Engage

Posted in:

I am a full-time consultant who is available to engage with clients remotely or onsite anywhere in the world (I currently hold dual-citizenship between Australia and the United States).

To discuss your specific needs, please call me on +1.650.336.5877, or email me at craig@craigsdickson.com, or use this Contact form, or download a copy of my resume from this page.

The following is an overview of the services I provide to clients:

Software Development Process Improvement

  • Coaching for Agile process evaluation, adoption or improvement, including Scrum, Lean, Kanban and Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Definition, refinement and documentation of team processes and practices
  • Definition of Quality Assurance and Quality Control standards
  • Integration of defect tracking systems with other tools and processes
  • Engagement with customers and requirements elicitation

Software Development Team Management

  • Job Description authoring
  • Salary range and benefits package definition
  • New candidate acquisition and screening
  • Team workspace design and office space evaluation
  • Skills assessment of existing resources
  • Collaboration strategies for teams

Vendor Management

  • New vendor discovery and screening
  • Vendor proposal reviews
  • Offshore vendor management, including onsite visits and reviews
  • One throat to choke multiple vendor management

Software Configuration Management (SCM)

  • Introduction of an SCM system to teams not already using one (Subversion, Git, CVS etc)
  • Subversion and CVS training
  • Subversion and CVS server installation and configuration
  • SCM process definition and documentation, including branching and merging processes
  • SCM system migration, particularly CVS to Subversion

Build Management

  • Implementation of Apache Maven and Apache Ant based build systems
  • Automation of builds, particularly in relation to a Continuous Integration system like CruiseControl or Hudson
  • Management and versioning of produced code artifacts, particularly in relation to an Artifact Repository like Nexus or Artifactory
  • Release numbering strategies and Alpha and Beta customer release programs

Software Architecture & Design

  • Enterprise-level system architecture definition, existing architecture reviews
  • New database design and existing database design review
  • Formal UML based architecture definition

Enterprise Java Development

  • Specialist in full-stack JavaEE development
  • Public API design and documentation for ISVs
  • Web service development and integration
  • Code reviews and performance tuning
  • Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) design and implementation

Web Development

  • HTML, JavaScript and CSS development
  • Integration of AJAX style JavaScript libraries including GWT, JQuery and ExtJS
  • Integration of Adobe Flash and Flex components

Automated Testing Strategies

  • Introduction of tools like JUnit and Sellenium to teams that currently do not do any automated testing
  • Integration of tests into automated build scripts and generation of metrics
  • Static analysis of codebase quality

Mobile Development

  • iPhone application design and development, specializing in integration to JavaEE based back ends
  • Web based mobile development

Social Media Strategy

  • Specializing in small to medium business that do not have dedicated in house Social Media resources
  • Evaluation of current Social Media presence
  • Recommendations for Social Media platforms based on particular business needs and goals
  • Evaluation of Location based services in relation to business needs and goals

Once again, to discuss your needs and to find out how I can help you, please contact me by phone on +1.650.336.5877, by email at craig@craigsdickson.com, or simply use this Contact form. If you would like more detailed information regarding my experience and qualifications, you can download a current copy of my professional resume from this page.

Apple MacBook Pro Memory Upgrade

Posted in: System Administration

When I buy a tech gadget, whether it be a cell phone or a laptop for example, it always costs me twice as much as everyone else. No matter how good a deal I try to find, it always ends up costing me exactly twice as much as everyone else. Does this happen to you?

It is caused by Geek Wife Gadget Purchasing Syndrome, wherein I cannot buy any cool technology without also getting the same thing for my wife because she also covets cool gadgets.

We had planned to update to the latest MacBook Pro this coming January, as that would mark 3 years since we purchased our current identical in every way MacBook Pros. However, in these turbulent economic times and because of the syndrome mentioned previously, we decided to explore alternatives.

In the end we decided the laptops were not too bad and we could probably squeeze another couple of years out of them, but we had to do something about hard drive space and RAM. So this post details the RAM upgrade and I will detail the hard drive upgrade in another post.
Continue reading »

Installing JBoss Portal

Posted in: Enterprise Java, System Administration

Today I finished a successful fresh install of JBoss Portal. Below is the process I followed.

Versions

  • JBoss Portal — 2.7.2 (bundled with JBoss AS 4.2.3)
  • JavaSE — 5.0 Update 19
  • MySQL — 5.1.34 (Community Edition)
  • Linux Flavor — Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server 5.2 (64 bit)

Step 1 – Downloads

  1. I grabbed the Java installer from here http://java.sun.com/javase/downloads/index_jdk5.jsp. The downloaded file was called jdk-1_5_0_19-linux-amd64-rpm.bin
  2. I grabbed the Portal binaries from here http://www.jboss.org/jbossportal/download/index.html. The downloaded file was called jboss-portal-2.7.2-bundled.zip
  3. I grabbed the MySQL binary from here http://dev.mysql.com/downloads/mysql/5.1.html#linux-rhel5-x86-64bit-rpms. I downloaded the server (MySQL-server-community-5.1.34-0.rhel5.x86_64.rpm) and the client (MySQL-client-community-5.1.34-0.rhel5.x86_64.rpm) RPMs
  4. I grabbed the MySQL JDBC driver from this page http://dev.mysql.com/downloads/connector/j/5.1.html. The downloaded file was called mysql-connector-java-5.1.7.tar.gz

