Archive for December, 2005

On the Rails Again

Back from JavaPolis, and seeing the Rails book lying where I’ve left it last Tuesday, made me pick it up and continue reading — instead of looking into GlassFish, the new persistency API, JSF and all the other new stuff I’ve seen in Antwerpen. It’s all alpha, beta, preview releases; and even if it isn’t it’s still so far away: Jeroen (colleague also attending JavaPolis) and I figured we’re lucky if we’ll be able to use Java SE 5 in our daily work (read: in BEA WebLogic) by the end of 2006 (when Mustang, Java 6 is already out), and Java EE 5 by the end of 2007 (when Dolphin, Java 7 is out). Two years and two more Java versions before we can use the technology we’ve been presented this week! So I’ve more or less lost interest momentarily and gone back on track with Rails.

There was very little mention of Ruby at JavaPolis. None of the people I spoke with had actually done anything with Ruby. What I did see:
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2005-12-17. 8 responses.

JavaPolis Disconnected

Lesson learned: a hotel which advertises with ‘WiFi’ as one of its rooms’ facilities may actually charge a substantial amount of money for that service; do not assume that it’s included in the room price. Not that I can’t afford 22 euros for a day of WiFi access, or that my employer wouldn’t pay it for me; I just refuse to pay that much money for it. At home (sorry, product placement) I get high-speed Internet access for a month for that amount. And it’s not that I’m in some faraway country; I’m just around the corner, in Antwerpen, at the JavaPolis conference — where there’s no reasonably priced WiFi available either. So this blog entry is written on old fashioned paper (the fancy JavaPolis notebook that we got in the goody bag), and you won’t be able to read it until Saturday, when I return.

On my first day at JavaPolis, I’ve already seen several interesting new things. After seeing a presentation on EJB3 and the new persistence API, I was left wondering why anyone would want to use Hibernate anymore. In a year or so, you’ll have this elegant-looking, standard ORM solution built into the application server you’re already using anyway. Furthermore, writing EJBs suddenly seems to become a fun thing to do. Just write the business interface, chuck in an annotation or two, and you’re ready to deploy.

I saw two excellent presentations, one about concurrency in Java 5: Brian Goetz explained very clearly, and with numerous examples, how to use the new concurrency functions, and why you would want to use them. Concurrency performance turns out to be much better than using synchronization. In Java 5 that is; in Java 6 the core language team optimized synchronization so the performance is up to par again with the concurrency library. I wonder why they waited so long with doing that optimization…

The other presentation was about Shale, by David Geary (who has some interesting blog entries about his experiences with Ruby and Rails by the way). Shale is named ‘the new Struts’, but technically it doesn’t have much to do with Struts — and maybe that’s just as well. It’s based heavily on JSF for its web interface, but it also borrows from Tapestry, Seam, and Spring WebFlow; although Shale’s webflow mechanism seems to be somewhat easier to use. However, now that I’ve seen Ruby on Rails, it occurred to me how insanely many XML config files are still used by something like Shale. I hadn’t expected this from someone so enthousiastic about Rails. Is it really impossible to have anything in Java without a heap of XML files accompanying it? I don’t think so; the EJB3 presentation showed that it is possible, using annotations and convention over configuration. People are starting to understand that developers want to code, not configurate!

2005-12-14. 5 responses.

Vacation! But first, JavaPolis

The best moment in any vacation is when you shut the office door behind you, the night before the vacation begins. You feel a free man, even if it’s only for a few days or weeks. Today I had that moment, and I’m still enjoying it now.
This year, my Christmas vacation starts off with a visit to the JavaPolis conference in Antwerp, Belgium. Technically, it’s still work; but it’s a lot more fun than solving issues and debugging code, which I’ve been doing since our first major release back in October.

