PERLFAQ5(1)      Perl Programmers Reference Guide     PERLFAQ5(1)

       perlfaq5 - Files and Formats ($Revision: 1.34 $, $Date:
       1999/01/08 05:46:13 $)

       This section deals with I/O and the "f" issues:
       filehandles, flushing, formats, and footers.

       HHooww ddoo II fflluusshh//uunnbbuuffffeerr aann oouuttppuutt ffiilleehhaannddllee??  WWhhyy mmuusstt II
       ddoo tthhiiss??

       The C standard I/O library (stdio) normally buffers
       characters sent to devices.  This is done for efficiency
       reasons, so that there isn't a system call for each byte.
       Any time you use print() or write() in Perl, you go though
       this buffering.  syswrite() circumvents stdio and

       In most stdio implementations, the type of output
       buffering and the size of the buffer varies according to
       the type of device.  Disk files are block buffered, often
       with a buffer size of more than 2k.  Pipes and sockets are
       often buffered with a buffer size between 1/2 and 2k.
       Serial devices (e.g. modems, terminals) are normally line-
       buffered, and stdio sends the entire line when it gets the

       Perl does not support truly unbuffered output (except
       insofar as you can syswrite(OUT, $char, 1)).  What it does
       instead support is "command buffering", in which a
       physical write is performed after every output command.
       This isn't as hard on your system as unbuffering, but does
       get the output where you want it when you want it.

       If you expect characters to get to your device when you
       print them there, you'll want to autoflush its handle.
       Use select() and the $| variable to control autoflushing
       (see the section on $| in the perlvar manpage and the
       select entry in the perlfunc manpage):

           $old_fh = select(OUTPUT_HANDLE);
           $| = 1;

       Or using the traditional idiom:

           select((select(OUTPUT_HANDLE), $| = 1)[0]);

       Or if don't mind slowly loading several thousand lines of
       module code just because you're afraid of the $| variable:

           use FileHandle;
           open(DEV, "+</dev/tty");      # ceci n'est pas une pipe

       or the newer IO::* modules:

           use IO::Handle;
           open(DEV, ">/dev/printer");   # but is this?

       or even this:

           use IO::Socket;               # this one is kinda a pipe?
           $sock = IO::Socket::INET->new(PeerAddr => '',
                                         PeerPort => 'http(80)',
                                         Proto    => 'tcp');
           die "$!" unless $sock;

           print $sock "GET / HTTP/1.0" . "\015\012" x 2;
           $document = join('', <$sock>);
           print "DOC IS: $document\n";

       Note the bizarrely hardcoded carriage return and newline
       in their octal equivalents.  This is the ONLY way
       (currently) to assure a proper flush on all platforms,
       including Macintosh.  That the way things work in network
       programming: you really should specify the exact bit
       pattern on the network line terminator.  In practice,
       "\n\n" often works, but this is not portable.

       See the perlfaq9 manpage for other examples of fetching
       URLs over the web.

       HHooww ddoo II cchhaannggee oonnee lliinnee iinn aa ffiillee//ddeelleettee aa lliinnee iinn aa
       ffiillee//iinnsseerrtt aa lliinnee iinn tthhee mmiiddddllee ooff aa ffiillee//aappppeenndd ttoo tthhee
       bbeeggiinnnniinngg ooff aa ffiillee??

       Those are operations of a text editor.  Perl is not a text
       editor.  Perl is a programming language.  You have to
       decompose the problem into low-level calls to read, write,
       open, close, and seek.

       Although humans have an easy time thinking of a text file
       as being a sequence of lines that operates much like a
       stack of playing cards -- or punch cards -- computers
       usually see the text file as a sequence of bytes.  In
       general, there's no direct way for Perl to seek to a
       particular line of a file, insert text into a file, or
       remove text from a file.

       (There are exceptions in special circumstances.  You can
       add or remove at the very end of the file.  Another is
       replacing a sequence of bytes with another sequence of the
       same length.  Another is using the $DB_RECNO array
       bindings as documented in the DB_File manpage.  Yet
       another is manipulating files with all lines the same

       The general solution is to create a temporary copy of the
       text file with the changes you want, then copy that over
       the original.  This assumes no locking.

           $old = $file;
           $new = "$file.tmp.$$";
           $bak = "$file.orig";

           open(OLD, "< $old")         or die "can't open $old: $!";
           open(NEW, "> $new")         or die "can't open $new: $!";

           # Correct typos, preserving case
           while (<OLD>) {
               (print NEW $_)          or die "can't write to $new: $!";

           close(OLD)                  or die "can't close $old: $!";
           close(NEW)                  or die "can't close $new: $!";

           rename($old, $bak)          or die "can't rename $old to $bak: $!";
           rename($new, $old)          or die "can't rename $new to $old: $!";

       Perl can do this sort of thing for you automatically with
       the -i command-line switch or the closely-related $^I
       variable (see the perlrun manpage for more details).  Note
       that -i may require a suffix on some non-Unix systems; see
       the platform-specific documentation that came with your

           # Renumber a series of tests from the command line
           perl -pi -e 's/(^\s+test\s+)\d+/ $1 . ++$count /e' t/op/taint.t

           # form a script
           local($^I, @ARGV) = ('.orig', glob("*.c"));
           while (<>) {
               if ($. == 1) {
                   print "This line should appear at the top of each file\n";
               s/\b(p)earl\b/${1}erl/i;        # Correct typos, preserving case
               close ARGV if eof;              # Reset $.

