Good ol fashioned debugging
By Tim Dexter-Oracle on Mar 16, 2010
I have been helping out one of our new customers over the last day or two and I have even managed to get to the bottom of their problem FTW! They use BIEE and BIP and wanted to mount a BIP report in a dashboard page, so far so good, BIP does that! Just follow the instructions in the BIEE user guide. The wrinkle is that they want to enter some fixed instruction strings into the dashboard prompts to help the user. These are added as fixed values to the prompt as the default values so they appear first. Once the user makes a selection, the default strings disappear.
Its a fair requirement but the BIP report chokes
Now, the BIP report had been setup with the Autorun checkbox, unchecked. I expected the BIP report to wait for the Go button to be hit but it was trying to run immediately and failing. That was the first issue. You can not stop the BIP report from trying to run in a dashboard. Even if the Autorun is turned off, it seems that dashboard still makes the request to BIP to run the report. Rather than BIP refusing because its waiting for input it goes ahead anyway, I guess the mechanism does not check the autorun flag when the request is coming from the dashboard. It appears that between BIEE and BIP, they collectively ignore the autorun flag. A bug? might be, at least an enhancement request. With that in mind, how could we get BIP to not at least not fail?
This fact was stumping me on the parameter error, if the autorun flag was being respected then why was BIP complaining about the parameter values it should not even be doing anything until the Go button is clicked. I now knew that the autorun flag was being ignored, it was a simple case of putting BIP into debug mode. I use the OC4J server on my laptop so debug msgs are routed through the dos box used to start the OC4J container. When I changed a value on the dashboard prompt I spotted some debug text rushing by that subsequently disappeared from the log once the operation was complete. Another bug? I needed to catch that text as it went by, using the print screen function with some software to grab multiple screens as the log appeared and then disappeared.
The upshot is that when you change the dashboard prompt value, BIP validates the value against its own LOVs, if its not in the list then it throws the error. Because 'Fill this first' and 'Fill this second' ie fixed strings from the dashboard prompts, are not in the LOV lists and because the report is auto running as soon as the dashboard page is brought up, the report complains about invalid parameters.
To get around this, I needed to get the strings into the LOVs. Easily done with a UNION clause:
select 'Fill this first' from SH.Products Products UNION select Products."Prod Category" as "Prod Category" from SH.Products Products
Now when BIP wants to validate the prompt value, the LOV query fires and finds the fixed string -> No Error. No data, but definitely no errors :0)
If users do run with the fixed values, you can capture that in the template. If there is no data in the report, either the fixed values were used or the parameters selected resulted in no rows. You can capture this in the template and display something like.
'Either your parameter values resulted in no data or you have not changed the default values'
Thats the upside, the downside is that if your users run the report in the BP UI they re going to see the fixed strings. You could alleviate that by having BIP display the fixed strings in top of its parameter drop boxes (just set them as the default value for the parameter.) But they will not disappear like they do in the dashboard prompts, see below.
If the expected autorun behaviour worked ie wait for the Go button, then we would not have to workaround it but for now, its a pretty good solution.
It was an enjoyable hour or so for me, took me back to my developer daze, when we used to race each other for the most number of bug fixes. I used to run a distant 2nd behind 'Bugmeister Chen Hu' but led the chasing pack by a reasonable distance.