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Saturday, August 28, 2004

ScrapeSDL -- Convert SDL back to XML

With the release of HiveMind 1.0-rc-1, I've managed to "strand" a number of HiveMind users who had adopted SDL (Simple Data Language). SDL is no longer supported.

ScapeSDL.zip is an Eclipse project containing code that can convert an SDL file into an XML file. It's what I used to convert all the SDL in HiveMind itself back into XML (though I did have to do a bit of manual reformatting).

Tapestry and HiveMind at ApacheCon

Last year, I did a short, 60 minute, session on Tapestry at ApacheCon ... and I really think that launched things for me. I got a lot of good feedback on Tapestry and on my speaking style, and its opened a number of doors for me.

This year at ApacheCon, I'll be doing a long session on Tapestry on Sunday that will cover most of the material in my two normal Tapestry sessions (form building and component building). Additionally, I'll have a HiveMind session late on Wednesday. Details may someday be posted on the ApacheCon schedule.

Erik Hatcher, Matt Raible, and many others will be there. It was a good time last year (of course, I did bring my wife, Suzanne).

I'm spending too much time in Vegas, for someone who doesn't gamble. I was there in April for TheServerSide Symposium, I'll be there in October for a friend's birthday, and back in November for ApacheCon. Thankfully, I have my rolling laptop case (what a difference that makes when your laptop weighs in at about 15 pounds!).

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

HiveMind 1.0-rc-1

Following a successful vote (notable only for the absence of a vote from Knut), I'm building out HiveMind 1.0-rc-1 at this very moment. That's Release Candidate 1 ... and I expect to be rolling to a final 1.0 release very quickly.

There are a boat-load of plans for 1.1 and I hope that, unlike Tapestry's lethargic pace, we can get a 1.1 out in just a matter of months or even weeks.

"Invite 6 friends to GMail" -- It's open season!

I've built up six GMail invites ... drop me an email at hlship AT gmail DOT com if you'd like one. First come, first served.

Update: Sorry, all gone!

Monday, August 16, 2004

Dependency Injection -- the mirror of Garbage Collection

A ways back, the idea of a garbage collected language was tantamount to heresy. "It'll be slow." "It isn't necessary." "How hard is malloc()?" "Reference counting is all you need." etc.

Nowadays, garbage collection is the norm and there's no going back. By freeing us of concerns about allocating and freeing memory, new development techniques became possible. For me, personally, it was very liberating ... I've always coded in terms of small modules working together. Fifteen years ago I was writing almost-object-oriented code in a heavy duty procedural language (PL/1) ... it was just much, much harder.

Garbage collection liberates me to solve problems in my way ... using lots of small, well understood objects working together. When you have to be concerned about every object creation and destruction, you get miserly about them and before you know it, you have these big, monolithic objects that break all the now accepted rules about separation of concerns. You saw this inside the otherwise stellar NeXTSTEP libraries ... there were quite a few kitchen-sink objects and your main extension point was to subclass an existing class.

I used to be dismayed that the UML sequence diagrams did a really poor job of illustrating inheritance. It was really hard to properly diagram an object invoking a method in itself that's implemented in a super-class. Nowadays, I realize that the Amigos were ahead of the curve: aggregation trumps inheritance. And don't think I haven't been thinking about this in terms of Tapestry, which mandates inheritance (you must subclass AbstractComponent, BaseComponent or BasePage). I have been, and some future release of Tapestry will break that requirement.

But the story doesn't end with garbage collection (even if the individual objects do). Garbage collection is the last stage of an object's life cycle, but there's just as much going on at the start of the object's life cycle. That's why component frameworks and dependency injection containers (such as HiveMind, Spring, Picocontainer and Avalon) are so important.

"Why do we need an external descriptor?" "It just isn't necessary." "How hard is it to new Foo()?" Sound familiar?

Once you start thinking in terms of large numbers of objects, and a whole lot of just-in-time object creation and configuration, the question of how to create a new object doesn't change (that's what new is for) ... but the questions when and who become difficult to tackle. Especially when the when is very dynamic, due to just-in-time instantiation, and the who is unknown, because there are so many places a particular object may be used.

