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PERLFILTER(1)	       Perl Programmers Reference Guide 	 PERLFILTER(1)

       perlfilter - Source Filters

       This article is about a little-known feature of Perl called source fil
       ters. Source filters alter the program text of a module before Perl
       sees it, much as a C preprocessor alters the source text of a C program
       before the compiler sees it. This article tells you more about what
       source filters are, how they work, and how to write your own.

       The original purpose of source filters was to let you encrypt your pro
       gram source to prevent casual piracy. This isnt all they can do, as
       youll soon learn. But first, the basics.

       Before the Perl interpreter can execute a Perl script, it must first
       read it from a file into memory for parsing and compilation. If that
       script itself includes other scripts with a "use" or "require" state
       ment, then each of those scripts will have to be read from their
       respective files as well.

       Now think of each logical connection between the Perl parser and an
       individual file as a source stream. A source stream is created when the
       Perl parser opens a file, it continues to exist as the source code is
       read into memory, and it is destroyed when Perl is finished parsing the
       file. If the parser encounters a "require" or "use" statement in a
       source stream, a new and distinct stream is created just for that file.

       The diagram below represents a single source stream, with the flow of
       source from a Perl script file on the left into the Perl parser on the
       right. This is how Perl normally operates.

	   file -------> parser

       There are two important points to remember:

       1.   Although there can be any number of source streams in existence at
	    any given time, only one will be active.

       2.   Every source stream is associated with only one file.

       A source filter is a special kind of Perl module that intercepts and
       modifies a source stream before it reaches the parser. A source filter
       changes our diagram like this:

	   file ----> filter ----> parser

       If that doesnt make much sense, consider the analogy of a command
       pipeline. Say you have a shell script stored in the compressed file
       trial.gz. The simple pipeline command below runs the script without
       needing to create a temporary file to hold the uncompressed file.

	   gunzip -c trial.gz | sh

       In this case, the data flow from the pipeline can be represented as

	   trial.gz ----> gunzip ----> sh

       With source filters, you can store the text of your script compressed
       and use a source filter to uncompress it for Perls parser:

	    compressed		 gunzip
	   Perl program ---> source filter ---> parser

       So how do you use a source filter in a Perl script? Above, I said that
       a source filter is just a special kind of module. Like all Perl mod
       ules, a source filter is invoked with a use statement.

       Say you want to pass your Perl source through the C preprocessor before
       execution. You could use the existing "-P" command line option to do
       this, but as it happens, the source filters distribution comes with a C
       preprocessor filter module called Filter::cpp. Lets use that instead.

       Below is an example program, "cpp_test", which makes use of this fil
       ter.  Line numbers have been added to allow specific lines to be refer
       enced easily.

	   1: use Filter::cpp;
	   2: #define TRUE 1
	   3: $a = TRUE;
	   4: print "a = $a\n";

       When you execute this script, Perl creates a source stream for the
       file. Before the parser processes any of the lines from the file, the
       source stream looks like this:

	   cpp_test ---------> parser

       Line 1, "use Filter::cpp", includes and installs the "cpp" filter mod
       ule. All source filters work this way. The use statement is compiled
       and executed at compile time, before any more of the file is read, and
       it attaches the cpp filter to the source stream behind the scenes. Now
       the data flow looks like this:

	   cpp_test ----> cpp filter ----> parser

       As the parser reads the second and subsequent lines from the source
       stream, it feeds those lines through the "cpp" source filter before
       processing them. The "cpp" filter simply passes each line through the
       real C preprocessor. The output from the C preprocessor is then
       inserted back into the source stream by the filter.

