Testing Sanity

The core task of software development is sanity testing.

  • warning: Parameter 2 to gmap_gmap() expected to be a reference, value given in /home2/thepalls/public_html/cgpsoftware/includes/module.inc on line 483.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home2/thepalls/public_html/cgpsoftware/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 879.

cgp's blog

Posted by cgp

For stackoverflow, I was curious about the efficiency of the top reputable users. Turns out there is quite a range. (about 17-35). So I wrote a little bookmarklet:

Note, that this "calculator" is thrown off by things like if you offered a bounty on a question. (I'm at 17.5 something, but would have been at 19.5 something if I hadn't offered 350 bounty on a question - actually, my efficiency is still pretty low, and even lower if you take out the 200 or so other points I got via bounty :) )

I'm a hacker (one step above n00b, which might be a little harsh). I figure that the correct way to do this would have been with some sort of percentages based on a logarithmic scale. Ideally it would look like:

Top 1% - Guru
Top 10% - Wizardly
Top 25% - Wise
Top 50% - Professional
Top 75% - Average
Top 95% - Hacker!
Bottom 5% - N00b.

(for those who have answered > 15 questions)

But based on the fact I can't calculate this across all accounts to get the percentiles, I'll just have to guess.

How Efficient Are You?

Posted by cgp


This is a great link, and a good way to identify weak spots in your programming repertoire.

Heck, I copied it so I could update it into my own form. (Fair use?)

