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NAME ^

HTTP Handlers

Description ^

This chapter explains how to implement the HTTP protocol handlers in mod_perl.

HTTP Request Handler Skeleton ^

All HTTP Request handlers have the following structure:

  package MyApache2::MyHandlerName;

  # load modules that are going to be used
  use ...;

  # compile (or import) constants
  use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(OK);

  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
      
      # handler code comes here
      
      return Apache2::Const::OK; # or another status constant
  }
  1;

First, the package is declared. Next, the modules that are going to be used are loaded and constants compiled.

The handler itself coming next and usually it receives the only argument: the Apache2::RequestRec object. If the handler is declared as a method handler :

  sub handler : method {
      my ($class, $r) = @_;

the handler receives two arguments: the class name and the Apache2::RequestRec object.

The handler ends with a return code and the file is ended with 1; to return true when it gets loaded.

HTTP Request Cycle Phases ^

Those familiar with mod_perl 1.0 will find the HTTP request cycle in mod_perl 2.0 to be almost identical to the mod_perl 1.0's model. The different things are:

The following diagram depicts the HTTP request life cycle and highlights which handlers are available to mod_perl 2.0:

From the diagram it can be seen that an HTTP request is processed by 12 phases, executed in the following order:

1 PerlPostReadRequestHandler (PerlInitHandler)
2 PerlTransHandler
3 PerlMapToStorageHandler
4 PerlHeaderParserHandler (PerlInitHandler)
5 PerlAccessHandler
6 PerlAuthenHandler
7 PerlAuthzHandler
8 PerlTypeHandler
9 PerlFixupHandler
10 PerlResponseHandler
11 PerlLogHandler
12 PerlCleanupHandler

It's possible that the cycle will not be completed if any of the phases terminates it, usually when an error happens. In that case Apache skips to the logging phase (mod_perl executes all registered PerlLogHandler handlers) and finally the cleanup phase happens.

Notice that when the response handler is reading the input data it can be filtered through request input filters, which are preceded by connection input filters if any. Similarly the generated response is first run through request output filters and eventually through connection output filters before it's sent to the client. We will talk about filters in detail later in the dedicated to filters chapter.

Before discussing each handler in detail remember that if you use the stacked handlers feature all handlers in the chain will be run as long as they return Apache2::Const::OK or Apache2::Const::DECLINED. Because stacked handlers is a special case. So don't be surprised if you've returned Apache2::Const::OK and the next handler was still executed. This is a feature, not a bug.

Now let's discuss each of the mentioned handlers in detail.

PerlPostReadRequestHandler

The post_read_request phase is the first request phase and happens immediately after the request has been read and HTTP headers were parsed.

This phase is usually used to do processing that must happen once per request. For example Apache2::Reload is usually invoked at this phase to reload modified Perl modules.

This phase is of type RUN_ALL.

The handler's configuration scope is SRV, because at this phase the request has not yet been associated with a particular filename or directory.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

Now, let's look at an example. Consider the following registry script:

  #file:touch.pl
  #-------------
  use strict;
  use warnings;
  
  use Apache2::ServerUtil ();
  use Apache2::RequestIO ();
  use File::Spec::Functions qw(catfile);
  
  my $r = shift;
  $r->content_type('text/plain');
  
  my $conf_file = catfile Apache2::ServerUtil::server_root,
    "conf", "httpd.conf";
  
  printf "$conf_file is %0.2f minutes old\n", 60*24*(-M $conf_file);

This registry script is supposed to print when the last time httpd.conf has been modified, compared to the start of the request process time. If you run this script several times you might be surprised that it reports the same value all the time. Unless the request happens to be served by a recently started child process which will then report a different value. But most of the time the value won't be reported correctly.

This happens because the -M operator reports the difference between file's modification time and the value of a special Perl variable $^T. When we run scripts from the command line, this variable is always set to the time when the script gets invoked. Under mod_perl this variable is getting preset once when the child process starts and doesn't change since then, so all requests see the same time, when operators like -M, -C and -A are used.

Armed with this knowledge, in order to make our code behave similarly to the command line programs we need to reset $^T to the request's start time, before -M is used. We can change the script itself, but what if we need to do the same change for several other scripts and handlers? A simple PerlPostReadRequestHandler handler, which will be executed as the very first thing of each requests, comes handy here:

  #file:MyApache2/TimeReset.pm
  #--------------------------
  package MyApache2::TimeReset;
  
  use strict;
  use warnings;
  
  use Apache2::RequestRec ();
  
  use Apache2::Const -compile => 'OK';
  
  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
      $^T = $r->request_time;
      return Apache2::Const::OK;
  }
  1;

We could do:

  $^T = time();

But to make things more efficient we use $r->request_time since the request object $r already stores the request's start time, so we get it without performing an additional system call.

To enable it just add to httpd.conf:

  PerlPostReadRequestHandler MyApache2::TimeReset

either to the global section, or to the <VirtualHost> section if you want this handler to be run only for a specific virtual host.

PerlTransHandler

The translate phase is used to perform the manipulation of a request's URI. If no custom handler is provided, the server's standard translation rules (e.g., Alias directives, mod_rewrite, etc.) will be used. A PerlTransHandler handler can alter the default translation mechanism or completely override it. This is also a good place to register new handlers for the following phases based on the URI. PerlMapToStorageHandler is to be used to override the URI to filename translation.

This phase is of type RUN_FIRST.

