MirBSD manpage: Storable(3p)

ext::Storable::StPerllProgrammers Refeext::Storable::Storable(3p)


     Storable - persistence for Perl data structures


      use Storable;
      store \%table, 'file';
      $hashref = retrieve('file');

      use Storable qw(nstore store_fd nstore_fd freeze thaw dclone);

      # Network order
      nstore \%table, 'file';
      $hashref = retrieve('file');   # There is NO nretrieve()

      # Storing to and retrieving from an already opened file
      store_fd \@array, \*STDOUT;
      nstore_fd \%table, \*STDOUT;
      $aryref = fd_retrieve(\*SOCKET);
      $hashref = fd_retrieve(\*SOCKET);

      # Serializing to memory
      $serialized = freeze \%table;
      %table_clone = %{ thaw($serialized) };

      # Deep (recursive) cloning
      $cloneref = dclone($ref);

      # Advisory locking
      use Storable qw(lock_store lock_nstore lock_retrieve)
      lock_store \%table, 'file';
      lock_nstore \%table, 'file';
      $hashref = lock_retrieve('file');


     The Storable package brings persistence to your Perl data
     structures containing SCALAR, ARRAY, HASH or REF objects,
     i.e. anything that can be conveniently stored to disk and
     retrieved at a later time.

     It can be used in the regular procedural way by calling
     "store" with a reference to the object to be stored, along
     with the file name where the image should be written.

     The routine returns "undef" for I/O problems or other inter-
     nal error, a true value otherwise. Serious errors are pro-
     pagated as a "die" exception.

     To retrieve data stored to disk, use "retrieve" with a file
     name. The objects stored into that file are recreated into
     memory for you, and a reference to the root object is
     returned. In case an I/O error occurs while reading, "undef"
     is returned instead. Other serious errors are propagated via

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     Since storage is performed recursively, you might want to
     stuff references to objects that share a lot of common data
     into a single array or hash table, and then store that
     object. That way, when you retrieve back the whole thing,
     the objects will continue to share what they originally

     At the cost of a slight header overhead, you may store to an
     already opened file descriptor using the "store_fd" routine,
     and retrieve from a file via "fd_retrieve". Those names
     aren't imported by default, so you will have to do that
     explicitly if you need those routines. The file descriptor
     you supply must be already opened, for read if you're going
     to retrieve and for write if you wish to store.

             store_fd(\%table, *STDOUT) || die "can't store to stdout\n";
             $hashref = fd_retrieve(*STDIN);

     You can also store data in network order to allow easy shar-
     ing across multiple platforms, or when storing on a socket
     known to be remotely connected. The routines to call have an
     initial "n" prefix for network, as in "nstore" and
     "nstore_fd". At retrieval time, your data will be correctly
     restored so you don't have to know whether you're restoring
     from native or network ordered data.  Double values are
     stored stringified to ensure portability as well, at the
     slight risk of loosing some precision in the last decimals.

     When using "fd_retrieve", objects are retrieved in sequence,
     one object (i.e. one recursive tree) per associated

     If you're more from the object-oriented camp, you can
     inherit from Storable and directly store your objects by
     invoking "store" as a method. The fact that the root of the
     to-be-stored tree is a blessed reference (i.e. an object) is
     special-cased so that the retrieve does not provide a refer-
     ence to that object but rather the blessed object reference
     itself. (Otherwise, you'd get a reference to that blessed


     The Storable engine can also store data into a Perl scalar
     instead, to later retrieve them. This is mainly used to
     freeze a complex structure in some safe compact memory place
     (where it can possibly be sent to another process via some
     IPC, since freezing the structure also serializes it in
     effect). Later on, and maybe somewhere else, you can thaw
     the Perl scalar out and recreate the original complex struc-
     ture in memory.

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     Surprisingly, the routines to be called are named "freeze"
     and "thaw". If you wish to send out the frozen scalar to
     another machine, use "nfreeze" instead to get a portable

     Note that freezing an object structure and immediately thaw-
     ing it actually achieves a deep cloning of that structure:

         dclone(.) = thaw(freeze(.))

     Storable provides you with a "dclone" interface which does
     not create that intermediary scalar but instead freezes the
     structure in some internal memory space and then immediately
     thaws it out.


