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Jim Marion

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A blog containing development tips I have learned through the years as a PeopleSoft developer.Jim Marionhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/12995110203807924786noreply@blogger.comBlogger159125
Updated: 13 hours 20 min ago

Unlimited Session Timeout

Thu, 2014-07-24 10:21

There are a lot of security admins out there that are going to hate me for this post. There are a lot of system administrators, developers, and users, however, that will LOVE me for this post. The code I'm about to share with you will keep the logged in PeopleSoft user's session active as long as the user has a browser window open that points to a PeopleSoft instance. Why would you do this? I can think of two reasons:

  • Your users have several PeopleSoft browser windows open. If one of them times out because of inactivity at the browser window level, then it will kill the session for ALL open windows. That just seems wrong.
  • Your users have long running tasks, such as completing performance reviews, that may require more time to complete than is available at a single sitting. For example, imagine you are preparing a performance review and you have to leave for a meeting. You don't have enough information in the transaction to save, but you can't be late for the meeting either. You know if you leave, your session will time out while you are gone and you will lose your work. This also seems wrong.

Before I show you how to keep the logged in user's session active, let's talk about security... Session timeouts exist for two reasons (at least two):

  • Security: no one is home, so lock the door
  • Server side resource cleanup: PeopleSoft components require web server state. Each logged in user session (and browser window) consumes resources on the web server. If the user is dormant for a specific period of time, reclaim those resources by killing the user's session.

We can "lock the door" without timing out the server side session with strong policies on the workstation: password protected screen savers, etc.

So here is how it works. Add the following JavaScript to the end of the HTML definition PT_COMMON (or PT_COPYURL if using an older version of PeopleTools) (or even better, if you are on PeopleTools 8.54+, use component and/or role based branding to activate this script). Next, turn down your web profile's timeout warning and timeout to something like 3 and 5 minutes or 5 and 10 minutes. On the timeout warning interval, the user's browser will place an Ajax request to keep the session active. When the user closes all browser windows, the reset won't happen so the user's server side session state will terminate.

What values should you use for the warning and timeout? As low as possible, but not so low you create too much network chatter. If the browser makes an ajax request on the warning interval and a user has 10 windows open, then that means the user will trigger up to 10 Ajax requests within the warning interval window. Now multiply that by the number of logged in users at any given moment. See how this could add up?

Here is the JavaScript:

(function (root) {
// xhr adapted from http://toddmotto.com/writing-a-standalone-ajax-xhr-javascript-micro-library/
var xhr = function (type, url, data) {
var methods = {
success: function () {
},
error: function () {
}
};

var parse = function (req) {
var result;
try {
result = JSON.parse(req.responseText);
} catch (e) {
result = req.responseText;
}
return [result, req];
};

var XHR = root.XMLHttpRequest || ActiveXObject;
var request = new XHR('MSXML2.XMLHTTP.3.0');
request.open(type, url, true);
request.setRequestHeader('Content-type', 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded');
request.onreadystatechange = function () {
if (request.readyState === 4) {
if (request.status === 200) {
methods.success.apply(methods, parse(request));
} else {
methods.error.apply(methods, parse(request));
}
}
};

request.send(data);
return {
success: function (callback) {
methods.success = callback;
return methods;
},
error: function (callback) {
methods.error = callback;
return methods;
}
};
}; // END xhr


var timeoutIntervalId;
var resetUrl;

/* replace warning message timeout with Ajax call
*
* clear old timeout after 30 seconds
* macs don't set timeout until 1000 ms
*/
root.setTimeout(function () {
/* some pages don't have timeouts defined */
if (typeof (timeOutURL) !== "undefined") {
if (timeOutURL.length > 0) {
resetUrl = timeOutURL.replace(/expire$/, "resettimeout");
if (totalTimeoutMilliseconds !== null) {
root.clearTimeout(timeoutWarningID);
root.clearTimeout(timeoutID);

timeoutIntervalId =
root.setInterval(resetTimeout /* defined below */,
root.warningTimeoutMilliseconds);
}
}
}
}, 30000);

var resetTimeout = function () {
xhr("GET", resetUrl)
.success(function (msg) {
/* do nothing */
})
.error(function (xhr, errMsg, exception) {
alert("failed to reset timeout");
/* error; fallback to delivered method */
(root.setupTimeout || root.setTimeout2)();
});
};
}(window));

A special "shout out" to Todd Motto for his Standalone Ajax/XHR JavaScript micro-library which is embedded (albeit modified) in the JavaScript above.

