Open Source engagement for utPLSQL

When I started to blog, I set myself the goal to publish one article per month. Maybe it was too ambitious, maybe I’ll have to learn to write shorter blog posts (which might not be possible because the reason I blog is to get a deeper understanding of a topic and reflect on it – something hardly doable with just scratching the surface).

Fact is I wasn’t able to publish for nearly 3 months and while I have some topics rumbling in my head I won’t just throw some unbaked thoughts on a blank page to satisfy a self-made deadline. Or grow a bigger audience.

This kind of little, personal posts is the only thing I’m willing to try (thanks Nate for your encouragement).
At the moment it feels a bit like writing a diary, but I will take it as an experiment.

The thing which kept me from writing for several weeks now is an amazing open source project named utPLSQL. It’s a unit-testing framework for PL/SQL and I started using it about a year ago when I needed a tool to help me getting a very much “grown” legacy project into a stable state.

After finding a bug around windows line breaks (yes, you can develop Oracle databases on Windows) and contributing a fix I had the pleasure to get in contact with the great guys working on the project. They were incredibly nice and helpful and so it was very natural to stay in contact.

Long story short – I finally ended up being the main contributor for the java-api and command-line-interface. It definitely helped that I could build upon a very good foundation and I learned an insane amount of new things which not only helped me in my job but also widened my horizon as developer.

Yesterday we successfully released version 3.1.0 of java-api and cli. I couldn’t include everything I wanted, but we pushed the project further and it was both fun and satisfying. There are some very positive effects of contributing to open source software I experienced, but that’s stuff for a different post.

To finally give this article at least a bit of technical value I will provide some short examples of the improvements of the new command-line-interface.

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Strongholds of confidence: self-testing your database

Software-Testing has always been a very important topic in professional development because software – unlike for example buildings – changes a lot from the first line of code to release and from there during its whole lifetime. Due to that constant change and its complexity every honest developer will have to accept someday, that there is no software without bugs.

The rise of agile methods, ideas like continuous integration and the urge to have more frequent releases led to an even stronger focus on modern testing-strategies (interesting blog post about correlation of release frequency and agile practices – especially including automated testing).

Unfortunately there is some kind of “holy war” about some programming techniques around testing (I will write a bit more on that in the last chapter of this blog post), but nonetheless the need for automated self-testing (be it system-, integration- or unit-testing) in todays software development is real and uncontroversial among the experts. Therefore I will use the general term of “self-testing” in this article, concentrating on the very basic idea and trying to give an introduction on how it can be done in database projects. In my impression still many of today’s database projects don’t even know about the basics of self-testing, so let me try to show you the benefits without nit-picking about specific techniques.

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