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  1. #1
    ALT.NET - because we need it silver trophybronze trophy dhtmlgod's Avatar
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    Getting Info from other servers

    Part I

    Well, since my How to use CDONTS peice has been so popular, I thought I would introduce another component that you all might find handy. But like the CDONTS one, I don't devel too deep into it. Basically I tackle one aspect, but if you want more info, don't hesitate to ask. To the people who I promised this one for ages, whoops.

    While surfing around the Internet you've probably seen sites that feature news feeds from other sites. Ever wondered how they do it? It is an easy thing to accomplish, but you can't just do it with ASP. What you need is a COM that will send a request to another server and pick up the response.

    Enter Microsoft's free XMLHTTP. Never heard of it? Don't worry, neither had I until a few weeks ago! This COM performs the necessary HTTP request and returns with what every the response is, be it a page, image, file, etc. Ignore the fact that it has XML in its name, this sucker can return any response! There are a number of COM's that can do this, namely ASPTear and ASPHTTP. So why use the lesser-known XMLHTTP? For a start, XMLHTTP comes with Microsoft's MSXML component, which is free, where as ASPTear and ASPHTTP are not. It's also shipped with Windows 2000, so it's likely to be readily available on most ASP servers already.

    Returning Text
    The simplest thing that you can use this COM object for is to simply return the whole page:
    Code:
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP" )
    
    getPage.Open "GET", "http://www.oreosnbeer.com/", false
    objXMLHTTP.SetRequestHeader "Content-type", "text/html"
    getPage.Send
    
    Response.Write("<h1>Page Code</h1>" & chr(13))
    Response.Write(server.HTMLEncode(getPage.responseText) & chr(13))
    
    
    Set getPage = Nothing
    Let's look at it. First we create the XMLHTTP object:
    Code:
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP" )
    Then, using the object, we open a connection:
    Code:
    getPage.Open "GET", "http://www.oreosnbeer.com/", false
    What exactly have we done? Well, the first property we set was the type of request, which we set to GET, then we supplied the address to send the request to and the false? We cover that later. The following command lets us send headers with the request:
    Code:
    objXMLHTTP.SetRequestHeader "Content-type", "text/html"
    Now we send the actual request:
    Code:
    getPage.Send
    Then using the server.HTMLEncode command we post returned HTML. Because we use the HTMLEncode command, the actual HTML will be displayed.
    Code:
    Response.Write("<h1>Page Code</h1>" & chr(13))
    Response.Write(Server.HTMLEncode(getPage.responseText) & chr(13))
    Returning Binary
    We can also easily return binary data and post it to the page:
    Code:
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP" )
    
    getPage.Open "GET", "http://www.oreosnbeer.com/blah.zip", false
    getPage.Send
    
    Response.AddHeader "Content-Disposition", "attachment;filename=blah.zip"
    
    Response.ContentType = "application/zip"
    
    Response.BinaryWrite(getPage.responseBody)
    
    Set getPage = Nothing
    First we create the XMLHTTP object, then connect to the server and send the request:
    Code:
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP" )
    
    getPage.Open "GET", "http://www.oreosnbeer.com/blah.zip", false
    getPage.Send
    Then we add a header to give it a filename:
    Code:
    Response.AddHeader "Content-Disposition", "attachment;filename=blah.zip"
    Now we specify the content type so the browser knows what to do:
    Code:
    Response.ContentType = "application/zip"
    And finally we BinaryWrite the bytes to the page and destroy the XMLHTTP object:
    Code:
    Response.BinaryWrite(getPage.responseBody)
    
    Set getPage = Nothing
    As you can see, the method to write the returned data has changed, Response.BinaryWrite(getPage.responseBody). This is because we are not returning text. In the first script returned HTML, which can be classed as text. If we we're returning XML, it would also be counted as text. But, as this is a file, we don't want t write the contents to the page, do we? Now, try the page and you'll see that you can download a file using this code. Why not try and change it to an ASP page? There is lots of things you will now be able to do!

    Sending GET requests
    To send a GET request is simple. It is just a matter of appending the URL with the querystring! So lets go back to out original code and edit it slightly:
    Code:
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP" )
    
    getPage.Open "GET", "http://www.google.com/search?q=sitepoint", false
    objXMLHTTP.SetRequestHeader "Content-type", "text/html"
    getPage.Send
    
    Response.Write(getPage.responseText)
    
    
    Set getPage = Nothing
    That's it! That simple! As you can see, nothing much has changed, except for the adding a querystring into the URL.

