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My APEX application asks users to log in twice

April 10, 2008

I had this problem with an Apex application I’m building, and finally found the cause this morning, so I thought I’d share it.

This particular application has some pages which are only available to authenticated users, and some pages which are visible to everyone. One nice thing about Apex is that it automatically redirects users to the Login screen if they try to navigate to a protected page.

After authentication, the user doesn’t have to login again – they can now see all pages of the application that I want them to see. This used to work fine.

Recently I noticed that sometimes I’d Login with my username and password, click on a Tab, and it would ask me to Login again. In these instances, it’d only ask me to Login just the second time – after that, it would be fine. I wrote it off as a random glitch on my home-grown server. It seemed to be random, and after a while I noticed it was happening once every day. I looked all through my application, trying to find any links that didn’t pass the &SESSION. through, but I couldn’t find any such problems. I looked at some other applications on the same server – no problems there, it was just this one application.

Just this morning I went in, and happened to notice something not quite right. Normally, when I go into an application, the URL looks something like this:

http://www.xyz.com/apex/f?p=100:1:318727495645403::NO

The site should generate the long numeric Session ID automatically. However, I noticed my URL looked like this:

http://www.xyz.com/apex/f?p=100:1:0::NO

The Session ID was zero. This is a relatively new feature of Apex which I use for my fully-public applications (i.e. ones which require no authentication), where no Session ID is required – it means users can bookmark individual pages without having a long Session ID embedded in the URL.

The cause? When I updated my index page of Apex applications, I copied another entry without thinking, and so included the “0” for the Session ID. So when I first logged in, it gave me a new session, but somewhere internally Apex still had my Session ID = 0, requiring me to Login again. After this, the internal reference to my session was updated. I don’t know if this is expected behaviour or a bug in Apex.

The fix? Remove the 0 from the initial link (e.g. now it looks like “http://www.xyz.com/apex/f?p=100:1″) – zero session IDs are only appropriate for applications that require no login at all anyway.

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