Archive for January, 2012

@Override and interface

January 27th, 2012

Jim Leary, my colleague at CloudBees, got me into digging into this.

The question is around putting the @Override annoation on a method that implements an interface method, like this:

public class Foo implements Runnable {
    public void run() {}

As you can see in the javadoc, when @Override was originally introduced, such use was not allowed. javac 1.5 rejects this, too (I verified this in 1.5.0_22.)

Sun intended to change this in 1.6. Javac 1.6 indeed changed the behaviour to allow it (verified this in 1.6.0_26), but someone forgot to update the documentation, as you can see in the Java 6 API reference.

The interesting thing is, if you use Javac 1.6 with “-source 1.5″ and/or “-target 1.5″. In all the possible 3 combinations, the above code compiles. Is this a bug, or is this correct? The interesting thing is that the semantics of @Override is defined in the library, not in the Java language spec. So an argument can be made that this is as it should be — JLS, which governs the -source/-target switches, have nothing to do with this annotation. It’s akin to your code relying on newly introduced types in Java 6. If you compile them with Javac 1.6 with -source 1.5, it won’t raise an error.

But IDEs do seem to tie this with the language level. Jim said Eclipse, when set to language level 1.5, it will flag the above code as an error. I verified that IntelliJ does the same (but only in the editor, as the actual compilation happens via javac so the build will succeed.)

So the end result is ugly. If you open the project in your IDE, you see all these errors, but your build (nor test nor any actual execution, for that matter) will not catch this problem. Even if this was a bug in javac, I don’t see it getting “fixed” — the last thing you want is your security update relese to Java6 break all your builds.

I guess the right thing to do for projects (like Jenkins) is to try to avoid putting @Override on interfaces and as we discover them, remove them. So that people who open the source tree in IDE won’t see those false positive errors. This is a bummer because it’s actually useful to have @Override on interfaces (that’s why the behaviour was changed in 1.6 in the first place!) Does anyone know of a FindBugs rule or some refactoring tool to check this? Or should these be filed as bugs against IDEs? For enforcing something that’s not in JLS?

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Writing programs that drive Jenkins

January 27th, 2012

One of the interesting discussions during SCALE 10x was about using Jenkins as a piece of a bigger software. This person was interested in using Jenkins to run some business analysis operations, and wanted to have a separate interface for business oriented people. This is actually an emerging but common theme I hear from many users. Another company in San Jose actually built the workflow engine that uses Jenkins as a piece in a bigger application (aside from the actual build and test, this workflow involves reviews, approvals, etc.), and GitHub Janky can be classified as one such app, too.

This is something I always believed in — that every piece of software needs to be usable by a layer above. Or put another way, every software should be usable as a library.

So in this post I’m going to discuss various ways you can programmatically drive Jenkins.

Let’s start with the REST API of Jenkins. For most of the data Jenkins renders as HTML, you can access its XML version and JSON version (as well as a few other formats, like Python literal fragment.) You do this by adding /api to the page (see for example.) Those pages discusss other REST API where applicable. For example, you can POST to certain URL and it’ll create/update job definitions, etc.

If you are going to use REST API, you might find the auto-discovery for Jenkins useful. You can discover Jenkins on the local subnet via UDP broadcast, or DNS multi-cast. There’s also a distinctive HTTP header “Jenkins-Version” on the top page of Jenkins that allows your application to verify that it’s talking to a real Jenkins server, as well as an instance ID that allows you to identify Jenkins instanecs. These features allow you to build smarter applications.

For Jenkins protected by some authentication mechanism, you can use the user name + API key in the HTTP basic auth (and I want to add OAuth support here.)

REST API is great that it’s programming language agnostic. It is also convenient that neither the server nor the client has to trust each other. But those APIs are bound by the request/response oriented nature of the HTTP protocol.

Another great integration point for Jenkins is the CLI. This uses the same underlying technology that drives master/slave architecture, which enables your command line clients to be a lot more intelligent. For example, REST API exposes an URL that you can post to get a build started. But the equivalent command in CLI can have you block until the build is complete (and exit code indicates the status), or run the polling first and proceed to build only when the polling detects a change, or allow you perform a parameterized build with multiple file uploads very easily. For protected Jenkins, CLI supports SSH public key authentication to securely authenticate the client.

A slightly different version of the CLI is “Jenkins as SSH server”. Jenkins speaks the server side of the SSH protocol, and allow regular SSH clients to execute a subset of CLI commands. In this way, you don’t need any Java runtime installed on the client side to drive Jenkins.

These two integration APIs are often much easier to script than REST API.

Those APIs are available for non-privileged users, and they are great for small scale integrations. But for more sophisticated integration needs, we have additional APIs.

One is the REST API access to the Groovy console, which allows administrator users to run arbitrary Groovy script inside the Jenkins master JVM (and you can submit this script as POST payload, and get the response back as the HTTP response.) This allows you to tap into all the Jenkins object models. Unlike the REST API, in this way you can ship the computation, so in one round-trip you can do a lot. You can do the same with CLI, which also lets you access stdin/stdout of the CLI.

The other sophisticated integration API I wanted to talk about is the remoting API that does Java RPC (not to be confused with the remote API, which is the synonym for the REST API.) The remoting API is the underlying protocol that we use for master/slave communications, and it revolves around the notion of shipping a closure (and code associated with it) from one JVM to another, execute it, and get the result back. If your application runs elsewhere, you can establish the remoting API channel with Jenkins master, then prepare a Callable object. You can then have Jenkins master execute this closure, and the result is sent back to your JVM.

There’s an example of this available. You bootstrap this in the same way the CLI client talks to the master, then you “upgrade” the communication channel by activating the remote code download support (which requires the administrator privilege, for obvious reasons.)

The great thing about this is that your data structure is rich Java object model all the way, and you never have to translate your data to externalizable serialization data format like XML or JSON. This greatly simplifies your program.

I think this list covers all the major integration APIs that Jenkins offers. If you are building any interesting applications that uses Jenkins as a building block, please share your experience so that we can make it better!

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