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Microsoft's Active Server Pages (ASP) is the standard technology for creating dynamic Web pages, but ASP alone does not allow Web developers to create scalable Web applications. Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM) is the key that can turn good ASP applications into powerful, multi-tiered, scalable applications that are e-commerce-ready. ASP Internals examines the inner workings of ASP and shows readers how it interfaces with COM, enabling them to develop outstanding Web applications.

Because the source code for ASP is not openly available, author Jon Flanders has created an ASP clone, Active COM Pages (ACP). In revealing its source code, he provides a view under the hood of ASP so developers can finally see and understand how it works and how they can most effectively work with it.

ASP Internals covers each aspect of the ASP runtime. It demonstrates ASP integration with COM+ transactional services. And, most important, it shows readers how COM objects are created and interact with ASP. Other important topics include:

  • How ASP is translated to and from the HTTP protocol
  • ASP, IIS, and ISAPI, including threads, security, and the Web Application Manager
  • Active Scripting, with an explanation of how to add named objects to running scripts
  • ASP's IResponse and IRequest interfaces and how they interact with HTTP through ISAPI
  • ASP state management at the session and application levels, and related performance issues
  • How ASP and the Scripting Engine integrate with COM
  • ASP integration with COM+ transactional services
  • ASP's built-in internationalization features, including a look atUnicode

Numerous code examples, written in VBScript, demonstrate best practices for performing vital programming tasks.

Written for Web developers who are familiar with ASP and COM, ASP Internals shows readers how to make the best of both technologies in the creation of dynamic, high-quality, database-driven Web applications.

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Editorial Reviews

A concise guide to Microsoft's Active Server Pages in which software developer and instructor Flanders shows how to enhance the technology with the Component Object Model to create dynamic Web applications that are more scalable and robust. The ASP source code is private property and therefore secret, so he has created a clone to work with. He does not provide a bibliography. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201616187
  • Publisher: Pearson Education
  • Publication date: 11/13/2000
  • Series: Developmentor Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 7.35 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon Flanders is a software engineer and instructor at DevelopMentor specializing in ASP and COM. Previously he worked as an architect and consultant on various large-scale, ASP-based applications. He is a frequent lecturer and writer on ASP and COM.
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Table of Contents

1. Introduction.
ASP Basics.
The HTTP Protocol.

2. IIS and ISAPI.
IIS in General.
ISAPI Filters.
The Web Application Manager.
ASP as an ISAPI Extension.
Thread Pools.
ASP, HTTP, and State.
ISAPI Filters Part II.

3. Active Scripting.
Loading a Script.
Host Interfaces.
Parsing Scripts.

4. Wrapping http.
IResponse Interface.
IRequestDictionary Interface.
IRequest Interface.
IStream Interface.

5. State Management.
Session State — ISessionObject Interface.
Values Methods.
Control Methods.
Conversion Methods.
Application State — IApplicationObject Interface.
State Synchronization.

6. IServer and Components.
IServer Interface.
Script Methods.
Helper Methods.
Object Creation.
Context Flow.
Garbage Collection.
Object Tag.
Components in ASP.
Apartments, Context, and Performance.
Apartment Interaction with the Session and Application Objects.
Apartments and Security.
Interaction with ASP.

7. Transactions.
Declarative Transactions.
How ASP Makes Pages Transactional.

8. Internationalization.
Sending Alternate Entities — CodePages.
ASP Session Object LCID and CodePage Properties.

Appendix ASP to ISAPI to http.
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The Active Server Pages (ASP) runtime was designed to provide an easy way to create dynamically generated HTTP response packets. On this count, the designers of ASP get an A.

Most of the day-to-day use of ASP is also this easy. Many times, developers feel the need to push the envelope of what a particular technology was designed to do. Whether just for fun or based upon a real application requirement, pushing that envelope can be frustrating. In order to push the envelope with ASP, you need to understand how it works, how each piece is put together.

If you are interested in learning what ASP is or how to program ASP in general, this is not the book for you. You should read this book once you have a solid understanding of ASP programming in general. This book is meant to peel back the cover on ASP and look inside. I will peer into the plumbing and show how ASP does what it does. My goal is that, after reading this book, you will be a better ASP and COM programmer by understanding how the pieces fit together, not because I showed you the best way to write a loop in VBScript.

It would be helpful to us as developers to have the source code for ASP, even if only to help us debug our own code. Until Microsoft completely embraces the Open Source movement (don't hold your breath), we have no real way of knowing what the internals of ASP really look like. I can guess based on what I know about how ASP works. In this book, I will implement a "clone" of ASP. I have decided to name this clone "Active COM Pages" (or "ACP" for short). Instead of showing you the source code of ASP, I will show you the source code of ACP. ACP in most ways will behave exactly as ASP does (and when it doesn't or can't, I will point that out).