     The "lock_store" and "lock_nstore" routine are equivalent to
     "store" and "nstore", except that they get an exclusive lock
     on the file before writing.  Likewise, "lock_retrieve" does
     the same as "retrieve", but also gets a shared lock on the
     file before reading.

     As with any advisory locking scheme, the protection only
     works if you systematically use "lock_store" and
     "lock_retrieve".  If one side of your application uses
     "store" whilst the other uses "lock_retrieve", you will get
     no protection at all.

     The internal advisory locking is implemented using Perl's
     flock() routine.  If your system does not support any form
     of flock(), or if you share your files across NFS, you might
     wish to use other forms of locking by using modules such as
     LockFile::Simple which lock a file using a filesystem entry,
     instead of locking the file descriptor.


     The heart of Storable is written in C for decent speed.
     Extra low-level optimizations have been made when manipulat-
     ing perl internals, to sacrifice encapsulation for the bene-
     fit of greater speed.


     Normally, Storable stores elements of hashes in the order
     they are stored internally by Perl, i.e. pseudo-randomly.
     If you set $Storable::canonical to some "TRUE" value, Stor-
     able will store hashes with the elements sorted by their
     key.  This allows you to compare data structures by compar-
     ing their frozen representations (or even the compressed
     frozen representations), which can be useful for creating
     lookup tables for complicated queries.

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     Canonical order does not imply network order; those are two
     orthogonal settings.


     Since Storable version 2.05, CODE references may be serial-
     ized with the help of B::Deparse. To enable this feature,
     set $Storable::Deparse to a true value. To enable deserial-
     izazion, $Storable::Eval should be set to a true value. Be
     aware that deserialization is done through "eval", which is
     dangerous if the Storable file contains malicious data. You
     can set $Storable::Eval to a subroutine reference which
     would be used instead of "eval". See below for an example
     using a Safe compartment for deserialization of CODE refer-

     If $Storable::Deparse and/or $Storable::Eval are set to
     false values, then the value of $Storable::forgive_me (see
     below) is respected while serializing and deserializing.


     This release of Storable can be used on a newer version of
     Perl to serialize data which is not supported by earlier
     Perls.  By default, Storable will attempt to do the right
     thing, by "croak()"ing if it encounters data that it cannot
     deserialize.  However, the defaults can be changed as fol-

     utf8 data
         Perl 5.6 added support for Unicode characters with code
         points > 255, and Perl 5.8 has full support for Unicode
         characters in hash keys. Perl internally encodes strings
         with these characters using utf8, and Storable serial-
         izes them as utf8.  By default, if an older version of
         Perl encounters a utf8 value it cannot represent, it
         will "croak()". To change this behaviour so that Stor-
         able deserializes utf8 encoded values as the string of
         bytes (effectively dropping the is_utf8 flag) set
         $Storable::drop_utf8 to some "TRUE" value.  This is a
         form of data loss, because with $drop_utf8 true, it
         becomes impossible to tell whether the original data was
         the Unicode string, or a series of bytes that happen to
         be valid utf8.

     restricted hashes
         Perl 5.8 adds support for restricted hashes, which have
         keys restricted to a given set, and can have values
         locked to be read only. By default, when Storable
         encounters a restricted hash on a perl that doesn't sup-
         port them, it will deserialize it as a normal hash,
         silently discarding any placeholder keys and leaving the
         keys and all values unlocked.  To make Storable
         "croak()" instead, set $Storable::downgrade_restricted

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         to a "FALSE" value.  To restore the default set it back
         to some "TRUE" value.

     files from future versions of Storable
         Earlier versions of Storable would immediately croak if
         they encountered a file with a higher internal version
         number than the reading Storable knew about.  Internal
         version numbers are increased each time new data types
         (such as restricted hashes) are added to the vocabulary
         of the file format.  This meant that a newer Storable
         module had no way of writing a file readable by an older
         Storable, even if the writer didn't store newer data

         This version of Storable will defer croaking until it
         encounters a data type in the file that it does not
         recognize.  This means that it will continue to read
         files generated by newer Storable modules which are
         careful in what they write out, making it easier to
         upgrade Storable modules in a mixed environment.