PeopleCode Coding Discipline

Wed, 2014-07-16 11:23

Java, JavaScript, C++, C Sharp, Objective C, Groovy... what do these languages have in common? Yes, curly braces, but besides that... actually, there are a lot of similarities between these languages. Throw Visual Basic, Perl, Python, or any other well-known language into the mix and the number of similarities drops significantly. Setting semantics and syntax aside, a common attribute of all well-known languages is standards and best practices. Some of those best practices (such as coding style) differ by language. For example, bash scripts can either look like, uh... bash scripts or they can look like c-style logic statements. Obviously, bash best practices prefer you make bash code look like bash code. Other standards are personal: do you prefer real tabs or spaces? How many spaces does your tab consume? Do you put curly braces on a new line?

How does all of this fit into PeopleCode? Forget about code formatting preferences. Application Designer has its own code formatting ideas. But there are other best practices that can help you write better code with fewer defects (fewer defects = better code). By following best practices your code will be easier to read, you will be more productive, and your users will be happier because you deliver better solutions faster.

Even though best practices usually result in code that is more efficient to process, that isn't really the point. Computers can interpret just about anything. Compilers and interpreters are really good at eliminating useless words and resolving seemingly incomprehensible logic. I love Martin Fowler's quote, "Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand." Best practices are really about writing code that humans can easily comprehend. For example, avoid complex logic (including double negatives, or any negative logic, for that matter), keep your method and function code short, etc. If you write some code, leave it for a night, and then come back the next day and either need to read lots of comments to figure it out or spend a few minutes "remembering" what that code does, then the code is probably too complex. The problem with complex code is that it is easily misinterpreted by humans. Another problem with complex code is we actually ignore it when trying to resolve problems. We know it takes time to digest complex code, so we avoid it, preferring to test simple code first. Why waste time trying to understand complex code if it might be functioning properly?

Today's Quest Newsletter contained a link to 10 Bad Coding Practices That Wreck Software Development Projects. These are language agnostic practices that we can easily apply to PeopleSoft development.

If I were to summarize Coding best practices, I think I would do it like this: two.sentenc.es. Now, arguably, short does not equal comprehensible. There are programmers that err on the terse side because it is clever. This is true, often short code is clever. It is also hard to read. Most of us, however, err the other way. E. F. Schumacher said, "Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction." Schumacher died in 1977, so this problem is not new.

Computer programming is about communication. As programmers we have two audiences:

  • Computers (which can interpret anything -- even complex stuff)
  • Humans (who have a limited attention span, distractions, and a preference for simplicity)

Here is why I think discipline and best practices are critical for good PeopleCode:

We use PeopleCode to create business rules, but PeopleCode is NOT a business rules language. PeopleCode is a Metadata manipulation language. (Note: this is purely my opinion)

Here is why I believe PeopleCode is for metadata, not business rules: PeopleCode only has Metadata objects: records, fields, SQL, components, menus, etc. These are all metadata. These are the low level API's we use to write business logic. Consider the following PeopleCode:

Local record &rec = CreateRecord(Record.PSOPRDEFN);
Local field &descr;

&rec.SelectByKey("jimsoprid");
&descr = &rec.GetField(Field.OPRDEFNDESC);

&descr.Value = "Jim Marion";

&rec.Update();

This code implements business logic, but does so by manipulating metadata objects. PeopleCode metadata objects are building blocks for business logic. If we were to rewrite this using a business logic language, it would probably look something like this:

Local User &u = GetUser("jimsoprid");

&u.descr = "Jim Marion";
&u.Update();

And this is why discipline and best practices are SO important for PeopleCode developers: We are trying to speak business logic with a metadata vocabulary. We start with a communication deficit. It is like trying to teach advanced weaving using an automobile mechanics vocabulary. The two subjects have different vocabularies. But if you combine the words correctly, you can communicate the same meaning.

PeopleTools 8.54 is GA!

Mon, 2014-07-14 14:28

On Friday the PeopleTools blog announced that PeopleTools 8.54 is now Generally Available (GA). PeopleTools 8.54 brings several usability features including responsive design for mobile devices as well as development features such as Mobile Application Platform (MAP). One of my favorite new features is component specific branding. You can now attach stylesheets and JavaScript to components as described in PeopleBooks Applying Branding to Other Objects. Another great branding enhancement is Attribute-based branding. This is very similar to role based branding, but more flexible and easier to administer. You can read about it in the PeopleBooks entry Administering System Branding.

To learn more read the PeopleTools announcement or visit the hosted 8.54 PeopleBooks. I can't wait for the new demo images!