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ChrisDolan (2855)

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Journal of ChrisDolan (2855)

Thursday May 15, 2008
11:47 PM

A REALLY deep corner case

[ #36438 ]

Try out this test program in a Perl prior to 5.8.8:

use Test::More tests => 3;
my $line = "\x{4E00}();" . ' ';
is(length substr($line, 1, 1), 1);
is(length substr($line, 1, 4), 4);
is(length substr($line, 1, 1), 1);

You'd expect that substrings of length 1 are always length 1, right? On my Mac (perl5.8.6) it produces:

ok 1
ok 2
not ok 3
#   Failed test at utf8_substr.t line 5.
#          got: '4'
#     expected: '1'
# Looks like you failed 1 test of 3.

This should surprise you, unless perhaps you were aware of the UTF-8 length caching bug(s) that haunted much of the 5.8.x series.

This program above is a minimal reduction of a failure in the PPI test suite (see RT#35917 - charsets.t eats all available VM). This bug is only triggered in the following case:

  • Perl 5.8.6 (and maybe 5.8.7?)
  • PPI above 1.201
  • Source code which uses Unicode in a bareword on the last line of the file, but not within the last 3 bytes of the end.

We would probably have never noticed, except 5.8.6 is the default Perl for Mac OS X 10.4 (i.e., a popular point release) and a PPI side effect of the bug was a infinite loop with a memory leak.

I'm VERY grateful that the core Perl developers include people smart enough to find and fix subtle bugs in the Unicode implementation like this one.

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  • "Source code which uses Unicode in a bareword on the last line of the file, but not within the last 3 bytes of the end." ...on a Tuesday, with a full moon, while sacrificing a chicken, and singing the words to Sweet Home Alabama, while standing on the right foot only...
    • “SCSI is *not* magic. There are fundamental technical reasons why it is necessary to sacrifice a young goat to your SCSI chain now and then.” —John Woods