Saturday, October 08, 2016

Wow I still have this blog!?

Wow.  I can't believe I still have this blog up.  So I tried my hand at Tumblr for awhile and basically it sucks as a blog.  So coming back to the fun world of Blogger and surprise, this one is still around!

Go figure.

So I guess I'll just be posting random blog stuff here and go from there!  Also, if anyone knows how to make Blogger's commenting not suck, I'm all ears.  Some comments on something and I'll get zero notification that some has done so.  That's really crap.

Also any suggestions for Blogger clients?  Windows/Mac/Linux, doesn't matter.  I do most of my mindless stuff, like NodeJS from Mac and Linux.  Java/RPGLE/Database from the work laptop that runs Windows.

So here's hoping that I actually put something of interest on here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Connected rooms in Inform 7

So here's a little snip for an Inform 7 story that allows one to connect rooms.  A connected room is a room that is slightly different than an adjacent room.  Say I'm sitting in a living room in an open concept house.  I can see the kitchen from the living room, identify distinct things in the kitchen, but I am not actually in the kitchen.

In this regard, the kitchen is connected to the living room.  If I want to look at something in the kitchen, I sort of can, but really I need to move to the kitchen and out of the living room to do that.

This little rule modification can add this simple connected rooms ability to your story.  It's not fully featured, like if something was really huge and could be clearly seen from all angles, but it will get the job done for things like big hallways.

So here's the code.

Section 1 - Basic Rules

Intervisible relates rooms to each other in groups.  The verb to be connected with implies the intervisible relation.

Definition: a room is inter-visible if it is connected with more than one room.

After deciding the scope of the player when the location is an inter-visible room:
 repeat with other place running through adjacent rooms which are connected with the location:
  unless the other place is the location, place the other place in scope.
Rule for reaching inside a room (called target) which is connected with the location:
 let way be the best route from the location to the target;
 if the way is not a direction:
  say "You can't get over to [the target] from here.";
  deny access;
 say "(first heading [way])[command clarification break]";
 try going way;
 if the player is in the target, allow access;
 otherwise deny access.

After looking when the location is an inter-visible room:
 repeat with other place running through adjacent rooms which are connected with the location:
  if the other place is not the location, describe locale for other place.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

MRI 1.2.1 in LO 4.2

I'm happy to say that I've done some pretty extensive testing with MRI 1.2.1 on LO 4.2 and it works flawlessly.

That is all...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pentaho Scriptable Data Source and grabbing the underlying JNDI connection

This post is a little stray from the usual posts I've been putting up about LibreOffice.  This one deals with using Pentaho!  Now for those not in the know, Pentaho is a BI software suite.  At my job, one of my duties is Big Data and building reporting, analytic models, and dashboards for distribution of the collected data.

Well, I tend to play with the software in my off-time to get to know it and the source code.  Now one of the things coming from a Java programming background is having direct access to the underlying database.  Now if you setup your BI suite correctly, you should never need access to the database itself.  However, there was this one time where I wanted to create a temp table on the database and not in memory, I wanted direct access to the database.  After talking to myself for a while, I decided to not break my rule of trying to get direct access to the database through the report.  I changed my method and report was made...

However, after that moment, I was left with an itch to figure out, "How does someone go about grabbing a data source object from the BI server?"  For about a year or so, the urge to sit down and code an example came and went.  Most of the time I distracted myself with some other project, but always in the back of my mind was this thing that I hadn't done before and it was killing me.  So fast forward to about two weeks ago.  I finally, decided to bury the hatchet and code up an example of a report grabbing the data source from the JNDI tree.

So let's begin!!!

Today, I'm breaking out the "trusty" Windows system (because it's the one I randomly grabbed to start typing this post).  I'm going to assume the following, if none of this applies to you and you don't know how to get to these points, then this post isn't going to be very helpful for you.

  1. You have Pentaho Report Designer (CE or EE edition)
  2. You have a running instance of Pentaho BI Server that you can publish to!!
  3. Your PRD install has a proper simple-jndi setup already.
  4. Your BI server instance has the JNDI connections setup in the application context within Tomcat.
  5. You already know a bit about the PRD scriptable data source.

That being said, go ahead and fire up Pentaho Report Designer.

Step one will be to start a new scriptable data source.
Starting a scriptable data source

A scriptable data source invokes the Rhino environment to execute your Java/Groovy/JavaScript code.  I'll be using plain Jane Java here (also know as Beanshell to the Rhino environment).

