Not feelin’ the regex love

thehemorrhoid Sometimes I come to a regular expression in code that someone else wrote (and they probably just ripped it off from stackoverflow or some such place and never bothered to understand exactly how it worked), and there are no comments explaining what this regex is intended to do.  Infuriating.  It not only counts on the developer down the road to know regular expressions well enough to figure out what it is supposed to be doing, but it also requires a bit of cross-temporal mind-meld to figure out what the problem was that the original developer was trying to solve.  Inevitably there will be some case that comes up and the particular regex they selected doesn’t handle it well.  It needs to be tweaked, so now you have to go about understanding the whole thing and the original developer left you no clues.


Regex use versus abuse

CamelCase to Human Readable String

What to do?

Your decision about whether to figure it all out or just write some code that does the same thing may well depend upon how near your deadline is looming.

Faced with such a situation recently, with absolutely no time at all to handle this stupid little cosmetic bug, I opted for the just-write-the-damn-code option.

CamelCase to English in Actionscript

I just had to turn a camelCase string (I like to write camelCase in camelCase), into something more beautiful that you could display to a user.  The existing regex worked pretty well, except it fell down when an acronym was involved – too many capital letters in a row.  So you had a string LOLCatsAreFunny, and it ended up LOLCats Are Funny.  I needed that space between LOL and Cats.

Found a good place to start by 1.21 Gigawats at stackoverflow.  That solution didn’t have the tweak I needed, so here is the modified solution.  The tweak is in pink.

public static function prettifyCamelCase(value:String=""):String 
var output:String = ""; 
var len:int = value.length; 
var nextChar:String = ""; 

for (var i:int; i < len; i++) 
    char = value.charAt(i); 
    if (i < len - 1) 
        nextChar = value.charAt(i + 1); 

    if (i==0)
        output += char.toUpperCase(); 
    else if (char !== char.toLowerCase() && char === char.toUpperCase()
        && nextChar === nextChar.toLowerCase() 
        && nextChar !== nextChar.toUpperCase()) 
        output += " " + char;
    else if (char == "-" || char == "_")
        output += " ";
        output += char; 
return output; 




Duplicates in two columns in a table


That’s a painting of my cat Thor in the backyard.  Apparently he’s looking at the hose, despite the fact that to his right the yard is full of California Poppies.

Today’s blog has some code that is not my own.  Michael Powaga posted it over on Stack Overflow.  I just wanted to keep track of this little gem because I’ve needed it twice now and both times I ended up going with his solution.

I needed to know how many rows (and which ones) were duplicates but not just on one column, on two columns.  I had a situation where (I feel) there should have been a constraint to prevent duplicates in this table.  I wanted to neatly identify the offending records so I could deal with them.

This is his code.  It’s at the link above, but also copied here just in case.

select, t.* 
from [stuff] s
join (
    select name, city, count(*) as qty
    from [stuff]
    group by name, city
    having count(*) > 1
) t on = and =

XML Parser



Needed to parse an XML import file in a Java application.  I liked what I read about JAXB here, so this is the XML parser I used.  What I liked about it is that I didn’t need to write code to deal with the XML file line-by-line.  With JAXB, you do a little prep work to create a schema for the XML file, and at run-time the JAXB methods just need to know the location of the XML file and the location of the class definitions and it creates your Java objects.  Then you just deal with these objects in your Java code however you please. Not a lot of fuss involved.

Creating the schema

First step is to create a schema from your XML file.  I used a free online schema generator.  I just uploaded my XML file and it created an XSD schema for me.

Creating classes (called binding the schema)

The Java SDK comes with a tool for this.  You don’t need to download or install anything that you don’t already have.  The tool is xjc, and it’s in Java’s bin folder.  You can type xjc -help to learn about all the options.  But the main syntax you need is this:

xjc -d <directory to create Java class files in> -p <package name to use in the class files> <schema created in previous step with a .xsd file extension>

Java code

You need these imports:

import javax.xml.bind.JAXBContext;
import javax.xml.bind.JAXBException;
import javax.xml.bind.Unmarshaller;

The code:

 JAXBContext jaxbContext = JAXBContext.newInstance(location of classes you created using the xjc tool);
 Unmarshaller unmarshaller = jaxbContext.createUnmarshaller();
 Object o = unmarshaller.unmarshal(new File(location and name of XML file to parse));

You can cast the output to the object type immediately if you’re only using this code for one type of XML file and you know what type of object it will always generate.  Or leave it as an Object if you want this to handle any XML file, and then later check the type of object with instanceof .

