Exercise 2: The magic of templates

For the next exercise, let us build on the first one. You have already created an exciting (o.k. not that exciting) new capability - the ability of the server to write dots into the log file. Let us now take advantage of the fact that the template processor can fill in values from the configuration database.

Edit the /etc/e-smith/templates/etc/crontab/25templatedemo file again, this time with the following contents:

# Template demo crontab entry:
*/20 * * * * root /usr/bin/logger -t "Demo3" "... { 
  use esmith::AccountsDB;

  $adb = esmith::AccountsDB->open_ro;
  $adb->get_prop('admin', 'ForwardAddress') || 'admin';

Once again, regenerate the template by typing:

expand-template /etc/crontab

If you look at the new /etc/crontab file, you will see that the template processor has replaced the block between the braces with the actual email address of the administrator, which is defined in the accounts database.

Note: Be careful with the placement of the braces in the example. We want two lines of output - the comment and the line starting with the asterisk. If you move the opening brace onto a new line, you will end up with three lines of output.

Whitespace is not signifcant and the code within braces should be formatted "nicely". However, whitespace outside braces is significant and will be copied literally to the output file.

You could check that value with the db accounts show admin command. With this change to the template, the message which will go to the /var/log/messages log file every 20 minutes will contain the actual current administrative email address, rather than a hardcoded text message.

Now here is the exciting part. Click on the E-mail function in the server manager user interface, and change the administrative email address. If you look at /etc/crontab, you will see that it has been updated with the new email address! Every 20 minutes you will receive a new entry in the messages log which automatically reflects the new setting of the administrator email address.

So by simply creating a single file 25templatedemo, you have created quite a sophisticated customization that changes behaviour based on the system settings. And you have done so without affecting the rest of the system or requiring additional changes to the user interface.

The reason this works is subtle, but follows from the overall architecture. It is critical to study this example until you understand it thoroughly. If you understand exactly how this example works, you understand a substantial part of the SME Server architecture.

To understand this example in detail, let's start from the top by studying the user interface. The implementation section of the E-mail function can be found in the file /usr/lib/perl5/site_perl/esmith/FormMagick/Panel/emailsettings.pm. If you study the part of this script that gets executed when the user clicks Save, you will find some Perl code that saves the administrator e-mail address into the configuration database and signals the email-update event - thus informing the system that the email settings have changed:

sub change_settings_delivery
    my ($fm) = @_;
    my $q = $fm->{'cgi'};


    my $admin_email = $q->param('AdminEmail');
    my $admin = $accounts->get('admin');
    if ($admin_email)
                EmailForward => 'forward',
                ForwardAddress => $admin_email,
                EmailForward => 'local',
                ForwardAddress => '',


    unless ( system( "/sbin/e-smith/signal-event", "email-update" ) == 0 )
        return undef;

When the email-update event is signalled, the SME Server executes all of the action scripts in the /etc/e-smith/events/email-update/ directory. The event also expands all templates as noted in the templates2expand/ hierarchy, including the /etc/crontab template.

That may all seem rather complicated, but it boils down to this: changing the administrator email address automatically rebuilds the /etc/crontab template - and if you have customized that template, your customization will automatically pick up the current administrator email address.

Note that if you wanted additional programs to execute whenever the email settings were changed, you would put all of those programs in the /etc/e-smith/events/actions/ directory, then create symbolic links to them from the /etc/e-smith/events/email-update/ directory. We use symbolic links because you may want your program triggered by other events as well as email-update, and so you create links from all of the relevant event directories back to your action program.

This system is, by design, extensible. For example, you could use this exact same type of customization to send an email message every hour containing the current IP address. This is left as an exercise to the reader.