breaking into the unknown…

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escaping special characters & < etc in xml

some charecter like & , > or < etc have special meaning in xml structure. So If you are generating xml payload from user inputs for some API call, you must take care of these characters, or the generated xml payload will become corrupt and break your application.

This is sample code from one of my library which generate xml payload from user input to submit the content to an other API

require 'rest_client'
require 'base64'

module LoanPath
  class Application
    def apply_credit(detail)
      uri = ""
      payload =<<-eos
      <soap11:Envelope xmlns:soap11="">
     rest_resource =, {:user => "arun", :password => "secret", 
                                                   :timeout => 90 s, :open_timeout => 90s}) payload, :content_type => "application/xml"

I trigger, apply credit method in my controller as below # params contain value filled by user for name city state etc.

Now, say if a user fill the street address as “23 & main street”, the application will crash due to internal server error, which is basically due to generation of wrong XML.

The solution is to, replace all the special character with there correct XML notation

"&" with "&amp";
"<"; with "&lt";  
">" with "&gt"; 
and so on.....

Well, you do not need to do much hard work. You just need to encode all the users value By using REXML Text module.

NOTE : ruby have its own library called REXML to do all the stuff with XML. just look up this document whenever, you need some solution for your XML need.

So the correct code will look like this

require 'rest_client'
require 'base64'

module LoanPath
  class Application
    def apply_credit(detail)
      uri = ""
      payload =<<-eos
      <soap11:Envelope xmlns:soap11="">
                  <firstName>#{[:first_name], false, nil, false)}</firstName>
                  <lastName>#{[:last_name], false, nil, false)}</lastName>
                  <street>#{[:street], false, nil, false)}</street>
                  <city>#{[:city], false, nil, false)}</city>
                  <state>#{[:state], false, nil, false)}</state>
     rest_resource =, {:user => "arun", :password => "secret", 
                                                   :timeout => 90 s, :open_timeout => 90s}) payload, :content_type => "application/xml"

So basically, you need to replace the value of the node with below method of RXML. see the detail documentation here“your string”, false, nil, false)

Below, are the description of the parameter above.

First Argument

“your string”  is the first argument and will hold your string you want to escape. we careful that your string can be empty but not nil

1.9.3p194 :022 > nil, false, nil, false) # will throw below error  for nil
NoMethodError: undefined method `type’ for nil:NilClass

Also, the first argument should be a string. Not apply it to integer 1234, false, nil, false)
NoMethodError: undefined method `type’ for 1234:Fixnum

Second Argument

It have boolean value for white space, if set true, white space will be retained, for false it will be removed.

1.9.3p194 :018 > “&     arun”, true, nil, false) # see that white space is retained in the string
=> “&     arun”

Third Argument:

Keep it nil or pass the parent object. I always keep it nil, have never tried with parent object

Fourth Argument:

raw (nil) This argument can be given three values.

If true, then the value of used to construct this object is expected to contain no unescaped XML markup, and REXML will not change the text.

1.9.3p194 :011 > “Iam <&”, false, nil, true ) # setting last argument true will not escape < & , so throw error
RuntimeError: Illegal character ‘<‘ in raw string “Iam <&”

If this value is false, the string may contain any characters, and REXML will escape any and all defined entities whose values are contained in the text.

1.9.3p194 :011 > “Iam <&”, false, nil, true )  # setting last argument false will escape < &  etc
“Iam <&”

If this value is nil (the default), then the raw value of the parent will be used as the raw value for this node. If there is no raw value for the parent, and no value is supplied, the default is false.

NOTE : always set the fourth argument to false if want to escape the special characters


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json parsing in ruby

Sometime we want to convert json response to  Hash or array , so that we can easily use it. Ruby provide, json parsing as its core feature. The detail documentation is available here. Let us assume that our json response is stored in sample_json file at  /db/data/sample_json of your project root. Some sample data is available here.  Add one of the sample data to this file, I used the first one. Now, we will parse it on the console

$rails c #move to the console

1.9.3p194 :005 >json_file =“db”, “data”, “sample_json”)) # It will open the json file

1.9.3p194 :006 > json_data = # file value is read and stored in json data, this is basically our response, which you will get from some API cals, some methods etc.

