woensdag 29 mei 2013

Forging a Bond Between Florence and Eclipse

A couple of weeks ago I went to Florence to participate to the Eclipse Day. I was really looking forward to this as I'm fond of everything Italian and I had only good memories of my previous stays in Florence. It was a lot of fun revisiting the cathedral and meeting David again in all his glory. 

But of course also the Eclipse Day itself was definitely worth the visit. It was extremely well organized with really good food and with very interesting content. I was also very excited to hear afterwards that all the sessions had been recorded. So the good news is that even if you were not able to attend, you still have a chance to look at the different talks as they have been made available on YouTube lately. If you want to see myself in action talking about the Eclipse integration of the Forge command-line, you are invited to watch the video included below.


zondag 26 mei 2013

Hello From Forge2

I have created a short video that demoes how to create a very simple add-on (the Forge 2 version of a plug-in). Everything to do this yourself is included in the upcoming JBoss Tools 4.1.0.Beta1 release.


woensdag 10 april 2013

From Zero to Java EE in About 20 Minutes

Two weeks ago I went to London to present my quickie 'From Zero to Java EE in 15 Minutes (or Less)' at the Devoxx UK 2013 conference. Congratulations to the team for a fantastic job organizing the first UK version of this amazing conference.

The presentation was mostly a live coding demo using JBoss Forge and JBoss Developer Studio. The catch is that I gave myself the daunting task of creating a Java EE application by reverse engineering entities from an existing database, scaffolding a JSF user interface from these entities and subsequently deploying this application in the cloud.

I had done the presentation in some form a couple of times earlier, among others at DevConf 2013 in Brno and at Devoxx 2012 in Antwerp. But London made a difference: the quickie at Devoxx UK was actually the first one where nothing went wrong and where I was able to finish within the scheduled 15 minutes so I was very happy.

I was actually so happy that I decided to publish a recording of the demo for a wider audience. The recorded version takes about 20 minutes so I again missed my target of 15 minutes but I guess the interested viewer will be able to cope with the 5 extra minutes... ;-)

You can watch the video below.

From Zero to Cloud in Almost No Time from Koen Aers on Vimeo.


maandag 4 maart 2013

Open Source, Czech Republic Style

During the last weekend of Februari I was fortunate enough to attend the Devconf conference in Brno in the Czech Republic.  I set out not knowing what kind of event to expect but it turned out to be a fine conference with an attendance of about 500 people covering a plethora of open source subjects. The event took place on the campus of the department of informatics of the Brno university so it felt a bit like the little sibling of the FOSDEM conference in Brussels.

Dinner in a church?

I arrived on Friday afternoon and later in the evening I hooked up with some of the colleagues for dinner. Particular about that meal was that the place where we took it was situated in a former church! I was given the address of the place but nevertheless walked past it twice… Who would think of a restaurant in a building that is a church? ;-)

The restaurant in the church. 
In case you wonder, the picture is from a long time ago
so Czech people have modern cars right now ;-)

Busy Saturday

On Saturday I had to deliver a Forge talk on how to raise your productivity writing Java EE applications and a lightning talk on how to create a web application in the cloud by reverse engineering a database. Both talks were received well and had a fair number of attendees. 

Mike Bonnet (l.) and myself (r.) tasting Czech beer

In the evening the organizers had organized a party in a club close to the conference venue. There was an abundance of food and drinks but I had to keep my manners as I needed to host a Forge plug-in writing lab on Sunday morning.

More pictures of the first conference day and of the party.

Hacking, hacking, hacking...

Thanks to Pavol Slegr who had made sure that all the needed software was installed on the machines in the lab room this lab was also a big success. All the attendees were able to successfully create a Forge plug-in for Hibernate Envers. I know that some of them were going to use this knowledge immediately to create a plug-in for the technology they were working with. I'm already impatient to see the results of their work appear in the Forge plug-in repository. 

Jozef Chocholacek (l.) and Pavol Srna (r.) paying a lot of attention in the Forge plug-in lab

The rest of the Sunday was spent having lunch with the Fuse crew, participating to the Arquillian hackfest. 

More pictures of the second conference day.

On Monday morning I went to our Brno office for a couple of hours to continue these talks with the Arquillian team but by the early afternoon I was already back on my way out to catch the flight back home. It has been a very tiring but fun and interesting weekend. Congratulations again to the organizers of the event!


P.S. The recording of the Forge session has been made available on Youtube.

dinsdag 13 maart 2012

Code Like an Egyptian

Last week I went to Cairo in Egypt to present at the JDC 2012 conference.

