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From Jonathan Swartz <>
Subject a better way to recognize module changes
Date Fri, 11 Sep 2009 21:26:44 GMT
I'm thinking about an improved solution to recognizing module changes  
in a running server, without restarting the server.

These are the solutions I know about:

1) Apache2::Reload / Module::Reload

These check whether modules have changed on each request, and if so,  
clear their symbols and reload them inside the process.

Problem: some modules fail to reload properly. Sometimes the failure  
is intermittent, depending on the order of module loading and other  
esoteric details. Moose and ORM modules seem particularly prone to  
reload failures. For me, this level of unpredictability makes  
*::Reload too frustrating to use.

2) Catalyst auto-restart

Catalyst has an engine (Catalyst::Engine::HTTP::Prefork::Restarter)  
which forks off a "watcher" process that waits for your modules to  
change. When they change, it restarts the server. The usual effect is  
that, between the time you hit "save" in your editor and reload your  
page, the server has restarted or at least begun restarting.

Problems: Doesn't work well if you make a few changes in a row; the  
restart only captures your first change. Bad user experience if  
there's an error in your module; you have to realize the server has  
died, find the error message in some shell or log, and manually start  
up the server again.

3) Perrin's MaxRequestsPerChild=1

Perrin recently alerted me to the MaxRequestsPerChild=1 technique.  
That is, set MaxRequestsPerChild to 1, then load any potentially- 
changing modules in the *child*, not the parent (obviously only for  
development environments). Each request will hit a fresh child server,  
which will load all of your potentially-changing modules anew.

This is the nicest solution I've seen so far. The only problem I can  
see is its performance - each potentially-changing module has to be  
loaded on each request. **

4) My idea: Combine 2 and 3

As in 3, load any potentially-changing modules in the child. Leave  
MaxRequestsPerChild alone. As in 2, fork off a "watcher" process that  
waits for your modules to change. When they change, kill all the  
server's children explicitly.

The end result is that you get reasonable performance when your  
modules don't change (e.g. when you are only futzing with templates),  
but when modules do change, you should see the effects immediately.

This should be able to work with mod_perl, fastcgi, Net::Server, etc.,  
as long as the parent server responds appropriately to the killing of  
all its children (by launching new ones). Apache, at least, seems to  
be ok with this.

What do people think? Is this worth codifying in a module, or does  
something like this already exist?

Thanks for any feedback

** - You can try to load things only on demand, but often mod_perl  
code is written without 'use' statements as it assumes everything is  
loaded in the parent. You can also try to minimize the number of  
potentially-changing modules, but then you run the risk of leaving  
something off and having to adjust it and restart.

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