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1 non-PAUSE user(s).

Jonathan Swartz

NAME

HTML::Mason::Admin - Mason Administrator's Manual

VERSION

version 1.54

DESCRIPTION

This manual is written for the sysadmin/webmaster in charge of installing, configuring, or tuning a Mason system. The bulk of the documentation assumes that you are using mod_perl. See RUNNING OUTSIDE OF MOD_PERL for more details. For more details on mod_perl, visit the mod_perl website at http://perl.apache.org/.

SITE CONFIGURATION METHODS

Mason includes a module specifically designed to integrate Mason and mod_perl (1 and 2), HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler. By telling mod_perl to hand content requests to this module, you can use Mason to generate web pages. There are two ways to configure Mason under mod_perl.

  • Basic

    Mason provides reasonable default behavior under mod_perl, so using Mason can be as simple as adding two directives to your Apache configuration file. Throughout this document, we will assume that your Apache configuration file is called httpd.conf. By adding more configuration parameters to this file you can implement more complex behaviors.

  • Advanced

    If the basic method does not provide enough flexibility for you, you can wrap Mason in a custom mod_perl handler. The wrapper code you write can create its own Mason objects, or it can take advantage of httpd.conf configuration parameters and let Mason create the objects it needs by itself.

We recommend that you start with the basic method and work your way forward as the need for flexibility arises.

Mason is very flexible, and you can replace parts of it by creating your own classes. This documentation assumes that you are simply using the classes provided in the Mason distribution. Subclassing is covered in the Subclassing document. The two topics are orthogonal, as you can mix the configuration techniques discussed here with your own custom subclasses.

BASIC CONFIGURATION VIA httpd.conf DIRECTIVES

The absolutely most minimal configuration looks like this:

    PerlModule HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler

    <Location />
      SetHandler   perl-script
      PerlHandler  HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler
    </Location>

This configuration tells Apache to serve all URLs through Mason (see the next section for a more realistic strategy). We use the PerlModule line to tell mod_perl to load Mason once at startup time, saving time and memory. This example does not set any Mason configuration parameters, so Mason uses its default values.

If this is your first time installing and using Mason, we recommend that you use the above configuration in a test webserver to start with. This will let you play with Mason under mod_perl with a minimum of fuss. Once you've gotten this working, then come back and read the rest of the document for further possibilities.

Controlling Access via Filename Extension

As it turns out, serving every URL through Mason is a bad idea for two reasons:

  1. Mason should be prevented from handling images, tarballs, and other binary files. Not only will performance suffer, but binary files may inadvertently contain a Mason character sequence such as "<%". These files should be instead served by Apache's default content handler.

  2. Mason should be prevented from serving private (non-top-level) Mason components to users. For example, if you used a utility component for performing arbitrary sql queries, you wouldn't want external users to be able to access it via a URL. Requests for private components should simply result in a 404 NOT_FOUND.

The easiest way to distinguish between different types of files is with filename extensions. While many naming schemes are possible, we suggest using "normal" extensions for top-level components and adding an "m" prefix for private components. For example,

                             Top-level       Private

   Component outputs HTML    .html           .mhtml
   Component outputs text    .txt            .mtxt
   Component executes Perl   .pl             .mpl

This scheme minimizes the chance of confusing browsers about content type, scales well for new classes of content (e.g. .js/.mjs for javascript), and makes transparent the fact that you are using Mason versus some other package.

Here is a configuration that enforces this naming scheme:

    PerlModule HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler

    <LocationMatch "(\.html|\.txt|\.pl)$">
      SetHandler perl-script
      PerlHandler HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler
    </LocationMatch>

    <LocationMatch "(\.m(html|txt|pl)|dhandler|autohandler)$">
      SetHandler perl-script
      PerlInitHandler Apache::Constants::NOT_FOUND
    </LocationMatch>

The first block causes URLs ending in .html, .txt, or .pl to be served through Mason. The second block causes requests to private components to return 404 NOT_FOUND, preventing unscrupulous users from even knowing which private components exist. Any other file extensions (e.g. .gif, .tgz) will be served by Apache's default content handler.