The handler's configuration scope is SRV, because at this phase the request has not yet been associated with a particular filename or directory.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

There are many useful things that can be performed at this stage. Let's look at the example handler that rewrites request URIs, similar to what mod_rewrite does. For example, if your web-site was originally made of static pages, and now you have moved to a dynamic page generation chances are that you don't want to change the old URIs, because you don't want to break links for those who link to your site. If the URI:

  http://example.com/news/20021031/09/index.html

is now handled by:

  http://example.com/perl/news.pl?date=20021031;id=09;page=index.html

the following handler can do the rewriting work transparent to news.pl, so you can still use the former URI mapping:

  #file:MyApache2/RewriteURI.pm
  #---------------------------
  package MyApache2::RewriteURI;
  
  use strict;
  use warnings;
  
  use Apache2::RequestRec ();
  
  use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(DECLINED);
  
  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
  
      my ($date, $id, $page) = $r->uri =~ m|^/news/(\d+)/(\d+)/(.*)|;
      $r->uri("/perl/news.pl");
      $r->args("date=$date;id=$id;page=$page");
  
      return Apache2::Const::DECLINED;
  }
  1;

The handler matches the URI and assigns a new URI via $r->uri() and the query string via $r->args(). It then returns Apache2::Const::DECLINED, so the next translation handler will get invoked, if more rewrites and translations are needed.

Of course if you need to do a more complicated rewriting, this handler can be easily adjusted to do so.

To configure this module simply add to httpd.conf:

  PerlTransHandler +MyApache2::RewriteURI

PerlMapToStorageHandler

The map_to_storage phase is used to perform the translation of a request's URI into a corresponding filename. If no custom handler is provided, the server will try to walk the filesystem trying to find what file or directory corresponds to the request's URI. Since usually mod_perl handler don't have corresponding files on the filesystem, you will want to shortcut this phase and save quite a few CPU cycles.

This phase is of type RUN_FIRST.

The handler's configuration scope is SRV, because at this phase the request has not yet been associated with a particular filename or directory.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

For example if you don't want Apache to try to attempt to translate URI into a filename, just add a handler:

  PerlMapToStorageHandler MyApache2::NoTranslation

using the following code:

  #file:MyApache2/NoTranslation.pm
  #------------------------------
  package MyApache2::NoTranslation;
  
  use strict;
  use warnings FATAL => 'all';
  
  use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(OK);
  
  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
  
      # skip ap_directory_walk stat() calls
      return Apache2::Const::OK;
  }
  1;

But this can be done from httpd.conf too!

  PerlMapToStorageHandler Apache2::Const::OK

If you haven't already compiled Apache2::Const::OK elsewhere, you should add:

  <Perl>
      use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(OK);
  </Perl>

Apache also uses this phase to handle TRACE requests. So if you shortcut it, TRACE calls will be not handled. In case you need to handle such, you may rewrite it as:

  #file:MyApache2/NoTranslation2.pm
  #-------------------------------
  package MyApache2::NoTranslation2;
  
  use strict;
  use warnings FATAL => 'all';
  
  use Apache2::RequestRec ();

  use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(DECLINED OK M_TRACE);
  
  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
  
      return Apache2::Const::DECLINED
          if $r->method_number == Apache2::Const::M_TRACE;
  
      # skip ap_directory_walk stat() calls
      return Apache2::Const::OK;
  }
  1;

BTW, the HTTP TRACE method asks a web server to echo the contents of the request back to the client for debugging purposes. i.e., the complete request, including HTTP headers, is returned in the entity-body of a TRACE response. Attackers may abuse HTTP TRACE functionality to gain access to information in HTTP headers such as cookies and authentication data. In the presence of other cross-domain vulnerabilities in web browsers, sensitive header information could be read from any domains that support the HTTP TRACE method.

Another way to prevent the core translation is to set $r->filename() to some value, which can also be done in the PerlTransHandler, if you are already using it.

PerlHeaderParserHandler

The header_parser phase is the first phase to happen after the request has been mapped to its <Location> (or an equivalent container). At this phase the handler can examine the request headers and to take a special action based on these. For example this phase can be used to block evil clients targeting certain resources, while little resources were wasted so far.

This phase is of type RUN_ALL.

The handler's configuration scope is DIR.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

This phase is very similar to PerlPostReadRequestHandler, with the only difference that it's run after the request has been mapped to the resource. Both phases are useful for doing something once per request, as early as possible. And usually you can take any PerlPostReadRequestHandler and turn it into PerlHeaderParserHandler by simply changing the directive name in httpd.conf and moving it inside the container where it should be executed. Moreover, because of this similarity mod_perl provides a special directive PerlInitHandler which if found outside resource containers behaves as PerlPostReadRequestHandler, otherwise as PerlHeaderParserHandler.

You already know that Apache handles the HEAD, GET, POST and several other HTTP methods. But did you know that you can invent your own HTTP method as long as there is a client that supports it. If you think of emails, they are very similar to HTTP messages: they have a set of headers and a body, sometimes a multi-part body. Therefore we can develop a handler that extends HTTP by adding a support for the EMAIL method. We can enable this protocol extension and push the real content handler during the PerlHeaderParserHandler phase:

  <Location /email>
      PerlHeaderParserHandler MyApache2::SendEmail
  </Location>

and here is the MyApache2::SendEmail handler:

  #file:MyApache2/SendEmail.pm
  #--------------------------
  package MyApache2::SendEmail;
  
  use strict;
  use warnings;
  
  use Apache2::RequestRec ();
  use Apache2::RequestIO ();
  use Apache2::RequestUtil ();
  use Apache2::ServerUtil ();
  use Apache2::ServerRec ();
  use Apache2::Process ();
  use APR::Table ();
  
  use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(DECLINED OK);
  
  use constant METHOD        => 'EMAIL';
  use constant SMTP_HOSTNAME => "localhost";
  
  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
  
      return Apache2::Const::DECLINED unless $r->method eq METHOD;
  
      $r->server->method_register(METHOD);
      $r->handler("perl-script");
      $r->push_handlers(PerlResponseHandler => \&send_email_handler);
  
      return Apache2::Const::OK;
  }
  
  sub send_email_handler {
      my $r = shift;
  
      my %headers = map {$_ => $r->headers_in->get($_)} 
                qw(To From Subject);
      
          my $content = content($r);
  
      my $status = send_email(\%headers, \$content);
  
