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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.

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.

My CFBuilder Debugger chapter (for CF9 WACK Vol 2) is online

Here's good news for folks seeking more documentation on how to configure, use, and troubleshoot the ColdFusion Builder debugger.

My chapter on the topic, in the newly released CF 9 Web Application Construction Kit, Volume 2 Application development is available free online. It's one of 3 chapters at the end of the book (out of 21 total) that were forced online due to pagecount restrictions.

While it's a bummer for those who buy the print book and may not notice these are missing (though it should be mentioned in the TOC), the good news is that it means anyone can read the chapter.

You'll find the 25-page chapter (chapter 45, "Using the Debugger") online in a PDF of all 3 chapters available at Ben's site. Note that since mine is the last chapter of the PDF, you will want to skip to page 71 within the document. The following link should open the PDF directly to that page (if not, just use the Acrobat feature to go to a page):

Read the PDF, starting at page 71

Finally, some may notice on the Amazon page offered above that only Ben Forta is listed as author for the book. Of course, there were multiple authors. Ben, Ray Camden, and I were contributors to all 3 volumes, while there were still other contributors for volumes 2 and 3. Ben says that this oversight will be addressed soon.

New for CF9 (and 9.0.1): a query timeout that may really work, with a caveat

This is a very interesting change in CF9 (and 9.0.1), which has slipped under the radar for the most part it seems.

Did you know there is now a setting in the DSN page of the CF Admin (for most of the Adobe-provided DB drivers) which allows you to set a maximum timeout for queries against that DSN?

It's a new feature enabled for the DataDirect drivers, as updated in CF 9. (You will not see it if you use an "other" datasource type, such as when using a downloaded JDBC driver that you implement on CF.)

The caveat? This timeout is ONLY settable there in the DSN definition, not in CFQUERY (or CFSTOREDPROC) itself, which is a shame. The existing TIMEOUT attribute for those is not the same and generally does not work. Still, the value of this even at the DSN level is too important to ignore for some challenges. More on that (and some other thoughts) in a moment.

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Some more recent (and upcoming) "appearances" (podcasts, interviews, speaking)

It always feels a little awkward pointing things like this out, but since some readers may want to know about them, I have recently been the subject of a few of what I'll call "appearances" (and I have a few more coming up):

  • I was a roundtable participant in last week's RiaPodcast episode 2.9 (you can listen there)
  • I was co-host on the CFHour() podcast, show #60 a couple of weeks ago (you can listen there)
  • I was invited (along with Michael Smith) to be interviewed by Judith Dinowitz of FusionAuthority on the recently announced fact that this would be the last year of CFUnited, which I've spoken at each year. (You can read the interview at the FA link offered.)
  • It was announced last week that I'll be hosting a BOF (birds of a feather) session at the CFUnited conference. The session will be "CF911: Server Troubleshooting". More details at the page above.
  • It was announced last week as well that I will be giving another session at CFUnited, this one being the Sponsor talk for Intergral (makers of FusionReactor, with whom I partner a lot). The topic is "Continuously Improve CF Code Quality, Server Availability & Application Stability". More details here.
  • Finally, more details about my Day 2 keynote at the conference were also announced a couple of weeks ago. The topic will be, "CFCommunity: You're Never Alone". More details at the link offered.

Getting notices about upcoming CFMeetup meetings

If you've been following my blog here for CFMeetup meeting announcements, please note that I will no longer do them. It's simply redundant, as there are four other ways to get notified.

You can still get CFMeetup announcements the following ways:

  • Via email: by signing up at the meetup site to receive email notification (use the "join us" button on the site, to become a member of the group, for free)
  • Via RSS: by following the RSS feed for the group's calendar, offered at the bottom of the calendar page on the site
  • Via twitter: by follow us on twitter (@cfmeetup, used pretty much only for announcements)
  • Via an alternate RSS feed: by following the RSS feed on the Adobe group for CFmeetup, which simply echoes the meetup calendar feed above. The Adobe group isn't used for much other than that, for now

Can't access meetup.com? We've got you covered

The latter two options are offered especially for those who can't access the meetup.com domain (coldfusionmeetup.com redirects to our specific page in meetup.com). Some workplaces block access to meetup.com, as a social media site.

4 ways should be enough, right?

But with those 4 ways, we should have everyone covered who wants to get announcements.

(For those who like getting email notice but can't sign up for meetup.com and don't like RSS, note that there are tools that can send RSS notices by email. See a category of such tools offered at my CF411 site. There are also ways to get email notifications of twitter messages, but that landscape's changing too fast for me to yet have created a list of such tools.)

All that said, I will mention while I'm here that we do have a CFMeetup today (July 1, at noon ET), with Ray Camden speaking on Building CFBuilder Extensions. For future announcements, please follow one of the alternatives above.

Still suffering from spam/junk email? If using Outlook or Thunderbird, consider CloudMark

Are you still suffering from spam or junk mail in your email inbox? If you're using Outlook or Thunderbird, you should consider CloudMark, a service I've used for years. I'd like to share a bit about it, for those who may benefit.

Before proceeding though, let me say that I realize there are many spam solutions, including ones based on your mail server instead (that you or your host might implement).

And yes, of course I do realize that folks using Gmail will want to say that they never have to worry about this at all!

Let me please just speak to those who do choose to (or have to) receive email from other mail servers, and perhaps can't control spam handling on the server, or still favor a client solution.

Background

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How to open CFBuilder/FlashBuilder/Eclipse to view a given perspective, from command line

Someone on a list asked an interesting question: how do you switch perspectives in CFBuilder (or FlashBuilder or Eclipse) from the command line? For instance, if one has CFB with FB as a plugin, how might one use the command line to create a shortcut so as to launch to the CFB or FB (or another) perspective?

