Posts Tagged ‘webcenter’

WebCenter Interaction and Internet Explorer 11

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

In our last post, we hacked support for IE11 into Collaboration Server. Today, we’ll look at a small tweak to fix some UI issues with Internet Explorer 11, because, you know, technically Oracle WebCenter Interaction only supports up to IE9 (forget about Chrome!):

Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0, 6.0 SP1, 6.0 SP2 (on XP), 7.0 (on Vista), 7.0 SP2 (on XP SP2), or 8.0

Internet Explorer has followed a long tradition of screwing up web sites by changing the way it renders pages, and IE11 is no exception. For example, one of the sites I manage started rendering a squished navigation bar in IE11:
squished-navigation-webcenter-interaction

Rather than trying to hack code or anything, we’re left with a pretty good solution: force IE to use its old IE9 rendering engine. You do this by adding an HTTP response header to your portal pages:

X-UA-Compatible: IE=EmulateIE9

ie11-iis-wci

WCI Health Monitor: Interesting but Useless

Friday, October 28th, 2011

As I’ve dug into the rarely used diagnostic pages in the WebCenter portal, I’ve taken a second look at the System Health Monitor. As mentioned, you can get there through the URL /portal/server.pt?space=Debug, /portal/server.pt/debug, or just by going to Administration -> Select Utility… -> System Health Monitor.

Here you can see various half-baked real-time diagnostic reports. They’re interesting because you’ve probably had your portal running for years (really, are there any NEW Webcenter Interaction clients these days?) and haven’t seen these reports. But they’re not particularly useful because they aren’t reliable – false “offline” reports are common – and don’t provide a decent interface to tie into a reasonable monitoring solution. A REST-based solution would be nice to be able to query the status of various services, for example.

Maybe I’m being hard too hard on this thing. While the high-level “Related Services” or “Remote Host” reports don’t seem to work all that well, if you click on the “Remote Host” links you get a Web Service report showing the status of the various services running on that Remote Server:

Yeah, I suppose that could be useful. I better go figure out why half my portlets are showing offline. You prob’ly should too…

WebCenter Interaction Debug Space

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Years ago I posted about a little-known MemoryDebug Activity Space in the Plumtree portal (or were we already calling this thing AquaLogic or ALUI by then?).

Recently I found a somewhat “meta” page with an activity space name of just “Debug” that links to this MemoryDebug space and two other useless pages. I won’t get into the gory details here, but I stumbled across this when dealing with some code related to varpacks (we’ll get to all those gory details in due time).

The gist for this post is that you can not only view the debug space in your portal by setting the space to Debug (/portal/server.pt?space=Debug), but there’s also a Friendly URL for this space: /portal/server.pt/debug/.

In fact, all three of these debug pages have friendly URLs

  • portal/server.pt/debug/ui – a useless ‘help’ page
  • portal/server.pt/debug/memory – the memory debug page, largely only useful for reloading varpacks
  • portal/server.pt/debug/portal/ – the useless page you can access through Admin: Select Utility: System Health Monitor

This isn’t an entirely earth-shattering discovery, but as I’ve been revisiting this debug space and friendly URL configurations, I’ve made some other interesting discoveries that I’ll post about soon. In the meantime, try out those friendly URLs in your portal and marvel at the completely hidden piece of functionality you never wanted or needed.

Tick, Tock, WebCenter Interaction…

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

While we may eventually see the new version of WebCenter Interaction (code name: Neo) this year, we’ve been hearing about it for what seems like years now. Neo will be more of a patch release – say, 10gR4 or 10.3.3 – rather than a new major revision. Pre-release versions have been out there for some time now; see Jeremy’s excellent post for some idea of what to expect with this build.

Whatever it ends up being called, Neo is largely a refresh to get additional platform support (64-bit, IIS7, Windows 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2010). The pre-release version that we’ve been working with has a couple of interesting new features – especially around Collaboration – but it remains to be seen whether these make the final cut. This will certainly be the last significant WebCenter Interaction release, and it’s time to start thinking about what happens next.

The support clock is ticking:

Oracle wants you on WebCenter suite, but you have choices. At Integryst, we spend a lot of time discussing the “Post-WCI World“, and the choices faced by our clients when deciding whether to remain on the Oracle stack or move to a different platform entirely.

Either way, we’ve got you covered. As always, stay tuned to this blog to read the latest coverage of new and noteworthy tips and tricks for WCI. But, in the coming weeks and months, you’ll start seeing more posts discussing alternate portal-type technologies, including Atlassian Confluence (wiki), Alfresco (document management), Frevvo (forms/workflow) and Drupal (Content Management, Collaboration).

Customize IIS error pages to augment WIA authentication

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

When you configure SSO (Single Sign-On) in the WCI portal, you’re basically telling the portal to redirect to the /portal/sso/SSOLogin.aspx page, and configuring your SSO product to “protect” that page.  I could write volumes about this topic – and probably will at some point – but for this post let’s consider Windows Integrated Authentication (WIA).

