Roop Says What?!

Roop said not a whole lot lately. So consider this my apologize to my literally 10s of loyal readers, and the kickoff for return to blogging. So before I give you any goodness I have a little house cleaning to do.

Public call out of a blog title stealer!
Simeon Bateman @ has changed the name of his blog from The Simfluence to Simeon says. First off great name, glad I got it from a friend at work FIRST! Second I will share, because even though he probably doesn’t know it, we have a mutual friend, Max Porges. So you better treat the [Last Name] Says banner proudly or I will come after you!
Blackberry Pearl
That is right, I joined the new millenia and got a smart phone. Prior to this I just used the freebie provided when I signed a contract, so I am pretty excited about this. I read over a lot of reviews, and let me just say, tech writers are way to critical. This phone isn’t perfect, but the pros far out way the cons. Keep in mind this is the perspective of a first time smart phone user.
2nd Player limbs along
For those who also follow my side project, we are not dead just figuring out where it fits in our life. Over the holidays we all seemed to get really busy, and one of the members got re-interested in his first project. To his credit it probably will make money so if any one is looking for a design collaboration tool then Pudding might be for you.

So there it is. I will start publishing new stuff later this week so stay tuned!

Posted in Life | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Oracle Using JRuby

In case you didn’t hear this a couple weeks ago, Oracle published their first JRuby on Rails application as a top level domain on oralce. The application is called Mix, and although I am not exactly sure what it does, it does seem that the same experience that happens with most Ruby converts happened with the devleopment team for Mix. Rich Manalang was a lead on the project and he recently published his thoughts, sort of a post-mortem, on the project.

Some interesting points I found, was that he actually developed in C-Ruby. Now this wouldn’t work very well if you needed to interact with Java libraries, but for most Ruby development it will probably work quite well. Also he mentioned that he went in not believing that he could accomplish the task in the time provided, but he did.

All in all I think it is a big win for Rubyist who want a foot into the Java world.

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JVM Language War

Today it seems that certain people have their panties in a wad over a post from Charles Nutter on how to make Ruby syntax look like Groovy syntax.

When I first saw Charles’ post I immediately saw it as a tool to help a friend of mine who is familiar with Groovy syntax understand Ruby syntax a little bit better. And I think Charles was attempting to show how powerful Ruby is as a language, and how easy it is to make the language read how you want it. I think it is importnat to note what Charles was attempting to do. He was not attempting to implement an interface so that it could be used from java, he was trying to make Ruby syntax look like Groovy syntax. This is important because if he wanted to implement the as method he could have done something as simple as this:

class ::Object
  def as(interface)
   self.class.class_eval do
      include interface

I didn’t actually test this code, but I can’t imagine I am too far off here. If this does work than you could very easily dynamically add an interface to a class.

x = java.util.Iterator

And as long as myObject has a hasNext, and next method in it’s class definition then Java should be able to use the class just fine. I think it is also important to point out, that there is never a good reason to actually do what his example did in ruby. Unless you are sending the object out to Java you don’t need to implement the interface.

So in my opinion all the things that Graeme complained about were irrelevant in the context of Charles’ post. They are just the blatherings of someone who has a personal issue with someone else’s work for no apparently good reason. I think Charles said it best in his comment on Graeme’s blog

“Come on Graeme…Groovy’s doing fine. Take the high road and let the language live its own life. It will be better for it.”

I agree, Groovy is a good language, and has amazing qualities all on its own, just like Java, C#, Python, SmallTalk and the millions of other languages that exist. There is no need for a language war, especially a one-sided war. I don’t think anyone in the JRuby community is going around saying Groovy is a bad language and shouldn’t be used. In fact even though I am a huge advocate of Ruby and JRuby I supported the idea to look into Groovy and Grails first for our Java stack at work. We came to the conclusion to look into JRuby and Rails because although Groovy is a very mature well balanced language and great enhancement to the Java language, Grails does not seem to have the same level of polish and finesse that the Groovy language has accomplished.

