Today is a good day to code

Installing ColdFusion MX 7, and the Apache Connector on Leopard Server (10.5.5)

Posted: December 31st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, ColdFusion, Companies, java, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Installing ColdFusion MX 7, and the Apache Connector on Leopard Server (10.5.5)

Picture of IrvinThis weekend, I spent an unpleasant 24 hours or so working on upgrading a client’s server to Leopard 10.5.5. The actual Leopard upgrade went pretty well on the G5 XServe. The secret to that was having a crossover cable, and knowing the specific RackMac system identifier to be able to get the IP address to SSH into. The problems started with ColdFusion.

Now I am going to rant. My client has an Enterprise license, so we aren’t running on some hacked up installation, we are running a major OS that has been on the market for about a year, it has been in the hands of developers for more than a year. That there isn’t a proper connector bundled with the installation is criminal. If I wanted to go hacking around inside of source code, building crap, I could run open source. Why did we pay so much money for this? I will not write any more private applications with ColdFusion. If a corporation wants me to build ColdFusion applications, I may, but only after I try to convince them to go with something that is more likely to be supported on UNIX / Mac OS X.

I mean, how long has Apache 2 64-bit been out there, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to Adobe. I can’t trust that they will support major platforms going into the future. This is because of one or both of two things. The first possibility is that Adobe doesn’t want to put money into ColdFusion because it is dead or dying, the second is that Adobe wants to force people to upgrade to ColdFusion 8 by any means necessary. What Adobe has done is to make me look bad in front of my clients for choosing a technology that was not supported. I have already begun to write my applications in RoR, now I am definitely going to write my applications in RoR. I am done. I could have made so much more money writing code instead of screwing around with compiler flags.

The problem is that I would expect to run into trouble installing or running my software when using OSS. That comes with the territory, but when you buy software and it claims to support the platform, one would reasonably assume that the platform would be fully and actively supported. Anyway, rant over.

Now I will show how I fixed the problem:

First:

If you have a standalone installation (the only one that works), you will need to start it by switching to your ColdFusion directory, if you followed the defaults, it will be /Applications/ColdFusionMX7/runtime/bin. You will need to issue the JRun command from here ./jrun -start coldfusion. This will work, if you try to start it any other way, you will get the THIS_PROCESS_HAS_FORKED errors.

If you have installed it in multi-server, you are screwed, I have not found any decent way to get this to work.

Second:

You should be able to get to the administrator on http://127.0.0.1:8500/CFIDE/Administrator/index.cfm. Then you will need to set up the connector, this was crazy. The solution I am about to post I found on Scott Pinkston’s blog. The post is called ColdFusion 8 Leopard with apache an answer for the rest of us. It is generally for CF 8, but it will work on ColdFusion MX 7.

Here are the steps from his blog:

go to terminal window.
cd /Applications/JRun4/lib
unzip -d src wsconfig.jar
cd src/connectors/src  

apxs -c -Wc,-arch -Wc,x86_64 -Wl,-arch -Wl,x86_64 -n jrun22
mod_jrun22.c jrun_maptable_impl.c jrun_property.c jrun_session.c
platform.c jrun_mutex.c jrun_proxy.c jrun_utils.c

apxs -i -n jrun22 -S LIBEXECDIR=/Applications/JRun4/lib/src/connectors/src/
mod_jrun22.la

strip mod_jrun22.so

Now run the connector configuration:
sudo java -jar /Applications/JRun4/lib/wsconfig.jar

After it finishes, run this command:
cp /Applications/JRun4/lib/src/connectors/src/mod_jrun22.so /Applications/JRun4/lib/wsconfig/1/mod_jrun22.so

sudo apachectl restart

The order of the files to be compiled is *IMPORTANT* I was working on a Dual-G5 2.3 GHz so my command was /usr/sbin/apxs -c -Wc,-arch -Wc,ppc64 -Wl,-arch -Wl,ppc64 -n jrun22 mod_jrun22.c jrun_maptable_impl.c jrun_property.c jrun_session.c platform.c jrun_mutex.c jrun_proxy.c jrun_utils.c.

You will get some warnings, you can ignore them. If you get an error saying something about functions that start with an underscore in your apache error logs, when you try to start it, you have the file names in the wrong order. If you see an error that says it found the module, and it is mach-o, but it is the wrong architecture, you are probably using -WI (I as in imitate) instead of Wl (l as in Larry).

