Sparrow plugins evolution

Hi! Sparrowdo is a modern configuration management tool written on Perl6. If you wonder how sparrowdo makes a difference you may read this article - Sparrow plugins evolution - an informal introduction to core part of sparrowdo - sparrow plugins.

A blog site for Sparrowdo project

Hi ! Sparrowdo is lightweight and very flexible configuration management system written on Perl6. I have started a blog site where going to drop technical notes and others news related sparrowdo project, welcome to !

Testing Mojolicious applications with Sparrow

A bits of theory

In this post I am going to show how you can use Sparrow to test Mojolicious applications.

Sparrow approach to test things differs from convenient unit tests approach, practically this means:

  • A tested code is treated as black box rather than unit test way where you rely deeply on inner application structure.

  • A sparrow test suites are not a part of CPAN distribution ( the one you keep under t/* )

  • A sparrow test suite code is decoupled from tested application code and is better to be treated as third party tests for your application

  • Sparrow tests suites have it's own life cycle and get released in parallel with tested application

  • Sparrow acts like toolchain to choose proper tools and then analyze script output

  • IMHO writing sparrow tests sometimes is much simpler and takes less efforts and time, but I don't say you don't need a unit tests but sometime it worths it to take an alternative testing approaches / tools and see the difference , so if you are interested , please read below ...

Ok, let's go to the practical example.

Simple test

A Mojolicious comes with some handy tools to invoke a http requests against web application.

Consider simple mojolicious code:

#!/usr/bin/env perl

use Mojolicious::Lite;

get '/' => {text => 'hello world'};


Now we can quickly test a GET / route with help of mojolicious get command:

./ get /
[Sun Dec 11 17:23:38 2016] [debug] GET "/"
[Sun Dec 11 17:23:38 2016] [debug] 200 OK (0.000456s, 2192.982/s)
hello world

That's ok. This is going to be a base for out first sparrow test:

$ nano story.bash

$project_root_dir/ get /

$ nano story.check

hello world

$ strun

/ started

[Sun Dec 11 17:45:28 2016] [debug] GET "/"
[Sun Dec 11 17:45:28 2016] [debug] 200 OK (0.000469s, 2132.196/s)
hello world
ok      scenario succeeded
ok      output match 'hello world'

What we have done here.

  • created a story to run GET / against mojolicious application - file named story.bash
  • created a story check file to validate data returned from http request.
  • finally run a test suite ( story ) with the help of so called story runner - strun

More about stories and check files could be found at Outthentic - a module for execution sparrow scripts.

Consider a negative result here, when test fails. For this let's change a check file to express we need another string returned from calling GET / route:

$ nano story.check

hello sparrow

$ strun

/ started

[Sun Dec 11 18:18:07 2016] [debug] GET "/"
[Sun Dec 11 18:18:07 2016] [debug] 200 OK (0.001237s, 808.407/s)
hello world
ok      scenario succeeded
not ok  output match 'hello sparrow'

Debugging test scripts

As our test is just bash script it easy to add some debugging facilities into it:

$ nano story.bash

set -x

$project_root_dir/ get /

And run the script:

/ started

++ /home/melezhik/projects/mojolicious-app-smoke/ get /
[Tue Dec 13 13:16:07 2016] [debug] GET "/"
[Tue Dec 13 13:16:07 2016] [debug] Routing to a callback
[Tue Dec 13 13:16:07 2016] [debug] 200 OK (0.000328s, 3048.780/s)
hello world
ok  scenario succeeded
ok  output match 'hello world'

Right now it looks pretty useless but becomes very handy for more complex scripts.

Splitting test suite on many simple tests

As your application grows it comprises many routes, let's how we organize our test suite layout to test them all.

