The Hecklers
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference."

At JavaOne last week, several people asked me how my work at Pivotal was going, and it occurred to me: I had been so busy diving into all the new toys that I hadn’t written anything about it! This is a first step toward remedying that.  :)


At the risk of this post sounding like a short commercial, I’m deeply impressed with the consistency of vision and the depth and breadth of capabilities Pivotal offers innovative organizations and developers. The various Spring offerings solve real problems, and they solve them in ways that are “developer first”…ways that make sense not just conceptually, but also when pounding out code in an IDE (or vi/emacs, if you prefer). You hear a lot about an “opinionated” approach, and that could be chafing if there weren’t such flexibility to do it it your way anytime needed/desired; but the goal is always the same:


Offer a way to get things done cleanly and easily by following a prescribed (opinionated) approach…

…but get out of the way quickly when another approach is warranted/desired.


Best of both worlds.


With regard to Pivotal Cloud Foundry…I once heard it described as the “travel adapter” of cloud services, and that explanation is brilliant. In short, Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF):

  • Works with a variety of underlying infrastructures (VMware, OpenStack, Amazon, Azure, Google Cloud)
  • Runs on-premises or public
  • Provides a single, elegant API for developers, regardless of infrastructure
  • Provides a single, elegant API for developers, regardless of siting (on-premises or public cloud)
  • Provides a true Cloud Native platform: drag, drop, run

If you’ve used other cloud platforms (and not yet used Pivotal Cloud Foundry), you’re probably reading and re-reading that list with some combination of skepticism and guarded envy. Don’t believe me; believe yourself: sign up for a free 60-day trial here and kick the tires. No better way to see the future than to create a small Spring Boot application (or bring your own) and deploy it to PCF. You’ll wonder why other vendors make it so difficult when it can be so straightforward.


In summary, I’m working on a great team in a great company with products from the future. What’s not to love? 😀




For everyone I met and re-met (!) at JavaOne, thank you for your friendship and commitment to this great community! Looking forward to our paths crossing again, and looking forward to meeting new “old friends” soon.


Please check back here (or follow me on Twitter: @MkHeck) for periodic ponderances, quick tips, and everything in between. Keep that code flowing!




  1. Of, relating to, or serving as a pivot.
  2. Being of vital or central importance; crucial.

As has been widely reported, last week I was among those at Oracle who were “let go” – a sanitized expression that is meant to diminish the indescribable impact of being fired due to circumstances far outside one’s knowledge or ability to influence. Details aren’t important, but suffice it to say that my teammates and I were…surprised. :)


The Java community is so much more than one company. It is many companies, organizations, not-for-profits, JUGs, individuals…so many who make it the vibrant, sharing community we all love. I’ve spoken with several, and I’ve had some wonderful conversations with organizations with a vision. This community is very much alive, and great ideas are flowing, with more on tap!



Which brings me to some exciting news! I’ll soon be joining the team at Pivotal. I won’t name names, as there are simply too many outstanding colleagues to mention without inadvertently leaving someone out. But you know them: they’re thinkers, innovators, and doers. Pivotal has some great tools in their toolbox, and I can’t wait to put every one of them to good use! I feel like a kid in a candy store. :)


I still have some good friends and colleagues within Oracle, and I respect them deeply for doing amazing things with Java and the community. They are awesome, and those individuals deserve your support. But this is a pivotal (you knew that pun was coming, didn’t you?!?!) moment for me, and I look forward to some pretty amazing things moving forward!


Whether you’re an old friend or new, or a soon-to-be one, if you happen to be at a conference where I am, please catch up with me and say “Hi”. I’m looking forward to it. :)


Onward & upward,


Follow me on Twitter (@MkHeck) for updates as the journey unfolds!


When I got my first Raspberry Pi Model B (not long after they first became available – remember when they only had 256M?!?), I wanted to configure it to use a wifi adapter. Even with approved, compliant adapters, this wasn’t for the faint of heart; many steps, scripts, and secret incantations were required to get everything to connect, even in the best of circumstances.


Fast-forward to today, when wifi adapter drivers are included in the base Raspbian build. It’s relatively simple to connect to wifi networks that broadcast their SSIDs. Ah, but what about those with hidden SSIDs? Not so much.


