Home Code Other Software

Table of Contents

This guide describes how to use and configure AVSL (a very simple logger), a Scala-based logging framework that implements the Simple Logging Facade for Java (SLF4J) API.

For information on obtaining and installing AVSL, see the main web page.

Introduction

AVSL is a very simple logger, written in Scala. AVSL implements the Simple Logging Facade for Java (SLF4J) API, allowing applications to be written to the SLF4J API. (This, of course, includes Java applications.) Because it implements SLF4J, AVSL can easily be swapped for another SLF4J-compatible logging framework (or the other way around), without any changes to the calling application. Also, because it supports SLF4J, AVSL can be used in conjunction with Scala SLF4J wrappers, such as Grizzled-SLF4J.

“AVSL” stands for “A Very Simple Logger”, and AVSL strives for simplicity in several ways.

In short, AVSL is a perfectly serviceable, simple logging framework that can easily be swapped out for something with more features.

A brief overview of log levels and loggers

Log levels

Like most logging frameworks, AVSL segregates log messages into logging levels, allowing fine-grained control over the levels. It supports the following levels:

Log messages are tagged with log levels and are only displayed if:

  1. The logger’s log level is equal to or numerically lower than the message’s level. e.g., If the logger is configured at level Info, then messages written at level Debug will be suppressed.
  2. The handlers associated with the logger have levels that are equal or numerically lower than the message’s level. This approach allows you to direct messages to different handlers, depending on their log levels.

Unlike other frameworks, AVSL has no provision for extending or augmenting the log levels. In keeping with the notion of simplicity, the log levels are fixed and cannot be altered or extended.

Hierarchical loggers

Also like most logging frameworks, AVSL’s loggers are hierarchical. At the top of the hierarchy sits the root logger. Underneath the root logger are hierarchies of named loggers. If the calling program requests the logger for a specific name, AVSL uses the most specific logger it can find for that name, defaulting to the top-level root logger if nothing more specific can be found. By convention, logger names are class names, which fit neatly into a hierarchy.

An example will help clarify the approach. Consider a configuration that specifies the following individual (named) loggers:

root (log level ERROR)
org.example.myapp (log level DEBUG)
org.example.myapp.io (log level ERROR)
org.clapper.grizzled (log level ERROR)
com.example.superapi (log level INFO)
com.example.superapi.math (log level DEBUG)

Internally, AVSL will convert such a configuration to the following tree of loggers:

Logger hierarchy

In the diagram, names in brackets are placeholders; they exist in the tree, to establish the hierarchy, but they have no associated loggers.

If a calling program using the above configuration asks for a named logger, AVSL will find the most specific logger for the name. Here are some examples:

Using AVSL in your code

Logging via AVSL is straightforward. There are two basic approaches.

Using AVSL via SLF4J

The recommended way to use AVSL is via SLF4J, because using the SLF4J API isolates your code from the underlying logging API and allows you to switch to any other SLF4J-compliant logging framework without changing your code. If you write to the SLF4J API, you can start out using AVSL, and your code will also work with Logback, java.util.logging, Log4J, and other logging frameworks.

Just write your code to the SLF4J API, and ensure that AVSL is the only logging framework in your CLASSPATH.

If you’re using Scala, you can also use more Scala-friendly SLF4J wrapper APIs, such as Grizzled-SLF4J.

Using SLF4J directly

If you’re using SLF4J directly, you can simply instantiate an SLF4J logger. Here’s a Java example:

import org.slf4j.*;

class MyClass
{
    private Logger logger = LoggerFactory.getLogger(MyClass.class);

    ...

    public void someMethod()
    {
        logger.debug("Entering someMethod()");
        ...
        logger.debug("Exiting someMethod()");
    }
}

Here’s a Scala example:

import org.slf4j._

class MyClass
{
    val logger = LoggerFactory.getLogger(classOf[MyClass])

    def someMethod =
    {
        logger.debug("Entering someMethod()")
        ...
        logger.debug("Exiting someMethod()")
    }
}

Using SLF4J via the Grizzled-SLF4J wrapper

If you’re writing in Scala, you may want to use a more Scala-friendly wrapper. One example is my Grizzled-SLF4J wrapper. Here’s the above example, with Grizzled-SLF4J:

import grizzled.slf4j._

class MyClass
{
    val logger = Logger(classOf[MyClass])

    def someMethod =
    {
        logger.debug("Entering someMethod()")
        ...
        logger.debug("Exiting someMethod()")
    }
}

