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Communicating my thoughts on software development

My paper MIMECORA-DS added as LNCS at SpringerLink

Posted by rnaufal on 3rd December 2009

I’m proud to announce that my paper A Collaborative Support Approach on UML Sequence Diagrams for Aspect-Oriented Software was added as lecture notes in computer science at SpringerLink.

At this paper it is presented an extension based on the default UML meta-model, named MIMECORA-DS, to show object-object, object-aspect and aspect-aspect interactions applying the UML’s sequence diagram.

You can check it out here.

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The Fan programming language

Posted by rnaufal on 12th June 2008

Cedric has showed us an interesting programming language called Fan, which has a lot of useful features. The ones I liked most are:

  • Familiar Syntax: Java and C# programmers will feel at home with Fan’s curly brace syntax.
  • Concurrency: Tackle concurrency with built-in immutability, message passing, and REST oriented transactional memory.
  • Static and Dynamic Typing: Don’t like the extremes – take the middle of the road.
  • Object Oriented: Everything is an object.
  • Functional: Functions and closures are baked in.

Here are some code chunks, showing its closures syntax:

// find files less than one day old
files := dir.list.findAll |File f->Bool|
return – f.modified < 1day

// print the filenames to stdout
files.each |File f|
echo("$f.modified.toLocale: $")

I haven’t tried the Fan language a lot yet (I’ll post my comments here when I do it), but I congratulate the Fan authors for being possible to run it on both the JVM and .Net. I agree with Cedric when he said about the possibility to declare constructors with arbitrary names (although they must be prefixed with the new keyword) and invoke it as static methods of the class. From designer of the class point of view, it’s easy to identify the constructor (it’s highlighted by the new keyword), but from the client it’s difficult because there’s no way to differentiate a constructor from a static method call. It’s a bit odd to be able to do that. Just take a look at the code:

// Using an arbitrary name as a constructor
class Person
new create(Int age) { this.age = age; }
Int age
p = Person.create(20)

Anyway, I think it’s a good work to make the language have both object-oriented and functional constructs and be portable to both the Java VM and the .NET CLR. Good work guys!

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Why not design patterns?

Posted by rnaufal on 4th September 2007

Some months ago, Cedric has reported people criticizing the use of design patterns on software projects, with some arguments like:

  • “it’s a sign that your language is fundamentally broken”
  • “focus on simpler solutions before going straight to a complex recipe of design patterns”

and other funny things also. Moreover, some said design patterns was inspired in Cristopher Alexander’s Pattern Language book, although design patterns leverage complexity to the programming languages, totally opposed to the Alexander’s book simplicity proposal. As Cedric said, people do criticize, but not provide better solutions. It’s inside our personality: we often try to find defects in all the ways people realize things, but we don’t like to search for better ways to realize the same things. In my opinion, design patterns are:

  • Patterns for developing object-oriented reusable software;
  • Leverage a solution to a general design problem in a particular context;
  • Promotes design reuse;
  • Promotes a common vocabulary on the software development team;
  • Facilitate software modifications, documentation;
  • Promotes manutenable, understandable, legible code, abstracting aspects of a domain problem;

and some other benefits…

So, what do people want? Every time, every software project implementing the same feature in a different way? Of course we’re not saying here to insulate a lot of patterns in a sofware project, but, come on, why not establish a common vocabulary of software instead of doing things all diferent every time? Why reinventing the wheel?

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Do you need closures in Java?

Posted by rnaufal on 13th June 2007

TheServerSide has raised a question about whether closures proposals to be implemented in the Java language are really necessary. In my opinion, I think the Java language must be as it is, because:

  • Generics syntax introduced in Java 1.5 are very difficult to understand and parse when code is read; mixing it with closures will keep the code a little messy;
  • People would prefer to do things in the way they are used to, instead of learning a new construct in the language to implement their tasks (it’s better to focus on code maintenance and readability, after all, code is more read than written);
  • Anonymous-inner classes are far less readable than inner classes, imagine when closures appear in such a code;

So, I think it’s better to maintain the language with the abstractions it already offers and focus on other improvements, like reifiable generics, that is, making generic type information available at runtime. And you? Will you think useful closures on the Java language?

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About Refactoring

Posted by rnaufal on 9th October 2006

From Objects First With Java’s book: “Refactoring is the activity of restructuring an existing design to maintain a good class design when the application is modified or extended. Doing good refactoring is as much about thinking in a certain mindset as it is about technical skills. While we make changes and extensions to applications, we should regularly question whether an original class design still represents the best solution. As the functionality changes, arguments for or against certain designs change. What was a good design for a simple application might not be good anymore when some extensions are added. Recognizing these changes and actually making the refactoring modifications to the source code usually saves a lot of time and effort in the end. The earlier we clean up our design, the more work we usually save.”

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SRP Example – Bowling Game

Posted by rnaufal on 18th September 2006

Browsing Uncle Bob’s blog, I’ve found this interesting post about teaching TDD with a practical example. It tries to show the principles of TDD while implementing a bowling game. A class diagram showing the mainly concepts of the game is presented. Here it is (click on the thumbnail to see a larger image):

Bowling Game

Some Java code of Game class is show below:

   1:public class Game
   3:    private int rolls[] = new int [21];
   4:    private int currentRoll = 0;
   6:    public void roll(int pins)
   7:    {
   8:        rolls[currentRoll++] = pins;
   9:    }
  11:    public int score()
  12:    {
  13:        int score = 0;
  14:        int frameIndex = 0;
  15:        for(int frame = 0; frame < 10; frame++) {
  16:            if(isStrike(frameIndex)) {
  17:                score += 10 + strikeBonus(frameIndex);
  18:                frameIndex++;
  19:            }
  20:            else if(isSpare(frameIndex)) {
  21:                score += 10 + spareBonus(frameIndex);
  22:                frameIndex += 2;
  23:            }
  24:            else {
  25:                score += sumOfBallsInFrame(frameIndex);
  26:                frameIndex += 2;
  27:            }
  28:        }
  29:        return score;
  30:    }
  31:    .
  32:    .