$ cat

#!/usr/bin/env perl

use Mojolicious::Lite;

get '/' => sub {
  my $c = shift;
  $c->render( text => 'welcome page')


get '/hello' => sub  {

  my $c = shift;
  $c->render( text => 'hello '.($c->param('name')))


get '/bye' => sub {

  my $c = shift;
  $c->render( text => 'bye '.($c->param('name')))



Here is the story modules:

$ mkdir -p modules/welcome-page modules/hello modules/buy

# welcome page
$ echo '$project_root_dir/ get /' > modules/welcome-page/story.bash
$ echo 'welcome page' > modules/welcome-page/story.check

# GET /hello
$ echo '$project_root_dir/ get /hello?name=sparrow' > modules/hello/story.bash
$ echo 'hello sparrow' > modules/hello/story.check

# GET /bye
$ echo '$project_root_dir/ get /bye?name=sparrow' > modules/bye/story.bash
$ echo 'bye sparrow' > modules/bye/story.check

And main story-container to call them all:

$ echo 'Smoke tests for' > meta.txt
$ nano hook.bash

run_story welcome-page
run_story hello
run_story bye

$ strun

/ started

Smoke tests for

/modules/welcome-page/ started

[Sun Dec 11 19:34:08 2016] [debug] GET "/"
[Sun Dec 11 19:34:08 2016] [debug] Routing to a callback
[Sun Dec 11 19:34:08 2016] [debug] 200 OK (0.00091s, 1098.901/s)
welcome page
ok      scenario succeeded
ok      output match 'welcome page'

/modules/hello/ started

[Sun Dec 11 19:34:09 2016] [debug] GET "/hello"
[Sun Dec 11 19:34:09 2016] [debug] Routing to a callback
[Sun Dec 11 19:34:09 2016] [debug] 200 OK (0.000871s, 1148.106/s)
hello sparrow
ok      scenario succeeded
ok      output match 'hello sparrow'

/modules/bye/ started

[Sun Dec 11 19:34:09 2016] [debug] GET "/bye"
[Sun Dec 11 19:34:09 2016] [debug] Routing to a callback
[Sun Dec 11 19:34:09 2016] [debug] 200 OK (0.001051s, 951.475/s)
bye sparrow
ok      scenario succeeded
ok      output match 'bye sparrow'

What we have done here.

  • created 3 story modules each for a route (GET /, GET /hello , GET /bye )
  • create a story-container to call a story modules
  • run strun to execute test suite

More about story modules and story containers be found at Outthentic - a module for execution sparrow scripts.

Parameterizing test suite

We hardcoded a string sparrow get passed as parameter to routes GET /hello and GET /buy. Let's parametrize out test suite:

$ nano modules/hello/story.bash

name=$(story_var name)
$project_root_dir/ get '/hello?name='$name

$ nano hook.bash

run_story welcome-page
run_story hello name Mojolicious
run_story bye

And then run our test suite:

# some output truncated ...

/modules/hello/ started

[Mon Dec 12 12:42:04 2016] [debug] GET "/hello"
[Mon Dec 12 12:42:04 2016] [debug] Routing to a callback
[Mon Dec 12 12:42:04 2016] [debug] 200 OK (0.000845s, 1183.432/s)
hello Mojolicious
ok      scenario succeeded
not ok  output match 'hello sparrow'

/modules/bye/ started

Obviously our test failed as we need to change a check list:

$ nano modules/hello/story.check

generator: [ "hello ".(story_var('name')) ]

Generators are way to create story check list in runtime. More on this read at Outthentic doc pages.

story_var is bash helper function letting our stories to get the parameter they are called from story container. By the way as sparrow is kind language agnostic framework we could write our code on plain Perl:

$ nano modules/hello/

my $name =  story_var('name');

my $cmd = project_root_dir()."/ get '/hello?name=$name'";

print `$cmd`

Or even Ruby:

$ nano modules/hello/story.rb

name =  story_var 'name' 

puts `#{project_root_dir}/ get '/hello?name=#{name}'`

I did not tell you, one day I am going to add Python support ... :)

Ok, now let's make our name parameter configurable via configuration file

Configuring test suites

Sparrow test suites maintain three well known configuration formats:

  • Config::General ( probably most convenient way to describe various configurations )
  • JSON
  • YAML

Let's go with Config::General. As our example quite trivial the configuration won't be too complicated:

$ nano suite suite.ini

name Sparrow

$ nano hook.bash

name=$(config name)
run_story welcome-page
run_story hello name $name
run_story bye name $name

