Wednesday, 3 October 2007

The Beast Remade: Use your head

Now that "cat" and "rm" works, the quick hack is somewhat useful for its intended purpose. But a short practical test reveals issues. A "cat" dumps the whole mail to the console - while that works as intended, it also scrolls the top of the mail and headers far outside the scrollback buffer, if the mail is large. A "head" command soon looks desirable.

First try is the naive "print first n lines". That approach is quickly thrown out the window. Grumbling ensues about the evils of HTML email. Spam promptly materializes containing roughly fourteen long paragraphs about random body part enlargement, without a line break anywhere in sight.

I found a rather easy solution, after some thought - we run this on Linux, after all, so why not use the traditional Unix utilities:

$spam = grabmsg($mailnum);
open HEAD, "| fold | head -24";
print HEAD $spam;

No sense in reimplementing everything in Perl if you can think of something else that does the job already. There probably are twenty-five ways of doing this in pure Perl that would be more elegant, if you know of and remember them. I had two days to build this, so I grabbed the first approach I could think of that worked.

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