         The old behaviour of immediate croaking can be re-
         instated by setting $Storable::accept_future_minor to
         some "FALSE" value.

     All these variables have no effect on a newer Perl which
     supports the relevant feature.


     Storable uses the "exception" paradigm, in that it does not
     try to workaround failures: if something bad happens, an
     exception is generated from the caller's perspective (see
     Carp and "croak()").  Use eval {} to trap those exceptions.

     When Storable croaks, it tries to report the error via the
     "logcroak()" routine from the "Log::Agent" package, if it is

     Normal errors are reported by having store() or retrieve()
     return "undef". Such errors are usually I/O errors (or trun-
     cated stream errors at retrieval).



     Any class may define hooks that will be called during the
     serialization and deserialization process on objects that
     are instances of that class. Those hooks can redefine the
     way serialization is performed (and therefore, how the sym-
     metrical deserialization should be conducted).

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     Since we said earlier:

         dclone(.) = thaw(freeze(.))

     everything we say about hooks should also hold for deep
     cloning. However, hooks get to know whether the operation is
     a mere serialization, or a cloning.

     Therefore, when serializing hooks are involved,

         dclone(.) <> thaw(freeze(.))

     Well, you could keep them in sync, but there's no guarantee
     it will always hold on classes somebody else wrote.
     Besides, there is little to gain in doing so: a serializing
     hook could keep only one attribute of an object, which is
     probably not what should happen during a deep cloning of
     that same object.

     Here is the hooking interface:

     "STORABLE_freeze" obj, cloning
         The serializing hook, called on the object during seri-
         alization.  It can be inherited, or defined in the class
         itself, like any other method.

         Arguments: obj is the object to serialize, cloning is a
         flag indicating whether we're in a dclone() or a regular
         serialization via store() or freeze().

         Returned value: A LIST "($serialized, $ref1, $ref2,
         ...)" where $serialized is the serialized form to be
         used, and the optional $ref1, $ref2, etc... are extra
         references that you wish to let the Storable engine

         At deserialization time, you will be given back the same
         LIST, but all the extra references will be pointing into
         the deserialized structure.

         The first time the hook is hit in a serialization flow,
         you may have it return an empty list.  That will signal
         the Storable engine to further discard that hook for
         this class and to therefore revert to the default seri-
         alization of the underlying Perl data.  The hook will
         again be normally processed in the next serialization.

         Unless you know better, serializing hook should always

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             sub STORABLE_freeze {
                 my ($self, $cloning) = @_;
                 return if $cloning;         # Regular default serialization

         in order to keep reasonable dclone() semantics.

     "STORABLE_thaw" obj, cloning, serialized, ...
         The deserializing hook called on the object during
         deserialization. But wait: if we're deserializing,
         there's no object yet... right?

         Wrong: the Storable engine creates an empty one for you.
         If you know Eiffel, you can view "STORABLE_thaw" as an
         alternate creation routine.

         This means the hook can be inherited like any other
         method, and that obj is your blessed reference for this
         particular instance.

         The other arguments should look familiar if you know
         "STORABLE_freeze": cloning is true when we're part of a
         deep clone operation, serialized is the serialized
         string you returned to the engine in "STORABLE_freeze",
         and there may be an optional list of references, in the
         same order you gave them at serialization time, pointing
         to the deserialized objects (which have been processed
         courtesy of the Storable engine).

         When the Storable engine does not find any
         "STORABLE_thaw" hook routine, it tries to load the class
         by requiring the package dynamically (using the blessed
         package name), and then re-attempts the lookup.  If at
         that time the hook cannot be located, the engine croaks.
         Note that this mechanism will fail if you define several
         classes in the same file, but perlmod warned you.

         It is up to you to use this information to populate obj
         the way you want.

         Returned value: none.

     "STORABLE_attach" class, cloning, serialized
         While "STORABLE_freeze" and "STORABLE_thaw" are useful
         for classes where each instance is independant, this
         mechanism has difficulty (or is incompatible) with
         objects that exist as common process-level or system-
         level resources, such as singleton objects, database
         pools, caches or memoized objects.