Many sites have documented ways to get around this. The problem is that I’ve tried several of them without success, so I always return to my original settings – and they still work just as well as the day I put them together. So to save myself (and hopefully you, if you’re reading this post!) a great deal of time in the future, here is the shortest path I’ve found to configuring your Raspbian-running Pi to connect to a wifi network that doesn’t broadcast its SSID.


The Secret Sauce Steps

0. Log into your Pi (default user ID: pi, default password: raspberry).

Edit the network interfaces file

1. cd /etc/network

2. sudo cp interfaces interfaces.orig (this makes a backup copy of your interfaces file)

3. sudo vi interfaces (feel free to use a different editor if vi isn’t your cup of tea)

4. Edit your interfaces file to look like this:


5. Save the interfaces file.


Edit wpa_supplicant

1. cd /etc/wpa_supplicant

2. sudo cp wpa_supplicant.conf wpa_supplicant.conf.orig

3. sudo vi wpa_supplicant.conf

4. Edit your wpa_supplicant file to look like this:


5. Save the wpa_supplicant.conf file.


NOTE: If you have another network entry in this file (e.g. for a guest network), be sure to place this line in its entry to prevent its use:



  • sudo reboot
  • Login once prompted.
  • ifconfig -a

If it’s working properly, your wlan0 adapter will show a valid IP address, a number of bytes and packets received and sent (RX and TX), and several other useful bits of information.

That’s all, folks

I’ve used this with three different wifi adapters, and it’s worked every time. Hopefully, it will work for you as well.


If you found this useful (or not, clear or confusing, etc.), please let me know. Good luck, and enjoy your Pi!


Keep coding,


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I started this post a couple months ago, and between a busy holiday season and constant revisions, I’m only now polishing and posting it. For those who knew it was in the pipeline, thank you for your patience. :)

I have another article in the works that will delve into more technical aspects of the microservices discussion; hopefully I’ll get that posted by this time next year (!). In this one, though, I’d like to stay as much as possible at the conceptual level, dipping into the details only to reference them for consideration and future discussion. No guarantees, but that’s the plan. :)


First, a good-natured poke at our discipline in general…

The Holy Grail

The Holy Grail of Software Development

Regardless of the new architecture, technique, methodology, framework, language/feature, etc., we (as developers) often fall prey to the temptation to make it a “one size fits all” solution. Regardless of the problem at hand, we break out our new toy, er, tool and apply it vigorously, without the benefit of objective consideration of suitability to the task at hand. To paraphrase two Abrahams (Kaplan and Maslow) the way I’ve always heard it:

“To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

This doesn’t have anything to do with microservices directly…only with the fawning attitude for the concept that seems to be prevalent at the moment. :)

Along those same lines, I’d like to issue a couple of disclaimers here. I work for Oracle, so my experiences and worldview may differ from yours. That said, I like to think of myself as a fairly fact-based being; while I have been wrong many times and shall be again (many times), I do my best to analyze and come to conclusions based upon objective measures and reasoned assessments. Really, I do.

Secondly, it is incredibly difficult to make statements about microservices or anything else within the dev sphere that are 100% accurate and/or conclusive. I’ve tried to avoid blanket generalizations, but frankly, it’s nearly impossible to discuss anything without making some sweeping statements that one assumes/hopes will be understood as they were intended. If something below puzzles you or doesn’t sound right, please drop me a line and ask.

And finally, the views expressed in this post are mine and don’t represent those of Oracle. Or maybe anyone else. They’re just mine. :)

Now, back to microservices!

As with any tool applied indiscriminately to all problems, fit is often imperfect. Let’s take a closer look at what microservices are, what they’re up against, and their particular strengths and weaknesses.



“…the microservice architectural style…is an approach to developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API. These services are built around business capabilities and independently deployable by fully automated deployment machinery. There is a bare minimum of centralized management of these services, which may be written in different programming languages and use different data storage technologies.”
Martin Fowler

Let’s dissect this a bit.

“…the microservice architectural style…is an approach to developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API.”