      $r->content_type('text/plain');
      $r->print($status ? "ACK" : "NACK");
      return Apache2::Const::OK;
  }
  
  sub send_email {
      my ($rh_headers, $r_body) = @_;
  
      require MIME::Lite;
      MIME::Lite->send("smtp", SMTP_HOSTNAME, Timeout => 60);
  
      my $msg = MIME::Lite->new(%$rh_headers, Data => $$r_body);
      #warn $msg->as_string;
      $msg->send;
  }
  
  use APR::Brigade ();
  use APR::Bucket ();
  
  use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(MODE_READBYTES);
  use APR::Const    -compile => qw(SUCCESS BLOCK_READ);
  
  use constant IOBUFSIZE => 8192;
  
  sub content {
      my $r = shift;
  
      my $bb = APR::Brigade->new($r->pool, $r->connection->bucket_alloc);
  
      my $data = '';
      my $seen_eos = 0;
      do {
          $r->input_filters->get_brigade($bb, 
                          Apache2::Const::MODE_READBYTES,
              APR::Const::BLOCK_READ, IOBUFSIZE);
  
          for (my $b = $bb->first; $b; $b = $bb->next($b)) {
              if ($b->is_eos) {
                  $seen_eos++;
                  last;
              }
  
              if ($b->read(my $buf)) {
                  $data .= $buf;
              }
  
              $b->remove; # optimization to reuse memory
          }
      } while (!$seen_eos);
  
      $bb->destroy;
  
      return $data;
  }
  
  1;

Let's get the less interesting code out of the way. The function content() grabs the request body. The function send_email() sends the email over SMTP. You should adjust the constant SMTP_HOSTNAME to point to your outgoing SMTP server. You can replace this function with your own if you prefer to use a different method to send email.

Now to the more interesting functions. The function handler() returns immediately and passes the control to the next handler if the request method is not equal to EMAIL (set in the METHOD constant):

      return Apache2::Const::DECLINED unless $r->method eq METHOD;

Next it tells Apache that this new method is a valid one and that the perl-script handler will do the processing.

      $r->server->method_register(METHOD);
      $r->handler("perl-script");

Finally it pushes the function send_email_handler() to the PerlResponseHandler list of handlers:

      $r->push_handlers(PerlResponseHandler => \&send_email_handler);

The function terminates the header_parser phase by:

      return Apache2::Const::OK;

All other phases run as usual, so you can reuse any HTTP protocol hooks, such as authentication and fixup phases.

When the response phase starts send_email_handler() is invoked, assuming that no other response handlers were inserted before it. The response handler consists of three parts. Retrieve the email headers To, From and Subject, and the body of the message:

      my %headers = map {$_ => $r->headers_in->get($_)} 
            qw(To From Subject);
      my $content = $r->content;

Then send the email:

      my $status = send_email(\%headers, \$content);

Finally return to the client a simple response acknowledging that email has been sent and finish the response phase by returning Apache2::Const::OK:

      $r->content_type('text/plain');
      $r->print($status ? "ACK" : "NACK");
      return Apache2::Const::OK;

Of course you will want to add extra validations if you want to use this code in production. This is just a proof of concept implementation.

As already mentioned when you extend an HTTP protocol you need to have a client that knows how to use the extension. So here is a simple client that uses LWP::UserAgent to issue an EMAIL method request over HTTP protocol:

  #file:send_http_email.pl
  #-----------------------
  #!/usr/bin/perl
  
  use strict;
  use warnings;
  
  require LWP::UserAgent;
  
  my $url = "http://localhost:8000/email/";
  
  my %headers = (
      From    => 'example@example.com',
      To      => 'example@example.com',
      Subject => '3 weeks in Tibet',
  );
  
  my $content = <<EOI;
  I didn't have an email software,
  but could use HTTP so I'm sending it over HTTP
  EOI
  
  my $headers = HTTP::Headers->new(%headers);
  my $req = HTTP::Request->new("EMAIL", $url, $headers, $content);
  my $res = LWP::UserAgent->new->request($req);
  print $res->is_success ? $res->content : "failed";

most of the code is just a custom data. The code that does something consists of four lines at the very end. Create HTTP::Headers and HTTP::Request object. Issue the request and get the response. Finally print the response's content if it was successful or just "failed" if not.

Now save the client code in the file send_http_email.pl, adjust the To field, make the file executable and execute it, after you have restarted the server. You should receive an email shortly to the address set in the To field.

PerlInitHandler

When configured inside any container directive, except <VirtualHost>, this handler is an alias for PerlHeaderParserHandler described earlier. Otherwise it acts as an alias for PerlPostReadRequestHandler described earlier.

It is the first handler to be invoked when serving a request.

This phase is of type RUN_ALL.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

The best example here would be to use Apache2::Reload which takes the benefit of this directive. Usually Apache2::Reload is configured as:

  PerlInitHandler Apache2::Reload
  PerlSetVar ReloadAll Off
  PerlSetVar ReloadModules "MyApache2::*"

which during the current HTTP request will monitor and reload all MyApache2::* modules that have been modified since the last HTTP request. However if we move the global configuration into a <Location> container:

  <Location /devel>
      PerlInitHandler Apache2::Reload
      PerlSetVar ReloadAll Off
      PerlSetVar ReloadModules "MyApache2::*"
      SetHandler perl-script
      PerlResponseHandler ModPerl::Registry
      Options +ExecCGI
  </Location>

Apache2::Reload will reload the modified modules, only when a request to the /devel namespace is issued, because PerlInitHandler plays the role of PerlHeaderParserHandler here.