1.9.3p194 :007 > a=JSON.parse(json_data) # your response wil be as below

=> {“glossary”=>{“title”=>”example glossary”, “GlossDiv”=>{“title”=>”S”, “GlossList”=>{“GlossEntry”=>{“ID”=>”SGML”, “SortAs”=>”SGML”, “GlossTerm”=>”Standard Generalized Markup Language”, “Acronym”=>”SGML”, “Abbrev”=>”ISO 8879:1986”, “GlossDef”=>{“para”=>”A meta-markup language”, “GlossSeeAlso”=>[“GML”, “XML”]}, “GlossSee”=>”markup”}}}}}

You can also pass, different option to the parser as below

1.9.3p194 :023 > b=JSON.parse(json_d, :max_nesting => false,:allow_nan => true, :symbolize_names => true)
=> {:glossary=>{:title=>”example glossary”, :GlossDiv=>{:title=>”S”, :GlossList=>{:GlossEntry=>{:ID=>”SGML”, :SortAs=>”SGML”, :GlossTerm=>”Standard Generalized Markup Language”, :Acronym=>”SGML”, :Abbrev=>”ISO 8879:1986″, :GlossDef=>{:para=>”A meta-markup language”, :GlossSeeAlso=>[“GML”, “XML”]}, :GlossSee=>”markup”}}}}}

The complete list of option for parse method is as below

parse(source, opts = {}) #Parse the JSON document source into a Ruby data structure 
and return it.

opts can have the following keys:

max_nesting: #The maximum depth of nesting allowed in the parsed data structures. 
Disable depth checking with :max_nesting => false. It defaults to 19.

allow_nan: #If set to true, allow NaN, Infinity and -Infinity in defiance of RFC 4627
to be parsed by the Parser. This option defaults to false.

symbolize_names: #If set to true, returns symbols for the names (keys) in a JSON object.
Otherwise strings are returned.Strings are the default.

create_additions: #If set to false, the Parser doesn't create additions even if a matching class 
and ::create_id was found.This option defaults to true.

object_class: #Defaults to Hash

array_class: #Defaults to Array

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Sample json data

Sometime, I want to experiment with json data and feel the need of some rough data to work on. I used to generate the data myself while creating array or hash or array of hash and then converting that to json data by using ruby to_json method which basically convert array or hash object to a json object. However, I come across some sample data here and copied here for my future use.


    "glossary": {
        "title": "example glossary",
		"GlossDiv": {
            "title": "S",
			"GlossList": {
                "GlossEntry": {
                    "ID": "SGML",
					"SortAs": "SGML",
					"GlossTerm": "Standard Generalized Markup Language",
					"Acronym": "SGML",
					"Abbrev": "ISO 8879:1986",
					"GlossDef": {
                        "para": "A meta-markup language",
						"GlossSeeAlso": ["GML", "XML"]
					"GlossSee": "markup"


{"web-app": {
  "servlet": [   
      "servlet-name": "cofaxCDS",
      "servlet-class": "org.cofax.cds.CDSServlet",
      "init-param": {
        "configGlossary:installationAt": "Philadelphia, PA",
        "configGlossary:adminEmail": "",
        "configGlossary:poweredBy": "Cofax",
        "configGlossary:poweredByIcon": "/images/cofax.gif",
        "configGlossary:staticPath": "/content/static",
        "templateProcessorClass": "org.cofax.WysiwygTemplate",
        "templateLoaderClass": "org.cofax.FilesTemplateLoader",
        "templatePath": "templates",
        "templateOverridePath": "",
        "defaultListTemplate": "listTemplate.htm",
        "defaultFileTemplate": "articleTemplate.htm",
        "useJSP": false,
        "jspListTemplate": "listTemplate.jsp",
        "jspFileTemplate": "articleTemplate.jsp",
        "cachePackageTagsTrack": 200,
        "cachePackageTagsStore": 200,
        "cachePackageTagsRefresh": 60,
        "cacheTemplatesTrack": 100,
        "cacheTemplatesStore": 50,
        "cacheTemplatesRefresh": 15,
        "cachePagesTrack": 200,
        "cachePagesStore": 100,
        "cachePagesRefresh": 10,
        "cachePagesDirtyRead": 10,
        "searchEngineListTemplate": "forSearchEnginesList.htm",
        "searchEngineFileTemplate": "forSearchEngines.htm",
        "searchEngineRobotsDb": "WEB-INF/robots.db",
        "useDataStore": true,
        "dataStoreClass": "org.cofax.SqlDataStore",
        "redirectionClass": "org.cofax.SqlRedirection",
        "dataStoreName": "cofax",
        "dataStoreDriver": "",
        "dataStoreUrl": "jdbc:microsoft:sqlserver://LOCALHOST:1433;DatabaseName=goon",
        "dataStoreUser": "sa",
        "dataStorePassword": "dataStoreTestQuery",
        "dataStoreTestQuery": "SET NOCOUNT ON;select test='test';",
        "dataStoreLogFile": "/usr/local/tomcat/logs/datastore.log",
        "dataStoreInitConns": 10,
        "dataStoreMaxConns": 100,
        "dataStoreConnUsageLimit": 100,
        "dataStoreLogLevel": "debug",
        "maxUrlLength": 500}},
      "servlet-name": "cofaxEmail",
      "servlet-class": "org.cofax.cds.EmailServlet",
      "init-param": {
      "mailHost": "mail1",
      "mailHostOverride": "mail2"}},
      "servlet-name": "cofaxAdmin",
      "servlet-class": "org.cofax.cds.AdminServlet"},

