Top 10 Techie things I want to achieve in 2012


I’m not the type of person that gets bored easily, I’ve always got many things to keep me amused, mostly side projects at home. I’m a firm believer, that if you don’t set yourself goals in the first place, then you won’t have anything to fail to achieve, so I’ve set myself a list of targets that I’d like to achieve in 2012 knowing full well I probably won’t get around to them all, but if I can do at least 3, it was worth it.


I first picked up the SCJP study guide sometime around 2008, and I’ve had a love-hate relationship ever since. It’s by no means a trivial read, in fact, over 800 pages of solid technical details, a fair chunk of which I’ve never actually used, and probably never will once I’ve got through the exam. Reading the book is not enough to get through the exam, you also need to spend countless hours writing small code snippets to back up understanding, and spend plenty of time in mock exam simulators to prepare yourself. I have a terrible habit of getting obsessively involved in studying for a few weeks, before something pops up (working extra hours on a recent project at work is one good example) and I’ll not touch the book for weeks, only to have to re-cover the chapter where I last left off. This is definitely my goal for 2012, if I achieve nothing else but this, I’d be contempt.

Update AndroidSam

I put my first android app out on the market earlier this year, since its release I’ve had some fantastic feedback, amassing well over 15,000 downloads in the first 6 months alone. The app was very much an experimentation, and I certainly cut a few corners in the UI department prior to launch. I’ve been working on a few look and feel improvements, and a few other tweaks that I’d like to get out there soon.

Become more active on JR and SO, and java black belt

This is a must, theres no end goal and its more of an ongoing task that I must do. StackOverflow is a technical Q&A site, I’ve mostly become involved on the questions asking side, but the site has almost doubled in size in recent years so now there are plenty of unanswered questions that I can sneak in answers to, so I’ll have to start sweeping through my tags and get answering. JavaRanch is also a great site, I read this daily, however I rarely leave any posts. I’m planning to get more active and try to chip in with my comments more often. JavaBlackBelt is yet another great site, I was invited to be a beta question creator on the android exam but I just didn’t get round to providing any content, perhaps I can get more involved in 2012.

Complete SCJP study write ups

I found that a good way to help remember topics when studying, was to try and blog about them. I took the index of the SCJP study guide and outlined all the topics, and then gradually made my way through them all blogging about them in my own words. When trying to explain something, you often realise how you know (or sometimes how well you don’t know a particular subject). I’m about halfway through, and I’d really like to complete the blog posts, and get as much of my sample code up onto my Github account so it can help others.

Read, digest, and blog about technical books

Books, I’ve got a whole shelf of books that need some time. The main 3 that I’m interested in reading in 2012 are Effective Java, Clean Code, and Pragmatic Programmers Guide.

Effective Java is basically a compilation of tips and tricks that a Java developer should use if at all possible, Clean Code tells you how you should be writing your code and approaching problems, and the Pragmatic Programmers Guide is just more theory to lay on top. They’re not trivial reads, and some of it may possibly be too advanced for me, but if I can take anything away from it, it should help my progression.

Finish off my other android projects

I’ve been using Evernote to brain dump app ideas, its a handy little tool. Sometimes you get ideas spring into mind at the most awkward of moments, but most of the time I have my phone to hand, so I just tap them into evernote and let my ideas develop. Right now, in my cooking pot of ideas, I’ve got about 6 apps that I feel are worth putting to code, most are utlitlies but I have a few heavyweight ideas in there. Hopefully I can progress these throughout the year and get at least a few out to market.

Explore Spring Web MVC

The first company that I worked at solely produced Java web applications, that was where I got my first taste for the likes of Struts, Stripes, and a little bit of Spring MVC. I particularly liked working with the Stripes MVC framework, but it did lack a lot of community support, I’d like to explore a little with Spring MVC, since it’s always handy to know how to use the basics of Spring anyway. I started writing my own sales tracking system on Google App Engine, perhaps I’ll do something similar with Spring MVC and host it in the cloud somewhere.

Complete a cloud based CI environment

I’ve got various little side projects on the go, sometimes I use my windows PC at home to work on them, sometimes my works laptop, or my linux machine, so it can be a bit of a pain managing source code and builds. Fortunately I discovered something called Unfuddle, an online SVN repository where I could check my code into. I’ve also discovered something called CloudBees, which is a free on-line Jenkins installation, I’m planning to use that to build all my projects in the cloud, and dump artefacts onto DropBox. I may look at maven repositories too. Ultimately, I want to get my build processes in the cloud, so its purely coding that happens outside the cloud.

Ubuntu Certification

OK so one certification in the year is optomistic, but what about two? I’ve been an on-off linux user since I was in college, only really dipping back into Windows when I go through phases of gaming (WINE is just too much effort). Being competent with the shell terminal is going to help in the long run, so why not dedicate some time to skilling up in something useful. I’m not sure if I’d specifically go for the UCP, but it seemed an obvious choice since I have some familiarity with Ubuntu.