You might prefer FilesMatch to LocationMatch. However, be aware that LocationMatch will work best in conjunction with Mason's dhandlers.

Configuration Parameters

Mason allows you to flexibly configure its behavior via httpd.conf configuration parameters.

These configuration parameters are set via mod_perl's PerlSetVar and PerlAddVar directives. Though these parameters are all strings in your httpd.conf file, Mason treats different directives as containing different types of values:

  • string

    The variable's value is simply taken literally and used. The string should be surrounded by quotes if the it contains whitespace. The quotes will be automatically removed by Apache before Mason sees the variable.

  • boolean

    The variable's value is used as a boolean, and is subject to Perl's rules on truth/falseness. It is recommended that you use 0 (false) or 1 (true) for these arguments.

  • code

    The string is treated as a piece of code and eval'ed. This is used for parameters that expect subroutine references. For example, an anonymous subroutine might look like:

     PerlSetVar  MasonOutMode  "sub { ... }"

    A named subroutine reference would look like this:

     PerlSetVar  MasonOutMode  "\&Some::Module::handle_output"
  • list

    To set a list parameter, use PerlAddVar for the values, like this:

     PerlAddVar  MasonPreloads  /foo/bar/baz.comp
     PerlAddVar  MasonPreloads  /foo/bar/quux.comp
  • hash_list

    Just like a list parameter, use PerlAddVar for the values. However, in the case of a hash_list, each element should be a key/value pair separated by "=>":

     PerlAddVar  MasonDataCacheDefaults  "cache_class => MemoryCache"
     PerlAddVar  MasonDataCacheDefaults  "namespace => foo"

    Take note that the right hand side of the each pair should not be quoted.

See HTML::Mason::Params for a full list of parameters, and their associated types.

GENERAL SERVER CONFIGURATION

Component Root

The component root (comp_root) marks the top of your component hierarchy. When running Mason with the ApacheHandler or CGIHandler modules, this defaults to your document root.

The component root defines how component paths are translated into real file paths. If your component root is /usr/local/httpd/docs, a component path of /products/index.html translates to the file /usr/local/httpd/docs/products/index.html.

One cannot call a component outside the component root. If Apache passes a file through Mason that is outside the component root (say, as the result of an Alias) you will get a 404 and a warning in the logs.

You may also specify multiple component roots in the spirit of Perl's @INC. Each root is assigned a key that identifies the root mnemonically. For example, in httpd.conf:

    PerlAddVar  MasonCompRoot  "private => /usr/home/joe/comps"
    PerlAddVar  MasonCompRoot  "main => /usr/local/www/htdocs"

This specifies two component roots, a main component tree and a private tree which overrides certain components. The order is respected ala @INC, so private is searched first and main second.

The component root keys must be unique in a case-insensitive comparison. The keys are used in several ways. They help to distinguish component caches and object files between different component roots, and they appear in the title() of a component.

Data Directory

The data directory (data_dir) is a writable directory that Mason uses for various features and optimizations. By default, it is a directory called "mason" under your Apache server root. Because Mason will not use a default data directory under a top-level directory, you will need to change this on certain systems that assign a high-level server root such as /usr or /etc.

Mason will create the directory on startup, if necessary, and set its permissions according to the web server User/Group.

External Modules

Components will often need access to external Perl modules. There are several ways to load them.

  • The httpd PerlModule directive:

        PerlModule CGI
        PerlModule LWP
  • In the <%once> section of the component(s) that use the module.

        <%once>
        use CGI ':standard';
        use LWP;
        </%once>

Each method has its own trade-offs:

The first method ensures that the module will be loaded by the Apache parent process at startup time, saving time and memory. The second method, in contrast, will cause the modules to be loaded by each server child. On the other hand this could save memory if the component and module are rarely used. See the mod_perl guide's tuning section and Vivek Khera's mod_perl tuning guide for more details on this issue.