       If you need to seek to an arbitrary line of a file that
       changes infrequently, you could build up an index of byte
       positions of where the line ends are in the file.  If the
       file is large, an index of every tenth or hundredth line
       end would allow you to seek and read fairly efficiently.
       If the file is sorted, try the library (part of
       the standard perl distribution).

       In the unique case of deleting lines at the end of a file,
       you can use tell() and truncate().  The following code
       snippet deletes the last line of a file without making a
       copy or reading the whole file into memory:

               open (FH, "+< $file");
               while ( <FH> ) { $addr = tell(FH) unless eof(FH) }
               truncate(FH, $addr);

       Error checking is left as an exercise for the reader.

       HHooww ddoo II ccoouunntt tthhee nnuummbbeerr ooff lliinneess iinn aa ffiillee??

       One fairly efficient way is to count newlines in the file.
       The following program uses a feature of tr///, as
       documented in the perlop manpage.  If your text file
       doesn't end with a newline, then it's not really a proper
       text file, so this may report one fewer line than you

           $lines = 0;
           open(FILE, $filename) or die "Can't open `$filename': $!";
           while (sysread FILE, $buffer, 4096) {
               $lines += ($buffer =~ tr/\n//);
           close FILE;

       This assumes no funny games with newline translations.

       HHooww ddoo II mmaakkee aa tteemmppoorraarryy ffiillee nnaammee??

       Use the new_tmpfile class method from the IO::File module
       to get a filehandle opened for reading and writing.  Use
       this if you don't need to know the file's name.

           use IO::File;
           $fh = IO::File->new_tmpfile()
               or die "Unable to make new temporary file: $!";

       Or you can use the tmpnam function from the POSIX module
       to get a filename that you then open yourself.  Use this
       if you do need to know the file's name.

           use Fcntl;
           use POSIX qw(tmpnam);

           # try new temporary filenames until we get one that didn't already
           # exist;  the check should be unnecessary, but you can't be too careful
           do { $name = tmpnam() }
               until sysopen(FH, $name, O_RDWR|O_CREAT|O_EXCL);

           # install atexit-style handler so that when we exit or die,
           # we automatically delete this temporary file
           END { unlink($name) or die "Couldn't unlink $name : $!" }

           # now go on to use the file ...

       If you're committed to doing this by hand, use the process
       ID and/or the current time-value.  If you need to have
       many temporary files in one process, use a counter:

           BEGIN {
               use Fcntl;
               my $temp_dir = -d '/tmp' ? '/tmp' : $ENV{TMP} || $ENV{TEMP};
               my $base_name = sprintf("%s/%d-%d-0000", $temp_dir, $$, time());
               sub temp_file {
                   local *FH;
                   my $count = 0;
                   until (defined(fileno(FH)) || $count++ > 100) {
                       $base_name =~ s/-(\d+)$/"-" . (1 + $1)/e;
                       sysopen(FH, $base_name, O_WRONLY|O_EXCL|O_CREAT);
                   if (defined(fileno(FH))
                       return (*FH, $base_name);
                   } else {
                       return ();

       HHooww ccaann II mmaanniippuullaattee ffiixxeedd--rreeccoorrdd--lleennggtthh ffiilleess??

       The most efficient way is using pack() and unpack().  This
       is faster than using substr() when taking many, many
       strings.  It is slower for just a few.

       Here is a sample chunk of code to break up and put back
       together again some fixed-format input lines, in this case
       from the output of a normal, Berkeley-style ps:

           # sample input line:
           #   15158 p5  T      0:00 perl /home/tchrist/scripts/now-what
           $PS_T = 'A6 A4 A7 A5 A*';
           open(PS, "ps|");
           print scalar <PS>;
           while (<PS>) {
               ($pid, $tt, $stat, $time, $command) = unpack($PS_T, $_);
               for $var (qw!pid tt stat time command!) {
                   print "$var: <$$var>\n";
               print 'line=', pack($PS_T, $pid, $tt, $stat, $time, $command),

       We've used $$var in a way that forbidden by use strict
       'refs'.  That is, we've promoted a string to a scalar
       variable reference using symbolic references.  This is ok
       in small programs, but doesn't scale well.   It also only
       works on global variables, not lexicals.

       HHooww ccaann II mmaakkee aa ffiilleehhaannddllee llooccaall ttoo aa ssuubbrroouuttiinnee??  HHooww ddoo
       II ppaassss ffiilleehhaannddlleess bbeettwweeeenn ssuubbrroouuttiinneess??  HHooww ddoo II mmaakkee aann
       aarrrraayy ooff ffiilleehhaannddlleess??