We can even use nested configuration parameters:

$ nano suite suite.ini

  bird Sparrow
  animal Fox

$ nano hook.bash

bird_name=$(config name.bird)
animal_name=$(config name.animal)

run_story welcome-page
run_story hello name $bird_name
run_story bye name $animal_name

And finally we can override parameters via command line:

$ strun --param name.animal='Bear'

As I said we could use another configuration formats, like for example JSON:

$ nano suite.json


  "name" : {
    "bird"    : "sparrow",
    "animal"  : "bear"

$ strun --json suite.json

Processing output data

Sometimes we need to process output data to make it testable via Sparrow. It's very common when dealing with application emitting JSON:

$ cat

#!/usr/bin/env perl

use Mojolicious::Lite;

get '/echo-name' => sub {
  my $c = shift;
  $c->render( json => { name => $c->param('name') } )



Sparrow does not provide any built in capabilities to parse JSON, but it rather acts as tool where one can add any desired modules into "pipeline":

$ nano hook.bash

name=$(config name)

run_story echo-name name $name

$ mkdir -p modules/name

$ nano modules/echo-name/story.bash

name=$(story_var name)

$project_root_dir/ get '/echo-name?name='$name \
| perl -MJSON -e 'print decode_json(join "", <STDIN>)->{name}'

Now let's run the test:

/ started

Smoke tests for

/modules/echo-name/ started

[Tue Dec 13 12:00:18 2016] [debug] GET "/echo-name"
[Tue Dec 13 12:00:18 2016] [debug] Routing to a callback
[Tue Dec 13 12:00:18 2016] [debug] 200 OK (0.00054s, 1851.852/s)
ok  scenario succeeded
ok  output match 'sparrow'

This approach could be generalized to any data processing like YMAL/XML/CSS. Instead of defining data parsing at test logic we filter/process output data to "map" it to sparrow testing format - just a lines of text where we could make regexp/text search.

Ok let's keep moving. Prepare our test suite for distribution.

Distributing tests

A one thing we should pay attention to. A mojolicious application we write tests for in practice is distributed separately from sparrow test suite. There are some cases:

  • an application gets installed and launched as script available at system $PATH
  • an application gets tested via some CI pipelines, for example Travis

Whatever case we consider it's not hard to adopt our test suite to new reality. For example if there is script called our_mojolicious_application we just need to change small bit of code to rely on system wide installation instead of local:

$ nano modules/hello/story.bash

name=$(story_var name)

our_mojolicious_application get '/hello?name='$name

That is it.

Declaring dependencies

Sparrow works smoothly with Perl/Ruby well known dependency managers to work out on this, just create a cpanfile with dependencies in case of Perl:

$ nano cpanfile

requires 'JSON'; # indeed not required for recent Perls

Providing test suite meta information

This is important point where we define some data to make it possible upload our test suite to SparrowHub - a sparrow scripts repository

$ nano sparrow.json

    "name"            : "mojolicious-app-smoke"
    "description"     : "smoke tests for our Mojolicious application",
    "version"         : "0.0.1",
    "url"             : ""

We name our test suite, give it a version, provide short description and provide source code link (github).

Also let's provide a small to let other understand what it is:

$ nano


Make some smoke tests against our mojolicious application


$ sparrow plg install mojolicious-app-smoke


$ sparrow plg run mojolicious-app-smoke

# Author

Alexey Melezhik

Now let's commit our changes

$ git init
$ git add .
$ git commit -a 'first commit'
$ git remote add origin
$ git push -u origin master

Finlay we are ready to upload a test suite to SparrowHub:

$ sparrow plg upload

sparrow.json file validated ... 
plugin mojolicious-app-smoke version 0.000001 upload OK

Once you make changes to your test suite you bump a version and release a new stuff into Sparrowhub. As I told you a sparrow test suite has it own life cycle separated from application being tested.

Finally If for security reasons you don't want to make your test suite public Sparrow allow you to host your scripts at private git repositories ( github/bitbuket).

Get it run

Ok. Now having a test suite as sparrow plugin we could easily install and run it somewhere we need:

$ sparrow plg install mojolicious-app-smoke
$ sparrow plg run mojolicious-app-smoke

We can even override a test suite parameter via command line:

$ sparrow plg run mojolicious-app-smoke --param name.bird=woodpecker

Or create a configuration via sparrow task:

$ sparrow project create webapp
$ sparrow task add webapp smoke-test mojolicious-app-smoke
$ sparrow task ini webapp/smoke-test

  bird Woodpecker
  animal Fox

To get plugin documentation simply run:

$ sparrow plg man mojolicious-app-smoke

Or view plugin page at SparrowHub site - .

There are many other fun things you could do with Sparrow API, please follow Sparrow documentation.


What we have just learned:

  • How the sparrow approach differs from classic unit tests for Perl
  • How to create sparrow scenarios to test Mojolicious applications
  • How to distribute sparrow tests suites with the notion of so called sparrow plugins


Alexey Melezhik

How to upload a script to SparrowHub

This is informal response to David Farrell's article How to upload a script to CPAN.

Preamble: CPAN is great. This post in no way should be treated as Sparrow VS CPAN attempt. Sparrow is just an alternative method to distribute your scripts. Ok, let's go.

So let’s say I’ve got this Perl script:

$ cat

use strict;
use warnings;
use DateTime;

my $text = 'bar';
my $dt = DateTime->now;

if ($dt->mon == 1 && $dt->day == 31) {
   $text = reverse $text;

print "$text\n";
exit 0;

Notice I have called my script This is a naming convention for sparrow scripts.

Ok, let's move on.

Setup your distribution directory

All we need is to:

  • create a story check file
  • create a cpanfile to declare script dependencies
  • create a plugin meta file
  • optionally create

story check file

Sparrow scripts should be accompanied by a check file. It's just a text file with some patterns to match against stdout emitted by an executed script. For example:

$ cat story.check  
regexp: (bar|rab)

Here we just require that script yields into stdout one of two lines - bar or rab. That is it.

Sometimes we don't need to check script stdout , that's ok just leave the story.check file empty:

$ echo > story.check


As we have an external dependency (the DateTime module) let's put it in a cpanfile:

$ cat cpanfile
requires 'DateTime'

Sparrow uses carton to run script with dependencies. That is it.

plugin meta file

In a plugin meta file one defines essential information required for script upload to SparrowHub. The structure is quite simple, there should be a JSON format file with these fields:

  • name - a plugin name
  • version - a plugin version
  • description - short plugin description
  • url - plugin web page url (optional)

In other words the sparrow meta file is the way to "convert" an existing script into sparrow plugin:

$ cat sparrow.json
    "name" : "bar-script",
    "version" : "0.0.1",
    "description" : "print bar or rab",
    "url" : ""

Readme file

You might want to add some documentation to the script. Simply create a file with documentation in markdown format:

$ cat


print `bar` or `rab`


    $ sparrow plg install bar-script


    $ sparrow plg run bar-script

# Author

[Alexey Melezhik](

# Disclosure

An initial script code borrowed from David Farrell article [How to upload a script to CPAN](

Finally we have the following project structure:

$ tree

├── cpanfile
├── sparrow.json
├── story.check

0 directories, 5 files

Test script

To see that the script does what you want simply run strun inside the project root directory:

$ carton # install dependencies
$ carton exec strun

/ started

ok      scenario succeeded
ok      output match /(bar|rab)/

Strun - is utility comes with Sparrow to run sparrow scripts, it is used by plugin developers.

Upload script to Sparrowhub

Provided you have an account on SparrowHub, just do this:

$ sparrow plg upload
sparrow.json file validated ...
plugin bar-script version 0.000001 upload OK

Now you can browse the script information at SparrowHub.

Run script

To run the script you need to install and run it with the sparrow client:

$ sparrow index update
$ sparrow plg install bar-script
$ sparrow plg run bar-script


Further reading

PS. Thanks to David Farrell for "giving" an idea of writing this post ( after reading his article ) and for fixing some typos and style errors in this document.

sparrow remote tasks - way to package your scripts and configurations.

Idea behind a sparrow is quite simple. You have a script, you package it as sparrow plugin and you can re-use it somewhere else.

