October 14, 2008

Programming Project Experiment (PPE)

I've been toying with the idea of building a site around the game of life simulator. In the spirit of just playing, I figured I'd blog about my process and thinking to see where it goes while keeping a record of it. With that broad mandate some rough idea of what I could see happening along the way.

Provide an online tool for exploring game of life instances. Flex based front-end with a Java based back-end and data storage in MySQL.

Why those technologies?

Well I think Flex is where it is at for rich UIs right now. I do most of my day work in Flex so I should be able to develop quickly. While Silverlight and JavaFX might be fun to play with, I'm more interested in getting something working versus learning a new language, that's better suited, in the context of some project. I'm always up for learning new stuff if I can see some clear benefit. Switching from Flex to something else right now doesn't seem to offer that clear win so I'm going to stay with what I know works.

Many people who's work I follow would say that Ruby would be the language to do the back-end in. While there is some appeal to that, given other aspects of this open development I don't want to throw too many new things into the mix. There are already some Java tools I'm looking at on the Java side that I've not used before. In fact I could see reimplementing the final functionality in Ruby as a good example of getting a better grasp on how the technologies differ.

As for MySQL, well its what I already have installed and running on my machine. In fact its the data store behind this blog. Given that I don't foresee any need for a lot of heavy lifting from the database layer I'm certain MySQL can handle it.

As far as a development environment, I'll be using my Mac. I'll be using Eclipse as my IDE since it has great Java support and okay Flex support. I'll probably throw in some Ant scripts for deployment and the like since my web server resides on a different machine. Lastly I'll be using Subversion to store my code.

Tags: ppe

October 14, 2008

PPE 2: Java Project Skeleton


I've been following the progression of the tool AppFuse for some time now but haven't had a chance to use it. This seems like a prime time (cue learning curve for first new technology). While there are many Java frameworks I could use, I've found the Spring Framework to be rock solid and know that it covers everything I could want to do with this simple application. Spring has also created Spring Web MVC to support the front-end pieces. I think it offers a cleaner solution than Struts. AppFuse supports Spring Web MVC based projects so that should make this straight forward.

Alas AppFuse requires Maven (cue learning curve for second new technology) which I don't currently have installed. Back to the command line for that. I already have Java installed so that AppFuse requirement is there and I'll start off with the HSQLDB profile since my MySQL server runs on a different machine and I don't want to mess with configuration just yet.

# 3rd party Java projects I store in a standard directory
cd /Applications/Java
# downloaded from one of the available mirrors
tar -zvxf ~/Storage/apache-maven-2.0.9-bin.tar.gz
setenv MAVEN_HOME /Applications/Java/apache-maven-2.0.9
setenv PATH "${PATH}:${MAVEN_HOME}/bin"

The latter two lines I'll be adding to my shell so that they get picked up next time I launch a terminal window. If you hadn't noticed those commands are in tcsh. I like it better than bash as my terminal shell (since I never made the switch to zsh which I hear is even better) but any scripting I do is in bash.

Now to let AppFuse do its magic.

cd ~/source/trunk/danielr/projects/PPE/
# tried to run the AppFuse Maven command line but got an error, see below
svn delete GameOfLifeServer
svn commit -m "Remove server directory since AppFuse complains if it already exists"
# now I can run it
mvn archetype:create -DarchetypeGroupId=org.appfuse.archetypes -DarchetypeArtifactId=appfuse-basic-spring -DremoteRepositories=http://static.appfuse.org/releases -DarchetypeVersion=2.0.2 -DgroupId=com.neophi.gol -DartifactId=GameOfLifeServer
# checking this into subversion as recommended
svn add GameOfLifeServer/
svn commit -m "Initial AppFuse generated project"
# now to play with the project
cd GameOfLifeServer/
# since I don't want to deal with MySQL properties right now
mvn -Phsqldb
mvn -Phsqldb jetty:run-war

Man those Maven targets are downloading a lot of stuff. That makes sense since I've never used Maven before so have nothing in my local repository. Overall as I've been playing with AppFuse the documentation on their site has been good enough that I can muddle through it. Now to pull it into the IDE.

# create Eclipse project files
mvn eclipse:eclipse

After launching Eclipse I added a Java Classpath Variable called M2_REPO pointing at "/Users/danielr/.m2/repository". I tried to use Maven to add it but it didn't work. Turns out it might have worked but had issues trying to use "~" when specifying the location of my Eclipse workspace directory. Next I imported the project located at "~/source/trunk/danielr/projects/PPE/GameOfLifeServer/". It imported and compiled with the expected errors. I think that means it's time to commit to subversion again.

