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2015, Sunday April 12

Why Transmitting Exceptions in SOA services is not a good idea

Usually, in Delphi application (like in most high-level languages), errors are handled via exceptions. By default, any Exception raised on the server side, within an interface-based service method, will be intercepted, and transmitted as an error to the client side, then a safe but somewhat obfuscated EInterfaceFactoryException will be raised on the client side, containing additional information serialized as JSON.

You may wonder why exceptions are not transmitted and raised directly on the client side, with our mORMot framework interface-based services, as if they were executed locally.

We will now detail some arguments, and patterns to be followed.

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2014, Monday April 7

JavaScript support in mORMot via SpiderMonkey

As we already stated, we finished the first step of integration of the SpiderMonkey engine to our mORMot framework.
Version 1.8.5 of the library is already integrated, and latest official revision will be soon merged, thanks to mpv's great contribution.
It can be seen as stable, since it is already used on production site to serve more than 1,000,000 requests per day.

You can now easily uses JavaScript on both client and server side.
On server side, mORMot's implementation offers an unique concept, i.e. true multi-threading, which is IMHO a huge enhancement when compared to the regular node.js mono-threaded implementation, and its callback hell.
In fact, node.js official marketing states its non-blocking scheme is a plus. It allows to define a HTTP server in a few lines, but huge server applications need JavaScript experts not to sink into a state a disgrace.

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2013, Sunday February 17

Interface-based service sample: remote SQL access

You will find in the SQLite3\Sample\16 - Execute SQL via services folder of mORMot source code a Client-Server sample able to access any external database via JSON and HTTP.
It is a good demonstration of how to use an interface-based service between a client and a server.
It will also show how our SynDB classes have a quite abstract design, and are easy to work with, whatever database provider you need to use.

The corresponding service contract has been defined:

  TRemoteSQLEngine = (rseOleDB, rseODBC, rseOracle, rseSQlite3, rseJet, rseMSSQL);

IRemoteSQL = interface(IInvokable) ['{9A60C8ED-CEB2-4E09-87D4-4A16F496E5FE}'] procedure Connect(aEngine: TRemoteSQLEngine; const aServerName, aDatabaseName, aUserID, aPassWord: RawUTF8); function GetTableNames: TRawUTF8DynArray; function Execute(const aSQL: RawUTF8; aExpectResults, aExpanded: Boolean): RawJSON; end;

Purpose of this service is:
- To Connect() to external databases, given the parameters of a standard TSQLDBConnectionProperties. Create() constructor;
- Retrieve all table names of this external database as a list;
- Execute any SQL statement, returning the content as JSON array, ready to be consumed by AJAX applications (if aExpanded is true), or a Delphi client (e.g. via a TSQLTableJSON and the mORMotUI unit).

Of course, this service will be define as sicClientDriven mode, that is, the framework will be able to manage a client-driven TSQLDBProperties instance life time.

Benefit of this service is that no database connection is required on the client side: a regular HTTP connection is enough.
No need to install nor configure any database provider, and full SQL access to the remote databases.

Due to our optimized JSON serialization, it will probably be faster to work with such plain HTTP / JSON services, instead of a database connection through a VPN. In fact, database connections are made to work on a local network, and do not like high-latency connections, which are typical on the Internet.

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2013, Sunday February 3

Log to the console

Our framework features an integrated logging class, ready to be enabled for support and statistics.

For debugging purposes, it could be very handy to output the logging content to a console window.
It enables interactive debugging of a Client-Server process, for instance: you can interact with the Client, then look in real time at the server console window, and inspect which requests are processed, without the need to open the log file.

Depending on the events, colors will be used to write the corresponding information. Errors will be displayed as light red, for instance.

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2012, Monday June 18

Circular reference and zeroing weak pointers

The memory allocation model of the Delphi interface type uses some kind of Automatic Reference Counting (ARC). In order to avoid memory and resource leaks and potential random errors in the applications (aka the terrible EAccessViolation exception on customer side) when using interface, a SOA framework like mORMot has to offer so-called Weak pointers and Zeroing Weak pointers features.

Note that garbage collector based languages (like Java or C#) do not suffer from this problem, since the circular references are handled by their memory model: objects lifetime are maintained globally by the memory manager. Of course, it will increase memory use, slowdown the process due to additional actions during allocation and assignments (all objects and their references have to be maintained in internal lists), and may slow down the application when garbage collector enters in action. In order to avoid such issues when performance matters, experts tend to pre-allocate and re-use objects: this is one common limitation of this memory model, and why Delphi is still a good candidate (like unmanaged C or C++ - and also Objective C) when it deals with performance and stability.

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2012, Tuesday April 10

How function results are allocated

One potential issue with Delphi coding, is about how the result of a functions are implemented.

If you forget to set a result value to a function, you'll get a compiler warning.
Never underestimate such warning: IMHO this is not a warning, but an error.

And you should better be aware of the handling of reference-counted types (e.g. string) in a function results: those are passed the stack as var parameters, so the result of a function may be set even if an exception is raised during function execution!

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2011, Thursday October 27

Yes we can... fight bugs

From a StackOverflow question about a freezing Delphi application, I posted some experiment-based debugging tricks.

May help any developer in his/her fight against random bugs...

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2011, Thursday September 1

DataSnap-like Client-Server JSON RESTful Services in Delphi 6-XE5

Article update:
The server side call back signature changed since this article was first published in 2010. 
Please refer to the documentation or this forum article and associated commit.
The article was totally rewritten to reflect the enhancements.
And do not forget to see mORMot's interface-based services!

Note that the main difference with previous implementation is the signature of the service implementation event, which should be now exactly:
procedure MyService(Ctxt: TSQLRestServerURIContext);
(note that there is one unique class parameter, with no var specifier)
Please update your code if you are using method-based services!

You certainly knows about the new DataSnap Client-Server features, based on JSON, introduced in Delphi 2010. … plications

We added such communication in our mORmot Framework, in a KISS (i.e. simple) way: no expert, no new unit or new class. Just add a published method Server-side, then use easy functions about JSON or URL-parameters to get the request encoded and decoded as expected, on Client-side.

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2011, Saturday August 20

Enhanced Log viewer

We already shipped a sophisticated set of logging classes some month ago.

Since then, its features have been enhanced, and the system has been deeply interfaced with our main ORM framework. Now almost all low-level or high-level operations can be logged on request.

But since the log files tend to be huge (for instance, if you set the logging for our unitary tests, the 6,000,000 unitary tests creates a 280 MB log file), a log viewer was definitively in need.

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2011, Tuesday June 7

Intercepting exceptions: a patch to rule them all

In order to let our TSynLog logging class intercept all exceptions, we use the low-level global RtlUnwindProc pointer, defined in System.pas.

Alas, under Delphi 5, this global RtlUnwindProc variable is not existing. The code calls directly the RtlUnWind Windows API function, with no hope of custom interception.

Two solutions could be envisaged:

  • Modify the Sytem.pas source code, adding the new RtlUnwindProc variable, just like Delphi 7; 
  • Patch the assembler code, directly in the process memory.

The first solution is simple. Even if compiling System.pas is a bit more difficult than compiling other units, we already made that for our Enhanced RTL units. But you'll have to change the whole build chain in order to use your custom System.dcu instead of the default one. And some third-party units (only available in .dcu form) may not like the fast that the System.pas interface changed...

So we used the second solution: change the assembler code in the running process memory, to let call our RtlUnwindProc variable instead of the Windows API.

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