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Torsten Förtsch > Apache2-POST200-0.05 > Apache2::POST200

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Module Version: 0.05   Source  

NAME ^

Apache2::POST200 - Converting code 200 responses to POST requests to 302

SYNOPSIS ^

  LoadModule perl_module ...
  PerlLoadModule Apache2::POST200;

  POST200Storage dbi:mysql:db=db:localhost user password
  POST200Table p200 session data
  PerlOutputFilterHandler Apache2::POST200::Filter
  <Location "/-redirect-">
    SetHandler modperl
    PerlResponseHandler Apache2::POST200::Response
  </Location>

  RewriteEngine On

  # redirect GET/HEAD requests with a matching QUERY_STRING to
  # Apache2::POST200::Response
  RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} !=POST
  RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} ^-redirect-[A-Za-z0-9@=-]{32}$
  RewriteRule . /-redirect- [L,PT]

  # This is needed because some applications forget the
  # action="URL" attribute in their <form>s.
  # If so we get a POST request with a QUERY_STRING appended.
  # If it matches our pattern is must be cut off (the '?' in
  # the RewriteRule).
  RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} =POST
  RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} ^-redirect-[A-Za-z0-9@=-]{32}$
  RewriteRule (.+) $1? [N]

  # yes, it even works on a reverse proxy.
  RewriteRule ^/proxy/(.+) http://other.host.tld/$1 [P]

  # keep mod_alias (ScriptAlias) happy
  RewriteRule . - [PT]

 or

  # This is now a forward proxy setup.

  Listen localhost:8080
  <VirtualHost localhost:8080>
    POST200Storage dbi:mysql:db=db:localhost user password
    POST200Table p200 session data
    PerlOutputFilterHandler Apache2::POST200::Filter
    <Location "/-localhost-8080-">
      SetHandler modperl
      PerlResponseHandler Apache2::POST200::Response
    </Location>

    # defined a prefix instead of "-redirect-"
    POST200Label -localhost-8080-

    RewriteEngine On

    # redirect GET/HEAD requests with a matching QUERY_STRING to
    # Apache2::POST200::Response
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} !=POST
    RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} ^-localhost-8080-[A-Za-z0-9@=-]{32}$
    RewriteRule . /-localhost-8080- [L,PT]

    # This is needed because some applications forget the
    # action="URL" attribute in their <form>s.
    # If so we get a POST request with a QUERY_STRING appended.
    # If it matches our pattern is must be cut off (the '?' in
    # the RewriteRule). Then proxy it.
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} =POST
    RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^\w+\s(https?://[^\s\?]+)\?-localhost-8080-[A-Za-z0-9@=-]{32}(?:\s|$)
    RewriteRule . %1? [P]

    # Proxy all other. This is an alternative to the ProxyRequests
    # statement.
    RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^\w+\s(https?://\S+)
    RewriteRule . %1 [P]
  </VirtualHost>

DESCRIPTION ^

A typical WEB application workflow is often similar to this:

  browser shows a form (1)
        |
        v
  user clicks submit (2)
        |
        v
  browser sends a POST request (3)
        |
        v
  server processes the form and replies with a temporary redirect (4)
        |
        v
  browser follows the redirect (5)
        |
        v
  server replies with HTTP code 200 (6)

Steps 4 and 5 are necessary to let the user reload the page shown without having the server to reprocess the form.

With this module the workflow is shortened from the point of view of the WEB server to this:

  browser shows a form (1)
        |
        v
  user clicks submit (2)
        |
        v
  browser sends a POST request (3)
        |
        v
  server processes the form and replies with HTTP code 200 (4)

Apache2::POST200 intercepts the server reply, stores the response in a database and sends a temporary redirect to the browser. It also intercepts the following request from the browser and sends the stored reply.

How it works

This module inserts an request output filter that looks for replies for POST requests with a HTTP code of 200. If it finds one it saves the reply in a database and replaces the complete output with a temporary redirect (HTTP code 302) to the same URL but with a special marked query string appended.

When the browser follows the redirect the module recognizes the query string and routes the request to its own response handler. The handler then reads the saved page from the database and sends it to the browser.

Well, the request routing is actually done by a tricky translation handler such as mod_rewrite or Apache2::Translation.

Note: the redirect must go to the same URL because some WEB application forget the action attribute in their <form> definitions.

Configuration

The module itself is loaded from the Apache configuration file via a PerlLoadModule directive. It then provides a few configuration directives of its own. All directives are allowed in server config, virtual host and directory contexts.

Post200Storage dsn user password

Post200Storage describes the database to be used. All 3 parameter are passed to the DBI::connect method, see DBI. User and password can be omitted if the database supports it.