This is a good start. Without going overboard trying to explain something that is fairly straightforward, we’re talking about breaking down a large, complex application into small(ish – we’ll get to that a bit later) services that are more granular. Doing so should enable us to focus upon a more specific outcome for each portion of the overall functionality, which should result in better component manageability and quality.

“These services are built around business capabilities and independently deployable by fully automated deployment machinery.”

With all respect to Mr. Fowler, this bit of text is not specific to microservices. Capability-driven development approaches are used in many different contexts, and automated deployment is even less useful as a differentiator. For this discussion, we’ll ignore this bit of text entirely.

“There is a bare minimum of centralized management of these services, which may be written in different programming languages and use different data storage technologies.”

Unlike the previous statement, this is a very useful description of microservices that, while not entirely unique to them, lays out two key tenets:

  • Microservices are decentralized. They could be hosted anywhere.
  • Microservices are heterogeneous. They can be written in the developers’ language of choice and deployed on their platform of choice, as long as the “connections” are properly made.

The “Alternative(s)”

Everything else, of course. :)

The microservices concept primarily addresses the server side of the equation; the client component is a player only insofar as it is involved in the delivery of the application’s functionality. In the strictest sense, microservices focus upon the delivery of capabilities via (micro)services provided by server(s).

Keeping that same specific focus, the alternative is really the “monolithic” application, typically delivered as a single unit containing all functionality for the entire set of targeted use cases. Some means of delivering so-called monolithic applications include (but are not limited to) Java EE, .NET, or any other server-side environment that provides functionality to the user via an application server or an affiliated cluster of app servers.

Pros of a Microservices Architecture


Firstly, anyone who has struggled under the weight of a large server-based application can immediately see the appeal of microservices. Monolithic apps can get “too big”, becoming unwieldy to develop and maintain. With so much complexity in a single code base, it becomes difficult to test, debug, etc. without the law of unintended consequences wreaking havoc in novel ways.


With a microservices architecture, functionality can be “farmed out” and provided by others, often developers/teams who don’t even work for your organization. While this isn’t unique to microservices, the architecture certainly facilitates it; creating and documenting the interfaces within the core app to support various connection points makes developing and integrating external functionality far easier for those outside the core application’s dev team than any monolithic app could be.


This also allows hosted functionality to be geographically dispersed more readily than typical alternatives, deploying microservices wherever it makes sense to do so (using any criteria). If a development partner on one side of the world decided to provide a microservice that integrates with a core application hosted on the other, this could be done easily by complying with published interface standards and requirements. Adding an external functionality provider is far less disruptive to the core app if it was designed with that end in mind, and that is the core principle of a microservice architecture (see above).


Creating an application with microservices in mind also can result in a leaner core application. It’s an imperfect analogy, but composition vs. inheritance applies here. If your architecture embraces the creation of a core set of functionality with numerous extension points, your core app potentially can be more focused and functionally cohesive…as can each microservice.

Cons of a Microservices Architecture

Any architectural decision has its downside, and a microservices architecture creates new challenges while it’s solving old ones. Here are a few potential hurdles that microservices face.


If you thought debugging and testing a monolithic application was a challenge – with all code directly accessible and modifiable (to varying extents) from the comfort of your IDE – you’re probably cringing at the thought of your pending inability to sink your hands into the entire codebase to fix bugs that surface or (more) easily test and diagnose aberrant behavior that is reported in your app. End-users will not know (and won’t care) that something breaks due to a partner’s error in implementing an interface, failure to completely debug an edge case, or even an innovative misuse of the app by said user. Your app is broken, #fail.


If portions of your application’s functionality are provided by other groups or organizations, maintaining consistency becomes more difficult. User interfaces, error handling, text phrasing…these are just a few examples of areas where small differences can make a huge impact on the overall user experience.


Say what you will about about monolithic apps, but infrastructure and interfaces are costs that are borne once for the entire (monolithic) application…to say nothing of transactions. When portions of your app’s functionality are provided via microservices hosted on various external platforms, connection security and authentication/authorization must be factored into the most insignificant internal interactions. It’s only a bit of an exaggeration to say that with a microservices architecture, there are no local interfaces. And for those who think “microservices” means “tiny services”, there is no limit to the size/scope of a so-called microservice. Factoring in the overhead, they can involve more code than you might expect, somewhat negating some of the advantages of “leanness” you may have been anticipating.