       The fastest, simplest, and most direct way is to localize
       the typeglob of the filehandle in question:

           local *TmpHandle;

       Typeglobs are fast (especially compared with the
       alternatives) and reasonably easy to use, but they also
       have one subtle drawback.  If you had, for example, a
       function named TmpHandle(), or a variable named
       %TmpHandle, you just hid it from yourself.

           sub findme {
               local *HostFile;
               open(HostFile, "</etc/hosts") or die "no /etc/hosts: $!";
               local $_;               # <- VERY IMPORTANT
               while (<HostFile>) {
                   print if /\b127\.(0\.0\.)?1\b/;
               # *HostFile automatically closes/disappears here

       Here's how to use this in a loop to open and store a bunch
       of filehandles.  We'll use as values of the hash an
       ordered pair to make it easy to sort the hash in insertion

           @names = qw(motd termcap passwd hosts);
           my $i = 0;
           foreach $filename (@names) {
               local *FH;
               open(FH, "/etc/$filename") || die "$filename: $!";
               $file{$filename} = [ $i++, *FH ];

           # Using the filehandles in the array
           foreach $name (sort { $file{$a}[0] <=> $file{$b}[0] } keys %file) {
               my $fh = $file{$name}[1];
               my $line = <$fh>;
               print "$name $. $line";

       For passing filehandles to functions, the easiest way is
       to preface them with a star, as in func(*STDIN).  See the
       section on Passing Filehandles in the perlfaq7 manpage for

       If you want to create many anonymous handles, you should
       check out the Symbol, FileHandle, or IO::Handle (etc.)
       modules.  Here's the equivalent code with Symbol::gensym,
       which is reasonably light-weight:

           foreach $filename (@names) {
               use Symbol;
               my $fh = gensym();
               open($fh, "/etc/$filename") || die "open /etc/$filename: $!";
               $file{$filename} = [ $i++, $fh ];

       Or here using the semi-object-oriented FileHandle module,
       which certainly isn't light-weight:

           use FileHandle;

           foreach $filename (@names) {
               my $fh = FileHandle->new("/etc/$filename") or die "$filename: $!";
               $file{$filename} = [ $i++, $fh ];

       Please understand that whether the filehandle happens to
       be a (probably localized) typeglob or an anonymous handle
       from one of the modules, in no way affects the bizarre
       rules for managing indirect handles.  See the next

       HHooww ccaann II uussee aa ffiilleehhaannddllee iinnddiirreeccttllyy??

       An indirect filehandle is using something other than a
       symbol in a place that a filehandle is expected.  Here are
       ways to get those:

           $fh =   SOME_FH;       # bareword is strict-subs hostile
           $fh =  "SOME_FH";      # strict-refs hostile; same package only
           $fh =  *SOME_FH;       # typeglob
           $fh = \*SOME_FH;       # ref to typeglob (bless-able)
           $fh =  *SOME_FH{IO};   # blessed IO::Handle from *SOME_FH typeglob

       Or to use the new method from the FileHandle or IO modules
       to create an anonymous filehandle, store that in a scalar
       variable, and use it as though it were a normal

           use FileHandle;
           $fh = FileHandle->new();

           use IO::Handle;                     # 5.004 or higher
           $fh = IO::Handle->new();

       Then use any of those as you would a normal filehandle.
       Anywhere that Perl is expecting a filehandle, an indirect
       filehandle may be used instead. An indirect filehandle is
       just a scalar variable that contains a filehandle.
       Functions like print, open, seek, or the <FH> diamond
       operator will accept either a read filehandle or a scalar
       variable containing one:

           ($ifh, $ofh, $efh) = (*STDIN, *STDOUT, *STDERR);
           print $ofh "Type it: ";
           $got = <$ifh>
           print $efh "What was that: $got";

       If you're passing a filehandle to a function, you can
       write the function in two ways:

           sub accept_fh {
               my $fh = shift;
               print $fh "Sending to indirect filehandle\n";

       Or it can localize a typeglob and use the filehandle

           sub accept_fh {
               local *FH = shift;
               print  FH "Sending to localized filehandle\n";

       Both styles work with either objects or typeglobs of real
       filehandles.  (They might also work with strings under
       some circumstances, but this is risky.)


       In the examples above, we assigned the filehandle to a
       scalar variable before using it.  That is because only
       simple scalar variables, not expressions or subscripts
       into hashes or arrays, can be used with built-ins like
       print, printf, or the diamond operator.  These are illegal
       and won't even compile:

           @fd = (*STDIN, *STDOUT, *STDERR);
           print $fd[1] "Type it: ";                           # WRONG
           $got = <$fd[0]>                                     # WRONG
           print $fd[2] "What was that: $got";                 # WRONG

       With print and printf, you get around this by using a
       block and an expression where you would place the

           print  { $fd[1] } "funny stuff\n";
           printf { $fd[1] } "Pity the poor %x.\n", 3_735_928_559;
           # Pity the poor deadbeef.

       That block is a proper block like any other, so you can
       put more complicated code there.  This sends the message
       out to one of two places:

           $ok = -x "/bin/cat";
           print { $ok ? $fd[1] : $fd[2] } "cat stat $ok\n";
           print { $fd[ 1+ ($ok || 0) ]  } "cat stat $ok\n";

       This approach of treating print and printf like object
       methods calls doesn't work for the diamond operator.
       That's because it's a real operator, not just a function
       with a comma-less argument.  Assuming you've been storing
       typeglobs in your structure as we did above, you can use
       the built-in function named readline to reads a record
       just as <> does.  Given the initialization shown above for
       @fd, this would work, but only because readline() require
       a typeglob.  It doesn't work with objects or strings,
       which might be a bug we haven't fixed yet.

           $got = readline($fd[0]);

       Let it be noted that the flakiness of indirect filehandles
       is not related to whether they're strings, typeglobs,
       objects, or anything else.  It's the syntax of the
       fundamental operators.  Playing the object game doesn't
       help you at all here.

       HHooww ccaann II sseett uupp aa ffooootteerr ffoorrmmaatt ttoo bbee uusseedd wwiitthh write()?

       There's no builtin way to do this, but the perlform
       manpage has a couple of techniques to make it possible for
       the intrepid hacker.

       HHooww ccaann II write() into a string?

       See the section on Accessing Formatting Internals in the
       perlform manpage for an swrite() function.

       HHooww ccaann II oouuttppuutt mmyy nnuummbbeerrss wwiitthh ccoommmmaass aaddddeedd??

       This one will do it for you:

           sub commify {
               local $_  = shift;
               1 while s/^([-+]?\d+)(\d{3})/$1,$2/;
               return $_;

           $n = 23659019423.2331;
           print "GOT: ", commify($n), "\n";

           GOT: 23,659,019,423.2331

       You can't just:


       because you have to put the comma in and then recalculate
       your position.

       Alternatively, this commifies all numbers in a line
       regardless of whether they have decimal portions, are
       preceded by + or -, or whatever:

           # from Andrew Johnson <>
           sub commify {
              my $input = shift;
               $input = reverse $input;
               $input =~ s<(\d\d\d)(?=\d)(?!\d*\.)><$1,>g;
               return scalar reverse $input;

       HHooww ccaann II ttrraannssllaattee ttiillddeess ((~~)) iinn aa ffiilleennaammee??

       Use the <> (glob()) operator, documented in the perlfunc
       manpage.  This requires that you have a shell installed
       that groks tildes, meaning csh or tcsh or (some versions
       of) ksh, and thus may have portability problems.  The
       Glob::KGlob module (available from CPAN) gives more
       portable glob functionality.

       Within Perl, you may use this directly:

               $filename =~ s{
                 ^ ~             # find a leading tilde
                 (               # save this in $1
                     [^/]        # a non-slash character
                           *     # repeated 0 or more times (0 means me)
                     ? (getpwnam($1))[7]
                     : ( $ENV{HOME} || $ENV{LOGDIR} )

       HHooww ccoommee wwhheenn II ooppeenn aa ffiillee rreeaadd--wwrriittee iitt wwiippeess iitt oouutt??

       Because you're using something like this, which truncates
       the file and then gives you read-write access:

           open(FH, "+> /path/name");          # WRONG (almost always)

       Whoops.  You should instead use this, which will fail if
       the file doesn't exist.  Using ">" always clobbers or
       creates.  Using "<" never does either.  The "+" doesn't
       change this.

       Here are examples of many kinds of file opens.  Those
       using sysopen() all assume

           use Fcntl;

       To open file for reading:

           open(FH, "< $path")                                 || die $!;
           sysopen(FH, $path, O_RDONLY)                        || die $!;

       To open file for writing, create new file if needed or
       else truncate old file:

           open(FH, "> $path") || die $!;
           sysopen(FH, $path, O_WRONLY|O_TRUNC|O_CREAT)        || die $!;
           sysopen(FH, $path, O_WRONLY|O_TRUNC|O_CREAT, 0666)  || die $!;

       To open file for writing, create new file, file must not

           sysopen(FH, $path, O_WRONLY|O_EXCL|O_CREAT)         || die $!;
           sysopen(FH, $path, O_WRONLY|O_EXCL|O_CREAT, 0666)   || die $!;

       To open file for appending, create if necessary:

           open(FH, ">> $path") || die $!;
           sysopen(FH, $path, O_WRONLY|O_APPEND|O_CREAT)       || die $!;
           sysopen(FH, $path, O_WRONLY|O_APPEND|O_CREAT, 0666) || die $!;

       To open file for appending, file must exist:

           sysopen(FH, $path, O_WRONLY|O_APPEND)               || die $!;

       To open file for update, file must exist:

           open(FH, "+< $path")                                || die $!;
           sysopen(FH, $path, O_RDWR)                          || die $!;

       To open file for update, create file if necessary:

           sysopen(FH, $path, O_RDWR|O_CREAT)                  || die $!;
           sysopen(FH, $path, O_RDWR|O_CREAT, 0666)            || die $!;

       To open file for update, file must not exist:

           sysopen(FH, $path, O_RDWR|O_EXCL|O_CREAT)           || die $!;
           sysopen(FH, $path, O_RDWR|O_EXCL|O_CREAT, 0666)     || die $!;

       To open a file without blocking, creating if necessary:

           sysopen(FH, "/tmp/somefile", O_WRONLY|O_NDELAY|O_CREAT)
                   or die "can't open /tmp/somefile: $!":

       Be warned that neither creation nor deletion of files is
       guaranteed to be an atomic operation over NFS.  That is,
       two processes might both successful create or unlink the
       same file!  Therefore O_EXCL isn't so exclusive as you
       might wish.

       See also the new the perlopentut manpage if you have it
       (new for 5.006).

       WWhhyy ddoo II ssoommeettiimmeess ggeett aann """"AArrgguummeenntt lliisstt ttoooo lloonngg"""" wwhheenn
       II uussee <<b><**><b>>??

