Technological Musings

Thoughts of a technology enthusiast

Learning Stenography for super fast document production

After listening to this podcast, I want to learn more about Stenography.

Why do it?

Achieving 150-200wpm would be awesome. Sounds like a steepish learning curve, but a much larger payoff than learning Dvorak or Colemak.

IntelliJ IDEA memory settings

From Note: Site no longer active.

Give more memory to IDEA and it will perform better. No big surprise, but some recommendations based on 3 different approaches. I now use the ‘Balanced’, summarized below. More memory without starving everything else on the machine.

2GB for Xmx and 2GB for Xms, more balanced approach to the memory consumption


For Mac, it’s in ~/Library/Preferences/IntelliJIdea15/idea.vmoptions.
For Windows, it’s in Program Files (x86)/JetBrains/bin/idea.exe.vmoptions.

Update: IntelliJ provides a shortcut from the Help menu to customize the VM Options. It will open or create the file in the OS specific location. On the Help menu, choose ‘Edit Custom VM Settings’.

Starting from scratch isn't always the best approach

Something to keep in mind. Green field isn’t always the best answer.

Here’s an example where they took a 10 year old existing application and applied UX. The end user was very satisfied with the outcome, and didn’t care about anything under the covers.

The author came to the realization that doing it this way made the most sense, as it would have taken much longer to start from scratch, and in the user’s eyes would only be marginally better.

Too often we want to re-write a system from scratch rather than update an existing one. Something to be very wary of.

Finding Tomcat files when running inside IntelliJ IDEA

Investigating a problem, and created a custom logger using logback. Defined the file location as ${catalina.base}/logs/filename.log, but wasn’t sure where to find it.

Did a full drive search and discovered where IntelliJ stores it (at least on OSX).

To save myself future searches, it stores it in ~/Library/Caches/IntelliJIdea15/tomcat folder where IntelliJIdea15 will reflect the current version you’re running.

Within this directory will be folders for the various Tomcat Run Configurations. Inside the Run configurations folder will be the logs, webapps and conf folders.

More IntelliJ hints and tips

I’ve been using the 15 EAP, and now preview for awhile, and really appreciate the new features.

JetBrains has released another ‘Tips and Tricks’, which includes some of the new features in 15. If you’re an IntelliJ user, it’s well worth skimming through the list to see if you’re not using a feature you could be.

Git: Better commit messages

To push yourself to write better commit messages, consider defining a better starting template.

Place the following text into a .git-message.txt file in your home directory:

# If applied, this commit will...
# Explain why this change is being made
# Provide links to any relevant tickets, articles or other resources

Then do
git config commit.template $HOME/.git-message.txt

Now when you do a commit, the above comments will appear and remind you of the important parts of a commit message.

Obviously adjust it according to your project’s standards and requirements.

Setting a default value w/o Null

In a constructor or other method, instead of using code like:

String value = (input == null) ? "default" : input;

you can use something like this:

// Guava
String value = Optional.fromNullable(input).or("default");

//JDK 8
String value = Optional.ofNullable(input).orElse("default");

IntelliJ: Tips of the Day

I will periodically post hints and tips related to IntelliJ features. I’ve been using it now for almost 3 years, and am totally sold. Yes, it’s not free, but I think the price is well worth it.

Built-in Clipboard history. cmd-ctrl-V/ctrl-shift-V.

Default is 20, but like most things in IntelliJ, it’s customizable. Editor/General. Maximum number of contents to keep in clipboard:

Context management (Similar to Eclipse Mylyn).
Task Management plugin. One of the plugins that ships with IntelliJ.

Load, save and clear context (basically open tabs). Join Context with changesets in version history. Connect to Issue Tracker.

Git support. If you’re running 14.1+, the Git support is very good. Especially for the most common actions.

In addition, you can have it perform actions while doing a commit. Organize imports, format code, analyze code, notify of new TODOs etc.

I still prefer Eclipse’s approach to this with save actions (i.e. performed everytime a file is saved), rather than at the point I’m committing, but it does provide the functionality.

IntelliJ: Replace text while preserving case

How many times have you replaced text twice because the basic word was the same, but the starting letter in different cases was a difference case?

If you use IntelliJ, you don’t need to do that.

In the replace dialog is an option for ‘Preserve case’. Click it, and IntelliJ will do the right thing.

e.g. change This text to this text

Replace ‘this’ with ‘that’. IntelliJ will convert text to

change That text to that text.


C9D9 Continuous Delivery panel participation

Agile software development depends on the ability to deploy often, and deploy consistently. How do we end the problem of “it worked on my machine” and ensure fidelity across environments?

On April 21, I enjoyed participating in an online panel on the subject of Consistent Deployments Across Dev, Test and Production, as part of Continuous Discussions (#c9d9), a series of community panels about Agile, Continuous Delivery and Devops.

Continuous Discussions is a community initiative by Electric Cloud, which powers Continuous Delivery at businesses like SpaceX, Cisco, GE and E*TRADE by automating their build, test and deployment processes.

Below are a few soundbites from my contribution in the panel.

How does environment fidelity affect the Continuous Delivery pipeline?

“Without fidelity and control across your environment, I don’t think you can have an effective CD pipeline. The scripts cannot respond to configuration files in random places. If someone can SSH in, it compromises integrity since you do not control what they did. You must have that consistency to automate. You have to have some control over the environment.

“We have to stop treating our servers like puppies. We give them names and we give them all sorts of love. We have to treat them like what they are – they’re just machines. If one of them stops working, you spin up a new one.”

What do you do to ensure fidelity across environments?

“One of the most important things is externalizing your configuration. Even at the basic level, dealing with Java apps and WARs, if your configuration is in your WAR, you have to rebuild that file for every single environment. Then you cannot be sure that your build is repeatable. And if you want to update it with a small configuration change and possibly a server restart, you will have to rebuild all the artifacts. So separating configuration is very important.

“There are many tools for managing configuration: you can go all out and use something like Zookeeper. For small configurations, I have used straight properties files in a shared directory and Spring profiles to manage where it pulls from. For provisioning, I use Chef, Docker, and Puppet. There are many tools to choose from and that’s part of the problem. These tools are always evolving. But they definitely help you move all these things along.

“For keeping the process in line and ensuring you have control over all the servers, destroy the servers periodically. This reminds people that you cannot just go in and make changes, you have to do it the right way or else your changes are not going to be reflected and you will have to do it all over again.

“All of these things feed together. The more you do, the easier your process will be and the more manageable – iteratively, in small steps.”

What if you don’t have fidelity? How do you move from scripting to an end-to-end view of your pipeline and what are the benefits there?

“One of the most important things is getting buy-in from the people you are involved with and ensuring this is something they actually want. Releasing more often can help. One of the primary concepts behind agile is to do it more often. If you do it more often and make it repeatable, it becomes much safer than those big-bang, done-every-six-months releases, which are so dangerous. And then, maybe you’d want to automate the release process.

“As far as moving from scripting to tools – pick a tool that’s going to cover you, start small, pick off some of the easy things, or pick the complicated things because they take a long time and could be turned into a five-minute thing that just gets done. By doing that, people buy into the automation because they see value in it. I think the biggest thing is getting buy-in from the organization, the people, and the customer. Once you have that, it is much easier to justify investing time.

“Try learning tools if you are not familiar with them, or leveraging tools that you already use, and getting people to start using the automation that is put in place, rather than trying to find the quick way to get around it.”