			 .-> cpp --.
			 |	   |
			 |	   |
			 |	 <-
	  cpp_test ----> cpp filter ----> parser

       The parser then sees the following code:

	   use Filter::cpp;
	   $a = 1;
	   print "a = $a\n";

       Lets consider what happens when the filtered code includes another
       module with use:

	   1: use Filter::cpp;
	   2: #define TRUE 1
	   3: use Fred;
	   4: $a = TRUE;
	   5: print "a = $a\n";

       The "cpp" filter does not apply to the text of the Fred module, only to
       the text of the file that used it ("cpp_test"). Although the use state
       ment on line 3 will pass through the cpp filter, the module that gets
       included ("Fred") will not. The source streams look like this after
       line 3 has been parsed and before line 4 is parsed:

	   cpp_test ---> cpp filter ---> parser (INACTIVE)

	   Fred.pm ----> parser

       As you can see, a new stream has been created for reading the source
       from "Fred.pm". This stream will remain active until all of "Fred.pm"
       has been parsed. The source stream for "cpp_test" will still exist, but
       is inactive. Once the parser has finished reading Fred.pm, the source
       stream associated with it will be destroyed. The source stream for
       "cpp_test" then becomes active again and the parser reads line 4 and
       subsequent lines from "cpp_test".

       You can use more than one source filter on a single file. Similarly,
       you can reuse the same filter in as many files as you like.

       For example, if you have a uuencoded and compressed source file, it is
       possible to stack a uudecode filter and an uncompression filter like

	   use Filter::uudecode; use Filter::uncompress;

       Once the first line has been processed, the flow will look like this:

	   file ---> uudecode ---> uncompress ---> parser
		      filter	     filter

       Data flows through filters in the same order they appear in the source
       file. The uudecode filter appeared before the uncompress filter, so the
       source file will be uudecoded before its uncompressed.

       There are three ways to write your own source filter. You can write it
       in C, use an external program as a filter, or write the filter in Perl.
       I wont cover the first two in any great detail, so Ill get them out
       of the way first. Writing the filter in Perl is most convenient, so
       Ill devote the most space to it.

       The first of the three available techniques is to write the filter com
       pletely in C. The external module you create interfaces directly with
       the source filter hooks provided by Perl.

       The advantage of this technique is that you have complete control over
       the implementation of your filter. The big disadvantage is the
       increased complexity required to write the filter - not only do you
       need to understand the source filter hooks, but you also need a reason
       able knowledge of Perl guts. One of the few times it is worth going to
       this trouble is when writing a source scrambler. The "decrypt" filter
       (which unscrambles the source before Perl parses it) included with the
       source filter distribution is an example of a C source filter (see
       Decryption Filters, below).

       Decryption Filters
	    All decryption filters work on the principle of "security through
	    obscurity." Regardless of how well you write a decryption filter
	    and how strong your encryption algorithm, anyone determined enough
	    can retrieve the original source code. The reason is quite simple
	    - once the decryption filter has decrypted the source back to its
	    original form, fragments of it will be stored in the computers
	    memory as Perl parses it. The source might only be in memory for a
	    short period of time, but anyone possessing a debugger, skill, and
	    lots of patience can eventually reconstruct your program.

	    That said, there are a number of steps that can be taken to make
	    life difficult for the potential cracker. The most important:
	    Write your decryption filter in C and statically link the decryp
	    tion module into the Perl binary. For further tips to make life
	    difficult for the potential cracker, see the file decrypt.pm in
	    the source filters module.

       An alternative to writing the filter in C is to create a separate exe
       cutable in the language of your choice. The separate executable reads
       from standard input, does whatever processing is necessary, and writes
       the filtered data to standard output. "Filter:cpp" is an example of a
       source filter implemented as a separate executable - the executable is
       the C preprocessor bundled with your C compiler.

       The source filter distribution includes two modules that simplify this
       task: "Filter::exec" and "Filter::sh". Both allow you to run any exter
       nal executable. Both use a coprocess to control the flow of data into
       and out of the external executable. (For details on coprocesses, see
       Stephens, W.R. "Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment."  Addi
       son-Wesley, ISBN 0-210-56317-7, pages 441-445.) The difference between
       them is that "Filter::exec" spawns the external command directly, while
       "Filter::sh" spawns a shell to execute the external command. (Unix uses
       the Bourne shell; NT uses the cmd shell.) Spawning a shell allows you
       to make use of the shell metacharacters and redirection facilities.