       The <> operator performs a globbing operation (see above).
       By default glob() forks csh(1) to do the actual glob
       expansion, but csh can't handle more than 127 items and so
       gives the error message Argument list too long.  People
       who installed tcsh as csh won't have this problem, but
       their users may be surprised by it.

       To get around this, either do the glob yourself with
       readdir() and patterns, or use a module like Glob::KGlob,
       one that doesn't use the shell to do globbing.  This is
       expected to be fixed soon.

       IIss tthheerree aa lleeaakk//bbuugg iinn glob()?

       Due to the current implementation on some operating
       systems, when you use the glob() function or its angle-
       bracket alias in a scalar context, you may cause a leak
       and/or unpredictable behavior.  It's best therefore to use
       glob() only in list context.

       HHooww ccaann II ooppeenn aa ffiillee wwiitthh aa lleeaaddiinngg """"><b>>"""" oorr ttrraaiilliinngg

       Normally perl ignores trailing blanks in filenames, and
       interprets certain leading characters (or a trailing "|")
       to mean something special.  To avoid this, you might want
       to use a routine like this.  It makes incomplete pathnames
       into explicit relative ones, and tacks a trailing null
       byte on the name to make perl leave it alone:

           sub safe_filename {
               local $_  = shift;
               $_ .= "\0";
               return $_;

           $badpath = "<<<something really wicked   ";
           $fn = safe_filename($badpath");
           open(FH, "> $fn") or "couldn't open $badpath: $!";

       This assumes that you are using POSIX (portable operating
       systems interface) paths.  If you are on a closed, non-
       portable, proprietary system, you may have to adjust the
       "./" above.

       It would be a lot clearer to use sysopen(), though:

           use Fcntl;
           $badpath = "<<<something really wicked   ";
           open (FH, $badpath, O_WRONLY | O_CREAT | O_TRUNC)
               or die "can't open $badpath: $!";

       For more information, see also the new the perlopentut
       manpage if you have it (new for 5.006).

       HHooww ccaann II rreelliiaabbllyy rreennaammee aa ffiillee??

       Well, usually you just use Perl's rename() function.  But
       that may not work everywhere, in particular, renaming
       files across file systems.  If your operating system
       supports a mv(1) program or its moral equivalent, this

           rename($old, $new) or system("mv", $old, $new);

       It may be more compelling to use the File::Copy module
       instead.  You just copy to the new file to the new name
       (checking return values), then delete the old one.  This
       isn't really the same semantics as a real rename(),
       though, which preserves metainformation like permissions,
       timestamps, inode info, etc.

       The newer version of File::Copy exports a move() function.

       HHooww ccaann II lloocckk aa ffiillee??

       Perl's builtin flock() function (see the perlfunc manpage
       for details) will call flock(2) if that exists, fcntl(2)
       if it doesn't (on perl version 5.004 and later), and
       lockf(3) if neither of the two previous system calls
       exists.  On some systems, it may even use a different form
       of native locking.  Here are some gotchas with Perl's

       1   Produces a fatal error if none of the three system
           calls (or their close equivalent) exists.

       2   lockf(3) does not provide shared locking, and requires
           that the filehandle be open for writing (or appending,
           or read/writing).

       3   Some versions of flock() can't lock files over a
           network (e.g. on NFS file systems), so you'd need to
           force the use of fcntl(2) when you build Perl.  See
           the flock entry of the perlfunc manpage, and the
           INSTALL file in the source distribution for
           information on building Perl to do this.

           For more information on file locking, see also the
           section on File Locking in the perlopentut manpage if
           you have it (new for 5.006).

       WWhhyy ccaann''tt II jjuusstt open(FH, "">file.lock")?

       A common bit of code NNOOTT TTOO UUSSEE is this:

           sleep(3) while -e "file.lock";      # PLEASE DO NOT USE
           open(LCK, "> file.lock");           # THIS BROKEN CODE

       This is a classic race condition: you take two steps to do
       something which must be done in one.  That's why computer
       hardware provides an atomic test-and-set instruction.   In
       theory, this "ought" to work:

           sysopen(FH, "file.lock", O_WRONLY|O_EXCL|O_CREAT)
                       or die "can't open  file.lock: $!":

       except that lamentably, file creation (and deletion) is
       not atomic over NFS, so this won't work (at least, not
       every time) over the net.  Various schemes involving
       link() have been suggested, but these tend to involve
       busy-wait, which is also subdesirable.

       II ssttiillll ddoonn''tt ggeett lloocckkiinngg..  II jjuusstt wwaanntt ttoo iinnccrreemmeenntt tthhee
       nnuummbbeerr iinn tthhee ffiillee..  HHooww ccaann II ddoo tthhiiss??

       Didn't anyone ever tell you web-page hit counters were
       useless?  They don't count number of hits, they're a waste
       of time, and they serve only to stroke the writer's
       vanity.  Better to pick a random number.  It's more

       Anyway, this is what you can do if you can't help

           use Fcntl ':flock';
           sysopen(FH, "numfile", O_RDWR|O_CREAT)       or die "can't open numfile: $!";
           flock(FH, LOCK_EX)                           or die "can't flock numfile: $!";
           $num = <FH> || 0;
           seek(FH, 0, 0)                               or die "can't rewind numfile: $!";
           truncate(FH, 0)                              or die "can't truncate numfile: $!";
           (print FH $num+1, "\n")                      or die "can't write numfile: $!";
           # Perl as of 5.004 automatically flushes before unlocking
           flock(FH, LOCK_UN)                           or die "can't flock numfile: $!";
           close FH                                     or die "can't close numfile: $!";

       Here's a much better web-page hit counter:

           $hits = int( (time() - 850_000_000) / rand(1_000) );

       If the count doesn't impress your friends, then the code
       might.  :-)

       HHooww ddoo II rraannddoommllyy uuppddaattee aa bbiinnaarryy ffiillee??

