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CFMyths: "If/when I apply Cumulative Hotfixes, I need apply only the latest CHF, right?"

This is the second post in my planned CFMyths series. In the first, I addressed the myth that "When I download CF to install it from scratch, it has the latest fixes/updaters".

Here's the next, related, myth:

True or False: "If/when I apply Cumulative Hotfixes, I need apply only the latest CHF, right?"

For instance, let's say you're currently running CF 9 update 1 or CF 8.0.1 and discover (perhaps due to my last blog entry) that you had never applied any of their associated CHFs. It would seem you should just be able to apply the latest CHF and not bother with anything related to the previous ones, right?

Answer: Well, yes and no.

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CFMyths: "When I download CF to install it from scratch, it has the latest fixes/updaters"

Today I'm starting a new series on CFMyths, some common misconceptions that I find myself often helping correct on lists/forums or with my troubleshooting customers.

First myth up for consideration:

True or false: "If/when I download CF to install it from scratch, the installer has all the latest fixes (updaters, at least)"

Answer: False (generally). For instance, if you download CF9 today (Dec 2010), you still get CF 9.0, released originally in Oct 2009. You don't get the latest updater (9.0.1 as of this writing, released July 2010), though its existence is at least mentioned on the page, nor of course does it then include any hotfixes or cumulative hotfixes.

Why not, you may wonder? I'll explain more in a moment, along with more about hotfixes and updaters as concepts (and where to find them specifically, for each CF release).

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I'm participating in Ray Camden's "Uber Panel of ColdFusion Awesomeness" tomorrow (Wednesday)

If you've not heard about it, Ray Camden is organizing what he's calling the "Uber Panel of ColdFusion Awesomeness". :-) And I'm delighted to have been asked to join the esteemed panel.

It will be held tomorrow (or today, depending on when/where you read this), Wednesday Dec 8 at 12pm US ET (GMT-5). It's an online session, held at:

http://experts.adobeconnect.com/ubercfpanel/

And yes, it will be recorded (by Ray--keep an eye on his blog for more info, if you can't attend.)

To find out more, such as who else is on it, check out Ray's entry with more detail:

http://www.raymondcamden.com/index.cfm/2010/12/3/Reminder--Uber-Panel-of-ColdFusion-Awesomeness

BTW, for those looking for the subsequent parts to my previously started series on solving memory-related errors, my apologies. I got sidetracked with travel. Will explain when I do part 2, which I hope to get posted very soon.

CF911: Lies, damned lies, and when memory problems not be at all what they seem, Part 1

Following on my earlier entry, CF911: Lies, Damned Lies, and CF Request Timeouts...What You May Not Realize, another common source of confusion and misunderstanding for people is when they think their server is "running out of memory", when in fact the problem is often not at all what they think. In this entry, I want to apply the same "cranky" tone :-) and extended explanation to this equally controversial/confusing topic.

I hear people raise concerns with memory problems quite often, whether in my CF Server Troubleshooting practice, or just in my participating in many mailing lists. Indeed, addressing this issue more than a few times the past couple of weeks has motivated me to create this, which will be a series of blog entries.

The series parts are expected to be:

  • Step 1: Determine if indeed you are getting "outofmemory" errors (this entry)
  • Step 2: Realize that having high memory usage is not necessarily a problem (entry to come)
  • Step 3: Realize that OutOfMemory does not necessarily mean "out of heap" (entry to come)
  • Step 4: Diagnose why you really are running out of heap (if you are) (entry to come)
  • Step 5: Realize that CF is maybe suffering because you set the heap too large (entry to come)
  • Step 6: If CF is hanging up but NOT due to memory, what could it be? (entry to come)

Common refrains about memory issues

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CF911: Want to modify the CF Step Debugger's use of a random port?

Here's a quick tip (and some elaboration): if you've noticed that the CF step debugger (in CF 8 or 9) causes CF to listen on a randomly changing port, you can change that behavior (assuming you have good reason to do so, such as perhaps some challenges with firewall configuration).