SQL – Find the largest number in a set of alpha-numeric values

SQL – Find the largest number in a set of alpha-numeric values


The SQL:

declare @lastIntUsed int 

create table #temp (clean_number varchar(50), IntCol int) 
; with tally as (select top (100) N=ROW_NUMBER() over (order by @@spid) from sys.all_columns),
data as ( 
   select sometable.number, clean_number
   from sometable
   cross apply ( 
      select (select C + '' FROM (select N, SUBSTRING(sometable.number, N, 1) C  
          from tally
          where N<=DATALENGTH(sometable.number)) [1]
      where C between '0' and '9'
      order by N
      for xml path('')) 
   ) p (clean_number)
   where p.clean_number is not null 
insert into #temp (clean_number, IntCol) 
select number, cast(clean_number as int) IntCol from data

set @lastIntUsed = (select MAX(IntCol) from #temp) 
print @lastIntUsed
drop table #temp

I couldn’t find any way to just get the max number from the CTE itself (doesn’t mean there isn’t a way), so I said screw it – I’ll just stick the results into a temp table and then I can get the max number or the min or the max number that is less than some value or whatever I want.

Faking a connection refusal


Your application connects to another server to request a service.  Most of the time this hums along with no problem.  But once in a while the server you are attempting to connect to refuses the connection.  When this happens, the phones ring off the hook.

You would like to catch this scenario before all your users get angry.  So you put some monitoring in place.

To test the monitoring, you need to fake the connection refusal.  This took me longer than I care to admit to figure out, but it turns out the answer is pretty simple.

Change the port number.

So say you have Axis2 software running at the port number you are connecting to.  Keep your connection string as it is, except for the port number.  Change the port to a number that is not running any web service software.

That will result in a Connection refused error.



Learning Python – make a URL request

rosetwoandbuds002  Been learning Python lately.  Have done a couple of tutorials and one or two simple programs.  This post will be about a simple example of how to access some real estate information that is available from a company called Trulia.

First, some links to sites that helped me figure this out:

  • Download Python, install, and some reference documentation:
  • Stackoverflow thread about making a URL request in Python:
  • How to make a Trulia RSS feed with your real estate search criteria:
  • Some free python IDEs:
  • I decided to go with Visual Studio for an IDE. I picked the custom installation so I could specify Python as a supported language.

The code:

#Just a little POC to retrieve some real estate information from the web
#Python 3
import urllib.request #for opening connections to URLs

def main():

  truliaURL = ',CA/'

  request = urllib.request.Request(truliaURL)
  response = urllib.request.urlopen(request)
  responseData ='utf-8')

if __name__ == "__main__":

Debugging BlazeDS Performance

raindropsonrosebud I have a server call that returns a lot of data to the client.  About 80% of the elapsed time for the call is the time after the data leaves the server and before it arrives at the client.

We’re using BlazeDS to communicate between a Flex client and a Java back end.

It is crazy hard to find much information on performance tuning for BlazeDS.  But these two blog posts helped me figure out how to get some statistics about the messaging between server and client – things like elapsed time, size of message, etc.

So basically what you do is, on the server side in your services-config.xml file, in the tag of your tag, you add these two tags:


Then on the client side, when you instantiate a new AMFChannel, you add a line like this:


And add a new function called customSettings which sets the values for these same properties on the client-side.

 private function customSettings():XML {
 return <channel-definition>

Doing it this way gets around the problem of them being read-only properties.

Now, upon successful completion of service calls, add this code to your result handler:

log.debug(getResource(msg, destination, operationName, elapsedTime)); var performanceDetails:MessagePerformanceUtils = new MessagePerformanceUtils(event.message); log.debug(performanceDetails.prettyPrint());

More information on MessagePerformanceUtils here:

What this does is get you a bunch of information to help with figuring out why the call is taking so long.

Original message size(B): 1685
Response message size(B): 6987918
Total time (s): 8.402
Network Roundtrip time (s): 3.584
Server processing time (s): 4.818
Server adapter time (s): 3.708
Server non-adapter time (s): 1.11

Don’t leave this in your production code.  You’re trying to improve performance, not make it worse!