Step 2 – Install JavaSE

  1. I made the installer executable

    $ chmod +x jdk-1_5_0_19-linux-amd64-rpm.bin
  2. Then executed the installer

    $ ./jdk-1_5_0_19-linux-amd64-rpm.bin
  3. I paged through endless legal boilerplate and accepted it by typing yes and hitting enter (hopefully I didn’t sell my soul)
  4. The installer extracted the RPM file and installed it.
    I double checked the package was installed by querying the RPM database:

    $ rpm -q jdk
    jdk-1.5.0_19-fcs
    $

    This RPM installed all of the files into /usr/java/jdk1.5.0_19

  5. I edited the /etc/profile file to make the JAVA_HOME environment variable and Java binaries available to everyone on the box. I added the following lines to achieve this

    export JAVA_HOME=/usr/java/jdk1.5.0_19
    export PATH=$PATH:$JAVA_HOME/bin
  6. I double checked it all worked

    $ source /etc/profile
    $ echo $JAVA_HOME
    /usr/java/jdk1.5.0_19
    $

Step 3 – Deploy Portal Binaries

  1. I am never sure the correct place in a Linux distribution to put 3rd party stuff, but I went with /usr/local this time

    $ pwd
    /usr/local
    $ unzip ~/jboss-portal-2.7.2-bundled.zip

    This created the directory /usr/local/jboss-portal-2.7.2

  2. Once again, I edited the /etc/profile file to add the JBoss environment to it by adding the following line

    export JBOSS_HOME=/usr/local/jboss-portal-2.7.2

    Then I tested it

    $ source /etc/profile
    $ echo $JBOSS_HOME
    /usr/local/jboss-portal-2.7.2
    $

Step 4 – Change Default Port (Optional)
For my install I have no need to run Apache in front of JBoss, so I want JBoss to listen (or more correctly, have Tomcat listen) directly on port 80 – by default it listens on 8080.

  1. I opened the $JBOSS_HOME/server/default/deploy/jboss-web.deployer/server.xml file, (which is a standard Tomcat configuration file) in an editor.
  2. I changed the port of the HTTP connector to 80 (you can find it by searching for 8080). I also change the HTTPS connector to use 443 (you can find this one by searching for 8443). I then changed the value of the redirectPort attribute of the HTTP connector to match.

Step 5 – Change Portal to be the root web app. (Optional)
For my install, the Portal will be the main application on the server, so I want it to be accessible from the root of the server, and not have to enter the portal context path all of the time.

  1. First, I disabled the current root application

    $ mv $JBOSS_HOME/server/default/deploy/jboss-web.deployer/ROOT.war $JBOSS_HOME/server/default/deploy/jboss-web.deployer/ROOT.war.old
  2. I opened the $JBOSS_HOME/server/default/deploy/jboss-portal.sar/portal-server.war/WEB-INF/jboss-web.xml file, in an editor.
  3. I found the <context -root> tag and changed the vallue to be just a single forward slash character.

    <context-root>/</context-root>
  4. I saved the file and exited the editor.

Step 6 – Install MySQL
By default, JBoss Portal will use a Hypersonic database for all of its internal data. My environment will be a production environment, so I want to use something more robust.

  1. I Installed the MySQL binaries by using a normal RPM install

    $ rpm -ivh MySQL-server-community-5.1.34-0.rhel5.x86_64.rpm
    $ rpm -ivh MySQL-client-community-5.1.34-0.rhel5.x86_64.rpm

    The installation process started the mysqld service automatically. It also installed MySQL as a service automatically.

  2. I checked that it was running

    $ mysqladmin version
    mysqladmin Ver 8.42 Distrib 5.1.34, for unknown-linux-gnu on x86_64
    Copyright 2000-2008 MySQL AB, 2008 Sun Microsystems, Inc.
    This software comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY. This is free software,
    and you are welcome to modify and redistribute it under the GPL license

    Server version 5.1.34-community
    Protocol version 10
    Connection Localhost via UNIX socket
    UNIX socket /var/lib/mysql/mysql.sock
    Uptime: 5 hours 29 min 16 sec

    Threads: 1 Questions: 5 Slow queries: 0 Opens: 15 Flush tables: 1 Open tables: 8 Queries per second avg: 0.0
    $

There are a lot of things you might want to do to a base MySQL install before putting it into production, but that is beyond the scope of this document. I would start with this link for some of the things you need to consider: http://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/5.1/en/unix-post-installation.html

Step 7 – Point the Portal at MySQL

  1. I connected to the MySQL server running on localhost, as the current user (which happened to be root in my case).

    $ mysql
    Welcome to the MySQL monitor. Commands end with ; or g.
    Your MySQL connection id is 15
    Server version: 5.1.34-community MySQL Community Server (GPL)

    Type ‘help;’ or ‘h’ for help. Type ‘c’ to clear the current input statement.

    mysql>

  2. I created a Database instance for the Portal to use

    mysql> CREATE DATABASE jbossportal;
    Query OK, 1 row affected (0.00 sec)
  3. Then I created a user for the Portal to connect as

    mysql> CREATE USER ‘portal’@'localhost’ IDENTIFIED BY ‘portalpassword’;
    Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)
  4. Then I granted all privileges for the jbossportal Database to the user I just created

    mysql> GRANT ALL ON jbossportal.* TO ‘portal’@'localhost’;
    Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

    At this point I quit the MySQL interpreter.