The trick to configuring Windows Integrated Authentication for the portal is to enable Integrated Windows authentication on the “sso” folder like this:

This allows IIS to authenticate the user and pass the username to the portal through the portal session.  But, if the user can’t authenticate for some reason, they may see a screen like this:

While I’ll call out a portal bug any day of the week, this isn’t one of them: the portal is doing exactly what it’s supposed to, and in this case that is NOTHING.  The above error comes from IIS, and the portal never even sees the request to take action on it. [side note: in my last post, I mentioned working on a WebDav fix for Collab; it's looking like the problems with Windows 7/Office 2010 aren't Collab's "fault", but - like this issue - are the fault of the application server handling the requests.]

Now that we’ve established the issue is with IIS and not the portal, the “fix” is pretty straight-forward.  Just craft a custom HTML error page that redirects the browser back to the portal with this code:

<script>window.location='/portal/server.pt'</script>

… then, configure IIS to use that error page when the unauthorized message is generated:

This way, if IIS can’t authenticate the user, instead of presenting the error page, it’ll send a redirect to the browser to bounce back to the portal – which will know that it’s already attempted SSO and just present the user with the forms-based login.

Oracle WebCenter Interaction LIVES! (kind of)

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Sorry if the title got your hopes up, folks: “living” is not the same thing as “growing and thriving”.

We all know Oracle’s stated direction on WebCenter Interaction, a.k.a Plumtree, a.k.a. ALUI, a.k.a WCI: While it’s had some promising adoption news within Oracle, it’s pretty clear “the ‘tree” is on its way out in favor of the WebCenter Suite.

If you need any further evidence that WCI is not long for this world, take a look at the just-released webinar that Oracle gave this week: Oracle WebCenter Suite – Giving Users a Modern Experience.

Now for the good news (and the crux of this post’s title): We are not a forgotten user community:

… and, as Oracle stated in that webinar, the long-promised Oracle 10.3.3 patch release is coming soon.  No formal release date, but it seems we aren’t going to be left completely in the cold; this patch release focuses mostly on integrating with the rest of the Oracle stack to make the transition less painful – if you choose to continue drinking the Oracle Kool-Aid.

Any way you cut it, this transition isn’t going to be easy, and is likely going to feel like “starting over”.  I mean, how many times did we hear Oracle emphasize how long it would take their own services group to make the transition in that webinar?  A LOT – I counted them (no, I didn’t): there were at least eleventy-two.

WebCenter Spaces, Weblogic, ALUI, Plumtree, Oh My!

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

When BEA acquired Plumtree and repositioned everything under the Aqualogic User Interaction brand, they made a decision that few of us consultants thought was incredibly logical: they kept the Plumtree product line separate from the BEA product line.  We commonly heard stories where a “BEA Classic” salesperson and “Plumtree” salesperson were calling the same customer prospect, one touting the virtues of the Weblogic Portal and the other touting the Plumtree Portal.  Of course, this was odd since at that point we all worked for the same company, and in my opinion, they never were really even the same product: WebLogic Portal was a set of APIs for developing a portal; Plumtree Portal was an out-of-the-box product that you largely configured rather than programmed.  So if you were a Java shop and/or had developers who could code and compile web apps, you should be using WLP.  If you were a .NET shop and/or didn’t have a development team, ALUI was the way to go.

Since Oracle now owns these product stacks, there are three “portal” offerings – and, if you buy the Oracle WebCenter Suite, you own them all:

  1. Weblogic Portal.  Built as a set of APIs that allowed developers to create portal applications in Eclipse on top of WebLogic Server, this was a powerful set of libraries that provided a great environment for Java shops to code their web interfaces to back-end applications.
  2. AquaLogic User Interaction (aka WebCenter Interaction).  Built as an out-of-the-box portal, the Plumtree application was designed to be open and flexible, but more for mixed (.NET/Java, Oracle/SQL Server) shops to configure the web interfaces to their applications.
  3. WebCenter Spaces.  This is basically Oracle’s “portal”, which provides a web-based UI to access various social networking and personal productivity (read: Blogs, Wikis, Social Networking) features provided by WebCenter Services.

I can’t profess to know the exact plans that Oracle has here, but it seems pretty clear to most outside observers (and most insiders I’ve spoken to): WebLogic Portal and WebCenter Interaction will continue to be supported for years to come, but Oracle is throwing its weight behind WebCenter Spaces.  This has a couple of implications for legacy Plumtree customers:

  1. Oracle is going down the path that the Weblogic Portal took – while a lot of the functionality you need (such as Collaborative and Social tools) will be available out of the box through WebCenter Services, you will be doing most of your customizations with Java in jDeveloper.
  2. If you’re a .NET shop, you need to brace yourself for a huge learning curve, or consider looking at other platforms, such as SharePoint, or a hybrid solution using tools like Confluence, WordPress, and some glue that holds the pieces together.
  3. There still is no formal migration plan for getting from WCI to Spaces.  Although Oracle has promised it for some time, a migration will not be a one-click process, so when you’re evaluating what to do “after WCI” – whether you’re Java or .NET – consider ALL available options, as a migration from WCI to Spaces could be as complicated as just “starting over”.
  4. Each of the individual products in the stack has its own migration path.  For example, WCI configurations will need to be migrated to WebCenter Spaces, Publisher content will need to be migrated to Oracle Universal Content Manager (UCM), and Collaboration and Studio will need to be migrated to their equivalent WebCenter Services.

