TweetFollow Us on Twitter

AS vs Frontier
Volume Number:12
Issue Number:1
Column Tag:Internet Development

CGI’s: AppleScript or Frontier?

Comparing scripting environments for CGI development

By Mason Hale

Note: Source code files accompanying article are located on MacTech CD-ROM or source code disks.

In a previous article, “Scripting the Web with Frontier”, I introduced you to writing CGI scripts using UserLand Frontier. In that article, I argued that Frontier was an excellent alternative for webmasters who felt forced to choose between the poor performance of AppleScript and the steep learning curve of C because Frontier is easier to use than C yet generally performs faster than AppleScript, especially when used to create CGI applications. That argument became even more true when a PowerPC-native Frontier was released for public beta-testing in late October. Like dropping a bigger engine into a hot rod, script execution instantly becomes much faster - in some cases up to six time faster. With this boost in speed on PowerPC machines, Frontier is closing the gap on C - offering both ease-of-use and excellent performance - while further increasing its lead on AppleScript.

Despite the proven benefits of using Frontier to write CGI applications, many webmasters still are developing their CGIs in AppleScript. This inspired me to look a bit more closely at the differences between CGI applications written in Frontier and those in AppleScript, primarily focusing on performance issues. In this article I will share the results of some of my recreational performance testing, and explain some of the different situations that affect performance.

Since I am the author of the Frontier CGI Framework, a set of scripts that enhance CGI development in Frontier, you could understandably question my objectivity in doing such a comparison. On the other hand, since I have done a great deal of CGI development in both environments, I am also one of the few people qualified to do such a comparison. In either case it is not my intent to discount AppleScript as a scripting environment. I think it is a great product and an important technology. I just don’t believe it is well-suited to the specific task of CGI development.

Performance

Performance is crucial to CGI applications running on busy servers. The more processing time a request takes, the more likely a user is to give up and move on to another site.

I’ve often been asked if Frontier is faster than AppleScript. The truth is, when comparing built-in verbs in AppleScript and the non-native version of Frontier, the performance is surprising similar. I ran a series of informal tests to compare the performance of AppleScript, non-native Frontier and native Frontier when running equivalent scripts. The scripts are based on the sample scripts from Frontier’s object database. All tests were run on a Power Macintosh 7200/75 with 16 MB RAM. Execution time is measured in ticks (sixtieths of seconds).

The first test script performs simple integer arithmetic using built-in commands in both the AppleScript and UserTalk versions. The actual scripts are functionally identical.

Test 1: Integer Arithmetic (AppleScript)
set x to 0
repeat with i from 1 to 1000
 set x to x + (12 + 99 - 37 / 84)
end

Test 1: Integer Arithmetic (UserTalk)
x = 0
for i = 1 to 1000 
 x = x + (12 + 99 - 37 / 84)

AppleScript took 111 ticks to complete the first test, while the non-native Frontier took 103 ticks. The PowerPC-native Frontier ran the same script in just 17 ticks. This first test really shows how close the non-native Frontier and AppleScript were - and the tremendous difference the native version makes.

The second test demonstrates the repeated calling of a local subroutine.

Test 2: Subroutine Call (AppleScript)
set y to 10
on moof (x)
 return (x * 2)
end
repeat with i from 1 to 1000
 set y to moof (y)
end

Test 2: Subroutine Call (UserTalk)
y = 10
on moof (x) 
 return (x * 2)
for i = 1 to 1000 
 y = moof (y)

AppleScript blew the doors of the non-native Frontier in the second test coming in at 85 ticks to Frontier’s 272 ticks. However, the PowerPC-native Frontier handily won with a time of 47 ticks.

The third script compares the performance of commands from an external Scripting Addition to a built-in Frontier verb. I compared the speed of Frontier’s built-in clock.now verb to the equivalent current date Scripting Addition.

Test 3: Built-in verb vs. Scripting Addition (UserTalk)
for i = 1 to 100 
 y = clock.now ()


Test 3: Built-in verb vs. Scripting Addition (AppleScript)

repeat with i from 1 to 100
 set y to current date
end repeat

It took AppleScript 113 ticks to complete this test, while the non-native Frontier took 17 ticks and the native Frontier took 5 ticks. This illustrates a crucial point in determining the speed of a script. Built-in commands are faster than commands loaded from external code fragments. Because AppleScript has few built-in verbs and relies heavily on Scripting Additions to extend the language, the use of external commands like “current date” is quite common.