PerlAccessHandler

The access_checker phase is the first of three handlers that are involved in what's known as AAA: Authentication, Authorization, and Access control.

This phase can be used to restrict access from a certain IP address, time of the day or any other rule not connected to the user's identity.

This phase is of type RUN_ALL.

The handler's configuration scope is DIR.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

The concept behind access checker handler is very simple, return Apache2::Const::FORBIDDEN if the access is not allowed, otherwise return Apache2::Const::OK.

The following example handler denies requests made from IPs on the blacklist.

  #file:MyApache2/BlockByIP.pm
  #--------------------------
  package MyApache2::BlockByIP;
  
  use strict;
  use warnings;
  
  use Apache2::RequestRec ();
  use Apache2::Connection ();
  
  use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(FORBIDDEN OK);
  
  my %bad_ips = map {$_ => 1} qw(127.0.0.1 10.0.0.4);
  
  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
  
      return exists $bad_ips{$r->connection->remote_ip}
          ? Apache2::Const::FORBIDDEN
          : Apache2::Const::OK;
  }
  
  1;

The handler retrieves the connection's IP address, looks it up in the hash of blacklisted IPs and forbids the access if found. If the IP is not blacklisted, the handler returns control to the next access checker handler, which may still block the access based on a different rule.

To enable the handler simply add it to the container that needs to be protected. For example to protect an access to the registry scripts executed from the base location /perl add:

  <Location /perl/>
      SetHandler perl-script
      PerlResponseHandler ModPerl::Registry
      PerlAccessHandler MyApache2::BlockByIP
      Options +ExecCGI
  </Location>

It's important to notice that PerlAccessHandler can be configured for any subsection of the site, no matter whether it's served by a mod_perl response handler or not. For example to run the handler from our example for all requests to the server simply add to httpd.conf:

  <Location />
      PerlAccessHandler MyApache2::BlockByIP
  </Location>

PerlAuthenHandler

The check_user_id (authen) phase is called whenever the requested file or directory is password protected. This, in turn, requires that the directory be associated with AuthName, AuthType and at least one require directive.

This phase is usually used to verify a user's identification credentials. If the credentials are verified to be correct, the handler should return Apache2::Const::OK. Otherwise the handler returns Apache2::Const::HTTP_UNAUTHORIZED to indicate that the user has not authenticated successfully. When Apache sends the HTTP header with this code, the browser will normally pop up a dialog box that prompts the user for login information.

This phase is of type RUN_FIRST.

The handler's configuration scope is DIR.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

The following handler authenticates users by asking for a username and a password and lets them in only if the length of a string made from the supplied username and password and a single space equals to the secret length, specified by the constant SECRET_LENGTH.

  #file:MyApache2/SecretLengthAuth.pm
  #---------------------------------
  package MyApache2::SecretLengthAuth;
  
  use strict;
  use warnings;
  
  use Apache2::Access ();
  use Apache2::RequestUtil ();
  
  use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(OK DECLINED HTTP_UNAUTHORIZED);
  
  use constant SECRET_LENGTH => 14;
  
  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
  
      my ($status, $password) = $r->get_basic_auth_pw;
      return $status unless $status == Apache2::Const::OK;
  
      return Apache2::Const::OK 
          if SECRET_LENGTH == length join " ", $r->user, $password;
  
      $r->note_basic_auth_failure;
      return Apache2::Const::HTTP_UNAUTHORIZED;
  }
  
  1;

First the handler retrieves the status of the authentication and the password in plain text. The status will be set to Apache2::Const::OK only when the user has supplied the username and the password credentials. If the status is different, we just let Apache handle this situation for us, which will usually challenge the client so it'll supply the credentials.

Note that get_basic_auth_pw() does a few things behind the scenes, which are important to understand if you plan on implementing your own authentication mechanism that does not use get_basic_auth_pw(). First, is checks the value of the configured AuthType for the request, making sure it is Basic. Then it makes sure that the Authorization (or Proxy-Authorization) header is formatted for Basic authentication. Finally, after isolating the user and password from the header, it populates the ap_auth_type slot in the request record with Basic. For the first and last parts of this process, mod_perl offers an API. $r->auth_type returns the configured authentication type for the current request - whatever was set via the AuthType configuration directive. $r->ap_auth_type populates the ap_auth_type slot in the request record, which should be done after it has been confirmed that the request is indeed using Basic authentication. (Note: $r->ap_auth_type was $r->connection->auth_type in the mod_perl 1.0 API.)

Once we know that we have the username and the password supplied by the client, we can proceed with the authentication. Our authentication algorithm is unusual. Instead of validating the username/password pair against a password file, we simply check that the string built from these two items plus a single space is SECRET_LENGTH long (14 in our example). So for example the pair mod_perl/rules authenticates correctly, whereas secret/password does not, because the latter pair will make a string of 15 characters. Of course this is not a strong authentication scheme and you shouldn't use it for serious things, but it's fun to play with. Most authentication validations simply verify the username/password against a database of valid pairs, usually this requires the password to be encrypted first, since storing passwords in clear is a bad idea.

Finally if our authentication fails the handler calls note_basic_auth_failure() and returns Apache2::Const::HTTP_UNAUTHORIZED, which sets the proper HTTP response headers that tell the client that its user that the authentication has failed and the credentials should be supplied again.

It's not enough to enable this handler for the authentication to work. You have to tell Apache what authentication scheme to use (Basic or Digest), which is specified by the AuthType directive, and you should also supply the AuthName -- the authentication realm, which is really just a string that the client usually uses as a title in the pop-up box, where the username and the password are inserted. Finally the Require directive is needed to specify which usernames are allowed to authenticate. If you set it to valid-user any username will do.