Regardless of what path you choose, at this point it’s pretty clear:  you need to start thinking about a long-term strategy in a post-Plumtree world.  As a vendor-agnostic consulting firm, Integryst can help you choose your way – or help implement whatever technology you’ve ultimately chosen.

WCI database Access Levels

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know we like getting under the Plumtree covers and figuring out what’s going on behind the scenes.  The ALUI databases are sometimes confusing – particularly the newer half-baked ones like the security database.  But the old legacy PT tables have undergone years of refinement, and every now and then show a well-thought-out design.

Today’s post is a quick lesson in binary math and how the ALUI security tables work. 

As you know, WebCenter Interaction object security includes READ/SELECT/EDIT/ADMIN privileges, and while there are some challenges to manipulating these security settings in the database (and some products to overcome the limitations), the underlying database structure is pretty straight-forward:  In tables like PTOBJECTSECURITY and PTCARDSECURITY you’ll find records that look like this:

While ObjectID, ClassID, and GroupID might be obvious in the context of the portal, AccessLevel is a bit-wise representation of the security level for that object, and contains either a 1, 3, 7, or 15.

Why these numbers?  Binary math.  Any number can be represented in binary (a base-2 numeric system) using bits; you’d represent the number 7 with a binary number of 0111, because:

Value: 8 4 2 1
Bit: 0 1 1 1

In other words: 8*0 + 4*1 + 2*1 + 1*1 = 7.

So if we look at the above table in the context of ALUI security privileges, EDIT access would be:

Value ADMIN EDIT SELECT READ
Bit: 0 1 1 1

i.e., a value of “7″ in the database means “edit”, and you can calculate the values for the other privileges.  Interestingly, you can’t have EDIT privileges without having SELECT and READ (which is why you don’t see any values of, say, ”4″ in these tables). I wonder what would happen in the code if you manipulated the DB to give someone edit privileges WITHOUT giving them SELECT or READ? 

I guarantee this:  if you muck up this table, you are not going to get official support any time soon…

Redux: WCI 10gR3 Installer Errors

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Another Rock Star in the WebCenter Interaction consulting industry, Bill Benac, wrote a blog post years ago, describing a problem with the WebCenter Interaction 10gR3 installers.  I hadn’t worried about it for a long time until it bit me in the ass – after dozens of successful installs and upgrades of the WCI portal, I had never seen the problem he reported.  The problem as he described is that sometimes a portal installer chokes and displays some error like:

Serious errors occurred during your installation.  Click OK and then click through to the end of installation to complete installation and then look at log for WebCenter Interaction in …

Recently, the same error bit me during an ALUI upgrade, and I saw pretty much the same error in the portal, Collaboration Server, and Analytics.  The errors seemed benign so I just ignored them until I realized that the WebCenter Analytics installer hadn’t created the Analytics Collector Service.

It turns out – and I have no idea why I’d never come across this issue with other installs and upgrades – that the WCI installers look for free memory on the host machine.  In some (unknown and unusual) circumstances, it can’t query the Windows OS for free memory, so it defaults to 0.  But 0GB of free RAM is less than what it needs, so the installer chokes.  In Collab and the Portal, the error is at the end of the installation process, so it seems pretty benign, but for Analytics, it gets thrown before the services are created, so you’re boned unless you fix it.

As for fixing it, check out Bill’s Blog Post, but the gist is that you need to set a fixed amount of Virtual Memory to avoid an error like… (more…)

WebCenter Patch and Hotfix Round-up

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

I’m tempted to put Oracle’s support center (support.oracle.com) on my Wall of Shame. It really is ridiculous. It’s slow, buggy, Flash-based, un-indexable by major search engines, unorganized, and overwhelming because it includes ALL Oracle products without any way to filter on only the ones you want.

But today I’m in a good mood, and am going to be a “glass-is-half-full” kind of guy. If you can get past the ridiculousness, there is a lot of good information up there. In particular, if you know how and where to look, there are a bunch of patches and hotfixes that you may not even know exist.

So first, to find hotfixes, log in to http://support.oracle.com/, then click “Patches and Upgrades” (or you can search by Patch IDs, listed below). Next, click “Product or Family (Advanced Search)” in the “Patch Search” portlet. Start typing WebCenter and you’ll get a list of WCI products to click on:

Choose a product, then pick a release and OS, and you’ll get a decent list of patches:

Because of the whole Flash thing, you can’t just Google these things, which is personally my biggest complaint. And you have to use this kludgy interface to go through each product one at a time. So after the break, I’ve compiled a handy list of the latest WebCenter Interaction 10gR3 patches that you might not be aware of. Happy patching! (more…)