Step 3:

Make sure to add the add handler to your httpd.conf. in the ifmodule for mod_jrun22.so. Mine did not install this by default, so my ColdFusion templates were coming up with the code showing up as plain text. Here is the default handler: AddHandler jrun-handler .jsp .jws .cfm .cfml .cfc .cfr .cfswf.

I hope this prevents anyone from going through the ridiculous configuration nightmare that I went through this weekend. I apologize for the rant, but I have some other cool projects that I would rather work on than spending forever hacking around with my application server.


Ruby on Rails

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: ColdFusion, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

Ruby on Rails

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperI'm definately suffering from infatuation with another web development language. I'm hesitant to call it love yet because I have been burned so many times before, but I think I love Ruby on Rails on first sight.

For a fully object oriented framework, Ruby on Rails is downright easy. Easier than easy. It also sports a very clean syntax similar to Python in its readability, and the fact that it does almost all database stuff for you is killer. I can see excellent applications for Ruby in prototypes, and perhaps web applications. I still think it needs to be used in enterprise, but it is holding up under some pretty heavy loads right now. I'll be working with it more in the coming days and weeks, as I am very curious as to how it will compare with ColdFusion.

For years I have thought that ColdFusion couldn't be beat for “Rapid Application Development.” But here is an application plus framework that beats it as far as time to market, but also does it in a completely OO way. I have been working to develop my own framework for a couple of days now, and I think that I'll start trying to mimic Rails' functionality for ColdFusion. But the reflection, etc… I don't know if I am up to the task of that.

The other nagging question about Ruby on Rails is how customizable it is as far as if you really want to get down to the nitty gritty. It does a lot of cool high-level stuff for you as far as the database interaction is concerned, but as far as delivering views that comply with XHTML Strict, and ECMA Script standards, I don't know. If I find myself having to rebuild all of the views from scratch it wouldn't be too bad, but I'd rather not.

One other really nice thing out of the many nice things about Ruby on Rails is that it creates nice search engine safe URLs for you, from the start. It truly seems that this language was made to be the web developer's language. It is so young now that to compare it to ColdFusion is almost heresy, but I find myself doing it.

Ruby on Rails


MySpace.com Switches From ColdFusion to Blue Dragon

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: ColdFusion, Microsoft, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

MySpace.com Switches From ColdFusion to Blue Dragon

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperWhen MySpace decided to stop using ColdFusion recently, many ColdFusion developers felt somewhat betrayed by the change. Many even suggested that it wasn't the best engineered solution. By that they were hinting that by using fusebox, no one has said which version, and ColdFusion 4.5 / 5 they weren't working with the best that Macromedia had to offer.

New Atlanta claims in their press release that using the exact same code, MySpace was able to reduce their CPU usage by 50% under heavy load. They also claim that this result could not be duplicated with ColdFusion MX. I believe both of these claims. Most ColdFusion developers are loathe to admit it, but Microsoft has a pretty good thing going with C# right now. The ASP.net framework is decent, it performs extremely well in every test I have seen, so I am not suprised that by using ADO.net and ASP.net they were seeing gains like this. The biggest problem with any scripting or programming language comes down to the drivers when using an external resource. Web development is no different. When your database connection pool reaches it's limit, it just can't create any more connections and requests get queued. There is no way around this except to get better database drivers. I have seen JDBC fail miserably time and time again, especially with SQL Server 2000 in this area. One of the biggest causes of that 100% CPU utilization seems to be in the JDBC driver when the database doesn't respond in a timely fashion. I don't know what causes it, but it happens when I am working with a complicated dataset. It isn't even that the memory usage is too high and the server is thrashing, the CPU just goes to max and starts refusing connections. The only solution to this is to kill and restart the JRun instance. After that it behaves well again until it crashes.