Go ahead and add a query and type the following in:
import javax.naming.InitialContext;
import javax.sql.DataSource;
import java.sql.Connection;
import java.sql.Statement;
import java.sql.ResultSet;
import org.pentaho.reporting.engine.classic.core.util.TypedTableModel;

InitialContext cxt = new InitialContext();
//DataSource ds = (DataSource) cxt.lookup("java:/comp/env/jdbc/PROD_RM_JNDI");
DataSource ds = (DataSource) cxt.lookup("RM_SYS_1_JNDI");

Connection c = ds.getConnection();
Statement stmt = c.createStatement();
ResultSet rs = stmt.executeQuery("SELECT * FROM ACC_CODES_PTE");

String [] columnNames = new String [] {"Column 1"};
Class [] columnTypes = new Class [] {String.class};

TypedTableModel model = new TypedTableModel(columnNames, columnTypes);

 model.addRow(new Object [] {rs.getString(1)});

return model;
Now notice how I have one of those context lookups commented out. There is a reason for that.  Within the standard PRD environment, you are provided a FULL JNDI tree, you are actually using a little project called simple-jndi to provide pseudo-JNDI functionality.  When you switch over to the BI server, go ahead and comment out the current context lookup and use the lookup with the big huge path.  That's a proper JNDI path on the Tomcat server.

Once you've added an element to represent your data into the details section of the report, preview it.  You see that the system grabs a connection from the JNDI pool, uses it, and then tosses it back into the pool.  The model is then sent back to the report for processing and reporting.

It's pretty simple and this now allows you to create a temp table when the report runs on the DB.  Just remember that you need to take care to get rid of temp tables when you no longer need them, especially if you are using Tomcat's connection pooling.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Excellent file for LO and AOO Base users

If you have ever wanted to understand more about LO or AOO Base.  An excellent resource is:

This shows quite a bit about using the UNO API to do all kinds of wonderful things.

Additionally, LO 4.2 is now out!  You should go check it out.  I highly disagree with the new startup screen and rather have the old one, but I'm pretty sure this new one will grow on me.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Using MRI and a basic spreadsheet macro


That being said, I'll be using LO 4.1 on Mac OS X 10.9, however, you'll find that most of everything covered here is quite true for the Linux or Windows version as well.  However!!  If you by chance do find some difference between what I've got here and what is on your screen, then feel free to drop a comment telling me what you found and what not.

For this post, I am just going to quickly go over the most basic macro possible and tie in MRI along with it.  Our macro will be to quickly create a table that says "Hello, world!" in one column and in the second column have a number counting up from zero to ten.  That is, a total of eleven rows.

Starting up the macro:

The first thing we need to do is start up the macro editor and MRI.  To start up the macro editor, first open a new blank spreadsheet, then from the main menu select:  Tools | Macros | Organize Macros | LibreOffice Basic...   This brings up the macro organizer.

You'll see a box on the left called "Macro From", this indicates where the macro in question is coming from.  You will always have at least three sources here.  The first is your personal macros that are common to anything you open in LO (My Macros), the second is the macros that come with your extensions and the default install of LO, and the third and final location is from an open document (in this case our open spreadsheet).  It is actually possible to have more than three locations to pull macros from as the location list includes all of the currently open files.

We will create today's macro within the spreadsheet, so that when I pass off the spreadsheet, someone else will be able to run the macro.  Usually, you do not want to do this because that can be a security risk, especially if you are not signing your documents before distribution.  However, for example, we will let it pass.  Just click on the "New" button after selecting the spreadsheet from the "Macro From" box.  A dialog will appear to ask you to name the new module, just go ahead and accept the default "Module1".  Finally, the macro editor appears.

Starting up MRI:

I'm going to start up MRI so that I can follow along and do introspection while I'm writing the macro.  To begin MRI I'll need to head to Tools | Add-ons | MRI.

MRI may be a bit confusing at first but it'll make sense in a bit.  Note the box on the top left.  It should state  XComponent is an UNO interface that is used by a lot of stuff.  Remember that MRI, and for that matter everything else that doesn't own the actual spreadsheet document, is looking from outside in.  So XComponent is generic enough to begin getting access to underlying stuff.  MRI doesn't know at this time that what it is looking at is indeed a spreadsheet, hence the XComponent interface.

You'll notice four buttons:  Attributes, Methods, Interfaces, and Services.  For the most part you'll be dealing with Attributes and Interfaces when you write a macro, however, that's not exactly a hard and fast rule and more complex stuff will use all four.

For the time being, go ahead and head over to XComponent's methods.  I'm going to be covering that in just a second.


