Thursday, November 15, 2007

Eclipse and Web Technologies

The news yesterday by Denis regarding Babel is terrific. Globalizing Eclipse through a community driven approach seems so obvious, yet somehow so novel. However, the choice of technology (LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL, Php / Perl / Python) caught my eye. LAMP seems to be one of the most common application stacks (the Microsoft stack being the other one).

Where does OSGi / Java / Jetty (and possibly GWT, I call this J-JOG) fit in here? Is there a reason why this configuration is not even mentioned in the alternatives section on Wikipedia's Lamp article? Is there something fundamentally wrong with this setup (scalability, performance, stability) or is it simply a matter of preference?

This is not meant to start a flame war, and I am by no means questing the choice of technology, I'm honestly just curious.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Plug-in Dependency Clarification

I posted earlier today that I released a version of my plug-in development visualization tool. I was wrong is saying this, since the project is in incubation and the version was 0.1. What I really did was make Milestone 1 of my plug-in development visualization tool available.

It is important that I make this clarification since my work is has not been deeply reviewed yet. I'm sorry if this caused any confusion.

Plug-in Dependency Visualization... M1 Available!

I was finally able to make a version of my Plug-in Dependency Visualization tool available on an update site.

Point your update manager there if you want to try it out. The tool works with Eclipse version 3.3 (Europa) and later. The tool is pretty easy to use, simply load the view (Visualizations->Graph Plug-in Dependencies), right-click on the canvas, select "Focus On..." and select the bundle you wish to see.

I also put together a New and Noteworthy to highlight some of the features. I am already getting some good feedback, including Eugene's suggestion to remove the control panel (and make the options available through context menu) and to add extension point information.

As I mentioned before I did this work as part of the Summer of Code project. It was a great experience and I can't thank Chris Aniszczyk enough for encouraging me to apply and mentoring me throughout the summer. Seriously Chris, if you are in B.C. skiing this winter let me know, I owe you a few frosty beverages.

As for the SoC program, it is a great opportunity! For all you students out there, it is never to early to start thinking about ideas and bouncing them off Eclipse developers. As I won't be a student next summer (my wife and daughter will disown me if I am still in school next year :D ) I won't be participating as a student, however, I hope to help out as a mentor. Wayne, when does that start?

Friday, August 17, 2007


With Wassim publicly announcing his departure from IBM and his reduced role on PDE, I thought I would use this opportunity to say a few thank-yous, and suggest a new award at EclipseCon.

I first started within with Eclipse in January 2003, and my first exposure was with GEF. It was part of my PhD research (that is *hopefully* almost finished :) ) and it was at IBM as a research student. Throughout my time working on / with Eclipse, numerous people helped me along. First is Wassim, who contacted me about building a graphical view for Plug-in Dependencies. Many-a-nights I would find him on-line asking him stupid questions like why does the PDE have 5 different models to represent Plug-ins. I'm not sure who I'm going to turn to now to help solve my confusion (I'm already hounding Mike and Brian of the PDE Team). The second person I need to thanks is Chris Aniszczyk. Chris is actually my Summer of Code mentor and I'm not sure if he knows *everything* about Eclipse, but he sure knows everyone! Chris is also knows everything about Eclipse process and can really help get things done. Finally, and maybe most importantly, is Ed Merks. Ed is my IBM research mentor and I still turn to him for real life advice (not to mention all my questions on the newsgroup that keep him busy).

With the departure of Wassim (and no he is not the first committer to leave), you start to realize the importance of junior developers and Eclipse up-and-comers. Eclipse thrives both because of its user base and developers, but what if one company decided to pull all its committers? In order to ensure Eclipse growth continues, it is important that new committers (both from existing member companies, and elsewhere) join the ship. This is why I would like to throw the idea our there of a mentorship award at EclipseCon. An award for the committer who goes out of their way to bring new committers on board?


Good luck Wassim!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

PDE Dependency View (SoC)

It has been too long since my last update. I meant to post this early this week, so this isn't the latest code. I will do another update this weekend.

Anyways, I thought I would give a brief overview of what the PDE Viz tool looks like and how to use it (My SoC project). The PDE Viz Tool is targeted at developers trying to understand the dependencies of their bundles. Once you get the tool (currently only available in source, but that will change soon) from here, you can find it using the now famous CTRL-3 :)

Once loaded, you can right click on the canvas to select a bundle.

For this example I selected ecore.