         The alternative "STORABLE_attach" method provides a

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         solution for these shared objects. Instead of
         "STORABLE_freeze" --> "STORABLE_thaw", you implement
         "STORABLE_freeze" --> "STORABLE_attach" instead.

         Arguments: class is the class we are attaching to, clon-
         ing is a flag indicating whether we're in a dclone() or
         a regular de-serialization via thaw(), and serialized is
         the stored string for the resource object.

         Because these resource objects are considered to be
         owned by the entire process/system, and not the "pro-
         perty" of whatever is being serialized, no references
         underneath the object should be included in the serial-
         ized string. Thus, in any class that implements
         "STORABLE_attach", the "STORABLE_freeze" method cannot
         return any references, and "Storable" will throw an
         error if "STORABLE_freeze" tries to return references.

         All information required to "attach" back to the shared
         resource object must be contained only in the
         "STORABLE_freeze" return string. Otherwise,
         "STORABLE_freeze" behaves as normal for
         "STORABLE_attach" classes.

         Because "STORABLE_attach" is passed the class (rather
         than an object), it also returns the object directly,
         rather than modifying the passed object.

         Returned value: object of type "class"


     Predicates are not exportable.  They must be called by
     explicitly prefixing them with the Storable package name.

         The "Storable::last_op_in_netorder()" predicate will
         tell you whether network order was used in the last
         store or retrieve operation.  If you don't know how to
         use this, just forget about it.

         Returns true if within a store operation (via
         STORABLE_freeze hook).

         Returns true if within a retrieve operation (via
         STORABLE_thaw hook).

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     With hooks comes the ability to recurse back to the Storable
     engine. Indeed, hooks are regular Perl code, and Storable is
     convenient when it comes to serializing and deserializing
     things, so why not use it to handle the serialization

     There are a few things you need to know, however:

     +   You can create endless loops if the things you serialize
         via freeze() (for instance) point back to the object
         we're trying to serialize in the hook.

     +   Shared references among objects will not stay shared: if
         we're serializing the list of object [A, C] where both
         object A and C refer to the SAME object B, and if there
         is a serializing hook in A that says freeze(B), then
         when deserializing, we'll get [A', C'] where A' refers
         to B', but C' refers to D, a deep clone of B'.  The
         topology was not preserved.

     That's why "STORABLE_freeze" lets you provide a list of
     references to serialize.  The engine guarantees that those
     will be serialized in the same context as the other objects,
     and therefore that shared objects will stay shared.

     In the above [A, C] example, the "STORABLE_freeze" hook
     could return:

             ("something", $self->{B})

     and the B part would be serialized by the engine.  In
     "STORABLE_thaw", you would get back the reference to the B'
     object, deserialized for you.

     Therefore, recursion should normally be avoided, but is
     nonetheless supported.

     Deep Cloning

     There is a Clone module available on CPAN which implements
     deep cloning natively, i.e. without freezing to memory and
     thawing the result.  It is aimed to replace Storable's
     dclone() some day.  However, it does not currently support
     Storable hooks to redefine the way deep cloning is per-

Storable magic

     Yes, there's a lot of that :-) But more precisely, in UNIX
     systems there's a utility called "file", which recognizes
     data files based on their contents (usually their first few

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     bytes).  For this to work, a certain file called magic needs
     to taught about the signature of the data.  Where that con-
     figuration file lives depends on the UNIX flavour; often
     it's something like /usr/share/misc/magic or /etc/magic.
     Your system administrator needs to do the updating of the
     magic file.  The necessary signature information is output
     to STDOUT by invoking Storable::show_file_magic().  Note
     that the GNU implementation of the "file" utility, version
     3.38 or later, is expected to contain support for recognis-
     ing Storable files out-of-the-box, in addition to other
     kinds of Perl files.


     Here are some code samples showing a possible usage of Stor-

             use Storable qw(store retrieve freeze thaw dclone);

             %color = ('Blue' => 0.1, 'Red' => 0.8, 'Black' => 0, 'White' => 1);

             store(\%color, 'mycolors') or die "Can't store %a in mycolors!\n";

             $colref = retrieve('mycolors');
             die "Unable to retrieve from mycolors!\n" unless defined $colref;
             printf "Blue is still %lf\n", $colref->{'Blue'};

             $colref2 = dclone(\%color);

             $str = freeze(\%color);
             printf "Serialization of %%color is %d bytes long.\n", length($str);
             $colref3 = thaw($str);

     which prints (on my machine):

             Blue is still 0.100000
             Serialization of %color is 102 bytes long.