The second method uses the modules from inside the package used by components (HTML::Mason::Commands), meaning that exported method names and other symbols will be usable from components. The first method, in contrast, will import symbols into the main package. The significance of this depends on whether the modules export symbols and whether you want to use them from components.

If you want to preload the modules in your httpd.conf file, and still have them export symbols into the HTML::Mason::Commands namespace, you can do this:

  <Perl>
  { package HTML::Mason::Commands;
    use CGI;
    use LWP;
  }
  </Perl>

A Perl section will also work for including local library paths:

  <Perl>
  use lib '/path/to/local/lib';
  </Perl>

Allowing Directory Requests

By default Mason will decline requests for directories, leaving Apache to serve up a directory index or a FORBIDDEN as appropriate. Unfortunately this rule applies even if there is a dhandler in the directory: /foo/bar/dhandler does not get a chance to handle a request for /foo/bar/.

If you would like Mason to handle directory requests, set decline_dirs to 0. The dhandler that catches a directory request is responsible for setting a reasonable content type via $r->content_type().

Configuring Virtual Sites

These examples extend the single site configurations given so far.

Multiple sites, one component root

If you want to share some components between your sites, arrange your httpd.conf so that all DocumentRoots live under a single component space:

    # Web site #1
    <VirtualHost www.site1.com>
      DocumentRoot  /usr/local/www/htdocs/site1
      <LocationMatch ...>
        SetHandler   perl-script
        PerlHandler  HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler
      </LocationMatch>
    </VirtualHost>

    # Web site #2
    <VirtualHost www.site2.com>
      DocumentRoot  /usr/local/www/htdocs/site2
      <LocationMatch ...>
        SetHandler   perl-script
        PerlHandler  HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler
      </LocationMatch>
    </VirtualHost>

    # Mason configuration
    PerlSetVar  MasonCompRoot  /usr/local/www/htdocs
    PerlSetVar  MasonDataDir   /usr/local/mason
    PerlModule  HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler

The directory structure for this scenario might look like:

    /usr/local/www/htdocs/  # component root
        +- shared/          # shared components
        +- site1/           # DocumentRoot for first site
        +- site2/           # DocumentRoot for second site

Incoming URLs for each site can only request components in their respective DocumentRoots, while components internally can call other components anywhere in the component space. The shared/ directory is a private directory for use by components, inaccessible from the Web.

Multiple sites, multiple component roots

If your sites need to have completely distinct component hierarchies, e.g. if you are providing Mason ISP services for multiple users, then the component root must change depending on the site requested.

    <VirtualHost www.site1.com>
      DocumentRoot  /usr/local/www/htdocs/site1

      # Mason configuration
      PerlSetVar  MasonCompRoot    /usr/local/www/htdocs/site1
      PerlSetVar  MasonDataDir     /usr/local/mason/site1

      <LocationMatch ...>
        SetHandler   perl-script
        PerlHandler  HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler
      </LocationMatch>
    </VirtualHost>

    # Web site #2
    <VirtualHost www.site2.com>
      DocumentRoot  /usr/local/www/htdocs/site2

      # Mason configuration
      PerlSetVar  MasonCompRoot    /usr/local/www/htdocs/site2
      PerlSetVar  MasonDataDir     /usr/local/mason/site2

      <LocationMatch ...>
        SetHandler   perl-script
        PerlHandler  HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler
      </LocationMatch>
    </VirtualHost>

ADVANCED CONFIGURATION

As mentioned previously, it is possible to write a custom mod_perl content handler that wraps around Mason and provides basically unlimited flexibility when handling requests. In this section, we show some basic wrappers and re-implement some of the functionality previously discussed, such as declining image requests and protecting private components.