In all fariness to Java / J2EE, I have only experienced these issues while working with ColdFusion Enterprise on Windows based systems, this doesn't seem to happen on Linux, at least in my experience. Since MySpace was so heavily invested in both ColdFusion and Windows hardware, I guess they had no choice but to use New Atlanta's Blue Dragon. Still, what most programmers have to realize is that at the end of the day, it is the tool that delivers the best that will be used. No matter what we feel about Microsoft, ASP.net is fast and stable in it's newest iteration. One of the advantages to ASP.net is that it automatically fixes it's memory leaks. This is something that Macromedia desperately needs to build into JRun. ColdFusion is sometimes slow and is often buggy when dealing with some of it's advanced features. Experienced CF developers know how to deal with most of this so it doesn't come into play very often, and I'd bet that with higher quality Microsoft SQL Server JDBC drivers, and the application of good design patterns and reusable CFCs they could have gotten better results out of the CFMX server. But as the CEO of New Atlanta said in his blog, to rewrite all the code to take advantage of components, invocation, and var typed variables is beside the point. They made the decision that would best serve their business. If their code was reusable or not is immaterial after the fact.

Still, I find ColdFusion's performance to be reasonable. I wouldn't call JSP / ColdFusion a speed demon any day, with light load, PHP blows it away with 10 users on it, but once you scale that up to 100,000 users concurrently, then Java starts to shine. Since Microsoft shamelessly copied Java with C# and improved on it, it is no suprise that ASP.net performs as well as it does since it has native OS support in Windows Server. No one uses ColdFusion because it is the fastest from the execution standpoint, they use it because it is the fastest language to develop in.

Another interesting point would be if Microsoft were to acquire New Atlanta in order to integrate ColdFusion support directly into IIS. This would give Macromedia / Adobe some competition and force them to fix some of the issues they have let languish in CF. It wouldn't be too suprising a move since they are seriously evaluating building PHP support directly into IIS. I'll bet that it wasn't even that tough for New Atlanta to port their J2EE version of ColdFusion over to ASP.net due to it's support for C# and Microsoft's Java source to C# source conversion tools. It, of course required some optimization, I'm sure, but I'll bet it is smokin'. Maybe I'll download it and try it.

New Atlanta
New Atlanta CEO's blog
House of Fusion MySpace Conversion Discussion


Google Sitemaps

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: ColdFusion, Google, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Google Sitemaps

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperAnother couple of projects I started working on was getting a properly configured robots.txt, going, and to use Google sitemaps. If you have a gmail account, and you are a publisher, this is a very easy way to make sure Google crawls your site properly, and knows about all your links. One of the things I have noticed about the googlebot is that it frequently hits my homepage, but it would always only index the blogs that were directly linked to from that page. It would almost never go all the way through my site to get to the oldest articles.

Here is the code from the component that I am using to generate the sitemaps file. I modified the code originally avaliable at ColdFusion based Google Sitemap Creator. It is a .cfc so it should be pretty plug and play. Of course I will change the sensitive details about my site…








http://www.owensperformance.com/index.cfm
#theDatetime#
always 1.0


http://www.owensperformance.com/resume.cfm
#theDatetime#
monthly 0.9


http://www.owensperformance.com/aboutus.cfm
#theDatetime#
monthly 0.3


http://www.owensperformance.com/blog.cfm
#theDatetime#
daily 0.8






http://www.owensperformance.com/blog_content.cfm?
articleid=#urlString.articleid#

#theDatetime#
never 0.7





file=”#ExpandPath('../sitemap.xml')#”
output=”#theXml#” nameconflict=”overwrite”>
Google Sitemaps Overview


Whirlwinds of Code and Forming Design Patterns

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: ColdFusion, Microsoft, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Whirlwinds of Code and Forming Design Patterns

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperOne of the biggest issues with understanding object oriented programming is getting over its associated terminology. Most developers whether they realize it or not have formed design patterns, and use them all the time. If an established developer were to look at their code, they would often see that their application was broken down into data access and storage components, display components, and the logic that allows them to successfully communicate. When asked to bring a system from one application to another, they can usually do it with little to no modification. This is the idea behind design patterns.

In an interview yesterday I realized that I had better take a more aggressive look at design patterns. Understanding the terminology may be tough, but it is an excellent way to communicate an application's business needs, especially using UML, as well as getting down to the lowest level of describing the objects that will comprise your frameworks. I have always tried to get a firm handle on design patterns, but they have largely eluded me. I have understood simple systems like breaking your code into well defined model-view-controller layers, and using messaging to communicate between layers, but I have never really been able to understand the more advanced concepts. In the interview I noticed that I was designing with some object oriented concepts by using Fusebox, even if I didn't know what to call them, but ignoring some of the more specific ones.

Programming is often like the game Dark Cloud for the PlayStation 2. For those who haven't played the game, it is a role playing game in which the player travels around their world trying to re-assemble their world, which was scattered by an evil genie. The player is provided a weapon which is pretty weak to start with, and by travelling around the world, they can gain objects which make their weapon stronger. When they get enough objects, they can merge their objects permanently into the weapon, increasing its effectiveness. They then begin the process anew, adding objects to the newly enhanced weapon until they can merge it again. When you have better weaponry, the player can gain pieces of their world more quickly and can assemble more complex worlds in shorter time. It is like this with programming. Often I feel as though code is whirling around me and once I have that “aha!” moment it merges and becomes something solid for me that enables me to take the next step. Building large applications has caused me to develop different frameworks or APIs for me to use. For example, most of my applications require search, so I have developed a pretty thorough search framework, made up of components, that can be moved with little modification. I wouldn't have known that it was that, but it is.

Today, or last night rather, I had one of those “aha!” moments, the moments we all write software for. I was finally able to put names to some of what I was doing. Now that I am beginning to understand, I can see why it would be hard for experienced object oriented developers to explain to procedural developers how to do OO design. You just begin to think differently. I can see about ten areas in which I can improve my search API / framework to make it more portable. The hardest part is finding the dragon, slaying it is easy. In other words, associating design patterns to what you are doing is hard, once you can put names to faces so to speak, the rest is simple. For a while I could never understand why people were so excited about Microsoft enabling the use of C# in SQL Server 2005. But now I can see, you can create an entire data access framework all on the database server, abstracting the underlying database and its queries from the application. It would be possible, in a web application, to completely separate the model from the controller and view layers. This has huge benefits in code maintenance because you could have any number of applications using the data access framework through web services.

What really dragged it together for me was why Java was so tough. I realized that it was tough because my mostly procedural mind was trying to write a program thinking about what each class should do instead of things like what does this class know about itself, what is it's purpose. How do the methods inside it work to help it achieve its purpose. In short I was trying to write a simple program, instead of thinking about a toolset to help me achieve my goal. With Java, you have to diagram, you have to chart or you will just get lost. Even objective-c makes more sense, with over-riding the init method for objects. These things didn't make sense before, but now I am getting it. I still have a long way to go, but I think I'll start working with Mach II, even if there is a performance hit. That is a little more OO than Fusebox, but Fusebox is a great foundation for it.

All that being said, there are still some instances where you can go too far with data encapsulization. For example if you had a table that had contact information in it. You wouldn't want to return each row, create a struct out of it, then set an iterator method to go through each struct, then each element of the structs, at least not in ColdFusion. Iterating over a query is something that the built-in elements of ColdFusion do fairly well anyway so building frameworks to disassemble a query object, then re-assemble it as a bunch of structs is probably an un-necessary layer of complexity for most applications. So like anything else, discretion is required. Now I'm ready to tackle the UML book and hopefully figure out how to use that nifty ID3 tag reader framework for Objective-C that I downloaded a while back and couldn't quite figure out how to use. I've got Macintosh applications that need to be developed.

Here are a few of the sites that helped me get to the “aha!” moment.
Macromedia exerpt from 'Design Patterns'
ColdFusion object factories, the Composition CFC
Introduction to the Mach-II framework


ColdFusion MX 7 Licensing Issues

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: ColdFusion, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

ColdFusion MX 7 Licensing Issues

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperI have been wrestling with an issue that should not be an issue that anyone should have to deal with. The licensing issues around a piece of software. The piece of software happens to be ColdFusion MX 7. The issue is that I am running it on OS X Server on a brand spanking new Xserve. I have everything installed properly, all my applications are working, and the server is operating beautifully. It should be nothing to plug in the serial number to put the finishing touches on it right? Wrong.

I have my client purchase a standard license for the “other” installation of ColdFusion, and the Mac OS X version of JRun. He proceeds to do so and sends me the serial numbers for both. I am excited because I'll finally be done with setting the server up and can get back to developing applications. I bring up the JRun administrator, put in the serial number with no problem. JRun says fully licensed 2-cpu version. I am very happy as I bring up the ColdFusion administrator to put this baby to bed. Once I bring up the admin, and get to the system information screen where I can enter the serial number I enter the number with no hesitation. The server responds that it is not accepted. Taken aback I check the number twice and have the purchasing agent fax over the list of numbers. No, the number is right. I go on a long excursion of un-installing ColdFusion, re-installing ColdFusion. Trying to put in the serial number at the beginning of the installation. That doesn't even work, it says that I already have a version installed, even when I don't. I know because I formatted my computer to make sure every vestige of ColdFusion was gone. I even installed it onto my PC putting in the standard serial number to see it work just fine. Neither myself, or the purchaser saw that to run the J2EE version of ColdFusion you must purchase the “Enterprise” license.

Let me say that again clearly so that anyone else running into this issue can find this on the web and save their time.

ColdFusion can not be installed in standard mode ever using the J2EE / “other” version.

This was bizarre to me, not because we both missed it, but instead because during the purchasing process a warning didn't come up letting him know that we couldn't use the “other” installation with the “standard” license. I know that running ColdFusion on Mac OS X Server is not supported, but they could at least let users run ColdFusion standard if they want to. When I got them on support I indicated that it appeared to be a nickel-and-dime, bait-and-switch sales operation. Buy this and then if you want it to really work, you have to buy this.

My feelings regarding this are like one would feel to a significant other who had wronged them in some way. On one hand you still love them and couldn't think of a world without them, but on the other, you wish they would go away forever. This isn't the first time I have felt that way about Macromedia. So, here is a situation where I will probably have to re-write my applications in either PHP or JSP. Macromedia, since we have bought JRun, doesn't seem interested in swapping out our standard and JRun enterprise licenses for a single ColdFusion enterprise license with the JRun license. It would be fair for us to have to throw in an extra $1,000, but another $3,000. As sweet as ColdFusion is, I'm not sure it is worth the cost. I've never had to buy it before, and I don't think I would.


Macromedia or Adobe Studio 8

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: ColdFusion, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

Macromedia or Adobe Studio 8

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperToday I started looking at Studio 8, and of course I am impressed by Flash 8. But I'm really drooling over Dreamweaver 8, which of course will get more use. I like the new video features of Flash 8 and the performance increase is definately welcome, but for all intents and purposes Flash MX is still great. But as always the brilliant marketing folks at Macromedia have priced the upgrade aggressively to move the entire suite. What is interesting to me is that they are still bundling flash paper. I would have thought it would be pulled in favor of the soon-to-be-included Adobe Acrobat. I guess the ink hasn't dried on the agreement yet.

Some of the things Macromedia is promising in Dreamweaver 8 that look good to me are, Section 508 compliance and complex CSS rendering. As well as XML / XSLT reference materials. The reference section has been by far the biggest thing to keep me using Dreamweaver over using other tools. The visual XML editor should be cool too. I'll probably pre-order the suite. I'm looking forward to using Fireworks as I have always preferred it to using Photoshop. Before I get flamed, let me remind you all that I am a developer first, and a designer second. Plus I got the Suite MX before I got Photoshop CS so that is my tool of choice. I can't wait to see what some of the designers are going to do with Flash 8.

My only long lasting gripe that has almost led me to create my own WYSIWYG editor several times is that the FTP process in Dreamweaver is awful. It doesn't make sense that this is not spun off onto it's own thread running separately from the application with a lock on the file that is currently in process. Why this wasn't done in Suite 2004, I'll never understand. It makes me use my favorite FTP tool Transmit instead of the one built into Dreamweaver, which is somewhat inconvenient.

Of course the RDS stuff for databases and the CFC components panel is nice, but it would be great to see some real commitment to ColdFusion with a CFC browser like the one that is built into the Administrator working through the RDS connection. Also, while I'm at it, it would be cool to have the CF validation tool in Dreamweaver to quickly validate CF templates against different versions of ColdFusion. Especially for those of us who got our CF legs in MX, but who sometimes have to work in 5, yuk!


The Future of Scripting

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: ColdFusion, Companies, Microsoft, Programming, Sun Microsystems, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Future of Scripting

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperInitially I wanted to stay away from scripting languages as a developer due to the fact that they weren't really programming languages at all. For some time I was reluctant to even call myself a programmer until I built my first Java desktop application. In CNET's open source blog today, they ask the question has scripting peaked?

Scripting hasn't peaked out yet. The reason is clear. Building a web site with C++ or Java is like driving an armored tank to your mailbox. It is that ridiculous. The funny thing is that even Microsoft realizes this, giving their ASP.net developers two languages to choose from when developing web applications. There are many reasons for enterprises to choose C# over Visual Basic when building a web application, especially if they already have desktop and client-server applications built using the technology. It would be possible to completely reuse many of the methods used in the desktop application for the web application. The frameworks built into J2EE as well as C# allow for robust development making it less likely that a developer will lose control of their code. Still, using these technologies and frameworks where a scripting language and a light framework would do adds un-necessary overhead to a project and can push deadlines out unreasonably.

Here's what I see. PHP is a fantastic scripting language that has no real back end and therefore is suitable for light to moderate customer facing websites and some intranet applications. Use of PHP in this regard will only continue to grow. I think some of the 25% decline in worldwide use is a reactive measure to PHP's early security vulnerability. PHP is losing ground quickly to ASP.net and VB scripting as Microsoft's Server 2003 is more widely adopted. Personally I think that LAMP is superior for many tasks, but ASP.net is almost ubiquitous now, hosting and maintenance are cheap. I'll continue to use PHP for light jobs, but at the same time I realize that this is just a preference and performance-wise ASP.net is better. Talking about Java… Sun needs to buy ColdFusion from Macromedia / Adobe. It should be THE Java application server. There is no cleaner and easier scripting language, and it has nearly unlimited flexibility and is design-pattern friendly. Why this move hasn't occured yet is beyond me. It would have made sense for Macromedia to sell it, but I think the issue is that Sun has many proud engineers who love to over develop products. The thought of supporting something as business friendly as ColdFusion probably makes them sick. The business case for this is probably that Macromedia probably sees the big picture and that there are big bucks in ColdFusion, especially now that enterprises are seeing it as a way to get around JSP's notoriously long development cycles.

I see scripting as having a bright future, and I'll tend to side with Zend's guys as saying that regardless of how the Evans study got its numbers, PHP is increasing in use not decreasing. I'm not sure if it is true, but if the next version of IIS is going to have PHP support built-in, I'll be seriously considering going with a Microsoft server in the near future and running it alongside ColdFusion. I like PHP, but I just like ColdFusion better.

news.com – Scripting's demise


Pondering Switching the Other Way

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, ColdFusion, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Pondering Switching the Other Way

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperWhile I have been a Mac user for the past five years almost exclusively, I have been thinking lately about switching back to using a PC. The reasons for this truly stem from my need for the ultimate in geekery. I'd really like to get a dual-core Pentium 4. The tremendous advantage is that these cores also employ hyperthreading which to the OS looks like four discreet CPUs. Also, I have the urge to work in several 3D programs, none the least of which is Swift3D, that I have noticed run significantly faster on the newest Intel and AMD based machines than on the Macs.

But the Macs are going to go Intel you say. That is true, but the Mac prices aren't going to change. That is almost guaranteed. There is no way Apple is giving up it's hardware margins, nor should they. I have a choice, and I can get more bang for my buck going with a PC. This has always been true, but at one time I was happy with an iMac G3. The iMac has always been competetively priced relative to it's PC counterparts so I was content. When I first bought my G5 I was relatively content. Now the issue is that G5s cost about $2,000 at the entry level. I can take that money to Dell and get a Dual-Core P4 that will take it's lunch money on any given day, albeit with several crashes along the way.

But you by a Mac for the software, that is why it is worth it. This is true, and Mac OS X is definately superior to Windows XP and probably it's upcoming service pack, Windows Vista. I will miss it, but running Mac OS X does not enhance my productivity in any tangible way, it just looks better and the entire OS crashes less. I have had plenty of application crashes, which are about the same.

