Posts Tagged ‘java development’

Working with Custom Maven Archetypes (Part 3)

February 25, 2010

In part 1 and part 2 of this series I was able to demonstrate how you can create a custom archetype and release it to a Maven repository. In this final part we’ll look at what you need to do to integrate it into your development process. This will involve the following steps:

  • Uploading the archetype and its associated metadata to a Maven Repository Manager.
  • Configuring an IDE to use the archetype.
  • Generating a skeleton project from the archetype.

Step 1 – Upload your archetype

In part 2 we covered releasing and deploying the archetype. For reasons of brevity I simply demonstrated deploying a release to the local file system, but if we wish to share our archetype we must deploy it to a remote repository that can be accessed by other developers. A remote Maven repository, in its simplest form, can be served up using a Http server such as Apache or Nginx. However, these days I would recommend that you use a Maven Repository Manager (MRM) instead, as these tools are purpose-built for serving (and deploying) Maven artefacts. There are basically three options for your MRM – Nexus, Artifactory or Archiva. A features matrix comparision is available here. All are available in open source flavours and both Nexus and Artifactory in particular are great tools. However, currently Artifactory is the only one that supports a Cloud-based service option which, as you might expect, integrates very well with our hosted Continuous Integration service. This allows you to provision yourself a fully-fledged MRM in very short order.

So, how do we add our archetype to the repository? This is a simple process using the built in Artifact Deployer of Artifactory which allows you to upload a file and supply its Maven GAV co-ordinates.

Artifactory Deployer

Artifactory Web-based Deployer

Next, we need to add some additional metadata about our archetype in the form of a ‘catalog’:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <description>Mike CI archetype for creating a Spring-Mvc web application.</description>

This file should ideally be placed into an appropriate folder of a Maven repository and it contains information about all of the archetypes that live within the repository. We can simply add this file to our ‘libs-releases’ repository using Artifactory’s REST API:

curl -u username:password -f -d @archetype-catalog.xml -X PUT ""

Step 2 – Configure your IDE

Now that our archetype is deployed remotely, we can start to use it from within our IDE – in my case – Eclipse. To get good Maven integration inside Eclipse, you really should be using the latest release (0.10.0) of m2eclipse. Once m2eclipse is installed, it provides a handy feature that allows you to add and remove archetype catalogs. You will need to add your deployed archetypes catalog to the list of catalogs accessible from within m2eclipse. This ensures that you can access your custom archetypes when you run the Create a Maven Project wizard in Eclipse as we will see shortly.

Choose the menu item, Windows>Preferences, to open the Preferences dialog and drill down to the Maven>Archetypes preferences, as shown.

m2eclipse Archetype Prefs

Setting archetype preferences

Click Add Remote Catalog to bring up the Remote Archetype Catalog dialog. In the Catalog File text box, enter the path to your remote catalog file and in the Description text box, enter a name for your catalog:

m2eclipse Remote Catalog

Adding the catalog

Step 3 – Generate your project

You should now be ready to generate a skeleton Maven project inside Eclipse. Choose the menu item, File>New>Other, to open the Select a wizard dialog. From the scrollbox, select Maven Project and then click Next. Follow the wizard to configure your project location. Eventually, the wizard allows you to select the archetype to generate your Maven project. From the Catalog drop-down list, select your custom catalog. Then locate and select your archetype :

m2eclipse Select Archetype

Select the archetype

Click Next and enter the GAV values for your new project. Et voila – you should have just created a skeleton project based upon your custom archetype using a slick IDE wizard.

Pretty impressive, don’t you think?

Behind the scenes: evolving the UI

November 6, 2009

First of an occassional series of posts describing how we do development here at Mike CI. I’m sure what we do is by no means unique, but hopefully our experiences might resonate with your own project. Or at the very least give you an opportunity to point out how we can do things better!

As you’d expect for a new product start-up we are an Agile shop.  All prospective features we get are put in our Product Backlog in Agilo, which is our Scrum tool of choice. I’ll probably do another blog at some point on how we do Scrum. At the start of each sprint we take user stories from the backlog and figure out how we will implement them during the Sprint planning meeting.

