Monday, October 12, 2009

"My database is slow" - part 1

Note: below description uses PostgreSQL 8.3.7.

Perhaps You often heard complaints that some application is veeeery sloooow. Despite the technology used, bought another X GB of RAM and so on the problem still exists. Sometimes the cause can be very simple - interaction with the database can be a bottleneck and a source of all problems. This can be checked and possibly improved.
Often the developer itself must change something in the database - do not be afraid to say it - hire a database magician cost a lot of money for the company and often the developer becomes a database specialist ;-). Therefore, anyone who changes something in the database must have some knowledge. Otherwise, some ad-hoc changes can cause a lot of performance problems.
What can you do then? Having the database, You can take a closer look on some points:

1. Database normalization (decomposition).

Simply said - making a database to be in the n-th normal form. You may naively believe that "the database engine can handle" somehow our SQL query, without worrying ourselves about performance. Theoretically yes, even nightmarish database schema will work somehow - after all, a bit smarter (than the rest) people formed the principles of relational databases. The problem starts when our application is no longer a primitive data browser which executes the same "select" SQL query all the time. That's why the other smarter people have invented a normalization. For example this allows the database engine not to retrieve 20 columns from one table just to show us only those 2 which we are interested.
For example let's assume that we have a company and we store all the employees in a one big table:

CREATE TABLE employees ( 
id                int4 PRIMARY KEY,
active            boolean, 
first_name        varchar, 
middle_name       varchar, 
last_name         varchar, 
ssn               varchar, 
address1          varchar, 
address2          varchar, 
city              varchar, 
state             varchar(2), 
zip               varchar, 
home_phone        varchar, 
work_phone        varchar, 
cell_phone        varchar, 
fax_phone         varchar, 
pager_number      varchar, 
business_email    varchar, 
personal_email    varchar, 
salary            int4, 
vacation_days     int2, 
sick_days         int2, 
employee_number   int4, 
office_addr_1     varchar,
office_addr_2     varchar, 
office_city       varchar, 
office_state      varchar(2), 
office_zip        varchar, 
department        varchar,
title             varchar,
supervisor_id     int4

And now some Secretary wants to find those people who earn more than 5000 USD:

SELECT first_name, last_name from employees where salary > 5000 ;

Let's assume that the company is a big corporation which employs thousands of people. Database engine must scan entire table, retrieve all columns for people who earn more than 5000 and at the end pefrorm a projection and return only 2 columns - first name and last name.

Note: do not kid ourselves - normalization is not an ideal remedy for performance problems, and sometimes may even contribute to decrease a performance. Why? For example let's take huge reporting queries that collect a lot of cross-sectional data. In the fully normalized database, the amount of join operations between tables can be very large and could have significant impact on performance. Sometimes it is better to have non-normalized parts of database schema, or even have non-normalized redundant data tables (for generating reports) next to normalized parts. There is no silver bullet solution for that - the approach depends on specific problem. 

2. Memory configuration for the server.  

The fact that Your hardware allows You to play latest games, does not mean that the database will work fast. Even 10-th normal form of a database schema and super-optimal queries will not help when server has total memory similar to required by old DOS games. Sooner or later because of lack of memory many I/O disk operation will be performed to compensate memory request. System resources are important. Unfortunately, at this point databases vary widely in terms of available configuration options. "No silver bullet" also applies here - the only way to discover best performance is to tune database memory settings and test it against SQL queries. 

3. Opening connection to the database.

Although the authors of JDBC drivers maintain that connection cost is small and well optimized, we must not forget that after all this is some expense. As an example, consider a typical web application where in every moment a user clicks on different screens, which show him various data. We have to approaches here:
  • maintaining an open connection during user's working time
  • opening connection for each request, performing some database query, returns the result (which is presented to the user) and closing the connection.
First approach is expensive (in terms of resources and performance), second is much better. But when we take into account the large number of users and their actions, total cost of opening and closing connections may have considerable importance. It is worth here to consider using the so-called connection pool - such as Apache DBCP or C3P0. Responsibility for creating/closing of connections goes to connection pool. The pool itself has various configuration options that can increase the efficiency of cooperation with the database application. For example some connections may have been opened after startup and ready to immediate use and so on. 

4. Transaction isolation levels and locks.

Transaction isolation levels have a direct impact on the types of locks used. If You are not sure how to choose the level of transaction isolation, it is better to remain at the default level for a particular database. You have to remember one important thing: the higher isolation level you choose the more subtle and complex lock must be use by the database engine to provide concurrent access to data. Using higher levels of isolation can also cause deadlock occurrence.

Note: You may not agree with mentioned points. They are only my personal subjective choice based on problems and observations during my work. Database performance is a very broad issue dependent on many factors - I pointed only four general issues, but You may find another four or more which will be just as important and necessary.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Installing and configuring Tomcat for Eclipse

Note: below description uses Tomcat 7.0.40.

Probably You always wanted to write your own web-based application in Java (ok, read: writing another Facebook-like portal and live in luxury in Dubai to the end of Your life ;-)). Of course it is possible, but before that inevitable moment occurs, You have to do much more simple thing - configure the environment for developing web applications (unless You are headmaster in Your own company and someone else does it for you...).

So let's look at how to configure Apache Tomcat which is professionally defined as the servlet container (i.e. for JSP). I will show how to configure it under Eclipse.

Recall that so far we have managed to install Java and set up Eclipse to work with it. It is time for Tomcat. 

Step 1: download the Tomcat binary distribution (core version as a .zip file) from here

Step 2: Unpack the .zip from step 1 to the C:\Development\Tomcat directory. We should get something like this:

Step 3: Open Eclipse IDE and the Java EE perspective (Window menu -> Open Perspective -> Other -> Java EE). This will be the default perspective for our work. Using this perspective, at the bottom in the "Servers" tab we add a new server:

Step 4: Configure the new server. Select the type of the server (Tomcat 7) and leave the name set to localhost:

Step 5: Further configuration of the new server. Select the server's installation directory (in our case C:\Development\Tomcat) and Java virtual machine which will be used - in this case it will be the same virtual machine which we configured to work with Eclipse (see this article).

After pressing Next, Eclipse will display a window asking You to add some web applications to the newly defined server. Ignore this by pressing Finish.

Step 6: Basic configuration of a server. Open server configuration panel by double click on the server name on Servers tab.

We allow the Eclipse to manage Tomcat installation and use wtpwebapps  folder (in Tomcat directory structure) for deploying our applications. In addition we change the way Tomcat publish applications on the server - each application will have a separate xml configuration file in Tomcat (so-called "context" file).

Tomcat is ready and configured to work. We can start and stop it using the icons on the right side in the "Servers" tab. The results of these operations (logs), are visible in the "Console" tab.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Installing PostgreSQL (hard version)

Note: below description uses PostgreSQL 8.3.7 version installed on 32 bit Windows XP.

In a previous article I presented how to install PostgreSQL using Windows installer. It was quite easy. But ...
There are people that do not play with such ease, what is more, they can not stand when the system is doing something for them in the background, when something is installed - some services, user accounts... They feel insecure, they are suspicious - only the execution of all activities from the command line calms their nerves.

This time, I prepared the description for the people who love technical masturbation and who love to do everything manually and have everything under control. We'll become the PostgreSQL installer and manually execute all the installation steps to get an effect similar to using Windows Installer. So, let's get to work.

  • we are working on Windows XP using account with Administrator rights (or we belong to the Administrators group)
  • database will be installed to C:\Development\PostgreSQL (the same as when using Windows Installer)
  • disable all antivirus/firewall (this one from Windows too)
Step 1: download the version of the installation file (.zip) of PostgreSQL from here. Download the file with the "binaries-no-installer" part in its name.

Step 2: extract the contents of the file from step 1, to C:\Development\PostgreSQL (zip has the pgsql directory and rest of the folders inside it - I recommend to get rid of it and move all subfolders to C:\Development\PostgreSQL - we will have a shorter path). We should get something like this:

Step 3: we need to create an empty directory named "data" in the directory C:\Development\PostgreSQL (along with the rest of the directories from the picture above).

Step 4: create and initialize the database cluster (remember that we are working on the account with Administrator rights). To do this go to the console to the directory C:\Development\PostgreSQL\bin and execute the command:

  • option "-U root" means the owner of the database named root - such user account will be created in database (as a superuser)
  • option "-W" means that You will be prompted for a password for this user
  • option "-D .. \ data" means the location of the files for generated database
  • option "- encoding = UTF8" means that the server will have UTF8 encoding by default (each newly created database too!)
After executing this command, we should see sometling like this:

At the bottom, PostgreSQL offers us to run a newly created database using two different commands. It will not work (You can execute those command to see what error is generated) - remember that we are working on account with Administrator rights, and for safety reasons, we can not start and stop the PostgreSQL server on that account. We should create a system service which will run PostgreSQL server process.

The short version:

Step 5: Perform the following command in the console:

That's all. You're done. The service will be created and registered for the Local System Account. This is a special account which can run services, but it is not a typical account with administrator privileges (more info here).

Do not run the service yet.

Long version:

Step 5: continue to imitate the installer. PostgreSQL installer creates a special account with no administrator privileges - so we will also create such account. Acount login and password will be both set to "postgres". We go to Computer Management, then Users:

Now we add new user with login and password postgres:

For the security reason we do not allow to change the password.