When you start up a macro, you automatically receive at a global scope a value called ThisComponent.  ThisComponent is the component that owns the macro.  However, it is passed to your macro as a generic XComponent interface.  It's up to you to test the XComponent to ensure that it is actually a spreadsheet and what-not (thing called type safety).  However, I'm going to skip all of that because we're doing a simple macro that is going to be traveling with the spreadsheet.  So type safety be damn...

So ThisComponent in macro is equal to our that MRI is currently showing.  If we look at the methods for this interface we will see that there is a method called getSheets.  In the second column we will see the call signature which is () or no parameters are expected with this call.  In the third column we can see that calling this method will return .sheets.XSpreadsheets, which as you can tell from the X at the beginning, it's an interface as well.  So calling this method will return us an interface to ALL of the spreadsheets in the document.

Now just to be totally clear, if we were in say Writer and making a macro, we'd see in MRI that ThisComponent would still point to, however you wouldn't have a getSheets() method in that because a writer document doesn't have sheets.  Again, that's because XComponent is a generic interface that we use to get more specific things.  If you look at the fourth column in MRI for the getSheets() method, you'll see that the method is actually provided by .sheets.XSpreadsheetDocument.  So within your XComponent MRI found a XSpreadsheetDocument.  When you fire MRI up in writer, you'll notice your XComponent doesn't have a XSpreadsheetDocument within it.

Writing the code:

Time to write the code.  So our XComponent has multiple sheets (at least in theory, right now there's only one sheet in the entire workbook), so when we call the getSheets() method we're going to receive every single one of them.  Because of that, we don't have a lot of functionality exposed to us in the macro.  So we need to focus on just one sheet before we can get more methods to play with our sheet.

In MRI if you double click on the getSheets method name, which will look weird because it's just a text box so its a bit difficult the first time to know if you are doing it right, it'll call that method within the introspection window.  If you now look in the top left window, you'll notice that the current interface that you are inspecting is  Notice the getByIndex and getByName methods.  Both take in a parameter and return an any type.  Any type just means that the returning type is depending on how you call it.  Let's double click on the getByIndex, you'll be prompted to provide a value.  Since pretty much everything in UNO is zero based indexes, your first sheet is sheet 0, so push a zero as the int argument for getByIndex.

You will now notice that the interface that you are browsing is, which is the correct interface for doing whatever it is we want to do with a given spreadsheet.  So when you look at some macros, you'll notice something common, they all pretty much begin with the following.
REM  *****  BASIC  *****

Sub Main

 Dim oSheet
 oSheet = ThisComponent.getSheets().getByIndex(0)

End Sub
That's because the first thing you'll do is get a reference to the spreadsheet that you want to work with.  Once you have that reference you can grab cells, rows, columns, and what not that happen to be on that sheet.  So let's move to our main objective which should now be pretty clear on how to do this.

The macro:

The easiest way of dealing with this is to just grab each cell that we need.  You'll notice a method within .sheet.XSpreadsheet called getCellByPosition(int, int).  We will use this method for the time being to access our cell.  Go ahead and double click on the method, this dialog should appear:

Just enter 0 for both items.  You should now have a .table.XCell interface.  Switch over to the Properties tab (which I know, hasn't had much love so far) and you can see all the fun things that you can mess with for the XCell interface.  You'll notice that in the fifth column you can see if the Property has been marked as ReadOnly, WriteOnly, or blank which usually means Read/Write, but not always.

Now if you are coming from an Excel background, I can already hear you, "Oh!  I know, we pass a string in via the .Value property to set the value of the cell."  Nope, wrong.  UNO makes a distinction between numbers and strings.  The Value property is what you will use if you want to explicitly state that the cell is a numeric value.  The String property is what you will use if you want to explicitly state that the cell is a text value.  This is also a Formula property which does exactly what you think it does.

So with that out of the way now, let's look at our Macro's code:
REM  *****  BASIC  *****

Sub Main

 Dim oSheet
 oSheet = ThisComponent.getSheets().getByIndex(0)

 For cRow = 0 to 10
  oSheet.getCellByPosition(0, cRow).String = "Hello, World!"
  oSheet.getCellByPosition(1, cRow).Value = cRow
 Next cRow

End Sub
As you can see, I used the String property to state that I'm passing a String and Value to state that I'm passing a number. Had I used the String property to pass in a number, it would treat the number as if it were a string, which might come in handy if you want that to happen.  Also notice that I didn't "Dim cRow".  Basic is pretty loose as a language, and while you should always Dim your variables, I've not done it here simply because I want to show that you don't really have to.