Computer Science
Software Engineering
  2n (Level 0) n2 (Level 1) n (Level 2) log(n) (Level 3) Comments
data structures Doesn’t know the difference between Array and LinkedList Able to explain and use Arrays, LinkedLists, Dictionaries etc in practical programming tasks Knows space and time tradeoffs of the basic data structures, Arrays vs LinkedLists, Able to explain how hashtables can be implemented and can handle collisions, Priority queues and ways to implement them etc. Knowledge of advanced data structures like B-trees, binomial and fibonacci heaps, AVL/Red Black trees, Splay Trees, Skip Lists, tries etc.
algorithms Unable to find the average of numbers in an array (It’s hard to believe but I’ve interviewed such candidates) Basic sorting, searching and data structure traversal and retrieval algorithms Tree, Graph, simple greedy and divide and conquer algorithms, is able to understand the relevance of the levels of this matrix. Able to recognize and code dynamic programming solutions, good knowledge of graph algorithms, good knowledge of numerical computation algorithms, able to identify NP problems etc. Working with someone who has a good topcoder ranking would be an unbelievable piece of luck!
systems programming Doesn’t know what a compiler, linker or interpreter is Basic understanding of compilers, linker and interpreters. Understands what assembly code is and how things work at the hardware level. Some knowledge of virtual memory and paging. Understands kernel mode vs. user mode, multi-threading, synchronization primitives and how they’re implemented, able to read assembly code. Understands how networks work, understanding of network protocols and socket level programming. Understands the entire programming stack, hardware (CPU + Memory + Cache + Interrupts + microcode), binary code, assembly, static and dynamic linking, compilation, interpretation, JIT compilation, garbage collection, heap, stack, memory addressing…
  2n (Level 0) n2 (Level 1) n (Level 2) log(n) (Level 3) Comments
source code version control Folder backups by date VSS and beginning CVS/SVN user Proficient in using CVS and SVN features. Knows how to branch and merge, use patches setup repository properties etc. Knowledge of distributed VCS systems. Has tried out Bzr/Mercurial/Darcs/Git
build automation Only knows how to build from IDE Knows how to build the system from the command line Can setup a script to build the basic system Can setup a script to build the system and also documentation, installers, generate release notes and tag the code in source control
automated testing Thinks that all testing is the job of the tester Has written automated unit tests and comes up with good unit test cases for the code that is being written Has written code in TDD manner Understands and is able to setup automated functional, load/performance and UI tests
  2n (Level 0) n2 (Level 1) n (Level 2) log(n) (Level 3) Comments
problem decomposition Only straight line code with copy paste for reuse Able to break up problem into multiple functions Able to come up with reusable functions/objects that solve the overall problem Use of appropriate data structures and algorithms and comes up with generic/object-oriented code that encapsulate aspects of the problem that are subject to change.
systems decomposition Not able to think above the level of a single file/class Able to break up problem space and design solution as long as it is within the same platform/technology Able to design systems that span multiple technologies/platforms. Able to visualize and design complex systems with multiple product lines and integrations with external systems. Also should be able to design operations support systems like monitoring, reporting, fail overs etc.
communication Cannot express thoughts/ideas to peers. Poor spelling and grammar. Peers can understand what is being said. Good spelling and grammar. Is able to effectively communicate with peers Able to understand and communicate thoughts/design/ideas/specs in a unambiguous manner and adjusts communication as per the context This is an often under rated but very critical criteria for judging a programmer. With the increase in outsourcing of programming tasks to places where English is not the native tongue this issue has become more prominent. I know of several projects that failed because the programmers could not understand what the intent of the communication was.
code organization within a file no evidence of organization within a file Methods are grouped logically or by accessibility Code is grouped into regions and well commented with references to other source files File has license header, summary, well commented, consistent white space usage. The file should look beautiful.
  2n (Level 0) n2 (Level 1) n (Level 2) log(n) (Level 3) Comments
code organization across files No thought given to organizing code across files Related files are grouped into a folder Each physical file has a unique purpose, for e.g. one class definition, one feature implementation etc. Code organization at a physical level closely matches design and looking at file names and folder distribution provides insights into design
source tree organization Everything in one folder Basic separation of code into logical folders. No circular dependencies, binaries, libs, docs, builds, third-party code all organized into appropriate folders Physical layout of source tree matches logical hierarchy and organization. The directory names and organization provide insights into the design of the system. The difference between this and the previous item is in the scale of organization, source tree organization relates to the entire set of artifacts that define the system.
code readability Mono-syllable names Good names for files, variables classes, methods etc. No long functions, comments explaining unusual code, bug fixes, code assumptions Code assumptions are verified using asserts, code flows naturally - no deep nesting of conditionals or methods
defensive coding Doesn’t understand the concept Checks all arguments and asserts critical assumptions in code Makes sure to check return values and check for exceptions around code that can fail. Has his own library to help with defensive coding, writes unit tests that simulate faults
  2n (Level 0) n2 (Level 1) n (Level 2) log(n) (Level 3) Comments
error handling Only codes the happy case Basic error handling around code that can throw exceptions/generate errors Ensures that error/exceptions leave program in good state, resources, connections and memory is all cleaned up properly Codes to detect possible exception before, maintain consistent exception handling strategy in all layers of code, come up with guidelines on exception handling for entire system.
IDE Mostly uses IDE for text editing Knows their way around the interface, able to effectively use the IDE using menus. Knows keyboard shortcuts for most used operations. Has written custom macros
API Needs to look up the documentation frequently Has the most frequently used APIs in memory Vast and In-depth knowledge of the API Has written libraries that sit on top of the API to simplify frequently used tasks and to fill in gaps in the API E.g. of API can be Java library, .net framework or the custom API for the application
frameworks Has not used any framework outside of the core platform Has heard about but not used the popular frameworks available for the platform. Has used more than one framework in a professional capacity and is well-versed with the idioms of the frameworks. Author of framework
  2n (Level 0) n2 (Level 1) n (Level 2) log(n) (Level 3) Comments
requirements Takes the given requirements and codes to spec Come up with questions regarding missed cases in the spec Understand complete picture and come up with entire areas that need to be speced Able to suggest better alternatives and flows to given requirements based on experience
scripting No knowledge of scripting tools Batch files/shell scripts Perl/Python/Ruby/VBScript/Powershell Has written and published reusable code
database Thinks that Excel is a database Knows basic database concepts, normalization, ACID, transactions and can write simple selects Able to design good and normalized database schemas keeping in mind the queries that’ll have to be run, proficient in use of views, stored procedures, triggers and user defined types. Knows difference between clustered and non-clustered indexes. Proficient in use of ORM tools. Can do basic database administration, performance optimization, index optimization, write advanced select queries, able to replace cursor usage with relational sql, understands how data is stored internally, understands how indexes are stored internally, understands how databases can be mirrored, replicated etc. Understands how the two phase commit works.
  2n (Level 0) n2 (Level 1) n (Level 2) log(n) (Level 3) Comments
languages with professional experience Imperative or Object Oriented Imperative, Object-Oriented and declarative (SQL), added bonus if they understand static vs dynamic typing, weak vs strong typing and static inferred types Functional, added bonus if they understand lazy evaluation, currying, continuations Concurrent (Erlang, Oz) and Logic (Prolog)
platforms with professional experience 1 2-3 4-5 6+
years of professional experience 1 2-5 6-9 10+
domain knowledge No knowledge of the domain Has worked on at least one product in the domain. Has worked on multiple products in the same domain. Domain expert. Has designed and implemented several products/solutions in the domain. Well versed with standard terms, protocols used in the domain.
  2n (Level 0) n2 (Level 1) n (Level 2) log(n) (Level 3) Comments
tool knowledge Limited to primary IDE (VS.Net, Eclipse etc.) Knows about some alternatives to popular and standard tools. Good knowledge of editors, debuggers, IDEs, open source alternatives etc. etc. For e.g. someone who knows most of the tools from Scott Hanselman’s power tools list. Has used ORM tools. Has actually written tools and scripts, added bonus if they’ve been published.
languages exposed to Imperative or Object Oriented Imperative, Object-Oriented and declarative (SQL), added bonus if they understand static vs dynamic typing, weak vs strong typing and static inferred types Functional, added bonus if they understand lazy evaluation, currying, continuations Concurrent (Erlang, Oz) and Logic (Prolog)
codebase knowledge Has never looked at the codebase Basic knowledge of the code layout and how to build the system Good working knowledge of code base, has implemented several bug fixes and maybe some small features. Has implemented multiple big features in the codebase and can easily visualize the changes required for most features or bug fixes.
knowledge of upcoming technologies Has not heard of the upcoming technologies Has heard of upcoming technologies in the field Has downloaded the alpha preview/CTP/beta and read some articles/manuals Has played with the previews and has actually built something with it and as a bonus shared that with everyone else
  2n (Level 0) n2 (Level 1) n (Level 2) log(n) (Level 3) Comments
platform internals Zero knowledge of platform internals Has basic knowledge of how the platform works internally Deep knowledge of platform internals and can visualize how the platform takes the program and converts it into executable code. Has written tools to enhance or provide information on platform internals. For e.g. disassemblers, decompilers, debuggers etc.
books Unleashed series, 21 days series, 24 hour series, dummies series… Code Complete, Don’t Make me Think, Mastering Regular Expressions Design Patterns, Peopleware, Programming Pearls, Algorithm Design Manual, Pragmatic Programmer, Mythical Man month Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, Concepts Techniques, Models of Computer Programming, Art of Computer Programming, Database systems , by C. J Date, Thinking Forth, Little Schemer
blogs Has heard of them but never got the time. Reads tech/programming/software engineering blogs and listens to podcasts regularly. Maintains a link blog with some collection of useful articles and tools that he/she has collected Maintains a blog in which personal insights and thoughts on programming are shared


