Integration testing transactions and optimistic locking with Spring and JUnit

I did some badness today.

I wanted an integration test to check to see if my @Transactional method actually did rollback on an optimistic lock failure. It’s a pretty business critical method so I wanted to be sure that the whole @Transactional and @Version annotation voodoo actually works.

The approach I took was to inject, what I called a “slowRepository” into the object with the @Transactional method. The slowRepository is just a mockito mock of the object which “answers” (using “thenAnswer”) to the “findBy…” with some custom code.

The idea is that at some point during the @Transactional method the slowRepository is called and the “answer” code is invoked. In the test, the answer code follows along the lines of:

1. Grab the data it requires from the (not slow) repository (the repository the slowRepository is mocking)
2. Switch back the slowRepository for the not slow repository
3. Invoke the @Transactional method again on a separate thread
4. Sleep for a bit
5. Wake up and return the data from step 1

The @Transactional call on the separate thread completes and commits before slowRepository wakes up. When it does, slowRepository returns stale data and the @Transactional method then fails accordingly.

The problem I encountered was using the setters for my @Autowired dependencies on the bean with the @Transactional method. I needed to use the setters so that I could switch in and out the slowRepository, but couldn’t because Spring AOP proxies are implementations of an interface, not subclasses (by default – yes I realise you can get Spring to proxy the target class using CGLIB). I found this blog post which explains how to get at the target object behind a Spring proxy. I converted it to Scala:

…which is pretty ninja.

So, what the hell happens when you try and save changes to an @Version’d entity when another thread saves it’s changes before you?

Imagine you’re setup with a JPA 2 environment, using Spring Data JPA and Hibernate is your JPA vendor. You have a UserRepository interface which extends JpaRepository and therefore a Spring generated userRepository bean for all your user DAO needs. You also have a User domain object with a field annotated with @Version.

FYI, your find, save, delete etc. methods in your userRepository are automatically @Transactional. Thank you, Spring.

Ok, lets formalise this a bit:

Thread 1 finds User record with ID 1
Thread 2 finds User record with ID 1
Thread 2 changes the email address field
Thread 2 saves the changes to their version of the user object
Thread 1 changes the email address field
Thread 1 saves the changes to their version of the user object

At the point where thread 1 saves changes, it’ll check the version field of the user object and also the version of the user object in the database. They’ll be different, and a HibernateOptimisticLockingFailureException will be thrown.

Note also that the exact same thing happens if either thread 1 or thread 2 had deleted the object. So, all well and good huh? Check this out for sensible:

Thread 1 finds User record with ID 1
Thread 2 finds User record with ID 1
Thread 2 changes the email address field
Thread 2 saves the changes to their version of the user object
Thread 1 changes nothing, but then saves their version of the user object

What happens here? I originally thought thread 1 would throw an optimistic locking exception. Except, it doesn’t – Spring/JPA/whoever is in charge back there is smart enough to know that nothing changed, so it doesn’t save anything, and you end up with thread 2′s changes as you wanted. Clever girl.

Spring Web Flow – displaying your JSR-303 validation messages using FreeMarker

Instead of creating a custom validator in the traditional sense I’m relying on JSR-303 annotations to specify validation constraints, because, it is the future, and I shouldn’t have to do a load of coding to specify common validation requirements like an email address regular expression or a numeric value that is required to be within a defined range.

Using Spring web flow, I found that binding error messages weren’t available when I called “<@spring.showErrors ‘<br/>’/>” in my freemarker view (after I had bound the field I wanted to show errors for of course).

So where are my error messages?

It turns out that Spring Web Flow has a different way of providing the user with feedback messages. The Spring Web Flow reference documentation says: “Spring Web Flow’s MessageContext is an API for recording messages during the course of flow executions”.

The message context (with all your binding error messages in it) can be found here: flowRequestContext.messageContext. I’ve written a couple of macros to make retrieving error messages from this object a little easier:

 * Shows flow messages (which reside in flowRequestContext.messageContext)
 * @param source Name of the field that caused the error
 * @param severity String representation of org.springframework.binding.message.Severity
 * @param separator the html tag or other character list that should be used to
 *    separate each option. Typically '<br>'.
 * @param classOrStyle either the name of a CSS class element (which is defined in
 *    the template or an external CSS file) or an inline style. If the value passed in here
 *    contains a colon (:) then a 'style=' attribute will be used, else a 'class=' attribute
 *    will be used.
 * @param tag The HTML tag to wrap the error in
<#macro showFlowMessages source severity separator classOrStyle="" tag="">
  <#assign messages = flowRequestContext.messageContext.getMessagesBySource(source)/>
  <#if (messages?size > 0)>
    <#list messages as message>
      <#if message.severity?string == severity>
        <#if classOrStyle == "" && tag == "">
          <#if classOrStyle == "">
            <#if tag == ""><#local tag = "span" /></#if>
            <#if classOrStyle?index_of(":") == -1><#local attr="class"><#else><#local attr="style"></#if>
            <${tag} ${attr}="${classOrStyle}">${message.getText()}</${tag}>
        <#if message_has_next>${separator}</#if>

 * Shows flow messages (which reside in flowRequestContext.messageContext) in an ordered or unordered list
 * @param source Name of the field that caused the error
 * @param severity String representation of org.springframework.binding.message.Severity
 * @param classOrStyle either the name of a CSS class element (which is defined in
 *    the template or an external CSS file) or an inline style. If the value passed in here
 *    contains a colon (:) then a 'style=' attribute will be used, else a 'class=' attribute
 *    will be used.
 * @param ordered Whether or not the macro should output the list as an <ol> or <ul>
<#macro showFlowMessagesList source severity classOrStyle="" ordered=false>
  <#local errorsList><@showFlowMessages source, severity, "", "", "li" /></#local>
  <#if errorsList?trim != "">
    <#if classOrStyle == "">
      <#local attr="">
    <#elseif classOrStyle?index_of(":") == -1>
      <#local attr=" class=" + classOrStyle>
      <#local attr=" style=" + classOrStyle>
    <#if ordered><ol${attr}><#else><ul${attr}></#if>
    <#if ordered></ol><#else></ul></#if>

I’ve added these to my spring extensions, which you can download here: springx.ftl

How to switch to/from HTTPS using Apache as a proxy to Tomcat

I’m writing this down because it too me an age to figure out a way of doing this. I have a website which Tomcat is happily serving. Areas of the site require a secure connection so I’m using Spring security to require particular URLs to be accessed over HTTPS. It means that when I access, it’ll bump me to Note: Tomcat is setup with the SSL connector and a self signed .keystore see (

I have two vhosts setup in Apache, one for the and one for They are both using mod_proxy to ProxyPass and ProxyPassReverse requests to the appropriate Tomcat URL’s. The problem comes when switching to HTTPS from HTTP and vice versa. Ideally I wanted some sort of ProxyPassReverse declaration in my config for what would change HTTP headers (that Spring sets) for into Except ProxyPassReverse doesn’t work like that.

Now, I realise I could simply not use Spring to manage which parts of the site should be accessed over HTTPS and which should not…and just setup Apache to redirect as appropriate. I don’t want to do that though, because that makes the task of adding these restrictions a deploy time task, rather than a development time task. I don’t want to risk someone forgetting to add new restrictions when deploying the webapp and I’d much rather the developer added these restrictions when they were working on the task and really thinking about where and when they are needed.

So, how do I solve the problem so that the app can manage its secure-ness and I can setup Apache once and forget about it? The answer is to ProxyPassReverse onto a “special” URL, which when accessed will redirect to the HTTPS (or HTTP) site. For example, if the HTTP site needed to redirect to the HTTPS site, I’d add rules like so to perform the redirect:

    # Proxy a request (from the server) to switch to https onto a special URL "/2https/"
    ProxyPassReverse /2https/

    # When a client requests a URL prefixed with "/2https" map it onto the secure site
    RewriteRule ^/2https/(.*)$$1 [R,L]

…and you’d add something similar to the secure site Apache config. As long as I don’t mount any pages at /2http or /2https I should be ok. Note a couple of things:

  • You’ll need “SSLProxyEngine on” and “RewriteEngine on” and obviously the appropriate Apache modules loaded for these commands.
  • Because of the redirect between HTTP <-> HTTPS you won’t be able to POST data between them directly (I’m not sure why you’d NEED to though)
  • Obviously you’ll need to setup Apache with an SSL certificate…but that is a different story

I should say a special thanks to this random site – from whence the idea actually came from. If anyone has any better ideas on how to do it I’d love to hear them. Please comment below.

Simple FreeMarker random number generator

FreeMarker doesn’t have a random number generator function. I needed a really simple solution that would allow me to pick a random image URL to be displayed on the homepage.