       If you're just trying to patch a binary, in many cases
       something as simple as this works:

           perl -i -pe 's{window manager}{window mangler}g' /usr/bin/emacs

       However, if you have fixed sized records, then you might
       do something more like this:

           $RECSIZE = 220; # size of record, in bytes
           $recno   = 37;  # which record to update
           open(FH, "+<somewhere") || die "can't update somewhere: $!";
           seek(FH, $recno * $RECSIZE, 0);
           read(FH, $record, $RECSIZE) == $RECSIZE || die "can't read record $recno: $!";
           # munge the record
           seek(FH, -$RECSIZE, 1);
           print FH $record;
           close FH;

       Locking and error checking are left as an exercise for the
       reader.  Don't forget them, or you'll be quite sorry.

       HHooww ddoo II ggeett aa ffiillee''ss ttiimmeessttaammpp iinn ppeerrll??

       If you want to retrieve the time at which the file was
       last read, written, or had its meta-data (owner, etc)
       changed, you use the --MM, --AA, or --CC filetest operations as
       documented in the perlfunc manpage.  These retrieve the
       age of the file (measured against the start-time of your
       program) in days as a floating point number.  To retrieve
       the "raw" time in seconds since the epoch, you would call
       the stat function, then use localtime(), gmtime(), or
       POSIX::strftime() to convert this into human-readable

       Here's an example:

           $write_secs = (stat($file))[9];
           printf "file %s updated at %s\n", $file,
               scalar localtime($write_secs);

       If you prefer something more legible, use the File::stat
       module (part of the standard distribution in version 5.004
       and later):

           # error checking left as an exercise for reader.
           use File::stat;
           use Time::localtime;
           $date_string = ctime(stat($file)->mtime);
           print "file $file updated at $date_string\n";

       The POSIX::strftime() approach has the benefit of being,
       in theory, independent of the current locale.  See the
       perllocale manpage for details.

       HHooww ddoo II sseett aa ffiillee''ss ttiimmeessttaammpp iinn ppeerrll??

       You use the utime() function documented in the utime entry
       in the perlfunc manpage.  By way of example, here's a
       little program that copies the read and write times from
       its first argument to all the rest of them.

           if (@ARGV < 2) {
               die "usage: cptimes timestamp_file other_files ...\n";
           $timestamp = shift;
           ($atime, $mtime) = (stat($timestamp))[8,9];
           utime $atime, $mtime, @ARGV;

       Error checking is, as usual, left as an exercise for the

       Note that utime() currently doesn't work correctly with
       Win95/NT ports.  A bug has been reported.  Check it
       carefully before using it on those platforms.

       HHooww ddoo II pprriinntt ttoo mmoorree tthhaann oonnee ffiillee aatt oonnccee??

       If you only have to do this once, you can do this:

           for $fh (FH1, FH2, FH3) { print $fh "whatever\n" }

       To connect up to one filehandle to several output
       filehandles, it's easiest to use the tee(1) program if you
       have it, and let it take care of the multiplexing:

           open (FH, "| tee file1 file2 file3");

       Or even:

           # make STDOUT go to three files, plus original STDOUT
           open (STDOUT, "| tee file1 file2 file3") or die "Teeing off: $!\n";
           print "whatever\n"                       or die "Writing: $!\n";
           close(STDOUT)                            or die "Closing: $!\n";

       Otherwise you'll have to write your own multiplexing print
       function -- or your own tee program -- or use Tom
       Christiansen's, at,
       which is written in Perl and offers much greater
       functionality than the stock version.

       HHooww ccaann II rreeaadd iinn aa ffiillee bbyy ppaarraaggrraapphhss??

       Use the $/ variable (see the perlvar manpage for details).
       You can either set it to "" to eliminate empty paragraphs
       ("abc\n\n\n\ndef", for instance, gets treated as two
       paragraphs and not three), or "\n\n" to accept empty

       Note that a blank line must have no blanks in it.  Thus
       "fred\n \nstuff\n\n" is one paragraph, but
       "fred\n\nstuff\n\n" is two.

       HHooww ccaann II rreeaadd aa ssiinnggllee cchhaarraacctteerr ffrroomm aa ffiillee??  FFrroomm tthhee

       You can use the builtin getc() function for most
       filehandles, but it won't (easily) work on a terminal
       device.  For STDIN, either use the Term::ReadKey module
       from CPAN, or use the sample code in the getc entry in the
       perlfunc manpage.

       If your system supports the portable operating system
       programming interface (POSIX), you can use the following
       code, which you'll note turns off echo processing as well.

