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Applying hotfixes to ColdFusion 9 and earlier? A guide to getting it right

I realize that title may seem anachronistic. Why talk about hotfixes in CF9 and earlier, in 2014, indeed as CF11/Splendor is in beta? But I'll tell you that I still help people daily who are still on those older releases, and often they have problems that may have long since been solved by a hotfix or a cumulative hotfix they never applied--or may be caused by misapplication of such hotfixes.

Of course, in CF10 it's easier now because of the built-in "server updates" feature of the CF Admin. But in earlier releases, it was all on you to both keep up on the updates and to apply them manually. And a lot of people either never bothered, or may have tried and failed, or did it but got it wrong.

What you need to know

So in this blog entry, I some key info that will help you, if you may be in need of applying one or more of those updates to CF9 and earlier. Indeed, I'll point to some past entries I've done where I shared a lot more detail that I find is vital and rarely mentioned when some people try to share just the bare minimum of info (often leaving people hanging).

For instance, I'll help you answer such questions as what hotfixes do you already have applied? How do you find out? And you need to know exactly what version of CF you have, whether 9.0/9.0.1/9.0.2, 8.0/8.0.1, 7.0/7.0.1/7.0.2, and so on. I'll explain how to tell and why that's important, and especially when it comes to finding and applying hotfixes. And if you have applied hotfixes, are you sure you have done it right? It's easy to get things wrong and botch things. I'll help you avoid several very common mistakes.

(That's why it's so great that CF10 finally handles things for us. But this entry, focused on 9 and earlier, is not the place to discuss concerns with the CF10 hotfix mechanism. If you have questions or concerns about that, see the substantial CF10 Hotfix Installation Guide from Adobe, a 50-question FAQ on all things related to that feature.)

I'll also point you to where to find hotfixes and installers for CF9 and earlier (not as easy as it may seem), and still more.

If any of that's of interest, and I hope it is if you're on CF9 or earlier, then read on.

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An interesting solution to problems with ColdFusion 10 and IIS 404 handlers

There was an interesting solution proposed today on the Adobe forums, to address a problem some folks are having with CF10, where they find problems using an IIS 404 error handlers set to pass to a CF page. I found it helped with one of my consulting clients, so I wanted to share the news with others readers here who may benefit.

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CF911: Why/when you MUST update the web server connector for ColdFusion 10/11 and may have missed it

Have you installed CF10 (or 11) and found that you still have problems with it running right, even when you have "fully updated" CF10? In this blog entry, I explain how it may NOT be that "CF 10 is broken" but rather that you may have missed an important step when updating it.

In brief, a VERY common problem is that while people MAY WELL apply the provided "updates" (11 so far), they often do NOT notice that they may have to (and generally must) update the web server "connector" (if they are using an external web server, like IIS or Apache) as a separate manual step, after applying the update. I'll explain what that means, how do to it, and why you may miss that you need to.

[Update While I wrote this in 2013 for CF10, the same applies to CF11 and some of its udpates, which also call for a rebuild of the web server connector.

I'll also explain how to easily tell if you have done the update or not, so you know whether all this applies to you. I'm betting it does.

Indeed, getting the web server connector updated is the solution to a majority of problems I see people have, when they feel that problems are tied solely to a recent move to ColdFusion 10. Read on to learn much more.

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Tracking ColdFusion sessions within FusionReactor, by way of FREC logging

Someone asked on the FusionReactor mailing list (a Google Group) whether FusionReactor tracked CF sessions. I started to write a reply, with the good news/bad news in answer to that, and as sometimes happens, it became long enough that I thought it might be better suited as a blog entry that I could point to from the list instead, and which may also help those not on the list (which is a great resource, as a low-volume list with a high signal to noise ratio.)

Anyway, here is the answer I wanted to offer to that question...

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Could CF image processing be killing your ColdFusion server? Explanation and solutions.

Are you having slow ColdFusion pages and wondering what may be the cause? There can of course be many root causes, but a common one that I'm finding lately as I help people is due to using certain of CF's image processing features, especially resizing such as to create thumbnails after a file is uploaded (or when many files are uploaded).

Such folks may be using the CFIMAGE action="resize" tag, or the imageResize() or ImageScaleToFit() functions to do resizing. (Or they may be also processing images using ImageRotate, ImageShear, or ImageTranslate, though the defaults for those are not problematic like the resize/scale tag/function processing).

The "problem" (if this is the cause of a slow page) is due to a default "interpolation" setting for CFIMAGE resizing, imageResize, and ImageScaletoFit. The default may not perform well at all. The good news is that the value is configurable, and you can test to compare quality/performance of difference values, as will explained below. There are still some other things to consider also. (If you're currently using CFIMAGE to do resizing, jump to the last section of this entry to see an example of code switching from the "slow" approach to the faster one. But really, you ought to read the rest of this entry to understand what's being proposed.)

While I offer all the info here for your consideration, if you need help implementing the solution, or better understanding how to find and resolve these or other problems affecting your CF server performance, see more on my CF server troubleshooting consulting services.

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Applying CF security hotfixes: do it from oldest to newest (depending!)

If you may be applying several security hotfixes to a new implementation of CF (or one where none have been applied before), you may wonder if there's any significance to applying them in either chronological order (newest to oldest, or oldest to newest). The technotes don't really clarify this.

Update: Great news. It turns out that just days before I wrote this entry in late 2011, Adobe had in fact addressed and resolved this problem (quietly, I'd say) by making security fixes written from Dec 2011 (apsb11-29) on now have 2 sets of steps, one for if you HAD applied the security hotfix previous to it, and one for if you HAD NOT. And this has proven to be the case for the next few, as I write this update in late 2012. So we can now consider them effectively "cumulative", for those from Dec 2011, on. You need only focus on the latest, and follow either of its 2 provided sets of steps.