Here is the whole configuration section that requires users to authenticate before they are allowed to run the registry scripts from /perl/:

  <Location /perl/>
      SetHandler perl-script
      PerlResponseHandler ModPerl::Registry
      PerlAuthenHandler MyApache2::SecretLengthAuth
      Options +ExecCGI
  
      AuthType Basic
      AuthName "The Gate"
      Require valid-user
  </Location>

Just like PerlAccessHandler and other mod_perl handlers, PerlAuthenHandler can be configured for any subsection of the site, no matter whether it's served by a mod_perl response handler or not. For example to use the authentication handler from the last example for any requests to the site, simply use:

  <Location />
      PerlAuthenHandler MyApache2::SecretLengthAuth
      AuthType Basic
      AuthName "The Gate"
      Require valid-user
  </Location>

PerlAuthzHandler

The auth_checker (authz) phase is used for authorization control. This phase requires a successful authentication from the previous phase, because a username is needed in order to decide whether a user is authorized to access the requested resource.

As this phase is tightly connected to the authentication phase, the handlers registered for this phase are only called when the requested resource is password protected, similar to the auth phase. The handler is expected to return Apache2::Const::DECLINED to defer the decision, Apache2::Const::OK to indicate its acceptance of the user's authorization, or Apache2::Const::HTTP_UNAUTHORIZED to indicate that the user is not authorized to access the requested document.

This phase is of type RUN_FIRST.

The handler's configuration scope is DIR.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

Here is the MyApache2::SecretResourceAuthz handler which grants access to certain resources only to certain users who have already properly authenticated:

  #file:MyApache2/SecretResourceAuthz.pm
  #------------------------------------
  package MyApache2::SecretResourceAuthz;
  
  use strict;
  use warnings;
  
  use Apache2::Access ();
  use Apache2::RequestUtil ();
  
  use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(OK HTTP_UNAUTHORIZED);
  
  my %protected = (
      'admin'  => ['stas'],
      'report' => [qw(stas boss)],
  );
  
  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
  
      my $user = $r->user;
      if ($user) {
          my ($section) = $r->uri =~ m|^/company/(\w+)/|;
          if (defined $section && exists $protected{$section}) {
              my $users = $protected{$section};
              return Apache2::Const::OK if grep { $_ eq $user } @$users;
          }
          else {
              return Apache2::Const::OK;
          }
      }
  
      $r->note_basic_auth_failure;
      return Apache2::Const::HTTP_UNAUTHORIZED;
  }
  
  1;

This authorization handler is very similar to the authentication handler from the previous section. Here we rely on the previous phase to get users authenticated, and now as we have the username we can make decisions whether to let the user access the resource it has asked for or not. In our example we have a simple hash which maps which users are allowed to access what resources. So for example anything under /company/admin/ can be accessed only by the user stas, /company/report/ can be accessed by users stas and boss, whereas any other resources under /company/ can be accessed by everybody who has reached so far. If for some reason we don't get the username, we or the user is not authorized to access the resource the handler does the same thing as it does when the authentication fails, i.e, calls:

      $r->note_basic_auth_failure;
      return Apache2::Const::HTTP_UNAUTHORIZED;

The configuration is similar to the one in the previous section, this time we just add the PerlAuthzHandler setting. The rest doesn't change.

  Alias /company/ /home/httpd/httpd-2.0/perl/
  <Location /company/>
      SetHandler perl-script
      PerlResponseHandler ModPerl::Registry
      PerlAuthenHandler MyApache2::SecretLengthAuth
      PerlAuthzHandler  MyApache2::SecretResourceAuthz
      Options +ExecCGI
  
      AuthType Basic
      AuthName "The Secret Gate"
      Require valid-user
  </Location>

And if you want to run the authentication and authorization for the whole site, simply add:

  <Location />
      PerlAuthenHandler MyApache2::SecretLengthAuth
      PerlAuthzHandler  MyApache2::SecretResourceAuthz
      AuthType Basic
      AuthName "The Secret Gate"
      Require valid-user
  </Location>

PerlTypeHandler

The type_checker phase is used to set the response MIME type (Content-type) and sometimes other bits of document type information like the document language.

For example mod_autoindex, which performs automatic directory indexing, uses this phase to map the filename extensions to the corresponding icons which will be later used in the listing of files.

Of course later phases may override the mime type set in this phase.

This phase is of type RUN_FIRST.

The handler's configuration scope is DIR.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

The most important thing to remember when overriding the default type_checker handler, which is usually the mod_mime handler, is that you have to set the handler that will take care of the response phase and the response callback function or the code won't work. mod_mime does that based on SetHandler and AddHandler directives, and file extensions. So if you want the content handler to be run by mod_perl, set either:

  $r->handler('perl-script');
  $r->set_handlers(PerlResponseHandler => \&handler);

or:

  $r->handler('modperl');
  $r->set_handlers(PerlResponseHandler => \&handler);

depending on which type of response handler is wanted.

Writing a PerlTypeHandler handler which sets the content-type value and returns Apache2::Const::DECLINED so that the default handler will do the rest of the work, is not a good idea, because mod_mime will probably override this and other settings.

Therefore it's the easiest to leave this stage alone and do any desired settings in the fixups phase.

PerlFixupHandler

The fixups phase is happening just before the content handling phase. It gives the last chance to do things before the response is generated. For example in this phase mod_env populates the environment with variables configured with SetEnv and PassEnv directives.

This phase is of type RUN_ALL.

The handler's configuration scope is DIR.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

The following fixup handler example tells Apache at run time which handler and callback should be used to process the request based on the file extension of the request's URI.

