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.

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 2 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

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 4 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 9 Comments