  5. Next, I untared the MySQL JDBC driver

    $ tar zxvf mysql-connector-java-5.1.7.tar.gz
  6. Then I copied the driver jar file to the $JBOSS_HOME/server/default/lib/ directory

    $ cp mysql-connector-java-5.1.7/mysql-connector-java-5.1.7-bin.jar $JBOSS_HOME/server/default/lib
  7. Next I disabled the original Hypersonic datasource

    $ mv $JBOSS_HOME/server/default/deploy/portal-hsqldb-ds.xml $JBOSS_HOME/server/default/deploy/portal-hsqldb-ds.xml.bak
  8. Then I deployed a datasource descriptor for MySQL. There is an example datasource descriptor in the JBoss Portal binary distribution

    $ cp $JBOSS_HOME/setup/portal-mysql5-ds.xml $JBOSS_HOME/server/default/deploy

    I double checked the username, password and database name settings in the file were correct

Step 9 – Check Your Work
Now I checked my handy work before moving on to the next step.

  1. I made the JBoss run script executable
    $ chmod +x $JBOSS_HOME/bin/run.sh
  2. Next I ran the script
    $ $JBOSS_HOME/bin/run.sh

    It will take a while but, eventually the server will finish booting.

  3. Now I hit the basic JBoss AS home page at this URL: http://myserver/ and made sure it looked OK.
  4. Then I hit the JBoss Portal page at this URL: http://myserver/portal and checked it as well.

If you have trouble accessing your URL, there could be an issue with the address that JBoss is listening on. This can be caused by various issues with your server setup (hostname, hosts file etc.). One quick thing to try is to pass -b 0.0.0.0 as an argument to the run.sh script – this tells JBoss to listen on all addresses, which might help you figure out where the issue is.

Step 10 – Setup JBoss Portal as a Service

  1. I opened the file $JBOSS_HOME/bin/jboss_init_redhat.sh in an editor.
  2. First I double checked the environment variables set at the top of the file (particularly JBOSS_HOME and JBOSS_USER) were correct.
  3. Then at the very top of the file, below the shebang line, I added the following 3 lines to make the script compatible with the chkconfig system

    # Comments to support chkconfig
    # chkconfig: 2345 80 40
    # description: JBoss Portal

    I saved the file and exited the editor.

  4. Then I made it executable

    $ chmod +x $JBOSS_HOME/bin/jboss_init_redhat.sh
  5. Next I linked the script into the init.d directory

    $ ln -s $JBOSS_HOME/bin/jboss_init_redhat.sh /etc/init.d/jboss
  6. Then I ran chkconfig to register the script for the correct run levels

    $ chkconfig –add jboss
  7. I then started the server by hand to double check my work and also just to get the server up and running without having to do a reboot

    $ service jboss start
  8. Then I hit the JBoss Portal page once again and checked that it came up properly

Step 11 – Have A Beer
It is always appropriate to reward yourself with a craft, micro-brewed or home-brewed beer!

JavaFX – Too Little Too Late?

Posted in: Enterprise Java

Java was born out of a want to develop rich client side applications in the form of Applets originally. But, the horrendousness of the AWT and the poor user experience when it comes to the JRE plugin pretty much killed off that idea. Even today with Swing being available to help create nicer looking UIs, the JRE plugin nightmare remains. I can vouch for this as recently finished an Applet project that took 4 months to get through QA because of all of the issues related to the JRE installation process on different platforms and browsers.

So Sun blew it the first time around when they tried to take on the consumer facing domain and retreated back to the server-side which they seem to be doing pretty well on.

So now in the age of AJAX, Flex, Flash, Silverlight and Laszlo, Sun appears to want to take another shot at it with JavaFX. They are positioning it as a tool for not only coders, but also designers. Nothing I have seen looks anything like a Flash editor, so maybe I have missed something there. The designers I know are not going to be too interested in writing code, no matter how “script-y” or “dynamic-y” it might be.

I had given up on Sun ever trying to fix the plugin issue. It seemed clear to me that they had written off the client side and had put all of their eggs on the server side. I had resorted to hoping the open sourcing of the JDK might provide an opportunity for a project to spring up that aimed to write a better JRE plugin that would work as seamlessly as the Flash Player Plugin. There is some glimmer of hope on this from Sun with update 10 of JDK 6, but only time will tell if they have done enough.

The latest bump in the road is the Oracle acquisition of Sun, and there seems no clear indication what Oracle’s intention for Java on the client might be.