What a Country

It was my first time in Egypt as well as my first time on the African continent and I have to say that it was a very good experience. My parents are both Egypt enthusiast and they had already told me many good things about this country but the reality beat my expectations by far. Egyptians are truly optimistic and very friendly and helpful people. Also they are rightfully very proud about their magnificent culture and their rich history. Even though I was only there for two full days, I escaped for 4 hours to go and see the pyramid complex of Giza. Pictures don't do this any good, in reality the site is even more mind-blowing!

Open Source to the Rescue

Of course, because of the recent political events, the economical situation is not that great at this time as a lot of tourists avoid Egypt. Nevertheless everybody that I spoke to was confident that things would be turned around. Also it turns out that open source can play an important role in this evolution. A lot of Egyptian startups start off using open source projects with minimal investments. When their business takes off and becomes profitable, they can then proceed to buy subscriptions for the corresponding products. Consequently a lot of developers I spoke with were very happy with the JBoss presence at the JDC conference as many of them use JBoss technology.

What a Conference

As for the conference itself, it was an example of how all conferences should be organized: great venue, motivated volunteers, good food and of course exciting presentations and a very interested crowd. Myself, I had three presentations:
Except for the last session, which was scheduled in the last slot of the last day, the talks were very well attended with lots of interesting questions afterwards. There was also professional media coverage from TechEgypt who recorded the sessions. I was told the recordings would be published by the end of March. In the meantime you will have to do with an interview TechEgypt did with me. They already published that one yesterday as you can see below.

It is nice to see how the Java community is growing strong in Egypt. I was told that so far JDC is the only Java conference in the Middle East and Africa combined. But I am sure that its success will lead to a better presence of this side of the world on the Java map.

I want to thank the organizers and the attendees of the conference once again for this great event. Way to go guys!


woensdag 9 februari 2011

Business Rules and New Icons

Mauricio asked me some time ago if it would be possible to add Business Rules to the BPMN 2 editor I have created. I promised him that I would do this since it was not that of a daunting task. So I spent one Sunday afternoon and this last evening doing that as well as adding the new BPMN 2 icons that were created in the meantime. A screenshot of the result is shown below.

Everybody will admit that it looks way nicer, isn't it? I for my part have to admit that I needed to cut some GMF corners to make the task icons show up in the right upper corner. But hey, it is only a prototype editor after all. If you want to try it, you can download it here and install it as shown in the previous post.


dinsdag 14 december 2010

Eclipsing BPMN 2.0

Most of us that are following the BPM area are aware of the BPMN 2.0 standard that was finalized recently. This new version of the standard has received a lot of attention and is a candidate that has a good chance to be able to unify the fractioned landscape of BPM. The standard specifies among others the notation to use to model processes and choreographies, the format to use when serializing them and how the models are to behave when they are executed by a BPMN engine.

The first of these goals implies that a BPMN 2.0 practitioner can use a tool to create the BPMN 2.0 models that uses the specified notation. During the last months I have worked intensively to create such a graphical BPMN 2.0 editor that would produce models that can be executed on the brand new jBPM 5 runtime. Today I am happy to present you the fruit of this hard work. The focus of this article is user-centric. I will shine a light on the implementation hurdles I encountered in another post.


As the title of the article implies, the editor comes as a series of Eclipse plugins. The screenshot below shows a general impression of the result after recreating the 'evaluation' example from the jBPM 5 documentation.


You can download the installable archive from our development community pages. The downloaded file is an archived repository that you can install into Eclipse using the familiar 'Help->Install New Software...' mechanism. The procedure is illustrated on the next two screenshots.

Make sure that the checkbox 'Group items by category' is unchecked as you will not see any features to install on the next screen otherwise. If all is going well, you should see two 'BPMN 2.0 Tools' items on the next page. The first item of these contains the binaries of the plugins that will be installed, the second contains the source code bundles. Just select both of them and push the 'Next' button.

The rest of the installation is pretty straightforward. You only have to accept all the defaults as you work yourself through the wizards.

BPMN 2.0 in Perspective

After installing the plugins and restarting Eclipse, you can do a first verification if all went well by trying to switch to the BPMN 2.0 perspective. To do this you can push on the 'Open Perspective' button in the top right location of your Eclipse workbench, select 'Others...' as illustrated below and choose the 'BPMN 2.0' entry in the list that opens.

