Matt RaibleMatt Raible is a Web Architecture Consultant specializing in open source frameworks.

10+ YEARS


Over 10 years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Since then, I've authored books, had kids, traveled the world, found Trish and blogged about it all.

Minecraft Modding at Denver's Devoxx4Kids

Devoxx4Kids Denver: Minecraft Modding Last weekend, Denver's Devoxx4Kids gathered at Tuliva to learn about Modding Minecraft. Several kids (ages 7-15) were introduced to programming Java by the founder of Devoxx4Kids USA, Arun Gupta, and his son, Aditya.

They used Java 8, Eclipse, Minecraft Forge and to show you how to create mods that could give you potatoes, skeleton cows, and even launch into different dimensions. The skeleton war was a big hit too. We had a record turnout at this event, and the space was fabulous. The live broadcast from vJUG went very smoothly and Tuliva's large screen and sound served us well. It was pretty sweet when we got shout-outs from the vJUG crew too!

Thanks for the great space Tuliva! Watching Arun and Aditya on vJUG

Simon Maple wrote a great summary of the session that includes the video we watched, as well as an interview with Arun and Aditya. Take a look at Devoxx4Kid's Minecraft Modding Tutorial if you'd like to see what we learned.

We did run into a couple issues while trying to follow along. The first was that the virtual machines we were using wouldn't run the Minecraft client. The error we saw was:

org.lwjgl.LWJGLException: Pixel format not accelerated

We later learned from Arun that virtual machines were an issue and it's better to use Forge on a local machine. The second issue we ran into was when folks tried to build Forge from source, they got a 500 error when it tried to download http://export.mcpbot.bspk.rs/versions.json. We later learned that the firewall was blocking it.

Despite these issues, I believe the kids learned a lot by watching the vJUG broadcast. I spoke with some parents that got things working in the class, as well as a few that tried it when they got home. After the modding session, I showed the class how to create a Minecraft Server on AWS. I also did some research to see if you could automate the server creation. I quickly landed on Thomas Offermann's site and his tutorials:

Thomas created a couple GitHub projects: one to setup a Minecraft server on AWS, as well as a webapp that you can start/stop it with. I haven't tried either project yet, but I hope to soon.

Thanks to all the Denver kids and parents that joined us last weekend! The Tuliva facilities were spacious and comfortable. We owe them a big thanks for sponsoring Devoxx4Kids Denver! We hope to do another workshop this fall, possibly on Raspberry Pi.

Posted in Java at Aug 19 2015, 08:41:52 AM MDT Add a Comment

How do I become a programmer?

Yesterday, I received a message from a friend, asking about how to become a programmer. It's not the first time I've been asked this. In fact, this summer I've been asked by several friends how to get into the field. It seems that as people grow older, they see the lifestyle of working remotely and enjoying their job as an attractive thing to do. In yesterday's case, this friend is a mom that now has her days free because all her kids are in school. Here's what she wrote:

Now that my girls are both in school full day, I've been thinking about taking some programming classes. It's something I started to do while I was working at [ABC Company], but obviously didn't pursue once I quit to have kids. I'm thinking of getting my MIS in web development or specializing in designing apps if that's even a thing? Anyway, what languages would you recommend I concentrate on? JavaScript, Python? Lastly, is there a particular school you would recommend? I can't afford DU on my stay-at-home-mom salary, or even Regis which is where I started when I was getting tuition reimbursement. I was hoping I could do most of my education online while the kids are in school? Any advice or words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated!

Since this is a common question I see, I figured I'd publish my answers here, and get some advice from y'all too. Here's my response:

Python would definitely be good, as would JavaScript. JavaScript can be done on the client and server these days, so you could do that and be able to do front-end and backend development.

For programming specifically, I've heard these guys have a good JavaScript course: https://www.codecademy.com. Here's how to get started with Python in eight weeks: http://lifehacker.com/how-i-taught-myself-to-code-in-eight-weeks-511615189. And one of my favorites: http://programming-motherfucker.com/become.html.

