11 December 2012

Eclipse Juno Patch for XML Editor Performance

Eclipse Juno has a number of performance regressions compared to Indigo. Switching back and forth between XML and Java editors can be tediously slow even in Juno SR1.

The patch provided for bug 394588 solves the issue or at least significantly improves the response time of the IDE.

In my team, we have tested the patch successfully on Windows 32 bit and Ubuntu Linux 64 bit with Oracle Java 6 and 7.

The patch can be installed from a special update site via Help | Install New Software.

23 November 2012

Logging with SLF4J and Logback in Tomcat and TomEE

Logging in Java would be a lot easier if every open source project out there would use SLF4J logging API, but of course this will never happen.

The fact that java.util.logging made it into the JRE does not make it any better than it is, so there's a good reason to hide it behind a facade and never use it directly. But there is no reason for everyone to invent their own logging facades instead of simply using SLF4J.

In my own applications, I always use SLF4J with Logback. Working with Tomcat, this means I'm getting an ugly mixture of log messages in different formats from my web application logging to System.out with Logback, and from Tomcat itself logging to System.err via JULI and java.util.logging, not to mention any third-party libraries contained in my application which use log4j, Apache Commons Logging or whatever.

There are two independent but similar approaches of replacing the official Tomcat JULI libraries by an SLF4J or Logback adapter: tomcat-slf4j and tomcat-slf-logback.

I've tried both, but in the end, I think it's easier to use nothing but the JUL-to-SLF4J bridge and other standard artifacts.

20 October 2012

Using the Maven 3 API with Maven 2 Components

Working on a Maven plugin, I was trying to upgrade the Maven API from 2.x to 3.0.4. After the upgrade, the plugin would no longer compile due to an unsatisfied transitive dependency of the maven-archiver used by the plugin: The class org.apache.maven.artifact.DependencyResolutionRequiredException could not be resolved.

The same issue was posted on the Maven Users list, but never answered.

Solution: Add a dependency on maven-core, or on maven-compat which should handle all compatibility issues with Maven 2.

20 August 2012

New OSGi Console in Equinox 3.8.0

Equinox 3.8.0, the OSGi framework running Eclipse Juno, comes with a new console built on top of Apache Felix Gogo Shell.

It is debatable whether or not this is an improvement. Veteran Equinox users are greeted with the following message when trying to activate the console:

08 August 2012

Maven Build Info for Web Applications


* You want to include build info like build number, revision number etc. as a web resource in your web applications.
* You have a multi-module Maven project with more than one WAR module and a number of JAR modules.
* You want to minimize copy-and-paste configuration in your POMs.
* The mechanism should not depend on a CI server.


This can be achieved using the Build Number Maven Plugin and the overlay feature of the Maven WAR plugin.

18 July 2012

OSGi and CDI Combined

Pax CDI is a new OPS4J community project I've started to combine the best of OSGi and CDI.

Once you've worked with CDI or with an up-to-date annotation-based flavour of Spring, the service registry API or XML-based dependency injection in the Blueprint or Declarative Services style suddenly appears rather verbose.

On the other hand, even though Java EE 6 is more lightweight than ever, its monolithic nature feels rather a burden when you're used to OSGi.

Why not have the best of both worlds? The idea is not new, it has been implemented to some extent both in weld-osgi and in the FighterFish subproject of GlassFish.

Unlike these two projects, Pax CDI is independent of any given CDI, Java EE or OSGi implementation. The first proof-of-concept release is based on Apache OpenWebBeans and Equinox. In contrast to weld-osgi, which required some modifications in Weld itself, Pax CDI works with an unmodified version of OpenWebBeans.

Trying to do the same with Weld is one of the next goals for Pax CDI.

An alpha release Pax CDI 0.1.0 is available from Maven Central.

28 June 2012

Fixing Editor Tab Fonts in Eclipse Juno

Eclipse Juno is out! It starts a good deal faster than Indigo, shows a more colourful (but ill-proportioned) splash screen, and then opens a workbench window with oversized and truncated labels in all editor tabs.

This applies to Ubuntu 12.04 with KDE and the QtCurve GTK+ theme.
This issue is not due to QtCurve or SWT, as I had first suspected, but to the new CSS-based widget styling of the e4 platform. There is an E4 CSS Editor which is not included in Juno by default, but can be installed via the Update Manager.

With this editor, you can change the font-size and font-family properties of the MPartStack style used by the editor tabs.
Much better!

Update 14 Aug 2012: If you develop web applications and edit CSS files in Eclipse, you'd better deinstall the E4 CSS editor after customizing the workbench layout to fall back to the standard WTP CSS editor. The XText-based E4 editor does not recognize some legal syntax like unquoted URLs.

