mod_perl Developer's Cookbook 1st Edition
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Developers searching for solutions to specific problems can use the mod_perl Developer's Cookbook as a
collection of ready-made recipes to be understood and applied to their problems.
Developers searching for continuing mod_perl education will find the book's recipes to be enlightening, well-researched, and broadly applicable.
From the Back Cover
mod_perl is a unique piece of software that wholly integrates the power of Perl with the flexibility and stability of the Apache Web server. With mod_perl, developers can harness the power of the full Apache API and develop Web applications quickly and without sacrificing performance.
The "mod_perl Developer's Cookbook" teaches programming with the mod_perl API by example. The book takes developers from the basics of mod_perl to the development advanced Web applications. Developers will learn tricks, solutions, and mod_perl idioms gleaned from the authors' experience as developers and expert users of mod_perl.
Geoffrey Young is a frequent contributor to the mod_perl community and has written scores of mod_perl handlers, the most useful of which can be found on CPAN.
Paul Lindner manages, designs, and implements mod_perl applications at Critical Path. He is a long-time Internet and open-source developer, and was one of the founders of the Internet Gopher at the University of Minnesota.
Randy Kobes is a professor of physics at the University of Winnipeg who conducts research on chaos and fractals. He used mod_perl to establish a search engine for CPAN.
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This book uses the popular "cookbook" approach, where the content is broken down into short "recipes" each of which addresses a specific problem. There are almost two hundred of these recipes in the book arranged into chapters which discuss particular areas of mod_perl development. In my opinion the cookbook approach works much better in some chapters than in others.
It's the start of the book where the cookbook approach seems most forced. In chapter 1 problems like "You want to compile and build mod_perl from source on a Unix platform" provide slightly awkward introductions to explainations about obtaining and installing mod_perl on various platforms (kudos to the authors for being up-to-date enough to include OS X in list list). All the information you want is there however, so by the end of the chapter you'll have mod_perl up and running.
Chapter 2 looks at configuration options. It tell you how to get your CGI programs running under mod_perl using the Apache::Registry module which simulates a standard CGI environment so that your CGI programs can run almost unchanged. This will give you an immediate performance increase as you no longer have the performance hit of starting up a Perl interpreter each time one of your CGI programs is run. This chapter also addresses issues like caching database connections and using mod_perl as a proxy server.
We then get to part II of the book. In this section we look at the mod_perl API which gives us to the full functionality of Apache. This allows us to write Perl code which is executed at any time during any of the stages of Apache's processing.
Chapter 3 introduces the Apache request object which is at the heart of the API and discusses various ways to get useful information both out of and back into the object. Chapter 4 serves a similar purpose for the Apache server object which contains information about the web server and its configuration.
In chapter 5 the authors look at Uniform Resource Indentifiers (URIs) and discuss many methods for processing them. Chapter 6 moves from the logical world of URIs to the physical world of files. This chapter starts by explaining the Apache::File module before looking at many ways to handle files in mod_perl.
The previous few chapters have built up a useful toolkit of techniques to use in a mod_perl environment, in chapters 7 and 8 we start to pull those techniques together and look in more detail at creating handlers - which are the building blocks of mod_perl applications. Chapter 7 deal with the creation of handlers and chapter 8 looks at how you can interact with them to build a complete application.
Chapter 9 is one of the most useful chapters in the book as it deals with benchmarking and tuning mod_perl applications. It serves as a useful guide to a number of techniques for squeezing the last drops of performance out of your web site. Chapter 10 is a useful introduction to using Object Oriented Perl to create your handlers. Whilst the information is all good, this is, unfortunately, another chapter where the cookbook format seems a little strained.
Part III of the book goes into great detail about the Apache lifecycle. Each chapter looks at a small number of Apache's processing stages and suggests ways that handlers can be used during that stage. This is the widest ranging part of the book and it's full of example code that really demonstrates the power of the Apache API. I'll just mention one particular chapter in this section. Chapter 15 talks about the content generation phrase. This is the phase that creates the actual content that goes back to the user's browser and, as such, is the most important phase of the whole transaction. I was particularly pleased to see that the authors took up most of this chapter looking at methods that separate the actual data from the presentation. They have at recipes that look at all of the commonly used Perl templating systems and a few more recipes cover the generation of output from XML.
Finally, two appendices give a brief reference to mod_perl hooks, build flags and constants and a third gives a good selection of pointers to further resources.
This is the book that mod_perl programmers have been waiting for. The three authors are all well-known experts in the field and it's great that they have shared their knowledge through this book. If you write mod_perl applications, then you really should read this book.
The book begins by covering installation and configuration in such a way that you will avoid potential pitfalls and be able to create a custom built mod_perl enabled Apache web server with ease.
Once you've got your Apache/mod_perl web server up and running, then the authors take you on what amounts to a guided tour of just what mod_perl can do from the basics of understanding the Apache request object and all the "ins and outs" of the mod_perl API, to advanced URI manipulation, custom content creation, and tuning techniques that will make you a "mod_perl hero" among your peers.
After completing your whirlwind guided tour of the mod_perl API, then you get to take mod_perl out for a test ride. The authors explain each phase where mod_perl lets you tie into Apache from the server configuration and startup phase to stepping in at any point in the Apache request cycle.
There's alot here in the cookbook that should lead to a significant surge in effective mod_perl usage. You come away with numerous ideas on how to apply mod_perl to solve your web application needs. The examples are drawn from practical and "real-world" experience, and they don't shy away from getting down to the "nuts and bolts" of even XS programming when that's what is required to get the job done.
When you don't have it open for reference, the "mod_perl Developer's Cookbook" deserves a place on the "Must Have" section of your bookshelf.
There's much emphasis placed on optimization and tuning. Code samples are often presented with notes about performance issues. All of the mod_perl handlers and hooks are explored in detail, each has it's own section in the guide. A whole chapter is devoted to performance tuning, and there's a good discussion of OO mod_perl at the end.
Great book all around, it's definitely a help for my current mod_perl and apache programming projects.