JavaService - FAQ


What are the licensing terms for JavaService?
Why is JavaService actually needed?
What memory management options are available?
How can I monitor what the program is doing?
What can I do if my program isn't working?
Is JavaService support available?



What are the licensing terms for JavaService?

Refer to the license file supplied with this software. Essentially, this is Open Source Software and you are free to use it how you wish, providing that this license is obeyed.

Why is JavaService actually needed?

Whenever a Java-based application needs to be run in the background on a Windows NT system, or it must be run automatically on system startup, it must be defined as an NT Service.

This is not something automatically included with the Java run-time environment, which is intended to be cross-platform. The equivalent on a Linux or Unix-type system is a daemon process and this is much more easily automated from startup scripts.

A particular use for JavaService is to run an Application Server on startup, within which your own Java applications will run as EJBs, JSP or whatever. Examples of such Java-based application servers include Orion, Tomcat, JOnAS and JBoss.

What memory management options are available?

JavaService does not provide any specific options of its own to deal with memory management, as all control of stack size and heap size depends upon the selected JVM or Java run-time.

The two options that are most likely to be use, for the Sun JVM at least, are:

  • -Xms64M (to specify an initial heap size of 64MB), and
  • -Xmx256M (to specify a maximum heap size of 256MB)

There are many articles on tuning of JVM memory allocation, but you will often find that the default settings are unsuitable for larger system processes and will need to be configured accordingly.
If this is not done, your program may appear to hang, lock up or fail unexpectedly, often with the same amount of memory allocation shown from the Windows Task Manager. If so, you may well need to specify a larger maximum heap size.

When these options are used in the parameter list specified on JavaService -install, they should be included after the classpath definition, for example:
JavaService -install MyService -Djava.class.path=%2\orion.jar;%1\lib\tools.jar -Xms32M -Xmx128M ...

For more information on these options, try the command java -X from the command line, although not all JVMs offer these commands. Others may use a different format to that described here.

How can I monitor what the program is doing?

There are a number of difficulties that may arise in trying monitor server or daemon-type processes running under Windows NT.

These difficulties may be made worse when using JavaService due to the type of Java programs that may be run as services. In particular, web containers or application servers such as JBoss provide a further level of indirection when tracking the chain of control within a program

It should be appreciated that JavaService does very little as a program in its own right.
When run from the command line, it deals with registration of the program as a service and then exits.
When run as a service, it simply invokes the configured JVM and instructs it to run the relevant static function from the specified class path.
A further function may be invoked when shutdown is requested, prior to termination of the JVM instance.

Given that behaviour of the JavaService code only deals with NT Service interactions at registration, startup and shutdown, there is not much that it can report to the user.

A first port of call when investigation operation of any Windows process, but especially when running as a service, is to run the Windows Task Manager. It can be useful to load this as an iconised program displayed in the 'system tray' at all times, so that any burst of cpu loading can be seen graphically. In addition to graphs of cpu and memory usage, Task Manager can display lists of active processes (including services) and show the amount of memory that each process has used. If this display is monitored as the service starts up, and then viewed when the system is static and also under load, a good idea of your Java program requirements can be determined. It can also point to a problem if the program appears to stop running (perhaps due to heap space limitations) when the memory utilisation is always at the same level.

Following Task Manager, the next Windows utility that should be invoked is the Event Viewer (Start Menu/Programs/Administrative Tools/Event Viewer). This will have messages written to it which indicate when the named service starts up and shuts down. It may also have error messages that show when a problem has arisen in execution of the service. These may frequently appear unhelpful, but their actual existence should be a strong pointer to what is going wrong with your software installation. Do take note of the timestamps against the event logs and compare them to your use of the software.

A further port of call, possibly the first place to look, is in the redirected output and error log files. These can be configured to trap stdout/stderr messages and write them to log files. If you add your own System.out.println program statement for debugging, you should be able to view the output from the configured log file locations. If these have not been configured, add them now!

It is not generally recommended to write debug print statements, but they can be extremely useful when investigating problems within a server-based process. Even if you do not write your own debug statements, the application server or container program is quite likely to have some output. It may actually have an error message indicating exactly what is going wrong, if only you can get the text file...

What can I do if my program isn't working?

Besides following the points above, relating to memory management and general process monitoring options, there is little direct guidance that can be offered from this document. All users are likely to be running different combinations of JVM, application server, Java software, class-paths, Operating System versions and service packs. Given all of this, the finger has to be pointed at the Java software first - both your own and the container being used to run it.

This does not mean that there are no faults in the JavaServer code. It is just that problems are more prevalent in the JVM and Java code that it invokes.

If the process fails when run as a service, you should first try to run exactly the same software (JVM, classpath, options, etc) as an interactive program. If it fails in this configuration, then you can discount JavaService as being the problem. More usefully, this would mean that you could run a normal debug-type environment to investigate the problem

If the program works when run interactively, but not as a service, one likely cause of the problem is heap memory allocation, or possible stack size. These issues need to be resolved according to your own hardware specifications and application requirements.

To investigate the problem further, you should analyse and be clear about when the failure arises. It may be during startup of the service, during background or apparently-idle processing, when handling a particular request or perhaps on shutdown event handling.

Startup problems often point to memoery management, as described above. Frequent startup and run-time problems are caused by incorrect classpath definitions and unexpected classloader operations - especially within a J2EE container that has it's own rules for loading of class files. You should always ensure that the software runs correctly in an interactive fashion with the same JVM and classpath definitions before looking for problems with JavaService itself.

Unfortunately, there are problems that arise with the use of JVM dll's of certain versions from particular vendors. In some cases, the JVM cannot be run as a service, but no specific rules or reason can be put forward for this. To find out if this is the cause of any run-time problems, you should always try and reproduce your fault using at least one other flavour of JVM - whether that is hotspot, classic, client, server, another version (1.3 vs 1.4, or 1.x.y_aa to 1.x.y_bb), or perhaps from another vendor (try Sun, IBM, BEA alternatives). This exercise will at least determine whether or not the problem is JVM-related (it often is), even if the JVM that works is not your preferred version. If your preferred JVM will not run as a service, you do not really seem to have any choice but to change JVM versions or implementations.

Is JavaService support available?

As a freely-available, Open Source, software product, users of JavaService do not receive any direct support for investigation and resolution of any problems experienced.

However, informal or casual support may be provided by contributors to JavaService development, as the problems you experience may have been seen before. An email enquiry to one of these contributors may results in a solution for your problem, often depending on the timing of your request and the vagueness/complexity of the problem being reported. If you can provide as much helpful and relevant information as possible when sending your request, you are more likely to be able to get a useful response, although 'your mileage may vary'.

Before sending requests to source code contributors, you would be advised to try a web search to see if any similar problems have been reported. This may or may not involve JavaService, as some JVMs have been known to cause problems when run as a server process. Try a few different searches with keywords relating to the particular problem that you experience

If you don't get an answer to your problem, you should try raising your question on one or more of the relevant software forums. Again, provide as much information as would be needed to investigate the fault. Indicate what you have already tried as well, since that can sometimes trigger something in the mind of one of the forum readers.

Finally, if you do find a solution, that is not specific to coding within your own software, you should consider sending a summary of it for inclusion in later releases of this FAQ...