my own templating engine

It had to happen eventually, didn’t it?

I guess I’ve written templating things before, but not many and not complicated. jGal, my lousy image gallery generator does some find-and-replace, although it inherited that from iGal. I’ve probably written template-like things elsewhere without thinking about it, too.

Now, though, I did it on purpose and even released it. I was tempted to call it Template::Sorry – it’s a sorry excuse for a templating system, and I’m sorry to inflict another one on the CPAN.

I’m not really sorry, though. It’s different than the rest, despite being similar to a few.

I needed to write it for work, to replace an existing, similar system that wasn’t quite flexible enough for what I wanted to make it do. I figured it would be pretty simple to fix in situ, but it wasn’t. I thought about what I wanted, wrote some tests, wrote some code, and felt really good about it. Then I wrote some more tess, built an adapter, put it in place, watched the tests pass, and felt even better.

I deployed it to production, feeling really good about it, and within a few minutes one of my orkers asked, “Why is $SERVER swapping like crazy?”

Well, it turns out that perl 5.6.1 just really didn’t like what I was doing. I was returning a closure with an enclosed closure. This seems perfectly reasonable to me, and did exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately, that seemed to leak memory very, very quickly. Just building and throwing away 100,000 empty macro expanders took up 125 megabytes of RAM in a few seconds. For long-running processes with non-empty expanders, this was not promising.

I sulked about it for a while, because I really didn’t want to change my implementation, which I liked. Today I relaxed, played Disgaia, and baked and distributed some (delicious) cookies with Gloria. Then, after dinner, dessert, and some DVDs, I put together a subclass that was less elegant, but didn’t leak memory on 5.6. Tests passed, memory didn’t leak, and I was ecstatic.

Fixing something broken is just a really, really good feeling. I’m glad that now and again I have the chance to experience it.

Macro::Micro is on a CPAN mirror near you! (You’ll want 0.03 if you’re running 5.6 (and if you actually have use for the little beastie).)

Written on December 11, 2005
perl   programming