I've taken a Scala course from Coursera, it was hard and intense, but I learned a lot. They have lots of courses and give you certifications you can put on your LinkedIn profile: https://www.coursera.org.

I've also recommended https://teamtreehouse.com to folks and https://www.khanacademy.org has always been good, even for kids.

Ultimately, the best way to learn to code is by doing. It's definitely good to study, learn and practice, but it'll probably won't sink in and become real knowledge until you're getting paid to do it. With the plethora of high-priced programmers out there, you can likely find a junior position, show a willingness to learn and come up to speed quickly. If you can couple that with a remote position, I think you'll really enjoy yourself.

Her response was interesting, as she thought she might need a CS degree to even get a programming job.

Coincidentally I looked over many of these coding sites yesterday but wasn't sure if I needed an accredited diploma. It sounds like it's more important that I just get some experience.

From my experience, a college degree matters, but not a CS degree. I told her people skills make programmers stand out and she's a witty person that certainly has those. What's your advice as a programmer? What would you tell people to do if they want to break into the field?

More importantly, if you're on the hiring side, what would it take for you to hire a 40-something person with no programming background? If they've been studying for six months and have really good people skills, would you hire them for a junior position?

Posted in Java at Aug 13 2015, 08:32:43 AM MDT 6 Comments

Setting up a Minecraft Server in the Cloud

Minecraft My 10-year-old son, Jack, is a huge fan of Minecraft. If you let him, he'd play all day, skipping meals and having a blast. It's most fun to hear him playing with his sister or his best friend. I'm amazed it's captured his attention for so long; well over two years. Both my kids loved it when Scott Davis taught a Devoxx4Kids Denver class on Server-side Minecraft programming.

We haven't had any Devoxx4Kids Denver workshops this year, but that's about to change. First of all, I'm happy to announce we're working with the Rocky Mountain Oracle Users Group to have a Day of Family Coding Fun at Elitch Gardens this Friday. There will be a workshop on Raspberry Pi and I'll be doing a demonstration on how to setup a Minecraft Server in the cloud. Next weekend, we'll be doing a more in-depth Minecraft Workshop at Devoxx4Kids Denver. If you'd like to join us please RSVP. Since having your own Minecraft Server is a fun thing for kids, and useful for parents, I figured I'd document how to do it here.

First of all, let me say that I'm standing on the shoulders of giants. When I first setup a Minecraft server, I used Ben Garton's Setting up a free Minecraft server in the cloud - part 1 as well as part 2 and 3. I also found Aaron Bell's How to run a Minecraft server on Amazon EC2 to be quite useful.

Without further ado, here's you how to setup a Minecraft Server on Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2015!

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Posted in Java at Aug 05 2015, 03:03:00 PM MDT 2 Comments

UberConf 2015: My Presentations on Apache Camel and Java Webapp Security

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at UberConf 2015. My first talk was on Developing, Testing and Scaling with Apache Camel. This presentation contained an intro to Apache Camel and a recap of my experience using it at a client last year. You can click through the presentation below, download it from my presentations page, or view it on SlideShare.

My second presentation was about implementing Java Web Application Security with Java EE, Spring Security and Apache Shiro. I updated this presentation to use Java EE 7 and Jersey, as well as Spring Boot. I used Spring Boot to manage dependencies in all three projects, then showed the slick out-of-the-box security Spring Boot has (when you include the Spring Security on the classpath). For Apache Shiro, I configured its filter and required dependencies using Spring's JavaConfig. You can click through my security presentation below, download it from my presentations page, or view it on SlideShare.

One thing that didn't make it into the presentation was the super-helpful pull request from Rob Winch, Spring Security Lead. He showed me how you can use basic and form-based authentication in the same app, as well how to write tests with MockMvc and Spring Security's Testing support.