The main goal of our last sprint was to add a new component – the Account Manager. Our first release of the Account Manager includes functionality to enable users to register an account, invite other users to join them, manage their profile and change their password. Simple stuff, but a core component to the platform.

For the Account Manager we wanted a cleaner look and feel than the Control Panel. Managing your account should be easy and simple to do, and the design should reflect that. We also knew we would be adding more features here so the design had to be able to cope with that, eventually users will be able to upgrade/downgrade subscriptions, view usage and change their payment methods.

Our initial step is to story board the flow on a whiteboard and then capture the flows in Balsamiq. We’re really pleased with Balsamiq as a prototyping tool. It is incredibly quick to pick up and produces great mock-ups that convey the flow and spirit of the story without restricting the design. We then review and debate these flows in the sprint planning session. As you’d expect with a team of IT geeks professionals these debates can get quite animated! We then re-factor the mock-ups and paste the images in to the relevant user story in Agilo. The flows and mock-ups are crucial as not only do they give us the spec for development but we work our test plans from them too.

Invite a user to join Mike

Here is the first cut of the Manage Users Page from Balsamiq.

As this is a new application we decided to follow this up with some Photoshop mock-ups. We don’t always do this, but on this occasion as we weren’t constrained by the Control Panel look and feel we decided to add this step.

Manage Users Design 1

Initial Design for Account Manager

We created about six different designs, variations on a theme, but they really helped us visualise what we wanted and review and discuss the designs. This was a bit of a design smack-down, there could only be one winner!

While this was going on the developers had been implementing the functionality without the design. The application is a fairly typical Java Spring application – web pages are JSPs, we use SiteMesh and a bit of Ajax here and there. The developers coded from the back-end first giving all the screens a blank design to start with. All the key elements in the screens were given IDs which helped the skinning process later on. The most crucial stage is resolving the design on the webpages. This is another iterative cycle and often what looked good in Photoshop doesn’t necessarily work when implemented in CSS and HTML. In fact, I’d recommend not spending too long on the Photoshop design stage – the sooner you start working up the designs for real the better.

Once we’d settled on a final skin design it didn’t take long to skin the app, about a day or so, with a few impromptu reviews along the way.

Manage Users Implemented Version

Final version of Manage Users screen

This is the final version, I hope you like it. It ties in more to our website and blogs than the Control Panel and that does raise us some questions about whether or not we want to align the designs more. I’m really happy with the designs and I hope our users are too. We hope to release the initial version of the Account Manager soon – so watch this space!

After a few iterations we think we now have a pretty good process for rapidly developing Mike applications. Balsmiq has been great in enabling us to define an initial design. We can then, in parallel, work up the final designs (in Photoshop or HTML) while we progress the development. The final step is to skin the pages with the final designs. Constantly review along the way and be prepared to compromise, what looked great in Photoshop might not work for real.

I hope this has been useful, comments appreciated!

Adding an Eclipse project to Mike

November 5, 2009

Quick video demonstrating how easy it is to add a project to Mike. This demo takes you through the build job wizard and then runs the build. The project is a Spring based Java web application. Mike generates a build from the Eclipse meta-data. We have an Eclipse plug-in which can generate a Mike compatible project and we’ll be blogging about that very soon.

The build wizard steps are real-time, the only bit I’ve edited is the build duration (which took 56 seconds)!

Mike now also has a YouTube channel where we will post demos and how to guides.


Beta launched!

October 20, 2009

I’m very happy to announce that the we are ready to launch the MikeCI private beta. We’re doing a limited private beta for a number of reasons. Firstly, we want feedback on the platform. This is a great chance for people to get on board early and try our service out and let us know what they like or don’t like. We hopefully get great feedback and you get a free CI Server!

We’re also keen to ensure we can handle the stresses and strains of lots of people running build jobs. Doing this under a private beta allows us to add users in a controlled manner and double check everything is working as it should be before we go live. Finally the beta allows us to bed down our support and admin processes before a full launch. We’re not like Google – this beta period is limited to the end of November, so please get in touch soon if you want to sign up.

Announcements will be going out this week on various sites. Please say if you want to take part.