     Serialization of CODE references and deserialization in a
     safe compartment:

             use Storable qw(freeze thaw);
             use Safe;
             use strict;
             my $safe = new Safe;
             # because of opcodes used in "use strict":
             $safe->permit(qw(:default require));
             local $Storable::Deparse = 1;
             local $Storable::Eval = sub { $safe->reval($_[0]) };
             my $serialized = freeze(sub { 42 });
             my $code = thaw($serialized);
             $code->() == 42;

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     If you're using references as keys within your hash tables,
     you're bound to be disappointed when retrieving your data.
     Indeed, Perl stringifies references used as hash table keys.
     If you later wish to access the items via another reference
     stringification (i.e. using the same reference that was used
     for the key originally to record the value into the hash
     table), it will work because both references stringify to
     the same string.

     It won't work across a sequence of "store" and "retrieve"
     operations, however, because the addresses in the retrieved
     objects, which are part of the stringified references, will
     probably differ from the original addresses. The topology of
     your structure is preserved, but not hidden semantics like

     On platforms where it matters, be sure to call "binmode()"
     on the descriptors that you pass to Storable functions.

     Storing data canonically that contains large hashes can be
     significantly slower than storing the same data normally, as
     temporary arrays to hold the keys for each hash have to be
     allocated, populated, sorted and freed.  Some tests have
     shown a halving of the speed of storing -- the exact penalty
     will depend on the complexity of your data.  There is no
     slowdown on retrieval.


     You can't store GLOB, FORMLINE, etc.... If you can define
     semantics for those operations, feel free to enhance Stor-
     able so that it can deal with them.

     The store functions will "croak" if they run into such
     references unless you set $Storable::forgive_me to some
     "TRUE" value. In that case, the fatal message is turned in a
     warning and some meaningless string is stored instead.

     Setting $Storable::canonical may not yield frozen strings
     that compare equal due to possible stringification of
     numbers. When the string version of a scalar exists, it is
     the form stored; therefore, if you happen to use your
     numbers as strings between two freezing operations on the
     same data structures, you will get different results.

     When storing doubles in network order, their value is stored
     as text. However, you should also not expect non-numeric
     floating-point values such as infinity and "not a number" to
     pass successfully through a nstore()/retrieve() pair.

     As Storable neither knows nor cares about character sets
     (although it does know that characters may be more than

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     eight bits wide), any difference in the interpretation of
     character codes between a host and a target system is your
     problem.  In particular, if host and target use different
     code points to represent the characters used in the text
     representation of floating-point numbers, you will not be
     able be able to exchange floating-point data, even with

     "Storable::drop_utf8" is a blunt tool.  There is no facility
     either to return all strings as utf8 sequences, or to
     attempt to convert utf8 data back to 8 bit and "croak()" if
     the conversion fails.

     Prior to Storable 2.01, no distinction was made between
     signed and unsigned integers on storing.  By default Stor-
     able prefers to store a scalars string representation (if it
     has one) so this would only cause problems when storing
     large unsigned integers that had never been coverted to
     string or floating point.  In other words values that had
     been generated by integer operations such as logic ops and
     then not used in any string or arithmetic context before

     64 bit data in perl 5.6.0 and 5.6.1

     This section only applies to you if you have existing data
     written out by Storable 2.02 or earlier on perl 5.6.0 or
     5.6.1 on Unix or Linux which has been configured with 64 bit
     integer support (not the default) If you got a precompiled
     perl, rather than running Configure to build your own perl
     from source, then it almost certainly does not affect you,
     and you can stop reading now (unless you're curious). If
     you're using perl on Windows it does not affect you.