The next time I do this presentation (at the Rich Web Experience), I'd like to see if it's possible to use all-Java to configure the Java EE 7 example. I used web.xml in this example and the Servlet 3.0 Security Annotations might offer enough to get rid of it.

All the demos I did during the security presentation can be seen in my java-webapp-security-examples project on GitHub. There's branches for where I started (javaee-start, springsecurity-start and apacheshiro-start) as well as "complete" branches for where I finished. The complete examples should also be in-sync with the master branch.

If you have any questions about either presentation, please let me know.

Posted in Java at Jul 27 2015, 08:08:48 AM MDT Add a Comment

Grails + Angular vs. JHipster

I recently received an email from a long time follower of my comparing web frameworks research and presentations. He asked some interesting questions:

I am starting on a new venture to build a direct to consumer web application. I am planning to leverage Cloud services to build my CI/CD pipeline. I am very strong with Java Backend/middleware and learning Javascript Front-end frameworks. I love Spring and SOFEA. Having said that, I am wondering if I should use Grails + Angular or JHipster? My primary concern with JHipster is there is hardly any ‘community', there is Julien and whatever he says/thinks goes! Can you give me some pointers?

I imagine there's other JVM developers with similar questions, so I figured I'd publish my response for all to see.

JHipster may have a smaller community than Grails, but remember that it's built on Spring Boot and AngularJS. Both have huge communities. In fact, Grails 3 is built on Spring Boot, just like JHipster.

Even though JHipster generates your code in Java, there's nothing preventing you from writing your code in Groovy or Scala. I dig JHipster, but I've also worked with AngularJS and Spring Boot for a couple years. The fact that someone put these technologies together and makes it easy to work with them is awesome.

I like JHipster so much, I decided to write a book on it. I hope to finish it in the next couple months and have it published in the fall. It'll be a free download from InfoQ. Learn more at http://www.jhipster-book.com.

Yes, I'm probably a bit biased since I'm writing a JHipster book. However, it's been easy for me to introduce and use Spring Boot at my last few clients. They were already using Spring, so the transition to using a Spring simplifier was a no-brainer. I haven't had as much luck getting clients to adopt Grails, even though I've suggested it. That could change now that it's based on Spring Boot.

What's your experience? Would you recommend Grails + Angular over JHipster? If so, why?

Posted in Java at Jul 14 2015, 08:02:01 AM MDT 1 Comment

Getting Hip with JHipster at Denver's Java User Group

Last night, I had the pleasure of speaking at Denver's Java User Group Meetup about JHipster. I've been a big fan of JHipster ever since I started using it last fall. I developed a quick prototype for a client and wrote about solving some issues I had with it on OS X. I like the project because it encapsulates the primary open source tools I've been using for the last couple of years: Spring Boot, AngularJS and Bootstrap. I also wrote about its 2.0 release on InfoQ in January.

My Hipster Getup To add some humor to my talk, I showed up as a well-dressed Java Developer. Like a mature gentleman might do, I started the evening with a glass of scotch (Glenlivet 12). Throughout the talk I became more hip and adjusted my attire, and beverage, accordingly. As you might expect, my demos had failures. The initial project creation stalled during Bower's download all JavaScript dependencies. Luckily, I had a backup and was able to proceed. Towards the end, when I tried to deploy to Heroku, I was presented with a lovely message that "Heroku toolbelt updating, please try again later". I guess auto-updating has its downsides.

After finishing the demo, I cracked open a cold PBR to ease my frustration.

I did two live coding sessions during this presentation; standing on the shoulders of giants to do so. I modeled Josh Long's Getting Started with Spring Boot to create a quick introduction to Spring Boot. IntelliJ IDEA 14.1 has a nice way to create Spring Boot projects, so that came in handy. For the JHipster portion, I created a blogging app and used relationships and business logic similar to what Julien Dubois did in his JHipster for Spring Boot Webinar. Watching Josh and Julien's demos will give you a similar experience to what DJUG attendees experienced last night, without the download/deployment failures.

You can click through my presentation below, download it from my presentations page, or view it on SlideShare.

You might notice my announcement on slide #32 that I've signed up to write a book on JHipster.

The JHipster Mini-Book

I haven't started writing the book yet, but I have been talking with InfoQ and other folks about it for several months. I plan to use Asciidoctor and Gradle as my authoring tools. If you have experience writing a book with these tools, I'd love to hear about it. If you've developed an application with JHipster and have some experience in the trenches, I'd love to hear your stories too.

As I told DJUG last night, I plan to be done with the book in a few months. However, if you've been a reader of this blog, you'll know I've been planning to be done with my '66 VW Bus in just a few more months for quite some time, so that phrase has an interesting meaning for me. ;)

Posted in Java at Apr 09 2015, 08:31:54 AM MDT 4 Comments

How To Setup Your Own Software Development Company, 6 Years Later

Just over six years ago, I wrote a popular post titled How To Setup Your Own Software Development Company. I'd just left LinkedIn a few months earlier and was enjoying consulting life again, working with a group of friends at Evite. In the article, I wrote about how I liked consulting because it forces you to keep your skills up-to-date and it pays a lot better. I also talked about the type of legal entity you should form (I have an S Corp), what business insurance you should buy, what I had for health insurance and how I automated payroll and tax payments.

I recently received an email from a reader, asking me if I had any updated thoughts.

It's been nearly six years since you wrote the article about starting your own business ... and thanks, by the way.

I am starting my venture into independent contract work as a software engineer (Java technology) in California and most likely will setup an S corp entity.

Seeing that you wrote this six years ago and things have considerably changed in the U.S. (economy, health care, etc.), I was wondering if you had some updated thoughts to share, perhaps some learned lessons even.

And also, I have questions about business insurance: what type of insurance should I opt for? Is there really an umbrella insurance out there? Or does each (or many) clients out there dictate the insurance you need?

Yes, a lot has changed in the last six years. The economy has improved and health care costs have risen. Through this time, I've been able to continue to operate as an independent software developer and keep the contracts flowing. Personally, the biggest changes in my life have been outside of work. I met an exceptional woman, traveled to conferences all around the world with her, got married, traveled some more, then bought a VW Westfalia so we could have lots of fun traveling in our own backyard. All the while, I've worked for some great clients. I built a team of hot shots at Time Warner Cable (many of them still work there), I skied the awesome powder of Utah while working at Overstock and I enjoyed a long-term contract at Oracle. After Oracle, I got into the healthcare industry and I've been working in it ever since.

In fact, I just finished working for a healthcare company last week and I'm on the hunt for my next gig in April. Check out my LinkedIn profile if you'd like to see my résumé.

I've learned quite a few lessons over the last several years. As an independent developer, the biggest thing I've learned is marketing is key. I've always known this, but I've been reminded of its importance a few times. When I worked at Taleo (after Overstock), I was on a 3-month contract that turned into a 9-month contract that got a 1-year extension when Oracle bought them. The work was challenging, but the application was outdated. Getting them to adopt new technologies like Bootstrap and AngularJS was difficult. When Oracle took over, they offered me a 1-year contract at a great rate. I accepted, never thinking it would be difficult to get paid from someone like Oracle. It took them over three months to pay my first invoice and it took me another three months to get payments flowing regularly. I felt like I was trapped. I felt like I could quit, but that wouldn't speed up the process of getting my invoices paid. From this experience, I'm hesitant to start with any contract that's longer than three months.

During my time at Oracle, I didn't blog as much as I had previously (because the day-to-day work wasn't that exciting), but I did still speak at conferences. Last year, I took the year off from speaking at conferences altogether. Speaking is an excellent marketing tool. Because of my lack of speaking, I saw a downturn in contract opportunities in Q4 last year.