Post200Storage None disables the output filter. That means replies with a HTTP code 200 to a POST request are delivered as is.

Post200Table table key-column data-column

Post200Table describes the table to be used. The key column must be able to hold a 41-byte string of printable ascii characters. The key length may be extented in future versions of this module but a key will always consist of printable characters.

For best performance create an index on the key column.

The data column must be able to hold a variable size data block. The maximum size can be limited using Post200DataBlockSize. If Post200DataBlockSize is not used the size completely depends on your response handlers. If possible use a BLOB type as data column.

Although not used by the module it makes sense to add a 3rd column to the table. It should be a timestamp column with the default attribute set to now(). Without it it's difficult to decide which records can be deleted.

With a MySQL database a suitable table is created by:

 create table p200 (
   session varchar(50) primary key unique not null,
   data blob,
   tm timestamp not null default 'now'
 );
 create index p200_tm_idx on p200(tm);

Deletion of expired pages is best done by a simple cron job, e.g.

 45 * * * * echo 'delete from p200 where now()-tm>3600' | mysql post200
Post200Label marker

By means of this marker the response handler recognizes a redirected request that it is responsible for. When the output filter generates a query string it starts with the marker as prefix.

If omitted -redirect- is used.

If the module is used on a forward proxy to repair external WEB applications choose a string here that is very likely to be used only by your proxy.

Post200Secret secret initvector

To make sure the key provided by the browser via the query string was generated by the filter it is encrypted. secret and initvector are arbitrary strings, see Crypt::Blowfish.

If omitted 2 strings are used that once came out of /dev/random on my box.

Post200IpCheck On|Off

With this directive set the response handler sends a page only to the same client where the redirect was sent to. This prevents that redirected URLs are mailed around as long as the 2 clients are not connected through the same proxy.

Default is On.

Post200DataBlockSize Bytes

This directive defines the maximum size of a data item written to the database.

If omitted the blocksize depends on the response handler.

Some Considerations ^

Simple sessions

One way to look at this module is that it provides some simple session. Often a WEB application is simply a collection of forms gathering some information. And only after the last form is filled out all of it is to be written to a data store.

With Apache2::POST200 you can save the information gathered so far in hidden fields rather than saving them in a session structure at server side.

Well, the database that this module uses is such a session structure at server side, but forget about the internals for now. Look at it from another level, ;-).

Simpler developement

Apache2::POST200 frees your application from handling the refreshing problem by its own. Hence, developement becomes simpler.

Performance

Using Apache2::POST200 might even lead to a performance gain. Often the application logic is almost the same (authentication, authorization, fetching application data and so on) be it for the generation of the Location header or for the redirected request. With this module these checks are done only once.

Frontend / Backend

Here comes the most valuable point. WEB applications often use a frontend / backend setup, where the backend serves the dynamic content. The frontend is a lightweight WEB server that serves static content and delegates request for dynamic content as a proxy to the backend.

This setup is chosen because generating dynamic content often leads to very memory consuming processes and, thus, the necessity to limit their number. But such a setup does not forbid using mod_perl also in the frontend. Only the memory consumption must be small and limited. Since Apache2::POST200 reads the data from the database one block at a time it meets this condition.

Now look at what happens without Apache2::POST200. The initial POST request as well as the redirected GET occupy a frontend and a backend instance. If Apache2::POST200 is used at the frontend only the initial POST involves both frontend and backend. The subsequent GET is handled exclusively by the frontend.

Apache2::POST200 may be used even at frontend and backend. The output filter runs at the backend inserting data in the database. The response handler runs at the frontend. Limit the block size in this case with Post200DataBlockSize to avoid bloating the frontend.

Repair external WEB applications

Another useful application of Apache2::POST200 is to repair external applications. Suppose you have a WEB application written in some closed language or running on an external server that emits code 200 replies to POST requests. Setup a reverse or even forward proxy with Apache2::POST200. It repairs the application without having access to it.

TODO ^

Caching

With a keep-alive connection the redirected request is most likely to come in over the same connection. Thus, some caching in a connection pnote would be good.

User check

Client IP checking may not be sufficient. The filter could check $r->user, set a special flag in the redirect param and save the user name. The rewrite rules could then check the flag and require a valid-user. Then the response handler can verify $r->user against the saved user.

SEE ALSO ^

Apache2::Translation

AUTHOR ^

Torsten Foertsch, <torsten.foertsch@gmx.net>

SPONSORING ^

Sincere thanks to Arvato Direct Services (http://www.arvato.com/) for sponsoring this module.

COPYRIGHT AND LICENSE ^

Copyright (C) 2005 by Torsten Foertsch

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

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