hand to answer you, you cannot determine whether a mail(1,8)
       address is valid.  Even if(3,n) you apply the mail(1,8) header standard, you can
       have problems, because there are deliverable addresses that aren't
       RFC-822 (the mail(1,8) header standard) compliant, and addresses that aren't
       deliverable which are compliant.

       You can use the Email::Valid or RFC::RFC822::Address which check the
       format of the address, although they cannot actually tell you if(3,n) it is
       a deliverable address (i.e. that mail(1,8) to the address will not bounce).
       Modules like Mail::CheckUser and Mail::EXPN try to interact with the
       domain name system or particular mail(1,8) servers to learn even more, but
       their methods do not work everywhere---especially for security con-
       scious administrators.

       Many are tempted to try to eliminate many frequently-invalid mail(1,8)
       addresses with a simple regex(3,7), such as "/^[\w.-]+\@(?:[\w-]+\.)+\w+$/".
       It's a very bad idea.  However, this also throws out many valid ones,
       and says nothing about potential deliverability, so it is not sug-
       gested.  Instead, see
       tiansen/scripts/ckaddr.gz , which actually checks against the full RFC
       spec (except for nested comments), looks for addresses you may not wish
       to accept(2,8) mail(1,8) to (say, Bill Clinton or your postmaster), and then
       makes sure that the hostname given can be looked up in(1,8) the DNS MX
       records.  It's not fast, but it works for what it tries to do.

       Our best advice for verifying a person's mail(1,8) address is to have them
       enter their address twice, just as you normally do to change a pass-
       word.  This usually weeds out typos.  If both versions match, send(2,n) mail(1,8)
       to that address with a personal message that looks somewhat like:


           Please confirm the mail(1,8) address you gave us Wed May  6 09:38:41
           MDT 1998 by replying to this message.  Include the string(3,n)
           "Rumpelstiltskin" in(1,8) that reply, but spelled in(1,8) reverse; that is,
           start with "Nik...".  Once this is done, your confirmed address will
           be entered into our records.

       If you get the message back and they've followed your directions, you
       can be reasonably assured that it's real.

       A related strategy that's less(1,3) open(2,3,n) to forgery is to give them a PIN
       (personal ID number).  Record the address and PIN (best that it be a
       random(3,4,6) one) for later processing.  In the mail(1,8) you send(2,n), ask them to
       include the PIN in(1,8) their reply.  But if(3,n) it bounces, or the message is
       included via a ``vacation'' script, it'll be there anyway.  So it's
       best to ask them to mail(1,8) back a slight alteration of the PIN, such as
       with the characters reversed, one added or subtracted to each digit,

       How do I decode a MIME/BASE64 string(3,n)?

       The MIME-Base64 package (available from CPAN) handles this as well as
       the MIME/QP encoding.  Decoding BASE64 becomes as simple as:

           use MIME::Base64;
           $decoded = decode_base64($encoded);

       The MIME-Tools package (available from CPAN) supports extraction with
       decoding of BASE64 encoded attachments and content directly from email

       If the string(3,n) to decode is short (less(1,3) than 84 bytes long) a more
       direct approach is to use the unpack() function's "u" format after
       minor transliterations:

           tr#A-Za-z0-9+/##cd;                   # remove non-base64 chars
           tr#A-Za-z0-9+/# -_#;                  # convert to uuencoded format
           $len = pack(3,n,n pack-old)("c", 32 + 0.75*length);   # compute length byte
           print unpack("u", $len . $_);         # uudecode and print

       How do I return the user's mail(1,8) address?

       On systems that support getpwuid, the $< variable, and the Sys::Host-
       name module (which is part of the standard perl distribution), you can
       probably try using something like this:

           use Sys::Hostname;
           $address = sprintf('%s@%s', scalar getpwuid($<), hostname);

       Company policies on mail(1,8) address can mean that this generates addresses
       that the company's mail(1,8) system will not accept(2,8), so you should ask for
       users(1,5)' mail(1,8) addresses when this matters.  Furthermore, not all systems
       on which Perl runs are so forthcoming with this information as is Unix.

       The Mail::Util module from CPAN (part of the MailTools package) pro-
       vides a mailaddress() function that tries to guess the mail(1,8) address of
       the user.  It makes a more intelligent guess than the code above, using
       information given when the module was installed, but it could still be
       incorrect.  Again, the best way is often just to ask the user.

       How do I send(2,n) mail(1,8)?

       Use the "sendmail(1,8)" program directly:

           open(2,3,n)(SENDMAIL, "|/usr/lib/sendmail(1,8) -oi -t -odq")
                               or die "Can't fork for sendmail: $!\n";
           print SENDMAIL <<"EOF";
           From: User Originating Mail <me\@host(1,5)>
           To: Final Destination <you\@otherhost>
           Subject: A relevant subject line

           Body of the message goes here after the blank line
           in(1,8) as many lines as you like.
           close(2,7,n)(SENDMAIL)     or warn "sendmail(1,8) didn't close(2,7,n) nicely";

       The -oi option prevents sendmail(1,8) from interpreting a line consisting of
       a single dot as "end of message".  The -t option says to use the head-
       ers to decide who to send(2,n) the message to, and -odq says to put the mes-
       sage into the queue.  This last option means your message won't be
       immediately delivered, so leave it out if(3,n) you want immediate delivery.