    Send POST request
    Now, you'd think to a POST would be as easy as a GET request, wouldn't you? Well… it isn't really…
    Code:
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP" )
    
    getPage.Open "POST", "http://www.oreosnbeer.com/login.asp", false
    objXMLHTTP.SetRequestHeader "Content-type", "application/x-www-form-urlencoded"
    getPage.Send "username=dhtmlgod&password=12345
    
    Response.Write(getPage.responseText)
    
    
    Set getPage = Nothing
    Well, it isn't all that much harder really, so lets go over the lines that have changes.
    Code:
    getPage.Open "POST", "http://www.oreosnbeer.com/login.asp", false
    This is the first line that changed and as you can see, it isn't much of a change. All we simply did was change the request method to POST
    Code:
    objXMLHTTP.SetRequestHeader "Content-type", "application/x-www-form-urlencoded"
    This line has changed quite a lot. The text/html header has changed into application/x-www-form-urlencoded header. This tells the requested page that the information is being sent that has been sent by a form.

    MORE SOON::..
    Last edited by dhtmlgod; Jul 29, 2003 at 05:52.

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard iTec's Avatar
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    D, you got any worthwile links for learning more on the XMLHTTP com?? cant wait for part 2.

    just 1 question and i know its probably a little offtopic, but this kind of got my curiosity running.. is it possible to connect to a remote database? ie: one thats not located on your server. I wouldnt think you would be able to (security risk?) but you never know if you never ask.

  3. #3
    ALT.NET - because we need it silver trophybronze trophy dhtmlgod's Avatar
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    Part II


    Logging into Secure Directories
    How about secure directories? You know the ones you need a password to enter, which use the WWW-Authenticate header? Well, XMLHTTP can also access these! Bear in mind though, this will not work like the sign-in for HTML pages logins. Your best bet for that would be using the POST method, which I just covered.

    This is surprisingly easy, in fact, the XMLHTTP COM has a function to actually accomplish this very thing. So far I have only shown 3 properties you can set with the Open method, but there is another two properties you can set: a username and a password.

    These properties will only be used when the request page uses the WWW-Authenticate header. So lets have a look at using it in some code:
    Code:
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP" )
    
    getPage.Open "GET", "http://www.oreosnbeer.com/login.asp", False, "chris", "12345"
    getPage.Send 
    
    Response.Write(getPage.responseText)
    
    Set getPage = Nothing
    Nothing to it really! The only line that has changed is the getPage.Open… by simply adding a username and password!

    Wait a second! My code's not working!
    I thought that I would cover this last, to avoid confusion. There are a few versions of the XMLHTTP component out there, and for some reason, Microsoft has changed the progID every time. If the code I supplied doesn't work, try changing this line:
    Code:
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP" )
    To one of the following:
    Code:
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("MSXML2.ServerXMLHTTP" )
    Or
    Code:
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("MSXML2.XMLHTTP.3.0" )
    Monitoring the XMLHTTP COM
    *This technique will not work with Microsoft.XMLHTTP

    There are a few problems you could encounter while using the XMLHTPP COM. What if the server is down, and nothing is returned? Or the request is taking a long time to process? We need some error handling!

    XMLHTTP has two additional methods you can access, readyState and waitForResponse. The readyState is a read only property that returns a number between 0 and 4 that tells what the state is of the XMLHTTP object and mean the following:

    0 - Object has been created but has not been initialised because the open method has not been called.
    1 - The open method has been called, but the send has not
    2 - The send method has been called, and the headers and status' are available, but the content of the page is not.
    3 - Some data has been returned (hint, could be used for a "Loading…" script).
    4 - The request has been completed and the information is available in responseBody and responseText.

    The waitForResponse lets you define the amount of time, in seconds, the script is to wait for the remote server to reply. Remember at the start when I said we could cover the false property later? Well, not it's later. This property controls what kind of transfer method to use, synchronous or asynchronous. So far we've been setting this property to false, which means that we wanted to use a synchronous transfer.

