Archive for the ‘Software Development’ Category

Maven Again

November 4th, 2011 3 comments

Because my new team at VCE uses Maven, I just picked it up again. Last time I used it was when I helped to port the CloudTools to vSphere for the CloudFoundry demo for VMworld 2009 keynotes. Because the project founder Chris Richardson had chosen Maven, I just followed his footsteps forward. After that, I didn’t use Maven.

Best Practices for Best Practices

November 2nd, 2011 No comments

Like many other industries, IT industry has all sort of best practices, from how to use a product to how to design software. I have personally contributed top 10 best practices on how to use VMware vSphere APIs (part 1, part 2).

Given the complexity of IT systems, it makes sense to capture the expert knowledge in the format of best practices. I think there are just too many of them and not all of them are of high qualities, thus I have a mixed feeling about best practices these days.

VMware Released vFabric 5

September 15th, 2011 2 comments

As a developer, I’m always interested in latest development of middleware platforms. Yesterday came a big news from VMware: the vFabric 5 Cloud Application Platform reached GA. For those who might not be familiar with vFabric, it is an integrated suite of middleware for deploying and managing applications.

Note that despite the version number, this is the first release of the vFabric platform. I guess the version 5 may be just for aligning with vSphere 5. Also, this is a suite of products that have been there for a while.

Hub Programming Language: Does It Matter To You?

August 23rd, 2011 1 comment

There are many programming languages today, sometimes too many to choose from for a new project. The good thing is that there aren’t many main stream programming languages, so picking one is not a daunting task. And almost all main stream languages can achieve similar things, meaning any one of them will work. So in the end it’s really a matter of team preference and sometimes company policy.

Platform vs. Stairform

August 9th, 2011 No comments

It’s probably fair to say anyone working in software knows a term called platform. It’s a term borrowed from transportation industry, where a raised and flat space on which passengers trains in a station. In software, it means something you can leverage, either an environment for running your software or a development library for building your applications.

Like many things in software, platform has never had a clear definition. Different people basically have their own versions of definitions. That is not necessarily a bad thing – at least it helped

Java SE 7 released, finally!

July 28th, 2011 1 comment

After Java 6.0 released in 2006, it’s been 5 years during which Sun Microsystem was sold to Oracle. Today the 7.0 is finally GAed. It includes quite a few changes including small language changes as well as new and improved APIs.

The language changes are mostly small and may not affect you, for example, the switch statement now works with strings. The new try-with-resource statement, which is similar to using statement in C#, helps you with cleaner code, see the difference shown in the following

Three Stages To Master Programmers

July 19th, 2011 No comments

While everyone can learn and practice programming, it’s hard to find a good software engineer, even harder to find a great one. My definition of a great software engineer is someone who can solve real world problems with software expertise, not someone who can only write code, or someone who can only talk about architecture on paper, or someone who complicates real world problems.

Yes, we can all learn programming related concepts, languages, tools, and etc. But how to use them effectively on a business problem is really a test stone for anyone. It’s important to study textbooks, learn from others; even more so to

Reflection on OOP: Inheritance or Generalization

July 11th, 2011 No comments

As software engineers, we most likely have learned the three key characteristics of object oriented programming: inheritance, encapsulation, and polymorphism. Over the years I study and practice OOP, I realized that inheritance is out of date and arguably misleading, therefore should be replaced.

In OOP, inheritance refers to a relationship between two classes in which a subclass inherits the properties and methods of its super class. The term inheritance is not really a good one because

How Many Programming Languages Are Enough?

July 4th, 2011 2 comments

During last 60 some years after computer was invented, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, programming languages. If we include domain specific language (DSLs), which accorinding to Martin Fowler may include regular expression, spreadsheet, etc, the number can be even bigger, not to mention more programming languages continue to emerge.

This would be a big burden if we have to learn all of them. Luckily, we don’t have to. In fact, most of us just need to learn several most popular ones. Even better, these popular languages may look very similar in syntax. As a result,

In Praise of Static Methods

June 27th, 2011 No comments

In object-oriented programming, static methods are the methods that are defined with static keyword. They don’t have access to non-static instance variables. This very limitation can be an easy cure for many programming pitfalls I’ve seen over the years.

  • A static methods prevents you from using instance variables for passing information around, for example, as parameters to or as result from it. As a general rule, you should not define an instance variable if it’s not an intrinsic property of a class or type. It may seem obvious,

Software Processes: Should You Pick One?

