Superpatterns Pat Patterson on the Cloud, Identity and Single Malt Scotch


Quick Update on Planet Identity

Planet Identity (PId) mostly runs itself, thanks to Sam Ruby's excellent Planet Venus; usually, the only maintenance required is to add new subscriptions as folks submit interesting feeds. Very rarely I remove a feed from PId, usually because it's dead, but occasionally because the feed content doesn't quite 'fit' PId. Over the past few days a couple of people mentioned that Dave Kearns' IdM Journal, while a fine selection of links to relevant content, seems out of place amongst the 'primary source' articles at Planet Identity. I agreed, and, Dave having no objection, I've removed IdM Journal from PId. If you want to continue receiving IdM Journal, just point your feed reader at

Do feel free to leave any suggestions for PId in the comments here, and have a good weekend, identity folk!


Node.js Chat Demo on Heroku

STOP! If you're just getting started with Node.js and/or Heroku, then go read James Ward's excellent Getting Started with Node.js on The Cloud, then come back here...

Heroku's announcement of the public beta of their new 'Celadon Cedar' stack, including Node.js support, inspired me to try out Ryan Dahl's Node Chat demo server on Heroku. Getting it up and running was very straightforward - I went to GitHub, forked Ryan's node_chat project to my own account and grabbed the source:

ppatterson-ltm:tmp ppatterson$ git clone git://
Cloning into node_chat...
remote: Counting objects: 183, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (72/72), done.
remote: Total 183 (delta 117), reused 168 (delta 110)
Receiving objects: 100% (183/183), 50.07 KiB, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (117/117), done.

Now I could create my Heroku app...

ppatterson-ltm:tmp ppatterson$ cd node_chat/
ppatterson-ltm:node_chat ppatterson$ heroku create --stack cedar node-chat
Creating node-chat2... done, stack is cedar |
Git remote heroku added

...and add the couple of files that Heroku needs to run a Node.js app (see the excellent Heroku docs for more info):

ppatterson-ltm:node_chat ppatterson$ echo "web: node server.js" > Procfile
ppatterson-ltm:node_chat ppatterson$ echo "{ \"name\": \"node-chat\", \"version\": \"0.0.1\" }" > package.json
ppatterson-ltm:node_chat ppatterson$ git add .
ppatterson-ltm:node_chat ppatterson$ git commit -m "Heroku-required files" Procfile package.json
[master a7617af] Heroku-required files
2 files changed, 2 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
create mode 100644 Procfile
create mode 100644 package.json

Now everything is ready to deploy:

ppatterson-ltm:node_chat ppatterson$ git push heroku master
Counting objects: 187, done.
Delta compression using up to 4 threads.
Compressing objects: 100% (67/67), done.
Writing objects: 100% (187/187), 50.40 KiB, done.
Total 187 (delta 118), reused 182 (delta 117)

-----> Heroku receiving push
-----> Node.js app detected
-----> Vendoring node 0.4.7
-----> Installing dependencies with npm 1.0.8

Dependencies installed
-----> Discovering process types
Procfile declares types -> web
-----> Compiled slug size is 2.9MB
-----> Launching... done, v4 deployed to Heroku

* [new branch]      master -> master
ppatterson-ltm:node_chat ppatterson$ heroku ps
Process       State               Command
------------  ------------------  ------------------------------
web.1         starting for 3s     node server.js
ppatterson-ltm:node_chat ppatterson$ heroku ps
Process       State               Command
------------  ------------------  ------------------------------
web.1         up for 6s           node server.js
ppatterson-ltm:node_chat ppatterson$ heroku open

And, just like that, my chat server is up and running and I see it in my browser. It all works nicely - I can hit the URL from a couple of browsers and see all the chat messages going back and forth. Only one problem, though - I'm seeing errors when the chat server is idle:

A look at the logs reveals that connections are timing out.

2011-06-14T19:10:44+00:00 app[web.1]: <Pat2> Hi there
2011-06-14T19:10:44+00:00 heroku[router]: GET dyno=web.1 queue=0 wait=0ms service=6ms bytes=16
2011-06-14T19:10:44+00:00 heroku[router]: GET dyno=web.1 queue=0 wait=0ms service=3520ms bytes=102
2011-06-14T19:10:53+00:00 app[web.1]: <Pat> Now I can talk to myself - woo hoo!
2011-06-14T19:10:53+00:00 heroku[router]: GET dyno=web.1 queue=0 wait=0ms service=2ms bytes=16
2011-06-14T19:10:53+00:00 heroku[router]: GET dyno=web.1 queue=0 wait=0ms service=9185ms bytes=128
2011-06-14T19:10:53+00:00 heroku[router]: GET dyno=web.1 queue=0 wait=0ms service=9203ms bytes=128
2011-06-14T19:11:24+00:00 heroku[router]: Error H12 (Request timeout) -> GET dyno=web.1 queue= wait= service=30000ms bytes=
2011-06-14T19:11:24+00:00 heroku[router]: Error H12 (Request timeout) -> GET dyno=web.1 queue= wait= service=30000ms bytes=

So what's up? The answer is in the Heroku docs for the new HTTP 1.1 stack:

The routing stack will terminate connections after 60 seconds on inactivity. If your app sends any data during this window, you will have a new 60 second window. This allows long-polling and other streaming data response.

