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

Microsoft OneNote 15.29 - Free digital n...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
Spotify 1.0.44.100. - Stream music, crea...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
SpamSieve 2.9.27 - Robust spam filter fo...
SpamSieve is a robust spam filter for major email clients that uses powerful Bayesian spam filtering. SpamSieve understands what your spam looks like in order to block it all, but also learns what... Read more
VueScan 9.5.62 - 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
Fantastical 2.3.2 - Create calendar even...
Fantastical 2 is the Mac calendar you'll actually enjoy using. Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun: Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke Type in your event... Read more
PCalc 4.4.4 - Full-featured scientific c...
PCalc is a full-featured, scriptable scientific calculator with support for hexadecimal, octal, and binary calculations, as well as an RPN mode, programmable functions, and an extensive set of unit... Read more
Alfred 3.2.1 - Quick launcher for apps a...
Alfred is an award-winning productivity application for OS X. Alfred saves you time when you search for files online or on your Mac. Be more productive with hotkeys, keywords, and file actions at... Read more
OmniPlan 3.6 - Robust project management...
With OmniPlan, you can create logical, manageable project plans with Gantt charts, schedules, summaries, milestones, and critical paths. Break down the tasks needed to make your project a success,... Read more
Backblaze 4.2.0.990 - Online backup serv...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac. With unlimited storage available for $5 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
AppDelete 4.3.1 - $7.99
AppDelete is an uninstaller that will remove not only applications but also widgets, preference panes, plugins, and screensavers along with their associated files. Without AppDelete these associated... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Galaxy on Fire 3 and four other fantasti...
Galaxy on Fire 3 - Manticore brings the series back for another round of daring space battles. It's familiar territory for folks who are familiar with the franchise. If you've beaten the game and are looking to broaden your horizons, might we... | Read more »
The best apps for your holiday gift exch...
What's that, you say? You still haven't started your holiday shopping? Don't beat yourself up over it -- a lot of people have been putting it off, too. It's become easier and easier to procrastinate gift shopping thanks to a number of apps that... | Read more »
Toca Hair Salon 3 (Education)
Toca Hair Salon 3 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Winter comes to Darkwood as Seekers Note...
MyTona, based in the chilly Siberian city of Yakutsk, has brought a little festive fun to its hidden object game Seekers Notes: Hidden Mystery. The Christmas update introduces some new inhabitants to players, and with them a chance to win plenty of... | Read more »
Bully: Anniversary Edition (Games)
Bully: Anniversary Edition 1.03.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $6.99, Version: 1.03.1 (iTunes) Description: *** PLEASE NOTE: This game is officially supported on the following devices: iPhone 5 and newer, iPod Touch... | Read more »
PINE GROVE (Games)
PINE GROVE 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A pine grove where there are no footsteps of people due to continuous missing cases. The case is still unsolved and nothing has... | Read more »
Niantic teases new Pokémon announcement...
After rumors started swirling yesterday, it turns out there is an official Pokémon GO update on its way. We’ll find out what’s in store for us and our growing Pokémon collections tomorrow during the Starbucks event, but Niantic will be revealing... | Read more »
3 reasons why Nicki Minaj: The Empire is...
Nicki Minaj is as business-savvy as she is musically talented and she’s proved that by launching her own game. Designed by Glu, purveyors of other fine celebrity games like cult favorite Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, Nicki Minaj: The Empire launched... | Read more »
Clash of Clans is getting its own animat...
Riding on its unending wave of fame and success, Clash of Clans is getting an animated web series based on its Clash-A-Rama animated shorts.As opposed to the current shorts' 60 second run time, the new and improved Clash-A-Rama will be comprised of... | Read more »
Leaks hint at Pokémon GO and Starbucks C...
Leaked images from a hub for Starbucks employees suggests that a big Pokémon GO event with the coffee giant could begin this very week. The images appeared on Reddit and hint at some exciting new things to come for Niantic's smash hit game. | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Never Settle for Low Performing Wifi With iOS...
AppYogi Software has announced the release of WiFi Signal Strength Status App 1.0, the company’s new utility developed exclusively for macOS. WiFi Signal Strength Status App features a unique, single... Read more
New 2016 13-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros in st...
B&H Photo has stock of new 2016 Apple 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pro models, each including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.9GHz/512GB Touch Bar MacBook Pro Space Gray: $1999 - 13″ 2.... Read more
New 2016 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock...
B&H Photo has new 2016 Apple 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pro models in stock today including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2799 - 15″ 2.7GHz... Read more
DietSensor App Targeting Diabetes and Obesity...
DietSensor, Inc., a developer of smart food and nutrition applications designed to fight diabetes and obesity and help improve overall fitness, has announced the launch of its DietSensor app for... Read more
Holiday 2016 13-inch 2.0GHz MacBook Pro sales...
B&H has the non-Touch Bar 13″ MacBook Pros in stock today for $50-$100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray (MLL42LL/A): $1449 $... Read more
Holiday sale: Apple TVs for $51-$40 off MSRP,...
Best Buy has dropped their price on the 64GB Apple TV to $159.99 including free shipping. That’s $40 off MSRP. 32GB Apple TVs are on sale right now for $98 on Sams Club’s online store. That’s $51 off... Read more
12-inch Retina MacBooks, Apple refurbished, n...
Apple has restocked a full line of Certified Refurbished 2016 12″ Retina MacBooks, now available for $200-$260 off MSRP. Refurbished 2015 models are available starting at $929. Apple will include a... Read more
Holiday sale: 12-inch Retina MacBook for $100...
B&H has 12″ Retina MacBooks on sale for $100 off MSRP as part of their Holiday sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1199 $100... Read more
Apple refurbished 13-inch MacBook Airs availa...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $849. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/128GB MacBook Air: $849 $... Read more
Apple refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
US- *Apple* Store Leader Program - Apple (Un...
…Summary Learn and grow as you explore the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll master our retail business inside and out through training, hands-on Read more
Automotive Detailer - *Apple* Used Autos -...
We are currently conductinginterviews and will be accepting applications for a part-time detailer. Apple Used Autos is a great place to work andstart a career. We Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Trumbul...
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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.