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Undenting Strings

Andrew L Johnson

One extremely nice feature about Ruby is that here-doc terminators may be indented (if the terminator specification begins with a hyphen). This means it is not necessary to either put here-docs at the left margin, or to quote some hardcoded amount of whitespace in the terminator specification (as in Perl). Here-docs can make nice easy templates for simple code generation — but what about whitespace sensitivity of the generated code (such as RDoc markup)?

The following is a simple regex to strip common leading spaces from a multi-line string (added as a method to the String class in this example):

  class String
    def undent
      a = $1 if match(/\A(\s+)(.*\n)(?:\1.*\n)*\z/)
    alias :dedent :undent

And now, if you have some method that returns a here-doc, you can simply dedent it:

  class SomeTemplate
    def some_meth(foo,bar)
        * #{foo} list item
          * sublist with #{bar} item

  x =
  puts x.some_meth('first', 'second')


  * first list item
    * sublist with second item

Not rocket science, but I find it handy to have a dedent method lying around for just such uses.

Deep Cloning

Andrew L. Johnson

One problem with both Ruby’s #dup and #clone methods is that they only provide shallow copying. That suffices for many purposes, but sometimes you want deeper copying. A pretty standard method for deep copying Ruby objects is to use the Marshal module’s #load and #dump methods:

    class Object
      def deep_clone

As long the object in question is serializable and doesn’t have singleton methods installed, that works. The following is a very bare-bones first cut at another deep clone method:

    class Object
      def dclone
        case self
          when Fixnum,Bignum,Float,NilClass,FalseClass,
            klone = self
          when Hash
            klone = self.clone
            self.each{|k,v| klone[k] = v.dclone}
          when Array
            klone = self.clone
            self.each{|v| klone << v.dclone}
            klone = self.clone
        klone.instance_variables.each {|v|

Singleton methods are handled by #clone, and attributes are recursively #dclone‘d (as are elements of Arrays and Hashes).

Welcome to

Andrew L. Johnson

Welcome to is the public face of Siaris: Andrew Johnson’s software development, training, writing, and consulting activities. Utilizing a common weblog format, I will publish short and medium length articles on a variety of topics including: general programming and problem solving, object oriented programming, programming languages, teaching, and communication. Longer writings will be available under the Articles link in the navigation bar. is not my personal blog (I may add one of those eventually), but a way to gather and make available both my older writings, and to add new articles. With that in mind, I’ve already converted 50 (of 89) short Perl articles (orignally published by ItWorld). Some writings are less suitable for blog publication for a variety of reasons — the Articles link in the navigation bar connect you other writings (a smallish regex tutorial for some of Perl’s additional RE features, and a link to the regex chapter of my book for starters).

Within the blog, the News category will relate information about various goings on at The LanguageBits category will hold interesting bits on various languages (including how-to’s and small code examples). I expect to be adding other categories as this site evolves.

There is no feedback mechanism for articles at this time, but I am considering setting up either a comment forum or a wiki for such a purpose — possibly requiring login to discourage comment/content spamming. In the meantime, comments about this site, or any particular article can be sent directly to me via email ( I hope you find this site useful and enjoy visiting from time to time.

  Best regards,
  Andrew L Johnson

The Map

Once I would go
to the edge of the map.
To the empty,

To where there be dragons
and perils unknown.
One could fall off
edges of

Now would I go
to the edge of the map.
To the swirling

Forever uncharted
to those left behind.
One could fall off
edges of

  — Andrew L. Johnson (1985)

About Siaris

Andrew L. Johnson

SiarisSimplicity, Clarity, and Vision — a little more of what the world needs today.

Complexity is the prodigy of the world. Simplicity is the sensation of the universe. Behind complexity, there is always simplicity to be revealed. Inside simplicity, there is always complexity to be discovered.   — Gang Yu is the public face of Siaris: Andrew Johnson’s programming, training, writing, and consulting activities. In keeping with the motto of simplicity, primary content is served in typical weblog fashion — simple to publish new articles and information, and simple for readers to browse, search, and subscribe. The focus is on content.


Siaris provides software development, training, and consulting to developers, businesses, and individuals.

Software Development: 15+ years experience
Utilizing languages such as: C, Perl, Ruby, and Python (and others) in cross-platform web, database, and networking application domains.
Teaching: 8+ years experience
Including: introductory programming, introductory and advanced Perl, and undergraduate human osteology and anthropology labs.
Technical Writing:
Elements of Programming with Perl (Manning Publications: 2000)
Over 80 Perl Newsletter articles for ItWorld.
A handful of articles for the Linux Journal and Linux Gazette.

Contact Siaris      Siaris
                            263 Knightsbridge Drive
                            Winnipeg, MB   R2M 4K5
Other Perl Resources

Andrew L. Johnson (First published by 2001 10 25)

ItWorld is discontinuing the Perl newsletter, so this is my farewell article. That being the case, I decided to try to leave you with a few tidbits of wisdom and suggestions of where else to turn for help.

The first place to turn for help is perl itself — running perl with the -w switch and ‘use strict’ enabled will help you catch many little bugs, typos, and questionable practices.

    #!/usr/bin/perl -w
    use strict;

If you know your program will be used only with Perl-5.6 and later version you can use the ‘warnings’ pragma to turn on warnings instead of the -w switch (this pragma allows more control over warnings, see the ‘perllexwarn’ manpage for further information):

    use strict;
    use warnings;

The perl distribution also comes with copious amounts of documentation that you can read via a browser (if the docs are installed in .html format), the unix ‘man’ utility, or the supplied ‘perldoc’ utility. The 3 major pages (documents) you should be familiar with are:

    perldoc perl     --> the intro perl documentation
    perldoc perlfaq  --> many frequently asked questions (and answers)
    perldoc perlfunc --> documentation on builtin functions

There are quite a few mailing lists you can participate in at various levels (including lists for beginners, module authors, specific modules or distributions, and even a ‘fun with perl’ list). Information can be found at:

The ‘use Perl’ site publishes news and informative tidbits (along with other features), also publishes articles on various themes and at various levels, and The Perl Journal (now part of SysAdmin magazine) is a very good print publication:

Join or start your own local chapter of a ‘Perl Mongers’ group by checking out this site:

And, lastly, the Perl Monks site is a web forum for questions, answers, tutorials, and discussions on Perl related topics (there are quite a few very knowledgeable individuals there):

And, last but certainly not least, do not forget about CPAN (comprehensive perl archive network) — there are loads and loads of free modules there that you should not ignore. Everything from dealing with CSV files to networking to graphics manipulation (and a whole lot more) can be found therein. A few CPAN entry points:

I have very much enjoyed writing these (80+) weekly articles, and I appreciate the numerous comments and suggestions I have received from many of you (even if I didn’t get around to writing on all of the suggested topics). Thank you and I wish you all the best of luck with your Perl programming and perhaps I’ll run into some of you in the future.

            Best regards,