Open Source Love Day May 2010

Our Open Source Love Day for May 2010 brought love for Netty, Launch4j and RXTX. Everything went smooth again this time.

Last friday, we held our Open Source Love Day for May 2010. After the excessive yak shaving of last month’s OSLD, this one was more productive. We got one feature right nearly instantly and several others throughout the day. To keep us from feeling depressed, we allocated dedicated “research time” to get to know a project before starting to develop on it. So one point on our current list of accomplishments is only research work that should be counted as “thought investment” for further improvements.

The Open Source Love Day

We introduced a monthly Open Source Love Day (OSLD) to show our appreciation to the Open Source software ecosystem and to donate back. We heavily rely on Open Source software for our projects. We would be honored if you find our contributions useful. Check out our first OSLD blog posting for details on the event itself.

On this OSLD, we accomplished the following tasks:

  • Netty is a java framework to perform network communication, transparently using different transport mechanisms. We use it in a customer project environment and it worked mostly well. But we noticed some issues that might have to do with the framework, so we decided to put it under development. But before hopping in right away, we invested some hours to really anatomize it. Our achievement isn’t noticeable yet, but might be in the future.
  • Launch4j is a java application launcher for Windows, handling all the stuff a startup script (the infamous start.bat) would do, too. One thing that’s easy to perform in a batch script is to restart the application if it went down with an error. We wanted this feature in Launch4j and we succeeded. Before releasing the changes to the project, we need some rethinking of our approach, as it is very special to our case, but if you are interested, we send you the patch on request.
  • RXTX is a project to perform serial (RS232) communication. Over the course of the last OSLDs, we worked on an issue that appears in combination with serial converters. See the OSLD posting for march 2010 for details. This issue seems to be completely fixed now. We will run some longterm stability tests with it and then release a patch to the issue tracker of RXTX, issue #144.
  • Our internal tool for business administration was greatly improved this time. The tool isn’t open sourced yet, but we are not afraid to publish it in the future. The new features will directly decrease our administrative overhead and give us more time to perform our main duty – developing software.

A sidenote regarding the yaks (see last month’s OSLD posting to understand this one)

Our monthly “Homepage Comittee” meeting went smooth this time. The setup pain of last month is now paying out and we got our homepage updated. It seems the yaks haven’t grown beards again yet.

What were our lessons learnt today?

  • Pure C code tends to produce endless code blocks. Simple refactorings like extract method/function take a long time and aren’t supported by the IDE. The sentence “there is no boolean!” left some of us impressed, too.
  • The C/C++ Eclipse workbench (in fact, a bunch of plugins for Eclipse) was a joke instead of a help. It didn’t exactly prevent us from doing our work, but that’s all it did. Launch4j came along with project files for the Bloodshed Dev-C++ IDE, which – besides its bloody name – seems to be up to its tasks. We decided to use Dev-C++ over Eclipse for development on Launch4j.
  • Hpricot is a very versatile HTML parser/manipulator. It is just pure joy to work with. (Ok, we knew that one before)

After the fruitless OSLD of april, this one was a great relief for us. The new restart feature for Launch4j worked out instantly and will solve many of our current immediate problems (and some of yours, hopefully). The solution for RXTX got us out of trouble, too. All in all, this was a successful OSLD.