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TightBlog: April 2016 Update

A satisfyingly productive month. In particular, the blog page rendering system as well as the default blog templates supplied with TightBlog were cleaned out and nicely simplified. At this time, the application is more or less usable as-is, however, I'll be rechecking the data model as well as making an additional pass through the source files to see if I've missed anything.

Stats: Sixteen more Java source files removed, dropping TightBlog to 231 total. (As always, non-Java source files also removed once determined no longer needed.) From my commit totals, over 55,000 lines removed from the project through 248 non-merge commits. Seven issues open and 157 closed. Wednesday March 30, 2016

TightBlog: March 2016 Update

Did not get as much done the past month due to work constraints, main gain was in upgrading from Log4j to Log4j2. Right now I'm revamping the template customization functionality, once done I have a modest amount of other UI improvements to put in for the first release. Twelve issues open, 140 closed, 5 more Java source files gone (247 for TightBlog vs. 493 for Roller), and inching towards 50,000 lines (49.2K) removed. Wednesday February 24, 2016

TightBlog: February 2016 Update

Still actively working on TightBlog, but due to time constraints could not work much on the project the first couple of weeks of this period. Mainly internal refactoring, including work on simplifying and consolidating the Pager classes that are used to scroll through lists of blog entries, users, comments, weblogs, etc. I also simplified the former to mostly just the common fields that people normally customize (file is now about two-thirds smaller, compare TightBlog's to Roller's). For the many potentially useful but seldom overridden configuration settings, those can now be modified via a Spring XML configuration file placed in the same folder as the user's file. For the rarely overridden settings, using Spring configuration over a property file nicely simplifies the internal code while not placing much of an additional burden on the relative few who will need to override those settings.

Metrics: 14 issues still open, 138 closed, 199 non-merge (i.e, "real") commits with roughly 47,000 more lines removed than added (as shown on the GitHub Contributors tab), and eight more Java source files removed, dropping TightBlog to 252 total. Sunday January 24, 2016

TightBlog: January 2016 Update

Still plugging along, with particular gains in the Spring configuration, page caching, and blog model used by the Velocity rendering. One functional improvement was to pull out the Google Analytics tracker code on blog author previews so they won't show up on GA stats pages. The GitHub Issues List notes 16 issues open and 133 closed. Of the Java source files, 16 more have been removed, dropping TightBlog to 260 classes compared to the 493 in Apache Roller I forked it from. The contributors page notes almost 46,000 lines have been removed from the codebase through 188 commits. Thursday December 24, 2015

TightBlog: December 2015 update

Since my update last month, I've been able to pull out an additional 21 Java source files, dropping TightBlog to 276 total compared to Roller's 493, a nice 44% drop. Other files, such as XMLs and JSPs have also been removed if not to the same degree, as many of those simplifications I had already gotten done while on the Roller team. The GitHub Issues List notes 121 issues closed and 18 still open. Mainly still code refactoring (I'm shifting more to optimizing the SQL queries now -- identifying and removing redundant/unnecessary calls, inefficient calls, etc.) Biggest functional improvement has been in field validation and input field whitespace trimming. I also have been following changes to the Apache Roller project, incorporating those I like into Tightblog as well. Sunday December 13, 2015

Working with TightBlog source code

Note: TightBlog is an unfinished fork of Apache Roller without full rebranding having been finished, so there remain several Roller references below.

This entry explains how to set up a development environment and process for working on the Java-based TightBlog blog server. The tools below are the ones I use, some are optional some (such as preferred IDE or database to use) can be modified to your preference.

Tool list for programming TightBlog:

ToolBefore proceeding, make sure you can...
JDK 1.8Activate "java" and "javac" from any folder in a command-prompt window
Intellij IDEA (I use the free community edition)Can activate the application from a command-line.
Apache MavenActivate "mvn" from any folder in a terminal window
Command-line git clientRun "git" from any folder in a terminal window
Standalone Tomcat 8Can start and view Tomcat from http://localhost:8080
Apache Derby databaseCan activate ij (for Derby) from any folder in a command-prompt window. Note: See below instructions for using MySQL or PostgreSQL instead.
Firefox Web BrowserOptional; used for running Selenium tests without needing to activate Tomcat
SQL Query tool such as SquirrelSQLOptional but recommended; used for querying the TightBlog database instance.
  1. Fork TightBlog and add any desired additional themes - Do a git clone from the command-line window. You can also make a fork within GitHub to work from your own account. If you have any of custom blog themes to add, place them in the src/main/webapp/themes folder prior to building TightBlog. Make sure TightBlog build (including JUnit tests) runs successfully before proceeding further.