Press the F5 key while in the macro editor or click on the run macro button and voila, our desired results are produced.


I hope this shows you the basics of using MRI and the macro editor together to get the results that you want out of the UNO framework that underpins LO and AOO.  MRI isn't a panacea for all the ills one might have with developing macros within AOO or LO, but it will help you understand the layout of the API if you get lost along the way.

Eventually, you'll want to pull in interfaces and create concrete objects from UNO that aren't directly connected to ThisComponent.  Unless you know the classname of what it is that you want and how to directly build it, MRI won't help you out much.

Any questions, comments, rants, wishes, or hating, feel free to do so in the comments below.  I'll stop by each weekend to check if anything has changed.

Getting started with using Apache OpenOffice/LibreOffice Basic (Installing MRI)


While I think macros with spreadsheets are typically a bad idea, every once and a while you will find yourself writing one.  Either to format a big spreadsheet quickly, change calculations, or add a bit of magic to your spreadsheet.  However, one of the biggest downsides to using LibreOffice (LO) or Apache OpenOffice (AOO) is that the libraries included with these products are insanely more confusing to new users than say Microsoft's offering in their Office suite.  Especially true if you are coming from a hard core background in MS Office, say like a power user of Excel or Access.

There are a ton of projects that are on-going to make LO and AOO, which both use the Universal Network Objects (UNO) framework to provide pretty much all of the functionality within the multitude of components within those suites, slightly easier to deal with.  One of those is MRI which is a plug-in for LO and AOO that allows you to do UNO introspection.  This allows you to browse easily the family of available UNO methods, objects, properties, and so forth.  MRI is an indispensable first tool when doing UNO macro programming.

The download:

So you may ask, where can I get this MRI?!  Well here's where you can get the latest version.  The AOO site has the latest and greatest whereas the LO site only has version 1.1.2 stable and 1.1.4 pre-release, both of which only work with LO 3.x series.

The nice thing about both AOO and LO both using UNO is that a lot of extensions for one will work on the other.  The downside is that because AOO and LO both use different versioning and they are slowly making their versions of UNO incompatible with each other (not out of spite but AOO is okay with Java depends and LO isn't, so LO is ditching a lot of interfaces that deal with that), their isn't a sure fire way to be absolutely sure that what works for AOO will work for LO and vice-versa.

Luckily, MRI works on AOO and LO versions 4.  That includes LO 4.1, but do note that I have not tested MRI 1.2.1 on LO 4.2 which is the next release.  There are quite a few changes in UNO in LO 4.2 so it will be interesting to see how MRI 1.2.1 works on that.


So once you download MRI, you'll need to add the extension to LO.  To do that, head over to Tools | Extension Manager in the main menu.  A dialog will appear

Extension Manager dialog
In the dialog click the "Add..." button.  This will open up a file browser.  From the file browser, find the MRI extension that you downloaded.  Once the extension is loaded, you'll need to restart LO to see the changes.

Double Check...

To double check that MRI was successful with the install.  Head over to the Tools menu again and you should see an option called "Add-Ons".  You should see in that menu "MRI" and "MRI ← selection".  The difference between the two is that "MRI" executes the extension with the current document as the parent object, the other uses whatever is currently selected as the parent object.

Make sure MRI is installed


With MRI you will now be able to perform introspection on the UNO tree, which as you will see soon enough, is pretty complex.  MRI allows one of the most important functions that the MS Office suite gets by default in its Basic environment, an object browser.  I will be referencing MRI a lot in the next few posts as I go over a bit of AOO/LO Basic.  So this is a good first step with learning the UNO basic environment.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The case for copyrighted APIs

So Oracle is trying to sue Google over the idea that application program interfaces (known as APIs) are protected by copyright.  Now I won't go into a ton of detail but APIs expose to a programmer the pieces of software that can and cannot be used.  So if I needed to round a number, I might call a piece of code called, Math.round(56.73)

Now how exactly that piece of code actually rounds up, there is no doubt, the implementation is copyrighted.  But Oracle's argument is that the whole term, Math.round() is copyrighted, no matter how one implements it.

This would be akin to someone copyrighting the steering wheel.  Now a particular design of steering wheel understood, but the whole notion of a wheel that is used to control a car is just crazy.  The wheel is the expression (the API) of how the driver (programmer) interacts with whatever the steering mechanism is (the implementation).