Explore Android ICS

With the latest Ice Cream Sandwich android released, theres plenty to be experimenting with, even if theres only a handful of devices that support it. I imagine that ICS will become more and more supported as the year goes on, so its probably time for me to devote some hours into picking up the new features of the SDK, and coming up with something nice. I’m also desperately in need of upgrading my 2.1 Orange San Francisco sub £100 handset, so possibly an excuse for a nice new shiny upgrade?

Revisit GAE Sales Tracker

About 2 years back I began working on an open source sales tracking system, to monitor progression of sales prospects. I started this in Stripes MVC framework and deployed to the Google App Engine. At the time GAE was still in its infinacy, but after a few years and several upgrades, I think developing on this platform may be slightly less painful now. I still have all the source code, and still have a running demo, maybe I can pick it up again and see what GAE improvements have come around.

JSTL Expressions ignored by Google App Engine, how to fix that..

So, you’ve written a nice J2EE application and have uploaded it onto the GAE only to be upset that your nice variables are displaying as ${contact.firstName} for example? No worries, its a simple issue, GAE seems to ignore expression language by default and all you need to do is to add the following line into your JSPs.

<%@ page contentType="text/html;charset=UTF-8" language="java" isELIgnored="false" %>

Commit that and you’re good to go ;)

Modify your Java web application to run on Google App Engine

So, you have a Java web application that you would like to host somewhere for free, no worries, Google to the rescue. What is Google App Engine? Well to quote from their site…

Google App Engine lets you run your web applications on Google’s infrastructure. App Engine applications are easy to build, easy to maintain, and easy to scale as your traffic and data storage needs grow. With App Engine, there are no servers to maintain: You just upload your application, and it’s ready to serve your users.

You can serve your app from your own domain name (such as using Google Apps. Or, you can serve your app using a free name on the domain. You can share your application with the world, or limit access to members of your organization.

Google App Engine supports apps written in several programming languages. With App Engine’s Java runtime environment, you can build your app using standard Java technologies, including the JVM, Java servlets, and the Java programming language—or any other language using a JVM-based interpreter or compiler, such as JavaScript or Ruby. App Engine also features a dedicated Python runtime environment, which includes a fast Python interpreter and the Python standard library. The Java and Python runtime environments are built to ensure that your application runs quickly, securely, and without interference from other apps on the system.

As an overview, you will need to do the following:

  1. Read the GAE Documentation
  2. Download the GAE SDK
  3. Alter your application
  4. Test this locally using the GAE development server (as included with GAE SDK)
  5. If it all works, upload it using the AppCfg command line utility


Go ahead and download the GAE SDK, unzip this somewhere on your local hard drive, in my case this was /home/james/Development/utils/appengine-java-sdk-1.2.6

Altering your application

Next, you need to add the app engine libraries to your application, I’m using maven2 purely for ease of use, so I added this to my pom.xml file


When you try to build the application, maven won’t be able to automatically download the jar file, so you’ll have to install that manually using the following command

mvn install:install-file -DartifactId=appengine-java-sdk -Dversion=1.2.6 -Dpackaging=jar -Dfile=lib/user/appengine-api-1.0-sdk-1.2.6.jar

You’ll notice that the actual jar file you need is under lib/user/ from the SDK you just downloaded.

You will need to create the appengine-web.xml file, this should reside in the same place as your standard web.xml file, under WEB-INF. The purpose of this file is to inform the GAE which application this belongs to, so you will need to add your GAE application ID into the example below, in my case it was sales-tracker

<appengine-web-app xmlns="">

Provide an empty implementation of MultipartWrapper

The next thing that you need to do is to edit your web.xml to include the MultipartWrapperFactory, add the following into the init-param section


The next thing we need to do is to provide an implementation of the MultipartWrapper, it doesn’t matter where in your package structure you take care of this, providing it matches up to the declaration in your web.xml, as shown above

package com.jameselsey.salestracker.util;


import javax.servlet.http.HttpServletRequest;

import net.sourceforge.stripes.config.Configuration;
import net.sourceforge.stripes.controller.FileUploadLimitExceededException;
import net.sourceforge.stripes.controller.multipart.MultipartWrapper;
import net.sourceforge.stripes.config.ConfigurableComponent;
import net.sourceforge.stripes.controller.multipart.MultipartWrapperFactory;

* GAE has no support for uploading of files, so we use this to disable that part of Stripes
* @author james.elsey
public class EmptyMultipartWrapper implements ConfigurableComponent, MultipartWrapperFactory {

   * @see net.sourceforge.stripes.config.ConfigurableComponent#init(net.sourceforge.stripes.config.Configuration)
  public void init(Configuration conf) throws Exception {

   * @see net.sourceforge.stripes.controller.multipart.MultipartWrapperFactory#wrap(javax.servlet.http.HttpServletRequest)
  public MultipartWrapper wrap(HttpServletRequest request) throws IOException, FileUploadLimitExceededException {
      return null;

Upload your project to GAE

Your application should be ready to go now, build your application using

mvn clean package

Then upload it to GAE using, you have to update the war folder not the actual war file

./ update ~/Development/projectname/target/myprojectname

Thats pretty much it! Good luck!