    For this script, we need to us an asynchronous transfer, so we change the false to true. Also, when the request times out, even if you did define the waitForResponse time, the script will cause an error. Because of this, we need to check for an error after we have set the value of waitForResponse.

    So let have a look at the code:
    [code]
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP" )
    getPage.Open "GET", "http://www.oreosnbeer.com/", true
    getPage.Send

    On Error Resume Next

    If NOT getPage.readyState = 4 then
    getPage.waitForResponse = 5
    End if

    If err.number then
    Response.write("Sorry, some kind of error..."
    else
    If getPage.Status = 200 OR NOT getPage.readyState = 4 then
    response.write("Sorry, there was an error communicating with the remote server" )
    Else
    response.write(getPage.responseText)
    end if
    End if
    Set getPage = nothing

    There you go, nice and easy!

    The first three lines are the ones we've already looked at, but with the false changed to true in the open method so the transfer mode is changed to asynchronous.
    Code:
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("MSXML2.ServerXMLHTTP" )
    getPage.Open "GET", "http://www.oreosnbeer.com/", true
    getPage.Send
    Next we turn off error trapping
    Code:
    On Error Resume Next
    Then we check to see of the request has been returned, and if not, to wait 5 seconds
    Code:
    If NOT getPage.readyState = 4 then
    getPage.waitForResponse = 5
    End if
    Not we set up the error trapping to catch the script when the XMLHTTP request has timed out
    Code:
    If err.number then
    Response.write("Sorry, some kind of error..."
    And of it hasn't, we check to see if the page has actually returned by checking the status and readyState, and if its ok it posts the requested information to the page
    Code:
    If getPage.Status = 200 OR NOT getPage.readyState = 4 then
    response.write("Sorry, there was an error communicating with the remote serve" )
    Else
    response.write(getPage.responseText)
    end if
    Finally we close the first if statement and destroy the object
    Code:
    End if
    Set getPage = nothing
    Conclusion
    And that's it, there is the basics of using the mysterious component that is XMLHTTP. What can you use it for? Loads! You can let visitors no only download files from your site, but files that the browser would normally open. Or how about taking XML news feeds from site like Geek News (http://geeknews.net/backend.php)! There are many uses of the XMLHTTP COM, it's just up to you to think of them!

    Last edited by dhtmlgod; Jul 29, 2003 at 05:54.

  4. #4
    SitePoint Enthusiast
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    Hi guys,
    Here's some links that fully describe what XMLHTTP is and how to use to create menus etc:

    http://www.devarticles.com/art/1/70
    http://www.devarticles.com/art/1/25
    Get ConMan and run your own web site!

    Want free programming eBooks? http://www.devarticles.com/ebooks.php

  5. #5
    SitePoint Evangelist azizur_rahman's Avatar
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    does this mean I can rip off content from another site just like that?

    I think this is NOT fair. that someone with this ammount of knowledge can easily do that.

    I mean think back few years ago when requritment people did that and it ended up in a court case.


    Be aware people who's site you're getting the content from.

    Can this method be used to build my own search engine? I want to make my own robot engine and looking for ways.... if you have any hit please let me know.
    Azizur Rahman
    Web Application Developer

  6. #6
    SitePoint Addict drbones's Avatar
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    The only problem i see with XMLhttp is this..
    If you want to syndicate content using this method, the website of all users of your syndicated content must be a windows server or have asp support since the code to pull the info is in asp... If they are running on a basic linux server they'll be unable to use it..
    Is there someway the website recieving the content could make a call to include an asp file which accesses your server and spits back the include in plain html.. allowing people who use a basic server to use something along these lines as well?
    Thanks
    Ryan
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    75% of the MONEY it makes via Adsense forever!

    Sign up Now! <- $100 Top Poster Contest

  7. #7
    I have an opinion...
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    Getting the source of a web page using a *NIX based language such as PHP - which almost all *NIX host support. I will add that byte to byte, *NIX is faster for this functionality than is NT/Win2k.

    This is the simple way that has no support for timeouts, headers, etc.