What it comes down to is what my current computing needs are vs my wallet, and in that game the Mac is at a severe disadvantage. We won't even talk about gaming. But the ultimate reason is my geekiness. I have a weak spot for Visual Studio 2005. After using several betas of the application via Microsoft's Express Beta program, I have to say I am impressed with the ease of developing using C# in this IDE. Their visual web developer software is equally compelling although unless I had to I wouldn't use ASP.net for just about anything. Not because it is bad, but because it takes so much longer to develop anything in than ColdFusion or PHP. Ultimately, my love of new technology and my desire to retain as much of my cash as possible is fueling this internal debate. I will probably not buy another Mac because of the cost, but at the same time I will not give up my iBook. I'll probably carry a Mac laptop for the forseeable future. My workhorse, the desktop however is definately another story.


Internet Explorer 6 Hangs with Multiple Connections

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: ColdFusion, JavaScript, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments »

Internet Explorer 6 Hangs with Multiple Connections

At work we are using the demis map server, which by itself is an incredible application. We had built a flash based client as our application to allow people to see images overlaid on top of the vector data digested by the map server. One of the issues we had observed with the application was that it tended to hang, or stop responding when a user would ask for many images to be shown on top of the vector map, then they navigated away from the current screen. Now, since I had seen the code and it was a mess with JavaScript setting cookies that ColdFusion was supposed to read and pass to flash, and images for checkboxes, I automatically suspected the code. However, the problem was deeper than that.

The code needs to be rewritten no doubt, there are many more efficiencies to be had, but that didn’t explain the hang. I combed over the server, watching response while a user was using the application. The map server stresses the machine, because it needs a ton of I/O and it would spike the CPU frequently, but no processes went to 99% CPU utilization, and the server seemed to respond to other clients even when one of them was hung up. It was pretty clear then that the problem wasn’t with the server. To take this logic a little further, we built a load test using wget and saving the result to a file. We looped over the calls as fast as we could and we never caused the map server to hang. It performed as expected.

The next logical step was to look at the possibility of corrupt files. We did notice that we could get the map server to crash when we fed it corrupt files, but we found no eveidence that the files that we were using in production were corrupt in any way. At this point we were plenty dejected, because we had spent something like 35 hours over a couple days working on this problem and we had nothing. We performed a new ColdFusion install on a different server, we built a server with better hardware, we reinstalled the map server application multiple times, nothing seemed to affect it. We even improved the network bandwidth available to the client, still nothing. At that point I was down to either it was the code, or it was the client.

To test this theory I commented out all of the flash calls on every page and went through the application to try to cause the system to hang. I couldn’t do it, so I had effectively limited the possible cause to the Flash movie. I started to go through what the Flash movie was doing, and what could cause it to fail. The demis people told us that they had seen hangs when the map server wasn’t responding, and the Flash player was parsing XML. This lead me to try the application in Firefox, and lo and behold, it never hung up. It worked like a charm. The only problem was that our client was set on Microsoft Internet Explorer

I started about the arduous task of removing all XML parsing from the Flash code, then I tried it and it still hung. I was truly disappointed, but I rethought what was happening with the XML. It was making server calls, I realized that I could have up to 8 consecutive connections going on. At the time I thought it was nothing, but then I started trying to find out what was different between Internet Explorer and Firefox. I happened upon an article on MSDN about a known bug that Internet Explorer will hang for 5 minutes when there are 2 persistent connections to a server, and rich content is downloaded. I had found my culprit. It turns out that I had to add 2 keys to the registry. MaxConnectionsPerServer, and MaxConnectionsPer1_0Server. I set the latter to 8 and the former to 24, hexadecimal. The keys need to be DWORD keys.

That would allow 8 connections for HTTP 1.0 and 32 or so connections for HTTP 1.1. The HTTP 1.1 guidelines recommend that there only be 2 connections allowed, but if Firefox wasn’t adhering to it, why should I. I added the keys to HKEY_CURRENT_USER>Software>Microsoft>Windows>Current Version>Internet Settings and it worked like a charm. Everything was perfect. Talk about looking for a needle-in-a-haystack. I’m still amazed that I found it.

The purpose of this entry is so that no one has to go through the week that I just went through. Generally no software should be in front of the client before it is ready, but in this case we already had a client. Hopefully this will help anyone out there who is experiencing hangs in Internet Explorer. Darn Microsoft and not fixing bugs for almost 3 years!

*EDIT Make that 8 years, since IE 8 appears to still suffer from the same problem!*

Here are some helpful links that might be better at explaining than I am…

Wininet Connection Issue

IE Hang Issue