The Single Responsability Principle (SRP) states “there should never be more than one reason for a class to change”. Analysing carefully the Game class, you can note it has more than one reason to change. So, this class has more than one responsability. One is to keep track of the current frame and the other is to calculate the score. It sometimes is hard to see beacuse it’s difficult to detect a bad class design concerning SRP, because SRP is about implementation, not interface, as I’ve posted before. It’s bad for a class to have two responsabilities, because they become coupled. In the real world this king of coupling doesn’t exist, so in the computational world you can’t create this coupling. If we have to change a client of the BowlingGame class who depends only on the roll() operation and this change causes the BowlingGame class too, we would have to rebuild and retest another client of the BowlingGame class who depends on the score() operation. A better design would separate these responsabilities in different classes or maybe applying Interface Segregation Principle (ISP). I’ve changed a little this class design, ending up doing this (click ont the thumbnail to see a larger image):

Bowling Game

Notice that I have decoupled the clients from the BowlingGame in terms of interfaces. Now, those interfaces provide the clients the services they need, staying far away from the Game implementation.
I think this class design is better beacuse we have decoupled the concepts from each other concerning the whole application, separating in two interfaces. Notice the implementation of the two responsabilities still continues in the BowlingGame
class, but nobody need depend upon this class. Nobody will know it exists. The client who needs to know the bowling game score, will depend on the Scorer interface and another client who wants to register rolls will depend on the RollRegister interface. The implementation is far away from the client. I will change the code concerning this new design and I will post here later. As I’ve told, I think this design is better. Do you have an opinion or suggestion about this?

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Applying the Law of Demeter

Posted by rnaufal on 11th September 2006

Have you ever been told about the Law of Demeter when developing object-oriented systems? This law states the following:

More formally, the Law of Demeter for functions requires that any method M of an object O may only invoke the methods of the following kinds of objects:

  1. itself
  2. its parameters
  3. any objects it creates/instantiates
  4. its direct component objects

In particular, an object should avoid invoking methods of a member object returned by another method.

Browsing the source code of a project, I found this Java code stretch:

   1:public class AccountHelper
   3:    public void creditToAccount(Account account, double value)
   4:    {
   5:        double balance = account.balance();
   6:        double newBalance = balance + value;
   7:        account.setBalance(newBalance);
   8:    }
  10:    public boolean withdrawFromAccount(Account account,
  11:            double value)
  12:    {
  13:        double balance = account.balance();
  14:        double limit = account.limit();
  15:        double newBalance = balance;
  16:        boolean canWithdraw = false;
  17:        if(balance + limit >= value) {
  18:            newBalance = balance - value;
  19:            canWithdraw = true;
  20:        }
  21:        account.setBalance(newBalance);
  22:        return canWithdraw;
  23:    }

This code snippet doesn’t follow demeter’s law. And it’s hiding a responsability that would have been better in the Account class. If the Account knows its balance and limit, why putting the credit and withdraw behavior in a helper class? If we follow the Specialist grasp pattern, the responsability has to be at the class with the specific knowledge. So, I’ve improved the design to this new one Java code:

   1:import java.math.BigDecimal;
   3:public class Account
   5:    private BigDecimal balance;
   6:    private BigDecimal limit;
   8:    public Account(double balance)
   9:    {
  10:        this.balance = new BigDecimal(balance);
  11:    }
  13:    public Account(double amount,
  14:        double limit)
  15:    {
  16:        this(amount);
  17:        this.limit = new BigDecimal(limit);
  18:    }
  20:    public void credit(double value)
  21:    {
  22:        balance = balance.add(new BigDecimal(value));
  23:    }
  25:    public boolean withdraw(double quantity)
  26:    {
  27:        if(canWithdraw(quantity)) {
  28:            balance.subtract(new BigDecimal(quantity));
  29:            return true;
  30:        }
  31:        return false;
  32:    }
  34:    public double balance()
  35:    {
  36:        return balance.doubleValue();
  37:    }
  39:    private boolean canWithdraw(double quantity)
  40:    {
  41:        return (balance.doubleValue() + 
  42:                limit.doubleValue() >= quantity)
  43:                ? true
  44:                : false;
  45:    }
  47:    public void setBalance(double balance)
  48:    {
  49:        this.balance = new BigDecimal(balance);
  50:    }
  52:    public double limit()
  53:    {
  54:        return limit.doubleValue();
  55:    }

So, the initial Java code stretch become this one:

   1:public class AccountHelper
   3:    public void credit(Account account, double value)
   4:    {
   5:        assert account != null;
   7:    }
   9:    public boolean withdraw(Account account, double value)
  10:    {
  11:        assert account != null;
  12:        return account.withdraw(value);
  13:    }

This code above is better because we hide from the clients the Account class internal structure (clients don’t need to know the existence of suborders). Moreover, if the internal structure of account is intended to change, less clients would suffer with those changes (actually, if the Account class changes, only it would have to receive the changes and its clients would have to stay far away from its changes. It’s why Object Oriented design is focused in behavior instead of state). This nice phrase resumes demeter’s law: “The resulting software tends to be more maintainable and adaptable. Since objects are less dependent on the internal structure of other objects, object containers can be changed without reworking their callers”.

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