           #!/usr/bin/perl -w
           use strict;
           $| = 1;
           for (1..4) {
               my $got;
               print "gimme: ";
               $got = getone();
               print "--> $got\n";

           BEGIN {
               use POSIX qw(:termios_h);

               my ($term, $oterm, $echo, $noecho, $fd_stdin);

               $fd_stdin = fileno(STDIN);

               $term     = POSIX::Termios->new();
               $oterm     = $term->getlflag();

               $echo     = ECHO | ECHOK | ICANON;
               $noecho   = $oterm & ~$echo;

               sub cbreak {
                   $term->setcc(VTIME, 1);
                   $term->setattr($fd_stdin, TCSANOW);

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

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


           END { cooked() }

       The Term::ReadKey module from CPAN may be easier to use.
       Recent version include also support for non-portable
       systems as well.

           use Term::ReadKey;
           open(TTY, "</dev/tty");
           print "Gimme a char: ";
           ReadMode "raw";
           $key = ReadKey 0, *TTY;
           ReadMode "normal";
           printf "\nYou said %s, char number %03d\n",
               $key, ord $key;

       For legacy DOS systems, Dan Carson <dbc@tc.fluke.COM>
       reports the following:

       To put the PC in "raw" mode, use ioctl with some magic
       numbers gleaned from msdos.c (Perl source file) and Ralf
       Brown's interrupt list (comes across the net every so

           $old_ioctl = ioctl(STDIN,0,0);     # Gets device info
           $old_ioctl &= 0xff;
           ioctl(STDIN,1,$old_ioctl | 32);    # Writes it back, setting bit 5

       Then to read a single character:

           sysread(STDIN,$c,1);               # Read a single character

       And to put the PC back to "cooked" mode:

           ioctl(STDIN,1,$old_ioctl);         # Sets it back to cooked mode.

       So now you have $c.  If ord($c) == 0, you have a two byte
       code, which means you hit a special key.  Read another
       byte with sysread(STDIN,$c,1), and that value tells you
       what combination it was according to this table:

           # PC 2-byte keycodes = ^@ + the following:

           # HEX     KEYS
           # ---     ----
           # 0F      SHF TAB
           # 10-19   ALT QWERTYUIOP
           # 1E-26   ALT ASDFGHJKL
           # 2C-32   ALT ZXCVBNM
           # 3B-44   F1-F10
           # 47-49   HOME,UP,PgUp
           # 4B      LEFT
           # 4D      RIGHT
           # 4F-53   END,DOWN,PgDn,Ins,Del
           # 54-5D   SHF F1-F10
           # 5E-67   CTR F1-F10
           # 68-71   ALT F1-F10
           # 73-77   CTR LEFT,RIGHT,END,PgDn,HOME
           # 78-83   ALT 1234567890-=
           # 84      CTR PgUp

       This is all trial and error I did a long time ago, I hope
       I'm reading the file that worked.

       HHooww ccaann II tteellll wwhheetthheerr tthheerree''ss aa cchhaarraacctteerr wwaaiittiinngg oonn aa

       The very first thing you should do is look into getting
       the Term::ReadKey extension from CPAN.  As we mentioned
       earlier, it now even has limited support for non-portable
       (read: not open systems, closed, proprietary, not POSIX,
       not Unix, etc) systems.

       You should also check out the Frequently Asked Questions
       list in comp.unix.* for things like this: the answer is
       essentially the same.  It's very system dependent.  Here's
       one solution that works on BSD systems:

           sub key_ready {
               my($rin, $nfd);
               vec($rin, fileno(STDIN), 1) = 1;
               return $nfd = select($rin,undef,undef,0);

       If you want to find out how many characters are waiting,
       there's also the FIONREAD ioctl call to be looked at.  The
       h2ph tool that comes with Perl tries to convert C include
       files to Perl code, which can be required.  FIONREAD ends
       up defined as a function in the sys/ file:

           require 'sys/';

           $size = pack("L", 0);
           ioctl(FH, FIONREAD(), $size)    or die "Couldn't call ioctl: $!\n";
           $size = unpack("L", $size);

       If h2ph wasn't installed or doesn't work for you, you can
       grep the include files by hand:

           % grep FIONREAD /usr/include/*/*
           /usr/include/asm/ioctls.h:#define FIONREAD      0x541B

       Or write a small C program using the editor of champions:

           % cat > fionread.c
           #include <sys/ioctl.h>
           main() {
               printf("%#08x\n", FIONREAD);
           % cc -o fionread fionread.c
           % ./fionread

       And then hard-code it, leaving porting as an exercise to
       your successor.

           $FIONREAD = 0x4004667f;         # XXX: opsys dependent

           $size = pack("L", 0);
           ioctl(FH, $FIONREAD, $size)     or die "Couldn't call ioctl: $!\n";
           $size = unpack("L", $size);

       FIONREAD requires a filehandle connected to a stream,
       meaning sockets, pipes, and tty devices work, but not

       HHooww ddoo II ddoo aa ttaaiill --ff in perl?

       First try

           seek(GWFILE, 0, 1);

       The statement seek(GWFILE, 0, 1) doesn't change the
       current position, but it does clear the end-of-file
       condition on the handle, so that the next <GWFILE> makes
       Perl try again to read something.