Producing a nice little graph.
I have also added a few small analysis tools, so if you ever wondered why javax.servlet was needed by EMF, you could see the dependency path:

A few other small notables in this version. I have updated my labels to use gradient colours. Also, if you double click a node it will refocus the graph on that node. The arrow keys (at the top of the view) can be used to navigate forward and backwards through the graph. Finally, I added a "Screenshot" action so you can save your dependency graph to a PNG.

I have tested this on some of the large IDEs built on Eclipse and it worked (albeit a little slow). My hunch is that it was not slow because of the large number of nodes, but rather because of the even larger number of edges. But for all the bundles I tested in Europa it worked without problems.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Node goes up... Node goes down...

Throughout the past week I have been focusing pretty steadily on my Summer of Code project. Last week I reported that container support had been added to Zest. Since then, I have been updating and fixing up many of the issues containers presented. There were a number of small changes that needed fixing (like the fact that my labels were all truncated), but I also managed to add a number of new features. In particular I added open close animations, and container layout and scaling. Now each container can have its own layout and scale depending on the number of nodes. I also reversed the direction of my gradient, although I really should work with the UI team and use the Kelvin Colours.

The most exciting feature I added was a new open / close algorithm. Now, when a container is opened, it moves the nodes below it out of the way. I attempt to put the nodes back when the container closes again. Moving nodes out of the way (without really altering the graph) is considered a pretty hard problem in graph drawing, but since I knew my nodes always grow downward, it made it somewhat easier for me.

Finally I added a fisheye feature. Now, if enabled, when you mouse over a small node you can have it zoom into focus. Using this technique, I chose only to show the icons on the small nodes, but on hover you get the full text. (In this screenshot I moved my mouse over the centre node in top container).

The snippet used to create these screenshots is less than 70 LoC (and if I was a more clever programmer I could probably do it in less than 40).

It was a pretty busy week with a lot of late nights and I haven't seen my wife and daughter much, so I think I will head home and enjoy the nice west coast weather we have been receiving.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Europa, My Top 10 List

I have had the pleasure of using Europa for the past 8-10 months. Of course it was not called Europa the entire time (Eclipse 3.3 Milestones with several milestone plug-ins attached). I have now come to depend on several of these new features and here is a list of my Top 10 Europa Features that I Cannot Live Without!!!

I should point out that I do a lot of Model Driven Software Development and Java Development, so if this list seems a little biased, it is :) There seems to be really good stuff going on in CDT, Birt, etc... but I have not used these tools enough to give them a fair review. I guess that's why this is My Top 10 List :)

Without further ado, my top 10:

10: Mylyn! A lot has been said about this, and yes it really does live up to all the hype!

9: GMF / MDT: Both of these are really cool technologies, but out of the box they also provide graphical editors for model development. One of the biggest criticisms of the modeling project was “I cannot see my model graphically”, well now you can!

8: New Look / Min-Max behaviour: Eclipse got a bit of a face lift with some new Editor Min / Max behaviour. This makes much better use of the screen real estate, while maintaining easy access to your favorite views through “Quick Views”. Press CTRL+M when coding, you'll enjoy the space.

7: The Eclipse Packaging Project: I still use Eclipse the “Old Fashion Way”, that is get the SDK, install the features I want, adjust the Eclipse startup parameters (memory use, file handles, etc..), but judging from some early download numbers, people have really enjoyed the pre-packaged Eclipse distributions. It is contributions like the EPP that answers the critics who said Open Source projects are cumbersome to setup and lack polish. I am definitely jumping on this bandwagon!

6: Plug-in XML and Manifest improvements: Several new features were added to the PDE to make plug-in development easier. This includes Content Assist, Hyperlink support, Code folding, and Code Formating. Also, the PDE now allows you run multiple version of the same plug-in in the workspace or target environment. These features echo Wassim's comments that PDE Does tooling, but our business is people!!

5: Printing on GTK+:This is just a great bug fix / feature addition. I should also point out that GTK+ support for Eclipse is amazing. I personally think it looks nicer than Windows and Eclipse runs as fast, if not faster on my Linux box than it does on my Windows one.

4: New PDE Forms: They really Brought Sexy Back with this one. As well as a form face lift (with new gradients, icons, section headers, etc...) field assist and field validation were added. If you don't know, these forms are not just for PDE, you can use them in your favorite SWT app too.

3: Save Actions: Every now and then you get a feature that you really hate, and this is one of them! Why? Because I can no longer sit at someone else's machine and use their version of Eclipse. I am entirely dependent on my save actions: to organize my imports, format my code, and update my brackets. In my opinion, this feature ranks up there with Automatic Builds!