The good news is that there are in fact various command-line switches for launching Eclipse, and these apply just as well to the cfbuilder.exe and FlashBuilder.exe (for instance, some have needed to use the -clean switch to resolve some problems).

In this case of specifying the desired perspective, we want to use the -perspective argument. The trick, though, is knowing the right value to provide. It's *not* the perspective name. Rather, it's the perspectiveid, and that's not so easy to determine. I'll explain below how I found them, but to cut to the chase, here they are.

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Did you know CF's used by Dell, TomTom, BestBuy and more? Well...

Did you know CF's being used by Dell, TomTom, BestBuy and others? Well, it is, but through a service they license, but for public-facing parts of their sites, so it's indeed worth noting.

I had noticed today that Budd Wright from PelcoSolutions (aka DVS Interactive) blogged this weekend that "BestBuy Uses ColdFusion". That certainly caught my eye (heck, I was in the store just yesterday.)

Just the BestBuy "trade-in" site, but more than meets the eye

As I read it and saw it was about their trade-in site, I thought, "well, some may bemoan that it's 'just a subsite'", and therefore may not find it quite as compelling as if it were the main site. That may be so.

But on closer examination I found something that is indeed still more compelling. What BestBuy is using (that uses CF) is really a licensed service from dealtree.com. And if one looks at that page (where DealTree lists others using their service), we see that indeed it's used also by Dell, TomTom, Sharp, Buy.com, Gateway, Casio, Ebay, and others. So this is about more than just BestBuy! :-)

These other companies (Dell, TomTom, etc.) would have high expectations

They all certainly wouldn't have chosen if if it wasn't suitable to the task, and you'd think someone higher up in each company had to clear it, since trade-in processing is pretty public-facing (both in-store and online).

Perhaps we can hope it may raise the profile of CF within the companies (though really, it's probably just seen as a utility to most, SAAS that just works, so that may be too much to hope for.)

Still, since these are companies which will require fast response in both the in-store and online sites, it's certainly a nice set of examples of e-commerce CF use that we can point to, so thanks for sharing, Budd.

I figured this was all a little much to put in his blog as a comment. :-) Plus I thought that my blogging it separately might be a nice way to give his entry a little more "link juice" in the search engines. :-)

Who else is using CF?

I'm adding this after a couple of comments below, of people noting other sites using CF. I didn't think to mention it when I wrote this but I do keep a list of resources helping people who may wonder what other sites run CF. It's one of the 125+ categories in my CF411 site:

CFML-Powered Web Sites (who's using CFML?)

To be clear, I'm not keeping a list. Instead, I point there to many sites that do keep such lists.

More reasons to buy ColdFusion Builder

I wanted to add some more thoughts to Adam Tuttle's helpful recent entry, Why (I Think) You Should Buy ColdFusion Builder. I started to offer them as comments but it got lengthy, so I decided to create this entry instead.

A little background on the question

Adam's entry was his response to an observation I'd made on a private mailing list that I'd not seen any good single resource to point people to when they raised concerns about having to pay for CFBuilder. We who have "seen the light" wonder why people even debate it (as he addresses with observations from others in his entry).

While his entry expands on the oft-shared Adobe graphic comparing features among it and the existing CFML editors, there are some more features that may not have been t important enough to be listed on that graphic, but are sometimes a source of concern/contention for some as they consider CFB. Here are a few of them.

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Some code to throttle rapid requests to your CF server from one IP address

Some time ago I implemented some code on my own site to throttle when any single IP address (bot, spider, hacker, user) made too many requests at once. I've mentioned it occasionally and people have often asked me to share it, which I've happily done by email. Today with another request I decided to post it and of course seek any feedback.

It's a first cut. While there are couple of concerns that will come to mind for some readers, and I try to address those at the end, it does work for me and has helped improve my server's stability and reliability, and it's been used by many others.

Background: do you need to care? Perhaps more than you realize

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Free tools for SAN monitoring, VM Monitoring and more...and their educational site

Folks know that I like to share news of tools (see my CF411 site), but I want to point out here a couple of free ones in particular that may address problems people are having in new/modern configurations: one is a tool for monitoring a SAN, and the other is for monitoring VMs.

It also gives me a chance to offer some props for the site of the company behind the tools, SolarWinds, which again many may find valuable in educating not only about the tools but the topics that the tools help with.

The free SAN and VM monitoring tools

The two tools (and one more for bonus) are:
  • SolarWinds Free SAN Monitor - keep a close eye on the performance & capacity of your storage arrays and become a storage superhero!
    Note also:
  • VM Monitor - continuously monitor a VMware® ESX Server and its virtual machines with at-a-glance virtualization health statistic
    Note also:
  • WMI Monitor - monitor your Windows® apps and servers in real time, using built-in, community-sourced, and customizable application templates!
    Note also:

I haven't yet used them myself, so this isn't so much a recommendation of the tools but rather a recommendation that you consider them if you are interested in what they have to offer.

The company offers still more free tools, as well commercial ones of course.

A company that gets how to educate you about their products

You may have noticed above that I offered as well links to videos about each product. SolarWinds has really done a great job offering educational resources, especially videos, and organizing them into categories such as tech talks, webcasts, and more.

Indeed, if you may be new to network management (which can be a broad and/or deep subject, appealing variously to generalist IT geeks and hard-core network admins), they offer lots of compelling introductory resources, including their geek guides and even certification training . Of course they also have a helpful blog and twitter feed.

Just as I previously praised the Mura folks as a "company who got it right" in terms of setting up a compelling, informative web site for IT folks, I really have to say the same for the SolarWinds folks. Congrats, and thanks.

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