Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Good, approachable book on SOA

SOA is becoming increasingly hot and lots of developers are wondering what they need to know to implement it without getting lost in the competing standards, the infinite implementation details, and the lack of robust tools.

To the rescue comes SOA for the Business Developer from Ben Margolis, which presents the core technologies of SOA without doing the usual deep dive to the lowest levels of detail. This refreshing approach enables you to read about the five central technologies (XML, XPath, BPEL, and the upcoming SCA and SDO) without it being a massive effort. These technologies are presented clearly (the style is remarkably readable) and each is highlighted with a few key examples consisting of working code. The purpose is not to convert you into an expert into any of these, but to give you enough familiarity that you understand how the pieces work, how they fit together, and from there how to go about writing a simple SOA application, should you want to.

The book is perfect for development managers who want to come up to speed on the SOA components and look at some code without getting dragged into minutia. It's also just right for real geeks who need talking knowledge of the same. The easy style, good examples, and compact size (300 pages) mean that you can go from 0-60 pretty quickly.

Recommended (with the hope that other volumes that provide such a gentle intro for existing developers will become more common).

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Unboxing Gotcha in Java

In a recent blog post, Java wiseman Norman Richards, points out that this innocent-looking line of code contains a gotcha that most IDEs (he checked Eclipse, I checked IntelliJ) don't warn you about:

int sucker = thisMethodReallyReturnsAnIntegerNotAnInt();

Due to autoboxing (well, technically, unboxing), this code could set sucker to null, which pretty much guarantees the dreaded NullPointerException.

What Richards doesn't say is that this code is so innocent looking (and the bug possibility so little recognized), that almost no one would write a unit test for this assignment. At least, that is, until it blows up the first time.

Good catch. OK, back to work: Ctl-F "Integer"...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Continous Integration Book is Out

The first book dedicated solely to continuous integration has just come out. I've been poring over it and have learned several things. The great dearth of useful documentation for CI implementations made me very hopeful that this book would give me a wealth of new insights.

Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed. The book does a good job of explaining what CI is and why you should use it; and it's the text I'd rely on to sway a manager who needed convincing. But after these explanations, the book wanders around. I understand the problem: it's hard to talk about CI without giving examples for a specific CI server--of which there are so many. So the authors chose to talk about other topics: specifically, build and test issues. This is a good book for best practices for build and test cycles; but alas these are treated as disjoint topics from CI.

What more disappointed me was the lack of information on choosing a CI server. Many (but not all) CI packages are given very cursory discussions in Appendix B, where they share space with discussions of Ant and Maven. The book definitely punted here when it should have done right by its readers and really explained the differences and offered guidelines on choosing properly.

Finally, a personal grouse point. This book follows a fad in computer books of putting an epigraph at the start of every chapter. Properly chosen epigraphs should be 1) witty 2) incisive or 3) unexpected. Most of those in this book are prosaic. Do we gain anything from this quotation from Larry Bird "First, master the fundamentals." or from Henry Ford intoning "Quality means doing it right when no one is looking."?

Overall, I feel this could have been a great book. The thirst for this information is deep and the authors are knowledgeable. However, it didn't quite come together in this edition.