At the end of the day, I applaud Charles for his openness and support for all languages on the JVM. I believe nothing but good things can come from the collaboration of the language implementors, including but not limited to better performance and improved language constructs. And I think it is important to note that my experience with the Groovy community has been nothing but good, current anomaly excluded.

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Open ID 2.0 and OAuth 1.0 Released

Congratulations to OpenID 2.0 and OAuth 1.0 for their official release at the internet Identity workshop. I have been following both of these projects for some time, and will probably be looking at how we can update TallyHoh to use OpenID 2.0 in the near future. Tyler and I are big supports of these open standards and hope we continue to see these kind of standards created to make the internet a more ‘citizen-centric’ place!

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Eric Evans Presentation at JAOO

I was clicking through infoq this morning, and came across a presentation by Eric Evans on DDD. Eric wrote the book Domain Driven Design. I have not yet had the pleasure to read this book, but I will be sure to put up a review as soon as I get to it.

I first heard about Eric through the Software Engineering Radio Podcast. He was inerviewed in a very early episode, and his ideas really resonated with me. If you are interested in DDD or haven’t yet heard much about DDD, I would strongly encourge you to look into this development philosophy. It seems to be rooted in the same fundamental ideas as BDD and TDD, but I think Eric reached his conclusions through a different path, so he has a slightly different perspective than what the BDD guys bring to the table.

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Recording with multiple inputs into GarageBand

I have found that it was a lot of work to record three seperate tracks, on three seperate computers and then sync them all up afterwards for 2nd Player. So I did some research to figure out how I could record multiple inputs into a single garage band session.

I found this article about how to use Audio MIDI Setup to configure an Aggregate device. That worked great on everyone else’s computer, but mine! First let me say that this is a really cool tool, you can basically get a USB hub(~$10) at your local electronics store instead of a firewire mixier (~my arm). For someone just starting off in podcast this is a huge savings.

Back to my problem…Unfortuatenly I couldn’t get this to work on my MacBook Pro Core Duo. This wouldn’t be a problem if everyone was using the same version of GarageBand, but I have not upgraded to iLife ’08, so if Bucky recorded two tracks, he would have to export them as one aif file (which isn’t good for mixing).

My problem wasn’t actually not being able to create the aggregate device, rather, it was that it would not save the settings for programs to have access to.

SOLUTION: I run as a standard user. I know I probably don’t need to, but the fact that it works so great 99.9% of the time, I do. But for some reason, OS X did not feel the need to let me know that I did not have credentials high enough to save my Audio MIDI Setup changes. So to fix this, I just simply needed to log in to my admin account, and create the aggregate device.

In my experience I didn’t need to stay logged into the admin account once the device was created, but if you are having problems, that is where I would start. I hope this helps some other poor sap, that happens to have the right conditions for this to be a problem.

Posted in music, software | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Is Open Social, Open Friend?

That is the question I had to ask myself when I first saw OpenSocial. Being the owner and developer of a social site to be, TallyHoh, I am very interested in the possibility of taking advantage of a central friend repository.

Tyler and I have been putting off the “friend” aspect of TallyHoh until last, in favor of developing features, and hoping that someone will come along and develop the Open Friend network. We have come across numerous solutions for this problem like foaf that attempt to solve the friend problem, similiar to how hCard solves the contact information problem, by using microformats. Then there are other people, like OpenFriend who have attempted to build upon foaf and add an aggregation system. Neither of these solutions have really seemed to have taken root yet.

Then Google announces OpenSocial. I have watched the video, read over the spec, and even read other people’s interpretation of what OpenSocial is or could be, but I am still not sure it is open friend.

I am confident it is open widget. So maybe a more accurate name for the project would be OpenWidget, the cross social network widget system. Because at this point I see nothing social about the API other than the ability to tap into each networks user data for the widgets. This seems nice, and a good answer to Facebook Applications, but I find it wanting as a social network API.

I am hoping that the People Data API will be what I want, but it still seems a little to decentralized to me, but maybe I am missing he point. I hope that something will emerge soon, because we are finally ready to start letting people use TallyHoh, but we really need to add a friend system!

Posted in social, software | Tagged , | 3 Comments

When is a Tool not a Tool?

A couple weeks ago my colleague Brian LeGros published an article about Object Persistance and Architecture. It was a very good article in his series on design practices, but it made me think about some struggles I have had when working with persistance frameworks.

Before I begin I want to attempt to establish two seperate types of frameworks. The first type are like Rails, Fusebox, PureMVC, and Django. These frameworks establish guidelines for laying out your application, and are meant to be worked within. I believe this type of framework is usually used at the presentation layer.

The second type of framework is meant to work within your design, or help you achieve your design. This is important because the other frameworks you design within, these frameworks help you design. I hope I am getting my point across here, it seems a little confusing. These frameworks usually help you achive a specific goal, like persist your data, wire your objects, or validate your domain. Some examples include Coldspring, Hibernate, and OVal.

This brings me to the point I want to make with this post. The first type of framework dictactes how your project is designed, the second should not. The second should be used as a tool inside your design, and I think this is where many people, including myself, have shot themself in the foot when using these tools.

Lets take Hibernate as an example. Hibernate, if you don’t know, is a Persistance Framework aka ORM aka Data Mapper for describing and transfering your Relational Model to your Object model. If you are layering your application like a good developer you will use this tool in the integration layer.

Now this is my opinion, but I believe that the layer boundaries should not be crossed unless you have a really good reason. I personally do not think that using Hibernate, a tool, is a good reason to break my layering, and allow Hibernate to dictacte how I design my domain. This has really been a hard thing to do in practice, I find myself wanting to solve the problem as fast as I can, and I ignore any good layering or design practices. I allow my tools to dictate what my domain looks like. Although this will be good for churning out a quick product, I think in the long haul of an application, the maintence will be much easier if you have a well thought out business layer.

I didn’t mention iBATIS above but I like this persistence framework better than Hibernate because it allows me to very easily hide all the database details in the integration layer and not does even define any facilities that would possibly encrouch into my business layer.

At the heart of this post I realize I am reallying encouraging focus on each problem in the appropriate layer. Focus on solving the business rules in the business layer, solve the persistence problems in the integration layer. In addition I would suggest focusing most of your time and attention in the business layer, and leave the persistence layer for last. If you do this, in the long run you will have an easier time making changes to your application as business rules change. Because you won’t have to worry about how it affects how you save an object, because that is not a concern of your business layer, that is a concern of your integration layer.

Posted in development, programming, theory | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Buildr Apache

Big Congrats to the Buildr team for getting accepted into the apache incubator program. I haven’t been working with Buildr as much since my team decided to go with Maven (for now) but it is a great alternative to Ant or Maven for the Java community.

Posted in build | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Flex Frameworks

Recently there has been a lot of discussion at my office, and online about whether or not a framework is necessary in Flex. Before revealing my opinion I wanted to go over a few reasons why I believe frameworks are used.

I went to Wikipedia and looked for a list of common features in web application frameworks. I choose web frameworks because I believe most Flex developers are coming from a web background. I found a comparison chart of the most common application frameworks, so I based my list off of their chart.

  • Ajax Help
  • i18n
  • ORM
  • Testing
  • Database Migration/Versioning
  • Security
  • Template System
  • Caching
  • Validation (Model/Form)

I felt the need to add a few points that were not listed on their comparison

  • Common Application Structure
  • Common Request Flow

Now to begin this discussion let’s talk about the items that don’t apply to flex.

