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Java Servlet Programming by Jason Hunter

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Debugging

The testing/debugging phase is one of the hardest aspects of developing servlets. Servlets tend to involve a large amount of client/server interaction, making errors likely—but hard to reproduce. It can also be hard to track down the cause of nonobvious errors because servlets don’t work well with standard debuggers, since they run inside a heavily multithreaded and generally complex web server. Here are a few hints and suggestions that may aid you in your debugging.

Check the Logs

When you first think there might be a problem, check the logs. Most servers output an error log where you can find a list of all the errors observed by the server and an event log where you can find a list of interesting servlet events. The event log may also hold the messages logged by servlets through the log() method, but not always.

Note that many servers buffer their output to these logs to improve performance. When hunting down a problem, you may want to stop this buffering (usually by reducing the server’s buffer size to 0 bytes), so you can see problems as they occur. Be sure to reset the buffer size to a reasonable value afterward.

Output Extra Information

If you don’t see an indication of the problem in the server’s logs, try having your servlet log extra information with the log() method. As you’ve seen in examples elsewhere in this book, we habitually log stack traces and other error situations. During debugging, you can add a few temporary log() commands as a poor man’s debugger, ...

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