  #file:MyApache2/FileExtDispatch.pm
  #--------------------------------
  package MyApache2::FileExtDispatch;
  
  use strict;
  use warnings;
  
  use Apache2::RequestIO ();
  use Apache2::RequestRec ();
  use Apache2::RequestUtil ();
  
  use Apache2::Const -compile => 'OK';
  
  use constant HANDLER  => 0;
  use constant CALLBACK => 1;
  
  my %exts = (
      cgi => ['perl-script',     \&cgi_handler],
      pl  => ['modperl',         \&pl_handler ],
      tt  => ['perl-script',     \&tt_handler ],
      txt => ['default-handler', undef        ],
  );
  
  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
  
      my ($ext) = $r->uri =~ /\.(\w+)$/;
      $ext = 'txt' unless defined $ext and exists $exts{$ext};
  
      $r->handler($exts{$ext}->[HANDLER]);
  
      if (defined $exts{$ext}->[CALLBACK]) {
          $r->set_handlers(PerlResponseHandler => $exts{$ext}->[CALLBACK]);
      }
  
      return Apache2::Const::OK;
  }
  
  sub cgi_handler { content_handler($_[0], 'cgi') }
  sub pl_handler  { content_handler($_[0], 'pl')  }
  sub tt_handler  { content_handler($_[0], 'tt')  }
  
  sub content_handler {
      my ($r, $type) = @_;
  
      $r->content_type('text/plain');
      $r->print("A handler of type '$type' was called");
  
      return Apache2::Const::OK;
  }
  
  1;

In the example we have used the following mapping.

  my %exts = (
      cgi => ['perl-script',     \&cgi_handler],
      pl  => ['modperl',         \&pl_handler ],
      tt  => ['perl-script',     \&tt_handler ],
      txt => ['default-handler', undef        ],
  );

So that .cgi requests will be handled by the perl-script handler and the cgi_handler() callback, .pl requests by modperl and pl_handler(), .tt (template toolkit) by perl-script and the tt_handler(), finally .txt request by the default-handler handler, which requires no callback.

Moreover the handler assumes that if the request's URI has no file extension or it does, but it's not in its mapping, the default-handler will be used, as if the txt extension was used.

After doing the mapping, the handler assigns the handler:

      $r->handler($exts{$ext}->[HANDLER]);

and the callback if needed:

      if (defined $exts{$ext}->[CALLBACK]) {
          $r->set_handlers(
                          PerlResponseHandler => $exts{$ext}->[CALLBACK]);
      }

In this simple example the callback functions don't do much but calling the same content handler which simply prints the name of the extension if handled by mod_perl, otherwise Apache will serve the other files using the default handler. In real world you will use callbacks to real content handlers that do real things.

Here is how this handler is configured:

  Alias /dispatch/ /home/httpd/httpd-2.0/htdocs/
  <Location /dispatch/>
      PerlFixupHandler MyApache2::FileExtDispatch
  </Location>

Notice that there is no need to specify anything, but the fixup handler. It applies the rest of the settings dynamically at run-time.

PerlResponseHandler

The handler (response) phase is used for generating the response. This is arguably the most important phase and most of the existing Apache modules do most of their work at this phase.

This is the only phase that requires two directives under mod_perl. For example:

  <Location /perl>
     SetHandler perl-script
     PerlResponseHandler MyApache2::WorldDomination
  </Location>

SetHandler set to perl-script or modperl tells Apache that mod_perl is going to handle the response generation. PerlResponseHandler tells mod_perl which callback is going to do the job.

This phase is of type RUN_FIRST.

The handler's configuration scope is DIR.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

Most of the Apache:: modules on CPAN are dealing with this phase. In fact most of the developers spend the majority of their time working on handlers that generate response content.

Let's write a simple response handler, that just generates some content. This time let's do something more interesting than printing "Hello world". Let's write a handler that prints itself:

  #file:MyApache2/Deparse.pm
  #------------------------
  package MyApache2::Deparse;
  
  use strict;
  use warnings;
  
  use Apache2::RequestRec ();
  use Apache2::RequestIO ();
  use B::Deparse ();
  
  use Apache2::Const -compile => 'OK';
  
  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
  
      $r->content_type('text/plain');
      $r->print('sub handler ', B::Deparse->new->coderef2text(\&handler));
  
      return Apache2::Const::OK;
  }
  1;

To enable this handler add to httpd.conf:

  <Location /deparse>
      SetHandler modperl
      PerlResponseHandler MyApache2::Deparse
  </Location>

Now when the server is restarted and we issue a request to http://localhost/deparse we get the following response:

  sub handler {
      package MyApache2::Deparse;
      use warnings;
      use strict 'refs';
      my $r = shift @_;
      $r->content_type('text/plain');
      $r->print('sub handler ', 'B::Deparse'->new->coderef2text(\&handler));
      return 0;
  }

If you compare it to the source code, it's pretty much the same code. B::Deparse is fun to play with!

PerlLogHandler

The log_transaction phase happens no matter how the previous phases have ended up. If one of the earlier phases has aborted a request, e.g., failed authentication or 404 (file not found) errors, the rest of the phases up to and including the response phases are skipped. But this phase is always executed.

By this phase all the information about the request and the response is known, therefore the logging handlers usually record this information in various ways (e.g., logging to a flat file or a database).

This phase is of type RUN_ALL.

The handler's configuration scope is DIR.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

Imagine a situation where you have to log requests into individual files, one per user. Assuming that all requests start with /~username/, so it's easy to categorize requests by the username. Here is the log handler that does that:

  #file:MyApache2/LogPerUser.pm
  #---------------------------
  package MyApache2::LogPerUser;
  
  use strict;
  use warnings;
  
  use Apache2::RequestRec ();
  use Apache2::Connection ();
  
  use Fcntl qw(:flock);
  use File::Spec::Functions qw(catfile);
  
  use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(OK DECLINED);
  
  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
  
      my ($username) = $r->uri =~ m|^/~([^/]+)|;
      return Apache2::Const::DECLINED unless defined $username;
  
      my $entry = sprintf qq(%s [%s] "%s" %d %d\n),
          $r->connection->remote_ip, scalar(localtime),
          $r->uri, $r->status, $r->bytes_sent;
  
      my $log_path = catfile Apache2::ServerUtil::server_root,
          "logs", "$username.log";
      open my $fh, ">>$log_path" or die "can't open $log_path: $!";
      flock $fh, LOCK_EX;
      print $fh $entry;
      close $fh;
  
      return Apache2::Const::OK;
  }
  1;

First the handler tries to figure out what username the request is issued for, if it fails to match the URI, it simply returns Apache2::Const::DECLINED, letting other log handlers to do the logging. Though it could return Apache2::Const::OK since all other log handlers will be run anyway.