In the fourth example the script checks the existence of a file. Frontier uses a built-in verb “file.exists”, while AppleScript communicates with the scriptable Finder via AppleEvents.

Test 4: Built-in verb vs. Apple Event (AppleScript)
set x to 0
tell application "Finder"
 repeat with i from 1 to 10
 if exists alias "Macintosh HD:SimpleText" then
 set x to x + 1
 end if
 end repeat
end tell

Test 4: Built-in verb vs. Apple Event (UserTalk)
local (x = 0)
for i = 1 to 10 
 if file.exists ("Macintosh HD:SimpleText") 
 x++

Inter-application communication can really slow things down. Each cross-application Apple Event adds approximately 1/4 second to the processing time of the script. Frontier suffers the same slowdowns when sending Apple Events to other applications, but because more commands are available, external applications are relied on less often.

The results of the fourth test bear this out. While the native and non-native Frontier applications finished in 3 ticks and 7 ticks respectively, AppleScript took 140 ticks to perform the same task using the scriptable Finder.

My final test was “real world” example, based on the “test.cgi” script that is distributed with MacHTTP. This script uses no scripting additions and doesn’t perform any cross-application communication. So it is a pretty good example of a common CGI script using built-in verbs.

Test 5: Test CGI (AppleScript)

property crlf : (ASCII character 13) & (ASCII character 10)

--this builds the normal HTTP header for regular access
property http_10_header : "HTTP/1.0 200 OK" & crlf & ¬
 "Server: MacHTTP" & crlf & "MIME-Version: 1.0" & ¬
 crlf & "Content-type: text/html" & crlf & crlf

on cgiScript (path_args, http_search_args, username, ¬
 password, from_user, client_address, server_name, ¬
 server_port, script_name, content_type, referer, ¬
 user_agent, action, action_path, post_args, method, ¬
 client_ip, full_request)
 
 try --wrap the whole script in an error handler
 return http_10_header & "<title>Test CGI</title>" & ¬
 "<h2>Test CGI</h2><u>CGI arguments sent:</u>" & ¬
 "<br><b>path:</b> " & path_args & ¬
 "<br><b>search:</b> " & http_search_args & ¬
 "<br><b>post_args:</b> " & post_args & ¬
 "<br><b>method:</b> " & method & ¬
 "<br><b>address:</b> " & client_address & ¬
 "<br><b>user:</b> " & username & ¬
 "<br><b>password:</b> " & password & ¬
 "<br><b>from:</b> " & from_user & ¬
 "<br><b>server_name:</b> " & server_name & ¬
 "<br><b>server_port:</b> " & server_port & ¬
 "<br><b>script_name:</b> " & script_name & ¬
 "<br><b>referer:</b> " & referer & ¬
 "<br><b>user agent:</b> " & user_agent & ¬
 "<br><b>content_type:</b> " & content_type & crlf
 on error msg number num
 return http_10_header & "Error " & num & ", " & msg
 end try
end caller

repeat with i from 1 to 10
cgiScript ("aaa", "bbb", "ccc", "ddd", "eee", ¬
 "fff", "ggg", "hhh", "iii", "jjj", "kkk", ¬
 "lll", "mmm", "nnn", "ooo", "ppp", "qqq", "rrr")
end repeat


Test 5: Test CGI (UserTalk)

on cgiScript (pathArgs, httpSearchArgs, username, \
 password, fromUser, clientAddress, serverName, \
 serverPort, scriptName, contentType, referer, \
 userAgent, action, actionPath, postArgs, method, \
 clientIp, fullRequest) 
 
 try 
 return (webServer.httpHeader () + \
 "<title>Test CGI</title><h2>Test CGI</h2>" + \
 "<u>CGI arguments sent:</u>" + \
 "<br><b>path:</b> " + pathArgs + \
 "<br><b>search:</b> " + httpSearchArgs + \
 "<br><b>post_args:</b> " + postArgs + \
 "<br><b>method:</b> " + method + \
 "<br><b>address:</b> " + clientAddress + \
 "<br><b>user:</b> " + username + \
 "<br><b>password:</b> " + password + \
 "<br><b>from:</b> " + fromUser + \
 "<br><b>server_name:</b> " + serverName + \
 "<br><b>server_port:</b> " + serverPort + \
 "<br><b>script_name:</b> " + scriptName + \
 "<br><b>referer:</b> " + referer + \
 "<br><b>user agent:</b> " + userAgent + \
 "<br><b>content_type:</b> " + contentType + cr + lf)
 else 
 return (webServer.httpHeader () + "Error " + tryError)
 
local (i)
for i = 1 to 10 
 cgiScript ("aaa", "bbb", "ccc", "ddd", "eee", "fff", "ggg", \
 "hhh", "iii", "jjj", "kkk", "lll", "mmm", "nnn", "ooo", \
 "ppp", "qqq", "rrr")

As expected, the AppleScript and non-native version of Frontier performed similarly. The AppleScript CGI test finished in 69 ticks, beating out Frontier at 74 ticks. Native Frontier won again with 14 ticks. A summary of the timing results for all tests is shown in Table 1.


