My work product: Or why I learned to get twitchy around Java...

I maintain a Java based test system, that tests a raster image processor. The client is a Java swing project that contains CORBA bindings to the internal API of the raster image processor. It also has custom written UI elements and duplicated functionality that became available in later versions of Java, but because some of the third party tools we use don't work with later versions of Java for some reason, it's not possible to upgrade Java to gain things as simple as recursive directory deletion, yes the version of Java we have to use does not support something as simple as that and custom code had to be written to support it.

Because of the requirement to build the API bindings along with the client the whole application must be built with the raster image processor build chain, which is a heavily customised jam build system. So an ant task calls out to execute a jam task and jam does about 90% of the heavy lifting.

In addition to the Java code there's code for interpreting PostScript files, as these can be used to alter the behaviour of the raster image processor during testing.

As if that weren't enough, there's a beanshell interface to allow users to script the test system, but none of the users know Java well enough to feel confident writing interpreted Java scripts (and that's too close to JavaScript for my comfort). I once tried swapping this out for the Rhino JavaScript interpreter and got all the verbal support in the world but no developer time to design an API that'd work for all the departments.

The server isn't much better though. It's a tomcat based application that was written by someone who had never built a tomcat application before, or any web application for that matter and uses raw SQL strings instead of an orm, it doesn't use MVC in any way, and insane amount of functionality is dumped into the jsp files.

It too interacts with a raster image processor to create difference masks of the output, running PostScript as needed. It spawns off multiple threads and can spend days processing hundreds of gigabytes of image output (depending on the size of the tests).

We're stuck on Tomcat seven because we can't upgrade beyond Java 6, which brings a whole manner of security issues, but that eager little Java updated will break the tool chain if it gets its way.

Between these two components we have the Java RMI server (sometimes) working to help generate image data on the client side before all images are pulled across a UNC network path onto the server that processes test jobs (in PDF format), by reading into the xref table of said PDF, finding the embedded image data (for our server consumed test files are just flate encoded TIFF files wrapped around just enough PDF to make them valid) and uses a tool to create a difference mask of two images.

This tool is very error prone, it can't difference images of different sizes, colour spaces, orientations or pixel depths, but it's the best we have.

The tool is installed in both the client and server if the client can generate images it'll query from the server which ones it needs to and if it can't the server will use the tool itself.

Our shells have custom profiles for linking to a whole manner of third party tools and libraries, including a link to visual studio 2005 (more indirectly related build dependencies), the whole profile has to ensure that absolutely no operating system pollution gets into the shell, most of our apps are installed in our home directories and we have to ensure our paths are correct for every single application we add.

And... Fucking and!

Most of the tools are stored as source bundles in a version control system... Not got or mercurial, not perforce or svn, not even CVS... They use a custom built version control system that is built on top of RCS, it keeps a central database of locked files (using soft and hard locks along with write protecting the files in the file system) to ensure users can't get merge conflicts by preventing other users from writing to the files at all.

Branching is heavy weight and can take the best part of a day to create a new branch and populate the history.

Gathering the tools alone to build the Dev environment to build my project takes the best part of a week.

What should be a joy come hardware refresh year becomes a curse ("Well fuck, now I loose a week spending it setting up the Dev environment on ANOTHER machine").

Needless to say, I enjoy NOT working with Java. A lot of this isn't Javas fault, but there's a lot of things that Java (specifically the Java 6 version we're stuck on) does not make easy.

This is why I prefer to build my web apps in python or node, hell, I'd even take Lua... Just... Compiling web pages into executable Java classes, why? I mean I understand the implementation of how this happens, but why did my predecessor have to choose this? Why?

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