From the logs, it looks like the connection is being dropped after only 30 seconds, but, no matter, the principle is the same - I need to periodically send some data to keep the connections open. The solution I settled on was having each client set a 20 second timer after it starts its long poll; on the timer firing the client sends a 'ping' message (effectively an empty message) to the server, which, in turn, forwards the ping to all attached clients, causing them to cancel their ping timers and iterate around the long polling loop. Normal chat traffic also causes the timer to be cancelled, so the pings are only sent during periods of inactivity. You can see the diffs here. Now my chat server stays up for hours without an error:

If you grab my fork from GitHub, you'll see I also added message persistence, using Brian Carlson's node-postgres module - mostly because I just wanted to see how easy it was to access PostgreSQL from Node.js on Heroku. The answer? Trivially easy 🙂 As Jeffrey mentions in the comments, apart from those code changes, I also needed to add the 'pg' module in package.json and the shared-database addon. The new package.json looks like this:

  "name": "node-chat",
  "version": "0.0.1",
  "dependencies": {
    "pg": "0.5.0"

The command to install the shared-database addon is:

heroku addons:add shared-database

Disclosure - I am a employee, so I'm definitely a little biased in favor of my Heroku cousins, but, I have to say, I remain hugely impressed by Heroku. It. Just. Works.

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Superpatterns Reboot

You'll probably have noticed that things have been pretty quiet here at Superpatterns this past few months - mainly because the blog has been the outlet for my work-related blogging. If you've been coming here in the past for the identity-related content, you might be interested in some of my posts there:

Some topics just don't fit into the main 'flow' over at, though, so I'll start blogging them here and flag them from from time to time. Tune in later today for some Node.js goodness...

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OpenAM, the Book

OpenAMRegular readers will know that I moved on from my role as community lead for OpenSSO some time ago, first to Huawei, then, a few months ago, to, blogging mostly at the blog. In that time, Forgerock have adopted OpenSSO, rechristening it OpenAM, and my ex-colleague Indira Thangasamy, Senior Quality Engineering Manager for OpenSSO, has been hard at work on his book on OpenAM.

Packt Publishing were kind enough to send me a review copy of OpenAM, and a very professional job it is. While I've not had a chance to read it in detail, what I have read so far has been excellent - Indira writes clearly, covering every aspect of OpenAM, from the basics of single sign-on to advanced topics such as integrating OpenAM with Google Apps and (yay!) and interacting with OpenAM via its RESTful identity web service interface.

I'll post a more thorough review once I'm done reading, suffice to say for now, if you're working with or evaluating OpenSSO/OpenAM, this should definitely be on your bookshelf! Click here to go to Packt's page for OpenAM.

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Planet Identity Up and Running Again

A couple of folks (Hi Eve, Ash!) pinged me over the past couple of days to report problems with Planet Identity - specifically, the site was up, but hadn't aggregated any new posts since January 9th. It looks like the machine that hosts it (courtesy of Stephen Lau - my continued thanks for his generosity!) got an OS upgrade that weekend, and my cron job was dropped in the transition. A quick kick, and all is running fine now. Thanks, Eve and Ash for the heads up, and all the best at Forrester, Eve!

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WordPress Tip – Redirect to Main Page on 404

If you're using the Postalicious WordPress plugin to post your links to your blog, you might have noticed that it doesn't always handle the occasional 500 errors from very well, and you end up with a bogus 'links' entry on your blog with a link to '500 Server Error'.

In itself, it's not that big a deal; I usually notice the bogus post pretty quickly and just delete it, but, by then, it's been tweeted by Twitterfeed, pushed to Facebook, and folks have it in their RSS stream, so they hit the 'links for the day' link and get the default '404 page not found' message. In fact, if you ever delete a post for any reason, you're in the same situation - the link is out there, you can't call it back (even if you go delete it from Twitter and Facebook, it's still out there somewhere!), and people are going to land on that ugly page.

So, I got thinking... That default 404 page isn't really good for much... What if I could just send people to the main page of my blog? Well, with a couple of minutes googling I found a useful blog post on the subject and the WordPress docs for get_bloginfo(), and came up with the following replacement for the default 404 page:

   header("Status: 301 Moved Permanently");
   header("Location: ".get_bloginfo('url'));

You could do fancier things with a JavaScript redirect that shows a 'page not found' message then redirects after a few seconds, but I prefer the more direct approach 🙂

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1Nov/100 – Two Weeks In

Behind the Cloud

I'm currently reading 'Behind the Cloud'

It's the end of my second week at, and I seem to have hit the ground running... A day of orientation, a couple of days working through the and Chatter developer tutorials, then head down on a guide to Getting Started with the REST API, published alongside the REST API Developer Preview Webinar last Tuesday (the webinar replay is online now).

The getting started guide featured a sample Java web app that acted as an OAuth 2.0 client, redirecting the user to login at and obtaining an access token with which to interact with the REST API. Cool stuff, but there were a couple of questions on the webinar asking how to do the same thing from other languages. It took just a few hours to rework the sample web app, first in Ruby, then in PHP. I've also noticed a .NET implementation, by Dan Boris - cool stuff!

I'm commuting up the peninsula about three days a week on Caltrain, which is working out pretty well - there's a station less than three miles from my house, and I can change to the Baby Bullet in San Jose, with the ride to San Francisco taking about an hour. I actually enjoy the time on the train - I just get my laptop and 3G card out and tap away - in fact, I'm on the train right now, somewhere near Palo Alto. 🙂

So - two weeks in, I've published three pieces on *, seen some very cool ISV demos at the second AppQuest judging round, and I'm off to Internet Identity Workshop XI tomorrow. If this sounds like your idea of fun, take a look at the careers page. Lots of opportunities there, and, if you see something you like, don't forget to tell them that sent you!


Bookmarks for October 31st 2010

These are my links for October 31st 2010:


Bookmarks for October 29th 2010

These are my links for October 29th 2010:


Bookmarks for October 26th 2010

These are my links for October 26th 2010: