AppFuse, Reduced

In November, I had some time off between clients. To occupy my time, I exercised my body and brain a bit. I spent a couple hours a day exercising and a few hours a day working on AppFuse. AppFuse isn't used to start projects nearly as much as it once was. This makes sense since there's been a ton of innovation on the JVM and there's lots of get-started-quickly frameworks now. Among my favorites are Spring Boot, JHipster, Grails and Play.

You can see that AppFuse's community activity has decreased quite a bit over the years by looking at its mailing list traffic.

AppFuse Mailing List Traffic, December 2014

Even though there's not a lot of users talking on the mailing list, it still seems to get quite a few downloads from Maven Central.

AppFuse Maven Central Stats, November 2014

I think the biggest value that AppFuse provides now is a learning tool for those who work on it. Also, it's a good place to show other developers how they can evolve with open source frameworks (e.g. Spring, Hibernate, JSF, Tapestry, Struts) over several years. Showing how we migrated to Spring MVC Test, for example, might be useful. The upcoming move to Spring Data instead of our Generic DAO solution might be interesting as well.

Regardless of whether AppFuse is used a lot or not, it should be easy to maintain. Over the several weeks, I made some opinionated changes and achieved some pretty good progress on simplifying things and making the project easier to maintain. The previous structure has a lot of duplicate versions, properties and plugin configurations between different projects. I was able to leverage Maven's inheritance model to make a number of improvements:

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Posted in Java at Dec 16 2014, 06:03:31 AM MST 2 Comments

Devoxx4Kids Denver: Having fun with littleBits

A little more than a week ago, on a beautiful Saturday morning, a number of Denver kids converged at Assembly to learn about hardware concepts with littleBits. This meetup was a bit different than our last meeting in that the kids built stuff with their hands rather than on computers.

Supplies Devoxx4Kids Sign

The workshop was taught by Juan Sanchez of Tack Mobile. Juan did an excellent job of keeping his presentation short and sweet and got the kids building things within the first hour. The event space provided by Assembly was excellent and we look forward to December's Greenfoot Workshop at the same location.

Juan in Action

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Posted in Java at Dec 02 2014, 12:10:49 PM MST 2 Comments

Building a REST API with JAXB, Spring Boot and Spring Data

Project JAXB If someone asked you to develop a REST API on the JVM, which frameworks would you use? I was recently tasked with such a project. My client asked me to implement a REST API to ingest requests from a 3rd party. The project entailed consuming XML requests, storing the data in a database, then exposing the data to internal application with a JSON endpoint. Finally, it would allow taking in a JSON request and turning it into an XML request back to the 3rd party.

With the recent release of Apache Camel 2.14 and my success using it, I started by copying my Apache Camel / CXF / Spring Boot project and trimming it down to the bare essentials. I whipped together a simple Hello World service using Camel and Spring MVC. I also integrated Swagger into both. Both implementations were pretty easy to create (sample code), but I decided to use Spring MVC. My reasons were simple: its REST support was more mature, I knew it well, and Spring MVC Test makes it easy to test APIs.

Camel's Swagger support without web.xml
As part of the aforementioned spike, I learned out how to configure Camel's REST and Swagger support using Spring's JavaConfig and no web.xml. I made this into a sample project and put it on GitHub as camel-rest-swagger.

This article shows how I built a REST API with Java 8, Spring Boot/MVC, JAXB and Spring Data (JPA and REST components). I stumbled a few times while developing this project, but figured out how to get over all the hurdles. I hope this helps the team that's now maintaining this project (my last day was Friday) and those that are trying to do something similar.

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Posted in Java at Oct 29 2014, 05:52:37 AM MDT 1 Comment

Developing Services with Apache Camel - Part IV: Load Testing and Monitoring

Gatling Welcome to the final article in a series on my experience developing services with Apache Camel. I learned how to implement CXF endpoints using its Java DSL, made sure everything worked with its testing framework and integrated Spring Boot for external configuration. For previous articles, please see the following:

This article focuses on load testing and tools for monitoring application performance. In late July, I was asked to look into load testing the new Camel-based services I'd developed. My client's reason was simple: to make sure the new services were as fast as the old ones (powered by IBM Message Broker). I sent an email to the Camel users mailing list asking for advice on load testing.

I'm getting ready to put a Camel / CXF / Spring Boot application into production. Before I do, I want to load test and verify it has the same throughput as a the IBM Message Broker system it's replacing. Apparently, the old system can only do 6 concurrent connections because of remote database connectivity issues.

I'd like to write some tests that make simultaneous requests, with different data. Ideally, I could write them to point at the old system and find out when it falls over. Then I could point them at the new system and tune it accordingly. If I need to throttle because of remote connectivity issues, I'd like to know before we go to production. Does JMeter or any Camel-related testing tools allow for this?

In reply, I received suggestions for Apache's ab tool and Gatling. I'd heard of Gatling before, and decided to try it.

TL;DR

This article shows how to use Gatling to load test a SOAP service and how to configure Log4j2 with Spring Boot. It also shows how hawtio can help monitor and configure a Camel application. I hope you enjoyed reading this series on what I learned about developing with Camel over the past several months. If you have stories about your experience with Camel (or similar integration frameworks), Gatling, hawtio or New Relic, I'd love to hear them.

It's been a great experience and I look forward to developing solid apps, built on open source, for my next client. I'd like to get back into HTML5, AngularJS and mobile development. I've had a good time with Spring Boot and JHipster this year and hope to use them again. I find myself using Java 8 more and more; my ideal next project would embrace it as a baseline. As for Scala and Groovy, I'm still a big fan and believe I can develop great apps with them.

If you're looking for a UI/API Architect that can help accelerate your projects, please let me know! You can learn more about my extensive experience from my LinkedIn profile.

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Posted in Java at Oct 15 2014, 10:04:01 AM MDT 2 Comments

Developing Services with Apache Camel - Part III: Integrating Spring 4 and Spring Boot

Spring Boot This article is the third in a series on Apache Camel and how I used it to replace IBM Message Broker for a client. I used Apache Camel for several months this summer to create a number of SOAP services. These services performed various third-party data lookups for our customers. For previous articles, see Part I: The Inspiration and Part II: Creating and Testing Routes.

In late June, I sent an email to my client's engineering team. Its subject: "External Configuration and Microservices". I recommended we integrate Spring Boot into the Apache Camel project I was working on. I told them my main motivation was its external configuration feature. I also pointed out its container-less WAR feature, where Tomcat (or Jetty) is embedded in the WAR and you can start your app with "java -jar appname.war". I mentioned microservices and that Spring Boot would make it easy to split the project into a project-per-service structure if we wanted to go that route. I then asked two simple questions:

  1. Is it OK to integrate Spring Boot?
  2. Should I split the project into microservices?

Both of these suggestions were well received, so I went to work.

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Posted in Java at Oct 08 2014, 07:13:18 AM MDT 3 Comments

Developing Services with Apache Camel - Part II: Creating and Testing Routes

Apache Camel This article is the second in a series on Apache Camel and how I used it to replace IBM Message Broker for a client. The first article, Developing Services with Apache Camel - Part I: The Inspiration, describes why I chose Camel for this project.

To make sure these new services correctly replaced existing services, a 3-step approach was used:

  1. Write an integration test pointing to the old service.
  2. Write the implementation and a unit test to prove it works.
  3. Write an integration test pointing to the new service.

I chose to start by replacing the simplest service first. It was a SOAP Service that talked to a database to retrieve a value based on an input parameter. To learn more about Camel and how it works, I started by looking at the CXF Tomcat Example. I learned that Camel is used to provide routing of requests. Using its CXF component, it can easily produce SOAP web service endpoints. An end point is simply an interface, and Camel takes care of producing the implementation.

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Posted in Java at Sep 30 2014, 10:05:38 AM MDT 7 Comments

Developing Services with Apache Camel - Part I: The Inspiration

In early May, my client asked me to work on a project migrating from IBM Message Broker 6.1 to an open source solution. Their reason was simple, the IBM solution was end of life and outdated. To prove how out of date it was, the Windows version required Windows XP to run. IBM WebSphere Message Broker has been replaced by IBM Integration Bus in recent years, but no upgrade path existed.

At first, I didn't want to do the project. I was hired as a Modern Java/UI Architect and I had enjoyed my first month upgrading libraries, making recommendations and doing a bit of UI performance work. I hadn't done much with ESBs and I enjoy front-end development a lot more than backend. It took me a couple days to realize they were willing to pay me to learn. That's when I decided to clutch up, learn how to do it all, and get the job done. This article is the first in a series on what I learned during this migration project.

My approach for figuring out how everything worked was similar to working on any new application. I get the source code, install the software necessary to run it, and run it locally so I can interact with it.

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Posted in Java at Sep 23 2014, 10:58:25 AM MDT 7 Comments

Getting Started with JHipster on OS X

Last week I was tasked with developing a quick prototype that used AngularJS for its client and Spring MVC for its server. A colleague developed the same application using Backbone.js and Spring MVC. At first, I considered using my boot-ionic project as a starting point. Then I realized I didn't need to develop a native mobile app, but rather a responsive web app.

My colleague mentioned he was going to use RESThub as his starting point, so I figured I'd use JHipster as mine. We allocated a day to get our environments setup with the tools we needed, then timeboxed our first feature spike to four hours.

My first experience with JHipster failed the 10-minute test. I spent a lot of time flailing about with various "npm" and "yo" commands, getting permissions issues along the way. After getting thinks to work with some sudo action, I figured I'd try its Docker development environment. This experience was no better.

JHipster seems like a nice project, so I figured I'd try to find the causes of my issues. This article is designed to save you the pain I had. If you'd rather just see the steps to get up and running quickly, skip to the summary.

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Posted in Java at Sep 08 2014, 11:30:33 AM MDT 5 Comments

Why I prefer IntelliJ IDEA over Eclipse

Over the last couple months, I've received a few emails asking why I prefer IntelliJ IDEA over Eclipse. They usually go something like this:

I keep seeing you recommending IntelliJ. I keep trying it intermittently with using Eclipse, but I feel like I'm missing something obvious that makes so many people think it's better. Granted having the usual plugins incorporated is nice, but other things like the build process and debugger sometimes seems a step back from Eclipse. Could you please blog a '10 reasons why I love IntelliJ' or point me to something that would clue me in?

I grew to love IntelliJ for a few reasons. It all started in 2006 when I decided to migrate AppFuse from Ant to Maven. Before that, I was a huge Eclipse fan (2002 - 2006). Before Eclipse, I used HomeSite, an HTML Editor to write all my Java code (1999-2002). Eclipse was the first IDE that didn't hog all my system's memory and was pleasant to work with.

The reason I started using IntelliJ in 2006 was because of it's multi-module Maven support. Eclipse's Maven support was terrible, and m2e hasn't gotten a whole lot better in recent years AFAIK.

Back then, I used to think everything should be built and run from the command line. A couple years later, I realized it was better to run tests and debug from an IDE. Now I'm more concerned with the ability to run tests and debug in an IDE than I am from the build system.

In 2009, I started doing a lot more front-end work: writing HTML, CSS and JavaScript. I also started digging into alternate languages for these: Jade, GWT, CoffeeScript, LESS, SASS - even Scala. I found IntelliJ's support, and plugins, to be outstanding for these languages and really enjoyed how it would tell me I had invalid JavaScript, HTML and CSS.

My original passion in software was HTML and JavaScript and I found that hasn't changed in the last 15 years. AFAIK, Eclipse still has terrible web tools support; it excels at Java (and possibly C++ support). Even today, I write most of my HTML code (for InfoQ and this blog) in IntelliJ.

In reality, it probably doesn't matter which IDE you use, as long as you're productive with it. Once you learn one IDE well, the way others do things will likely seem backwards. I'm so familiar with debugging in IntelliJ, that when I tried to use Eclipse's debugger a few weeks ago, it seemed backwards to me. ;)

In a nutshell: the technologies I've worked with have been better embraced by IntelliJ. Has this happened to you? Have certain technologies caused you to use one IDE over another?

Posted in Java at Jul 21 2014, 01:33:55 PM MDT 15 Comments

How do you stay current with emerging technologies?

I recently received an email from a former co-worker. She was curious to know what I read/do to know what it is "trending" in the software world. I think this is good knowledge to share, and I'm also interested in what others do to keep up. Here's my response to her:

My technique for staying up-to-date is mostly reading, and attending some user group meetings. For reading, I read news.ycombinator.com, as well as infoq.com - who I now write for. DZone.com (esp. Javalobby and its HTML5 Zone) is also pretty good, as is arstechnica.com. I don't read nearly as much as I used to when I was subscribed to all of their RSS feeds and read them religiously.

Nowadays, most of my information comes from Twitter. I follow people that are involved in technologies I'm interested in. I try to keep the number of people I follow to 50 as I don't want to spend too much time reading tweets.

For meetups, most are on meetup.com these days. I'd find a couple that have technologies you're interested in (e.g. a local HTML5 meetup or Java user group) and join the group. You'll get email notifications when they have meetings.

Other than that, sometimes I do "conference driven learning". I'll pick a few technologies I'm interested in learning, submit a talk to a conference or user group, then be forced to learn and present on them when it gets accepted. It can be stressful, but it works and usually results in a good presentation because I can share the experience of learning.

One interesting thing I've realized about Twitter is I can make technologies seem "hot" based on the people I follow. If I'm following a bunch of AngularJS folks, my feed is filled with Angular-related tweets and it seems like the hottest technology ever. If I tweak who I follow to have a bunch of Groovy enthusiasts, or Scala folks, the same thing happens.

Of course, the best way to learn new technologies is to use them in your daily job. I strive to do this with my clients, but it doesn't always work out. I've found that working on open source projects and speaking at conferences can help you learn if you're in a stagnant environment. Then again, if you're not happy at work, quit.

What do you do to stay on top of emerging trends in technology?

Posted in Java at May 28 2014, 10:48:38 AM MDT 4 Comments