Adam Tuttle

ORM and Transactions in ColdFusion

This has been written about a few times already by others in the community, but it still seems to be something that many people don't understand, so I thought I would put my oar in too. Truth be told, I thought I understood it but recently I learned that I still had a few details wrong.

ColdFusion's ORM (Hibernate) does not commit your changes to the database until the end of the request, by default.

That's an important thing to know, because there are other control-flow directives, like locking, that might lull you into a false sense of security if you're using the default behavior, and it could end up causing you grief.

Here's the ORM settings right out of an application I've been working on lately:

this.ormsettings = {
    dbcreate="update"
    , logsql=false
    , cfclocation= ["/orm"]
    , flushAtRequestEnd=false
    , useDBForMapping=false
    , dialect="MySQL"
};

Please note the line flushAtRequestEnd=false. This is explicitly disabling the default behavior I described above. When you do this, you have to tell Hibernate when to commit ("flush") the changes ("session") to the database. There are two ways to accomplish this: Either follow every call to entitySave() with a call to ormFlush(), or wrap your changes in a transaction.

The former approach bugs me, because I feel like I'm required to call two functions to do one thing. I know that the transaction approach does exactly the same thing, but I still feel better looking at transactions in my code.

Let's consider some code:

list = entityLoadByPK("List", 11);
list.setName("my new name");
transaction {
    entitySave( list );
}

On which line is the list name change committed to the database? If you said line 4, I have some bad news for you. It's line 3. To further illustrate this point, consider this slight modification to the same code:

list = entityLoadByPK("List", 11);
list.setName("my new name");
transaction {}

If you run this code, you'll see that your list's new name has been updated in the database after line 3 — and we never called entitySave() on it.

ORM is flushed at every transaction boundary. That means as you enter a new transaction, or exit a transaction, all unsaved ORM changes will be flushed to the database. This is in stark contrast to the way that transactions work with standard database queries using the <cfquery> tag or the queryExecute() method.

The only way you'll be able to roll-back ORM-based changes using transactions is to make the changes and issue the rollback all within the same transaction:

x = entityLoadByPK("List", 11);
transaction {
    x.setName("this change will be rolled back");
    transaction action="rollback";
}

As a rule of thumb, partially just to keep things tidy, we always load the entity within the transaction, too:

transaction {
    x = entityLoadByPK("List", 11);
    x.setName("this change will be rolled back");
    transaction action="rollback";
}

As ever, the best resource for ORM information in ColdFusion is John Whish's book ColdFusion ORM.

Published 2015-03-05 @ 02:06 in ColdFusion

Elvis Is (Back) in Production

Remember how I gave Adobe a really hard time about their fumbling of the Elvis operator (among other things) in ColdFusion 11 Update 3?

Today they released Update 4 in the stable update channel. Of course, there were two pre-releases of this patch, so if you were willing to run beta software in production, then you could already be ahead of the game on this one. As a policy, we don't run pre-release platform patches in production.

I wish it would have been released in the stable update channel sooner. The last pre-release refresh was on January 27th. That's 3 weeks and 2 days ago. I think 2 weeks is a pretty good testing period. But, it's been released, and it works —I tested it pretty thoroughly, at least as far as the Elvis operator is concerned. I've already installed it on our production server. So I won't give them too much grief over the timing.

If you're wondering why I cared so much about the Elvis operator, I present to you a sample, in the form of a diff of the awesome terseness that is ?:. These are just a few of the changes that I had sitting in a branch waiting for this day.

What I do think they still could have done better is the updating process, though. It's very evident that Adobe haven't figured out how to use the updater in situations like this.

When I refreshed from the first pre-release to the second, I had to uninstall and re-download the patch. Granted, it was point-and-click through the updater, but... isn't the whole point of having the updater to prevent the tedium of steps like "uninstall, re-download"? I would seriously consider the folks at Adobe read up on semver. The updater should be able to handle all of these situations flawlessly, without the need for manual deletion and re-downloading.

v11.0.4-beta1 is, by semver definition, less than v11.0.4-beta2. And v11.0.4 is by semver definition, greater than both of them. The updater should see all of these version numbers, regardless of which channel was used to install whatever updates are currently installed, and know how to get from point A to point B, with a single "upgrade" button.

