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Hidden Gem: Importing CF Admin settings in ANY release via "import wizard", even AFTER installation

Have you ever faced the challenge of needing to migrate the CF Admin settings (datasources, mappings, scheduled tasks, etc.) from one machine to another? You may know of a couple of solutions (the CAR mechanism and the "import wizard" which runs at the end of installation).

But what if those solutions don't work for you? Or what if you didn't know of them before installation, and now you have dozens of dsn's, scheduled tasks, mappings, or other settings you want to get from one machine/release to another?

You are NOT stuck having to manually copy settings from one screen to another! (And you should be very careful about the common hack solution of copying neo*.xml files from one instance to another, which may not always work and may break things.)

In this entry I'll discuss how you CAN indeed import the CF admin settings from ANY release of CF into ANY OTHER release of CF, in a fully supported way, and which CAN be done even after installation of a new CF release.

I'll also mention an important potential gotcha to beware, as well as how to to get around that.

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Hidden Gem in ColdFusion 11: ColdFusion Archive (CAR) support now in Standard

Here's a nice surprise for some about a change in CF11: you can now create and read CAR files (ColdFusion archive files, a CF Admin feature) in the STANDARD edition of ColdFusion 11. In prior releases, it was available only in ColdFusion Enterprise.

Read on for more, including a gotcha regarding importing from previous release Standard editions, but for many this news will be a delight and all they need to know.

For more on what the CAR mechanism is, finding more on it, the gotcha (and what NOT to do if you hit that gotcha), and info on still more hidden gems in CF, read on.

What the CAR mechanism is for

I don't want to rehash what's already well-documented in both the CF docs and various blog entries and articles, so I'll point to those in a moment.

But briefly, the CAR mechanism has been a feature in the CF Enterprise Admin "Packaging & Deployment" section, and it allows one to easily export some or all settings of one CF admin into a single zip file (a ".car" file), which can then be imported into another CF admin. It's a point and click interface (though its UI has its challenges, so see the resources below to better understand it before trying to use it.)

It can be great whether you are moving settings from one machine to another. It can even help with migration of settings from one release to another, though CF does that for you if you install a new release on a machine with an old one, in which case the Migration Wizard option is offered as a last step of installation.

Again, though, as for using the CAR feature, one needed a CF Enterprise (or the trial or Developer) edition on both sides (export and import). At least ColdFusion 11 now supports using the feature to import or export settings, even if running ColdFusion 11 Standard.

A gotcha: won't help with exporting Admin settings out of older Standard editions

The change in CF11 is great news going forward, but there is a gotcha: if you're wanting to import CF Admin settings from a previous release that IS ALSO only a Standard edition, this change won't affect THAT earlier release of CF. In other words, you still won't be able to use the CAR feature in THAT older CF Standard edition's CF Admin to export its settings.

I realize to some that will be a sore spot, and may seem a catch-22 (why would Adobe bother with the feature if it can't be used to import older settings). Well, let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. At least we have it going forward. And it WILL be of valuable for CF11 Standard folks to use to move settings to a new machine also running CF11, etc.

And I mentioned above the migration wizard will help with importing settings on an upgrade of a machine having an older release of CF to a newer one, so even someone going from an older CF Standard edition CAN have their settings migrated. This is just about using that specific CAR file feature, which is typically more for moving settings from one machine to another.

What you don't want to do: just drop the neo-*.xml files into CF 11 (or 10) from CF9 or earlier

So what do you do if you NEED to move admin settings from a CF 9 or earlier Standard edition? You may be tempted to just grab the neo-*.xml files from the old CF server and copy them into the appropriate location in CF11 (or CF10). I'm not going to detail how to do it, because it's unwise.

There were substantial changes in those underlying files between 9 and 10, so that it often will not work (even if it worked for years for you or others going to CF 7, 8, or 9, and even if someone says it works for them with 10 or 11.) I will say that the changes from 10 to 11 aren't as significant, so one may have more luck trying this shortcut there.

The better solution (to bring CF admin settings from one release to another without the CAR feature)

But there's a better solution for this dilemma (and it may be useful in other cases, also). And it's a fully supported and documented one. I hinted at it above, when I mentioned that the last step of the CF installer checks to see if there is a previous release of CF installed on the machine. If there is, then the "migration wizard" does the import.

Well, what if you didn't know this when you installed CF11 (or 10, or some earlier release)? Is it too late? No! It is possible to re-run that migration wizard at any time, by placing the previous release files in a particular place and editing a config file to cause the Admin to re-run the migration wizard.

Explaining (and some gotchas) goes beyond the scope of this blog entry, so I have saved it for another that follows (Hidden Gem: Importing CF Admin settings in ANY release via "import wizard", even AFTER installation). Just know that between that and the CAR feature, you should not have to rely on trying to copy/past neo*.xml files directly from one CF instance into another, if that may cause problems.

Finding more about the CAR feature

So I'd mentioned that the CAR feature is documented. That said, the docs are rather spartan, so I'd rather you start with a blog entry that walks you through the process. There are many, but one that seems to do the job nicely is from Adrian Moreno. It's from the CF7 timeframe, but the steps really have not changed:

Yo, Adrian! How do I backup my ColdFusion Admin settings?

There's also an old entry from Ian at quackit.com, but it's not got much detail and looks to be from CF6. :-)

If anyone wants to share an equally complete and perhaps more updated blog entry, feel free to mention it in the comments. (More on the paucity of community resources covering this topic in a moment.)

I'll also note that we covered it in a chapter of the CF Web Application Construction Kit. Here is the chapter including it, from the CF8 version of the book, as found viewable on Google Books.

