2011 twenty-four merry days of Perl Feed

Keeping the Packages Neatly Wrapped Up

local::lib - 2011-12-01

Who the heck installed WWW::AdventCalendar on the server?

Imagine this not-exactly-hypothetical conversation:

  <Alice> Who the heck installed WWW::AdventCalendar on the server?
  <Bob>   I did.  Why?
  <Alice> We're trying to set up a new server just like it, and we found
          this installed, and it wants all kinds of crazy prerequisites.
          Why on Earth do we need this in production?
  <Bob>   Oh, we don't.  I just wanted to play around with it.
  <Alice> ...so you installed it globally?
  <Bob>   Well, how else was I going to play with it?

Now, I'm not going to defend Bob here, and say that he was just trying to use a really cool program, or that he is a really decent coworker who only made this mistake a couple times and other times comes in right on schedule and doesn't make waves, or that he probably deserves some time off and a desk that isn't right under the air conditioning vent. None of that would be relevant.

I'm just going to say that sometimes it seems a lot easier to just globally install some stupid library to play with it than to do something else. After all, what's the alternative?

Well, you can download the tarball, extract it, and so on, something like:



$ curl http://cpan.metacpan.org/authors/id/R/RJ/RJBS/WWW-AdventCalendar-1.102.tar.gz
$ tar zxvf WWW-AdventCalendar-1.102.tar.gz
$ cd WWW-AdventCalendar
$ perl Makefile.PL
[ ... ]
$ make
$ perl -I lib -MWWW::AdventCalendar -e '...'


Yes. You can do that, but there are two problems. First off, it's already much, much more annoying than just:



$ cpanm WWW::AdventCalendar
$ perl -MWWW::AdventCalendar -e '...'


Secondly, it won't work, anyway, because the [ ... ] in my snippet above would include things like missing prerequisites. Lots of them.

Well, you could get each one in turn, and end up with a dozen -I options on your oneliner. But that won't work either, because some of them will be XS libraries, so they'll have compiled C code, so you'll need to use -Mblib, and who ever gets that working right across a bunch of paths?

So, cpanm it is, right?

Yes, actually!

Look, Ma, no sudo!

Of course, if you tried to use cpanm as it stands, it will probably complain that you don't have write permissions to @INC, so you can't properly install the library globally. You can re-run as cpanm -S, and you'll be prompted to authenticate for sudo. Now everything installs nicely! See, this is how Bob gets himself in trouble. He just wants things to work nicely. Is that so wrong?

Well, yes, probably. Bob just needs to know how to make things work nicely without putting crap in /usr/local/lib/perl.

Actually, if you tried running cpanm without telling it to authenticate to install globally, you would've gotten this somewhat overwhelming message, which you should not bother reading here:

  ! Can't write to /usr/pkg/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.8.0 and /usr/pkg/lib/perl5/site_perl/bin:
  ! Installing modules to /export/home/rjbs/perl5
  ! To turn off this warning, you have to do one of the following:
  !   - run me as a root or with --sudo option
  !     (to install to /usr/pkg/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.8.0 and /usr/pkg/lib/perl5/site_perl/bin)
  !   - run me with --local-lib option e.g. cpanm --local-lib=~/perl5
  !   - Set PERL_CPANM_OPT="--local-lib=~/perl5" environment variable (in your shell rc file)
  !   - Configure local::lib in your shell to set PERL_MM_OPT etc.

Did you read it by accident? Sorry. Instead, just finish reading this article.

What you really want to do is to get all the convenience of having a CPAN client install a module, including all its prereqs, with one simple command, into a compartment you can throw away when you're done. This is exactly what local::lib is for.



$ eval `perl -Mlocal::lib=~/local/advcal`
$ cpanm WWW::AdventCalendar
[ ... ]
38 distributions installed


local::lib adds a new set of directories to your Perl environment. With a local::lib in place, stuff installed from the CPAN will go into the local::lib, affecting your current shell, but nothing else. It's actually much better than just learning how blib works, because it will also update your $PATH so that programs installed by the libraries will work, too. When you're done, you can remove the directory and log out of the shell, and everything will be back to normal.