AppleScript Frontier 68K Frontier PPC

Integer Arithmetic 111 103 17

Subroutine Call 85 272 45

Built-in vs. OSAX 113 17 5

Built-in vs. AE 140 7 3

Test CGI 69 74 14

Table 1. Comparison of execution times (all times in 1/60 second)

Multi-threading

Beyond straight script execution, another factor can significantly affect the speed at which a given script runs: multi-threading. In the exponentially-growing world of the internet, it is common for the average web server to receives thousands of requests a day. It is also quite likely that two clients will request the exact same file at the exact same time. If the requested file happens to be your CGI script, it will have to deal with two concurrent requests.

AppleScript is not multi-threaded, and handles multiple concurrent requests by placing them into a queue. Unfortunately, AppleScript processes events on a last-in first-out basis - so the latest event received is the first to be processed. To put it another way, on a very busy server, the first person to call the CGI may very well be the last person to receive the results. This can result in every single request timing out if new requests keep forcing older ones further back in the queue.

Frontier is fully multi-threaded. Every new request spawns a new thread automatically. This means that incoming event are processed immediately and do not prevent processing of earlier requests.

A more subtle, but still important performance consideration is the fact that all Frontier-based CGI’s are hosted by a single application. In the cooperative multi-tasking Mac OS, applications must cooperatively share processing time. Adding a new, separate application for each CGI creates more overhead to manage the sharing of processor time among the competing applications and eventually slows down all the applications. Consolidating all CGI scripts into Frontier’s object database eliminates this overhead.

Conclusion

Being PowerPC-native and multi-threaded clearly gives Frontier the performance advantage over AppleScript. However, even if AppleScript were multi-threaded and native, its reliance on Scripting Additions and external applications to perform its functions severely limit performance, and thus limit its usefulness as a development environment for CGI applications.

URL’s

Native Frontier Public Beta release:

http://www.hotwired.com/ userland/yabbadabba/nativefrontierpublicbe_390.html

Frontier CGI Scripting: http://www.webedge.com/frontier/

Aretha Website: http://www.hotwired.com/userland/aretha/

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Parallels Desktop 10.2.0 - Run Windows a...
Parallels Desktop is simply the world's bestselling, top-rated, and most trusted solution for running Windows applications on your Mac. With Parallels Desktop for Mac, you can seamlessly run both... Read more
LaunchBar 6.2 - Powerful file/URL/email...
LaunchBar is an award-winning productivity utility that offers an amazingly intuitive and efficient way to search and access any kind of information stored on your computer or on the Web. It provides... Read more
Firefox 37.0 - Fast, safe Web browser. (...
Firefox offers a fast, safe Web browsing experience. Browse quickly, securely, and effortlessly. With its industry-leading features, Firefox is the choice of Web development professionals and casual... Read more
Arq 4.11 - Online backup to Google Drive...
Arq is super-easy online backup for the Mac. Back up to your own Google Drive storage (15GB free storage), your own Amazon Glacier ($.01/GB per month storage) or S3, or any SFTP server. Arq backs up... Read more
MacFamilyTree 7.3.4 - Create and explore...
MacFamilyTree gives genealogy a facelift: it's modern, interactive, incredibly fast, and easy to use. We're convinced that generations of chroniclers would have loved to trade in their genealogy... Read more
Yummy FTP 1.10.2 - FTP/SFTP/FTPS client...
Yummy FTP is an FTP + SFTP + FTPS file transfer client which focuses on speed, reliability and productivity. Whether you need to transfer a few files or a few thousand, schedule automatic backups, or... Read more
VueScan 9.5.08 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.0.1 - Powerful imag...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
Monodraw 0.8.4.1 - Powerful ASCII art ed...
Monodraw allows you to easily create text-based art (like diagrams, layouts, flow charts) and visually represent algorithms, data structures, binary formats and more. Because it's all just text, it... Read more
Air Video Server HD 2.1.0 - Stream video...
Air Video Server HD streams videos instantly from your computer on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Apple TV. No need to worry about converting or transferring files. We took everything that was... Read more

