3.1. From startup to serving content

Once Interchange is invoked, it does some basic program configuration at the top of that file. The types of available database facilities and modules are determined, and the base modules are brought in with "use" or "require". Execution by a non-root user ID is checked.

After the initial program configuration, execution goes to the main_loop() subroutine in bin/interchange. Some more initialization is done, then the command line options are parsed. Options mostly will set the program mode (i.e. start, stop, kill, test, cron, or other command line actions), but can also set Global and Catalog configuration values.

Once the options are parsed, Interchange will chdir() to the Interchange software directory (/usr/local/interchange) and run its global configuration. That means all file names passed to it during this phase are relative to that program root.

Part of global configuration is determination of the ITL tags that will be used by Interchange. By default, that is all files with appropriate extensions under the code directory. Sets of tags to be used can be set with the TagGroup and TagInclude directives.

Global configuration also includes specifying the catalogs that will be configured and loaded in the next phase. This is done via the Catalog directive. An important part of that directive is supplying the script parameter, which is used to initialize the pointer structure which will select the catalog based on the URL coming in.

After Global configuration, catalog configuration commences, via the ::config_named_catalog() routine, which calls Vend::Config::config(). Each catalog specified in the global configuration has a base directory. Interchange does a chdir() to that directory and parses the various configuration files, databases and specified command-line parameters.

After the catalog is configured, the database is opened to ensure that database table objects are initialized properly. It is then immediately closed.

The resulting Catalog configuration structure reference is then saved in $Global::Selector and $Global::SelectorAlias so that the calling URL can map to the proper catalog.

Once all configuration is done, Interchange determines the program mode. There are only two modes -- test and serve. The test mode simply exits the program at this point -- it is used to test validity of the configuration.

If the mode is serve, ::main_loop() calls Vend::Server::run_server(). Based on global configuration, one of the server modes discussed previously is initialized and Interchange starts listening on one or more sockets for a connection from a client. (This is not true for mod_perl mode -- Interchange simply exits at that point and the code is waiting for mod_perl to call it.)

While waiting for a connection, signals are disabled and handlers are set up for TERM, HUP, INT, USR1, and USR2. TERM and INT both cause the main server to exit; HUP signals Interchange to look for a reconfiguration event; and USR1 and USR2 are optionally used to keep track of how many servers are running.

NOTE: Because signals are not especially safe in Perl prior to 5.8.0, occasionally a core dump can occur on receipt of USR1 or USR2. This is especially true for BSD with its reentrant system calls. They can be disabled by setting MaxServers to 0 -- PreFork mode is strongly suggested if that is done.

Once a connection is received, the connector parameters are checked for security constraints and Vend::Server::connection() is called. It reads the input from the client and constructs the environment, %CGI::values array, and any passed entity like an HTTP POST or multipart form (for file upload). Those are stored and and object referring to them and containing the connection file handle is constructed. That object is passed to main::dispatch() for processing.

The main::dispatch() routine performs more transaction setup then determines the catalog that will process the request. It sets $Vend::Cfg to the preset configuration for that catalog, sets file permissions as appropriate, and the catalog's database is opened.

Once initialiation of the catalog configuraion is complete, user initialization begins. Interchange determines the user session ID, if any, and restores the user session from the session database or starts a new session as appropriate. Perl objects that will be used in the session are initialized or constructed, auto-login is run, and the locale is determined and set. After that, the URI path is parsed, Autoload and Filter routines are run.

Finally a transaction action is determined. The action is the first path component of the path passed to Interchange. The remainder is passed to the subroutine implementing the action, and may be used as default path information for content or for other purposes.

For example, if the catalog VendURL is /cgi-bin/foundation and the URI sent to Interchange is /cgi-bin/foundation/order/something/or/another, the action is order, and the path sent to the action routine is is something/or/another.

If the transaction action is not mapped via standard system actions defined in the variable %action, or in the ActionMap *global* or ActionMap directives, then the action path component is restored to the content path, and that page is served (order/something/or/another in the example above).

If the action is mapped, it is run. If it returns a true value, the page to be served is determined by the setting of $CGI::values::mv_nextpage. The action can produce send its own output and return a non-true value, in which case Interchange will terminate the transaction at that time.

After the action is run and/or content is served, Interchange runs AutoEnd, saves the user session, closes the catalog database, and finally main::dispatch() returns. The calling Vend::Server::connection() does some cleanup and returns to the server loop. If the server was forked for that transaction only, it sends a signal indicating it is done, cleans up PID files, and exits. If it is in the foreground or in PreFork mode, it scrubs the Vend:: and CGI:: namespaces and returns to waiting for the next connection.