Monday, May 22, 2017

Learn by listening to audiobooks

Last week I gave a talk at work about the many benefits of listening to audiobooks.  I've been a heavy audiobook listener ever since discovering this book format back in 2001 as a great way to get me through long commutes.  I talked about where I get books from and suggested how mundane activities can be made more fun by doing them while listening to audiobooks.  I listed some of my favorite authors and provided various book recommendations both for self-improvement and general entertainment.  The slides from my talk can be seen below:


Friday, December 23, 2016

Teach your kids to code

Last week I gave a talk at Alliance Data on teaching your kids to code.  I basically walked through various applications, websites and robots that I have tried together with my kids (age 12, 9 and 6) and shared what we have enjoyed and what not.  Using these tools we have created together multiple stories and games, to our mutual enjoyment.  If you are a software developer who has a kid, I definitely recommend trying some of these tools out.  Here are the slides from my talk:


Friday, January 29, 2016

Interview for QA or the Highway

I will be taking my Web Services Testing talk to the QA or the Highway conference next month.  I am excited to speak at this QA focused conference for the first time.  I have heard a lot of good things about the conference.  Alliance Data, my new employer will be sending their entire testing team to the conference, so hopefully I'll have some friendly faces in the audience during my session :)  To promote the event and generate buzz, the Testing Curator is interviewing some of the speakers in what they call the Speaker Series.  I was recently interviewed.  Below is a link to the results.

QA or the Highway 2016 – Speaker Series – Featuring Stan Jónsson

Our sixth featured speaker who will be at QA or the Highway is Stan Jónsson.
1. What attracted you to speaking at QA or the Highway this year? I saw a...

Saturday, January 9, 2016

CodeMash 2016 - Program some health into your life

Another awesome CodeMash is coming to an end, with a lot of great sessions and a bunch of fun activities throughout the conference.  I attended the full 4 days and was joined by my family for the last 2.  For the first time my kids attended KidzMash, where they had a great time learning game development, how robots work, building an Altoid-flashlight and learning how to count to F! In the CodeMash spirit I attended mostly sessions outside my immediate comfort zone; including pre-compiler on 7 languages, front-end talks, UX-talks, softskill-talks and a few pertaining to what I am currently working on; microservices and modularity.

 I was honored to be presenting at CodeMash for the third time.  This time on a non-technical subject dear to my heart.  My talk was titled Program some health into your life; where I walked developers through what it takes to stay healthy at a desk job, the basics of nutrition and exercising, and offered various tips on loosing weight and getting the most out of your effort.  It went very well and I was not even booed when I suggested bacon was not the cornerstone of a healthy meal plan! :)  Apparently there was a free candy buffet going on at the same time I gave my talk, so I was pleased to see a room full of programmers giving up sweets for health advice :)  Below are the slides from my talk. 

As in years past, hats off to the CodeMash organizers for putting on a great conference.  I am already looking forward to CodeMash 2017!  Now off to the water park with the family!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Biking to work

Last week, during a monthly lunch and learn, I gave a talk on bicycling to work.  I have been riding to work once a week for a few months now and this was my attempt to get some of my coworkers to join in on the fun.  Aside from multiple health benefits, I have found that when I ride I arrive at work much happier and better prepared to tackle the day, than on days when I commute via car.  During the talk I shared various tips on bike commuting and on how to go about mapping a bike-friendly route from one's home to work.  Using and Google's Bicycling and Street View data I have been able to map out a relatively safe route from my home in Hilliard to my current work in Easton, Ohio.  The route is rather long (around 29 miles) so I have only been doing it once a week.  Below are the slides from the talk.  If you have any good bike commuting tips to share, I would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

StirTrek Talk Available on YouTube

Last month I had the pleasure of presenting at StirTrek 2015, Ultron Edition.  This one day software development conference has grown into one of the premier technology events in town, so I felt honored to get a chance to present.  The conference was held at the Rave Theaters in Columbus, and as in previous years the 1500 attendee tickets were sold out in minutes.

