The New Project

I began a new project today. We’ll really last weekend; I am just getting to write about it now.

The projects not in relation to my current full time consulting gig (which is a GTW project for the insurance industry). The new project will be an education testing program for a local community college, essentially online quizzes. I am also using this project as an opportunity to explore new tools and frameworks.

When we think education application, Flex comes to mind, and it is certainly a frontrunner, especially for the interface/testing component and if multimedia is incorporated.

For the back end, I am moving away from the XX Framework. While I think the framework is awesome, I need to get additional experience on more industry standard tools. Of course, XX is built on Spring MVC. But I want to get some additional experience in pure Spring apps.

Spring Web Flow is another possibility. The more I read about Spring MVC and Spring web flow, the more in common I see with what is in the XX Framework. Regarding Web Flow, I don’t know if I want to write so much in their XML/Expression based DSL. I don’t mind specifying this stuff for control reasons (like what XX does) but getting into defining variables doesn’t seem the place for XML based grammars.

Spring web flow does lend itself to a graphical editor. I haven’t tried Spring IDE, but since they were a recent SunJug sponsor, I took a quick spin in Skyway Builder , an eclipse based GUI for generating Spring MVC/Spring Web Flow apps. It is really an impressive product. However, being impressive doesn’t mean it is useful (sort of how I feel about GWT most of the time). Why try to graft a GUI over what is a perfectly capable and expressive language (Java / XML). In some cases, this will make sense, but in many or most, just writing plain old Java is quicker and quite understandable.

I need to work more with these tools to really make a judgment on them, however.

The one thing I always start with is a bit of upfront UML modeling. I use Enterprise Architect, which is a really inexpensive and reasonable good UML tool. Just brainstorm out the use cases and draw up some classed. It always helps to diagram these out before putting them to Java , and it doesn’t take too long to get to the Java stage.

One thing I did take away from reading some of the Web Flow docs was the use of UML state diagrams. I have always used Use Case diagrams and activity diagrams almost exclusively, but the web flow authors showed how State diagrams can more easily model the overall flow of the entire applications.

So I will most certainly do a Spring MVC / Hibernate / MySQLback end. Build out the model and services. I haven’t decided on the front end. It may be Flex, with BlazeDS or web service interface. Maybe JSF, which I have the least experience in and would like to learn. Most likely a portion will be in a Spring MVC view technology, namely JSF, Velocity, or Freemarker. Most likely, the application wills involve several of the above tools.

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