Sunday, February 28, 2010

[Misc] Future IT Trends

Just a quick Post:

I (and DZone readers) found this link quite interesting.
It shows technology trends and the interesting figures are not
the absulute values but the technologies that have the fastest grow.

Have a look: IT job trends - Which technologies you should learn next

Is the horse you bet on in the list?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

[Tech] GIT:Mercurial = Assembler:Java

I am using Mercurial since about half a year pretty regularly and I am also (forced) to use GIT recently. And I must say, that I am not pleased with the GIT experience at all. An initial statement first, though: I am not arguing about features here; it is no doubt, that GIT is an extremely powerful and also reliable sourcecode management system. But the user experience is, in my opinion, questionable at least. 

The first time I got into contact with distributed SCM systems was through Mercurial. There are some new concepts that have to be understood (coming from Subversion), but generally spoken it is pretty easy to start with. Simple things are simple, complex things are mostly reasonable to understand. The basic set of commands and switches is kept simple and are hence easy to learn and understand. One is not flooded with commands and options in the beginning; specific functions (e.g. patch queues, rebasing, ...) can be switched on later by enabling the very extension. About 35 extensions are part of the Mercurial distributions and can be enabled by adding one line to the config file. Other extensions can be installed when needed.

In my opinion, this is a very clever way to hide unecessary complexity in the beginning and to provide the new user with a clean and simple set of commands. Later on, enabling specific extensions allow a "fine-tunes" feature set. Along comes a concise but pretty good help documentation.  One example: "hg help log" explains the log command in about one screen page.

The first encounter with GIT on the other hand is in my opinion rather terrible. Try "git help log" and you get around 20 (sic!) screens with Unix-style documentation (and this is not meant as a compliment) of the log command. There is a lot of documentation on the GIT homepage though. But there are a lot of other "goodies" in the man pages as well. One more example? 

Well: "hg glog" shows me a representation of the history of my repository including branches. "git log" does only show the current branch. OK, so there should be an option to control that. Well, first of all: good luck with 20 man pages... Then I searched for "/branch" in the man-page and found the "--branches" switch (which apparently does the job). Yet what do I find as explanation of this switch?
--branches: Pretend as if all the refs in $GIT_DIR/refs/heads are listed on the command line as
I am a very peaceful character, but honestly, when I read such a statement in a documentation, I feel the urgent need rising to beat the developer who wrote that line.

The Git community book that is (according to the website) "meant to help you to learn how to use GIT as quickly and easily as possible" start in the first chapter with a detailed explanation of the internal GIT data model instead of explaining fundamental principles of DSCM und Git. WTF? To be fair, there is a set of other documentation artefacts on the website that appear to be significantly better for starters though.

The main issue in my point of view, all considered, is the lack of encapsulation/layering of functionality. What is done great in Mercurial (e.g. with extensions) is done very bad in GIT.  My feeling with GIT is, that there is at least one level of abstraction too few in the design. The user experience reminds me to the less good student projects I have seen over the years: In many of these projects there is no need to take a look at e.g. the ER diagram or database schema: a glance at the GUI is sufficient. Each database table is represented in the GUI, probably separated by "tabs". "Great" design: all internals layed out to the user, who is usually not interested in technical details, but in solving a specific (higher level) problem.

I got a similar feeling with GIT: no doubt it is technically on a very (!) different level than the mentioned student projects, but the usability feels pretty much the same. With nearly every interaction I have not the impression of solving my SCM problem, but interacting with technical details I am not actually interested in. It feels like cars in the 1920 (or Vespas in the 90s), you spend more time under the hood fixing some crap then driving to your destination.

I really hope, that the GIT team is going to improve the user interface. in the future.  Allowing low-level ("assembler commands") for specific purposes and experts and a significantly better abstracted set of commands for "day to day" operations. Consequentially, at the moment, I would definitly recommend Mercurial over GIT, simply by the much better user experience and layering/abstraction of functionality.

p.s.:  5min after I wrote this article, I figured, that Martin Fowler wrote an article yesterday about VCS;

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

[Tech] Balsamiq Mockups

If you develop Client or Web applications providing a User Interface you end up with questions like:

  • Which GUI do we provide
  • Elements (Input fields, Buttons, etc.) should the GUI contain
  • What is the structure of the GUI
  • and many other questions
Usually you have several workshops with the end users who work with the final software systems. Balsamiq mockups is a great tool to create mockup GUIs in a very fast time. I always use this tool in workshops with the customer. With this smart software product you can create and tweak UI designs in real time during the meeting and the user will see the result immediateley. The tool provides a predefined mockups, like Buttons, Tables, Fields, Tabs and many other common GUI elements. There are also elements available for iPhone applications. A design of a GUI can look like this:
A more complex GUI:

Several designs can be exported to PNG images. Therefore you can create some variants and play use cases through the GUIs. Another very important point for GUI Developers is to determine common GUI components that are used in different modules of your application.

Don't paint the GUIs on yourself, the time is too valuable to waste on it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

[Arch] Event Based Programming

In his blog / twitter feed (worth following) Ralf westphal writes this:

> A "must read" for everyone interested in Software Architecture:
> About the damn being in Software Development - Coupling:
The expanded link is here.

The link references a very good Apress Book! (some pages 100 to 300 are missing).

The only thing I am missing in this book is that there are many tools out there to supervise and reduce coupling. So Event Based programming is not the only solution to complexity / coupling.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

[Pub] Eclipse Plugin for Mule and Mule Data Mapper

The main topic of the actual Eclipse Magazin is called Plugin Parade, where I published a short article about the new Mule IDE and Mule Data Integrator, two Plugins for Eclipse. The Mule IDE provides an integrated Mule server for Eclipse. Therefore the test of Mule environments in Eclipse is very comfortable and easy. As data transformation is a significant part in an ESB, a graphical support tool such as the Mule Data Integrator provides a powerful tool for integration developers. Mule Data Integrator is an end-to-end solution for complex data integration and transformation, simplifying the development, maintenance, and deployment of data maps. One of the major advantage of the data integrator is the integrated Test Suite.

The combination of the Mule IDE and Mule Data Integrator provides a really good environment for your integration development.