Actually, you don't need any Eclipse plugin to change the CSS, you can directly edit the CSS file in your Eclipse installation at plugins/org.eclipse.platform_4.2.0.v20120608140/css/e4_default_gtk.css.

25 June 2012

Pax JDBC: An OSGi JDBC Service

Pax JDBC is a new project under the OPS4J umbrella which simplifies the use of JDBC drivers in OSGi applications by providing a generic driver extender and various native driver adapters for your favourite database.

This project aims at compliance with the OSGi Enterprise Release 5.0 specification.

Pax JDBC 0.1.0 is available from Maven Central, with native adapters for Apache Derby and PostgreSQL. Since this first release, support for H2 and MySQL has been added, and further contributions are always welcome.

24 May 2012

OSGi, Java EE and CDI Integration Testing with Pax Exam 3

In-container testing is an approach shared by many testing frameworks like Pax Exam, jeeunit, Arquillian and Spring's test context.

Pax Exam 2.x is a mature solution for testing OSGi bundles and applications, jeeunit was created to simplify Java EE 6 integration testing and has been extended to handle stand-alone CDI applications and non-CDI setups based on Tomcat and Spring.

Taking the best of both worlds, the next major release line Pax Exam 3.x is designed to provide a unified testing experience by incorporating additional test containers for Java EE and CDI from jeeunit while staying backward compatible with Pax Exam 2.x for OSGi.

The first public milestone release Pax Exam 3.0.0.M1 is now available from The Central Repository (aka Maven Central), including test containers for GlassFish, OpenWebBeans and Weld.

While jeeunit works with Embedded GlassFish which lacks all OSGi capabilities of the GlassFish server, the Pax Exam GlassFish Container launches GlassFish 3.1.2 on top of an OSGi framework, enabling users to deploy or provision both WAR modules and OSGi bundles, thus providing a test environment for hybrid Java EE/OSGi applications.

A plain old JUnit test class can be turned into an in-container integration test simply by adding a @RunWith(PaxExam.class) annoation and some configuration data in a properties file.

See the Pax Exam 3.0.0.M1 Release Notes for more details and use the OPS4J mailing list (general@lists.ops4j.org) for feedback and support.

01 May 2012

Deconstructing Spring myths

Over the past five years, I have had the pleasure of working on different Java enterprise projects based on OSGi, Java EE and Spring. Among these three platforms, Spring is the one I'm least happy with.

Granted, Spring lets you build complex enterprise applications without too much pain, or else it wouldn't be so popular. In the times of J2EE 1.4, Spring must have felt like a breath of fresh air, and without the competition of Spring and Hibernate, J2EE might not have evolved into what Java EE 6 is today.

But somehow the glory of Spring's founding myth of killing the beast that was J2EE seems to be fading. The former beast is now as manageable and easy to use as Spring ever was, or even more so. Dependency Injection in Java is no longer synonymous with Spring (and in fact never was).

The Spring Framework needs a new raison d'ĂȘtre, and the current strategy seems to be diversification: Projects like Spring Data or Spring Social offer new features that have no equivalent in Java EE or OSGi. And of course, any Spring XYZ project requires the Spring Framework. But looking at the capabilities of the Spring Framework itself, where are the killer features?

Does Spring provide solutions that are smarter or easier to use than equivalent constructs in Java EE?

Here is a list of reasons why I feel more productive on Java EE 6 than on Spring 3.1.

There is no Spring without Java EE

Most debates about Java EE vs Spring sound like an either-or question, but this is a misconception. You can build an application on Java EE without ever using a Spring API, but you can't really build an enterprise application on Spring without using a number of Java EE APIs and implementations.

A typical Spring-based application includes

  • a web container, usually Tomcat, which means Servlet, JSP, EL, all of which is Java EE
  • a service layer, which has the highest chance of being Spring-only, with Spring transactions and Spring dependency injection
  • some web service endpoints, most likely JAX-RS or JAX-WS, which means Java EE again
  • a persistence layer, traditionally Hibernate Native API + Spring templates, but these days there's really no reason for preferring vendor-specific APIs over JPA 2.0
  • some messaging, e.g. with ActiveMQ, which means JMS and thus Java EE again.

Thus, Spring and Java EE applications mostly differ in the following areas only:
  • the web framework (Spring MVC vs. JSF vs. Wicket vs. Vaadin vs. Struts vs.....)
  • Spring Beans vs. EJB
  • Spring Dependency Injection vs. CDI or Java EE 5 @EJB or @Resource injection

In the age of AJAX and component-oriented web frameworks, Spring MVC feels rather old-school. JSF 2.1 has a lot more to offer, and if you prefer an independent web framework like Vaadin, the underlying container does not matter anyway.