  2. Prepare database and (optional) mail configuration - Follow the short Chapter 5 and Chapter 6, Sections 1-4 of the Roller Install Guide (ODT). Chapter 5 provides the few commands needed to configure an empty MySQL, PostgreSQL, or Derby database and Chapter 6 the configuration of the file, optional Mail configuration, and the required Mail and JDBC JARs that will be needed in Tomcat's lib folder. The test file that I have in my Tomcat lib folder is as follows:

    # Any properties placed below overrides TightBlog default settings defined in
    # the file embedded within the TightBlog WAR, and should be 
    # stored in the CATALINA_HOME/lib folder for Tomcat.
    # TightBlog file and logging level
    # EclipseLink debugging (filepath cannot be simplified via ${catalina.base} as above)
    # Mail config (See Roller Install Guide)

    Before moving on to the next step, best to deploy the app/target/roller.war to your Tomcat webapps directory, start Tomcat and confirm you can run the application at http://localhost:8080/roller. This is an important one-time check to ensure your database, file, Tomcat, and Roller WAR are all properly configured, and once confirmed you should be in good shape for all subsequent coding and debugging. If any deployment problems, make sure you've reviewed Chapters 5 and 6 of the Install Guide.

  3. Create a script to start development with everything needed - For efficient start-up I've created a script that opens up all needed windows and applications at once instead of having me needing to do so manually each time I start development. A simplified version of my is as follows and explained below:

    gnome-terminal --geometry=132x24 \
       --tab-with-profile=HasTitle --title "TB Trunk" --working-directory ~/work/tightblog \
       --tab-with-profile=HasTitle --title "TB Trunk2" --working-directory ~/work/tightblog -e "bash -c \"echo -Dmaven.surefire.debug; exec bash\"" \
       --tab-with-profile=HasTitle --title "Servlet Container" \
       --tab-with-profile=HasTitle --title "IntellijIDEA" -e "bash -c \"sh idea*/bin/; exec bash\"" \
       --tab-with-profile=HasTitle --title "Derby Network" --working-directory $DERBY_HOME/bin -e "bash -c \"startNetworkServer; exec bash\"" \
       --tab-with-profile=HasTitle --title "GEdit" -e "gedit worklog.txt $CATALINA_HOME/lib/ $CATALINA_HOME/logs/catalina.out $CATALINA_HOME/logs/roller-tomcat.log `find $CATALINA_HOME/logs/localhost*.log` $CATALINA_HOME/logs/eclipselink-tomcat.log tightblog/app/target/roller.log tightblog/app/target/eclipselink.log " \
       --tab -e "dolphin --geometry=600x500+1+1 tightblog-dbs tightblog $CATALINA_HOME" \
       --tab -e "google-chrome http://localhost:8080/roller" \
       --tab-with-profile=HasTitle --title "SquirrelSQL" --working-directory ~/work/squirrel-sql-3.7 -e "bash -c \"sh; exec bash\""

    The above script opens a multitab Console window which in turn opens a few separate application windows. In particular:

    • I open two terminal tabs pointing to the TightBlog code. This allows me to build TightBlog from one terminal while reviewing my changes (using commands git status and git diff, etc.) in the second window. I echo the -Dmaven.surefire.debug in the second tab as a reminder of the Maven string to add during JUnit test debugging (covered below).
    • I have a separate "ServletContainer" tab open to my home folder for manual activation of servlet containers (Tomcat normally) or other applications from the command line. I don't need this as often due to the script (discussed below) I now use.
    • I use a tab for starting IntelliJ IDEA.
    • I use Derby's Network mode (startNetworkServer) instead of its Embedded mode so the database can be accessed by multiple JVM's (one by Tomcat and the other by Squirrel SQL).
    • I open the multi-tab GEdit text editor with several files that are handy for me during development:
      • worklog.txt - A scratchpad file of TODO notes, commands, etc. that I keep for personal use between coding sessions.
      • - The very script above, I keep handy in case I need to make adjustments or additions to it.
      • - The configuration file discussed above and used by all TightBlog deployments to my standalone Tomcat. Changes I made here are activated on the next Tomcat restart.
      • catalina.out, roller-tomcat.log, localhost*.log, eclipselink-tomcat.log - These are logging files filled by Tomcat and/or TightBlog during running, usually very important for debugging as error logging usually gets written to one of these files. When you see terse "System" or similar errors reported by TightBlog in the web browser be sure to check these files for the error in detail.
      • roller.log, eclipselink.log - These files are under TightBlog's target directory and are populated during JUnit test running via the Maven test phase, as discussed below.
    • Dolphin - A multitab file browser that I have opened to the TightBlog trunk code, database files, and Tomcat folders for easy access to files.
    • Firefox - Here I pre-open tabs to the TighBlog website and default webpage location for TightBlog once it's deployed to Tomcat.
    • SquirrelSQL - Commented-out by default but used when I wish to query the TightBlog database to see the values that TightBlog is reading/writing. SquirrelSQL will need your database's JDBC JAR added to it as well as have the connection information configured in