In addition, we discuss some of the possibilities that become available when you create a custom wrapper around Mason's request handling mechanism. This wrapper generally consists of two parts. The initialization portion, run at server startup, will load any needed modules and create objects. The other portion is the handler() subroutine, which handles web page requests.

Writing a Wrapper

To create a wrapper, you simply need to define a handler() subroutine in the package of your choice, and tell mod_perl to use it as a content handler. The file that defines the handler() subroutine can be a module, or you can simply load a simple file that contains this subroutine definition. The latter solution was, for a long time, the only way to configure Mason, and the file used was traditionally called handler.pl.

Nowadays, we recommend that you create a custom module in the appropriate namespace and define your handler() subroutine there. The advantage to this approach is that it uses well-known techniques for creating and installing modules, but it does require a bit more work than simply dropping a script file into the Apache configuration directory. But because the process is better defined, it may "feel" more solid to some folks than the script approach.

The eg/ directory of the Mason distribution contains a couple sample modules that define handler() subroutines. Let's assume that your module, like the example, defines a handler() in the package MyApp::Mason. In this case, your Apache configuration would look like this:

  PerlModule  MyApp::Mason

  <LocationMatch ...>
    SetHandler   perl-script
    PerlHandler  MyApp::Mason
  </LocationMatch>

You may still see references to a handler.pl file in the Mason users list archives, as well as the FAQ. These references will generally be applicable to any custom code wrapping Mason.

Wrappers and PerlSetVar-style configuration

Sometimes people attempt to write a wrapper and configure Mason with PerlSetVar directives in their Apache configuration file. This does not work. When you give mod_perl this configuration:

  PerlHandler HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler

it will dispatch directly to the HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler->handler() method, without ever executing your wrapper code. However, you can mix the two methods. See Mixing httpd.conf Configuration with a Wrapper

Wrapping with a <Perl> block

You can also put your wrapper code in a <Perl> block as part of your httpd.conf file. The result is no different than loading a file via the PerlRequire directive.

The Wrapper Code

Regardless of how you load your wrapper code, it will always work the same way. The handler() subroutine should expect to receive the Apache request object representing the current request. This request object is used by the ApacheHandler module to determine what component is being called.

Let's look at the guts of some wrapper code. Here's a first version:

  package MyApp::Mason;

  use strict;
  use HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler;

  my $ah =
      HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler->new
          ( comp_root => '/path/to/comp/root',
            data_dir  => '/path/to/data/dir' );

  sub handler {
      my ($r) = @_;

      return $ah->handle_request($r);
  }

This wrapper is fully functional, but it doesn't actually do anything you couldn't do more easily by configuring Mason via the httpd.conf file. However, it does serve as a good skeleton to which additional functionality can easily be added.

External Modules Revisited

Since you are loading an arbitrary piece of code to define your wrapper, you can easily load other modules needed for your application at the same time. For example, you might simple add these lines to the wrapper code above:

  {
      package HTML::Mason::Commands;

      use MIME::Base64;
  }

Explicitly setting the package to HTML::Mason::Commands makes sure that any symbols that the loaded modules export (constants, subroutines, etc.) get exported into the namespace under which components run. Of course, if you've changed the component namespace, make sure to change the package name here as well.

Alternatively, you might consider creating a separate piece of code to load the modules you need. For example, you might create a module called MyApp::MasonInit:

  {
      package HTML::Mason::Commands;

      use Apache::Constants qw(:common);
      use Apache::URI;
      use File::Temp;
  }

  1;

This can be loaded via a PerlModule directive in the httpd.conf file, or in the wrapper code itself via use.