      "servlet-name": "fileServlet",
      "servlet-class": "org.cofax.cds.FileServlet"},
      "servlet-name": "cofaxTools",
      "servlet-class": "org.cofax.cms.CofaxToolsServlet",
      "init-param": {
        "templatePath": "toolstemplates/",
        "log": 1,
        "logLocation": "/usr/local/tomcat/logs/CofaxTools.log",
        "logMaxSize": "",
        "dataLog": 1,
        "dataLogLocation": "/usr/local/tomcat/logs/dataLog.log",
        "dataLogMaxSize": "",
        "removePageCache": "/content/admin/remove?cache=pages&id=",
        "removeTemplateCache": "/content/admin/remove?cache=templates&id=",
        "fileTransferFolder": "/usr/local/tomcat/webapps/content/fileTransferFolder",
        "lookInContext": 1,
        "adminGroupID": 4,
        "betaServer": true}}],
  "servlet-mapping": {
    "cofaxCDS": "/",
    "cofaxEmail": "/cofaxutil/aemail/*",
    "cofaxAdmin": "/admin/*",
    "fileServlet": "/static/*",
    "cofaxTools": "/tools/*"},

  "taglib": {
    "taglib-uri": "cofax.tld",
    "taglib-location": "/WEB-INF/tlds/cofax.tld"}}}

If some value is not there, you can put them as NULL, they are equivalent to <separator/> in XML
{"menu": {
    "header": "SVG Viewer",
    "items": [
        {"id": "Open"},
        {"id": "OpenNew", "label": "Open New"},
        {"id": "ZoomIn", "label": "Zoom In"},
        {"id": "ZoomOut", "label": "Zoom Out"},
        {"id": "OriginalView", "label": "Original View"},
        {"id": "Quality"},
        {"id": "Pause"},
        {"id": "Mute"},
        {"id": "Find", "label": "Find..."},
        {"id": "FindAgain", "label": "Find Again"},
        {"id": "Copy"},
        {"id": "CopyAgain", "label": "Copy Again"},
        {"id": "CopySVG", "label": "Copy SVG"},
        {"id": "ViewSVG", "label": "View SVG"},
        {"id": "ViewSource", "label": "View Source"},
        {"id": "SaveAs", "label": "Save As"},
        {"id": "Help"},
        {"id": "About", "label": "About Adobe CVG Viewer..."}

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undefined method `content=’ for nokogiri

while, traversing the xml file and retrieving value of one of the node , I was getting this error :  undefined method `content=’ for #<Nokogiri::XML::NodeSet:0xc0755b0>. Actually, I want to modify the node value on run time. The idea is to retrieve the node value, manipulate it and reinsert it.

My xml structure is as below

I want to modify the loanId value to append current_user id to it. I   used the below code
                      doc.xpath(“//list/request”).each do |doc|
                                 loan_number = doc.xpath(“loanId”).text
                                doc.xpath(“loanId”).content = loan_number +
                                puts doc.xpath(“id”).text

But, the code is throwing below error

undefined method `content=’ for #<Nokogiri::XML::NodeSet:0xc0755b0>

actually , xpath return an array of element, and so the content method ,  is called for array rather then the node. So, we should use at_xpath
and change the culprit line as below

doc.at_xpath(“loanId”).content = loan_number +
This will work now