Saturday, April 19, 2008

Another Successful Hack Day

Another great Hack Day at GenoLogics has come and gone. I managed to spring myself from enough "manager" work to actually spend the majority of the day coding. It felt great to get my hands dirty again.

I spent my time on two separate hacks. The first was working through all the tutorials and sample code from the new Google Application Engine. I'm still waiting for an account so I can deploy my application live, but the local execution environment is a great way to develop and test things and it works really well. On the Mac be careful about putting tab characters in your YAML files - they seem to screw up the app server.

My second hack was more substantial. I began the task of creating a tool to track product feature requests, associated with customers and releases. We track this information internally with a couple other tools, but it seemed like a good excuse to hack around.

More accurately, I was looking for a good reason to play with Apple's Key-Value-Coding system and their new Core-Data APIs. I am very impressed with these two technologies. When combined, they make creation of desktop GUI applications even faster than the best web application frameworks. With almost no code, I had a full GUI that managed creation of three main data types, automatically loaded and saved these objects from disk, and automatically handled the relationships (both creation and cascade deletes) between them.

If you have the opportunity to develop software on the Mac, you will love this stuff.

Other hacks included Groovy integration into our core product; a really clever java-remoting hack that allows interrogation of every internal class in a JBoss server as if the classes were local; an excellent example of the power of Groovy and Grails to create a Bit-torrent searching engine; configuring OpenGROK to browse our internal code repository; a set of automatically generated class relationship diagrams crossing our entire code base; and many more that I haven't listed.

I didn't win any prizes this year (it's a random drawing from all hack authors), but the pizza was excellent and it felt great to stretch my coding muscles again.

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