I gave a talk on Testing Web Services, similar to ones previously presented at CodeMash and Columbus Code Camp.  According to the proctor manning my theater, 217 people attended the session.  The presentation went very well and I had a lot of people come up to me afterwards and thank me for the talk, which made me feel good.  The talk was recorded and can now be viewed on YouTube.  Only the audio and video feeds to the projector were captured, so you wont be able to see my face.  Well, maybe just as well.  If you want to learn more about SoapUI, JMeter and REST-assured, then give the video a shot.  It is about an hour long.  

The slides from the talk (with screenshots of most of what I walked through), along with all code/scripts are available in the StirTrek Github repo (downloadable zip file).

As always the conference ended with a private movie screening.  This time the movie was The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  My wife joined me and the rest of the Quick Solutions gang for the viewing, which was a great ending to a fun conference. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

JMS testing with HermesJMS

HermesJMS is a handy tool that can be used to visually interact with JMS destinations (JMS Queues or JMS Topics).  I find it convenient for ad hoc testing of JMS applications.  I use it to monitor the status of JMS Queues, browse their contents, and to drop messages onto queues for testing purposes.  

When viewing a message in a JMS Queue, HermesJMS shows you the JMS headers and the value of the message payload, even if the payload is a serialization of a custom Java object.   For example, in my current consulting engagement, we had a situation where we had a bad message stuck at the front of one of our JMS Queues (and due to invalid configuration our app kept processing that same message over and over, rather than proceeding onto the next message in the queue).  Through the WebLogic Console we were able to see that there was a message in the queue that wasn't getting processed, but we couldn't see the actual content of the message that was causing it to get stuck.  By connecting HermesJMS to the queue we could view the message payload and as a result identify and fix the issue.

Browse Queue Contents

The screenshot below shows an example of what browsing messages in a JMS Queue looks like:

The table lists the JMS messages currently in the queue and the JMS headers for each message.  Below the table is then a text rendering of the actual payload (typically a serialized Java object).  In this example the payload is a Java class called HermesDemo with two properties, foo and bar (which I creatively concocted for this blog post :)

Drag Messages Between Queues

Another handy feature of HermesJMS is that you can easily copy messages between queues.  For example, if I click on the top message in the demo/Queue on my local machine I can drag it over to a queue in my testing environment (UAT):

HermesJMS asks me to confirm the action and then copies the message over.  HermesJMS will automatically handle any necessary mapping if the JMS Destination names differ between the source and the target queues.  I find this drag and drop feature quite handy for ad hoc testing JMS applications in multiple environments.  I produce a message on one of my local queues and then drag it as needed onto a corresponding queue in the environment I want to test.  

Build Message Stores

HermesJMS also has a feature where you can build so called stores; that work off of a database rather than an actual JMS destination.  Using this feature you can build a database of various JMS messages and have them ready for dragging over to a remote destination anytime you need to test a specific condition in one of your JMS applications.

XML Export/Import

Alternatively HermesJMS allows you to export messages to XML files, for later import into queues/topics. To do this, you simply click on a message in the queue and select Save as XML... from the Messages menu, then give it a file name and hit save.  To import the message to a queue you click on the JMS Queue and select Send XML Encoded Messages from the Messages menu and then select the XML file to import from on your hard drive:

Note: if the JMS Destination name does not match between the source and target queues you will need to edit the XML and update the value to match that of the target queue.  

In our example the exported DemoClass.xml file looks like this:

where the value of the object tag is an object serialization + Base64 encoding of the following Java class:

When you export a message from a Queue to XML, HermesJMS handles the serialization magic for you and writes it out to the XML file.   If you want to create a new XML message from scratch (e.g. when adding the first message for a queue), you can build the serialization string using the SerializeHermesDemoClass in my Github repo (just modify the main method to use whatever class you want to serialize).