It's a simple JVM tweak to cause it to use a fixed port:

-DDEBUGGER_SERVER_PORT=portNumber

You can add this either in the "Java & JVM" page of the CF Admin (if in Standard or Enterprise Server), or on the java.args line in the jvm.config file (for any form of CF).

You do need to restart CF for this to take effect.

A few warnings are in order

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CF911: How to control the size of CF's -out.logs

As a CF user or administrator running CF 6-9 on Windows, have you ever wondered how to increase the size of the console logs (-out log files in the [cf]\runtime\logs directory, or [jrun]\logs in Multiserver)? This entry will tell you how. It's quite easy to do, but it's not done using usual log file size control settings in CF's Admin or XML files.

The quick answer is to use either of two approaches: either the jrunsvc.exe in CF's runtime\bin (or [jrun]\bin), or do a manual registry tweak, both of which I show below.

Update for CF10, forward: CF10 and above change to using a new set of xml entries in the neo-logging.xml file, called maxOutLogSize and maxOutFileBackup that should control this (and which should not to be confused with the long-existing maxFileSize and maxFileBackup, both of which correspond to the settings on the CF Admin logging Settings page.) That said, some users have found that these later CF versions do NOT honor either these new XML file entries OR the Registry entries discussed below.

BTW, if you don't know what CF's -out*.log files are about (they're important!), they're technically holding the console output for CF, when it's started as a Windows service. This can be vital information that is NOT logged in the normal [cf]\logs directory or Admin Log Files display. (If you start CF from the command line, then the same info is written to the command line instead and not to the log file.)

(If you're on *nix, pretty much the same info appears instead in the [cf]/logs/cfserver.log. I know some people have wondered about controlling the size of that file. What I discuss here applies only to Windows.)

Background on the sizing of the -out*.log files

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Need to look at large files? Consider free Universal Viewer

If you have any reason to look at large files (especially log files) on Windows, don't use NotePad (it doesn't like large files)! Sure, you can perhaps use WordPad, or you may be using a favored editor like TextPad, UltraEdit, NotePad++, and so on. But those are editors: they generally presume you want to change the file.

If you just want to look at a file, there's a great free tool to do it: UniversalViewer.

It can open a 1GB file as fast as a 1kb file (because it only pulls in what it needs to show the screen full of text you're looking at.) And there are times when you may well need to look at some very large files, especially when troubleshooting CF servers, like I do.

And actually, as its name implies, UniversalViwer can view far more than just text files, including images and more.

I've just only ever used it for looking at log files, for which it excels (and yes, you can search within the file, set it to tail files, and more.)

I've been touting the tool for years in classes and presentations, and I was about to mention it in another blog entry, but then I realized I'd not blogged about it on its own. Rather than have the reference lost in another blog entry, here's its moment to shine!

And yes, I do realize there are several other tools that can do this. I list this one and several others in a category of my CF411 list: Generic File View/Log Analysis Tools. (Note that there are some nifty tools in that category there for looking specifically at CSV files, as well as other entire categories for specific kinds of logs, like CF logs, web server logs, windows event logs, etc.)

CF911: Lies, Damned Lies, and CF Request Timeouts...What You May Not Realize

How often have you seen (or seen others complain of getting) a CF page running longer than it's "supposed to" by a timeout you have set. Maybe you've set the CF Admin "request timeout" (first setting on first page of the Admin), or used the cfsetting requesttimeout tag or the timeout attribute on some specific tag if it's available, trying to get the request to "end" in 60 seconds, and yet you see a request running for 3 minutes, 3 hours, or 3 days! How can that happen?

Or same with if you've set the request to timeout using an alerting feature in a CF monitor like CF Enterprise server monitor, FusionReactor, or SeeFusion.

And perhaps you've seen this error from ColdFusion, in your logs or on-screen:

The request has exceeded the allowable time limit Tag: cfoutput

Do you know what this means? It's usually not what you think, and it may appear as I said 3 hours after a request was "supposed to timeout" in 60 seconds. I've even seen experienced CF developers who get thrown by this challenge. It's not new (and for those reading this even in the CF2016 era, it still happens). And it's not so much a "bug" (in either CF or the monitor tools) but just a situation that you need to understand, and there can be some ways to resolve things.

