Recipe 20.8 Finding Fresh Links

20.8.1 Problem

Given a list of URLs, you want to determine which have been modified most recently. For example, you want to sort your bookmarks so those most recently updated are on the top.

20.8.2 Solution

The program in Example 20-6 reads URLs from standard input, rearranges them by date, and prints them to standard output with those dates prepended.

Example 20-6. surl
  #!/usr/bin/perl -w
  # surl - sort URLs by their last modification date
  use strict;
  use LWP::UserAgent;
  use HTTP::Request;
  use URI::URL qw(url);
  my %Date;
  my $ua = LWP::UserAgent->new( );
  while ( my $url = url(scalar <>) ) {
      my $ans;
      next unless $url->scheme =~ /^(file|https?)$/;
      $ans = $ua->head($url);
      if ($ans->is_success) {
          $Date{$url} = $ans->last_modified || 0;  # unknown
      } else {
          warn("$url: Error [", $ans->code, "] ", $ans->message, "!\n");
  foreach my $url ( sort { $Date{$b} <=> $Date{$a} } keys %Date ) {
      printf "%-25s %s\n", $Date{$url} ? (scalar localtime $Date{$url})
                                       : "<NONE SPECIFIED>", $url;

20.8.3 Discussion

The surl script works more like a traditional filter program. It reads from standard input one URL per line. (Actually, it uses ARGV to read, which defaults to STDIN when @ARGV is empty.) The last-modified date on each URL is fetched by a HEAD request. That date is stored in a hash with the URL as key. Then a simple sort by value is run on the hash to reorder the URLs by date. On output, the internal date is converted into localtime format.

Here's an example of using the xurl program from the earlier recipe to extract the URLs, then running that program's output to feed into surl.

% xurl | surl | head
Mon Jan 13 22:58:16 2003
Sun Jan 12 19:29:00 2003
Sat Jan 11 20:57:03 2003
Sat Jan 11 09:46:19 2003
Tue Jan  7 20:27:30 2003
Tue Jan  7 20:27:30 2003
Tue Jan  7 20:27:30 2003
Tue Jan  7 20:27:30 2003
Tue Jan  7 20:27:30 2003
Tue Jan  7 20:27:30 2003

Having a variety of small programs that each do one thing and can be combined into more powerful constructs is the hallmark of good programming. You could even argue that xurl should work on files, and that some other program should actually fetch the URL's contents over the Web to feed into xurl, churl, or surl. That program would probably be called gurl, except that program already exists: the LWP module suite has a program called lwp-request with aliases HEAD, GET, and POST to run those operations from shell scripts.

20.8.4 See Also

The documentation for the CPAN modules LWP::UserAgent, HTTP::Request, and URI::URL; Recipe 20.7