Sadly Lori, who normally organizes this monthly get together, couldn't be with us, as her dog was quite sick. Even more sadly, her pup passed away. My sympathies go out to her. Losing a beloved pet is a traumatic experience.
I got into an extended discussion about books Saturday night with a couple of friends. They were talking about the Harry Potter books, and I couldn't help but think those books are overrated. I hear people compare them to the Lord of the Rings books, and it turns my stomach. I have to fight hard to keep back the book snob in me in conversations like this. I was told that the series gets a lot better in the third book, and that the quality of her writing really improved at that point. Since I have only read the first two, I guess I need to pick up the third one and read it to really be able to take part in this discussion actively. My initial impression was that they were good guilty pleasure books, but I wouldn't put them up in the Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, L'Engle, Robert Jordan, territory. I guess, also, that I have probably read more fantasy genre stuff than the people making these claims, and so I have already formed an emotional attachment to other works. (I live here, and you are just visiting.) Finally, it's art, and in my opinion, it should come down to what you enjoy, but making absolute claims requires perspective.
The conversation continued, with one of my friends offering up Tom Clancy as a "great" author because of his attention to detail, especially in the military realm. I've read almost all of Clancy's books, but I cannot claim that he is a great author. I really enjoyed all of them, but they tend to be formulaic despite their attention to detail. I would however, buy any new book he writes. It reminded me, however, of another conversation during bloggers and beer earlier in the week where a friend claimed that the Beastie Boys section of the Kleptones night at the Hip Opera was superior to any of the Beastie Boys works because Queen's music was sonically superior to anything that the Dust Brothers may have done on Paul's Boutique. While it may be academically superior in a purely mathematical sort of way, that criteria seems, at least to me, a very narrow way of looking at music, which for me is all about the emotional reaction to the work. The innovation of Paul's Boutique paved the way for the mashup culture we are now enjoying, and that should have some value beyond the sum of it's sonic parts.
This has made me think more about books and music. The works I enjoy don't always tend to be the most popular, but I stand by them from a quality perspective. Are these two areas of art analogous? Is Britney Spears the equivalent of J.K. Rowling? I tend to believe that I look for some level of innovation in the works that I enjoy. Not necessarily from an academic perspective, but from an "original" way of thinking perspective. It's difficult for me to restrain my opinions, but they, at times, make me feel like a big snob, whether I have read more books or listened to more music or not.
This week, I have been configuring a new app server, which will be dedicated to running our scoring and syndication efforts. It is also the first server in our farm that is running CFMX 7. So I had just gone through three days of server work on this exact topic prior to the meeting. For a variety of reasons, I had decided that, in addition to going with CFMX 7 for application specific reasons, which I will get into later in this post, we would be better off with the Multiserver configuration of ColdFusion. This will allow us to sandbox apps in various CF instances, which makes good sense in the environment that we are in. The install went pretty well, although the documentation from Macromedia, which I read thoroughly before doing anything, is not very good in my opinion. I found mistakes, which I plan on documenting and getting to Macromedia, and much of the docs assume you are installing the single server configuration. The MultiServer specific documentation is sparse. I'm guessing that I am supposed to consult the JRun documentation for some of this information, but the CFMX documentation should point me in that direction, not assume that I know where to look.
The installer is pretty well written though, and doing the actual installation went very smoothly. In fact, the documentation inside of the installer does a great job of walking you through things. However, once you have installed the Multiserver version, gotten it configured to use whichever Web server you are running, and gotten it running from the command line, you realize that something which is in every other version of ColdFusion is missing if you install with this option. Macromedia supplies no scripts to start JRun and ColdFusion automatically at system startup. I thought to myself yesterday, no problem, there has to be documentation of the best practice way to do this on MM's site. After about an hour of searching I realized that this was not the case. I made a comment on Stephen Erat's site, and he pointed me to Greg Stewart's experimental scripts for doing this. In my opinion, this is not a solution to the problem, I want the vendor to tell me what they recommend. I know I can write my own shell script to start this configuration, but I find the fact that Macromedia didn't think to supply one of their own, or any guidance for that matter, bothersome. At the very least, there should be a technote. After all, they supply a method of doing this for every other version of their product. I very much would like to see that oversight fixed.
My single biggest issue with CFMX 6.1 has been Query of Queries, and our team had great hopes that the typing issues we had constantly run into with Query of Queries would be fixed in CFMX 7. It seems, based on our testing, that the typing engine itself has not changed, which is to say that if you do not specifically type a column (which is new functionality in CFMX 7), it arbitrarily assigns a type to each column based on some data inspection. This data inspection is not documented anywhere, as far as I can tell. So the Macromedia solution to the issue was not to fix the typing engine, but rather to add the ability to type columns upon query creation. I'm not sure that this is the right solution to the issue. In addition, we have seen behavior where the typing engine assigns a type of "null" to a column. This makes operations involving that column problematic. I would think that the default type would be some sort of string, like a varchar, but this does not seem to be the case. This ends up making Q of Q not nearly as useful as it could be. I know, of course, that there are other, alternate, complex data types that I could use for these operations, but I attempt to map data that fits into query objects to queries.
Even so, we are looking forward to using CFMX 7 moving forward. There is a bunch of new functionality that is a good fit for us in there, and we plan on exploiting it. I figured that I would document the two things I have run into so far for Google and others who might run into them.