Example: Controlling access with component attributes

An example of something you can only do with wrapper code is deciding at run-time whether a component can be accessed at the top-level based on a complex property of the component. For example, here's a piece of code that uses the current user and a component's access_level attribute to control access:

  sub handler {
      my ($r) = @_;

      my $req = $ah->prepare_request($r);

      my $comp = $req->request_comp;

      # this is done via magic hand-waving ...
      my $user = get_user_from_cookie();

      # remember, attributes are inherited so this could come from a
      # component higher up the inheritance chain
      my $required_access = $comp->attr('access_level');

      return NOT_FOUND
          if $user->access_level < $required_access;

      return $req->exec;
  }

Wrappers with Virtual Hosts

If you had several virtual hosts, each of which had a separate component root, you'd need to create a separate ApacheHandler object for each host, one for each host. Here's some sample code for that:

    my %ah;
    foreach my $site ( qw( site1 site2 site3 ) ) {
        $ah{$site} =
            HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler->new
                ( comp_root => "/usr/local/www/$site",
                  data_dir => "/usr/local/mason/$site" );
    }

    sub handler {
        my ($r) = @_;

        my $site = $r->dir_config('SiteName');

        return DECLINED unless exists $ah{$site};

        return $ah{$site}->handle_request($r);
    }

This code assumes that you set the SiteName variable via a PerlSetVar directive in each VirtualHost block, like this:

  <VirtualHost site1.example.com>
    PerlSetVar  SiteName  site1

    <LocationMatch ...>
      SetHandler   perl-script
      PerlHandler  MyApp::Mason
    </LocationMatch>
  </VirtualHost>

Creating apachehandler objects on the fly

You might also consider creating ApacheHandler objects on the fly, like this:

    my %ah;
    sub handler {
        my ($r) = @_;
        my $site = $r->dir_config('SiteName');

        return DECLINED unless $site;

        unless exists($ah{$site}) {
            $ah{$site} = HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler->new( ... );
        }

        $ah{$site}->handle_request($r);
    }

This is more flexible but you lose the memory savings of creating all your objects during server startup.

Other uses for a wrapper

If you have some code which must always run after a request, then the only way to guarantee that this happens is to wrap the $ah->handle_request() call in an eval {} block, and then run the needed code after the request returns. You can then handle errors however you like.

Mixing httpd.conf Configuration with a Wrapper

You can take advantage of Mason's httpd.conf configuration system while at the same time providing your own wrapper code. The key to doing this is not creating your own ApacheHandler object. Instead, you call the HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler->handler() class method from your handler() subroutine. Here's a complete wrapper that does this:

  package MyApp::Mason;

  use strict;
  use HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler;

  sub handler {
      my ($r) = @_;

      return HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler->handler($r);
  }

The HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler->handler method will create an ApacheHandler object based on the configuration directives it finds in your httpd.conf file. Obviously, this wrapper is again a skeleton, but you could mix and match this wrapper code with any of the code shown above.

Alternately you could subclass the HTML::Mason::ApacheHandler class, and override the handler() method it provides. See the Subclassing documentation for more details. Of course, you could even create a subclass and write a wrapper that called it.

DEVELOPMENT

This section describes how to set up common developer features.

Global Variables

Global variables can make programs harder to read, maintain, and debug, and this is no less true for Mason components. Due to the persistent mod_perl environment, globals require extra initialization and cleanup care.

That said, there are times when it is very useful to make a value available to all Mason components: a DBI database handle, a hash of user session information, the server root for forming absolute URLs.

Because Mason by default parses components in strict mode, you'll need to declare a global if you don't want to access it with an explicit package name. The easiest way to declare a global is with the allow_globals parameter.

Since all components run in the same package, you'll be able to set the global in one component and access it in all the others.

Autohandlers are common places to assign values to globals. Use the <%once> section if the global only needs to be initialized at load time, or the <%init> section if it needs to be initialized every request.

Sessions

Mason does not have a built-in session mechanism, but you can use the MasonX::Request::WithApacheSession module, available from CPAN, to add a session to every request. It can also automatically set and read cookies containing the session id.

Data Caching

Data caching is implemented with DeWitt Clinton's Cache::Cache module. For full understanding of this section you should read the documentation for Cache::Cache as well as for relevant subclasses (e.g. Cache::FileCache).

