Bit packing Pacman

Haven’t posted in a while, since I’ve been heads down in building a lot of cool tooling at work (blog posts coming), but had a chance to mess around a bit with something that came up in an interview question this week.

I frequently ask candidates a high level design question to build PacMan. Games like pacman are fun because on the surface they are very simple, but if you don’t structure your entities and their interactions correctly the design falls apart.

At some point during the interview we had scaled the question up such that there was now a problem of knowing at a particular point in the game what was nearby it. For example, if the board is 100000 x 100000 (10 billion elements) how efficiently can we determine if there is a nugget/wall next to us? One option is to store all of these entities in a … Read more

Strongly typed http headers in finatra

When building service architectures one thing you need to solve is how to pass context between services. This is usually stuff like request id’s and other tracing information (maybe you use zipkin) between service calls. This means that if you set request id FooBar123 on an entrypoint to service A, if service A calls service B it should know that the request id is still FooBar123. The bigger challenge is usually making sure that all thread locals keep this around (and across futures/execution contexts), but before you attempt that you need to get it into the system in the first place.

I’m working in finatra these days, and I love this framework. It’s got all the things I loved from dropwizard but in a scala first way. Todays challenge was that I wanted to be able to pass request http headers around between services in a typesafe way that … Read more

Dont be afraid of dependency updates

Lots of place I’ve worked at have had an irrational fear of upgrading their dependencies. I understand why, when you have something that works you don’t want to rock the boat. You want to focus on building your product, not dealing with potential runtime errors. Your ops team is happy, things are stable. Life is great.

However, just like running from your problems, freezing your dependencies is a recipe for disaster. Just like normal software maintenance, your dependencies MUST be upgraded on a regular basis. It sucks, nobody likes dealing with weird transitive issues, but without a regular upgrade schedule (every 6 months to a year at minimum) you run the risk of realizing that you can’t upgrade at all!

This is a crappy place to be in, and you know when you’re there because you try and pull in some updated library that has the features you want and/or … Read more

Deployment the paradoxical way

First and foremost, this is all Jake Swensons brain child. But it’s just too cool to not share and write about. Thanks Jake for doing all the hard work :)

At paradoxical, we really like being able to crank out libraries and projects as fast as possible. We hate boilerplate and we hate repetition. Everything should be automated. For a long time we used maven archetypes to crank out services from a template and libraries from a template, and that worked reasonably well. However, deployment was always kind of a manual process. We had scripts in each repo to use the maven release plugin but our build system (Travis) wasn’t wired into it. This meant that deploys of libraries/services required a manual (but simple) step to run. We also had some kinks with our gpg keys and we weren’t totally sure a clean way of having Travis be able to … Read more

Coproducts and polymorphic functions for safety

I was recently exploring shapeless and a coworker turned me onto the interesting features of coproducts and how they can be used with polymorphic functions.

Frequently when using pattern matching you want to make sure that all cases are exhaustively checked. A non exhaustive pattern match is a runtime exception waiting to happen. As a scala user, I’m all about compile time checking. For classes that I own I can enforce exhaustiveness by creating a sealed trait heirarchy:

sealed trait Base
case class Sub1() extends Base
case class Sub2() extends Base

And if I ever try and match on an Base type I’ll get a compiler warning (that I can fail on) if all the types aren’t matched. This is nice because if I ever add another type, I’ll get a (hopefully) failed build.

But what about the scenario where you don’t own the types?

case class Type1()
case class 
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Mocking nested objects with mockito

Yes, I know its a code smell. But I live in the real world, and sometimes you need to mock nested objects. This is a scenario like:

when(a.b.c.d).thenReturn(e)

The usual pattern here is to create a mock for each object and return the previous mock:

val a = mock[A]
val b = mock[B]
val c = mock[C]
val d = mock[D]

when(a.b).thenReturn(b)
when(b.c).thenReturn(c)
when(c.d).thenReturn(d)

But again, in the real world the signatures are longer, the types are nastier, and its never quite so clean. I figured I’d sit down and solve this for myself once and for all and came up with:

import org.junit.runner.RunWith
import org.mockito.Mockito
import org.scalatest.junit.JUnitRunner
import org.scalatest.{FlatSpec, Matchers}

@RunWith(classOf[JUnitRunner])
class Tests extends FlatSpec with Matchers {
  "Mockito" should "proxy nested objects" in {
    val parent = Mocks.mock[Parent]

    Mockito.when(
      parent.
        mock(_.getChild1).
        mock(_.getChild2).
        mock(_.getChild3).
        value.doWork()
    ).thenReturn(3)

    parent.value.getChild1.getChild2.getChild3.doWork() shouldEqual 3
  }
}

class Child3 {
  def doWork(): Int = 0
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Extracting scala method names from objects with macros

I have a soft spot in me for AST’s ever since I went through the exercise of building my own language. Working in Java I missed the dynamic ability to get compile time information, though I knew it was available as part of the annotation processing pipleine during compilation (which is how lombok works). Scala has something similiar in the concept of macros: a way to hook into the compiler, manipulate or inspect the syntax tree, and rewrite or inject whatever you want. It’s a wonderfully elegant system that reminds me of Lisp/Clojure macros.

I ran into a situation (as always) where I really wanted to get the name of a function dynamically. i.e.

class Foo {
   val field: String = "" 
   def method(): Unit = {}
}

val name: String = ??.field // = "field"

In .NET this is pretty easy since at runtime you can create an … Read more

Dealing with a bad symbolic reference in scala

Every time this hits me I have to think about it. The compiler barfs at you with something ambiguous like

[error] error: bad symbolic reference. the classpath might be incompatible with the version used when compiling Foo.class.

What this really is saying is that Foo.class references some import or class whose namespace isn’t on the classpath or has fields missing. I usually get this when I have a project level circular dependency via transitive includes. I.e.

Repo 1/
  /project A
  /project B -> depends on C and A
Repo 2
  /project C -> depends on A

So here the dependency C pulls in a version of A but that version may not be the same that project B pulls in. If I do namespace refactoring in project A, then project B won’t compile if those namespaces are used by project C. It’s a mess.

Thankfully scala lets you maintain folder … Read more

Scripting deployment of clusters in asgard

We use asgard at work to do deployments in both qa and production. Our general flow is to check in, have jenkins build, an AMI is created, and then … we have to manually go to asgard and deploy it. That sucks.

However, its actually not super hard to write some scripts to find the latest AMI for a cluster and prepare an automated deployment pipeline from a template. Here you go:

function asgard(){
  verb=$1
  url="https://my.asgard.com/us-east-1/$2"
  shift
  http ${VERB} --verify=no "$url" -b
}

function next-ami(){
  cluster=$1

  prepare-ami $cluster true | \
    jq ".environment.images | reverse | .[0]"
}

function prepare-ami(){
  cluster=$1

  includeEnv=$2

  asgard GET "deployment/prepare/${cluster}?deploymentTemplateName=CreateAndCleanUpPreviousAsg&includeEnvironment=${includeEnv}"
}

function get-next-ami(){
  cluster=$1

  next=`next-ami ${cluster} | jq ".id"`

  prepare-ami ${cluster} "false" | jq ".lcOptions.imageId |= ${next}"
}

function start-deployment(){
  cluster=$1
  payload=$2

  echo $payload | asgard POST "deployment/start/${cluster}"
}

The gist here is to

  • Find the next AMI image of a cluster
  • Get the prepared
Read more