       Alternate, less(1,3) convenient approaches include calling mail(1,8) (sometimes
       called mailx) directly or simply opening up port 25 have having an
       intimate conversation between just you and the remote SMTP daemon,
       probably sendmail.

       Or you might be able use the CPAN module Mail::Mailer:

           use Mail::Mailer;

           $mailer = Mail::Mailer->new();
           $mailer->open(2,3,n)({ From    => $from_address,
                           To      => $to_address,
                           Subject => $subject,
               or die "Can't open: $!\n";
           print $mailer $body;

       The Mail::Internet module uses Net::SMTP which is less(1,3) Unix-centric
       than Mail::Mailer, but less(1,3) reliable.  Avoid raw(3x,7,8,3x cbreak) SMTP commands.  There
       are many reasons to use a mail(1,8) transport agent like sendmail.  These
       include queuing, MX records, and security.

       How do I use MIME to make an attachment to a mail(1,8) message?

       This answer is extracted directly from the MIME::Lite documentation.
       Create a multipart message (i.e., one with attachments).

           use MIME::Lite;

           ### Create a new multipart message:
           $msg = MIME::Lite->new(
                        From    =>'',
                        To      =>'',
                        Cc      =>',',
                        Subject =>'A message with 2 parts...',
                        Type    =>'multipart/mixed'

           ### Add parts (each "attach" has same arguments as "new"):
           $msg->attach(Type     =>'TEXT',
                        Data     =>"Here's the GIF file(1,n) you wanted"
           $msg->attach(Type     =>'image/gif',
                        Path     =>'aaa000123.gif',
                        Filename =>'logo.gif'

           $text = $msg->as_string;

       MIME::Lite also includes a method for sending these things.


       This defaults to using sendmail(1,8) but can be customized to use SMTP via

       How do I read(2,n,1 builtins) mail(1,8)?

       While you could use the Mail::Folder module from CPAN (part of the
       MailFolder package) or the Mail::Internet module from CPAN (part of the
       MailTools package), often a module is overkill.  Here's a mail(1,8) sorter.


           my(@msgs, @sub);
           my $msgno = -1;
           $/ = '';                    # paragraph reads
           while (<>) {
               if(3,n) (/^From /m) {
                   $sub[++$msgno] = lc($1) || '';
               $msgs[$msgno] .= $_;
           for my $i (sort(1,3) { $sub[$a] cmp $sub[$b] || $a <=> $b } (0 .. $#msgs)) {
               print $msgs[$i];

       Or more succinctly,

           #!/usr/bin/perl -n00
           # bysub2 - awkish sort-by-subject
           BEGIN { $msgno = -1 }
           $sub[++$msgno] = (/^Subject:\s*(?:Re:\s*)*(.*)/mi)[0] if(3,n) /^From/m;
           $msg[$msgno] .= $_;
           END { print @msg[ sort(1,3) { $sub[$a] cmp $sub[$b] || $a <=> $b } (0 .. $#msg) ] }

       How do I find out my hostname/domainname/IP address?

       The normal way to find your own hostname is to call the `hostname` pro-
       gram.  While sometimes expedient, this has some problems, such as not
       knowing whether you've got the canonical name or not.  It's one of
       those tradeoffs of convenience versus portability.

       The Sys::Hostname module (part of the standard perl distribution) will
       give you the hostname after which you can find out the IP address
       (assuming you have working DNS) with a gethostbyname() call.

           use Socket;
           use Sys::Hostname;
           my $host(1,5) = hostname();
           my $addr = inet_ntoa(scalar gethostbyname($host(1,5) || 'localhost'));

       Probably the simplest way to learn your DNS domain name is to grok it
       out of /etc/resolv.conf, at least under Unix.  Of course, this assumes
       several things about your resolv.conf configuration, including that it

       (We still need a good DNS domain name-learning method for non-Unix sys-

       How do I fetch a news article or the active newsgroups?

       Use the Net::NNTP or News::NNTPClient modules, both available from
       CPAN.  This can make tasks like fetching the newsgroup list as simple

           perl -MNews::NNTPClient
             -e 'print News::NNTPClient->new->list("newsgroups")'

       How do I fetch/put an FTP file(1,n)?

       LWP::Simple (available from CPAN) can fetch but not put.  Net::FTP
       (also available from CPAN) is more complex but can put as well as

       How can I do RPC in(1,8) Perl?

       A DCE::RPC module is being developed (but is not yet available) and
       will be released as part of the DCE-Perl package (available from CPAN).
       The rpcgen suite, available from CPAN/authors/id/JAKE/, is an RPC stub
       generator and includes an RPC::ONC module.

       Copyright (c) 1997-2002 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                       PERLFAQ9(1)

References for this manual (incoming links)