Help-Site Computer Manuals
  Algorithms & Data Structures   Programming Languages   Revision Control
  Cameras   Computers   Displays   Keyboards & Mice   Motherboards   Networking   Printers & Scanners   Storage
  Windows   Linux & Unix   Mac




I am a confirmed Sorcerer Linux SA ( see ). For several years now I have been steadily building up my base of Sorcerer installations ( eat your heart out Billy G. ), and have found it to be fast, lean, reliable, and down right fun to maintain. My users are happy, so I am happy.

I have been seriously using Linux for about four years now, having come from the Microsoft world. Before I started using and administrating Linux I was one of Microsoft's minions and thought if the software didn't cost a lot of money and have the funny 'window' picture on the box, it was really just for amateurs and geeks. Not so, as I and many of you have discovered.

Perl, for me, is a different story. I have been a 'serious' perl monger for almost ten years, reaching back to my Windows days. I am still more productive in perl than bash. When I started writing perl scripts to help me administer Sorcerer, I ran into the problem that the environment variables on which Sorcerer so heavily depends, are 'sourced' into the bash environment from /etc/sorcery/config. It is very hard to access them from perl. And variables that are bash arrays, good luck! Try this:

  # . /etc/sorcery/config && \

        perl -e 'print "$_ => $ENV{$_}\n" for sort keys %ENV'

Look at the result. Yep, nary a Sorcerer variable appears. Now try:

  # . /etc/sorcery/config

  # export GRIMOIRE

  # perl -e 'print "$_ => $ENV{$_}\n" for sort keys %ENV'

Yep, GRIMORE appears in the output. So I had to write bash scripts to source /etc/sorcery/config, export the variables I wanted to use, and run my perl script. That got old quickly. And I still didn't have a good way to get to bash arrays.

I have developed a solution, based on the CPAN module Env::Bash. Please take a moment to glance at the documentation before continuing.


I have written a small, more or less useless, perl script using Env::Bash with Sorcerer. The source is scripts/ in the module's distribution. The script can list the spells in the grimoire and/or display spell details:

  perl scripts/show-spell [-d] [-l] [<spell> ...]


  -d      shows internal debugging information

  -l      lists spells in the grimoire

  <spell> display details of one or more spells.

If the script is started without any arguments, spell linux is displayed.

Here is a blow-by-blow description of




  use warnings;

  use strict;

  use Env::Bash;

  use Data::Dumper;

  use Getopt::Std;


  my %opt;

  unless (getopts('dl', \%opt)) {



Pretty standard; options are handled too.

tie a HASH to the Environment

  # tie a hash to /etc/sorcery/config, no ForceArray

  my %env = ();

  tie %env, "Env::Bash", Source => "/etc/sorcery/config",

      Debug => $opt{d};

This is the easiest way to interface to Env::Bash ( there is a simple, standard interface and an oo interface which are fully discussed in the module's documentation ). The tie statement says to interface to the environment through hash %env, with the option Source ( the script or list of scripts to source ), and conditionally set internal debugging. More on ForceArray below.

Find the GRIMOIRE directory

  # find the GRIMOIRE directory

  my $grimoire = $env{GRIMOIRE} || die "cannot find GRIMOIRE\n";

This is the first real use of the module; the grimoire directory ( defined in /etc/sorcery/config ), is returned.

Perl code to list the GRIMOIRE and display spells

  # display spells in the grimoire if option -l

  if( $opt{l} ) {

      print "---spells in grimoire-------------------------\n";

      my @spells = ();

      for my $spell( <$grimoire/*> ) {

          $spell =~ s,.*/,,;

          push @spells, $spell;


      print "$_\n" for sort @spells;



  # show spells on command line, or linux if none given

  show_spell( $_ ) for @ARGV;

  show_spell( 'linux' ) unless @ARGV || $opt{l};

Just perl code.

show-spell subroutine

  sub show_spell


      my $spell = shift;


      # find the spell and DETAILS

      unless( -e "$grimoire/$spell" ) {

          warn "Spell '$spell' not found.\n";



      my $details = -d _ ? "$grimoire/$spell/DETAILS" : "$grimoire/$spell";

      unless( -e "$details" ) {

          warn "Spell '$spell' DETAILS not found.\n";




      # tie a hash to /etc/sorcery/config and DETAILS w/ForceArray

      my %env = ();

      tie %env, "Env::Bash",


      Source => [ "/etc/sorcery/config", $details ],

      Debug => $opt{d};


      print "---$spell-------------------------------------\n";

      show_detail( VERSION   => \%env );

      show_detail( CATEGORY  => \%env );

      show_detail( ATTRIBUTE => \%env );

      show_detail( SOURCE    => \%env );

      show_detail( URL       => \%env );

      show_detail( HOMEPAGE  => \%env );

      show_detail( REQ       => \%env );

      show_detail( PROTECT   => \%env );

      show_detail( ESTIMATE  => \%env );

      show_detail( DESC      => \%env );


Here we do another tie for two reasons: 1) we want to source the spell's DETAILS script as well as /etc/sorcery/config, and 2) we want to be able to access any variables that are bash arrays - like VERSION. The Source option to the tie is a list reference - that's how Env::Bash knows how to use more than one source script. To access the environment, the module constructs a mini bash script, which in this case would be something like:


  . /etc/sorcery/config;. /var/state/sorcery/grimoire/<spell>/DETAILS;set

The script is run by forking via backtics and the set output is parsed to get a list of environment names. Turn on debugging ( -d ) if you really want to see the the script.

To access bash arrays, the ForceArray option ( shortcut: [] ) is specified. The module again creates and runs a bash script that returns all elements of any bash arrays; the results are stored in the tied hash as an array reference, whether or not the variable is a bash array. Again, for the more curious, look at what's happening by turning on debugging.

Show spell details

  sub show_detail


      my( $name, $env ) = @_;


      # get the requested detail ( return is an array because the

      # the $env hash was tied with ForceArray ( [] ).

      my $values = $env->{$name};


      # print each detail

      my $eq = '=';

      for my $value( @$values ) {

          $value = join( "\n".' ' x 14, split /\n/, $value )

              if $value =~ /\n/s;

          printf "%12s%1s\"%s\"\n", $name, $eq, $value;

          $name = $eq = '';



Now we get the variable from the tied hash. As mentioned above, each hash element is an array reference ( because ForceArray was specified ). The resulting values are manipulated and printed.

usage subroutine

  sub usage


      my $progname = $0;

      $progname =~ s,.*/,,;    # only basename left in progname

      die "Usage: $progname [-d] [-l] <spell> [<spell> ...]\n";



OK, so you now have a script the demonstrates the use of Env::Bash. I admit it's slower and much harder than a few bash ls and cat commands, but that's not the point. Env::Bash has proved to open up Sorcerer to perl; I have written some perl scripts that are, in fact, useful; I will try to get them posted my my home page ( currently not available as I write this - December 2004 ) and let you know on the Sorcerer list. I hope you can find some use for Env::Bash.


Beau E. Cox, <>.


Copyright (C) 2004 by Beau E. Cox.

This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself, either Perl version 5.8.6 or, at your option, any later version of Perl 5 you may have available.