HiveMind didn't spring up out of thin air, it was based on me seeing an awful lot of code, production code, that was either a) inefficient, b) unnecessary or c) incorrect (often due to errors related to class loaders and multi threading). Too often it has been option d) all of the above.

Dependency injection acknowledges an initial state for objects ... the construction state, where objects are created and configured before being put into production. With HiveMind, you get the benefits of simplicity: your services are fundamentally POJOs. But you also get all the life cycle benefits: just-in-time, thread safe construction. Any reasonably sized system is going to need those benefits ... they are a cornerstone of providing the efficiency and robustness your clients and customers require. If you don't get them from a container such as HiveMind, you'll be writing that code yourself. Again and again, introducing bugs all the way.

You're willing to let something else manage the death of your objects because it, the Garbage Collector, can do a better job than you can. Likewise, you should accept that a container, whose only responsibility is to construct and configure your objects, will do a better job of it than your own code. Embrace that fact ... and get back to interesting work!

Monday, August 09, 2004

Groovy and Tapestry: Followup

As a follow up to my earlier post about combining Tapestry and Groovy, the folks involved (Michael Henderson and Richard Hensley) have combined their implementations and set up a SourceForge project.

It looks pretty sweet; you create a script and static methods in the script can be listener methods. Also, by using the correct method names (say, pageBeginRender), you script's static methods will be invoked at the right times. Also, static listener methods.

I think Hani had a diatribe not long about about flexibility. However, one of the core features of Tapestry is how it is divided into subsystems, precisely to provide this kind of flexibility ... such as changing the very nature of the framework! For the vast majority of users, that flexibility is masked as unnecessary complexity (which is probably the root of Hani's blog-arrhea). But often, that complexity is a reflection of a far reaching vision. Tapestry has always supported the notion that some pages or components would not be files in the WAR, but would be located from an external source, or even created dynamically at runtime. The bridge code that allows Groovy scripts to act like pages is one offshoot of that vision.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Atlanta Java User's Group Appearance

I'll be demonstrating Tapestry and Spindle on Aug. 17th at the Atlanta Java User's Group. Thanks to Jay Zimmerman of No Fluff Just Stuff for setting it up!

HiveMind happenings

So, by developer vote, SDL (Simple Data Language) has been removed, and the ocean may return to a gentle simmer. I learned a bit about JavaCC with SDL and was excited by it, but I'd rather concentrate on what HiveMind does really well, and not be sidetracked. Instead, we're looking for ways to further reduce the size and complexity of HiveMind's XML module deployment descriptors, and reduce the amount of code in general.

One thing else I've been working on is the ServicePropertyFactory. The idea here is that sometimes service A needs a property from service B to do its work. One approach would be to use service-property:B:foo to inject property foo from service B into service A.

But what if the value can change over time? In Tapestry, examples of this will be access to the HttpServletRequest, HttpServletResponse and HttpSession objects for the current user and current thread. These objects are specific to one thread and change on every request.

Your code could hold a reference to service B and get the property from B every time it is needed. But that's more code, more code paths, more Law of Demeter violations.

What would be nice would be if that property of B could be bound to service A? That's what ServicePropertyFactory does. It creates a service implementation, a proxy. The proxy keeps a reference to service B and, on each method invocation, gets the property from B and re-invokes the method on the property. This is service C, the binding between A and B, and is what gets injected into A.

This allows the code for A to treat a property (say, the HttpServletRequest) as if it was unchanging, when in fact, it is constantly changing. There are pitfalls ... the cost of accessing the methods of the proxy is higher than an ordinary object (it has to go get the real value from the underlying service), and you wouldn't want service A to pull any information out of the property and store it, since that kind of data will likely not be valid after the current request.

What this does do is allow the more dynamic parts of the HiveMind application to be isolated in their own services and allows the rest of the code to stay simple.