HTTP ETag Header

These are useful for some advanced caching behavior, but there are cases where you might find them unnecessary for static files (in particular). Most network analysis tools will call attention to this header value, and while it seems like a trivial amount of bandwidth to send from the server to the client, the real reason for the negative score is more likely related to the behaviors that it causes in the client.

It should be noted that the default value used for the ETag is based upon the ‘inode’ of the file, as such it’s IS problematic in clustered server environments. I’ve shown the correction for this below.

Adding the following to your Apache http.conf file is a start:

# Change ETag to remove the iNode (for multi-server environments)
FileETag MTime Size

#Remove ETag from all static content, this could be done globally without the FilesMatch, but we want better control.
<FilesMatch "\.(html|htm|js|css|gif|jpe?g|png|pdf|txt|zip|7z|gz|jar|war|tar|ear|java|pac)$">
<IfModule header_module>
Header unset ETag



HTTP Cookie Header

Obviously “Cookies” have a lot of advantages in web applications to maintain “state”, unfortunately using standard server configurations leads to even static content serving them up un-necessarily wasting some (minimal) bandwidth.

Adding the following to the Apache httpd.conf file is a start:
#Remove Cookie from all static content (except HTML as javascript could use it)
<FilesMatch "\.(html|htm|js|css|gif|jpe?g|png|pdf|txt|zip|7z|gz|jar|war|tar|ear|java|pac)$">
<IfModule header_module>
Header unset Cookie



Avoid CSS Expressions

MSIE5 added support for CSS expressions or “Dynamic Properties”, however MSIE8 ‘deprecated’ their use and prevents their use in Standards Mode.

While powerful because this allowed you to script your CSS dynamically, there were two primary problems.

  1. Performance – the expression could fire literally hundreds or thousands of times on a page when scrolled or resized.
  2. Security – this represented an attack vector and exposed XSS


Java final modifier keyword

I’ve been a huge fan of the ‘final‘ modifier in Java for function arguments and variables. While there’s some debate on their usefulness for performance, they definitely add in readability and understanding of code as developers are instantly notified by modern IDE’s and when they try to reassign such values as the compiler will indicate the error.

NOTE: Use of final for classes or functions often contradicts the paradigm of Object Oriented programming as you’ll be restricted from extending or overriding those items!

JSP Whitespace reduction

I’ve often found that most JSP developers are uncertain as to why their HTML output contains a lot of extra blank-lines, tabs and carriage returns. White space included in the template text of JSP pages is preserved by default. This can have undesirable effects. For example, a carriage return added after a taglib directive would be added to the response output as an extra line. This cruft is known as WhiteSpace, and it is responsible for a lot of wasted bandwidth and many spacing issues in HTML designs.

The challenge:

  • Developers that only use WYSIWYG editors are never even aware of the extra spacing within JSP source code.
  • Developers that work in source code often want to format the markup to allow for better visualization and readability of the source code.
  • Most IDE’s do not show the developers the special characters within the editor environment, external text editors such as NotePad++ and TextPad can be configured to show them.

Here’s a few suggested approaches on removing these, first development items:

  1. Remove comments:
    • Remove any (and all) JSP style comments <%-- comment --%> as each line in them will result in a carriage return being sent to the browser.
    • While you are at it, remove HTML comments <!-- comment --> as they often expose potential attack vectors for individuals trying to hack your website.
  2. Combine your JSP directives, <%@page %> or < /> into a single entry.
  3. Open and close all tags on a single line when possible.

Compiler options are possible for some platforms:

  • The page directive on each JSP can contain the argument to tell the compiler to trim the space in individual JSP’s:
    < language="java" pageEncoding="utf-8" trimDirectiveWhitespaces="true" />
  • For Tomcat (and others?) web.xml can be edited to contain the following in the jsp-config section:

  • For Tomcat (and others?) web.xml can be edited to contain the following for the JSPServlet:

  • The deployment descriptor can also be used to do so by adding a trim-directive-whitespaces element to a jsp-property-group element in the deployment descriptor and set it to true.
  • Some IDE’s expose the attribute, NetBeans 5.5 uses the following:
    1. Open the deployment descriptor file in the editor.
    2. Click the Pages button at the top of the editor.
    3. Select a JSP property group.
    4. Select the Trim Directive Whitespaces checkbox.
    5. Save the deployment descriptor.
  • Custom tag authors can eliminate white space from the output generated by a tag file by setting the trimDirectiveWhiteSpace attribute of the tag directive to true.