Using AVSL directly

While you really should use the SLF4J interface, for portability, there’s nothing stopping you from using the AVSL API directly. Doing so is easy enough, as this example shows:

package org.example.cooltool

import org.clapper.avsl.Logger

class MyClass
{
    val logger = Logger(classOf[MyClass])
    
    logger.debug("Initialized new MyClass instance")
    ...
}

The methods in the Logger class are similar to those in Grizzled-SLF4J: They use Scala’s call-by-name capability to delay evaluation of the arguments passed to the methods. Logger.debug(), for instance, is defined as:

def debug(message: => String)

Consult the API documentation for complete details.

Configuring AVSL

AVSL uses a simple INI-style configuration file, reminiscent of the Python logging module’s configuration. This section describes that file in detail.

An overview of configuration file syntax

AVSL uses the Grizzled Scala library’s grizzled.config module to parse its configuration, so it supports all the capabilities that module provides. The configuration file is a Win.INI-style file, with several enhancements, and supports:

Each section consists of a set of variable/value pairs. Variable names can consist of alphanumerics and underscores; values can contain anything. AVSL strips leading and trailing white space from the values.

Variables and values are separated either by “=” or “:”. For example, the following settings are identical:

foo: bar
foo=bar
foo:bar
foo = bar

There’s also a special “raw” assignment operator, -> that suppresses variable and metacharacter expansion. Thus, to assign the literal value of “$bar” to variable foo, use

foo -> $bar

not

foo = $bar

AVSL looks for several special sections, based on their names or prefixes. Other sections are permitted, but AVSL doesn’t explicitly use them. You can use other sections for common variable definitions; a section called “common” or “vars” is often useful for that.

Including other configuration files

A special include directive permits inline inclusion of another configuration file. The include directive takes two forms:

 %include "path"
 %include "URL"

For example:

 %include "common.cfg"
 %include "/etc/sqlshell/common.cfg"
 %include "http://configs.example.com/mytools/common.cfg"

If the include path is not a URL, and is not an absolute path, its location is relative to the file that’s trying to include it.

The included file may contain any content that is valid for this parser. It may contain just variable definitions (i.e., the contents of a section, without the section header), or it may contain a complete configuration file, with individual sections. Since AVSL recognizes a variable syntax that is essentially identical to Java’s properties file syntax, it’s also legal to include a properties file, provided it’s included within a valid section.

Variable Substitution

A variable value can interpolate the values of other variables, using a variable substitution syntax. The general form of a variable reference is ${sectionName.varName}. In many cases, the braces can be omitted (e.g., $sectionName.varName.

If a variable reference specifies a section name, the referenced section must precede the current section. It is not possible to substitute the value of a variable in a section that occurs later in the file.

AVSL’s configuration supports two special pseudo-sections. These sections don’t really exist, but they can be referenced in variable substitutions.

env

The env pseudo-section contains all the environment variables available to AVSL. For example, on a Unix-like system, you can refer to ${env.HOME} (or $env.HOME) to get the home directory of the user who’s running AVSL. On some versions of Windows, ${env.USERNAME} will substitute the name of the user running AVSL. Note: On UNIX systems, environment variable names are typically case-sensitive; for instance, ${env.USER} and ${env.user} refer to different environment variables. On Windows systems, environment variable names are typically case-insensitive, so ${env.USERNAME} and ${env.username} are equivalent.

system

The system pseudo-section contains all the Java and Scala properties. For example, ${system.user.name} (or $system.user.name) gets the Java property corresponding to the user’s name.

Notes and caveats:

The AVSL configuration file in depth

An AVSL configuration file consists of three kinds of sections:

Here’s an example configuration:

[logger_root]
level: info
handlers: h1, h2

[logger_org_clapper]
pattern: org.clapper
level: debug
handlers: h1

[logger_org_clapper_avsl]
pattern: org.clapper.avsl
level: info
handlers: h1, h2

[logger_baz]
pattern: grizzled.
level: error
handlers: h1

[handler_h1]
level: debug
class: FileHandler
path: /tmp/log
formatter: f1
append: true

[handler_h2]
level: trace
class: ConsoleHandler
formatter: f2

[formatter_f1]
class: DefaultFormatter
format: [%Y/%m/%d %h:%m:%s:%S %z] (%l) %t
tz: PDT