As for the official CF docs,it's mentioned in the manual on "Using the CF Administrator", specifically the ColdFusion Archives page part of that page. Again, it's rather spartan.

Finally, there is also online help for the feature. Many never notice but on any page of the CF Admin, there is a help button in the top right corner which will offer varying levels of detail depending on the feature in question.

Since the CAR feature has been around since CF5, we don't find many people talking about it/blogging about it much (I could find no mention of it on old standby's like bennadel.com, raymondcamden.com, and blog.adamcameron.me, searching for "car file" or "coldfusion archive"). Of course, some people also either never used it or perhaps never liked some aspect of it, which also may contribute to the lack of modern coverage.

So folks new to it are at a bit of a disadvantage, but hopefully the first resources above will help get you going. And again, with a new community of people now able to use the feature (those CF Standard users, now on CF11), perhaps it will spark a resurgence of interest in the tool, and in folks showing each other how to use it.

Want More Hidden Gems?

And last, as for this "hidden gem"in CF11, some of you may know that every release I like to discuss what I call "hidden gems"--things that are in the new release but may not get much press from Adobe, and perhaps even others. I've done talks, articles, and/or blog entries on hidden gems in each release over the years, and you can find those here and on my main site's presentations and articles pages.

That said, I often have offered a lot more in the talks or articles that I never got around to blogging. I hope to rectify that by pointing out more of these here, and not just for CF11. What if you skipped from CF9 or 8 right to CF11? You may not have paid attention when others and I were talking about CF10 hidden gems.

So I hope to blog some more of those, too. All of us can always stand to learn still more about CF, even after years of working with it! :-)

Get a headstart on checking out Update 3 for ColdFusion 11

If you didn't catch it, Adobe has come out with a prerelease version of the pending Update 3 for ColdFusion 11, which (like update 14 for CF10) adds many things:
  • bug fixes (over 160)
  • support for new OS's, databases, application servers, and web servers
  • support for Java 8
  • as well as updates to underlying technologies like Tomcat (now 7.0.54)

Update: Adobe released yet another version of this Update 3 prerelease, on Nov 19. See the blog entry for more about that, but the info below still stands and you will want to keep reading here if applying update 3 for the first time (indeed, even after the update comes in "final" form). That said, do see the updated blog entry (or more specifically the link to PDFs offered there) for more on what is in that newer version of the update.

Note that while Tomcat is automatically updated, Java is not. That's up to you to do. They do indicate that after the release, new installers for CF11 will come with Java 8. (If you've not updated the JVM that CF uses, it's really pretty easy. 5 minutes work and a restart of CF, and easily reverted if you do things carefully. One of the best and relatively recent discussions of the steps is this article from good ol' Ben Forta, from 2013.)

See the blog entry above for more on the details of what's changed (it links to 2 PDFs, and the release notes has some known issues, albeit with little context). The blog entry also has the steps to follow to apply the update. Do be careful there.

Do test out the update yourself

It's important that folks who rely on CF11 try the update out (on non-production systems, of course).

Many decried that CF10 Update 14 came out and had issues, so Adobe is providing this prerelease for people to check it out and iron out the kinks.

Of course, some will then say Adobe's using users as guinea pigs. They're damned if they do, damned if they don't.

And yes, of course one could say "well they could do a better job vetting the release". It's complex software, and while all software has bugs, complex software can even more, and especially when CF has lots of integration and moving parts, and there are so many different platforms--and different ways that even folks on the same environment may configure things differently (For instance, even if you're on Windows, what version? and what edition? and what database server? And what version and edition of that? And are you using IIS or Apache? And what version of Java are you using? Which edition of CF? And how have you configured each of these? Do you see all the permutations?)

So really: test it out for yourself, for your environment. You can wait and see if "others do the dirty work first". But what if that's how most respond? And what if your situation is just a little different than the few who may try it out?

Still, do keep an eye on comments in that Adobe blog entry over time, to learn from any challenges that others may face.

And of course the whole point of it being a prerelease is that if there ARE problems they can be reported and resolved before everyone starts applying the update when it shows up officially in the CF Admin update feature. So take advantage of this chance to report any problems and get them resolved.

Finding ColdFusion installers, updaters, hotfixes, and docs for all recent releases

This won't be new info for some, but many folks remain confused by the fact that they can seem to only find ColdFusion 11 installers on the Adobe site. What if you need installers for 10, or 9, or 8, and so on? There are a variety of reasons for why only 11 is offered (and not as nefarious as some may feel). I discuss that here as well.

Find CF installers, updaters, and docs for past several releases

The good news is that if one wants to find ANY installers for most ANY version of CF, they can be found on an external repository setup by Gavin Pickin (and added to by myself and others, to include updates, hotfixes, and docs):

Gavin Pickin's ColdFusion Downloads / Install Repo

If it helps, you can also access it using the easier to remember: http://bit.ly/cfdownloads

As for why we can find only CF11 installers on Adobe's site, as well as what happened to the tinyurl.com/cfdownloads alternative for Gavin's site, read on.

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New updates for #Coldfusion 11, 10, and 9 (security update for 9, 11; still more for 10)

If you'd not heard the news, there were several updates released today, for CF 11, 10, and 9.

As for CF11 and CF9, it's mainly a security update. For CF10, it's got quite a bit more. (And there is another update for CF11 to come in the future which Adobe mentioned when it came out with its first update last month.)

For more on each, see below.

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BlogCFC was created by Raymond Camden. This blog is running version 5.005.

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