Scotch On The Road in Brussels

Published on: October 30, 2009
Categories: ColdFusion
Comments: No Comments

On Tuesday, Octobre 27 the Scotch On The Road tour landed in Brussels. This event is all about ColdFusion. Being a Flex developer starting out with ColdFusion and having seen loads of good stuff about the latest version, ColdFusion 9, I just had to be there to see what’s what. I must say that I had really high expectations of what I wanted to see, because my mind was filled with questions. And I must say: my expectations were met for the greatest part. The only thing I regret is the fact that it was almost entirely about ColdFusion calling ColdFusion and not so much about integrating ColdFusion as a Flex back end technology. But more on that later…

First things first. I really must say a big thank you to all the speakers present, ’cause they’ve all done a great job. But let me walk you through the important bits I retained from this day of brainwashing. Adam Lehman was the first to take the stage and he talked about where ColdFusion is at and Where it is going to. He briefly talked about Link, which is the working name for ColdFusion 10. In that version there could be a stress on having it “in the cloud”, which means it could become a platform for services being payed per action (or something like that). But for the major part he talked about ColdFusion Builder, the upcoming tool that promises a lot for ColdFusion developers. You can already try out the beta version, but it will be released in the beginning of 2010. The tool is like Flex Builder (or Flash Builder I should say now): you can install it stand-alone or as a plug-in on an existing Eclipse platform.

ColdFusion Builder has some nice additions to what you might be used to in Dreamweaver: Code completion, not only on CFML, but also on CSS and HTML; integrated debugging tools; introspection of JavaScript and Ajax code that is used together with your ColdFusion code; SQL code assist; code snippets and object relational mapping. This last feature was the one that attracted my attention for the rest of the day because it means that in ColdFusion 9 there is a full integration of Hibernate. This is a tool/plug-in that allows you to access a database without writing a single line of code. It also works database independent, so that’s another great asset.

Additional language features in the new version include and onServerStart() method that is automatically called when you start up the CF server. But also nested transactions on 1 datasource, a /finally tag, assignment chaining (a = b = c) and ternary operators are part of the new instructions. It is now also possible to create entire components suing only CF scripting. This sounded like music to my newby CF ears, because it looks so much more familiar to me than the tag based components. There is now also a explicit LOCAL scope which you use instead of using the VAR keyword.

But the ORM part attracted my attention the most, so I have to say something about that too. What’s different when using the Hibernate integration is the fact that you don’t need any getter/setter functions anymore. They are “auto-magically” generated for you. So a DTO cfc is a lot simpler now. you just have to say that it’s a persistent class and then set up your application to use ORM (object relational mapping) by setting the property ormenabled=”true” on the application. And instead of calling methods to fetch data from he database or to update data, you simply call EntityLoad() to get the data from the database. Isn’t that cool! No more writing basic SQL statement for this purpose; it’s all done for you. The only question I’m wrestling with right now is how to implement this ORM feature when you don’t have an application.cfc file. Because this is the case when you use a Flex application to connect to a ColdFusion back end: you just have a bunch of CFC Assemblers that should return you the ORM enabled DTOs. But where do you need to set the ormenabled=”true” statement? I’m still figuring this one out. But if anyone already has the answer, please let me know…

Eventually Claude Englebert took the stand to talk about the server adminstration, which is a very important part in ColdFusion development. He also showed a nice AIR application that can manage several CF servers at the same time. You can monitor them, but you can also check the differences between certain servers, automatically synchronise the servers with a click on a button and go directly to the server administrator module You can even apply hot fixes to multiple servers at the same time. That’s how easy it can be made to manage and maintain your servers.

We also saw Grant Straker doing his magic as he talked about troubleshooting ColdFusion applications. He grabbed my attention by comparing CF apps to a car engine. What are the 2 things you look at when your car won’t start? Is there gasoline in it and do the sparks work! The same principle applies to CF applications according to Grant: it’s either a CPU problem (threading) or it’s a memory problem. This rule of thumb should solve about 80% of all bugs. he also mentioned that garbage collection could even freeze your application and that he has known situations where the garbage collection took up to 25 seconds! My god, that’s awful! Now I’m even more put off by the concept of garbage collection. You have to excuse me, but I’m a C++ developer by nature and I’ve always hated the garbage collection principle, because experience has taught me that it doesn’t do its job like it is supposed to do. But maybe that’s just my opinion…

Serge Jespers also appeared on stage, doing his usual talk about Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder integration. Even though I’ve seen this ind of presentation already a dozen times, the power of Flash Catalyst always keeps amazing me. With the beta 2 being released now, the product is coming close to what the final release version will be. I could say a little more about this, but then I’d have to shoot all of you…

But anyways, it was a very good day after all and I didn’t regret going there for one second. Now, if i can only find how to integrate ORM with a Flex 4 application, I’d bee a very happy camper…

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