Cache files

By default, Cache::FileCache is the subclass used for data caching, although this may be overridden by the developer. Cache::FileCache creates a separate subdirectory for every component that uses caching, and one file some number of levels underneath that subdirectory for each cached item. The root of the cache tree is data_dir/cache. The name of the cache subdirectory for a component is determined by the function HTML::Mason::Utils::data_cache_namespace.

Default constructor options

Ordinarily, when $m->cache is called, Mason passes to the cache constructor the namespace, and cache_root options, along with any other options given in the $m->cache method.

You may specify other default constructor options with the data_cache_defaults parameter. For example,

    PerlSetVar  MasonDataCacheDefaults  "cache_class => SizeAwareFileCache"
    PerlAddVar  MasonDataCacheDefaults  "cache_depth => 2"
    PerlAddVar  MasonDataCacheDefaults  "default_expires_in => 1 hour"

Any options passed to individual $m->cache calls override these defaults.

Disabling data caching

If for some reason you want to disable data caching entirely, set the default cache_class to "NullCache". This subclass faithfully implements the cache API but never stores data.

PERFORMANCE

This section explains Mason's various performance enhancements and how to administer them. One of the best ways to maximize performance on your production server is run in static_source mode; see the third subsection below.

Code Cache

When Mason loads a component, it places it in a memory cache. By default, the cache has no limit, but you can specify a maximum number of components to cache with the code_cache_max_size parameter. In this case, Mason will free up space as needed by discarding components. The discard algorithm is least frequently used (LFU), with a periodic decay to gradually eliminate old frequency information. In a nutshell, the components called most often in recent history should remain in the cache.

Previous versions of Mason attempted to estimate the size of each component, but this proved so inaccurate as to be virtually useless for cache policy. The max size is now specified purely in number of components.

Mason can use certain optimizations with an unlimited cache, especially in conjunction with static_source, so don't limit the cache unless experience shows that your servers are growing too large. Many dynamic sites can be served comfortably with all components in memory.

You can prepopulate the cache with components that you know will be accessed often; see Preloading Components. Note that preloaded components possess no special status in the cache and can be discarded like any others.

Naturally, a cache entry is invalidated if the corresponding component source file changes.

To turn off code caching completely, set code_cache_max_size to 0.

Object Files

The in-memory code cache is only useful on a per-process basis. Each process must build and maintain its own cache. Shared memory caches are conceivable in the future, but even those will not survive between web server restarts.

As a secondary, longer-term cache mechanism, Mason stores a compiled form of each component in an object file under data_dir/obj. Any server process can eval the object file and save time on parsing the component source file. The object file is recreated whenever the source file changes.

The object file pathname is formed from three parts:

  • the compiler object_id - this prevents different versions of Mason or compilers from using the same object file, such as after an upgrade

  • the component path

  • object_file_extension, by default ".obj"

Besides improving performance, object files can be useful for debugging. If you feel the need to see what your source has been translated into, you can peek inside an object file to see exactly how Mason converted a given component to a Perl object. This was crucial for pre-1.10 Mason, in which error line numbers were based on the object file rather than the source file.

If for some reason you don't want Mason to create object files, set use_object_files to 0.

Static Source Mode

In static_source mode, Mason assumes that the component hierarchy is unchanging and thus does not check source timestamps when using an in-memory cached component or object file. This significantly reduces filesystem stats and other overhead. We've seen speedups by a factor of two or three as a result of this mode, though of course YMMV.

When in static_source mode, you must remove object files and call $interp->flush_code_cache in order for the server to recognize component changes. The easiest way to arrange this is to point static_source_touch_file to a file that can be touched whenever components change.

We highly recommend running in this mode in production if you can manage it. Many of Mason's future optimizations will be designed for this mode. On development servers, of course, it makes sense to keep this off so that components are reloaded automatically.

