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File Access
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7.21. Program: netlock

When locking files, we recommend that you use flock when possible. However, on some systems, flock's locking strategy is not reliable. For example, the person who built Perl on your system configured flock to use a version of file locking that didn't even try to work over the Net, or you're on the increasingly rare system where no flock emulation exists at all.

The following program and module provide a basic implementation of a file locking mechanism. Unlike a normal flock, with this module you lock file names, not file descriptors.

Thus, you can use it to lock directories, domain sockets, and other non-regular files. You can even lock files that don't exist yet. It uses a directory created at the same level in the directory structure as the locked file, so you must be able to write to the enclosing directory of the file you wish to lock. A sentinel file within the lock directory contains the owner of the lock. This is also useful with Recipe 7.8, because you can lock the filename even though the file that has that name changes.

The nflock function takes one or two arguments. The first is the pathname to lock; the second is the optional amount of time to wait for the lock. The function returns true if the lock is granted, false if the timeout expired, and raises an exception should various improbable events occur, like being unable to write the directory.

Set the $File::LockDir::Debug variable to true to make the module emit messages if it stalls waiting for a lock. If you forget to free a lock and try to exit the program, the module will remove them for you. This won't happen if your program is sent a signal it doesn't trap.

Example 7.9 shows a driver program to demonstrate the File::LockDir module.

Example 7.9: drivelock

#!/usr/bin/perl -w
# drivelock - demo File::LockDir module
use strict;
use File::LockDir;
$SIG{INT} = sub { die "outta here\n" };
$File::LockDir::Debug = 1;
my $path = shift                            or die "usage: $0 <path>\n";
unless (nflock($path, 2)) {
    die "couldn't lock $path in 2 seconds\n";
sleep 100;

The module itself is shown in Example 7.10. For more on building your own modules, see Chapter 12, Packages, Libraries, and Modules.

Example 7.10: File::LockDir

package File::LockDir;
# module to provide very basic filename-level
# locks.  No fancy systems calls.  In theory,
# directory info is sync'd over NFS.  Not
# stress tested.

use strict;

use Exporter;
use vars qw(@ISA @EXPORT);
@ISA      = qw(Exporter);
@EXPORT   = qw(nflock nunflock);

use vars qw($Debug $Check);
$Debug  ||= 0;  # may be predefined
$Check  ||= 5;  # may be predefined

use Cwd;
use Fcntl;
use Sys::Hostname;
use File::Basename;
use File::stat;
use Carp;

my %Locked_Files = ();

# usage: nflock(FILE; NAPTILL)
sub nflock($;$) {
    my $pathname = shift;
    my $naptime  = shift || 0;
    my $lockname = name2lock($pathname);
    my $whosegot = "$lockname/owner";
    my $start    = time();
    my $missed   = 0;
    local *OWNER;

    # if locking what I've already locked, return
    if ($Locked_Files{$pathname}) {
        carp "$pathname already locked";
        return 1

    if (!-w dirname($pathname)) {
        croak "can't write to directory of $pathname";

    while (1) {
        last if mkdir($lockname, 0777);
        confess "can't get $lockname: $!" if $missed++ > 10
                        && !-d $lockname;
        if ($Debug) {{
            open(OWNER, "< $whosegot") || last; # exit "if"!
            my $lockee = <OWNER>;
            printf STDERR "%s $0\[$$]: lock on %s held by %s\n",
                scalar(localtime), $pathname, $lockee;
            close OWNER;
        sleep $Check;
        return if $naptime && time > $start+$naptime;
    sysopen(OWNER, $whosegot, O_WRONLY|O_CREAT|O_EXCL)
                            or croak "can't create $whosegot: $!";
    printf OWNER "$0\[$$] on %s since %s\n",
            hostname(), scalar(localtime);
        or croak "close $whosegot: $!";
    return 1;

# free the locked file
sub nunflock($) {
    my $pathname = shift;
    my $lockname = name2lock($pathname);
    my $whosegot = "$lockname/owner";
    carp "releasing lock on $lockname" if $Debug;
    delete $Locked_Files{$pathname};
    return rmdir($lockname);

# helper function
sub name2lock($) {
    my $pathname = shift;
    my $dir  = dirname($pathname);
    my $file = basename($pathname);
    $dir = getcwd() if $dir eq '.';
    my $lockname = "$dir/$file.LOCKDIR";
    return $lockname;

# anything forgotten?
    for my $pathname (keys %Locked_Files) {
        my $lockname = name2lock($pathname);
        my $whosegot = "$lockname/owner";
        carp "releasing forgotten $lockname";
        return rmdir($lockname);


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