[formatter_f2]
class: DefaultFormatter
format: [%Y/%m/%d %h:%m:%s:%S %z] (%l) %n: %t

The logger sections

Each logger_ section specifies the logging parameters for an individual logger. The special logger_root section allows you to configure the aspects of the root (i.e., default) logger; if you omit the logger_root section, AVSL will assume a reasonable default.

logger_ sections have the following values:

The handler sections

Handler sections identify message handlers, which are responsible for dispatching messages to their final destinations.

handler_ sections have the following values:

All other values in the section are assumed to be arguments (in the form of name/value pairs) to be passed to the constructor of the handler class.

logger sections refer to handlers by their names. The name of a handler is its section name, minus the handler_ prefix.

Built-in handlers

AVSL supports the following built-in handlers.

ConsoleHandler

The org.clapper.avsl.ConsoleHandler class (shortcut alias: ConsoleHandler) simply writes log messages to the console. Sample configuration:

[handler_console]
level: warn
class: ConsoleHandler
formatter: f1

NullHandler

The org.clapper.avsl.handler.NullHandler class (shortcut alias: NullHandler) simply swallows all messages routed to it. Sample configuration:

[handler_null]
level: trace
class: NullHandler

FileHandler

The org.clapper.avsl.handler.FileHandler class (shortcut alias: FileHandler) writes its output to a file. In addition to the standard formatter and level parameters, it also supports the following parameters:

The FileHandler does not currently support log file rolling.

EmailHandler

The org.clapper.avsl.handler.EmailHandler class (shortcut alias: EmailHandler) emails each message it receives to one or more recipients. In addition to the standard formatter and level parameters, it also supports the following parameters:

NOTE: If you use this handler, you must have the latest version of the JavaMail API mail.jar file in your CLASSPATH.

The formatter sections

formatter_ sections define formatters. A formatter takes a log message (represented internally by a LogMessage object) and converts it to a string.

formatter_ sections have the following values:

All other values in the section are assumed to be arguments (in the form of name/value pairs) to be passed to the constructor of the handler class.

handler sections refer to formatters by their names. The name of a formatter is its section name, minus the formatter_ prefix.

Built-in formatters

AVSL currently supplies two built-in formatters, described below.

NullFormatter

The org.clapper.avsl.formatter.NullFormatter class (shortcut alias: NullFormatter) simply returns the empty string, always. It’s useful primarily for testing.

[formatter_null]
level: trace
class: NullFormatter

SimpleFormatter

The org.clapper.avsl.formatter.SimpleFormatter class (shortcut alias: SimpleFormatter) is the default formatter for the AVSL logger. It uses simple %-escaped format strings, akin to the standard C strftime function. In fact, some of the escapes are borrowed directly from strftime. These escapes, described below, are more compact than the format strings used by Java’s SimpleDateFormat class; they also don’t suffer from the odd quoting conventions imposed by SimpleDateFormat. However, they are mapped to SimpleDateFormat patterns, so they are locale-, language-, and time zone-sensitive.

A SimpleFormatter accepts the following name/value pair arguments:

The recognized format escapes are shown below. Anything else is displayed literally. Many of the escapes are borrowed directly from strftime().

Specifying the location of the configuration file

See Locating the configuration file in the AVSL at runtime section, below.

AVSL at runtime

Necessary jar files

To run your program with AVSL, you’ll need to have the following jar files in your CLASSPATH at runtime:

Locating the configuration file

AVSL looks for the URL or path to its configuration file in the following places, in the order listed:

If AVSL is unable to find a configuration file in any of those places, then it quietly disables logging.

Extending AVSL

You are free to write your own formatters and handlers for use with AVSL. Since AVSL is written in Scala, Scala is your best choice for extending the API. However, with a little effort, you can also use Java.

Arguments to handlers and formatters

As noted in the configuration sections, handlers and formatters can receive arbitrary arguments. Those arguments, taken directly from the corresponding configuration sections, are passed as name/value pairs and are stored in a special org.clapper.avsl.config.ConfiguredArguments object. In Scala, the ConfiguredArguments class looks like this:

// Scala
class ConfiguredArguments ...
{
    /**
     * Get a named value from the arguments, throwing an exception if
     * not found.
     *
     * @param name  the name of the parameter to retrieve
     *
     * @return the value
     *
     * @throws NoSuchElementException if not found
     */
    def apply(name: String)

    /**
     * Get a named value from the arguments.
     *
     * @param name  the name of the parameter to retrieve
     *
     * @return Some(value) if found, None if not.
     */
    def get(name: String): Option[String]

    /**
     * Get a named value from the arguments, supplying a default if not
     * found.
     *
     * @param name  the name of the parameter to retrieve
     *
     * @return the retrieved value, or default if not found.
     */
    def getOrElse(name: String, default: String)
}

Thus, a ConfiguredArguments object behaves like a Scala Map. (A Map is not used directly, to make it easier to use the class from Java.)