    For scripts such as the above make sure there's no whitespace after the ending "\" on each line (error messages will pop up otherwise), and use a leading # (as shown above for SquirrelSQL) for actions you wish to disable by default. The $CATALINA_HOME specified above, as usual, is the base folder for your standalone Tomcat installation. In addition to the above configuration, you may wish to keep handy the Roller trunk documentation, kept in OpenOffice format in the Roller/docs folder or online.

  4. How to build and deploy to local Tomcat - After a successful mvn clean install from the TightBlog trunk folder, I run this shell script that I keep in that folder:

    fuser -k 8080/tcp 8009/tcp 8005/tcp
    rm -r $CATALINA_HOME/webapps/roller
    cp ./app/target/roller.war $CATALINA_HOME/webapps
    rm $CATALINA_HOME/logs/*.log
    rm $CATALINA_HOME/logs/catalina.out

    For rapid iteration when I don't need to run the tests each time, I simplify my build and deploy process to a single line: mvn clean install -Dmaven.test.skip ; sh

    The above file first kills the Tomcat instance (via fuser -k), deletes the previous expanded TightBlog webapp directory on the Tomcat instance and copies the latest created Roller WAR over, and clears all the logs before finally restarting Tomcat with the new WAR. The new TightBlog will be accessible at http://localhost:8080/roller again using the same $CATALINA_HOME/lib/ and database (i.e., all database-stored information including test blog data created will be immediately picked up by the new Roller WAR.)

  5. How to debug on local Tomcat - Learning to debug from your IDE any webapp running locally on standalone Tomcat is frequently vital when troubleshooting and thankfully simple to do. First, add to your Tomcat CATALINA_OPTS environment variable:

    export CATALINA_OPTS=$CATALINA_OPTS" -Xdebug -Xrunjdwp:transport=dt_socket,address=5005,server=y,suspend=n"

    Then from IntelliJ IDEA (or Eclipse), go to menu item Run -> Edit Configurations, add a Remote Configuration with a name of your choice and accepting the given defaults, and select OK. If TightBlog is already running on Tomcat, debugging can be activated at any time by setting breakpoints in the code that the TightBlog app would be activating, selecting menu item Run --> Debug {debug config name}, and then proceed with any needed code tracing.

  6. How to debug unit tests - To activate a specific TightBlog JUnit test, navigate to the tightblog/app folder and run mvn test -Dtest=TestClassName#OptionalTestMethodName, as explained in the Maven Surefire Plugin documentation. To debug (code trace) the JUnit test within your IDE, add the -Dmaven.surefire.debug setting, set breakpoints in your IDE within code called by the tests and have it listen to port 5005 as before.

    Files to read: When running the JUnit tests, besides the Surefire results in the target/surefire-reports folder the target/roller.log file provides logging of the temporary in-process TightBlog instance. Also, to determine any potential SQL/JPA problems, EclipseLink JPA logging can be activated, with the output file also in the target folder, by uncommenting the eclipselink.logging.* properties in the app/src/test/ file.