Who's afraid of EJBs? All you need is a @Stateless annotation on your Java class, and you get a thread-safe service where all public methods are transactional by default, which is just what you need in most cases.

And finally, CDI is much more powerful that Spring Dependency Injection, due to its seamless scope handling, its event model and its portable extension mechanism.

API vs. Implementation

Spring has no clear separation of API and implementation, neither at specification level nor at code level. The Spring Reference Manual documents the one and only Spring Framework implementation. The Spring Javadocs document each and every class contained in the Spring Framework. It is not easy to distinguish API level classes from container internal classes.

By contrast, Java EE is first and foremost a set of specifications, represented by a collection of thin API JARs or an all-in-one javaee-api.jar. There are different independent implementations by different providers. Provider specific implementation classes are not normally visible to the user.

Vendor Lock-In

Competition is a good thing. When you are having an issue with your application running on a given Java EE server, try another server. This will give you some insight whether or not the issue is caused by your application or the server.

With Spring, there's only Spring. You can't swap framework components. You can't even cherry-pick framework components. There is insufficient separation of concerns. Inherently, there is no reason why a web framework or a NoSQL persistence provider should have to be tied to a given dependency injection container. But you can't use Spring MVC or Spring Data without Spring Core, just like you can't run Microsoft SQL Server without Microsoft Windows.

JAR Hell

Java EE means one-stop shopping for the core functionality of an enterprise software stack. javaee-api.jar provides the interfaces you need to start developing your own applications. All the required runtime environment is provided by the application server.

Yes, the application server runtime does contain a lot of stuff you'll never need. But modern servers like GlassFish 3.x or JBoss AS7 are modular and lazily activate only the stuff you do need, so there is no runtime overhead. And even a monolithic server like Resin 4.x has a surprisingly small footprint.

My current project is a Spring web application deployed on Tomcat. The final WAR has more than 100 JARs in WEB-INF/lib. More than 30 of these JARs are due to Spring itself, its dependencies or other Java EE components not provided by Tomcat.

In other words, by moving from Spring to Java EE, I could drop a third of the dependencies of my application. And I'm not talking about saving 30 megabytes of disk space, but about the effort of maintaining these dependencies and resolving version conflicts of transitive dependencies.

Configuration Hell

The flip side of JAR hell is configuration hell. With Spring, once you have gathered all required components, you also need to configure them. You may get away with an automatic component scan for your own application beans, but there is always a certain amount of manual plumbing for setting up framework beans, and standard features like transaction management or property substitution have to be enabled explicitly.

Most Spring-based projects started before 2010 still use XML configuration which for my taste is hard to read, extremely verbose and hard to refactor. Spring 3.0 first introduced Java configuration as an alternative but left it unfinished. Spring 3.1 finally supports type-safe Java-only configurations. Unfortunately, the reference manual and Spring extensions like Spring Security still promote XML configuration and leave it to the user to figure out the Java equivalents, which can be rather challenging, especially when custom Spring XML namespaces are involved.

With Java EE 6, little or no configuration is required. Transaction management works out of the box. Use an empty beans.xml marker file to enable CDI. Define the data sources and connections pools for your application in your application server's administration console. That's it.

Thread Safety

Spring leaves thread safety up to you. Controllers and services have singleton scope by default, so you can't use instance variables, or you need to protect them explicitly.

With Java EE, stateless EJB are pooled, concurrent requests each get served by a new beans from the pool, so your beans are thread-safe by default, unless you modify static members or global singletons.

Singleton Antipattern

The fact that Spring beans are singletons and not thread-safe by default tends to promote a rather ugly procedural programming style. Suppose you have a service with one public method performing some non-trivial business logic, factored out into a number of private methods.

In a stateless EJB, your private methods can share state in member variables within the same request (i.e. public method call), so in fact, the EJB is not quite as stateless as it may appear.

In a Spring bean, you often see private methods with long parameters lists, since you cannot share state in member variables, so you have to pass it around in method arguments.

Mixing Scopes

Due to these issues with singleton Spring beans, you may want to use the prototype scope, or the request scope in web applications.

Now when you inject a protoype or request scope bean into a singleton bean, Spring does not by default do the right thing to ensure that the injected bean is indeed a different instance per request. You need to resort to method injection or configure a scoped proxy explicitly.

CDI, on other hand, automatically proxies injected beans when needed.


Spring itself does not provide global transactions across multiple resources. It can delegate to a JTA transaction manager but does not provide its own implementation.

Working with two or more persistence units in the same application, you need to configure a transaction manager per persistence unit and reference the correct instance in the @Transactional annotation of your service class or method.