Instead, you must:

Re-download

  • Go to the Installed Updates tab, and click the Uninstall button
  • Wait for the service to restart
  • Go to the Settings tab, and click the Restore Default URL button (thank god we got them to add that)
  • Restart the service manually. This isn't listed as a required step, but I always do it because I don't trust them to get it right without a server restart.
  • Log back in, go back to the Server Updates section, Available Updates tab, and click the Re-download button, because apparently the new update looks like the old one to the updater and it thinks you already have the stable release. You don't.
  • After it downloads, click the Install button, and wait for the service to restart

Is this better than the old process? Sure. Is it "good" yet? Nope.

Published 2015-02-19 @ 11:37 in ColdFusion

ColdFusion 11 Member Functions: Where They Got It Wrong

One of the things that Adobe put into ColdFusion 11 that I actually like (*coughs in the general direction of cfclient*) is member functions.

With them, this perfectly functional —if a bit inside out— line of code:

dateTimeFormat( dateAdd( 'd', -5, now() ), 'yyyy-mm-dd' );

... can be rewritten as the much more readable:

now().add( 'd', -5 ).dateTimeFormat( 'yyyy-mm-dd' );

At a glance, I personally enjoy reading the latter one more than the former. It's easier to read left-to right rather than unpacking sets of parenthesis mentally.

But there's still one problem here: .dateTimeFormat() Why not just .format()? Probably because they support all three non-member-function variants: someDate.dateFormat(), someDate.timeFormat() and someDate.dateTimeFormat().

Maybe this doesn't sound completely crazy to you. Fair enough. What if I tell you that, aside from List functions (which get a pass because lists aren't actually a type, they're just strings with some extra parsing rules implied) these three member functions are the only member functions that include their type prefix? Here's the list of all new member functions so you can check for yourself. Now do you think it's an anomaly that's worth looking at?

How can we fix this? By realizing that we don't need all three. The new dateTimeFormat() function added in CF11 uses slightly modified masking from its dateFormat and timeFormat predecessors to allow it to do everything they can do, only better. And since dateTimeFormat() is new in CF11 (just like member functions), it makes a good amount of sense to rip this band-aid off now, while we still can. If we wait any longer, someDate.dateFormat() is going to end up in a lot of existing codebases, and we'll never be rid of it, because of backwards compatibility.

As Scott Stroz is fond of saying, "If only the meeting had lasted 5 more minutes..."

Some have called for deprecation of the dateFormat and timeFormat member functions. I disagree, but also think it's better than nothing. My opinion is that member functions are still new enough that it's ok to say, "Sorry, we screwed this up. Let's fix it before we make it any worse."

This has been logged as a bug: 3940802. Your votes and comments would be appreciated.

Published 2015-02-16 @ 05:07 in ColdFusion

My Thoughts on James Harvey's Apology

In my last entry I detailed all of the evidence we could amass for the systematic and repeated plagiarism of James Harvey, aka WebDevSourcerer before he erased his existence from the internet. (We still have archive.org and the google cache, but I think we've built a pretty solid case against him already, why spend more effort?)

I knew at the time that Dave and Scott, the hosts of the CFHour podcast were also trying to reach out to him and get his side of the story. (How journalistic!) I never expected him to respond, given his track record of silently pulling down content instead of apologizing to those he was stealing from.

But he did.

As you may have heard on the most recent episode, if you've listened to it yet, he sent them back a response and attached an apology. He specifically said they could "disperse it as [they] see fit," and Scott sent me a copy for my use here. I'll reproduce the apology letter in full, and then comment on each section below.

To those out there on the internet, calling me a plagarist, I say this:

I am most sincerely sorry.

I meant no disrespect, nor did I intend (or have it interpreted) that I was taking credit for items I had posted. I was using a very well assembled reference, and appending to it, however that wasn't ever mentioned, nor does it need to be any further as the offending post was removed and purged.

I meant only repsect and admiration of my community peers, not trying to take credit for thier works in any way. Yes, perhaps I had "written" I had developed or written certain codes, as I've done similiar projects, and often do get them mixed up.

I am trying to get the exposure out about ColdFusion, and how dynamic and powerful a development language it is, and I can appreciate everyone's views about that. That's it isn't as "dead" as others would like to think, and assist in making it a prevelant language again.

Of that I am guilty, and I am sorry, with all my soul, about that.