# don't check in the directory Maven creates its files in
svn propset svn:ignore target .
# add the Eclipse created files
svn add .classpath .project .settings/
svn commit -m "Added ignores and Eclipse project files"

And with that, I'm calling it quits for today.

Closing Thoughts

For a snapshot of the project in process grab PPE-2.tar.gz.

For the history of this project see Programming Project Experiment (PPE).

Tags: gameoflife java ppe

October 14, 2008

PPE 1: Flex Project Skeleton

The most tedious part of any project I find is getting the skeleton setup. Thankfully Flex Builder's project wizards make this easier. I'll be creating two Flex projects, one called GameOfLife, which will hold the UI application, and one called GameOfLifeTest, which will hold the testing code. Additionally I'll create a Java project called GameOfLifeServer which will hold the back-end code. Both the production and test code will reside in the same Java project since you can easily mix them in Eclipse's Java mode, unlike with Flex. These will all be sibling projects in a top level directory.

Command Line

First a little command line mucking to get the directories setup:

cd source/trunk/danielr/projects/
mkdir PPE
mkdir PPE/GameOfLife
mkdir PPE/GameOfLifeTest
mkdir PPE/GameOfLifeServer


Run through the Eclipse new Flex Project Wizard using the directory above as the project root and accepting all the defaults.

Now onto the associated test project.


Run through the Eclipse new Flex Project Wizard using the directory above as the project root and accepting all the defaults.

To GameOfLifeTest I need to add the testing library I'm going to use. For this project I'm planning on sticking with FlexUnit. An alternative that I considered was fluint. Like some of my other decisions I'm sticking with what I know works well and I don't see anything with fluint that I'll be needing that FlexUnit doesn't already cover. After downloading the current release I drop it into the libs folder of the recently created project.

Next I need to put in the FlexUnit test runner scaffolding. Makes me wonder how hard it would be to extend Flex Builder to add a "Create new FlexUnit Project Wizard". In this case I'm just going to cut and paste the code from the recipe I wrote that is up on the Adobe Cookbook. Lastly I want to setup how the test project is going to reference the code from the main project. Since Flex Builder can't efficiently handle compiling multiple projects at once (i.e. a SWC library project and the application that it depends on) I'm setting this up as a source path reference. Be warned that such a setup has it's own set of problems.

Since I'm the only developer on the project I'm doing the quick and dirty "source path" add folder option. Eclipse will store a hard coded path in the project file which means that anyone else importing the project will get an error unless they also happen to store the folder at "/Users/danielr/source/trunk/danielr/projects/PPE/GameOfLife/src". The simple fix is once the project is imported, go to the project properties and update the source path folder reference.

To finish this skeleton code I want to make sure I can create and test something that exists in the referenced source path. At this point I only have the main application, but that's good enough to verify things are working with some trivial test. Note I'm break from the traditional test naming scheme since I'm going to delete this test once I have some real code to work on.

package com.neophi.gol
    import flexunit.framework.TestCase;

    import mx.core.Application;

    public class ApplicationTest extends TestCase
        public function testApplication():void
            var gol:GameOfLife = new GameOfLife();
            assertTrue(gol is Application);

Next I need to include it in the test suite that gets run. A quick edit to GameOfLifeTest.mxml will do the trick:

private function createTestSuite():TestSuite
    var testSuite:TestSuite = new TestSuite();
    return testSuite;

Sweet. That compiles and runs and passes! Next up a small stub of the main application.


Not much to do here but make sure it compiles and runs. For that I'm just going to stick in a simple label.

<mx:Label text="Game Of Life" horizontalCenter="0" verticalCenter="0"/>

That was easy enough. That is also now compiling and running. For the paranoid, you could run the test suite project again to make sure everything is still working. Remember to refresh the test project otherwise Eclipse might not pick up the fact that we changed a file in a referenced source path. Have I mentioned that source paths are buggy? Now to create a skeleton back-end. Looks like I'll work on that tomorrow as it's later than I thought.

For a snapshot of the project in process grab PPE-1.tar.gz.

Closing Thoughts

The format I used for this post is working well so I'm going to continue using it, not that you can tell all of the thought process behind it. What I've been trying is before I do something I've been writing the step down and then performing it to make sure what I thought I was going to do actually worked. Given how bad I am with tenses when writing most of the time, these posts will probably be worse in that regard so fair warning on that front. As a tongue-in-cheek expression call this approach blog first development, which some might say is a BFD.

For the history of this project see Programming Project Experiment (PPE).

Tags: flex gameoflife ppe