As far as health insurance is concerned, I continued to have a disaster prevention plan, with a $5K per year deductible. I paid around $300/month for this, and rarely used it. By riding my bike to my office in downtown Denver, and skiing a bunch in the winter, I felt like I was pretty healthy. After I stopped eating sugar last fall, I became much healthier. So much healthier that I've stopped taking high blood pressure medication. Today, I don't pay for health insurance. Trish went back to IT Security Sales in November and she was able to get me on her company's plan for $100 cheaper than what I was paying. I didn't have dental insurance for the last five years and I did have to shell out $5K for a tooth implant at one point.

For business insurance, I have the Business Owner's Policy from The Hartford. I pay around $600/year and I've gotten that back when I've had laptops stolen or accidentally killed my iPhone. I've got automated backups going all the time, so I haven't lost any data in several years. This insurance policy and its liability coverage has been "good enough" for all my clients, including the big ones.

I think the biggest lesson I've learned in the last several years is that the best way to be rich is to be rich in time. I've always dreamed of making $500/hour and working 20 hours per week. While $500/hour sounds crazy, you know there's consultants out there that are making that kinda cash. They're probably not in software, maybe they're political consultants, or former professional athletes, but those consulting rates do exist. In software, there's certainly companies that bill those kinda rates. My rates for the last several years haven't been that good, but they've been pretty awesome.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to work 20 hours per week instead of 40. It was one of the greatest work-life experiences I've had to date. I was still able to pay all my bills, and I had time during each-and-every-day to do something fun. When working 40 hours per week, exercising and cooking dinner were somewhat of a chore. When I flipped to working less, work became the chore and exercise and cooking became the fun parts of my day. I read somewhere recently that if Americans valued health over wealth, we'd be a lot better off. I felt like I did this when working less and that I was rich in time.

Related to feeling better over making more, I've started to target employment opportunities that offer a good team to work with. For the last year, most of my contracts have been with remote clients, where they haven't required me to travel onsite. While this sounds great in theory, I do miss the comradery that exists when working with a team. Working with someone over a Skype/HipChat call is nothing like sitting next to each other and cracking jokes while writing code. Don't get me wrong, I love remote work, but I do think it's important to be onsite and collaborating face-to-face at least once per month.

To those individuals looking to start their own Solopreneurship, I hope this advice helps. It's been a great experience for me.

Posted in Java at Mar 02 2015, 09:26:01 AM MST 5 Comments

AppFuse 3.5 Released!

The AppFuse Team is pleased to announce the release of AppFuse 3.5. This release contains a number of improvements.

  • XML reduced by 8x in projects generated with AppFuse
  • CRUD generation support for Wicket, as well as AppFuse Light archetypes (Spring Security, Spring FreeMarker and Stripes)
  • Upgraded Tapestry to 5.4
  • Integrated Spring IO Platform for dependency management
  • Refactored unit tests to use JUnit 4
  • Renamed maven-warpath-plugin to warpath-maven-plugin
  • Upgraded to jWebUnit 3 for AppFuse Light integration tests
  • Updated all AppFuse Light modules to be up-to-date

For more details on specific changes see the release notes.

What is AppFuse?
AppFuse is a full-stack framework for building web applications on the JVM. It was originally developed to eliminate the ramp-up time when building new web applications. Over the years, it has matured into a very testable and secure system for creating Java-based webapps.

Demos for this release can be viewed at http://demo.appfuse.org. Please see the QuickStart Guide to get started with this release.

If you have questions about AppFuse, please read the FAQ or join the user mailing list. If you find any issues, please report them on the users mailing list. You can also post them to Stack Overflow with the "appfuse" tag.

Thanks to everyone for their help contributing patches, writing documentation and participating on the mailing lists.

We greatly appreciate the help from our sponsors, particularly Atlassian, Contegix, and JetBrains. Atlassian and Contegix are especially awesome: Atlassian has donated licenses to all its products and Contegix has donated an entire server to the AppFuse project.