Next it builds the log entry, similar to the default access_log entry. It's comprised of remote IP, the current time, the uri, the return status and how many bytes were sent to the client as a response body.

Finally the handler appends this entry to the log file for the user the request was issued for. Usually it's safe to append short strings to the file without being afraid of messing up the file, when two files attempt to write at the same time, but just to be on the safe side the handler exclusively locks the file before performing the writing.

To configure the handler simply enable the module with the PerlLogHandler directive, for the desired URI namespace (starting with : /~ in our example):

  <LocationMatch "^/~">
      SetHandler perl-script
      PerlResponseHandler ModPerl::Registry
      PerlLogHandler MyApache2::LogPerUser
      Options +ExecCGI
  </LocationMatch>

After restarting the server and issuing requests to the following URIs:

  http://localhost/~stas/test.pl
  http://localhost/~eric/test.pl
  http://localhost/~stas/date.pl

The MyApache2::LogPerUser handler will append to logs/stas.log:

  127.0.0.1 [Sat Aug 31 01:50:38 2002] "/~stas/test.pl" 200 8
  127.0.0.1 [Sat Aug 31 01:50:40 2002] "/~stas/date.pl" 200 44

and to logs/eric.log:

  127.0.0.1 [Sat Aug 31 01:50:39 2002] "/~eric/test.pl" 200 8

It's important to notice that PerlLogHandler can be configured for any subsection of the site, no matter whether it's served by a mod_perl response handler or not. For example to run the handler from our example for all requests to the server, simply add to httpd.conf:

  <Location />
      PerlLogHandler MyApache2::LogPerUser
  </Location>

Since the PerlLogHandler phase is of type RUN_ALL, all other logging handlers will be called as well.

PerlCleanupHandler

There is no cleanup Apache phase, it exists only inside mod_perl. It is used to execute some code immediately after the request has been served (the client went away) and before the request object is destroyed.

There are several usages for this use phase. The obvious one is to run a cleanup code, for example removing temporarily created files. The less obvious is to use this phase instead of PerlLogHandler if the logging operation is time consuming. This approach allows to free the client as soon as the response is sent.

This phase is of type RUN_ALL.

The handler's configuration scope is DIR.

Arguments

See the HTTP Request Handler Skeleton for a description of handler arguments.

Return

See Stacked Handlers for a description of handler return codes.

Examples

There are two ways to register and run cleanup handlers:

1 Using the PerlCleanupHandler phase
  PerlCleanupHandler MyApache2::Cleanup

or:

  $r->push_handlers(PerlCleanupHandler => \&cleanup);

This method is identical to all other handlers.

In this technique the cleanup() callback accepts $r as its only argument.

2 Using cleanup_register() acting on the request object's pool

Since a request object pool is destroyed at the end of each request, we can use cleanup_register to register a cleanup callback which will be executed just before the pool is destroyed. For example:

    $r->pool->cleanup_register(\&cleanup, $arg);

The important difference from using the PerlCleanupHandler handler, is that here you can pass an optional arbitrary argument to the callback function, and no $r argument is passed by default. Therefore if you need to pass any data other than $r you may want to use this technique.

Here is an example where the cleanup handler is used to delete a temporary file. The response handler is running ls -l and stores the output in temporary file, which is then used by $r->sendfile to send the file's contents. We use push_handlers() to push PerlCleanupHandler to unlink the file at the end of the request.

  #file:MyApache2/Cleanup1.pm
  #-------------------------
  package MyApache2::Cleanup1;
  
  use strict;
  use warnings FATAL => 'all';
  
  use File::Spec::Functions qw(catfile);
  
  use Apache2::RequestRec ();
  use Apache2::RequestIO ();
  use Apache2::RequestUtil ();
  
  use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(OK DECLINED);
  use APR::Const    -compile => 'SUCCESS';
  
  my $file = catfile "/tmp", "data";
  
  sub handler {
      my $r = shift;
  
      $r->content_type('text/plain');
  
      local @ENV{qw(PATH BASH_ENV)};
      qx(/bin/ls -l > $file);
  
      my $status = $r->sendfile($file);
      die "sendfile has failed" unless $status == APR::Const::SUCCESS;
  
      $r->push_handlers(PerlCleanupHandler => \&cleanup);
  
      return Apache2::Const::OK;
  }
  
  sub cleanup {
      my $r = shift;
  
      die "Can't find file: $file" unless -e $file;
      unlink $file or die "failed to unlink $file";
  
      return Apache2::Const::OK;
  }
  1;

Next we add the following configuration:

  <Location /cleanup1>
      SetHandler modperl
      PerlResponseHandler MyApache2::Cleanup1
  </Location>

Now when a request to /cleanup1 is made, the contents of the current directory will be printed and once the request is over the temporary file is deleted.