May 16th, 2011 3 comments

While we in software industry debating which process to adopt for development, I found something in manufacturing very intriguing. On a recent article of Business Week The Case for Making It in the USA, it mentioned a GE factory in South Carolina where aircraft jet engines are made. What struck me is the following:

“Teams can adjust the line operation as they see fit to remove bottlenecks and maximize productivity. Recently, two teams came up with different ways to speed up the washing of turbine blades. The plant leader, rather than picking one way as the winner, approved buying equipment for each team to wash the blades its own way.“

I would say it’s pretty

Alternatives to Domain Specific Languages

April 27th, 2011 2 comments

I have been reading Martin Fowler’s book Domain-Specific Language during last two months. Now I am not fully done with the book but have a good idea because the rest of the book is about individual DSL patterns, which I think are better read when used.

I got two key points from the book. One is that the key to DSL is semantic model (“The semantics of a program is what it means – that is, what it does when it executes”). You can implement semantic model as APIs/frameworks in system languages like Java. If you are confused by the question, “what is the difference between DSL and normal code on top of high level APIs?

Developing Web Applications With Vaadin

April 26th, 2011 1 comment

After Shreyas shared his experience with Vaadin in his comment on my previous post, I started to play with the web framework. As it advertises, it’s “a Java framework for building modern web applications that look great, perform well and make you and your users happy.”

Based on my experience, I think it’s a great framework that is very intuitive yet powerful. All you need to do is to write Java code in a similar way to using Java AWT and Swing for standalone applications. The minor different is

Vertical vs Horizontal APIs

April 25th, 2011 No comments

Many APIs have emerged since the inception of computer software. Its root can be traced back to the layered software architecture in which high layer calls to low layer. The low layer is not necessarily called APIs, but the other way is mostly true.

Initial APIs were inside a single or multiple vertical call stacks that share same memory space. As a result, you have good performance and ease of use. After that, inter-process communication (IPC) emerged and allowed API services to run in a different process for better

Should You Invent a New Wheel?

April 4th, 2011 No comments

It has become a conventional wisdom in software development that you should NOT re-invent a new wheel – reuse an existing one instead. There are many compelling cases in which re-inventing wheels had caused catastrophic failures as described in Joel’s article Things You Shoud Never Do (Great article BTW). One famous example there was the NetScape’s loss to Microsoft in the browser war more than a decade ago.

Nothing is absolute in software however. You can find opposite cases like Microsoft’s successful re-inventing Windows from Window 95 to Windows XP. Actually in a longer term, you cannot stick with a wheel forever; otherwise we are still using wooden wheels in the pre-industrial age. Same is true for software.

I think the question is really not whether to invent a new wheel, but when. In other words,

Non-Patentable Software Architecture

March 30th, 2011 1 comment

I was working at Rational Software when IBM bought it almost 10 years ago. After the acquisition, we got emails and trainings encouraging us to file patent disclosures. As you may have known, IBM has been the top patent holder in the USA, maybe worldwide as well. At that time, I coined the term “non-patentable software architecture.”

Pattern system was invented to protect and encourage innovations. There are three criteria for a valid pattern: novelty, usefulness, and non-obviousness. Those are all in relative terms. As I can tell, there is rarely anything

Learning Google Web Toolkit

March 28th, 2011 No comments

Google Web Toolkit is an interesting project. It’s basically an AJAX toolkit but presents itself as a Java toolkit. The idea is that you still write Java code as you would with Java AWT, SWING, and the GWT converts it to JavaScript code for you.

But why don’t write JavaScript code directly? Well, you may know Java better than JavaScript. More importantly, Java is a typed language and easier to develop a large system than JavaScript.

Using GWT for Java developers is mostly

Soft Communication and Hard Communication

March 21st, 2011 No comments

Communication is always important in any teamwork environment. This is especially true in software development where changes are constant. There are two levels of possible communications in software development: soft communication and hard communication. Let’s go over them one by one.

Soft Communication

It happens among people, those who work on a software project. Two popular forms of soft communication are

Quickest Way To Ramp Up In New Software Projects

March 14th, 2011 No comments

If you are a software engineer, you may move from project to project over the time. How to quickly ramp up with a new project is always a challenge. The term “new” I use here does not mean that the project is new and you need to start from scratch, but that the project is new to you.

Although we all like to start from scratch, the reality is that 80% of engineers are actually doing maintenance works on existing projects: fixing bugs, adding new features, etc.

When you move to a new project, you have to

Developing Java Client to Adobe BlazeDS

March 9th, 2011 9 comments

If you develop FLEX with Java backend, you most likely know BlazeDS already. It’s a web application running with Tomcat that exposes Java objects on the server side as services to the Flex Client written in ActionScript. It combines the best of Flex on the client side and Java on the server side. As a result, it becomes one of the most popular architectural styles for web development these days.

It’s less known that you can also develop Java code on the client that consumes the services on the server side. Check out this wiki page by Adobe on the original design. The implementation of Java AMF Client is added to BlazeDS as of July 2008.

Because I had to hack

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