ActiveState Perl DBI::ODBC Unicode Error

Using Perl on Windows I’m probably out begging for problems. Using 32-bit Perl on 64-bit Windows I probably deserve it. Reality however does have some needs that go above theoretical best practices.

Recently I ran into a problem with DBI::ODBC that I newly installed with Perl 5.16 on Windows Server 2008 (64 bit). Since Perl for ISAPI only works in 32 bit mode with IIS I naturally ran the 32 bit version of Perl.

All Perl-scripts where moved from our old 32-bit Perl 5.10 Windows Server 2003. They all worked great with one major exception: DBI::ODBC. We kept getting an unexpected encoding (unicode) from all our calls done by ODBC. Fortunately for us someone else had allready run into this problem.

It turns out that as of DBI::ODBC version 1.29 there was added support for unicode that “broke” expected response if one where not using unicode. After some digging into the problem with suggestions to rebuild DBI::ODBC (that I don’t even know how to do on Windows under ActiveState Perl) or encode/decode every variable I finally found what I thought was the easiest solution.

After each connection established with DBI::ODBC driver I added the flag “odbc_old_unicode” and set it to true. This makes all the subsequent calls act as they did before unicode support was added!

$dbh->{'odbc_old_unicode'} = 1;

Now I just need to find every occurence where a connection is established with ODBC in my Perl scripts… which reminds me that I am on a Windows platform and don’t have access to the “grep” command!

Note: after some digging (since I do not want to install any third party software on the servers) I found the FINDSTR command which was quite handy!

2013 – my wish list

Things I wish for (professionally) in 2013:

  • HTML5 comes to your tablet, smartphone, desktop, TV and preferably also toaster and refrigirator – HTML5 is allready in most of those devices, I just hope people will stop using the argument that HTML5 is not versatile or fast enough for most applications.
  • SEO where content is king – when link schemes and other black hat methods become secondary to creating great content.
  • Apple, Google, Samsung, Oracle and the rest… PLEASE STOP THE PATENT WARS!
  • Android invading the game console market – I really don’t know what to expect of this other than that an open source alternative in the console market seems like a good idea (see: Ouya, Game Stick and most recently Shield). This also brings console programming one step closer to my line of work.
  • Facebook doesn’t turn evil and sell my life to the highest bidder – I must believe this or I couldn’t keep using Facebook. I try and fool myself for another year.
  • Perl … please come back! (OK, Perl never left, but it could benefit from more popularity in my opinion)

Perl on Apache2 / Ubuntu 8.04.1 JeOS

Perl acctually works “out of the box” in Apache 2 installed on Ubuntu 8.04 JeOS. I found much confusion on this subject while browsing the Internet so I thought I’d post a simple HOWTO to get the first script running.

First you need a Ubuntu 8.04.1 JeOS server with a LAMP installation, see my previous guide on how to make one.

The first thing that can be confusing is where to find the right configuration files for Apache, while not needed for this guide I thought I’d post the current version for this guide here. A good overview of all distributions / versions can be found over at the Apaches wiki.

Debian, Ubuntu (Apache 2):

ServerRoot              ::      /etc/apache2
DocumentRoot            ::      /var/www
Apache Config Files     ::      /etc/apache2/apache2.conf
                        ::      /etc/apache2/ports.conf
Default VHost Config    ::      /etc/apache2/sites-available/default, /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default
Module Locations        ::      /etc/apache2/mods-available, /etc/apache2/mods-enabled
ErrorLog                ::      /var/log/apache2/error.log
AccessLog               ::      /var/log/apache2/access.log
cgi-bin                 ::      /usr/lib/cgi-bin
binaries (apachectl)    ::      /usr/sbin
start/stop              ::      /etc/init.d/apache2 (start|stop|restart|reload|force-reload|start-htcacheclean|stop-htcacheclean)

Now as I said, Perl is allready working so we just have to find it in our system! As since in the chart above the cgi-bin is located in /usr/lib/cgi-bin. Here we want to put a Perl Hello World script.

sudo nano /usr/lib/cgi-bin/

In the script I type the following very standard Hello World script:

#!/usr/bin/perl -w
print “Content-type: text/plainnnHello World!n”

We need to make it executable so we chmod it:

sudo chmod 755 /usr/lib/cgi-bin/

To make sure it’s working a good tip is to try it at the command line first to check for any spelling errors (especially in the header, errors there will lead to a 500 internal server error response).

perl /usr/lib/cgi-bin/

If it runs and returns the content-type line, two new lines and a hello world then we’re set! Browse to the IP of the server, in my case it’s so I enter:

Hello World!