Disabling Autoflush

To support the dynamic autoflush feature, Mason has to check for autoflush mode after printing every piece of text. If you can commit to not using autoflush, setting enable_autoflush to 0 will allow Mason to compile components more efficiently. Consider whether a few well-placed $m->flush_buffer calls would be just as good as autoflush.

Write a handler subroutine

Writing your own handler() subroutine which uses an ApacheHandler object (or objects) created during server startup is slightly faster (around 5% or so) than configuring mason via your httpd.conf file and letting Mason create its own ApacheHandler objects internally.

Preloading Components

You can tell Mason to preload a set of components in the parent process, rather than loading them on demand, using the preloads parameter. Each child server will start with those components loaded in the memory cache. The trade-offs are:

time

a small one-time startup cost, but children save time by not having to load the components

memory

a fatter initial server, but the memory for preloaded components are shared by all children. This is similar to the advantage of using modules only in the parent process.

Try to preload components that are used frequently and do not change often. (If a preloaded component changes, all the children will have to reload it from scratch.)

Preallocating the Output Buffer

You can set buffer_preallocate_size to set the size of the preallocated output buffer for each request. This can reduce the number of reallocations Perl performs as components output text.

ERROR REPORTING AND EXCEPTIONS

When an error occurs, Mason can respond by:

  • showing a detailed error message in the browser in HTML.

  • die'ing, which sends a 500 status to the browser and lets the error message go to the error logs.

The first behavior is ideal for development, where you want immediate feedback on the error. The second behavior is usually desired for production so that users are not exposed to messy error messages. You choose the behavior by setting error_mode to "output" or "fatal" respectively.

Error formatting is controlled by the error_format parameter. When showing errors in the browser, Mason defaults to the "html" format. When the error_mode is set to "fatal", the default format is "line", which puts the entire error message on one line in a format suitable for web server error logs. Mason also offers other formats, which are covered in the Request class documentation.

Finally, you can use Apache's ErrorDocument directive to specify a custom error handler for 500 errors. In this case, you'd set the error_mode to "fatal". The URL specified by the ErrorDocument directive could point to a Mason component.

Exceptions Under the Hood

The way that Mason really reports errors is through the use of exception objects, which are implemented with the Exception::Class module from CPAN, and some custom code in the HTML::Mason::Exceptions module.

If, during the execution of a component, execution stops because some code calls die(), then Mason will catch this exception. If the exception being thrown is just a string, then it will be converted to an HTML::Mason::Exception object. If the exception being thrown is an object with a rethrow() method, then this method will be called. Otherwise, Mason simply leaves the exception untouched and calls die() again.

Calling a Component to Handle Errors

Returning to the topic of wrapper code that we covered earlier, what if you wanted to handle all request errors by calling an error handling component? There is no way to do this without wrapper code. Here's an example handler() subroutine that does this:

    sub handler {
        my ($r) = @_;

        my $return = eval { $ah->handle_request($r) };

        if ( my $err = $@ )
        {
            $r->pnotes( error => $err );
            $r->filename( $r->document_root . '/error/500.html' );

            return $ah->handle_request($r);
        }

        return $return;
    }

First, we wrap our call to $ah->handle_request() in an eval{} block. If an error occurs, we store it in the request object using the $r->pnotes() method. Then we change the filename property of the Apache request object to point to our error-handling component and call the $ah->handle_request() method again, passing it the altered request object. We could have put the exception in $r->args, but we want to leave this untouched so that the error-handling component can see the original arguments.