Setup Instructions

Below are basic instructions for getting HermesJMS set up.  In my case I am using WebLogic as the application server.  Setup for other app servers is similar; you just need to use the ContextFactory and jar files specific to that app server.  If you go to you will find setup instructions for many app servers under the Providers menu.

  1. Download and install HermesJMS, either directly from Sourceforge or as part of SoapUI install.
  2. Start HermesJMS by running hermes.bat/
  3. Create a ClasspathGroup for your app server jar files 
    1. Select Option and Preferences
    2. Click on the Providers tab
    3. Right-click on Classpath Groups and select Add Group and give it a name (e.g. JarDependencies)
    4. Click the + sign and right-click on Library and select Add Jars and find the jar files you want to import.  In our case that is weblogic.jar, wlclient.jar, and HermesDemo.jar, which has the custom Java class used in our demo.  If you want HermesJMS to show the contents of a custom Java object in your JMS Queue, it needs to have the corresponding class file on its classpath.  You can either add the jar here, or alternatively edit hermes.bat/ and add it where the CLASSPATH variable gets set.
  4. Next we need to create a Session for JNDI browsing the JMS server 
    1. On the Preferences screen, click the Sessions tab.
    2. Give the session a name, corresponding to the JMS server you are pointing it to.
    3. Select the Plug In matching your app server.  In our case it is BEA WebLogic.
    4. Under Loader, select your JarDependencies and under Class select hermes.JNDIConnectionFactory.
    5. Populate the binding, initialContextFactory, providerUrl, and security properties as appropriate for your app server.  For WebLogic the properties are:
    6. If the destination names don't get auto-populated, right-click under Destinations and add the names of JMS Queues/Topics you want to connect to on the JMS Server.

Note: If you are using WebLogic you can alternatively download this
pre-populated hermes-config.xml file and put it in your .hermes directory (replacing the default one that HermesJMS puts there during install).  Before you run HermesJMS make sure you edit the file and change the following:
  • Update the providerUrl value to match the server and port of your JMS Server.
  • Set the securityCredentials and securityPrincipal values to mach your username and password.
  • Edit the library paths for JarDepdencies and make sure they point to wherever you have these jar files on your machine.

In Conclusion

I hope this overview and these setup instructions help you get going with HermesJMS.  Once you have it working, interacting with your JMS destinations is a breeze, and testing a given JMS app can be as simple as a drag and drop.

If you need to run a suite of JMS tests, e.g. for sanity testing or load testing, you can use SoapUI, which knows how to interact with HermesJMS.  I may write a future blog post demonstrating this integration.  For SoapUI basics, see this blog post.

All the examples used for this blog post can be seen in this Github repo.

Happy JMSing!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How do you explain Java technologies to non-technical audience?

Today I had the interesting challenge of trying to explain various Java buzzwords to people with very little technical knowledge.  Basically, we wanted our talent managers (recruiters) at Quick Solutions to gain a high level understanding of some of the Java technologies they recruit people for.

In prepping for this presentation I put on my "simplification hat" and tried to think of the essence of some of the more popular Java technologies.  I wanted to leave the talent managers with a simple visual picture in their minds, that represented the benefits of each technology.  Then I followed each of those visuals up with a basic architecture diagram that explained how the technology fits into a typical application.  I also gave them sample questions and answers for each technology, all focused on the high-level benefits of each technology (which problems the technology is meant to solve).

At the beginning I also went over some of the reasons I love being a consultant, and how to use those to attract talent.  I basically walked through the bullet-points in this blog post.

The general feedback I got was that they were able to follow along and they found the information very helpful.  I suspect though I may have lost a few of them near the end, when I got onto design patterns :)

Below are some of the more visual slides from my presentation.  The full slide deck is available on Slideshare.

What do you think?  Did I pick the right visuals?  Could I have made it even simpler?