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Leveraging WebDAV-Accessible Directories with Mac OS X Server & ColdFusion MX 7.0.1

Opening ColdFusion to a whole new audience and platform

Recently, with the introduction of ColdFusion MX 7.0.1, Macromedia began fully supporting a Mac OS X Server installation of ColdFusion. OS X Server used to be supported only in a development environment installed on top of JRun, Tomcat, or some other J2EE application server. Opening this platform has opened ColdFusion to a whole new audience and platform.

Mac OS X Server is regarded by many as an enterprise-class operating system overshadowed for years by Windows servers and Linux. The introduction of Mac OS X Server 10.4 (code named Tiger) brought Apple's enterprise entry to the forefront when it comes to serving files, print services, e-mail, web sites, and applications on the Apache Project's Tomcat J2EE Server. ColdFusion and Mac OS X Server offers functionality never seen in Windows installations and previously left only to Linux installations. One of these functions is access to directories based on the WebDAV standard.

A Windows 2003 Server installation of ColdFusion can't under any circumstances access a mapped drive if it's mapped via WebDAV. The share can be seen in Explorer, accessed from the command line, but can't be accessed from any of ColdFusion's tags including CFDIRECTORY and CFFILE. If access to a WebDAV directory is needed, it's a problem.

Setting Up the Environment
Mac OS X Server offers a perfectly simple solution. The first step is to mount the WebDAV directory in the operating system. This is done just like mounting any other network resource. From the finder, click on "Go," then click on "Connect To Server." A dialog box like the one below will appear. Fill it in with the URL of the WebDAV-accessible directory that's being accessed, then click "Connect."

This should mount the directory listed as "Final" on the desktop. It doesn't mean that directory is inaccessible from the rest of the operating system or from ColdFusion. The true path of this network mount can be seen if the Mac OS X Terminal application is activated. (Applications ‡ Utilities ‡ Terminal.app). The directory "/Volumes" contains a mapping to every drive listed on the Mac OS X desktop. In this case, our mounted directory "Final" can be reached by typing at the console: /Volumes/Final. This mounting, however, won't persist through a reboot cycle. There's no good clean way to make a WebDAV share automount on OS X. The problem is easily remedied but you have to dirty your hands with some scripting work.

On the server running Mac OS X Server and ColdFusion MX 7 bring up a terminal window. (Make sure you have root privileges before doing these operations.) A directory for the mount point has to be created first. Type the command mkdir /mydirectory in the terminal. Next, an entry in /Library/StartupItems has to be created. This is what will do all the work automounting the share. The touch command will also be used to create the files needed to populate for the Automount to work properly (see Figure 1).

mkdir /Library/StartupItems/AutMnt

cd /Library/StartupItems/AutMnt

touch AutMnt

touch StartupParameters.plist

Open the file AutMnt to edit with pico or any other editor of choice.

pico AutMnt

Type the following content into this file:

!/bin/sh
. /etc/rc.common

if [ "$1" == "start" ]
then
mount -t webdav http://mywebdavserver/mywebdavshare /mydirectory
fi

Save and close this file. (Ctrl + X, then answer "Y" in pico.) Then open and edit the file StartupParameters.plist
pico StartupParameters.plist

Type the following content into this file:


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN"
"http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<dict>
<key>OrderPreference</key>
<string>Early</string>
<key>Description</key>
<string>Try to mount the webdav share</string>
<key>Provides</key>
<array>
<string>AutMnt</string>
</array>
</dict>
</plist>
Save and close this file. (Ctrl + X, then answer "Y" in pico.) The proper permissions have to be set on these files before they can be used at startup. This can be done through the Finder. Browse to /Library/StartupItems/AutMnt and check the permissions by pressing Cmd + i. The Owner should be system with read/write permissions. The Group should be wheel with read-only permissions and Others should have read=only permissions.

Once done, these permissions can be checked back into the terminal with the command ls -l . The results should look like the listing below:

-rwxr--r-- 1 root wheel 145 17 Nov 13:43 AMount
-rw-r--r-- 1 root wheel 463 17 Nov 13:47 StartupParameters.plist

The OrderPreference key in the plist is important because ColdFusion's StartupParameters.plist file will be edited to indicate that it needs to start later than the script that's mounting the WebDAV share. This is to ensure that the share mounting occurs BEFORE ColdFusion starts.

Next, change the current directory to ColdFusion's directory:

cd ../ColdFusionMX7/

Open ColdFusion's StartupParameters.plist the same way the AutMnt program's plist was opened:

pico StartupParameters.plist

Change the OrderPreference key from "None" to "Late." This will ensure that ColdFusion starts AFTER the share is mounted. Save and close this file. (Ctrl + X, then answer "Y" in pico.)

These changes go into effect when the system is rebooted. When the system comes back up, the share should be mounted and ColdFusion started as usual.

Working in ColdFusion
In ColdFusion, the WebDAV shares are accessed just as any other local directory would be, as well as the files contained in the share.

CFDIRECTORY:

<cfdirectory action="list" directory="/mydirectory" name="myWebDAV"/>

CFFILE:

<cffile action="read" file="/mydirectory/myfile.ext"/>

If the Internet connection to or from the WebDAV server is slow, it will slow the performance of any actions on this directory. Keep this in mind that when the templates or CFCs that access these remote shares are called or executed.

DIRECTORYWATCHER GATEWAY

The main reason for ensuring that the mounting occurs before ColdFusion starts is to ensure that the directory being watched by an instance of the DirectoryWatcher Gateway exists. If the share isn't mounted before ColdFusion starts, then the gateway instance won't start.

Conclusion
Once the share is mounted, it appears as just another local directory to ColdFusion and can be accessed as such. There's no mystery to using the share once it's mounted. The trick is to make sure the share mounts before the ColdFusion MX 7 server starts. It's possible to extend this line of thinking to supported Linux and Unix installations of ColdFusion. If the share can be mounted, then it can be used in ColdFusion. ColdFusion can't differentiate between a local volume and a remote volume on these systems as it can on Windows. The ability to leverage remote volumes, such as WebDAV shares, makes ColdFusion that much more appealing because it lets ColdFusion reach across the entire enterprise network to do file and directory functions exploiting the power of the DirectoryWatcher Gateway.

More Stories By Andrew Powell

Andrew Powell has been architecting and developing Web applications for over 10 years using ColdFusion, Java, ASP.NET and ASP. His background includes experience running IT Departments for firms in the executive search and aviation consulting fields. You can read his blog on everything ColdFusion, Java, Flex & AJAX at www.infoaccelerator.net.

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