Thursday, May 24, 2007

Branching out

I recently stumbled across a glowing review of the Wicket framework that made me want to research it and try it out. The author's main argument for Wicket was that it's pretty much just HTML and Wicket, as opposed to the combination of Spring, Spring Webflow, JSP, and tons of other stuff thrown into the mix. Unfortunately I really don't have the time to mess around with it right now, but I'll try to be back on this topic later.

*EDIT* : To add to the list of things I should really learn, Seam's going on the pile. It looks very cool and it's made by Gavin King, the maker of Hibernate. (I know I've bitched about how bad the Hibernate documentation is on numerous occasions, but really, I can't blame him since I hate doing documentation just about as much as if not more than the next guy)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Better idea for multi-versioned webapps

A while ago at our company, a request was made to me to create a separate instance of one of our webapplications for a select group of customers. In doing this, I had to create a separate instance of the backing database and copy over much of a preexisting version of the application's database which was simply configuration data.

It occurred to me today while working on another part of the application that I really should have separated the configuration from the data. The hard part about that is keeping security intermingled between data (for audit trailing) and keeping security intermingled with the configuration data (as part of configuration). I'm still searching for an answer to that one.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Excel and its annoying quirks

Excel has this annoying quirk of propagating unwanted hyperlinks in the background of spreadsheets, and in our organization, it gets to the point where it infests every cell of the sheet. But, I did find a fix (sorta). Press Alt+F11 to go into the VB editor in Excel, go to Insert -> Module, and paste this in:

Sub RemoveHyperlinks()

'Remove all hyperlinks from the active sheet

End Sub

Save it, return to the worksheet, press Alt+F8 to open the macros menu (Tools -> Macro -> Macros otherwise) and run the Macro of the same name as the subroutine above. This should delete all your hyperlinks. Unfortunately, this will most likely remove all other special formatting in the cells as well. If you have a really large worksheet, it will most likely cause Excel (XP and earlier at least) to crash, so you should really save your work immediately before you do this (or before you add the Macro to the sheet).

Taking a REST

Lately I've started to get back into research mode in the hopes of making my development cycles shorter, especially since the end of a large sprint is in view. With that in mind, I find myself being continually reminded of the increasing demand for REST-ful applications (ie web applications that make use of the REST HTTP method as opposed to POST or GET). I'm finding it's at least something I shoud be familiar with as a web developer, even if I don't use it.
*EDIT* : Look up UML with Rational Rose

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Spring Batch Processing

No, it's not batch processing that takes place in the springtime (although that does happen at our company). It's actually a new subproject of the Spring Framework meant to provide a convenient , common framework for batch processing, and it might be just the thing I need to help me out. Oddly, I found out about it while I was searching for the documentation for the Spring-binding package.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Quirks with Maven2 and m2eclipse

If you're using m2eclipse (which I've found to be quite useful), you should be aware that it doesn't always check the settings.xml file in the local repository or in the maven home dir, and so that pesky command-that-you're-trying-to-get-working-that-should-be-working-after-you've -updated-settings.xml-but-still-isn't-working may have to be run from the command line using 'mvn' rather than from within eclipse.

Logs and RSSH

I've learned the hard why today why logs are uberuseful (once again) and that RSSH is a pain to debug if you're having trouble with it. For future reference, check '/var/log/messages' as the first thing you do when having trouble with SSH, especially RSSH.

For those not in the know, RSSH stands for Restricted Secure SHell, and is very useful if you want to create jails for people who have to transfer files between their boxes and your server. However, it's very hard to debug because when you log in, you don't get any messages, you either get the "This is a an account restricted by RSSH" message or you get the ever so friendly and useful "Connection closed" message. As it turned out, the passwords for several of my users had expired today and this created a huge issue when they weren't able to upload batch files to our server. After spending just over an hour finding that the problem was related to SSH login, I received a very helpful message from one of the people who operates our server showing me a grepped slice of the /var/log/messages log saying that the password had expired for several of the users : coincidentally, the only users that I had tried troubleshooting the problem with.
The point of all this: check '/var/log/messages'.

*EDIT:* Today is officially known as Bad Monday for me.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Fucking Hibernate

God f*ck*ng dammit, I'm so freaking tired of fucking Hibernate's shitty ass documentation wasting my time:

In the event that you ever have to query in HQL on a component and that component contains ManyToOne elements (ie entities, rather than strings or numbers), you have to query on properties of that element rather than the element itself and have hibernate query for the ID.

...which is lame, considering Hibernate is so good about that kind of thing everywhere else.

Maven ... and why you should use it (2, not 1)

For the longest time during my developer's journey of discovery while learning how to build web applications, I've come across references to Maven and how it's a build system like Ant, but supposedly better. I've also heard untold numbers of references to it being frustrating and very difficult to use, largely due to shitty documentation. It was for this reason that I avoided learning it and just stuck with my current build process, which is just using Ant, exporting everything with eclipse, then manually uploading things to the server. Or in the case of dealing with a library I've made that I share among various web apps, compiling everything, going through Eclipse's JAR export wizard and copying files around. No more.

I must have came into Maven at the right time because I've found there to be lots of documentation (or at least a sufficient amount for myself) to learn it and get going with it. I've also converted my library from just using Ant to using Maven to build it, test it, package it and deploy it to a central server within my company that will now be the new Maven repository for the library. From now on, my applications can retrieve it from a central repository for me automatically instead of me having to manually export the library, copy it around, and maintain various versions of it in CVS. And I'm thrilled that this is going to make my life easier.

I did however run into a few quirks when getting Maven going. They're as follows:
1) You should really align your project to have the same layout structure as the one recommended by the Maven documentation. It'll get things going faster and you'll have far fewer build problems.

2) If you use Java (1.)5 or greater, you may need to manually insert configuration settings in order to get your (tests in my case, and possibly other) code to compile properly since Maven strives to achieve compatibility by default and will likely try to compile your code for older VMs such as 1.3. To configure Maven to use 1.5 (or whatever) by default, put the following snippets in your pom.xml file :

<project ... >



3) Deploying your library (or other code) to a Maven repository is wicked easy, especially since Maven doesn't require any special software to set one up: a Maven repository is just a folder containing libraries and metadata with a prescribed folder layout and naming convention. The code for deploying to a server is as simple as this :

<!-- This repository depends on the following settings.xml file being in the local maven2 repository
and a .ssh folder being created under ~ (or %HOMEPATH%) in Windows:
<settings xmlns=""

<username>[REPOSITORY USER]</username>
<password>[REPOSITORY PASSWORD]</password>

<name>My Maven2 Repository</name>

Maven has been pretty simple to set up and use so far, once you've read the documentation and you have at least some idea of what you're doing. I also recommend getting the m2eclipse plugin if you're going to be using Maven with Eclipse. My next steps are going to be getting Maven to compile my XMLBeans for me and deploying those as well.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The head is venturing out of the ass

For the longest time, I've had my head up my ass: I've been content to build my projects with ant and the (very few) ant targets I've really needed: reports, xmlbeans and hibernate. (And fiddling around with jspc to precompile my JSPs). But now I've found that using Xdoclet2 for Hibernate is no longer acceptable since a certain bug has forced me away from it, and now I'm finding that it's time to move on to real build systems like Maven2. I've been scared away from it before by the fact that I've heard that it's exceedingly poorly documented and that it's been a total pain and has load of incompatibilities, but apparently it's been getting better and now I'm forced to learn it in the hopes of saving myself some trouble. I'm also going to have to learn EJB3 Annotations and their Hibernate extensions, but that's another matter. Let's see how it goes.