You could also leave the directory around. Most of the time, it would just sit there doing nothing, but if you wanted to play around with the code in it later, you could use the same local::lib invocation later to get that set of directories back in action.

If you're really lazy, like me, you could write a little shell function to make it even easier to turn on a local::lib:


ll () { eval `perl -Mlocal::lib=$1` }

How does it work?

There is a lot of tricky handling of edge cases and special horrible things inside local::lib, but for the most part it does something very simple. If we get rid of the shell eval, you can see:



~$ perl -Mlocal::lib=~/local/whatever
Attempting to create directory /Users/rjbs/local/whatever
export PERL_LOCAL_LIB_ROOT="/Users/rjbs/local/whatever";
export PERL_MB_OPT="--install_base /Users/rjbs/local/whatever";
export PERL_MM_OPT="INSTALL_BASE=/Users/rjbs/local/whatever";
export PERL5LIB="/Users/rjbs/local/whatever/lib/perl5/darwin:/Users/rjbs/local/whatever/lib/perl5";
export PATH="/Users/rjbs/local/whatever/bin:$PATH";


After ensuring that directory exists (and possibly mentioning, on STDOUT, that it had to be created), local::lib prints out a bunch of lines that, if executed in your shell, will set up environment variables that put the directory into play. It decides just what to print based on the shell you're using, so csh users will see setenv instead of export, and so on.

For example, the MM_OPT environment variable tells ExtUtils::MakeMaker to install inside the compartment. MB_OPT passes the same information to Module::Build. PERL5LIB acts like a use lib statement at the top of any Perl code you run.

You can have multiple local::lib compartments active at once:

  ~$ ll local/already-there
  Attempting to create directory /Users/rjbs/local/already-there

  ~$ ll local/second-lib
  Attempting to create directory /Users/rjbs/local/second-lib

  ~$ perl -Mlocal::lib=local/three
  Attempting to create directory /Users/rjbs/local/three
  export PERL_LOCAL_LIB_ROOT="$PERL_LOCAL_LIB_ROOT:/Users/rjbs/local/three";
  export PERL_MB_OPT="--install_base /Users/rjbs/local/three";
  export PERL_MM_OPT="INSTALL_BASE=/Users/rjbs/local/three";
  export PERL5LIB="/Users/rjbs/local/three/lib/perl5/darwin-2level:
  export PATH="/Users/rjbs/local/three/bin:$PATH";

The most recently-added compartment is the installation target, but things in the first two will still be there.

  ~$ echo $PATH

If you want to take one compartment out of use, that's easy, too:

  ~$ perl -Mlocal::lib=--deactivate,local/second-lib
  export PERL_LOCAL_LIB_ROOT="/Users/rjbs/local/already-there:/Users/rjbs/local/three";
  export PATH="/Users/rjbs/local/three/bin:/Users/rjbs/local/already-there/bin:/Users/rjbs/bin:
  export PERL5LIB="/Users/rjbs/local/three/lib/perl5/darwin-2level:

Of course, 99% of the time, I bet you'll just want the same case I want: ll to start using a local::lib and logging out to stop.

local::lib – the diagnostics

If you're like me, you're often thwarted by the overly-clever formatting done by some version of GNU's man-reading toolchain. It will turn "" into “” and other such things. This is particularly bad when it turns program -X into program –X – if you didn't notice, that second one uses an emdash instead of a hyphen.

To deal with people copying and pasting from man pages to the shell and having this problem, local::lib has one of my favorite error handling blocks that I've yet seen:



if ($arg =~ /−/) {
  die <<'DEATH';
WHOA THERE! It looks like you've got some fancy dashes in your commandline!
These are *not* the traditional -- dashes that software recognizes. You
probably got these by copy-pasting from the perldoc for this module as
rendered by a UTF8-capable formatter. This most typically happens on an OS X
terminal, but can happen elsewhere too. Please try again after replacing the
dashes with normal minus signs.


See Also

Gravatar Image This article contributed by: Ricardo Signes <rjbs@cpan.org>