A few caveats about my implementation. First, it does not act like ASP in all ways. It isn't meant to be a replacement for ASP, only a reference to help understand ASP itself. Second, the ACP implementation isn't production code that I recommend using in a real system. Again, it is the bare minimum needed to replicate the important functionality of ASP.

I hope that seeing what ASP does under the covers (approximately, at least) will help you better understand how to put together your own ASP applications.

Intended Audience

This book is written for anyone who wants to know more about the internal workings of ASP (hence the title). You should be a seasoned ASP developer who has a firm grasp of COM (Microsoft's Component Object Model). (For two good books on COM, see Don Box, Essential COM, Addison-Wesley, 1998, and Ted Pattison, Programming Distributed Applications with COM+ and Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0, Microsoft Press, 2000.)

All of the ASP code in this book is written in VBScript. The code implementing ACP (my ASP clone) uses C++ (including some classes from the Standard Template Library-STL). This is necessary because of the underlying architecture. ATL (Microsoft's Active Template Library) is used to implement the COM classes used inside of ACP. Even if you are not familiar with C++ or ATL, the code comments and explanations will help you understand how ASP works.

What to Expect

Each chapter of this book covers a particular aspect of the ASP runtime. Chapter 1, "Introduction," provides an introduction to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). In the end, everything in ASP is translated to and from HTTP. This chapter includes a brief description of how HTTP works.

Chapter 2, "IIS and ISAPI," explains how IIS (Internet Information Server, which hosts ASP) is put together and how ASP uses ISAPI (Internet Server Application Programming Interface) to do the majority of its work.

Chapter 3, "Active Scripting," focuses on hosting the Active Script Engine interfaces, which ASP uses to do the majority of its heavy lifting, and on adding named objects to running scripts.

Chapter 4, "Wrapping HTTP," discusses ASP's IResponse and IRequest interfaces and how they interact with the HTTP protocol through ISAPI.

ASP provides built-in state management at both the session and application level. Chapter 5, "State Management," discusses the interfaces used to provide state management and how to avoid performance problems that can arise if the interfaces are not used judiciously.

ASP's and the scripting engines' integration with COM is one of the best features of the runtime. How COM objects are created and how they interact with ASP are the subjects of Chapter 6, "IServer and Components."

ASP also integrates with the COM+ transactional services. Chapter 7, "Transactions," shows how ASP achieves this integration.

The Internet has made global distributed applications a reality. ASP has built-in features that enable you to write internationalized applications as Chapter 8, "Internationalization," will show.

Jon Flanders
September 2000
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I can't imagine Jon Flanders backing down from a fight. When we were in the seventh grade, some ninth grader took exception to Jon's lack of deference and challenged Jon to meet him after school. Jon accepted without hesitation, even though this was to be his first real fight. The bully showed up with at least half a dozen of his entourage, pointing and laughing. Jon showed up with me. A small circle formed, and the bully started in with the typical jeers. Jon was impatient and got right to work, chasing the bully in circles and bringing him to the ground. He did not unduly hurt the bully, but Jon did require his complete surrender before letting him up. By the time the whole thing was over, I found myself almost pitying the bully. He never really had a chance.

After reading this book, I can hear ASP shrieking, "Uncle! Uncle!" When ASP looked at him sideways and challenged him to a fight, Jon chased it, caught it, and bent it to his will. Luckily for you, this fight yielded something far more useful than a defeated bully.

In your hands, you are holding the ASP equivalent of ATL Internals, both in title and in spirit. Of course, Jon's job was much harder. ATL came with the complete source code. ASP doesn't . . . or at least, it didn't. Not only does Jon use this book to lay out the internal workings of ASP and make recommendations for how best to use it to build robust, scalable sites, he also manages to build an ASP clone from HTTP, ISAPI, COM, and scripting first principles. By doing so, he reveals the details and tradeoffs you need to know to build your systems effectively.

All of this is important not only because ASP has become the most popular way of programming dynamic Web sites with upwards of one million practitioners, but also because the Web server is replacing the OS itself as the platform for system development. When we need truly scalable systems, we don't build DCOM servers or NT services, because they don't give us what we need. On the other hand, the Web server provides threading, connection management, state management, name resolution, security, transactions, pooling, extensibility, and universal access to the clients of the world. And even though ASP makes using these features easy, you need to really understand how they're implemented to take maximum advantage of them. Jon's real-world experience and tireless fighting through the hidden details make that job possible.

In other words, Jon has wrestled ASP to the ground for all of us. And ASP never really had a chance. . . .

Chris Sells
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