Give me list of available plugins:

$ sparrow plg search    

type    name

public  app-cpm
public  bash
public  bitbucket-repo
public  check-tomcat-deploy
public  chemaxon-check
public  cpan-package
public  df-check
public  directory
public  docker-engine
public  file
public  foo-generic
public  foo-test
public  git-async-push
public  git-base
public  git-svn-export
public  gitprep
public  group
public  http-status
public  logdog
public  minion-check
public  module-release
public  mongodb
public  nano-setup
public  net-ping
public  nginx-check
public  nginx-example
public  outth-mysql-cookbook
public  package-generic
public  perl-app
public  perlbrew
public  proc-validate
public  ruby-test
public  sendmail
public  service
public  sph-check
public  ssh-sudo-check
public  ssh-sudo-try
public  sshd-check
public  stale-proc-check
public  svn-to-git-submodules
public  swat-nginx
public  swat-pintod
public  swat-test
public  templater
public  user
private package-generic-dev

This plugin makes a trivial nano.rc file configuration:

$ sparrow plg install nano-setup

Project is just a container for plugins to group them logically:

$ sparrow project create utils

Task is a plugin with parameters, in other words task bind plugin with parameters to project:

$ sparrow task add utils nano-rc nano-setup
$ sparrow task ini utils nano-rc
   tabsize 2

Now let's run our task:

$ sparrow task run utils nano-rc


/ started

rc file generated from template
rc file updated
ok      scenario succeeded
ok      [b] output match 'rc file generated from template'
ok      [b] output match 'rc file updated'

You can even override task parameters via command line:

 $ sparrow task run utils nano-rc --param tabsize=4

So sparrow plugins are packed scripts, but I want to package my configuration ...

A task initialization process could be the same if we want to reuse not only scripts but configuration. Every time I ssh on new server I want to apply the same nano.rc as it good for me. Here are remote sparrow tasks:

$ sparrow remote task upload utils/nano-rc 'my nano.rc setup'
task updated
task ini data updated OK

I have just uploaded a nano-rc task and it's configuration to my SparrowHub account. Now having this I could ssh to another server and re-apply my task:

$ ssh some-server
$ sparrow remote task run  utils/nano-rc

task meta data saved to /home/vagrant/sparrow/cache/meta/utils/nano-rc.json ...
public@nano-setup is uptodate (0.1.0)
project utils already exists - nothing to do here ...
task utils/nano-rc already exists, update task parameters
task - set plugin to public@nano-setup
task utils/nano-rc successfully created
loaded test suite ini from /home/vagrant/sparrow/cache/meta/utils/nano-rc.ini OK


/ started

rc file generated from template
rc file updated
ok      scenario succeeded
ok      [b] output match 'rc file generated from template'
ok      [b] output match 'rc file updated'

Pretty handy, huh?

Once remote task gets run for the first time , later you can run it as local sparrow task :

 $ sparrow task run utils nano-rc

Ok, if I find my task quite common I even can share it with others:

$ sparrow remote task share  utils/nano-rc
task nano-rc shared OK
now everyone could see it!

Everyone now can run my task:

$ sparrow remote task run melezhik@utils/nano-rc

The list of available remote tasks could be fetched like this:

$ sparrow remote task public-list 

2016-10-24 12:59:06 melezhik@packages/toplist | install my favorite packages
2016-10-24 12:58:22 melezhik@utils/nano-rc | my nano.rc setup

The list of private remote tasks related to your account is taken as:

$ sparrow remote task list

You may take other actions on your remote tasks:

$ sparrow remote task hide app/secure # to hide task from others ( make it private )
$ sparrow remote task remove app/secure # to remove task

Further steps

Follow sparrow docs on remote tasks API. Or create useful task and share with others!

At the end of my post is a simple but illuminative example of remote task to install my favorite packages:

$ sparrow project create packages
$ sparrow task add packages toplist package-generic
$ sparrow task ini packages toplist
    list       nano mc ncdu telnet tree 

$ sparrow remote task upload packages/toplist 'installs my favorite packages'


Alexey Melezhik