* Generates a "random" integer between min and max (inclusive)
* Note the values this function returns are based on the current
* second the function is called and thus are highly deterministic
* and SHOULD NOT be used for anything other than inconsequential
* purposes, such as picking a random image to display.
<#function rand min max>
  <#local now = .now?long?c />
  <#local randomNum = _rand +
    ("0." + now?substring(now?length-1) + now?substring(now?length-2))?number />
  <#if (randomNum > 1)>
    <#assign _rand = randomNum % 1 />
    <#assign _rand = randomNum />
  <#return (min + ((max - min) * _rand))?round />
<#assign _rand = 0.36 />

I’ve added this function to the FreeMarker Spring extensions I’ve been building up. You might use it in your code like so:

<img src="<@spring.url "/images/" + springx.rand(1, 10) + ".jpg" />" />

Note that there are obvious issues with this function. Aside from being based heavily on the second the function is called, you’ll notice that the min and max have less probability of being generated as the other values…what? I said it was simple.

Java interface and implementation naming (or “I” or “Impl”)

How do I name my interfaces and the classes that implement my interfaces? Through much research on the internet and my own gut feelings, this is what I reckon:

I never prefix my interfaces with “I”. The value of coding to interfaces is that you can swap out the implementation with minimal hassle. It means that instead of using implementation specific class names in your code, you use interface names instead – right? So, if I’m going to be using interface names everywhere, I don’t want to have to prefix everything with “I”. Coding to interfaces is a best practice, so I don’t need to explicitly state that I am doing it…It should just happen – which makes the “I” prefix redundant.

Furthermore, the “Impl” suffix is also redundant. Yes, indeed, your dilemma isn’t as simple as picking between the two. Firstly, “Impl” doesn’t translate. “Impl” in other languages has no meaning, and yes I’m talking about Polish and Scala. In Polish (according to Google translate), “implementation” is “realizacja” and in Scala, there are no interfaces. The closest thing Scala has to interfaces is traits, which can contain implementation specific code. So really, everything is Scala is an implementation, so why you use “Impl” suffix?

Secondly “Impl” is restrictive. What happens when you want to add another implementation of Foo? You gonna call it “FooImplImpl”? “AnotherFooImpl”? “FooImpl2″? I didn’t think so. Perhaps you were going to just call it “FooImpl” and put it in a different package…

Thirdly “Impl” doesn’t convey any meaning about what the implementation is. You wouldn’t create an “AnimalImpl” would you? You’d create a “Lion” or an “Elephant”. There is almost always something that distinguishes your implementation that you can use in the class name. Even if it is a long name, it doesn’t matter – you’re coding to interfaces (remember?), so you’re rarely going to see that class name.

Lastly, and probably most importantly – you still can’t think of a name? You don’t need an interface. If you really can’t think of a name, your class must be generic enough to not need an interface and you’re probably not going to have any other implementations. Your class methods become the interface contract, and that is that.

Extensions to Spring’s FreeMarker macro’s (spring.ftl)

Spring’s FreeMarker macro’s are pretty useful, but there are a couple of things I need from the showErrors macro that simply aren’t there:

  1. Show errors without a HTML tag around them – if you don’t specify a classOrStyle, the showErrors macro will wrap your error message in a <b> tag. If you do, it’ll wrap it in a <span> (understandably)
  2. Pick the tag that surrounds each message – As explained in the first point, you can see we only get the choice of <b> or <span>. What if I wanted to use an <li>? …use the separator? – no good, because unless I write an <#if> statement to check the number of error messages before I call showErrors I’ll end up with redundant <ul>/<ol> and <li>’s in my markup if there aren’t any errors:
    e.g. <ul><li><@spring.showErrors “</li><li>”/></li></ul>
    Which leads me nicely onto the next point:
  3. Show errors in an ordered/unordered list, automatically detecting zero messages and not outputting markup if this is the case
  4. Show errors for multiple bind paths – Spring’s showErrors only shows errors for the currently bound field. However I’ve found that I’ve needed to show errors for 2 or more fields together. This is particularly true of a DOB field where the day/month and year are separate <select>’s
  5. Finally, show errors for multiple bind paths, in an unordered/ordered list

You can download my Spring extensions here: springx.ftl. Inevitably I’ll find more bits and pieces to add and will update them accordingly.

Java’s anonymous classes are subclasses, not instances of the class

More of a note to myself really. Anonymous classes in Java are subclasses. For whatever reason I’d led myself to believe that anonymous classes in Java are unnamed instances of classes, but they are not, they are subclasses.

this.getClass().getSimpleName() returns empty string for anonymous classes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ever know the class name the anonymous class was created from. All you need to do is: this.getClass().getSuperclass().getSimpleName();