Posted in Java at Feb 20 2015, 09:08:53 AM MST Add a Comment

Converting an Application to JHipster

I've been intrigued by JHipster ever since I first tried it last September. I'd worked with AngularJS and Spring Boot quite a bit, and I liked the idea that someone had combined them, adding some nifty features along the way. When I spoke about AngularJS earlier this month, I included a few slides on JHipster near the end of the presentation.

This week, I received an email from someone who attended that presentation.

Hey Matt,
We met a few weeks back when you presented at DOSUG. You were talking about JHipster which I had been eyeing for a few months and wanted your quick .02 cents.

I have built a pretty heavy application over the last 6 months that is using mostly the same tech as JHipster.

  • Java
  • Spring
  • JPA
  • AngularJS
  • Compass
  • Grunt

It's ridiculously close for most of the tech stack. So, I was debating rolling it over into a JHipster app to make it a more familiar stack for folks. My concern is that it I will spend months trying to shoehorn it in for not much ROI. Any thoughts on going down this path? What are the biggest issues you've seen in using JHipster? It seems pretty straightforward except for the entity generators. I'm concerned they are totally different than what I am using.

The main difference in what I'm doing compared to JHipster is my almost complete use of groovy instead of old school Java in the app. I would have to be forced into going back to regular java beans... Thoughts?

I replied with the following advice:

JHipster is great for starting a project, but I don't know that it buys you much value after the first few months. I would stick with your current setup and consider JHipster for your next project. I've only prototyped with it, I haven't created any client apps or put anything in production. I have with Spring Boot and AngularJS though, so I like that JHipster combines them for me.

JHipster doesn't generate Scala or Groovy code, but you could still use them in a project as long as you had Maven/Gradle configured properly.

You might try generating a new app with JHipster and examine how they're doing this. At the very least, it can be a good learning tool, even if you're not using it directly.

Java Hipsters: Do you agree with this advice? Have you tried migrating an existing app to JHipster? Are any of you using Scala or Groovy in your JHipster projects?

Posted in Java at Feb 12 2015, 09:28:59 AM MST 2 Comments

Integrating Node.js, Ruby and Spring with Okta's SAML Support

Okta Security has always piqued my interest, ever since I first developed AppFuse and figured out how to make J2EE security work back in 2004. I hacked AppFuse to have Remember Me functionality, then moved onto Acegi/Spring Security. Spring Security had the features I needed, even if it did require almost 100 lines of XML to configure it. These days, it's much better and its JavaConfig - combined with Spring Boot - is pretty slick.

That was the first part of my security life. The second phase began the night I met Trish, and learned she sold security products. She knew of OWASP and their top 10 rules. It was Trish that inspired me to write my Java Web Application Security presentation. I really enjoyed writing that presentation, comparing Apache Shiro, Spring Security and Java EE's security frameworks. I followed up the first time I presented it with a number of blog posts and screencasts. Hmmmm, maybe I should update the presentation/screencasts to use Java configuration only (#NoXML) and submit it to a couple conferences this year? I digress.

I had to do a security-related spike over the last couple weeks. I was trying to get SAML authentication working with Okta and my client's Active Directory server. Luckily, someone setup the AD integration so all I had to do was try a few different languages/frameworks. I searched and found ThoughtWorks' okta-samples, which includes examples using Node.js and Sinatra (Ruby + JRuby). I also found a Spring SAML example that includes one of my favorite things in JavaLand: Java-based configuration.

I'm happy to report I was able to get all of these applications working with my client's Okta setup. This article will tell you how I did it. For each application, I created a new application on Okta using its "Template SAML 2.0 Application" and added myself in the application's "People" tab. Each section below contains the configuration I used for Okta. The instructions below assume you're similar to me, a developer that has Java 8, Node and Ruby installed, but none of the specific frameworks. As I write this, I have everything working on my Mac with Yosemite, but I wrote the instructions below using one of my old laptops, fresh after a Yosemite upgrade.

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Posted in Java at Jan 08 2015, 11:43:47 AM MST Add a Comment