In this entry I'll try to help explain this surprisingly common problem and I hope to correct some equally common misconceptions. I'll even contend that the info in this error message is often useless and indeed misleading (and therefore the feature producing it ought not be relied upon completely, and should perhaps even be turned off for many). More important, again, there may be a way to "really" kill such a long-running request. Along the way, I'll share some things that I've not seen documented elsewhere.

I also share a solution that may work for query processing but it's NOT about a tag attribute but rather a CF Admin setting in the datasource "advanced settings" to set a "query timeout". This was added in CF 9, but many never noticed. If that's your problem and you want to skip to more on that here, feel free. but you may want to come back and read the rest as it is STILL not a perfect solution.

Strap on your seatbelts. We're going for a bit of a ride (if this situation was easy to understood in the length of a tweet, then perhaps everyone would already understand it and not find it challenging!) As always, I welcome feedback.

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How do I love FusionReactor? Let me count the ways (6 minute interview video)

The folks behind FusionReactor have started a YouTube video channel and they recently posted a 6-minute interview with me that we did at CFUnited. In it, they ask and I recount the reasons I appreciate and recommend it. Check out the video, embedded also below.

FusionReactor is one of the leading CF Server Monitor tools, which works not only with CF 6/7/8/9, either Standard or Enterprise, but it also works with Railo, Open BlueDragon, and even BlueDragon JX 7.1. In fact, it works with any J2EE/JEE server or servlet engine.

If you're running a site on any of those platforms and ever have problems of slowness, instability, or any other "curious" problems, or just need to better understand the nature of requests that CF is processing, and how well (or poorly) it's doing it, FusionReactor is a great tool, for the reasons I outline. It's like having x-rays into the app server.

I've written and spoken about the tool quite a bit, and have a FusionReactor blog category here with over a dozen entries here, as well.

Coming review of "ColdFusion 9 Developer Tutorial" book by John Farrar, and a free chapter for you

Today the publisher of John Farrar's new book, ColdFusion 9 Developer Tutorial offered to send me a review copy. I appreciate and look forward to that, as I've heard good things about it.

I'll post a review in coming weeks after I've had a chance to take a look.

Free Preview Chapter on ORM

In the meantime, they have also offered for free one of the chapters in the book so you can get a taste of the book's approach.

It's chapter 4, ORM Database Interaction, and as you'll see John leads you gently through this important new feature of CF9. Assuming you have no prior experience with ORM, he works in 20 pages from introducing the concepts, to quickly configuring and coding, to working with relationships, and more. You'll see he uses lots of screenshots and example code.

One editorial/review comment: I did notice that the preview chapter lists a last section to be on "custom configuration", which isn't ever found in the chapter. I brought this to John's attention and he apologized that it slipped through.

Having contributed to several books myself*, I know that can happen and I don't regard it as a big deal. It doesn't take away at all from the rest of the book.

Looking forward to the rest of the book

As for that rest of the book, and why you may want to consider it, the introduction indicates it "will teach you the basics of ColdFusion programming, basic application architecture, object reuse, and ORM concepts before showing you a range of topics including AJAX library integration, RESTful Web Services, Unit Testing, building custom tags, and his hybrid example of tags and objects COOP" ... "with real-world examples of the hows and whys, to get more done faster with ColdFusion 9" ...[and] "also covers the new features of ColdFusion Builder and additional version 9 updates".

I'm sure it will benefit many, and I'll look into all that when I get the review copy, and I'll be back to pass along my observations.

*I'm sure the publishers of my own books would think it appropriate at this point to mention those other books, which are also out recently and updated for CF9. They are the ColdFusion 9 Web Application Construction Kit, Volume 1 (Getting Started), Volume 2, Application Development, and Volume 3, Advanced Application Development.

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