All entries for October 2005

October 31, 2005

Something gross

Follow-up to Football injury no.2 from Kieran's blog

Just to be a little bit gross, here are two comparison photos of my two injuries, one 11 months ago and on a week ago. Similar? Yes…far too similar :(

Bruised and swollen foot :( This is what happens when you screw your foot over playing football.Another football injury, same injury, different foot.


It hurts more now than it did the day after I did it. Now that the swelling has gone down, the bruises have come up and it hurts like hell :(

I post this here for 2 reasons.

  1. A reminder to me to be more careful next time
  2. Sympathy

October 25, 2005

Football injury no.2

Around December last year, I went over on my left ankle playing football and it ended up looking like this

Bruised and swollen foot :( This is what happens when you screw your foot over playing football.

I did it again today, but this time on my right foot. I went over on it all on my own, no bad tackle or anything like that and it felt just like last year so I knew it was screwed :(

An afternoon of ice packs and pain killers means that hopefully I won't be off football for 7/8 weeks like I was last time. *sigh*

Lack of progress

Follow-up to Spanish – Absolute Beginners – Week 3 from Kieran's blog

Well, one more half Spanish lesson last night. I say half lesson because during the break after the first hour I left :(

In a really quite disappointing moment for myself, feeling stupid and so frustrated with the course that I just went home after the first half. It turns out I'm just not suited to the course. Half the time we were just trying to read out or repeat stuff the teacher was saying, but with 15 people all trying to say it at the same time, I couldn't hear myself think. Not being a natural at languages, I was a second or two behind people half the time and by the time I tried saying stuff, everyone else was already saying it :(
Also, it just moves far too quickly, not giving us a chance to write things down or think about it before moving onto other things.

So, in conclusion I think I might have quit…I'll see how I feel next week. I'm certainly not going to give up trying to learn Spanish though, I've got my software which is pretty good and I may well get a better book (the course book is crap).

October 23, 2005

Spanish – Absolute Beginners – Week 3

Follow-up to Spanish – Absolute Beginners – Week 2 from Kieran's blog

A bit of a late write up this week, but I thought I should keep on tracking my progress.

Again I felt the class went far too quickly really. The tutor spent all of about 5 minutes on pronunciation of the alphabet without even giving us a chance to write stuff down.

In theory we now know all about numbers up to 100, including things like how to say phone numbers and credit card numbers.

We also did quite a bit on ordering food and saying what you do and don't like.

In a fit of frustration on Tuesday night I went and got myself some software to help me learn some more Spanish between lessons. On Wednesday I took it back again and swapped it for something else :)

First lot, AA Essential Spanish Deluxe is a pile of pants. It pretends to be a new release, out in July 2005, but it is actually repackaged 4 year old software that looks more like 10 year old with its awful interfaces and bad speech recognition. But most importantly it just wasn't suited to the beginner.

The second lot, Learn to Speak Spanish was much better. It is still fairly old software (3 years old I think), but it was so much better. The interfaces are still a bit old fashioned, but it is far better at guiding you through as a beginner.

Hopefully I am now a bit better prepared for tomorrow :)

October 17, 2005

Detect reason for hard disk thrashing: Filemon

Writing about web page

My computer was going bonkers this morning, the hard disk thrashing like crazy.

I shut everything down and still appeared to have plenty of free memory, but I just couldn't tell what it was.

In comes Filemon, this handy utility from SysInternals shows you all of your disk activity and what program is causing the mayhem.

It turns out it was a virus scan that should have run at the weekend and got delayed for some reason :(

October 13, 2005

Quick survey: How much music is on your MP3 player?

Writing about New iPods from [Ux]

Over at Steve's entry we are talking about the new iPods and the kind of pointlessness of the new video iPod. What I'd like to know is?

What is the point of keep on upping the capacity of these things (60GB!) and how much music do people really put on their MP3 players?

October 12, 2005

Spanish – Absolute Beginners – Week 2

Follow-up to Spanish – Absolute Beginners from Kieran's blog

We moved forward again this week at quite a pace. I swear, if I was able to keep up and was any good at this language lark, this course could make me fluent by the end.

?como estas?
muy bien gracias.

?estas casado?
No. Estoy prometido.

We learnt a bit more about the fem/masc nouns, very similar to French (from what I can remember), but easier to work out generally.

Un hermano (brother, ends in an o)
Una hermana (sister, ends in an a)

El estudiante (student, ends in an e)
Los estudiantes (students, add an s)

La cama (boy, ends in an a)
Las camas (boys, add an s)

In 98% of cases it is as simple as that.


?Cual es tu profession?
?En que tiabajas?

Soy programado.

It goes on…
Days of the week
Counting up to 100
Ordering drinks…

I really don't think I can absorb and memorise this much every week :(

Joel on Software – Set Your Priorities

Writing about web page

Joel Spolsky is a clever guy. In case you've not come across him before, he's a genius software engineer who provides some great insight into the software development business.

If you're in IT, it wouldn't hurt to go back and read some of his archives as he is a great communicator with some great ideas.

His latest is all about setting priorities for features. If you're never sure which feature to do next…read it.

LDAP connection pooling

We recently had problems with load on our single sign on (SSO) server. Being the start of term, things are generally busier than the rest of the year and we often see higher load than normal. However, this was too far from normal to be right.

A bit of investigation showed that our JBoss instance had literally 100s and 100s of threads. Lsof is a very handy utility in cases like this.

lsof -p <procid>

This revealed 100s of open connections to our LDAP servers. Not good.

Looking at the LDAP code we have, there are two places where we make LDAP connections, or as they are known in Java; contexts.

Hashtable env = new Hashtable();
env.put(Context.PROVIDER_URL, "ldap://");
LdapContext ctx = new InitialLdapContext(env,null);
// do something useful with ctx

This is pretty much how our code worked in both places. Importantly I'd checked that the contexts were always closed…and they were.

This is where LDAP connection pooling came into the picture. It turned out that one piece of code (not written by us), used this:

env.put("com.sun.jndi.ldap.connect.pool", "true");

This turns on connection pooling. However, we didn't use pooling in the other bit of code. So, one of the other wasn't working. Trying out pooling on both bits of code didn't improve things either, basically because it is a multi–threaded application with 100's of requests a minute, if you just keep creating new LdapContext's from a LdapCtxFactory, you are using a new LdapCtxFactory every time.

Thankfully our SSO application uses Spring so it was simple enough to create an XML entry for the LdapCtxFactory and the environment config and plug the same LdapCtxFactory into the two places it was needed. At least now we were using the same factory.

We could now do this:

Map env = new Hashtable();
env.put("", user);
env.put("", pass);
LdapContext ldapContext = (LdapContext) getLdapContextFactory().getInitialContext((Hashtable) env);

Where the base LDAP environment and LdapCtxFactory was injected into where it was needed. Then just the username and password to bind as is passed in dynamically.

To really know if pooling is working you need to turn on the debugging for the ldap connection pooling by adding a java option to your test/application/server. There are other handy options for tweaking the pooling behaviour as well.

-Dcom.sun.jndi.ldap.connect.pool.initsize=20 -Dcom.sun.jndi.ldap.connect.pool.timeout=10000

The bugging will give you messages like this if pooling isn't working:

Create com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@c87d32[]
Use com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@c87d32
Create com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@c81a32[]
Use com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@c81a32
Create com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@a17d35[]
Use com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@a17d35
Create com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@1a7e35[]
Use com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@1a7e35

New connections are just being created every time with no reuse. What you should see is:

Use com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@17bd5d1
Release com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@17bd5d1
Create com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@cce3fe[]
Use com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@cce3fe
Release com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@cce3fe
Use com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@1922b38
Release com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@1922b38
Use com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@17bd5d1
Release com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapClient@17bd5d1

As you can see, there are actually two differences here from a fully working connection pool and a well and truely broken one.

  1. There are very few creates and lots of reuse in the good code
  2. There are lots of releases after connection use in the good code

This is where we came across our second problem. Although in theory the connection pooling was working and I could see some reuse, it was still creating a lot of connections and I wasn't seeing barely any 'Release' messages.

Chris hit the nail on the head with pointing out that NamingEnumerations could well be just like PreparedStatements and ResultSets for JDBC. It is all fine and well closing the connection/context itself, but if you don't close the other resources, it won't actually get released.

The proof of this shows up again in lsof or netstat. A context that has been closed but still has an open NamingEnumeration shows up like this:

java    21533 jboss   80u  IPv6 0x32376e2cf70   0t70743    TCP ssoserver:60465-> (ESTABLISHED)

However, when it is closed, it should wait to be closed, like this:

java    21533 jboss   80u  IPv6 0x32376e2cf70   0t70743    TCP ssoserver:60465-> (TIME_WAIT)

Upon closing all NamingEnumerations, we finally got the perfect results. 100s of requests a minute and only ever around 10–15 ldap connections open at any one time.

So, lessons learnt.

  • When creating contexts, share the factory to use pooling
  • Make sure you close everything. If it has a close()...use it!
  • Occasionally take a look at the open connections and threads that you application has…it might surprise you.


Spring config:

<bean id="ldapContextFactory" class="com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapCtxFactory" singleton="true"/>

<bean id="ldapEnv" class="java.util.Hashtable">
<entry key="java.naming.factory.initial"><value>com.sun.jndi.ldap.LdapCtxFactory</value></entry>
<entry key="java.naming.provider.url"><value>ldaps://</value></entry>
<entry key="java.naming.ldap.derefAliases"><value>never</value></entry>
<entry key="com.sun.jndi.ldap.connect.timeout"><value>5000</value></entry>
<entry key="java.naming.ldap.version"><value>3</value></entry>
<entry key="com.sun.jndi.ldap.connect.pool"><value>true</value></entry>

We now do connection pooling with LDAPS so we use the additional system property:

-Dcom.sun.jndi.ldap.connect.pool.protocol="plain ssl"

October 10, 2005

Something going down in funkytown

Writing about web page

Funkalicious jazz.

October 2005

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