Rescuing from an Erlang error

Hello, I’ve tried 2 libraries for parsing XML: sweet_xml and quinn, and both rely on the Erlang package xmerl.

They both work great, but when they encounter malformed XML, they error and exit like this:

iex(4)> Quinn.parse "<xml>"
** (exit) {:fatal, {:unexpected_end, {:file, :file_name_unknown}, {:line, 1}, {:col, 6}}}
16:21:51.714 [error] 4108- fatal: :unexpected_end
xmerl_scan.erl:4111: :xmerl_scan.fatal/2
xmerl_scan.erl:572: :xmerl_scan.scan_document/2
xmerl_scan.erl:288: :xmerl_scan.string/2
lib/xml_parser/xml_parser.ex:5: Quinn.XmlParser.parse/1

If I directly use :xmerl_scan.string/1 I get the same error:

iex(1)> :xmerl_scan.string '<xml>'
** (exit) {:fatal, {:unexpected_end, {:file, :file_name_unknown}, {:line, 1}, {:col, 6}}}
16:36:46.245 [error] 4108- fatal: :unexpected_end
xmerl_scan.erl:4111: :xmerl_scan.fatal/2
xmerl_scan.erl:572: :xmerl_scan.scan_document/2
xmerl_scan.erl:288: :xmerl_scan.string/2

Now, I want to make my app rescue from this error, but I’m not being able to do this. I’ve tried this but it doesn’t work:

iex(1)> try do
...(1)>   :xmerl_scan.string '<xml>'
...(1)> rescue
...(1)>   RuntimeError -> "Error!"
...(1)> end
** (exit) {:fatal, {:unexpected_end, {:file, :file_name_unknown}, {:line, 1}, {:col, 6}}}

16:40:20.003 [error] 4108- fatal: :unexpected_end

I suppose that it’s because it’s not a RuntimeError I’m dealing with, because it’s not from Elixir, but Erlang. I can catch the exit, however.

How can I rescue from this error?



It is not ‘raising’ an error, so rescue will not handle it. It is ‘throwing’ an :exit, so you need to catch it like:

iex> try do
...>   exit "I am exiting"
...> catch
...>   :exit, _ -> "not really"
...> end
"not really"

And that is the only way to handle an exit in that context (without looking at xmerl itself, if it is another process then trapping exits would work too).

EDIT: Or more accurately for your use case:

iex(2)> try do
...(2)>  :xmerl_scan.string '<xml>'
...(2)> catch
...(2)>  :exit, e -> {:nope, e}
...(2)> end
[error] 4108- fatal: :unexpected_end

  {:unexpected_end, {:file, :file_name_unknown}, {:line, 1}, {:col, 6}}}}

Thanks @OvermindDL1 - that’s what I’m doing, catching the :exit, but I also see the [error] 4108- fatal: :unexpected_end line, I thought an error was being raised and I was unable to catch it.

But, what I think it’s happening here is that the error just gets logged, no error is raised. Does that make sense?

1 Like

Actually that [error] part is a logged message from xmerl, not even really an error message, not a thrown anything, just a bit of noise from an old erlang module. You could silence it by hooking its output if you really want. :slight_smile:

1 Like

That would be great, because as the error gets logged, it’s catched by the Rollbax logger backend and notified to Rollbar, which is annoying. How can I do that?

1 Like

Easiest thing would be just to set a new group leader for its (yours? If run in the same process, I don’t know if it is or not) process.

It should be able to be done via:

f = get_empty_group_leader() # Implement this yourself as a supervised GenServer somewhere
:elixir.group_leader(f, self()) # Or instead of self() use whatever is the PID of the xmerl process

The part you need to implement yourself of get_empty_group_leader() just use a GenServer somewhere that implements the file streaming erlang protocol (see erlang docs), or have it basically ignore everything (I think you need to send :ok back or something on a few of them though).

1 Like


Actually there is event simpler solution(s).

  1. xmerl_scan has quiet ({quiet, Flag}) as one of the options. When set to true xmerl behaves and nothing get’s error-logged. Details are here:

  2. I was experiencing same issue with false error reporting as @jaimeiniesta. And that’s Elixir Logger capturing erlang’s standard_error and logs it with error level to configured Logger backends. See :handle_otp_reports config option of the Elixir.Logger

  3. Solution with wrapping xmerl parsing in a separate process and setting group leader to stub GenServer didn’t work for me. But good implementation example could be found in ExUnit Capture logs/io sources: