Monthly Archives: May 2012

Friday Fixes

It’s Friday, and time again for some Friday Fixes: selected problems I encountered during the week and their solutions.

I got a friendly reminder this morning that I’ve neglected my Friday Fixes postings of late.  I didn’t say they’d be every Friday, did I?  At any rate, here are some things that came up this week.

Tabbed Freedom v. Logoff Security

Tabbed browsing is a wonderful thing, but its features can become security concerns to corp-rat folks who mainly use their browsers for mission critical apps.  For example, with most browsers, closing a tab (but not the browser itself) does not clean up session cookies. Yet those security first guys would like to have a way to trigger a log off (kill the session) on tab close.

This is a common request, but there’s no straightforward solution. As much as I’d like browsers to have a “tab closed” event, there isn’t one.  The best we can do is hook the unload event which is fired, yes, when the tab is closed, but also anytime you leave the page: whether it’s navigating a link, submitting a form, or simply refreshing.  So the trick is to detect and allow acceptable unloads.  Following is some JavaScript I pieced together (into a common JSPF) based loosely on various recommendations on the web.

  var isOkToUnload = false;
  var logoffOnClose = '<c:out value="${settingsBean.logoffOnClose}" />';
  function allowUnload() {
     isOkToUnload = true;
  function monitorClose() {
     window.onbeforeunload = function() {
        if (!isOkToUnload)
           return "If you leave this page, you will be logged off.";
     window.onunload = function() {
        if (!isOkToUnload) {
              async: false, type: "POST",
                   url: '<c:url value="/basiclogout"/>' });
     // Add other events here as needed
  $(document).ready(function() {
     if (logoffOnClose === 'Y')

This triggers on refresh, but that’s often a good thing since the user could lose work; Gmail and Google Docs do the same thing when you’re editing a draft.  It’s a good idea to make this behavior configurable, since many folks prefer the freedom of tabbed browsing over the security of forcing logoff.

DBCP Has Timed Out

Right after mastering the linked list, it seems every programmer wants to build a database connection pool.  I’ve built a couple myself, but this proliferation gets in the way of having a single golden solution that folks could rally around and expect to be supported forever.

Such was the story behind Apache DBCP: it was created to unify JDBC connection pools.  Although it’s broadly used, it’s over-engineered, messy, and limited. So it, too, fell by the wayside of open source neglect.  And since nearly all servlet containers now provide built-in connection pools, there’s really no use for DBCP anymore.

Yet I found myself having to fix DisconnectException timeouts with an existing DBCP implementation, typically stemming from errors like:  A communication error has been detected… Location where the error was detected: Reply.fill().

After trying several recovery options, I found that DBCP’s validationQuery prevented these, at the cost of a little extra overhead.  Although validationQuery can be configured, I didn’t want additional setup steps that varied by server.  So I just added it to the code:

  BasicDataSource ds = new BasicDataSource();
  // ...
  ds.setValidationQuery("select 1 from sysibm.sysdummy1");

In the next pass, I’ll yank out DBCP altogether and configure pools in WebSphere, WebLogic, and Tomcat 7.  But this gave me a quick fix to keep going on the same platform.

Aggregation Dictation

Weird: I got three questions about aggregating in SQL on the same day.  Two of them involved OLAP syntax that’s somewhat obscure, but quite useful.  So if you find yourself with complications from aggregation aggravation, try one of these:

  • Doing a group by and need rollup totals across multiple groups?  Try grouping sets, rollup, and cube.  I’ve written about these before; for example, see this post.
  • Need to limit the size of a result set and assign rankings to the results?  Fetch first X rows only works fine for the former, but not the latter.  So try the ranking and windowing functions, such as row_number, rank, dense_rank, and partition by.  For example, to find the three most senior employees in each department (allowing for ties), do this:

       (SELECT rank() OVER(partition BY workdept ORDER BY hiredate ASC) 
        AS rank, firstnme, lastname, workdept, hiredate 
        FROM emp) emps
      WHERE rank <= 3
      ORDER BY workdept

    Co-worker Wayne did a clever row_number/partition by implementation and added a nice view to clarify its meaning.


Some interesting links that surfaced (or resurfaced) this week: