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Creating .DLL Script maps with the Web Connection .NET Managed Module


Sunday, July 20, 2014, 12:49:01 AM

On IIS 7 and later, Web Connection’s preferred connector interface is the .NET connector, which internally uses an ASP.NET HttpHandler implementation to interface between IIS and the Web Connection server. Functionality wise the .NET connector has the same feature set as the ISAPI one, plus some additional features, but the main reason it’s the preferred choice is because it’s much easier to set up with the default configuration of IIS, and – surprisingly it actually offers better performance and stability than the ISAPI implementation especially in COM mode.

The managed module also works with IISExpress out of the box, so in a development environment you can easily use a non-system level tiny IIS Express implementation that’s easy to run and configure vs. having to deal with the full IIS environment configuration (which can be a bit daunting).

Lots of wc.dll Apps still around

I do quite a bit of IIS configuration support these days – a lot of people are finally upgrading ancient servers to newer versions of Windows, typically Windows 2012 these days. One issue that has kept some people from updating to the .NET managed module has been, that especially older Web Connection applications, are accessing the raw wc.dll directly as part of the URL. I’ve long recommended this as a bad practice, because accessing the ISAPI DLL is both a potential configuration issue as IIS makes it hard to access DLLs directly and in some cases disallows it altogether. But nevertheless there are a lot of old applications out there that still use direct wc.dll links. Direct DLL links also make it much more difficult to deal with paths as you always have to reference a physical location for the dll – script maps are much more flexible as they can be called from anywhere so path dependencies just go away in many cases.

Using a *.dll Script Map with the .NET Managed Module

So what if you have a complex application and you can’t (or won’t) give up the wc.dll links in your application?

Today I was working with a customer through some configuration issues. We started discussing the application, and as I always do I recommend using the .NET module instead of ISAPI. We went over the improvements and why it’s great, and we both agreed that this would be great, but what about our .DLL extensions in the URL?

After some problems with the ISAPI configuration, I actually went ahead and set up the .NET Handler configuration to ascertain that things were working and running and sure enough with the .NET module things were just working. Since it worked with the module -in a flash of enlightenment - we decided to try to create a script map for .DLL and point it at the Web Connection .NET handler.

And lo and behold – the .dll Script mapping mapping worked perfectly!

It’s absolutely possible to create .DLL script map to a .NET Managed handler, which makes it possible to run existing Web Connection applications that use wc.dll directly on the .NET managed module.

Here’s what the relevant web.config settings look like (or you can use the IIS Admin interface to create this as well):

<configuration> 
<system.webServer> <!-- use this on IIS 7.5 and later --> <httpErrors existingResponse="PassThrough" /> <!-- IIS 7 Script Map Configuration --> <handlers> <add name=".wc_wconnect-module" path="*.wc" verb="*"
type="Westwind.WebConnection.WebConnectionHandler,WebConnectionModule" preCondition="integratedMode"/> <add name=".dll_wconnect-module" path="*.dll" verb="*"
type="Westwind.WebConnection.WebConnectionHandler,WebConnectionModule" preCondition="integratedMode"/>
</handlers> </system.webServer> </configuration>

When creating a script map to a .NET handler a  DLL script handler is just like any other script map. Using the mapping you can run requests like this:

http://localhost/wconnect/somepage.dll

Ok that looks weird and is probably not your typical use case, but it actually works. More interestingly though you can do this:

http://localhost/wconnect/wc.dll?_maintain~ShowStatus

When this page comes up you’ll see that it loaded the .NET Managed handler, even though we referenced wc.dll! For this to work – you’ll want to make sure you remove the physical wc.dll from disk and have the webconnectionmodule.dll in the bin folder of your site.

This means that if you have an existing application that used any wc.dll links directly you can now use them with the .NET handler. Additionally you can start to clean up your application to use scriptmaps instead of the DLL link in the first place.

Why you should use ScriptMaps instead wc.dll Links

As already mentioned ISAPI configuration is getting more and more tricky as IIS versions progress. IIS today mainly relies on .NET to handle extensibility to other services and interfaces and ISAPI is more of an deprecated prototocol. It’s still there but it’s an optionally installed feature. Further  if you are accessing a DLL directly using ISAPI (not through a scriptmap) you are directly accessing a binary file which is generally discouraged. In order for this to work you have to explicitly enable generic ISAPI extensions in the IIS configuration.

Scriptmaps are simply a nicer way to write URLs. Instead of the ugly ~ syntax of:

wc.dll?ProcessClass~Method~&Action=Edit

you can use scriptmap to method mapping:

Method.sm?Action=Edit

where sm is a scriptmap, and method is the method of the process class that sm is mapped to. The URLs are much cleaner and easier for users to parse and understand.

Finally script maps allow you to simplify relative paths. Because a script map is not referencing a physical file in a specific folder like wc.dll, you can reference a scriptmap from any location and have it behave the same way. This means if you create a page in a subdirectory and you want to access the scriptmapped page you can use the same path and it will work. IOW:

Method.sm?Action=Edit
Admin\Method.sm?Action=Edit
Account
\Method.sm?Action=Edit

all are treated exactly the same. The only difference is that the script path passed as part of the server variables will point to a different location, so Request.GetPhysicalPath() will point at the site relative physical path on disk. Otherwise each of those three commands are identical.

Scriptmaps are the way to go!

Scriptmaps make life easier and once again I urge you, if you’re not using them to think about integrating them in your Web Connection applications. I suspect sometime in the not too distant future IIS will stop supporting direct access .DLL links and will force all operation to occur against script maps. Plus the easier usage for referencing dynamic links make code much more portable across sites or virtual directories if your development and live environment aren’t 100% identical.

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