As you can see, the workbench has now a number of opened views such as the 'BPMN 2.0 Definitions' view and the 'BPMN 2.0 Details' view which you might not yet be familiar with. We will explain shortly what purpose they serve. Next to these views, the usual 'Package Explorer' view, 'Property' view and 'Outline' view are open.

Working Towards the Flow

Before we can start creating our first BPMN 2.0 process, we need to create a project. In this case any simple project will do, so we will create a resource project called 'foo'. By bringing up the context menu when this project is selected and selecting 'New->BPMN2 Diagram' we can create our new process.

We choose for example the name 'bar.jbpm' for our process resource and the BPMN 2.0 process diagram editor opens.

Hello, BPMN 2.0 World

Let's create a simple three node "hello, world" like process that is started off by the reception of a message and subsequently writes out the message. I have recorded a little screencast of the creation of this process to show you some of the more advanced features that the editor inherits by being based on the Eclipse Graphical Modeling Framework (GMF): the popup toolbar, the connection handles and the layouting mechanism.

As you can see this goes really smoothly. Of course I knew where on the toolbar and in the dropdown menu the different tools that I needed were placed. Also you might not be very impressed with the bareboned icons. These icons are inherited from the underlying Eclipse BPMN 2.0 Model project that was used as the base for the editor. The good news is that it is not so hard to replace these icons and that the creation of nice icons is in the hands of the real specialists in this area (see this JIRA issue). And even if you don't know exactly where on the toolbar you need to click, you are still free to use the palette...

The Source is With You

As I have mentioned before, one of the particularities of the BPMN 2.0 specification is that it describes by means of a number of xsd's how to serialize the modeled processes. Also the serialization of the graphical information is handled by the specification. The solution I present here to you is completely in line with this specification. The semantic model and the graphical information are serialized in one single file in a way that is compliant with the specification.

You can see the serialized XML by saving the work we did until now and opening the 'bar.jbpmn' file by choosing 'Open With->Text Editor'. The result should be similar to what is shown below.

One of the obvious feature requests that you could think about is to integrate the BPMN 2.0 graphical editor with an XML editor to provide a source page in a multipage editor.

Making the Flow Work

The process now is what is called underspecified. If you would deploy it on a compliant engine this engine would not be able to execute it. To make it executable, we have to provide some details. One of the ways to do this would be to edit the XML source in your preferred text editor, but luckily the BPMN 2.0 Diagram Editor provides a complete solution that makes adding these details a breeze. The two key elements that enable this are the BPMN 2.0 Definitions View and the BPMN 2.0 Details View.

The screencast below shows how the Definitions View is used to add two item definitions and one message. The Definitions View contains elements that are global for the entire BPMN file. Next the Details View is used to add a property to the process, to specify the output set, data output and data output associations for the start event as well as the script property for the script task. The Details View, as its name implies, provides a way of specifying details for the currently selected graphical element in the editor.

These additions should make the process executable and fully specified. Showing how to execute this process on the jBPM 5 runtime would make this entry too long, so I will save it for later.

Knowing the Issues

While the editor is fully usable to create executable BPMN 2.0 files, there is definitely room for improvement and for additional features. The following list contains some of the known problems that are must haves to make the editor really complete from a BPM 2.0 point of view:
  • As already mentioned, the graphical icons should be made more attractive. Luckily the hard part of this is actually designing the icons and this is exactly the task that we leave into the hands of our specialist graphical designers.
  • There are issues with the bendpoints. These are not always reproduced at the same location after closing and reopening the editor. The way how GMF determines bendpoints and anchor points is not yet completely clear to me. Any input in this area is greatly appreciated.
  • Attached events are not yet supported. Luckily again, this is just a matter of enriching the GMF model and regenerating the graphical part of the editor.
  • Swimlanes are not yet supported.
A list of features that would be nice to have is also not very difficult to come up with:
  • Add a generic activity type mechanism that users can use to add domain specific extensions.
  • Provide a way to annotate nodes on the diagram so that the editor can be used in 'debugging mode' or simply can show errors.
  • Add support for multiple process diagrams in one file by providing one tab for each process in the file.
  • Add a optional source tab.
  • Create a choreography diagram editor.
  • ...
Most of these features should not be that difficult to add.


While the BPMN 2.0 process diagram editor in its current state is far from perfect, I think it provides already enough features to create fully specified processes that can be executed on BPMN 2.0 engines that provide execution compliance. If you are a BPM practioner and/or developer, I encourage you to make use of it and provide us with your feedback!

Best regards,