JSP Version Matrix for common servers:

Apache Tomcat 7.0.x JSP 2.2
Apache Tomcat 6.0.x JSP 2.1
Apache Tomcat 5.5.x JSP 2.0
Apache Tomcat 4.1.x JSP 1.2
Apache Tomcat 3.3.x JSP 1.1
IBM WebSphere Application Server 7.x JSP 2.x
IBM WebSphere Application Server 6.x JSP 2.0
IBM WebSphere Application Server 5.x JSP 1.2


Happy coding!

Enable HTTP GZip compression on Apache Tomcat

This one escaped me for a long time and I never saw a decent example of it in any of the documentation.

GZip compression saves on network bandwidth as files are compressed during transport between the HTTP Server and browser/client. If you already use Apache HTTP or a similar webserver to front Tomcat, this is not always necessary, but in cases where you expose your appserver directly, even if it is just for testing, you may want to add this configuration item as it increases the perceived speed of the application.

The solution is simple:

  1. To be safe, first stop the server and backup your configuration files
  2. Look in the /TOMCAT/conf installation folder.
  3. In the ‘server.xml’ file, you will find a line resembling…
    <Connector port="8080" protocol="HTTP/1.1" connectionTimeout="20000" redirectPort="8443" />
  4. This one controls the HTTP/1.1 connections, add a new value to the list…
  5. NOTE You might also see a value for for AJP/1.3, unfortunately compression only works for HTTP:
    <Connector port="8009" protocol="AJP/1.3" redirectPort="8443" />
  6. Restart your server.


Apache Tomcat Native Library (APR)

If you have ever looked at the console or logs while starting a Tomcat instance on Windows you have probably seen the following line about APR.

INFO: The Apache Tomcat Native library which allows optimal performance in production environments was not found on the java.library.path

As long as the “tcnative-1.dll”  is in the Windows PATH, generally you can place it in c:\windows\system32, but any other location in the PATH will work should you need it to be portable, or have different versions in use.

NOTE: Other Operating Systems use a similar approach as Windows to add an environmental variable, optionally you can also add the appropriate location to the “java.library.path” attribute used when calling the VM, if you are more technically inclined. Also, be aware of 32 vs. 64 bit architectures when selecting your version!


Windows NTFS Performance

For a very long time I was perplexed as to why my old 900Mhz Pentium-3 server outperformed many of my newer and faster machines, even when they all were running with essentially the same amount of memory and had the same 7200rpm hard-drives.

I recently realized that over the years, I had optimized the WindowsXP NTFS registry settings with a variety of software and manual edits, and thus had essentially changed the way that windows works with the drive itself.

Here are the current settings that these machines utilize, perhaps you can try them for yourselves:

WARNING: You need to be confortable making edits to your registry to do these changes, as such I will not document ‘how’ to open the registry itself, you can easily find that info anyways.  These are all DWORD settings.


  • DisableNTFSLastAccessUpdate  = 1
  • NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation = 1
  • NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate = 1
  • NtfsMftZoneReservation = 2


JavaScript StringBuffer

Eventually, you come to a point where the performance of JavaScript becomes an issue.  Most modern browsers have made significant improvements  in their javascript engines, unfortunately Microsoft has yet to do the same.  MSIE’s (at least up to and including MSIE8)  javascript performance lags far behind Mozilla/Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera.

String concatenation is extremely slow in MSIE,  but arrays are generally fast… as such it’s often beneficial to implement an object similar to the Java StringBuffer (or StringBuilder) for JavaScript.

The StringBuffer implementation… you can customize to make it more functional, but this is the core:

function StringBuffer(){
this.buffer = [];
StringBuffer.prototype.append = function append(string){
return this;
StringBuffer.prototype.toString = function toString(){
return this.buffer.join(“”);


function example_slow(x1,x2,x3){
var rc = x1;
return rc;

function example_fast(x1,x2,x3){
var sb = new StringBuffer();
return sb.toString();



Data URL’s (aka HTML Inline Images)

Here’s a useful trick for minimizing server HTTP connections, unfortunately it’s not universally supported so you will need to provide alternate methods for non-supporting browsers (such as MSIE).

This works by placing the content of the image into the URL itself, as such there’s no need to open up a new server connection and no extra caching at any tier.

<img src=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhEAAOALMAAOazToeHh0tLS/7LZv/0jvb29t/f3//Ub/ /ge8WSLf/rhf/3kdbW1mxsbP//mf///yH5BAAAAAAALAAAAAAQAA4AAARe8L1Ekyky67QZ1hLnjM5UUde0ECwLJoExKcppV0aCcGCmTIHEIUEqjgaORCMxIC6e0CcguWw6aFjsVMkkIr7g77ZKPJjPZqIyd7sJAgVGoEGv2xsBxqNgYPj/gAwXEQA7″ alt=”embedded folder icon” width=”16″ height=”14″ />