This response handler has a problem of running in a multi-process environment, since it uses the same file, and several processes may try to read/write/delete that file at the same time, wrecking havoc. We could have appended the process id $$ to the file's name, but remember that mod_perl 2.0 code may run in the threaded environment, meaning that there will be many threads running in the same process and the $$ trick won't work any longer. Therefore one really has to use this code to create unique, but predictable, file names across threads and processes:

  sub unique_id {
      require Apache2::MPM;
      require APR::OS;
      return Apache2::MPM->is_threaded
          ? "$$." . ${ APR::OS::current_thread_id() }
          : $$;
  }

In the threaded environment it will return a string containing the process ID, followed by a thread ID. In the non-threaded environment only the process ID will be returned. However since it gives us a predictable string, they may still be a non-satisfactory solution. Therefore we need to use a random string. We can either either Perl's rand, some CPAN module or the APR's APR::UUID:

 sub unique_id {
  require APR::UUID;
  return APR::UUID->new->format;
 }

Now the problem is how do we tell the cleanup handler what file should be cleaned up? We could have stored it in the $r->notes table in the response handler and then retrieve it in the cleanup handler. However there is a better way - as mentioned earlier, we can register a callback for request pool cleanup, and when using this method we can pass an arbitrary argument to it. Therefore in our case we choose to pass the file name, based on random string. Here is a better version of the response and cleanup handlers, that uses this technique:

 #file:  MyApache2/Cleanup2.pm
 #-------------------------
 package MyApache2::Cleanup2;
  
 use strict;
 use warnings FATAL => 'all';
  
 use File::Spec::Functions qw(catfile);
  
 use Apache2::RequestRec ();
 use Apache2::RequestIO ();
 use Apache2::RequestUtil ();
 use APR::UUID ();
 use APR::Pool ();
  
 use Apache2::Const -compile => qw(OK DECLINED);
 use APR::Const    -compile => 'SUCCESS';
  
 my $file_base = catfile "/tmp", "data-";
  
 sub handler {
         my $r = shift;
  
     $r->content_type('text/plain');
     my $file = $file_base . APR::UUID->new->format;
  
     local @ENV{qw(PATH BASH_ENV)};
     qx(/bin/ls -l > $file);
  
     my $status = $r->sendfile($file);
     die "sendfile has failed" unless $status == APR::Const::SUCCESS;
  
     $r->pool->cleanup_register(\&cleanup, $file);
  
     return Apache2::Const::OK;
 }
  
 sub cleanup {
     my $file = shift;
  
     die "Can't find file: $file" unless -e $file;
     unlink $file or die "failed to unlink $file";
  
     return Apache2::Const::OK;
 }
 1;

Similarly to the first handler, we add the configuration:

 <Location /cleanup2>
     SetHandler modperl
     PerlResponseHandler MyApache2::Cleanup2
 </Location>

And now when requesting /cleanup2 we still get the same output -- the listing of the current directory -- but this time this code will work correctly in the multi-processes/multi-threaded environment and temporary files get cleaned up as well.

Possible Caveats

PerlCleanupHandler may fail to be completed on server shutdown/graceful restart since Apache will kill the registered handlers via SIGTERM, before they had a chance to run or even in the middle of its execution. See: http://marc.theaimsgroup.com/?t=106387845200003&r=1&w=2 http://marc.theaimsgroup.com/?l=apache-modperl-dev&m=106427616108596&w=2

Miscellaneous Issues ^

Handling HEAD Requests

In order to avoid the overhead of sending the data to the client when the request is of type HEAD in mod_perl 1.0 we used to return early from the handler:

 return Apache2::Const::OK if $r->header_only;

This logic should not be used in mod_perl 2.0, because Apache 2.0 automatically discards the response body for HEAD requests. It expects the full body to generate the correct set of response headers, if you don't send the body you may encounter problems.

(You can also read the comment in for ap_http_header_filter() in modules/http/http_protocol.c in the Apache 2.0 source.)

Content-Length Response Header

You may encounter some issues with the C-L (Content-Length) header. Some of them are discussed here.

Misc Notes ^

These items will need to be extended and integrated in this or other HTTP related documents:

Extending HTTP Protocol ^

Extending HTTP under mod_perl is a trivial task. Look at the example of adding a new method EMAIL for details.

HTTP Status Codes ^

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application-level protocol for distributed, collaborative, hypermedia information systems. It is a generic, stateless, protocol which can be used for many tasks beyond its use for hypertext, such as name servers and distributed object management systems, through extension of its request methods, error codes and headers. A feature of HTTP is the typing and negotiation of data representation, allowing systems to be built independently of the data being transferred.

HTTP 1.0 is described in Requests For Comments (RFC) 1945. HTTP 1.1 is the latest version of the specifications and as of this writing HTTP 1.1 is covered in RFC 2616.

When writing mod_perl applications, usually only a small subset of HTTP response codes is used, but sometimes you need to know others as well. We will give a short description of each code and you will find the extended explanation in the appropriate RFC. (Section 9 in RFC 1945 and section 10 in RFC 2616). You can always find the latest link to these RFCs at the Web Consortium site, http://www.w3.org/Protocols/.

While HTTP 1.1 is widely supported, HTTP 1.0 still remains the mainstream standard. Therefore we will supply a summary of the both versions including the corresponding Apache constants.

In mod_perl these constants can be accessed the Apache::Constants package (e.g., to access the HTTP_OK constant use Apache::Constants::HTTP_OK). See the Apache::Constants manpage for more information.

In mod_perl2 these constants can be accessed the Apache2::Const package (e.g., to access the HTTP_OK constant use Apache2::Const::HTTP_OK). See the Apache2::Const manpage for more information.

HTTP 1.0 Status Codes

HTTP 1.1 Status Codes

References

All the information related to web protocols can be found at the World Wide Web Consortium site, http://www.w3.org/Protocols/.

There are many mirrors of the RFCs all around the world. One of the good starting points might be http://www.rfc-editor.org/.

The Eagle Book provided much of the HTTP constants material shown here http://www.modperl.com/book/chapters/ch9.html#The_Apache_Constants_Class

Maintainers ^

Maintainer is the person(s) you should contact with updates, corrections and patches.

Authors ^

Only the major authors are listed above. For contributors see the Changes file.

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