01 Mar 2009
Posted by cgp


Posted by cgp

At first I thought this was pretty much a non-event, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized, hey, this could be pretty neat.

Amazon Exposes Public Data

Yeah, this information is out there, but Amazon has gone through the trouble of making it easier to access? That's nice. Hrm... Sounds like a trend.


08 Jan 2009
Posted by cgp

Just a host of links on accessibility and javascript/ajax, with a bit of commentary...

  • http://www.webaim.org/techniques/ajax/
  • http://ejohn.org/blog/ajax-accessibility/

... Actually, the search works pretty good. I was trying screen readers, but that's not really the topic I'm researching...

Posted by cgp


  • http://mediumexposure.com/node/25
Posted by cgp

There's a lot of ways this is referred to in the java world but they all essentially mean the above. The method described at dzone is good, but it really isn't runtime unless you provide a method for loading a class (which was probably beyond scope)

After really reading through what I could find on the web though, the consensus seems to be that reloading code is quirky and unpredictable. I don't like the idea of needing a custom loader either, it's all a bit overbearing when you compare it to something like scripting, so I'm using the scripting built into Java 6.


Posted by cgp

Often, there are times on a server you may want to install multiple applications, but you may want to update one of the applications without bringing down the others, so you need to run multiple instances. Not surprisingly, you can do this without having multiple instances of the binaries lying around. This can make it potentially "easier" (to update your tomcat, assuming there aren't any hangups with regards to dependencies/oddities on a version of tomcat.

Setting up multiple tomcats on a single server is pretty straightforward:

First, the base installation of tomcat should only need the following:

+tomcat (home)
|__lib - contains server libraries, can be used for shared libraries

Everything else is a customizable piece of tomcat:

+tomcat (base_dir)
|___work - the deployed version of your application
|___temp - for whatever tomcat needs to do on the fly
|__ webapp - your web applications
|___log - the logs for your server
|___conf - configs for the server.

* - not all tomcats seem to have this folder

If you've created the above folder structure somewhere outside of the original tomcat installation, you are pretty much ready to go. Just set a CATALINA_BASE environment variable and you're ready to roll.

Catalina.out troubles

Catalina.out is the catch-all files for console output. (All those who have used System.out.println are familiar with it)

One thing I find a bit annoying about the catalina startup script is that it does not provide a way to change the default name of this file. There's a dozen environment variables, but none to change the console output filename. You can do this yourself by simply searching for catalina.out in your catalina.sh script and replcing it with an environment variable choice.

The other gotcha about this file is that there are no restrictions on it's output length, and it can eat your disk space up complete if you're not careful. A couple of ways to deal with it:

  • Setup a cron job to roll it over, compress it, or to delete it daily/weekly
  • Symbolic link to /dev/null :) -- naturally, assumes you have no interest in the console output

Customizing logging

Previously, I had talked some about customizing logging. Tomcat doesn't do Log4j, but uses a logging system called JULI. It's configuration files are a little bit different, but you should be able to pare it down without trouble.

Removing Unnecessary Parts

Under the work and webapps directory there's a series of applications that come with tomcat: (examples, manager, host-manager, docs) You can easily get rid of examples and docs, but manager and host-manager are up to you. They can be used by things like Maven to help deploy applications, so you may want to consider keeping them around.


  • http://lifeofhumanvirus.blogspot.com/2007/03/manually-deploying-new-tomcat-web.html
  • http://tomcat.apache.org/tomcat-5.5-doc/logging.html
  • http://brondsema.net/blog/index.php/2006/05/25/tomcat_juli_logging_properties