We would like now to make "postgres" account able to run the PostgreSQL server. So we need to create and register a special service for this account, which will carry out these operations. Before we do that we need to assign to this account the appropriate permissions to directories where database server is installed.

Step 6: Change the access permissions for the directory server for the postgres account.

And so:
1. Directory C:\Development should only have read permission.
2. Directory C:\Development\PostgreSQL (and its subdirectories) should have all possible permissions.

Step 7: Registering the service.

Using the console go to the directory C:\Development\PostgreSQL\bin and execute there this command:

  • option -N "PostgreSQL Service" defines the service name
  • option -U postgres says on what account the service is launched
  • option -P postgres gives the password for service account
  • option -D "C:\Development\PostgreSQL\data" tells where database cluster is located (be careful it is very important here to give the full path to the directory "data")

We do not run the service.


Before starting the service must change the basic settings. Move to the directory C:\Development\PostgreSQL\database and open the file postgresql.conf. In this file, You must find and uncomment the following lines:
  • listen_addresses = 'localhost'
  • port = 5432

Now You can start a service in the panel management services.

If everything was done properly, the service should start. If we chose the longer version, in case of trouble with starting the service we should go to the configuration of a service, then select an account for this service and retype password for that service (in our case: postgres)

Theoretically we have the ability to log from the console to the database using the command line (marked red colour):

Thus we should get exactly the same result as using the Windows Installer.

Notes: a short way works ok under Windows XP Prof., should also works ok under Windows Vista - in both systems there is the Local System Account for services. For Windows 2000 You must perform the installation in a long way. For safety, PostgreSQL installer always chooses longer way - it creates an account for the service, then creates sevice itself and registers it to the created account.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Installing PostgreSQL (soft version)

Note: below description uses PostgreSQL 8.3.7 version installed on 32 bit Windows XP.
Installing PostgreSQL is theoretically piece of cake, but in my opinion there are some aspects worth saying a little more.
Those who installed MySQL database using the graphic installer on Windows, know that the installation process goes something like this: "Next, next, next, yes I want to have root access from remote machines, quit." This is almost the same as installing any program on Windows. PostgreSQL installer is not much more different in this case.

So what's the point? In a slightly different philosophy of security model - different than in MySQL. Okay, enough of this pseudo-technological gibberish - let's install database.

Step 1: Download the PostgreSQL from here. Download a file named

Step 2: After unpacking the zip file, run the installer and choose English

Step 3: after the splash screen and license information installer will ask us about the target installation directory. I suggest using directory C:\Development\PostgreSQL.

Step 4: Configure account for the PostgreSQL service.

It is convenient to install PostgreSQL as a service in Windows - the database server will always run at startup. We have something new in this point: PostgreSQL requires a special account in the system that does not have administrator rights in order to start the database service and initialize the database cluster. It is important to set a well-known password for this account, because in case of problems with PostgreSQL we will be able to use this account to peform some fixes on database files.

Step 5: configure the settings of the database server, super user account (root) and access from remote machines.

This is a step similar to step in the installation of MySQL, I recommend setting the server and client encoding to UTF-8 - this is the standard that should be use instead of some bizarre national encoding. Why? Because it gives us the flexibility - perhaps we want to store in our database accented Polish and German umlauts. In addition we will avoid potential problems with conversions etc.

Step 6: Installation.

Warning: before installation make sure that You have enabled and running Windows service named "Secondary Logon". Our system account "postgres" from step 4 needs that service. When it is not enabled, the installer will report an error:

Just turn on the service and the trouble is gone. Then on next screens just click "Next" without changing anything until You get to the last screen - the final step in our installation process.

Step 7: The end of the installation.

The selected checkbox allows You to install additional software and extensions for PostgreSQL. At the moment we do not need them so we can safely uncheck it and complete the installation - voila, we have PostgresSQL :-)

Okay, once we have database installed, let's take a look inside - just to write simple SELECT and be proud of Yourself that You still remember some SQL syntax ;-) Nothing could be more simple. Along with PostgreSQL was installed pgAdminIII - an advanced graphical client. Just find it in the windows start menu and run:

When You double-click the server, You will be asked for Your root password from step 5. After typing the correct password, You will be logged to the server as root (superuser):

PostgreSQL creates a default database named "postgres". We can log in to this default database using command line. Of course, we can also delete this database. Then we have available two more so-called "service" databases that are hidden (they are not visible by default in pgAdmin tree view). The names of those databases are "template0" and "template1". PgAdmin allows us to configure the server, manage users, roles, databases, etc. For details, refer to the documentation.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

IDE (Eclipse) installation and Java configuration

Note: below description uses 32-bit Eclipse for Java EE Developers (Juno). Use latest one.