Ajax Help
I don’t think I need to say much here. Flex itself is a RIA Framework. More importantly Flex is Flash, and Flash was the original Ajax.
Fortunately the Flex engineers in their infinite wisdom realized that more and more applications are needed to i18n. I would assume this knowledge came from the fact that most of Adobe’s clients are government organizations, and I would imagine they need to internationalize a lot. Lucky for us we don’t need to solve this problem, we just need to figure out where to store all the properties.
At the end of the day Flex was designed for building user interfaces, just like HTML and JavaScript. How many HTML ORM frameworks exists? I have heard rumor of a mysterious technology that allows you to connect to a database via JavaScript, but I have yet to confirm the existence of said technology. So I think we can all agree that ORM is a problem that the backend webservice, or remote object will have to address, not Flex, or it’s framework.
Database Migration and Versioning
See previous point
I believe this is the first of a few places where the problem is different in Flex than in Web based Applications. In this case I believe it is almost a non-issue since Flex is stateful, you don’t have the added complexity of maintaining a users session/credentials, in a stateless application. I do believe that there are security issues with Flex but none that warrant a full blown framework handling them.
Template System
First let us define a template system. A template system is not where the view files go, it is what the view files are written in. In the case of Fusebox, or Model Glue, you use a mixture of HTML and CFML. In Java you can choose from Velocity or JSP as your template language of choice. In Flex you have MXML, that is it. In the future some one might come up with a different templating system, but I believe Adobe/Macromedia engineers have developed an extremely powerful templating language, that works very will with ActionScript.
In web frameworks this traditionally has to do with saving the rendered HTML from the dynamic ColdFusion or PHP to improve performance. This cuts down on processing time, and increases the possible requests per second. Since flex is a compiled artifact, that is delivered all or nothing, there isn’t much caching can help you here.
Flex has a validation framework. Although I have gone back and forth as to how heavily it should be used, I think it solves the problem domain in the UI. Unfortunately it is very difficult to plug it into some backend validation framework, so if any work is to be done, it would be creating this bridge.
Common Request Flow
This one is complicated, I think in the context of how web developers currently think about this problem, it doesn’t need to be solved. At the very least it doesn’t need to be solved the same way it is solved in web applications. Flex is a stateful application and should be treated as such. Typically an event/message system is used to manage stateful applications. That is why I was so excited about Model Glue: Flex. I never cared much for Model Glue in ColdFusion because I thought the whole event system was awkward, but in Flex it made perfect sense.

After all that we are left with two points that web developers currently use frameworks for that Flex applications need a framework to address.

Currently there is FlexUnit and ASUnit. Both need some work I think FlexUnit is in the lead, but it is a start
Common Application Structure
I think this is the main piece that needs to be addresses with any framework that is developed. I have seen numerous ways of organizing Flex code, and I am not particularly fond of any of them. But for consultants and corporate types alike, I think defining a common application structure would be beneficial for code readability.

So there is my synopsis… now for my opinion. I do believe that Flex could use a framework. I will admit when I started this post I was not of that opinion. I believe there are a few points that Flex does not spell out for you and defining some additional constraints might help. So here is what I would like to see in the perfect Flex Framework:


As I said above, there are already testing libraries out there. I would like to see these incorporated into your application (e.g. rails, grails) to encourage the practice.

Common Application Structure

I think as the different pieces are established, this part will naturally develop, but I think it is important to note, because it is the primary job of any good framework, to decided where the different components of the application live.

Remote Requests

I think a common way to make Remote requests would be nice. Most frameworks accomplish this using the command pattern. I would like to see something more like a callback function the way prototype handles remote requests in JavaScript.

new Ajax.request( '', {
   onSuccess : function(transport) {
      alert("Yeah It Worked");

The prototype syntax is nice, but being a fan of Ruby I would much prefer something like this:

Flex::RemoteObject.doSomething('parameter') do |result|
  case result
  when Flex::RemoteObject::Success
    puts 'yeah I worked'
  when Flex::RemoteObject::Failure
    puts 'boo I didn't work'

Unfortunately ActionScript doesn’t have the notion of blocks, or closures, so I will have to settle with something along the lines of how prototype approaches the problem.

No Global Event System

I wanted to point this out, because I feel this is where the existing frameworks are screwing up. I believe Flex has a very robust, well thought out event system, and I don’t believe it needs to be re-engineered. If there was one point of failure I could point to with the existing frameworks, I believe this is it. This is the point at which they try to turn a stateful application, into a web application.

So there it is. Flex has given us many of the tools that frameworks are traditionally used for, but that is not to say that a Framework is not needed. We just need the framework to satisfy different needs.

Posted in languages, programming, theory | Tagged , | 3 Comments