The other night, a colleague told me he doesn’t like going to conferences because you get so little out of the — usually short — presentations. But for me, a conference like this is all about hearing and seeing new things, being inspired, getting new ideas, thinking up new plans, new projects… As well as meeting people: people I’ve worked with in previous projects, or people that you only knew on-line, or people who helped build the stuff we’re using everyday: Java, Google, Spring etcetera. Not that meeting them would change the way you work with their tools, but I think that people who’ve created something noteworthy, are often inspiring to meet and talk to. A conference can be so much more than just the presentations you attend. I hope JavaPolis will be like that.

I’m going to try to blog whenever I can, but that will probably only be at night, in my hotel. WiFi seems to be the one thing missing from JavaPolis, unfortunately.

2005-12-13. No responses.

Six Figure Ruby: 10 ways to make money with Ruby right now

Like I wrote earlier, it’s frustrating to learn a new language when you don’t get to use it straight away. So I’ve come up with 10 creative ways that will get you started today with making big money (or fame) with your newly acquired Ruby skills.

1. Convince the company where you’re currently doing a Java project (you are, aren’t you?) that they should hire you to convert their corporate website or intranet to Ruby on Rails. Use terms like ‘enterprise ready’, ‘cluster aware’, ‘web 2.0’, ‘TCO’, ‘ROI’, and you’re in business! Now you’ll only have to tell the 5 Java coders who are currently maintaining these sites fulltime, why they’re losing their jobs thanks to you…

2. Take a weekend off to write the successor to in Ruby — now that Yahoo bought it, there will be plenty of people looking for an ad-free alternative (so you should wait a bit before selling it to Google).

3. Start your own line of merchandising around the world-famous foxes. Sure, there’s the t-shirts already, but I’m talking about a much bigger picture here: cute pluche foxes, fox mugs, fox mousepads, fox gloves, fox pens, fox caps, fox laptop bags… And all this royalty-free, thanks to the generosity of Why!

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2005-12-11. 6 responses.

Java is minimal only in the apidocs, not in our minds

The battle of Ruby vs. Java is breaking loose big time. You haven’t heard? Seriously? Well, I’m not going to add yet another blog entry with a summary of the whole discussion started by Martin Fowler; you’ll find an excellent summary on The Farm (but don’t stop there; you don’t want to miss, for example, Elliotte Rusty Harold discovering the versatility of Ruby’s Array class). My local Ruby guru advised me earlier on against comparing Ruby with Java, and I agree: you should use each language where it’s best suited.

But I would like to ask the ‘minimalists’ (pro-minimal interface, vs. humanists: pro-humane interface) this. In the last three years of Java coding, I haven’t been on a project where at least commons-lang, commons-collections and commons-beanutils weren’t included, from the start, and used throughout the code.[1] My point is, our (= coders) virtual interface to List/String/Class/etcetera does already contain all those extra, some say superfluous, methods. If I want to do a select(predicate) on a collection, I know I can — it’s just a matter of remembering which to use: Collection, Collections or CollectionUtils. But virtually, it’s just an operation on the Collection interface to me. However minimal the Collection interface is in the apidocs, in my mind there’s a lot more I can have a collection do. So if we’re generally aiming at keeping things simple, why aren’t these operations on the Collection interface itself? So what if it takes 78 methods, or 780 for all I care — if that’s where they belong, we should put them there instead of spreading them out artificially over utility classes.[2]


1. And even that wasn’t enough sometimes for fairly basic tricks, like the one I wanted to do just recently: convert a collection of objects to a map with key/value pairs coming from the objects’ properties. It’s not in commons-collections (let alone java.util.Collections). Yet another utility method added to the project, and not even trivial to code. While in Ruby, it’s nothing more than a fresh breeze of code…

map = {}
objects.collect {|obj| map[obj.key_property] = obj.value_property}

2. Why do people get nervous over big numbers so often? Isn’t that what we have computers for? And where should we place the limit? Obviously, 22 methods is ‘officially approved’, 78 is not; so is 23 okay? 24? Why should we have an arbitrary limit? Personally, I think it would be better to just consider the behaviour we want a class to have, no matter how many methods it takes.

2005-12-10. 2 responses.

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