This Week on p5p 2000/06/11


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Next week’s report will be late, since I will be bending space and time to attend both San Diego Usenix and YAPC. If the fabric of the universe survives my ill-advised meddling, the reports should resume the following week.

This was the quietest week I can remember. Very little seemed to happen.

Byte-Order Marks

Unicode files may begin with the special Unicode character U+FEFF. That is so that if the byte order gets reversed somehow (as with a big-endian to little-endian transformation) you can recognize that that has happened because the initial character will be U+FFFE, which is guaranteed to never be assigned.

Tim Burlowski saved a Perl program file with the UTF8 encoding under windows, and when he tried to run the script, Perl complained about the initial U+FEFF. ( Unrecognized character \xEF..., because U+FEFF encodes to "\xEF\xBB\xBF" under UTF-8.) Tim asked if Perl shouldn’t know to ignore this. Sarathy agreed, and Simon provided a patch, which also enables Perl to read a UTF-16-encoded source code file.

The patch.

Magic Auto-Decrement

Someone asked why there isn’t one. This sparked a long discussion of how it might work. (What is 'a'--? What is 'aAa00'--?)

There was a lot of idle discussion, and no patch, so probably nobody really cares.

Bug Reports

Richard Foley coughed up a lot of bug reports that had gotten lost somehow. So there was a lot of miscellaneous stuff. Some of the bug reports related to configuration errors, and some were genuine. Some attracted patches, others did not. It seemed to me that this batch of bug reoprts contained more than the usual number of weird oddities. For example:

Weird oddity.

Some of the non-oddities that remain unfixed follow. In an attempt to encourage more people to try to fix bugs, I tried here to select some bugs that seemed not too difficult to solve. So if you have ever wanted to become a Perl core hacker and you wanted a not-too-hard task to start on, the following bugs might be good things to work on.

If you are interested in trying to fix one of these, and you need help, or you don’t know how to start, please do send me email and I will try to assist you.

Core Dump I

Here is a bug that makes Perl dump core. Sarathy reduced Wolfgang Laun’s small test case to a very small test case.

Test Case.

Another Test Case.

Core Dump II

Here is another core dump, this one on an improper pseudohash reference.

Test Case.

Class::Struct objects misbehave with ->isa()

If $foo is a Class:Struct object, and you call ->isa('UNIVERSAL') on it, you get the correct answer (true) the first time, and the wrong answer (false) on subsequent calls.

Test Case.

Data::Dumper Weirdness

Victor Insogna got weird output from Data::Dumper. The test cae is very simple but it’s not entirely clear to me whether the bug is in Data::Dumper itself or if Perl is actually constructing a bizarre value.

Test Case.

Blessed coderefs never DESTROYed

Rocco Caputo reported that if you bless a coderef into a package with a destructor function, the destructor is never called, not even at program termination.

Test Case.

Code compiled incorrectly

Barrie Slaymaker reported that in 5.6.0,

        1 while ( $a = ( $b ? 1 : 0 ) )

appears to be compiled as if you had written

        '???' while defined($a = $b ? 1 : 0)

apparently as an incorrect application of the same transformation that makes

        while (readdir D) 


        while (defined(readdir D))

MacPerl Test Suite Patches

Peter Prymmer sent a big patch that attempts to make the test suite work better on Macintoshes by replacing a lot of Unix-style pathnames like '../lib' with constructions of the form ($^O eq 'MacOS') ? '::lib:' : '../lib'.

The patch.

Why / is not ignored in comments in /.../x constructions

People are often surprised that

        $string =~ m/a+
                     foo  # some comment here that mentions /

is a syntax error; the / in the ‘comment’ terminates the regex prematurely. They expected it to be ignored, since it is in a comment.

The way Perl handles /.../x is that it parses the regex as usual, and locates the terminating slash as usual, and then hands off the regex to the regex engine for parsing, with a flag saying ‘by the way, this regex was marked with the /x modifier. The regex is then parsed accordingly. But The main Perl parser is totally unaware of the meaning of /x and in particular it uses the same old logic to determine where the end of the regex is, and doesn’t realize that it is supposed to ignore the ‘comment’. In other words, the comment is a comment for the regex compiler, but not for the Perl parser.

This is well-known to many people, and I mention it here because Ben Tilly came up with a really nice example of why this problem can’t be ‘fixed’. Here it is:

        if ($foo =~ /#/) {
          # Do something
        # Time passes
        print "eg.  In DOS you would use /x instead of -x\n";

Now, where does that regex end?


A large collection of bug reports, and a small collection of bug fixes, non-bug reports, questions, answers, and spam. No flames and little discussion.

Until next week I remain, your humble and obedient servant,

Mark-Jason Dominus



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