With multiple infrastructures and databases potentially hosted on various platforms in far-flung places, a microservices-based application certainly offers more breakpoints. At best, this introduces latency concerns; at worst, fragility. If any key bits of functionality are delivered via an (external) microservice, the unavailability of that microservice breaks your app. This is less of a concern if the group supporting the failed service is just down the hallway; but if the other organization is in a different building, city, or country, small breakages can quickly result in painful outages and even lost customers. See the note about Control above.

In Conclusion (For Now)

A microservices architecture offers another viable approach, another option to deliver more functionality to end-users…but it is not a silver bullet.

A microservices architecture can provide greater flexibility and code quality by capability at the possible expense of (overall) application availability and control. It’s a great tool, used wisely and in the right circumstances…but as with any great tool, it doesn’t remove the responsibility to think prior to (and while) employing it.

Now, go develop something. :)




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JavaOne: I'm Speaking


There are some absolutely SUPERB conferences dedicated to Java (the language, the platform, the ecosystem) around the world, and I’ve been privileged to speak at some of them. No two are alike, and that is a good thing! JavaOne San Francisco holds a very special place in that lineup, bringing together a phenomenal mixture of vision, direction, community leadership, and grassroots innovation that is nearly impossible to describe. You just have to be there!


This year I’m pleased and honored to be presenting in three sessions, sharing the stage with some of my favorite people from around the world: Jim Weaver, Sean Phillips, David Heffelfinger, Geertjan Wielenga, Jens Deters, José Pereda, and James Gosling. As I said, it’s a genuine honor!


Here are the sessions in which I’ll be taking part:

Creating Our Robot Overlords: Autonomous Drone Development with Java and the Internet of Things [CON1863]
Tuesday, Sep 30, 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM – Hilton – Continental Ballroom 4

Who wants a mindless drone? Teach it to “think,” and it can do so much more. But how do you take it from Toy Story to Terminator? This session’s speakers discuss their new open source library, Autonomous4j, for autonomous drone development. Combining this library and some components from their mad science toolkit, they demonstrate how to get your Internet of Things off the ground and do some real cloud computing. In the session, you’ll learn how to write an autonomous drone program with Java 8; deploy it to the drone’s “positronic brain,” an onboard Raspberry Pi; have the Pi guide an AR.Drone to accomplish a task; monitor it via a JavaFX console; and create your own robot overlord. Demos are included: you’ve been warned!

With Jim Weaver & Sean Phillips

Debugging and Profiling Robots with James Gosling [CON6699]
Wednesday, Oct 1, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM – Hilton – Continental Ballroom 4

James Gosling recently stated that “being able to debug and profile robots out at sea is a truly life-altering experience.” He uses a set of tools—consisting of editors, debuggers, and profilers—that are part of the NetBeans IDE. In this session, Gosling and other speakers introduce you to these tools and show you how easily and quickly you can program and interact with devices via Java tools. Come see how well integrated embedded devices are with the Java ecosystem.

With Geertjan Wielenga, Jens Deters, José Pereda, & James Gosling

Java Platform, Enterprise Edition Lab 101: An Introduction [HOL1827]
Wednesday, Oct 1, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM – Hilton – Franciscan A/B

For anyone familiar with the Java language but without direct Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) experience, the capabilities and APIs in Java EE can seem daunting. Documentation is helpful, and well-written books can make it easier to come up to speed, but isn’t the best way to learn something to actually do it? This session’s speakers hope to smooth the path for anyone curious about Java EE by offering a gentle, yet useful, introduction to four key concepts:


• JavaServer Faces (JSF)
• Contexts and Dependency Injection (CDI)
• Java Persistence API (JPA)
• Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB)


Using NetBeans and the bundled GlassFish application server, the speakers present each new concept with live code and then help attendees complete hands-on exercises.

With David Heffelfinger (and gracious assistance from Sven Reimers, Josh Juneau, Bob Larsen, & Bruno Borges)

I’ve said it before: There’s no better place to see what’s happening in the world of Java than JavaOne. Hope to see you there!


All the best,


Cross-posted from The Java Jungle.


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