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Sunday November 30, 2003
07:52 PM

Just when you thought it was (type) safe

[ #16088 ]

I am writing a little spider application, using LWP and all of that good stuff. For my particular application I need to set the referer header, and along the way I collect the right URLs to put in that.

Since I am using LWP, URLs tend to show up as objects, but when I try to put them back into an HTTP request, things blow-up:

use HTTP::Request;
use URI;
my $url = URI->new( '' );
my $request = HTTP::Request->new( "" );
$request->referer( $url );

The referer() method comes from HTTP::Headers, and all it does is pass its arguments to the _headers() method. Inside the headers method, that $url ends up in $val, and then it has to run the gauntlet:

[HTTP::Headers, 1.43 sub _headers]
    if (defined($val)) {
    my @new = ($op eq 'PUSH') ? @old : ();
    if (!ref($val)) {
        push(@new, $val);
    } elsif (ref($val) eq 'ARRAY') {
        push(@new, @$val);
    } else {
        Carp::croak("Unexpected field value $val");
    $self->{$lc_field} = @new > 1 ? \@new : $new[0];

The thing in $val is defined, so it makes it into the block, but it is a reference, but not an ARRAY reference, so it falls through to the else{}. This works for most things, because _headers is a generic method, but referer could be a bit smarter.

[HTTP::Headers, 1.43, referer()]
sub referer           { (shift->_header('Referer',          @_))[0] }

Debugging this is was a pain. The URI objects automatically stringify, so printing them just shows the string form, rather than something like "URI=HASH(0xfb748)". My usual debugger, print(), fails to pick this up.

There are a couple of ways around this, none of them satisfying:

  • Interpolate into new strings for each use, i.e. "$url".
  • Check to see if the $url is a reference, then call the as_string method if it is.
  • Always turn things into strings, losing the ability to call methods.

Oh well, now you know. Do not pull your hair out over this one, because I already did.

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