  • installed Java JDK, as described in this article.
There is really no big deal here. But in order to follow the rules from initial post I will describe how to "install" Eclipse and configure it to work with previously installed Java JDK.

Step 1: Download the latest Eclipse for Java EE Developers from here.

Step 2: Once we have the Eclipse, unpack the package to C:\Development\Eclipse - and that's all Eclipse is installed :-)

Now it's time for a basis configuration:

Configuration Step 1: After first startup Eclipse will ask us where we want to put the workspace directory. I suggest using this directory C:\Development\Eclipse_Workspace.

Configuration Step 2: After closing welcome screen, Eclipse will stay with default Java EE view perspective. It is OK, now it's the time to configure JDK. go to the Window -> Preferences menu and select:

Configuration Step 3: adding new standard virtual machine (JVM).

Configuration Step 4: just show the location of our previously installed JDK, and give it a name i.e. JDK_7_32bit

Configuration Step 5: switch to the installed JDK.

Configuration Step 6: Configure Eclipse startup parameters.
Search for the eclipse.ini file and at the beginning of the file add these two (yes two!) lines:


By doing this we set the default virtual machine which Eclipse uses. Please note that this is exactly the same Java JDK which was configured in the above step 4 (here in addition we point into directory "bin").

Eclipse is installed and ready for use.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Installing Java

Note: Below description uses 32-bit Java JDK 7 update 21. Use latest one, installation procedure is similar.
Step 1: Download the Java JDK from here. Download exactly Java SE Development Kit (JDK), without any additives inside (bundles) - just regular JDK.

Step 2: We start the installation. After two (or maybe three) screens we come to the screen where we choose the installation location. Let's change the target directory to C:\Development\Java_7_32bit:

Step 3: Install the virtual machine (JRE) for the browser - leave the default target unchanged (C:\Program Files\...).

In case of any problems (errors about broken installer and so on), uninstall Java and try to repeat the whole procedure. I recommend to put installer file directly on C drive and start installation procedure again from there. 

Step 4: Create new system variable named JAVA_HOME and we set its value to C:\Development\Java7_32bit

Step 5: Modify existing Path system variable by adding at the end value ;%JAVA_HOME%\bin

Gather all hammers inside toolbox.

As I wrote in my first article, we will start from installing the necessary tools. What are we going to install? For today, it will be (when I get something new this post will be changed):
  • Java JDK
  • Eclipse
  • PostgreSQL database
  • Apache Tomcat
Some comments why we need those tools:

Java -  comment is probably redundant.  Use the lastest one.

Eclipse - choose whatever You want. Eclipse is free, but there are other tools available free like Idea Community or NetBeans.

PostgreSQL - why just this database ("everyone knows that MySQL is the best, fastest and for free")? It is my personal choice - I used those two databases, but it seems to me that PostgreSQL is more polished and more meets my needs. And most important: it is completely free (I am not sure if MySQL is free for every case). Okay it is clear, but why do we need a database? Just in case we would like to write some sophisticated data storing application. Database will be very useful in such case ;-).

Tomcat - do we need it? Yes we do - just in case we would like to move our super data storing application into the internet (meaning: create another online store and earn a lot of money ;-)). For the most of examples (connected with web applications) Tomcat will be sufficient.

Okay, so where should we install those tools? In order to have consistent solution I suggest put everything in one directory, and create some subdirectory structure inside.I decided to put everything inside directory named "Development" on my C drive - C:\Development. Inside that directory I will place subdirectories for the mentioned above tools.

Good advice for the future: do not use paths with whitespaces and any national characters. This will save our time for searching and fixing some X-Files category problems ;-).

The Beginning

First of all I would like to apologize for my english. I decided to write this blog in english for one simple reason - more people will find it and read it ;-)

You should already now what is the idea of this blog (if not, You can read about it on the left). I assume that You did something using Java and You have a minimum knowledge of the language itself. But even if You do not, You may find some articles useful for understanding the Java language and other technologies.

How will it look like? At the beginning we need a workshop and tools. I intend to show You how to install everything from scratch in order to be able to do anything with some frameworks, libraries, etc. In other words: I will start with well-known "Hello World". After that I will add some bricks to build the whole wall: extend existing threads by adding new issues, wrote about the potential problems and so on - towards the complete solution.

Why do all of this on such elementary level? Because sometimes the basics are the worst problem to solve - it is often enough to discourage someone and cause him to give up. Perhaps we loose potential genius... who knows?

My goal is that all examples shown here are possible to execute by Yourself. Their purpose is to serve as a quick-start for something more serious.

That's all. Let the mortal combat begin...