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Perl Cookbook by Nathan Torkington, Tom Christiansen

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Updating a Random-Access File

Problem

You want to read in an old record from a binary file, change its values, and write back the record.

Solution

After reading the old record, pack up the updated values, seek to the previous address, and write it back.

use Fcntl;                          # for SEEK_SET and SEEK_CUR

$ADDRESS = $RECSIZE * $RECNO;
seek(FH, $ADDRESS, SEEK_SET)        or die "Seeking: $!";
read(FH, $BUFFER, $RECSIZE) == $RECSIZE
                                    or die "Reading: $!";
@FIELDS = unpack($FORMAT, $BUFFER);
# update fields, then
$BUFFER = pack($FORMAT, @FIELDS);
seek(FH, -$RECSIZE, SEEK_CUR)       or die "Seeking: $!";
print FH $BUFFER;
close FH                            or die "Closing: $!";

Discussion

You don’t have to use anything fancier than print in Perl to output a record. Remember that the opposite of read is not write but print, although oddly enough, the opposite of sysread actually is syswrite. (split and join are opposites, but there’s no speak to match listen, no resurrect for kill, and no curse for bless.)

The example program shown in Example 8.4, weekearly , takes one argument: the user whose record you want to backdate by a week. (Of course, in practice, you wouldn’t really want to (nor be able to!) mess with the system accounting files.) This program requires write access to the file to be updated, since it opens the file in update mode. After fetching and altering the record, it packs it up again, skips backwards in the file one record, and writes it out.

Example 8-4. weekearly

#!/usr/bin/perl
# weekearly -- set someone's login date back ...

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