       If that doesn't work (it relies on features of your stdio
       implementation), then you need something more like this:

               for (;;) {
                 for ($curpos = tell(GWFILE); <GWFILE>; $curpos = tell(GWFILE)) {
                   # search for some stuff and put it into files
                 # sleep for a while
                 seek(GWFILE, $curpos, 0);  # seek to where we had been

       If this still doesn't work, look into the POSIX module.
       POSIX defines the clearerr() method, which can remove the
       end of file condition on a filehandle.  The method: read
       until end of file, clearerr(), read some more.  Lather,
       rinse, repeat.

       There's also a File::Tail module from CPAN.

       HHooww ddoo II dup() a filehandle in Perl?

       If you check the open entry in the perlfunc manpage,
       you'll see that several of the ways to call open() should
       do the trick.  For example:

           open(LOG, ">>/tmp/logfile");
           open(STDERR, ">&LOG");

       Or even with a literal numeric descriptor:

          $fd = $ENV{MHCONTEXTFD};
          open(MHCONTEXT, "<&=$fd");   # like fdopen(3S)

       Note that "<&STDIN" makes a copy, but "<&=STDIN" make an
       alias.  That means if you close an aliased handle, all
       aliases become inaccessible.  This is not true with a
       copied one.

       Error checking, as always, has been left as an exercise
       for the reader.

       HHooww ddoo II cclloossee aa ffiillee ddeessccrriippttoorr bbyy nnuummbbeerr??

       This should rarely be necessary, as the Perl close()
       function is to be used for things that Perl opened itself,
       even if it was a dup of a numeric descriptor, as with
       MHCONTEXT above.  But if you really have to, you may be
       able to do this:

           require 'sys/';
           $rc = syscall(&SYS_close, $fd + 0);  # must force numeric
           die "can't sysclose $fd: $!" unless $rc == -1;

       WWhhyy ccaann''tt II uussee """"CC::\\tteemmpp\\ffoooo"""" iinn DDOOSS ppaatthhss??  WWhhaatt
       ddooeessnn''tt ``CC::\\tteemmpp\\ffoooo..eexxee`` wwoorrkk??

       Whoops!  You just put a tab and a formfeed into that
       filename!  Remember that within double quoted strings
       ("like\this"), the backslash is an escape character.  The
       full list of these is in the section on Quote and Quote-
       like Operators in the perlop manpage.  Unsurprisingly, you
       don't have a file called "c:(tab)emp(formfeed)oo" or
       "c:(tab)emp(formfeed)oo.exe" on your legacy DOS

       Either single-quote your strings, or (preferably) use
       forward slashes.  Since all DOS and Windows versions since
       something like MS-DOS 2.0 or so have treated / and \ the
       same in a path, you might as well use the one that doesn't
       clash with Perl -- or the POSIX shell, ANSI C and C++,
       awk, Tcl, Java, or Python, just to mention a few.  POSIX
       paths are more portable, too.

       WWhhyy ddooeessnn''tt glob("*.*") get all the files?

       Because even on non-Unix ports, Perl's glob function
       follows standard Unix globbing semantics.  You'll need
       glob("*") to get all (non-hidden) files.  This makes
       glob() portable even to legacy systems.  Your port may
       include proprietary globbing functions as well.  Check its
       documentation for details.

       WWhhyy ddooeess PPeerrll lleett mmee ddeelleettee rreeaadd--oonnllyy ffiilleess??  WWhhyy ddooeess --ii
       clobber protected files?  Isn't this a bug in Perl?

       This is elaborately and painstakingly described in the
       "Far More Than You Ever Wanted To Know" in .

       The executive summary: learn how your filesystem works.
       The permissions on a file say what can happen to the data
       in that file.  The permissions on a directory say what can
       happen to the list of files in that directory.  If you
       delete a file, you're removing its name from the directory
       (so the operation depends on the permissions of the
       directory, not of the file).  If you try to write to the
       file, the permissions of the file govern whether you're
       allowed to.

       HHooww ddoo II sseelleecctt aa rraannddoomm lliinnee ffrroomm aa ffiillee??

       Here's an algorithm from the Camel Book:

           rand($.) < 1 && ($line = $_) while <>;

       This has a significant advantage in space over reading the
       whole file in.  A simple proof by induction is available
       upon request if you doubt its correctness.

       WWhhyy ddoo II ggeett wweeiirrdd ssppaacceess wwhheenn II pprriinntt aann aarrrraayy ooff lliinneess??


           print "@lines\n";

       joins together the elements of @lines with a space between
       them.  If @lines were ("little", "fluffy", "clouds") then
       the above statement would print:

           little fluffy clouds

       but if each element of @lines was a line of text, ending a
       newline character ("little\n", "fluffy\n", "clouds\n")
       then it would print:


       If your array contains lines, just print them:

           print @lines;

       Copyright (c) 1997-1999 Tom Christiansen and Nathan
       Torkington.  All rights reserved.

       When included as an integrated part of the Standard
       Distribution of Perl or of its documentation (printed or
       otherwise), this work is covered under Perl's Artistic
       Licence.  For separate distributions of all or part of
       this FAQ outside of that, see the perlfaq manpage.

       Irrespective of its distribution, all code examples here
       are public domain.  You are permitted and encouraged to
       use this code and any derivatives thereof in your own
       programs for fun or for profit as you see fit.  A simple
       comment in the code giving credit to the FAQ would be
       courteous but is not required.

27/Mar/1999            perl 5.005, patch 03                     1