       Here is an example script that uses "Filter::sh":

	   use Filter::sh tr XYZ PQR;
	   $a = 1;
	   print "XYZ a = $a\n";

       The output youll get when the script is executed:

	   PQR a = 1

       Writing a source filter as a separate executable works fine, but a
       small performance penalty is incurred. For example, if you execute the
       small example above, a separate subprocess will be created to run the
       Unix "tr" command. Each use of the filter requires its own subprocess.
       If creating subprocesses is expensive on your system, you might want to
       consider one of the other options for creating source filters.

       The easiest and most portable option available for creating your own
       source filter is to write it completely in Perl. To distinguish this
       from the previous two techniques, Ill call it a Perl source filter.

       To help understand how to write a Perl source filter we need an example
       to study. Here is a complete source filter that performs rot13 decod
       ing. (Rot13 is a very simple encryption scheme used in Usenet postings
       to hide the contents of offensive posts. It moves every letter forward
       thirteen places, so that A becomes N, B becomes O, and Z becomes M.)

	  package Rot13;

	  use Filter::Util::Call;

	  sub import {
	     my ($type) = @_;
	     my ($ref) = [];
	     filter_add(bless $ref);

	  sub filter {
	     my ($self) = @_;
	     my ($status);

		if ($status = filter_read()) > 0;


       All Perl source filters are implemented as Perl classes and have the
       same basic structure as the example above.

       First, we include the "Filter::Util::Call" module, which exports a num
       ber of functions into your filters namespace. The filter shown above
       uses two of these functions, "filter_add()" and "filter_read()".

       Next, we create the filter object and associate it with the source
       stream by defining the "import" function. If you know Perl well enough,
       you know that "import" is called automatically every time a module is
       included with a use statement. This makes "import" the ideal place to
       both create and install a filter object.

       In the example filter, the object ($ref) is blessed just like any other
       Perl object. Our example uses an anonymous array, but this isnt a
       requirement. Because this example doesnt need to store any context
       information, we could have used a scalar or hash reference just as
       well. The next section demonstrates context data.

       The association between the filter object and the source stream is made
       with the "filter_add()" function. This takes a filter object as a
       parameter ($ref in this case) and installs it in the source stream.

       Finally, there is the code that actually does the filtering. For this
       type of Perl source filter, all the filtering is done in a method
       called "filter()". (It is also possible to write a Perl source filter
       using a closure. See the "Filter::Util::Call" manual page for more
       details.) Its called every time the Perl parser needs another line of
       source to process. The "filter()" method, in turn, reads lines from the
       source stream using the "filter_read()" function.

       If a line was available from the source stream, "filter_read()" returns
       a status value greater than zero and appends the line to $_.  A status
       value of zero indicates end-of-file, less than zero means an error. The
       filter function itself is expected to return its status in the same
       way, and put the filtered line it wants written to the source stream in
       $_. The use of $_ accounts for the brevity of most Perl source filters.

       In order to make use of the rot13 filter we need some way of encoding
       the source file in rot13 format. The script below, "mkrot13", does just

	   die "usage mkrot13 filename\n" unless @ARGV;
	   my $in = $ARGV[0];
	   my $out = "$in.tmp";
	   open(IN, "<$in") or die "Cannot open file $in: $!\n";
	   open(OUT, ">$out") or die "Cannot open file $out: $!\n";

	   print OUT "use Rot13;\n";
	   while () {
	      print OUT;

	   close IN;
	   close OUT;
	   unlink $in;
	   rename $out, $in;

       If we encrypt this with "mkrot13":

	   print " hello fred \n";

       the result will be this:

	   use Rot13;
	   cevag "uryyb serq\a";

       Running it produces this output:

	   hello fred

       The rot13 example was a trivial example. Heres another demonstration
       that shows off a few more features.

       Say you wanted to include a lot of debugging code in your Perl script
       during development, but you didnt want it available in the released
       product. Source filters offer a solution. In order to keep the example
       simple, lets say you wanted the debugging output to be controlled by
       an environment variable, "DEBUG". Debugging code is enabled if the
       variable exists, otherwise it is disabled.