Yes, perhaps I should have made it exceedingly clear in my writting that I was not the source of the reference, but merely a messenger and trying to get the exposure for the language back out there.

For a long time, I hadn't seen what other communities were saying about the coldfusion one, until now.

I'm sorry for promoting a fantastic language, I'm sorry for not citing my sources properly or clearly, and I'm most sorry that you all aren't happy with getting your work admired and respected by another peer.

-James Harvey


Ok... so first of all... I guess... I appreciate that he acknowledged he was in the wrong and (sort of) apologized. But let's look at what each individual section is actually saying, and see if that mounts to a successful apology.

To those out there on the internet, calling me a plagarist, I say this:

I am most sincerely sorry.

A decent start, I suppose.

I meant no disrespect, nor did I intend (or have it interpreted) that I was taking credit for items I had posted.

I find this disingenuous given that he literally said "This is a ColdFusion Component the Ol'Sourcerer wrote some time back" (that is a verbatim quote) in his blog post taking credit for Nathan's pagination CFC, and had a git commit that removed Nathan's copyright info. I think he very much meant to take credit for it.

I was using a very well assembled reference, and appending to it, however that wasn't ever mentioned, nor does it need to be any further as the offending post was removed and purged.

That you kept meticulous records of what you stole and from whom does not excuse the stealing. And he referred to it as if it were a single offending post to make it seem like we're blowing things out of proportion when at least 4 were identified and documented (screen shots still available), and he took down his entire website, Twitter account, and GitHub account to scrub any more offending content before it could be found. Shady? Shady.

I meant only repsect and admiration of my community peers, not trying to take credit for thier works in any way. Yes, perhaps I had "written" I had developed or written certain codes, as I've done similiar projects, and often do get them mixed up.

More disingenuous hand waving, in my opinion. I use jQuery a lot, and I write a lot of my own JavaScript, including modules and micro-libraries, but I never forget that I didn't write jQuery. Even if you forget...somehow... If you don't remove the copyright text, you'll have that to remind you.

Respect and admiration manifests as "check out this awesome code that Nathan wrote" not "The Ol' Sourcerer is at it again."

I am trying to get the exposure out about ColdFusion, and how dynamic and powerful a development language it is, and I can appreciate everyone's views about that. That's it isn't as "dead" as others would like to think, and assist in making it a prevelant language again.

Whether or not he's right about CF's abilities and perception (and if you want to think highly enough of him to believe him capable of such manipulation, this could be seen as attempting to garner support by claiming altruism for the platform, something most CF community members would respect), that does not excuse stealing in any way, shape, or form. Altruism or no.

Of that I am guilty, and I am sorry, with all my soul, about that.

I think I mostly believe this. If I were him I'd be losing a lot of sleep over this. If future would-be employers Google him, there's a chance his past could cost him a lot in the future. As well it should.

Yes, perhaps I should have made it exceedingly clear in my writting that I was not the source of the reference, but merely a messenger and trying to get the exposure for the language back out there.

And doing so properly would have taken less effort than what he did. A paragraph or two and a link is a heck of a lot easier to write than copying the code, reformatting it, and removing the copyright information. He systematically stole, and tried to hide the evidence.

If his intention was to shine a spotlight on available great content, he did a terrible job, and temporarily made himself look marginally better in the process. Which is more likely: that he did extra work to achieve a worse result and accidentally propped up his own reputation in the process, or that he did exactly what he was trying to do?

For a long time, I hadn't seen what other communities were saying,about the coldfusion one, until now.

What does that even mean? I could speculate about this, but I'll just let it go for now.

I'm sorry for promoting a fantastic language, I'm sorry for not citing my sources properly or clearly, and I'm most sorry that you all aren't happy with getting your work admired and respected by another peer.

Nobody once criticized his admiration of CF. And I'd bet a beer (redeemable at dev.Objective() next May) that I speak for everyone that blogs about CFML or shares code when I say: We love the admiration and respect of peers. That's not why we blog and share code, but it does give us a warm, happy feeling.

Maybe he was promoting CF... great? But in what reality does stealing count as respect and admiration?

Sorry James. I'm not impressed by your "apology." You admitted wrongdoing but barely took responsibility. Still pretty unprofessional, in my book.

Published 2015-01-30 @ 01:00 in Meta