Section 18.4. Traffic Sniffing

18.4. Traffic Sniffing

Capture, Intercept, Log, Monitor, Network, Record, Sniff, Traffic

Figure 18-12. Traffic Sniffing

18.4.1. Developer Story

Dave hears a report that critical form data isn't being saved on the database. He turns a sniffer on and tries uploading the same data himself. The sniffer shows him an XML message being uploaded via XMLHttpRequest. When inspecting the message in an XML editor, he discovers that the JavaScript hasn't formatted it correctly.

18.4.2. Problem

How can you diagnose errors and strange behavior?

18.4.3. Solution

Diagnose problems by sniffing Web Remoting traffic. Many Ajax problems arise because Web Remoting (Chapter 6) messages are either wrong or are not sent at all. Debugging (see earlier in this chapter) and general Logging on either side of the network might help you infer what's being transmitted, but it's better to grab the traffic directly. There are various ways to do this:

  • In the browser, use XMLHttpRequest Calls (Chapter 6) in a wrapper that logs the request and response (see Logging earlier in this chapter). This may be the most convenient technique, because the programmer is probably already looking at the browser. The downside is that you'll miss out on non-Web Remoting (Chapter 6) traffic, e.g., full page refreshes.

  • Employ a generic network traffic monitor, filtering HTTP traffic to and from the server.

  • Configure your browser to use a generic HTTP proxy and have the proxy log interesting traffic in either direction.

  • In the server, intercept incoming and outgoing traffic for Logging. Server-side frameworks often have a common controller object which can be instrumented to capture information in either direction. In addition, interception facilities, such as Java's Servlet Filters, are often available.

Traffic Sniffing is a kind of Logging function. As such, you'll probably want similar filtering functionality, e.g., to see messages in only one direction, matching certain text, or to a particular URL.

18.4.4. Tool Support XMLHttpRequest Tracing and XMLHttpRequest Debugging

Julien Couvreur has written two invaluable Firefox tools: XMLHttpRequest Tracing ( unobtrusively logs traffic to the JavaScript console, while XMLHttpRequest Debugging ( is a much more powerful, interactive Popup tool that not only shows the messages but lets you set filters and configure the display (Figure 18-13). Both are Greasemonkey scripts (, so you'll need to install the Greasemonkey extension first.

Figure 18-13. XMLHttpRequest Debugging Fiddler

Fiddler ( is a Windows proxy specifically designed for analyzing and "fiddling" with browser-server traffic (Figure 18-14).

Figure 18-14. Fiddler FlangeLib

Adam Vandenberg has noted that his personal flangelib.js library ( contains an XMLHttpRequest wrapper to log traffic. While you're unlikely to use flangelib, it's mentioned here because some XMLHttpRequest wrapper libraries may eventually implement Logging functionality. The main barrier right now is the lack of an industry-standard Logging library.

18.4.5. Code Example: Using XMLHttpRequest Tracing

Following is the output from the XMLHttpRequest tracing script during the initial load sequence for the Ajax Patterns Reader ( First, the request is logged in the Firefox JavaScript console: [736] intercepted open (GET , patternList.phtml , true , undefined , undefined) [736] intercepted send (null) 

Then, the result is displayed, showing response code (200) and content: [736] intercepted load: 200 Ajax Stub|||Browser-Side Cache|||Browser-Side Templating|||Browser-Side XSLT||| .... 

18.4.6. Related Patterns Logging

Traffic Sniffing in the browser is a form of Logging (see earlier).

Ajax Design Patterns
Ajax Design Patterns
ISBN: 0596101805
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 169

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