2K Announces WWE 2K, Mobile's First...
It seems like this month has been pretty big for wrestling. First Wrestlemania, then 2K has announces that they're releasing  WWE 2K for iOS. It's a simulation-based WWE game where you'll get to play with several WWE superstars such as John Cena, ... | Read more »
How the Apple Watch Could Change the Fac...
The Apple Watch is still a ways out, but my previous musings on the wearable’s various features got me thinking: what might it be like a year after launch? Two years? Five years? What if it becomes a symbiotic part of the iOS framework to the point... | Read more »
Pie In The Sky: A Pizza Odyssey (Games)
Pie In The Sky: A Pizza Odyssey 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A game about delivering pizza. In space. | Read more »
Chosen Gives Hopeful Singers, Songwriter...
If YouTube videos and reality TV shows like The Voice have taught us one thing, it’s that there are a lot of people out there who are anxious to show the world their talents. And if they’ve taught us a second thing, it’s that there’s an almost... | Read more »
Android's Popular OfficeSuite Now A...
Once only available for Android devices, OfficeSuite has finally landed on the app store. The Mobile Systems app lets you view, edit, create, and share Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents as well as convert them to/from PDFs. It's touted as being... | Read more »
Warhammer: Arcane Magic is Coming Soon,...
Turbo Tape Games has announced that they're joining forces with Games Workshop to bring the turn-based strategy board game, Warhammer: Arcane Magic, to life on the iOS. | Read more »
Fast & Furious: Legacy's Creati...
| Read more »
N-Fusion and 505's Ember is Totally...
| Read more »
These are All the Apple Watch Apps and G...
The Apple Watch is less than a month from hitting store shelves, and once you get your hands on it you're probably going to want some apps and games to install. Fear not! We've compiled a list of all the Apple Watch apps and games we've been able to... | Read more »
Appy to Have Known You - Lee Hamlet Look...
Being at 148Apps these past 2 years has been an awesome experience that has taught me a great deal, and working with such a great team has been a privilege. Thank you to Rob Rich, and to both Rob LeFebvre and Jeff Scott before him, for helping me... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch 2.4GHz Retina MacBook Pro available f...
MacMall has the 2013 13″ 2.4GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro available for $949.99 for a limited time. Shipping is free. Their price is $350 off original MSRP, and it’s the only sub-$1000 new Retina... Read more
Adobe Brings Powerful Layout-Design Capabilit...
Adobe today announced the availability of Adobe Comp CC, a free iPad app that enables rapid creation of layout concepts for mobile, Web and print projects. With Comp CC, designers can rough out and... Read more
13-inch 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pro avail...
Best Buy has clearance 2014 13″ 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pros available for $1199.99 including free shipping. Their price is $300 off original MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model.... Read more
Updated Mac Price Trackers
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers: - 15″ MacBook Pros - 13″ MacBook... Read more
21-inch 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $999, save $1...
Best Buy has the 21″ 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $999.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free local store pick up. Price is for online orders only, in-store prices may vary. Their price is... Read more
2.6GHz Mac mini on sale for $649, save $50
Amazon has the 2.6GHz Mac mini on sale for $649.99 including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Textkraft Professional 3.2 Powerful iPad Text...
Finally it’s springtime, at least theoretically in my neck of the woods, where we’re still navigating canyons between towering snowbanks with temperatures well below freezing in winter weather that... Read more
Apple offering refurbished 27-inch 5K iMacs f...
The Apple Store is offering Apple Certified Refurbished 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMacs for $2119 including free shipping. Their price is $380 off the price of new models, and it’s the lowest price available for... Read more
16GB iPad mini on sale for $199, save $50
Walmart has 16GB iPad minis (1st generation) available for $199.99 on their online store, including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP. Online orders only. Read more
New 128GB MacBook Airs on sale for $50 off MS...
 B&H Photo has 128GB 11″ and 13″ 2015 MacBook Airs on sale today for $50 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 11″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (Model #MJVM2LL/A): $849 $50 off... Read more

Jobs Board

DevOps Software Engineer - *Apple* Pay, iOS...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
Lead *Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail...
**Job Summary** Job Summary The Lead ASC is an Apple employee who serves as the Apple business manager and influencer in a hyper-business critical Reseller's store Read more
*Apple* Pay - Site Reliability Engineer - Ap...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.