Open Source Love Day June 2010

July 4, 2010

Last wednesday, we held our Open Source Love Day for June 2010. This one was productive despite the heat that had us sweating the whole day long (as a sidenote: it got even warmer the days afterwards). Some features were finished and will help at least us in our projects. We still look forward for the right way to release them. Another release was even more problematic, you will read about it below.

The Open Source Love Day

We introduced a monthly Open Source Love Day (OSLD) to show our appreciation to the Open Source software ecosystem and to donate back. We heavily rely on Open Source software for our projects. We would be honored if you find our contributions useful. Check out our first OSLD blog posting for details on the event itself.

On this OSLD, we accomplished the following tasks:

  • Launch4j is a java application launcher for Windows, handling all the stuff a startup script would do, too. At the last OSLD, we added the ability to restart the application in case of a crash or other unplanned exit. To utilize this feature for automatic update routines, we needed to add the additional feature of starting another command instead of the original one. If the program fills a special file with the command needed, Launch4j will execute it after the program’s exit. This patch builds onto the previous patch and we are still investigating how to publish this functionality without breaking backward compatibility. We are looking forward to release it on the next OSLD.
  • We use RXTX to perform the serial (RS232) communication on all our java projects. We worked on an issue with serial converters over the course of several OSLDs now and released the patch to the issue tracker of RXTX after a longterm stability test. See the reworked patch for issue #144. There is another issue with the flush() method that seems to affect not only virtual RS232 ports that we currently investigate. But we aren’t yet able to come up with a complete issue description or a fix, so this will be suspended until the next OSLD.
  • We have written the Campfire Hudson Plugin as part of previous OSLDs. When issues emerged, we got patches from the community here. Thank you guys! We included the changes to the code and prepared a new release, when maven failed. This is not an issue, except when it fails repeatedly and messes up the workspace and the repository. After a long time of helpless fiddling with the parameters, we decided to start over and increase the version number to 2.1 (instead of 1.2). All of a sudden, everything worked out fine. Maven is a mysterious beast.
  • The initial work for a New Hudson Plugin was made. One tradition of the OSLD has always been to scratch our own itches. While there are many useful hudson plugins, we have the immediate need for another one that doesn’t exist yet. Without going into details here (we save this for the next OSLD), we produced a proof of concept and a first iteration of the code. Stay tuned for details on the next OSLD.

What were our lessons learnt today?

  • If you don’t succeed with maven’s automatic processes, do not try to sort out things manually. You’ll just end up with a gigantic mess that won’t work either way. The best way to deal with maven failures is to revert everything and try again with different parameters.
  • The best approach to develop hudson plugins is to adapt the old “monkey see, monkey do” process. There are so many plugins already, chances are good your immediate question was already answered somewhere. Just check the found solution for accidental complexity. Sometimes, the first solution isn’t the easiest.
  • When dealing with the legacy Win32 API, combined knowledge scraping is king. We had discussions throughout the day that only consisted of little parts of recollections about knowledge that seemed long forgotten. But finally, we put the pieces together and solved the problem. It should be called teamthink, i guess.

Retrospective on the OSLD

The weather at this OSLD was way too hot to operate at normal speed. But we got some nice results and a cliffhanger for the next OSLD. We left soaked with sweat but happy that evening.


Follow-up to our Dev Brunch June 2010

June 27, 2010

Today, we held our Dev Brunch for June 2010. It was a small group of developers this time, too, as some of our usual attendees turned into parents and can’t wrap their head around anything but their kid. First things first. The good news is that today, we had a new attendee that joined our group after reading our blog articles. This time, the communication beforehands went right. Our office roof garden once again served as a great hangout place as we discussed the topics listed below.

The Dev Brunch

If you want to know more about the meaning of the term “Dev Brunch” or how we implement it, have a look at the follow-up posting of the brunch in October 2009. We continue to allow presence over topics. Our topics for the brunch were:

Google Web Toolkit, internationalization (i18n) and customer customizable text – This wasn’t a presentation, but more a discussion of different options around the fact that GWT i18n works best (and smoothest) when baked into the compiled binary. If you have a customer that wants to change every textual aspect of your projects, chances are that performance will suffer. If your job is to provide a flexible, yet powerful base product as a starting point for individual customer solutions, there’s a huge tradeoff to make here.

First-hand experience of Yoxos 5 Beta – The EclipseSource Yoxos Launcher is a cool new product that helps to keep the management overhead in setting up your IDE (eclipse as you might already have concluded) minimal. It’s a little program that downloads and sets up everything you specified in your launch profile and starts a ready-to-use eclipse instance. You can share the launch profile and keep it in sync so everybody in your group can be sure to work with the complete official setup. This talk was about a real-world use case, the unique features and the areas that still need a bit more work. Remember that it’s beta.

A book chapter review of The Passionate Programmer – The book is the second revision of the former “My Job Went To India…” book from the Pragmatic Bookshelf. It contains insights and advices on making a living in software development. It also has a focus on enterprise career planning in the IT with the background threat of outsourcing or even offshoring. Two chapters were discussed in more detail: That you should keep a map of your technology skills up-to-date (like this example) and that you really should seek to make friends with software maintainance work, as it probably will be the actual job that pays your bills.

Introduction to Code Squiggles – One of the results of a experimental quest to improve the coding style in Java are Code Squiggles. There will be a full-detail blog entry about them shortly, so this is just a teaser. Code Squiggles don’t add functionality or safety to your code, but seek to improve the readability of your code. The ultimate goal is to have your program written down in plain english with a few funny letters in between. Basically, they are intentional bloat to help the casual code reader.

As usual, the topics ranged from first-hand experiences and impressions to literature reviews and research. For additional information provided by the talk authors, check out the comment section (or leave a comment to request further content). Comments and resources might be in german language.

Retrospection of the brunch

Today, we started by giving a quick introduction of ourselves to each other. Being a small group, we digressed a lot more as time wasn’t that much of an issue. The list above is in no way a summary of all the sidenotes and topics we really talked about, it’s just the main topics that served as a starting point for insightful developer chatter. The brunch keeps getting better.


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