Here's what that component error-handling component might look like:

 <html>
 <head>
 <title>Error</title>
 </head>

 <body>

 <p>
 Looks like our application broke.  Whatever you did, don't do it again!
 </p>

 <p>
 If you have further questions, please feel free to contact us at <a
 href="mailto:support@example.com">support@example.com</a>.
 </p>

 <p><a href="/">Click here</a> to continue.</p>

 </body>
 </html>

 <%init>
  my $error = $r->pnotes('error');

  my $error_text = "Page is " . $r->parsed_uri->unparse . "\n\n";

  $error_text .= UNIVERSAL::can( $error, 'as_text' ) ? $error->as_text : $error;

  $r->log_error($error_text);

  my $mail =
      MIME::Lite->new
          ( From => 'error-handler@example.com',
            To   => 'rt@example.com',
            Subject => 'Application error',
            Data => $error_text,
          );

  $r->register_cleanup( sub { $mail->send } );
 </%init>

 <%flags>
  inherit => undef
 </%flags>

This component does several things. First of all, it logs the complete error to the Apache error logs, along with the complete URL, including query string, that was requested. The $r->parsed_uri() method that we use above is only available if the Apache::URI module has been loaded.

The component also sends an email containing the error, in this case to an RT installation, so that the error is logged in a bug tracking system. Finally, it displays a less technical error message to the user.

For this to work properly, you must set error_mode to "fatal", so that Mason doesn't just display its own HTML error page.

RUNNING OUTSIDE OF MOD_PERL

Although Mason is most commonly used in conjunction with mod_perl, the APIs are flexible enough to use in any environment. Below we describe the two most common alternative environments, CGI and standalone scripts.

Using Mason from a CGI Script

The easiest way to use Mason via a CGI script is with the CGIHandler module module.

Here is a skeleton CGI script that calls a component and sends the output to the browser.

    #!/usr/bin/perl
    use HTML::Mason::CGIHandler;

    my $h = HTML::Mason::CGIHandler->new
     (
      data_dir  => '/home/jethro/code/mason_data',
     );

    $h->handle_request;

The relevant portions of the httpd.conf file look like:

    DocumentRoot /path/to/comp/root
    ScriptAlias /cgi-bin/ /path/to/cgi-bin/

    <LocationMatch "\.html$">
       Action html-mason /cgi-bin/mason_handler.cgi
       AddHandler html-mason .html
    </LocationMatch>
    <LocationMatch "^/cgi-bin/">
        RemoveHandler .html
    </LocationMatch>
    <FilesMatch "(autohandler|dhandler)$">
        Order allow,deny
        Deny from all
    </FilesMatch>

This simply causes Apache to call the mason_handler.cgi script every time a URL ending in ".html" under the component root is requested.

To exclude certian directories from being under Mason control, you can use something like the following:

    <LocationMatch "^/(dir1|dir2|dir3)/">
        RemoveHandler .html
    </LocationMatch>

This script uses the CGIHandler class to do most of the heavy lifting. See that class's documentation for more details.

Using Mason from a Standalone Script

Mason can be used as a pure text templating solution -- like Text::Template and its brethren, but with more power (and of course more complexity).

Here is a bare-bones script that calls a component file and sends the result to standard output:

    #!/usr/bin/perl
    use HTML::Mason;
    use strict;

    my $interp = HTML::Mason::Interp->new ();
    $interp->exec(<relative path to file>, <args>...);

Because no component root was specified, the root is set to your current working directory. If you have a well defined and contained component tree, you'll probably want to specify a component root.

Because no data directory was specified, object files will not be created and data caching will not work in the default manner. If performance is an issue, you will want to specify a data directory.

Here's a slightly fuller script that specifies a component root and data directory, and captures the result in a variable rather than sending to standard output:

    #!/usr/bin/perl
    use HTML::Mason;
    use strict;

    my $outbuf;
    my $interp = HTML::Mason::Interp->new
        (comp_root  => '/path/to/comp_root',
         data_dir   => '/path/to/data_dir',
         out_method => \$outbuf
        );
    $interp->exec(<component-path>, <args>...);

    # Do something with $outbuf

SEE ALSO

Mason

AUTHORS

  • Jonathan Swartz <swartz@pobox.com>

  • Dave Rolsky <autarch@urth.org>

  • Ken Williams <ken@mathforum.org>

COPYRIGHT AND LICENSE

This software is copyright (c) 2012 by Jonathan Swartz.

This is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as the Perl 5 programming language system itself.




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