That said, I'm not 100% sure if all those from Dec 2011 include all ones prior to that. Has anyone tested things to know?

I'll leave the rest of the note below here for posterity, but stricken out.

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CF911: Are you finding performance problems with CFDOCUMENT? Aware of the important LOCALURL attr.?

This is something that I find nearly no one has talked about, as a problem and solution. Did you know that by default, a single request doing a CFDOCUMENT may cause CF to execute several additional requests, each doing a CFHTTP to grab any images on the page? even if the images could be found locally on the server? This can be quite tragic.

The good news is that the problem can be solved using the simple LOCALURL attribute. The bad news is that you have to do it at all, and that if you don't do it, it can have such unfortunate and unexpected impact. (And just as bad, again, is that hardly anyone has talked about it.) This entry will elaborate on the issue (and a couple of other possible CFDocument performance issues, as a bonus.)

I've been meaning to write about the importance of this problem and solution (the LocalURL attribute) for a long time (it came out in CF8). Often when I'm helping people with CF troubleshooting problems, whether on mailing lists or in my consulting services, I've been able to show that long-running requests (or an unexpectedly excessive number of requests) were sometimes due to this very problem.

Basics of the LocalURL attribute

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CF911: Have you updated your ColdFusion JVM to _24 yet? Important security fix for CF 8/9

This isn't new info, but you may have missed it. If you're running CF 8 or 9, did you know you can and should update the JVM that came with it? And that you have Adobe's blessing to do this update? This is because of a serious bug in the JVM that is not fixed until 1.6.0_24.

Both CF 9.0 and 9.01 run on older JVMs (and therefore need this update). And are you on CF8? You're not left out: Adobe even has confirmed this update can be applied to CF 8 and 8.01, too!

Update 1: Since I wrote this blog entry in Oct 2011, Adobe has since come out with a new technote in Oct 2012 saying that you are now permitted to update to any version of Java 1.6 (for CF 8/9/10).
Update 2: Since posting this note, I've realized I should document an important fact to be aware of if you DO update the JVM: after doing so, it may seem that changes you made to allow CFHTTP calls to SSL pages (or other tags in CFML that talk via SSL or TLS) may "seem to have been lost". The issue is likely that you had modified your current CF setup to import specific certificates for such sites, but those changes are "lost" when you change the JVM that CF is now using (which has its own keystore). But these cert changes can be recovered. For more on that, see the next to last section below.
Update 3: In Feb 2013, Adobe did come out with an update that authorizes moving to Java 1.7 in either 9 or 10. You must apply the update first, though. More in this Adobe blog entry.

Old news, but not everyone knows

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I'll be presenting at RIAcon next weekend: "CF911 ColdFusion Performance Report 2011"

I'm delighted to announce that I'll be presenting at next week's RIAcon conference in the DC area, August 6-7 2011.

My session will be "CF911 ColdFusion Performance Report 2011", a new talk/concept I've created. Here's the description:

Starting a new tradition, veteran CF troubleshooter Charlie Arehart will present a review of the performance aspects of making various choices when working with ColdFusion, especially in recent version(s) of ColdFusion. Leveraging the important value of real load testing (as opposed to the less accurate conclusions from "large loop" testing), Charlie's annual report will help attendees appreciate the performance-related improvements of new/changed features, as well some older features where choices can make an important impact. Depending on the timing of the release of "CF next", the session may cover its new features, but it will certainly cover some things new in CF 9 and 9.0.1.

As I note there, I hope this may become an annual event which I might present at this and/or other conferences. (It's an idea rooted in a similar presentation made by a former colleague, from my first IT career from 1982-1997, where he presented the annual "Jim Damon model 204 Performance Report".)

About RIACon

As for RIAcon, I hope you're considering it. Phil Nacelli and the folks at AboutWeb have been working hard to put together the conference, which in some minds is kind of picking up where CFUnited left off. It will be a more intimate event, much like CFunited was when it first started.

Indeed, some will recognize that the location for RIAcon is across the street from one of the hotels where CFunited was held in its early years, right next to the Twinbrook Metro station in Rockville, MD.

A Personal Connection to the Hotel Location

Even more of a delight for me personally is that the hotel (The Legacy Hotel) is right on the land that was once the location of Congressional Roller Skating Rink (until the late 70's), where my sister and I (and many friends) spent our teen years pretty much whenever we weren't in school. Yep, I was a skating nerd: dance, figures, freestyle, and more. Here's incriminating evidence!

When problems are not due to CF, but may be in the web server (and a hat-tip to IIS 7)

Sometimes, CF problems are not really CF problems. Here's a little vignette from a recent consulting engagement (where I provide fast, on-demand CF troubleshooting services).

The challenge

I had a customer contact me recently because their server was performing poorly. They were experiencing significant latency on many requests. They were inclined to think they needed to change something in their application or SQL (as most presume when things go amiss).

I helped them determine ultimately that the problem was not CF at all, but instead something amiss in their web server, in this case Apache. (Before any Apache defenders come at me, please: I'm not "hatin' on Apache", just reporting what we observed. Do keep reading for more details.)

I asked if they'd considered at least trying IIS to confirm if it might work better for this challenge, but they preferred the file-based configurability of Apache. While I noted that IIS had gotten better in recent years in that regard, they preferred to bring in some experienced Apache guys to sort things out. (I don't claim any particular expertise with Apache, and I'm not at all averse to letting a customer know when they may need to have someone else help with certain problems.)

The customer's first attempt at resolution

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