    PHP Code:
    $http fopen$url"r" ) or die( "Unable to get page..." );
    while( !
    feof$http ) ) {
       
    $data .= fgets$http10 );
    }
    fclose$http );
    print( 
    $data ); 
    Egotist: A person more interested in himself than in me.
    KodeKrash - Eidix - Barrie LUG

  8. #8
    I have an opinion...
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    In regard to using XML HTTP for any kind of heavy usage, the answer is "no" - if you care about speed at all. If you are building a robot of any sort, I recommend that you go with PHP (or PERL), not ASP or VB. I built Assimilator in ASP/VBScript and it took over 2 hours to retrieve and parse 3000 pages. A similar version in compiled VB did about the same. In both cases, I used my own COM for the source retrieval, but tried XMLHTTP too. I wasn't happy with Assimilator in the least, so I wrote it in PHP. It now parses over 5000 pages about 5 minutes on average. Obviously, the source retrieval wasn't the only factor, but the execution time is a result of the final time it takes for all the HTTP queries. Doing 1 query at a time with XMLHTTP or 25 at a time with PHP threading - that was the big difference.
    Egotist: A person more interested in himself than in me.
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  9. #9
    The doctor is in... silver trophy MarcusJT's Avatar
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    DrBones, this can be easily achieved by applying a similar methodology to MoreOver.com - have a script which returns the page contents in javascript [i.e. "document.write("blah blah blah")] format, and then any web page (server-side scripting or not) can include the content. They would only need to implement something like the following in their pages, and the content would be injected into their page:

    <SCRIPT Language="JavaScript" SRC="http://yourserver.com/GetExternalURL.asp?URL=http:///www.sitepointforums.com"></SCRIPT>


    M@rco

  10. #10
    \m/ R.I.P. Dimebag! \m/ JimBolla's Avatar
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    Originally posted by KodeKrash
    Doing 1 query at a time with XMLHTTP or 25 at a time with PHP threading - that was the big difference.
    Kode is right about this. Thankfully for us ASP/VB delopers, ASP.NET has robust threading support, so getting performance closer to what PHP can do should now be much more viable.

  11. #11
    SitePoint Wizard big_al's Avatar
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    Originally posted by KodeKrash
    Doing 1 query at a time with XMLHTTP or 25 at a time with PHP threading - that was the big difference.
    VB Supports multithreading, or why not use a vc++ COM for even better features

    D,

    Great tut
    .NET Code Monkey

  12. #12
    \m/ R.I.P. Dimebag! \m/ JimBolla's Avatar
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    I've actually been using this in an application for the purpose of calling an ASP page and saving its results into an HTML file for report archival purposes. I ran into some trouble with the component and did a little research and found out something important that I think dhtmlgod should append to his otherwise great tutorial:


    SYMPTOMS
    Active Server Pages (ASP) script or Internet Server API (ISAPI) code that attempts to use XMLHttpRequest (Microsoft.XMLHTTP) functionality of the Microsoft XML engine (MSXML) to send XML requests to another Web server may function incorrectly or perform poorly.

    Also, you'll experience similar behavior if you attempt to load XML documents from other servers by supplying a URL to the XMLDOMDocument load method.

    CAUSE
    The XMLHttpRequest support in MSXML and the load method, when using a remote URL, sends HTTP requests using the Internet Explorer URLMON and WININET components. These components were designed and tested only to be used from a client machine in a regular user process. The IIS and ASP system runs in a protected server service that imposes performance and security constraints on server applications that breaks some of the functionality of URLMON and WININET.
    Source: http://support.microsoft.com/default...;EN-US;q237906


    The Workaround:
    I use MSXML2.ServerXMLHTTP instead.

    IServerXMLHTTPRequest/ServerXMLHTTP
    Provides methods and properties that enable you to establish an HTTP connection between files or objects on different Web servers.

    The ServerXMLHTTP object offers functionality similar to that of the XMLHTTP object. Unlike XMLHTTP, however, the ServerXMLHTTP object does not rely on the WinInet control for HTTP access to remote XML documents. ServerXMLHTTP uses a new HTTP client stack. Designed for server applications, this server-safe subset of WinInet offers the following advantages:

    Reliability — The HTTP client stack offers longer uptimes. WinInet features that are not critical for server applications, such as URL caching, auto-discovery of proxy servers, HTTP/1.1 chunking, offline support, and support for Gopher and FTP protocols are not included in the new HTTP subset.
    Security — The HTTP client stack does not allow a user-specific state to be shared with another user's session. ServerXMLHTTP provides support for client certificates.
    Note For more information about the limitations of the WinInet control, see WinInet Limits Connections Per Server.
    For more info: http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/de...quest_7zlc.asp

