My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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Last Saturday, I had the fortune of attending the JUnit Workshop put on by Agile Houston. It was great getting to meet and work with some of the developers in the Houston Area. We started a couple of hours late because of a mixup at the hotel, but it was a good chance to chat with the other developers.

I signed up for a story to implement forums for JUnit.org, which would be used to post hard to test code and receive tests for them. The twist was that we wanted to compile the code and run the unit tests that others posted in response against the code, providing pass/fail and code coverage statistics (that sounds a lot harder than it really is). The other set of stories I signed up for was related to articles, news, (something else related to those that I can't recall), and RSS feeds for each of them.

There were other stories too, but I don't know how they all fared, so I'll just report on the ones I was involved in. I was on a team that started with four developers (and ended with 4, with one person leaving and another coming in), and we decided to start with the articles, news, RSS, etc, as that seemed simple.

We started talking about perhaps implementing something in Python (or perhaps Jython, either with Django), Ruby/JRuby on Rails, or Groovy and Grails. Even though it was for JUnit, many of us weren't too keen on using the weekend to code in Java like we would during the week (plus, how would we ever get anything done?).

Then someone mentioned something about using Zope (which I had never heard of) and Python. At that point, I installed Python and Zope - and so began a long day of installing programs on my laptop.

The problem was compounded by the fact that a few months back my memory went bad in the laptop and I had to reinstall everything (I originally thought the problem was with Windows, and attempts to repair the installation didn't work). Well, I waited until last week to install anything, so I only showed up prepared for Java and Ruby development.

In any case, it was decided somewhere that a PHP solution would be preferable, since there is a lot of good open source content management systems to choose from, as well as just about any other application we might need (such as the forums). Somewhere around this time we realized the articles could be implemented by the team doing the CMS, and we could move on to the forums. Ideally, we'd want to use a pre-made solution and modify it to our needs, but in the beginning we just wanted a proof of concept. The four of us all started getting development environment set up - just testing that our Java compiled and unit tests could work. I got to use annotations and JUnit 4 for the first time right here, so that was mildly exciting. =)

But, because there were only two of us who had development environments ready to go, and I was one of them, I got stuck working on the front end. That's not too terribly exciting, but it was fine since I was getting to work with others, and someone had to do it (it isn't like I disliked it, but I would have preferred to work on the back end).

Before we dipped all the way into installing a PHP forum and modifying it, we thought it would be a good idea to implement a simple forum in a JSP to post code to the back end, which would compile it and run tests against it.

That turned out to be a bad move. I had to install Apache, Apache Tomcat, Eclipse Web Platform Tools, and a seemingly endless list of dependencies. To make everything better, the WPT package (or one of the dependencies) was missing a file, and I could only find questions about it searching the internet - no answers. Luckily, I made my problems known and finally one of the other developers found the file on his machine and we transferred it over. Now, four hours into the day, I had a form with a textarea in it. See why web development with Java rocks? =) (Just kidding of course - it's not that bad.)

After that I moved on to try to modify the phpBB for our needs. I installed PHP, MySQL, and phpBB with phpBB telling me the version of MySQL was incompatible with my installation of PHP. But it wasn't! Then I installed PostgreSQL and tried it - to no avail. Finally, it was time for me to leave, and having accomplished nothing, I felt pretty useless.

I haven't heard an update on what the rest of the team accomplished yet, but when I turned on my computer today and tried to install phpBB - it just worked - no questions asked. So what happened? It didn't tell me I'd need to restart the computer, but that's the only thing that changed. In my frustration, I didn't think to do it "just in case." How funny!

Anyway, if you've stayed with me through what must be a boring story for most people, I may as well give you a bit of juicy news: Uncle Bob is supposed to be visiting us at Agile Houston in a short while. I don't know if anything is official yet, but it sure will/would be cool!

Hey! Why don't you make your life easier and subscribe to the full post or short blurb RSS feed? I'm so confident you'll love my smelly pasta plate wisdom that I'm offering a no-strings-attached, lifetime money back guarantee!


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