  7. How to run Selenium tests - TightBlog's Selenium tests test very basic functionality (setting up a blog and saving a blog entry) but can sometimes serve as a quick sanity check that minor, last-second source code changes did not cripple the application. Navigating to the trunk/it-selenium folder and running mvn clean install will cause a temporary instance of TightBlog to activate that is subsequently used by Selenium to run its tests in Firefox. For these tests, none of the database or Tomcat configuration created above will be used, instead TightBlog will be running an embedded Jetty and a temporary (in-memory) Derby database, and shut down once Selenium is finished. Tuesday November 24, 2015

TightBlog: November 2015 update

Since my update last month, I've been able to pull out an additional 35 Java source files, dropping TightBlog to 297 total compared to Roller's 493. The GitHub Issues List notes 114 issues closed and 21 still open. The application still isn't ready until the open issues are closed, but I'll keep working on zeroing out the remaining open issues.

The code simplification/shrinkage comes from normal refactoring and code modernization, embracing the Spring framework, using JAXB over JDOM, and having a higher threshold than Apache Roller of which functionality to retain. Generally speaking, any functionality that fewer than say 3% of bloggers would use gets tossed out, and functionality that perhaps up to 10% would use but would not be a deal-breaker if TightBlog didn't provide has also been removed. This threshold has dropped me to perhaps about 20-30 features that I can focus on making solid for bloggers. When there is too much seldom-used functionality to maintain, core functionality starts to suffer, causing people who might have liked the extended functionality to turn away from the product anyway due to its substandard core, a situation I'm trying to avoid with TightBlog. Sunday November 15, 2015

Pink Slips at Disney. But First, Training Foreign Replacements.

Sold Out Book

Journalist Michelle Malkin and Center for Immigration Studies fellow John Miano have teamed together to offer a new book Sold Out. It offers a critique of the various foreign worker visas offered by the federal government and its consequences on American workers. I just got the book yesterday and am still in its early stages but would highly recommend it for American IT professionals wishing to learn more about the consequences of these programs or (for those already well aware) just wanting to thank and support the authors for raising publicity about this issue during an election year. Happy to note at the time of this writing that the book is #1 on Amazon's Government and Management bestseller list. Thursday November 05, 2015

Letter to the Arlington County board via fitness membership fees (Update: With County Response)

My county has a website form residents can use to submit questions, comments and concerns, which I've used three times in the past five years. The county runs fitness centers of which I'm a member. This morning I submitted the below concern (slightly polished for grammar :) about the reduced cost passes for non-county residents 55 and over:

Hello, I'm [in my mid-40's] and a long-time taxpaying Arlington County resident as well as an Arlington County gym member. When I buy my annual County fitness center pass, I pay the $195 rate as a county resident, much less than the $558 charged to non-residents because residents pay Arlington County taxes and as much of Parks & Rec is supported by taxpayer dollars we should be discounted. No problems there, neighboring jurisdictions do the same thing.

The county, via its 55+ Gold Pass program, has recently dropped the qualification age from 62 to 55, any resident 55 or over needs to just pay $60. OK. But non-residents 55+ who aren't paying Arlington taxes have to pay just $90, a mere $30 more and less than half the $195 that I need to pay. That benefit seems too disproportionate to be giving to non-taxpaying non-county residents--should I really have to be paying $195 while a relatively youthful 55-year old Fairfax County resident just has to pay $90?

55 is hardly retirement age, many of those people are at the top of their financial situation at that time, and giving such a benefit to 55+ county residents must come at a significant price both to county taxpayers who have to subsidize the shortfall in fees and paying county members whose memberships would be cheaper if they didn't have to cover this subsidy. So be it, though, we take care of our senior residents. But asking taxpayers and gym members to pay more to be subsidizing *non-county* residents as young as 55 seems an unfair burden to ask. I'd like the county to raise the minimum age for non-county residents back to 62, and/or alternatively retain the same $195/$558 resident/non-resident ratio for the senior passes ($60 for residents, $172 for non-residents.) Gyms cost money to run, and non-residents should be expected to pay more to cover the difference that they're not paying in county taxes.

I've checked the Fairfax County Parks and Recreation website and they give no senior discount to people outside of their jurisdiction, they just take care of their own and then only when they reach 65. Alexandria does cover at age 55, but only a 20% discount and again only for city residents. Likewise, Arlington County reduced fee memberships correctly just cover Arlington residents, taxpayers don't have to support non-residents for that.

This rate is also bad for the County for another reason -- each of the fitness centers have a limited number of aerobic machines, the more you fill up those machines due to heavy subsidies of non-county residents, the $195 payers get upset because the machines are never available and instead go to private gyms that aren't that much more expensive for them. The percentage of those using the gym being full payers is going to drop as a result, with the lost gym revenue requiring more county subsidies in order to be supporting people who live outside the county's jurisdiction.

Update 12/31/2015, I got a response from the County today:

Dear Mr. Mazza,

I am writing to you on behalf of Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. Thank you for sharing your concerns about the 55+ Gold Pass fee for non-residents and the change in age eligibility for senior adult rates. The issues you mentioned are actually part of a number of adjustments made to senior adult programs during the last budget cycle.

Each year, the Arlington County Board approves the schedule of fees and charges for the Department of Parks and Recreation as part of the annual budget process. In Fiscal Year 2016, fees for senior adult programs were realigned for consistency across the County programs. Prior to this, all persons 55+ were eligible for programs offered through the Office of Senior Adults. However, various other programs applied an age discount to 62+. As a policy change, the age of eligibility for all senior programs and discounts offered through the Department of Parks and Recreation is now 55+.

It is Arlington County policy to allow non-residents to use County facilities and programs and to require non-residents to pay a surcharge on top of the base participation fee. This surcharge varies based on the type of program. In the case of the 55+ Pass, non-residents are charged 50% more than residents. Non-residents, however, never receive a fee reduction (which is only available to residents with financial need).

The County is committed to offering programs for seniors to remain healthy and to age in place. As part of this mission, we are always looking at ways to further this focus. As such, the base fee for this 55+ Gold Pass is set at only $60 for an individual pass and the surcharge added to that for non-residents is the additional 50%.

Formerly, we offered a 55+ pass with limited fitness pass options, along with a separate senior fitness-only membership. Research indicated that very few seniors purchased the senior fitness-only membership. The vast majority of seniors purchased the 55+ Pass that included a variety of senior program options, including limited access to some fitness centers. Research also indicated that many of the seniors with the 55+ Pass were interested in expanded fitness access and were willing to pay for it. As our goal is to develop programs that support the interests of our community, it was decided that we would have two senior passes and eliminate the senior fitness-only membership. We kept the same fee for the 55+ Pass ($20) and created the 55+ Gold Pass ($60), which provides the benefits of the 55+ Pass plus access to our fitness centers whenever they are open.

As with all of our programs, we will continue to review what Arlington County is providing and adjust as needed. As of December 29, an additional 2,136 Arlington County residents have purchased a pass. Only 146 (6% of the total) non-residents have signed up for the program; the percent of non-residents has not really changed since we adjusted the program. Since the new pass went into effect, we have been monitoring fitness room usage and have seen no spikes in attendance leading to overcrowding. We will continue to monitor.

Our annual budget review is coming up, and again, as always, fees will be reviewed and adjustments made as appropriate. I hope this background is helpful and allows you to see our strategy to encourage more Arlington seniors to be active and engaged.

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

Michael R. Peter, MPA
Director of Budget and Finance
Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation Saturday October 31, 2015

"Monster Mash" Will Get You

From The Miami News, October 6, 1962:

Rock 'n' roll and the twist have finally come to grips with Horror and the result is a startling eruption in the record-buying field. Now it's spreading to the screen and television.

A little .45 disc titled "Monster Mash," rocketing within a few weeks into a spot among the top 10 sellers, seizes upon weird species from the Frankenstein laboratory, man-made creatures who shake off their electrodes and, to the tune of a shudder-packed production number, stomp around the graveyard in a wild new dance.

The "Monster Mash" has become an overnight hit in Los Angeles ballrooms, and two film studios and at least one TV network are angling for rights to its use for specialty insertions in movies and air shows.

Chief proponent of the new order is Bobby (Boris) Pickett who, like his recording sponsor, Gary Paxton, is bewildered by the smash reception the record has won. Hurriedly, they have marshaled a musical troupe for an invasion of eastern cities, with Boston scheduled as the first stop.

To a set of frightening Karloff-toned lyrics ("I was working in my lab late one night when my eyes beheld an eerie Monster from his slab began to rise...and suddenly to my surprise...he did the mash. He did the Monster Mash!") dancers the country over may soon be stomping and flailing their arms into a new epidemic--a slow-beat dance which Pickett feels will come as a welcome relief from the swift torturous movements of the twist.

How did Pickett happen on horror as the stepping stone to a new dance madness?

"The door was wide open," replied the young singer, who leads the song and dancers himself. "Horror pictures always have been popular and it seemed funny no one hit upon them for a dance until now. We just drove into a red-hot vacuum."

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