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/

 
AAPL
$118.93
Apple Inc.
-0.07
MSFT
$47.81
Microsoft Corpora
+0.06
GOOG
$541.83
Google Inc.
+1.46

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Adobe Photoshop Elements 13.0 - Consumer...
Adobe Photoshop Elements 12--the #1 selling consumer photo editing software--helps you edit pictures with powerful, easy-to-use options and share them via print, the web, Facebook, and more.Version... Read more
Skype 7.2.0.412 - Voice-over-internet ph...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
HoudahSpot 3.9.6 - Advanced file search...
HoudahSpot is a powerful file search tool built upon MacOS X Spotlight. Spotlight unleashed Create detailed queries to locate the exact file you need Narrow down searches. Zero in on files Save... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.0.3 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
iPhoto Library Manager 4.1.10 - Manage m...
iPhoto Library Manager lets you organize your photos into multiple iPhoto libraries. Separate your high school and college photos from your latest summer vacation pictures. Or keep some photo... Read more
iExplorer 3.5.1.9 - View and transfer al...
iExplorer is an iPhone browser for Mac lets you view the files on your iOS device. By using a drag and drop interface, you can quickly copy files and folders between your Mac and your iPhone or... Read more
MacUpdate Desktop 6.0.3 - Discover and i...
MacUpdate Desktop 6 brings seamless 1-click installs and version updates to your Mac. With a free MacUpdate account and MacUpdate Desktop 6, Mac users can now install almost any Mac app on macupdate.... Read more
SteerMouse 4.2.2 - Powerful third-party...
SteerMouse is an advanced driver for USB and Bluetooth mice. It also supports Apple Mighty Mouse very well. SteerMouse can assign various functions to buttons that Apple's software does not allow,... Read more
iMazing 1.1 - Complete iOS device manage...
iMazing (was DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and from... Read more
PopChar X 7.0 - Floating window shows av...
PopChar X helps you get the most out of your font collection. With its crystal-clear interface, PopChar X provides a frustration-free way to access any font's special characters. Expanded... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove, Sacred G...
Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove, Sacred Grove HD Review By Jennifer Allen on November 28th, 2014 Our Rating: iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad A decent new installment for the popular Mystery Case Files series.   | Read more »
Castaway Paradise – Tips, Tricks, and St...
Ahoy there, castaways: Were you curious about our own thoughts regarding this pristine shipwreck? Check out our Castaway Paradise review! Castaway Paradise is out for iOS, finally giving mobile gamers the opportunity to enjoy the idyllic lifestyle... | Read more »
Castaway Paradise VIP Subs are on Sale f...
Castaway Paradise VIP Subs are on Sale for a Limited Time, and a Special Holiday Update is Coming Soon Posted by Rob Rich on November 28th, 2014 [ | Read more »
Primitive Review
Primitive Review By Jordan Minor on November 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: FOLK ARTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad True to its name, Primitive is about as straightforward as runners get.   | Read more »
7 tips to get ahead of the competition i...
7 tips to get ahead of the competition in Dynasty of Dungeons Posted by Simon Reed on November 28th, 2014 [ permalink ] Playcrab has launched their action-packed new dungeon crawler, Dynasty of Dungeons, today. | Read more »
Master of Tea Kung Fu Review
Master of Tea Kung Fu Review By Jordan Minor on November 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: ONE DROP RULESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Master of Tea Kung Fu is a creative and complex caffeinated brawler.   | Read more »
Monster Strike Review
Monster Strike Review By Campbell Bird on November 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: BILLIARD STRATEGYUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Collect monsters and battle by flinging them across the battlefield in this strangely... | Read more »
Proun+ Review
Proun+ Review By Jennifer Allen on November 28th, 2014 Our Rating: :: TWITCHY RACINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Twitchy racing aplenty in Proun+, an enjoyably tricky title.   | Read more »
Lucha Amigos (Games)
Lucha Amigos 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Forget Ninja Turtles, and meet Wrestlers Turtles! Crazier, Spicier and…Bouncier! Sling carapaces of 7 Luchadores to knock all... | Read more »
Record of Agarest War Zero (Games)
Record of Agarest War Zero 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: HyperDevbox Holiday Turkey Black Friday Special Pricing! To celebrate the opening of the holiday season HyperDevbox... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Best Black Friday Deal: 15-inch Retina MacBoo...
 B&H Photo has the new 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $300 off MSRP as part of their Black Friday sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina... Read more
Up To 75% Off Infovole Text Apps Over Black F...
Infovole’s entire range of apps, including the Textkraft family of word processors for iPads and iPhones, is being offered at 50-75% off over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. The five-day... Read more
Black Friday: Up to $60 off Mac minis, NY tax...
 B&H Photo has new 2014 Mac minis on sale for up to $60 off MSRP as part of their Black Friday sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449.99 $50 off... Read more
Black Friday: 27-inch 5K iMac for $2299, save...
 B&H Photo continues to offer Black Friday sale prices on the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac, in stock today and on sale for $2299 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP... Read more
Karalux Announces 24K Gold-Plated iPhone 6
Karalux, a Vietnam-based jewellery firm, has launched a unique 24 karat gold-plated iPhone 6 version with gold-cast monolithic dragon on its back panel. The real 24 karat gold plated enclosure doesn’... Read more
Black Friday: 13-inch 2.6GHz Retina MacBook P...
 B&H Photo has lowered their price for the 13″ 2.6GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro to $1159 for Black Friday. That’s $140 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model (except for Apple’s $1099... Read more
View all the Black Friday sales on our Mac Pr...
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. View Black Friday sale prices at a... Read more
Black Friday: 11-inch MacBook Air for $779, s...
 Best Buy has lowered their price for the 2014 11″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook Air to $779.99 for Black Friday. That’s $120 off MSRP. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale... Read more
Apple Store Black Friday sale for 2014: $100...
BLACK FRIDAY The Apple Store has posted their Black Friday deals for 2014. Receive a $100 PRODUCT(RED) branded iTunes gift card with the purchase of select Macs, $50 with iPads, and $25 with iPods,... Read more
Black Friday: 15% off iTunes Gift Cards
Staples is offering 15% off $50 and $100 iTunes Gift Cards on their online store as part of their Black Friday sale. Click here for more information. Shipping is free. Best Buy is offering $100... Read more

Jobs Board

Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…Summary** As a Specialist, you help create the energy and excitement around Apple products, providing the right solutions and getting products into customers' hands. You Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** Being a Business Manager at an Apple Store means you're the catalyst for businesses to discover and leverage the power, ease, and flexibility of Apple Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, 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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.