2: CTRL+Awesome: CTRL+3 is the new CTRL+1, that is, the new hot key I cannot live without. I no longer have to remember where I saw that action, or even what actions are available. Every view, perspective, menu item and editor are instantly available with a push of a button (CTRL+3).

1: EMF Generics: The EMF Team really out did themselves with this one. Not only did EMF lead the way with Java 5.0 support, they managed to do this without breaking binary compatibility. And like everything else in Eclipse, if you don't like the feature, turn it off. Using this feature, EMF will generate fully templatized lists. Now when you get lists of Books from a Library, you actually get Elist<book> not just an arbitrary list. Ed and Marcello gave an excellent talk at EclipseCon about their experience adding this feature.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Swt Callback Java Library

I just saw this post on dzone and thought someone on the planet may find it useful. It is a simple call back library to help deal with all those anonymous inner classes / listeners you get when you develop an SWT application.

I have no idea how well it performs.


Monday, February 12, 2007

TagSEA 0.5

As Chris mentioned, there are a few projects associated with tagging in Eclipse. We have just released version 0.5 of our project, TagSEA.

Update Site:

Like many other Eclipse projects, TagSEA is both an extensible framework as well as a set of exemplary tools. It provides basic tagging infrastructure for Eclipse, as well as concrete implementations for Java Tagging and Resource Tagging. TagSEA uses a concept from wayfinding known as waypoints. A waypoint is a particular location you wish to mark. TagSEA allows you to add tags, metadata and a comment to this waypoint.

Why did we do this? Good question :) We hypothesized that through the use of marking locations in code (or XML, or PDE Forms, or Workbench layout, etc...) , and providing mechanisms to return to these locations, developers could more easily navigate to “common” hot-spots or share interesting places with others. What do you think? Of course this is very new and we are just starting out, but we have all sorts of ideas of where tags could be useful:

  • EMF generated code that users are likely to customize
  • Places in the GEF framework that “should” be extended for normal operation
  • Plugin and manifest files
  • Mylar tasks
  • Images and other resources for future retrieval
  • SWT Snippets or other sample code
  • JUnit test cases

TagSEA currently supports hierarchical tags, a tag view, waypoint view and tag refactoring. As I mentioned, we have concrete implementations for Java and Resource files (Web URL and breakpoints are on the way). Where should we go next?

We have a long talk planned at EclipseCon (here) and we are currently throwing around the idea of holding a BoF on IDE's and tagging.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Eclipse Modeling Project and OCL

Anyone who believes that modeling at Eclipse is limited to EMF and possibly GMF, really should checkout the Eclipse (Top Level) Modeling Project (EMP). Ed Merks and Rich Gronback have done an excellent job of bringing together all of the Eclipse modeling work under one umbrella. A quick count reveals over 25 components to this project (including EMF and GMF).

Why should you use this technology? Of course if you are focusing on SWT extensions or device drivers this may not be the technology for you. But if you are writing an application (rich client or otherwise) that uses a data model, leveraging the EMP may save you a ton of time.

Recently (for part of my PhD) I needed a data model with a lot of data. I created a model (using EMF) for National Hockey League statistics. I created a class for Player, Team, PlayerYearlyStats, etc... The stats had attributes such as goals, assists, PIM (penalty minutes), etc... Using EMF I hit “Generate” and I had a fully working Java application that allowed me to create players, edit statistics and save all the data to an XML file (not bad for 10 minutes work). From here I populated the data with all the NHL stats from 1917 (no, I did not do this by hand!).

Next I decided to checkout a few other modeling components. In particular, I looked at the Object Constraint Language. OCL allows you to specify constraints on your Object Model in a platform (language) independent way. For example, I can say that if a player earned 200 points in a season, then the player must be Wayne Gretzky (self.points > 200 implies = 'Wayne Gretzky'). While this record may never be broken, I would probably use OCL to specify more “predictable” constraints such as 2 players on the same team can't have the same jersey number, etc...
OCL can also be used to query your data. Christian Damus (the author of OCL for Eclipse) has provided great examples to help you get up and running. Once installed, the OCL examples will generate a simple interpreter plugin that extends the Eclipse Console. Using the OCL interpreter plugin you can write OCL queries. For example, I can write:

Player.allInstances()->select( p | p.yearlyStats.goals->sum() > 800)

To select all the players who goals each year sum up to a total greater than 800. If I change this to 700 goals I get 6 players. I will leave that result as an exercise for the reader