In Java EE, transactions are managed by the container by default. EJBs are transactional by default. The container can handle multiple persistence units without further configuration. Global transactions spanning multiple datasources work out of the box if you configure XA datasources.

Load Time Weaving

Some persistence providers require load time weaving, also known as byte code enhancement. The JPA specification defines a hook for this purpose in PersistenceUnitInfo.addTransformer().

With OpenJPA and GlassFish, this works like a charm. Using OpenJPA with Spring and Tomcat, the required set-up is rather a nightmare, so I ended up using build-time enhancement, which is a lot easier to configure, but still requires additional manual configuration.


Spring has had its merits in giving relief to frustrated J2EE developers. But this is 2012 - compared to Spring, Java EE 6 now provides equivalent or better solutions for most standard tasks in enterprise application development.

Both Java EE and Spring are far from perfect. All in all, Java EE is more integrated and easier to use - not by orders of magnitude, but noticeably so.

And none of this is an eternal truth, tables may turn again within a few years.

29 April 2012

Metamodel classes for OpenJPA with Maven, Eclipse and m2e

Metamodel classes are a not-so-well known feature of the JPA 2.0 standard. They allow you to write typesafe criteria queries using metamodel attributes instead of plain old strings to reference entity fields. (See this tutorial for some more background.)

Metamodel classes are generated by an annotation processor during the build process, but this is not enabled by default. OpenJPA logs a runtime warning when you build a criteria query and the metamodel classes cannot be found. So even if you don't use the metamodel, you may want to generate it just to get rid of this warning.

This article explains how to generate the metamodel both in Maven batch builds and in the Eclipse workspace.

15 April 2012

Multi-Instance Deployment from Eclipse to Tomcat


  • You are developing a web application for Tomcat in Eclipse.
  • You want to deploy multiple instances of the same application with different configurations directly from your workspace.
  • Of course, you don't want to duplicate any projects in your workspace.


This scenario can be solved quite easily with the vanilla Apache Tomcat adapter of Eclipse WTP. There is no need for any additional Eclipse plugins.

25 January 2012

Integration Testing for JBoss AS7, Tomcat and Weld SE

Initially, the jeeunit Integration Testing framework was exclusively focused on Java EE 6, supporting GlassFish 3.x, which was the only Java EE 6 compliant server at that time. Support for Resin 4.x has been added in subsequent releases.

With the current release 0.9.1, jeeunit supports JBoss AS 7, as well as alternative containers and injection methods beyond the scope of Java EE 6. You can now run jeeunit tests on Tomcat 6 and 7 and Weld SE containers.

Tomcat can be combined either with Spring 3.1 or with CDI (Weld Servlet) to inject dependencies into jeeunit tests.

And there's more to come: While jeeunit will continue a life of its own for a while, I'm planning to merge it step by step into Pax Exam, the OSGi testing framework of the OPS4J community.

Pax Exam and jeeunit both implement an in-container testing approach - while Pax Exam focuses on OSGi alone, jeeunit now supports various other containers, but no OSGi at all.

The Pax Exam/jeeunit merger opens interesting perspectives for hybrid applications, i.e. enterprise applications composed of traditional WARs and OSGi bundles. GlassFish 3.x supports this hybrid application model, implementing a subset of the OSGi Enterprise specifications.

For Pax Exam, the road towards the next major release 3.0.0 will be marked by a sequence of milestone releases, each of which is to incoporate a new container adapted from jeeunit.

A Pax Exam GlassFish Test Container is the goal of the first proof-of-concept milestone 3.0.0.M1. This is work in progress on a dedicated branch exam3-milestones in the Pax Exam GitHub repository.

Stay tuned...

03 January 2012

Troubleshooting VisualVM Remote Connections

I was trying to use VisualVM to monitor the memory usage of a build job on our build server. According to the documentation, this should require nothing but a jstatd daemon running on the remote machine.

For some reason, I could not see any remote applications in my local VisualVM. It was not a port issue, all the required ports were reachable via telnet.

Googling around, this article finally gave my the important clue: Our network does not have consistent DNS names, so I had to connect to the remote machine via IP address. Setting the java.rmi.server.hostname property for jstatd to the IP address solved the problem.


On the remote machine

Create policy file for jstatd

grant codebase "file:${java.home}/../lib/tools.jar" {
    permission java.security.AllPermission;

Start jstatd with this hostname file and the IP address as hostname

jstatd -J-Djava.security.policy=jstatd.all.policy -J-Djava.rmi.server.hostname=

On the local machine

Start jvisualvm and add a Remote Host with the given IP address. A jstatd connection will be established by default. You should now see your remote applications.