       Two special marker lines will bracket debugging code, like this:

	   if ($year > 1999) {
	      warn "Debug: millennium bug in year $year\n";
	   ## DEBUG_END

       When the "DEBUG" environment variable exists, the filter ensures that
       Perl parses only the code between the "DEBUG_BEGIN" and "DEBUG_END"
       markers. That means that when "DEBUG" does exist, the code above should
       be passed through the filter unchanged. The marker lines can also be
       passed through as-is, because the Perl parser will see them as comment
       lines. When "DEBUG" isnt set, we need a way to disable the debug code.
       A simple way to achieve that is to convert the lines between the two
       markers into comments:

	   #if ($year > 1999) {
	   #	 warn "Debug: millennium bug in year $year\n";
	   ## DEBUG_END

       Here is the complete Debug filter:

	   package Debug;

	   use strict;
	   use warnings;
	   use Filter::Util::Call;

	   use constant TRUE => 1;
	   use constant FALSE => 0;

	   sub import {
	      my ($type) = @_;
	      my (%context) = (
		Enabled => defined $ENV{DEBUG},
		InTraceBlock => FALSE,
		Filename => (caller)[1],
		LineNo => 0,
		LastBegin => 0,
	      filter_add(bless \%context);

	   sub Die {
	      my ($self) = shift;
	      my ($message) = shift;
	      my ($line_no) = shift || $self->{LastBegin};
	      die "$message at $self->{Filename} line $line_no.\n"

	   sub filter {
	      my ($self) = @_;
	      my ($status);
	      $status = filter_read();
	      ++ $self->{LineNo};

	      # deal with EOF/error first
	      if ($status <= 0) {
		  $self->Die("DEBUG_BEGIN has no DEBUG_END")
		      if $self->{InTraceBlock};
		  return $status;

	      if ($self->{InTraceBlock}) {
		 if (/^\s*##\s*DEBUG_BEGIN/ ) {
		     $self->Die("Nested DEBUG_BEGIN", $self->{LineNo})
		 } elsif (/^\s*##\s*DEBUG_END/) {
		     $self->{InTraceBlock} = FALSE;

		 # comment out the debug lines when the filter is disabled
		 s/^/#/ if ! $self->{Enabled};
	      } elsif ( /^\s*##\s*DEBUG_BEGIN/ ) {
		 $self->{InTraceBlock} = TRUE;
		 $self->{LastBegin} = $self->{LineNo};
	      } elsif ( /^\s*##\s*DEBUG_END/ ) {
		 $self->Die("DEBUG_END has no DEBUG_BEGIN", $self->{LineNo});
	      return $status;


       The big difference between this filter and the previous example is the
       use of context data in the filter object. The filter object is based on
       a hash reference, and is used to keep various pieces of context infor
       mation between calls to the filter function. All but two of the hash
       fields are used for error reporting. The first of those two, Enabled,
       is used by the filter to determine whether the debugging code should be
       given to the Perl parser. The second, InTraceBlock, is true when the
       filter has encountered a "DEBUG_BEGIN" line, but has not yet encoun
       tered the following "DEBUG_END" line.

       If you ignore all the error checking that most of the code does, the
       essence of the filter is as follows:

	   sub filter {
	      my ($self) = @_;
	      my ($status);
	      $status = filter_read();

	      # deal with EOF/error first
	      return $status if $status <= 0;
	      if ($self->{InTraceBlock}) {
		 if (/^\s*##\s*DEBUG_END/) {
		    $self->{InTraceBlock} = FALSE

		 # comment out debug lines when the filter is disabled
		 s/^/#/ if ! $self->{Enabled};
	      } elsif ( /^\s*##\s*DEBUG_BEGIN/ ) {
		 $self->{InTraceBlock} = TRUE;
	      return $status;

       Be warned: just as the C-preprocessor doesnt know C, the Debug filter
       doesnt know Perl. It can be fooled quite easily:

	   print <

       This article originally appeared in The Perl Journal #11, and is copy
       right 1998 The Perl Journal. It appears courtesy of Jon Orwant and The
       Perl Journal.  This document may be distributed under the same terms as
       Perl itself.

perl v5.8.8			  2008-04-25			 PERLFILTER(1)

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