     Storable writes a file header which contains the sizes of
     various C language types for the C compiler that built Stor-
     able (when not writing in network order), and will refuse to
     load files written by a Storable not on the same (or compa-
     tible) architecture.  This check and a check on machine
     byteorder is needed because the size of various fields in
     the file are given by the sizes of the C language types, and
     so files written on different architectures are incompati-
     ble.  This is done for increased speed. (When writing in
     network order, all fields are written out as standard
     lengths, which allows full interworking, but takes longer to
     read and write)

     Perl 5.6.x introduced the ability to optional configure the
     perl interpreter to use C's "long long" type to allow
     scalars to store 64 bit integers on 32 bit systems.  How-
     ever, due to the way the Perl configuration system generated
     the C configuration files on non-Windows platforms, and the

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     way Storable generates its header, nothing in the Storable
     file header reflected whether the perl writing was using 32
     or 64 bit integers, despite the fact that Storable was stor-
     ing some data differently in the file.  Hence Storable run-
     ning on perl with 64 bit integers will read the header from
     a file written by a 32 bit perl, not realise that the data
     is actually in a subtly incompatible format, and then go
     horribly wrong (possibly crashing) if it encountered a
     stored integer.  This is a design failure.

     Storable has now been changed to write out and read in a
     file header with information about the size of integers.
     It's impossible to detect whether an old file being read in
     was written with 32 or 64 bit integers (they have the same
     header) so it's impossible to automatically switch to a
     correct backwards compatibility mode.  Hence this Storable
     defaults to the new, correct behaviour.

     What this means is that if you have data written by Storable
     1.x running on perl 5.6.0 or 5.6.1 configured with 64 bit
     integers on Unix or Linux then by default this Storable will
     refuse to read it, giving the error Byte order is not compa-
     tible.  If you have such data then you you should set
     $Storable::interwork_56_64bit to a true value to make this
     Storable read and write files with the old header.  You
     should also migrate your data, or any older perl you are
     communicating with, to this current version of Storable.

     If you don't have data written with specific configuration
     of perl described above, then you do not and should not do
     anything.  Don't set the flag - not only will Storable on an
     identically configured perl refuse to load them, but Stor-
     able a differently configured perl will load them believing
     them to be correct for it, and then may well fail or crash
     part way through reading them.


     Thank you to (in chronological order):

             Jarkko Hietaniemi <jhi@iki.fi>
             Ulrich Pfeifer <pfeifer@charly.informatik.uni-dortmund.de>
             Benjamin A. Holzman <bah@ecnvantage.com>
             Andrew Ford <A.Ford@ford-mason.co.uk>
             Gisle Aas <gisle@aas.no>
             Jeff Gresham <gresham_jeffrey@jpmorgan.com>
             Murray Nesbitt <murray@activestate.com>
             Marc Lehmann <pcg@opengroup.org>
             Justin Banks <justinb@wamnet.com>
             Jarkko Hietaniemi <jhi@iki.fi> (AGAIN, as perl 5.7.0 Pumpkin!)
             Salvador Ortiz Garcia <sog@msg.com.mx>
             Dominic Dunlop <domo@computer.org>
             Erik Haugan <erik@solbors.no>

perl v5.8.8                2005-02-05                          13

ext::Storable::StPerllProgrammers Refeext::Storable::Storable(3p)

     for their bug reports, suggestions and contributions.

     Benjamin Holzman contributed the tied variable support,
     Andrew Ford contributed the canonical order for hashes, and
     Gisle Aas fixed a few misunderstandings of mine regarding
     the perl internals, and optimized the emission of "tags" in
     the output streams by simply counting the objects instead of
     tagging them (leading to a binary incompatibility for the
     Storable image starting at version 0.6--older images are, of
     course, still properly understood). Murray Nesbitt made
     Storable thread-safe.  Marc Lehmann added overloading and
     references to tied items support.


     Storable was written by Raphael Manfredi
     <Raphael_Manfredi@pobox.com> Maintenance is now done by the
     perl5-porters <perl5-porters@perl.org>

     Please e-mail us with problems, bug fixes, comments and com-
     plaints, although if you have complements you should send
     them to Raphael. Please don't e-mail Raphael with problems,
     as he no longer works on Storable, and your message will be
     delayed while he forwards it to us.



perl v5.8.8                2005-02-05                          14

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