I'm of the opinion that APIs fall outside copyright.  The reason being I cite Lotus Dev. Corp. v. Borland Int'l, Inc. 516 U.S. 233 (1996).  Here the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Borland that, "the set of available operations and the mechanics of how they are activated are not copyrightable."  This allowed Borland to use menus in their product called Quattro Pro that looked exactly like the menus in Lotus 1-2-3.  Just because the menus looked the same (there was a file, new worksheet, new formula, etc... menu) the underlying code behind those menu items were different enough to not constitute infringement of copyright.  How one goes about activating an operation is not the same as how that operation actually works.

Thus, the way I activate rounding, via the Math.round() is not the same as how that rounding occurs.  Thus, since Math.round() is the manner in which I actually activate that rounding, it should logically fall outside of copyright.

In an appeal to the DC circuit court Oracle is set to have a retrial on this very notion, is an API copyrightable?  "It seems to me that almost all computer code has to have a functional purpose, otherwise what's the purpose," --Judge Plager

While what Judge Plager says is true, all code at some point has a function, if the function is to express an underlying intent or implementation.  I believe that 17 USC 102(b) implies that if the function is simply expression of an idea, which an API would most certainly be that, it falls outside of the protection offered in 102(a).  Even if § 101 states clearly that API's fall into the definition of "computer program", 102(b) clarifies that definition to restrain application of copyright to broad ideas like, how do I call a number rounding piece of code?  If copyright existed on the notion of round(), then how would other's code their own implementation without eventually stepping on such broad claims?

There is no doubt, this case is bound for the Supreme Court, and the ramifications of copyrighted APIs would have broad implications on developers.  It would bring about a downward trend in interoperability.  Network protocols, web services, and more which rely on open APIs would suddenly become licensable technology.  Even worst, this could spill over into widely used standards for communication, imagine if the ability for one hospital to talk to another hospital was a commercial protocol via a copyrighted API.  Only if every hospital choose a single vendor would there be the ability to for hospitals to talk to each other.  Those who choose a different product would be in a different closed box from the others.  And trying to have proxy services that translate between the two of them would require a vendor to license from both vendors in question to make such a proxy, that would make such proxies insanely costly.

Open APIs are incredibly vital to developers, already developers face too many difficulties with "patented" software processes.  If APIs are ruled into the domain of copyright, developers will have increased pressure on design and ultimately will mean that some developers may never get out the door with the years it may take to do due-diligence to ensure copyright and patents aren't being broken.  API libraries may cease being freely usable, useful API libraries, it could take years before open APIs are completely untangled and ensured are infringement free, meaning that small software shops will suddenly have to invest thousands of dollars in commercial libraries or wait until whatever they were using gets untangled.  Either option could cost them more in the long run than they originally had to begin with.

It is clear that Oracle is doing this to take what they deem their piece of a multi-billion dollar industry within Android.  I can get they feel a bit jaded about the whole thing.  However, their argument would have much wider repercussions than on Android.  This would bring to an end anybody who mimics Amazon Web Services APIs for interoperability.  There is a lot of vendors that stand to lose out big time on this.  Additionally, current cloud services, like Azure, Amazon, Oracle, and yes even Google's could copyright their APIs and lock their customers programs forever, or until overturned, onto their platform.  Either a customer rewrites their entire application or pays out the ying-yang to build a proxy while they move from one to another platform.  Writing a program that can translate one API to another would be copyright infringement.

What can be done about it?  Not much at the current point in time, but it does highlight a warning sign that commercial vendors of software are ever looking for new ways to take traditional developer values and twist them into meanings that make them top dollar.  It is becoming clearing with each passing year that truly from the start open APIs will be the only sure fire way of avoiding having the rug pulled out from underneath you.

Ultimately HTML5 and the open web/format will be the only "safe" bet in town.  That is why organizations like Mozilla, Apache, The Document Foundation, the Qt Project, the Fedora Project and others are so vital to developers.  They stand for platforms, libraries, protocols, and formats that are free from surprises, free for implementation from the start, free to be used for the masses to communicate freely with the world.  Because they believe that developers and users have a right to exchange ideas with one another without fear that one day, they might get a knock at the door asking for money.

Copyrighted APIs will have yet another chilling effect, but only because we have thus far had good faith in those who created these APIs, that they wouldn't do something as stupid as Oracle has suddenly decided to do.  Maybe developers were naive, but it takes someone with a really cold heart to actually act on that.   I do hope that Oracle finds whatever their reward to be, should this all end in their favor, worth the irreparable damage that this has on the faith of developers.  As future developers will be extra cautious to not fall into some inescapable pit and freely distributed SDKs will be met with ever increased skepticism of how "free" that platform truly is.