  13. #13
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    Unhappy proxy to image server

    I am trying do get an jpeg image off a image server using a ASP page... I am getting the data but the picture isn't showing up for some reason... Is there anything wrong with my code and does anyone know how to fix my problem:

    Dim getPage
    Set getPage = Server.CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP")

    getPage.Open "GET", URLloc, false
    getPage.send

    Response.ContentType = "image/jpeg"

    Response.BinaryWrite(getPage.responseBody)

    This page is being called by the client to get some image, which is why I haven't defined a specific .AddHeader. URLloc is a variable containing the url of the server which is captured furture up in the code.

    So far I have confirmed that the connection is being made because when I set the content type to text I get the jpeg file in "jibberish" form. When I set the conetent type like I have it above I get a box with a little box with a red x in it...

    I am really new to this subject, I have done the same thing in php and Java but am having trouble with ASP I am probably doing something stupid I will be grateful of any help! Thanks!

  14. #14
    SitePoint Wizard westmich's Avatar
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    Great Article - Please Fix Typo

    Great Article dhtl, just what I had been searching for. There is a typo in the first sample which threw me for quite a while -
    Code:
    objXMLHTTP.SetRequestHeader "Content-type", "text/html"
    instead of
    Code:
    getPage.SetRequestHeader "Content-type", "text/html"
    Westmich
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    http://www.mindscapecreative.com

  15. #15
    ALT.NET - because we need it silver trophybronze trophy dhtmlgod's Avatar
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    Took out vbs tags sorry it took me so long jofa, i forgot

  16. #16
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy asp_funda's Avatar
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    Well, if I want to get the search results from the Google Site & display it in my own page, how can I do that?? I will ofcourse provide a link that'll state powered by Google.
    Because Google already provides the service to integrate it into a site but the customisation of the page's layout is very limited.
    Our lives teach us who we are.
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    SitePoint Evangelist
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    I would really like to use this for something useful!!! Does anyone got any good ideas?

  18. #18
    Phil fillup07's Avatar
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    Do a search for an RSS feed of somethign that interests you (news, weather, sports, a specific topic, etc) and get the feed to be pulled automatically and put on your site.

  19. #19
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy asp_funda's Avatar
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    yeah, & you can have it rotate in a ticker made in either JavaScript or in Flash,
    Java maybe(haven't tried). This way, you can have a custom news ticker on
    your website.

    I'm going to have that in Flash on my upcoming personal website. I'll be pulling
    CNet's news feed on web technologies.
    Our lives teach us who we are.
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    Lightbulb ftp & gzip

    Any idea how to do this with FTP and gzip? I have tried but get an error.

  21. #21
    SitePoint Zealot Biffy's Avatar
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    Hi

    I think this is a great thread, would like to ask the following:

    Is the Microsoft XMLHTTP browser independent?

    This might seem like a dumb question [and I'm sure you'll put me straight soon enough] but I have read somewhere that you might get errors if you don't have MDAC or MSXML installed with IE. I am needing to use either XMLHTTP or AspTear for setting up a payment system - (I have to use one of these as this is specified by the bank and is how their system works) - and I am getting confused the more I read! The application must be completely compatible to everyone hence my question.

    Is anyone able to help please?

  22. #22
    ALT.NET - because we need it silver trophybronze trophy dhtmlgod's Avatar
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    All this code runs serverside, so yeah, its browser independent.


  23. #23
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy asp_funda's Avatar
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    I think a correction is required d. If you use XMLHTTP
    COM with ASP, then yes, its run on the server & is
    browser independent. But I think that you can use
    XMLHTTP COM with VBScript on client side too, for
    which you'd require IE. Correct me if I'm wrong.
    Our lives teach us who we are.
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  24. #24
    ALT.NET - because we need it silver trophybronze trophy dhtmlgod's Avatar
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    True, I meant the actual post (which I did over 2yrs ago! wow) was server-side. I've never really dealt with XMLHTTP client-side.


  25. #25
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy asp_funda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhtmlgod
    I've never really dealt with XMLHTTP client-side.
    Well, nor have I but I think that it can be used on client side too
    with VBScript or maybe even with JScript.
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