In Java, the same class looks like this:

// Java
class ConfiguredArguments extends Object implements scala.ScalaObject
{
    public String apply(String name);
    public scala.Option get(String name);
    public String getOrElse(String name, String value);
}

When writing a handler or formatter in Java, the best way to handle optional values is via the getOrElse() method. For example:

// Java
if (args.getOrElse("foo", null) == null) // "foo" not supplied

Writing a new handler

To write a new handler, you must extend the org.clapper.avsl.handler.Handler trait, which looks like this:

// Scala
trait Handler
{
    val level: org.clapper.avsl.LogLevel
    val formatter: org.clapper.avsl.formatter.Formatter
    def log(message: String, logMessage: LogMessage): Unit
}

In Java, this trait looks like the following interface:

// Java
public interface Handler
{
    public org.clapper.avsl.LogLevel level();
    public clapper.avsl.formatter.Formatter formatter();
    public void log(String message);
} 

You must also provide a constructor that takes three parameters, in order:

Handlers do not need to worry about thread safety, and they do not need to format log messages. Those concerns are handled by the framework. Most handlers won’t need to use the logMessage parameter that is passed to the log() method; that parameter exists just in case a handler needs access to the raw pieces. The message parameter contains the already formatted log message.

The ConsoleHandler, which writes its output to the console, is a simple example of a handler:

package org.clapper.avsl.handler

import org.clapper.avsl.formatter.Formatter
import org.clapper.avsl.config.ConfiguredArguments
import org.clapper.avsl.LogLevel

class ConsoleHandler(args: ConfiguredArguments,
                     val formatter: Formatter,
                     val level: LogLevel)
extends Handler
{
    def log(message: String, logMessage: LogMessage) = Console.println(message)
}

Writing a new formatter

To write a new formatter, you must extend the org.clapper.avsl.formatter.Formatter trait, which looks like this:

// Scala
trait Formatter
{
    def format(logMessage: org.clapper.avsl.LogMessage): String
}

In Java, this trait looks like the following interface:

// Java
public interface Formatter
{
    public String format(org.clapper.avsl.LogMessage logMessage);
}    

LogMessage describes the message to be logged; it looks like this:

// Scala
case class LogMessage(name: String,
                      date: Long,
                      level: LogLevel,
                      message: AnyRef,
                      exception: Option[Throwable])

// Java
public class LogMessage extends Object implements scala.ScalaObject
{
    public String name();
    public long date();
    public LogLevel level();
    public Object message();
    public scala.Option exception();
}

You must also provide a constructor that takes an args parameter, of type ConfiguredArguments. (See above.) ConfiguredArgs contains custom name-value parameters for the formatter, taken directly from the formatter’s configuration section.

Formatters do not need to worry about thread safety.

The following Scala code, which formats all messages the same way, serves as a simple example of a formatter:

import org.clapper.avsl.formatter.Formatter
import org.clapper.avsl.config.ConfiguredArguments
import org.clapper.avsl.LogLevel
import java.text.SimpleDateFormat

class MyFormatter(args: ConfiguredArguments) extends Formatter
{
    private val dateFormat = new SimpleDateFormat("yyyy/MM/DD HH:mm:ss.SSS")
    def format(logMessage: LogMessage): String =
    {
        val exception = logMessage match
        {
            case None     => ""
            case Some(ex) => ex.getMessage
        }

        dateFormat.format(new Date(logMessage.date)) + " "
        logMessage.level.label + " "
        logMessage.name + " "
        logMessage.message + exception
    }
}

Author

Brian M. Clapper, bmc@clapper.org

AVSL is copyright © 2010 Brian M. Clapper and is released under a BSD License.

Patches

I gladly accept patches from their original authors. Feel free to email patches to me or to fork the GitHub repository and send me a pull request. Along with any patch you send: