MobileDevCamp Saigon and a Foursquare rival “Made in Vietnam”

Yesterday I had the chance to attend MobileDevCamp Saigon for some hours in the morning. It was organized by Orance France Telecom, TechPropulsionLabs, and FaberNovel, and was held on Saturday and Sunday at the University of Technology on Ly Tryong Kiet street in Ho Chi Minh City. The 2-day event revolved around mobile applications, largest audience group were developers of mobile applications and those interested in it. From 80 participants in the last year the event jumped up to more than 230 pre-registrations in this year. Although the number of actual participants might be a little lower it shows the increasing interest in mobile applications and the eagerness of young Vietnamese developers to get things started in this booming field.

Saturday morning was organized in the style of a conference. On four concurrent tracks local developers, marketing specialists and foreign experts held 30-minutes presentations. Technical topics were covered (of course), as well as marketing of mobile applications or introductory talks about different areas. Main language was Vietnamese while slides and presentations given by foreigners were in English. In part two of the event, a 24-hours development contest started on Saturday afternoon that allowed groups of up to 4 developers to compete against each other.

One of the highlights of MobileDevCamp 2010 was the announcement of a new location-based service “Made in Vietnam”. The new start-up company “Skunkworks”, based in Ho Chi Minh City, has spent the last months developing a mobile service whose long-term vision is to compete on the international market, then most likely with Foursquare and GoWalla. Its main feature is the well-known “check in”. Many other features will complement this, e.g. inviting friends to locations, sharing opinions and tips around locations, and discover new locations nearby. Vietnam will be the first market Skunkworks concentrates on, but expansion will start soon, probably first into other Asian countries. Although announced on MobileDevCamp, the service is still under development. It is planned to launch a “beta” phase in around one month from now (let’s say the beginning of September, just to know when it’s time to get impatient). By then, at least the app for Android phones will be available for download, the iPhone version is also under development. A name for the service has not been revealed yet, nor more concrete information about the business model and long-term strategies. I am definitely curious to see where it goes.

Scrum Introduction Session with Daniel Shupp

Today I’ve joined a Scrum introduction session held by Daniel Shupp, CTO of TechPropulsionLabs, at Highlands Coffee on Nugyen Du in Ho Chi Minh City. In a friendly an open atmosphere Daniel walked us through the basic elements of Scrum and its application in agile software development projects. Besides pure knowledge enriched by helpful real-world examples from Daniel’s extensive software development experience, it also offered plenty of opportunities to ask questions, to right wrong assumptions about what Scrum is and how it works and to get a feeling how an adoption of Scrum in own development processes would be like. Daniel described it as part of what his company wants to give back to the local development community, with more similar events hopefully to come.

TechPropulsionLabs ( develops software for seed and early-stage startups around the world and is a keen advocate of agile software development and Scrum.

Hopefully this helps to spread the word and raise awareness for the advantages Scrum has to offer. If you’re interested to follow this development in Vietnam, TechPropulsionLabs certainly is a company to keep in mind. Incidentally, my friend Nhan, working as a Scrum Master at Swiss IT Bridge, recently posted his opinion on Scrum in Vietnam on his blog. For a short introduction about Scrum just start with Wikipedia article and go from there.

Thank you again, Daniel, for the insightful and enjoyable session.

Java Communities in Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam

Coming from one of the leading IT countries in the world, I was used to being surrounded by lots of resources about whatever I needed in order learn and to grow and develop in my profession, software engineering with focus on custom software development in Java. There are tens of thousands of books in my own language, more software development companies that I could ever apply for, conferences specialising in everything that was, is, or will soon be mainstream, and well, more communities that I could ever participate in and contribute to. Coming to Vietnam I found myself  in an environment that doesn’t offer most of what I just mentioned. On one hand that’s because there’s probably not as much going on as in my country yet and I’m thrilled to see what this dynamic country will have to offer tomorrow and the day after. On the other hand I guess there’s a lot hidden from me and waiting to be discovered.

So I started to look around and try to discover what’s going on out there. I wanted to stick to Java developers and Java communities first. It is what seemed to make the most sense to me although I had a feeling already that I shouldn’t be too picky. Here’s a brief summary of what I found so far:

  • First checks for Java User Groups (JUG) and Java meetups on without success.
  • One website that’s really worth mentioning is Basically a forum for Java developers, it has an incredible number of registered users and quite some activity. Unfortunately for me, it’s mostly in Vietnamese. Incredible job though! I talked to one of the founders and heard that there also used to be real meetups in town and there are plans to revive them. Would love to see that and participate.
  • There’s also some activity in groups on LinkedIn, e.g. in Vietnam IT Community, in Vietnam Digital or in the IT subgroup of Linkin Vietnam. Not at all focused on Java or even software development but developers are hanging out there and if you’re looking to connect with some of them, you might be right.
  • Twitter is always a good source of information and so I’m also trying to expand my Twitter network of English-speaking and Vietnamese-speaking software developers. Java is also limited here, but I’m making progress. I started a list of the developers Vietnam I found on Twitter and hope it will grow over time. You’re invited to follow.
  • There has been a spin-off of the famous German JAX (originally for “Java, Apache, XML”, but by now covering the entire spectrum of enterprise software development) conferences, the “JAX Asia 2008″ in Singapore. Not exactly Vietnam, but close enough to make a trip for a conference that’s really worth it. Unfortunately it remained to be a one-time experiment that apparently just failed. I hope someone will try it again soon.
  • One more question I am asking myself is how popular Java really is in Vietnam. I am still trying to get reliable statistics and/or just a big number of personal opinions on that. Feel free to comment…

For the moment that’s about it, my current state of research. I found a lot more activity once I widened my search parameters (so to speak), e.g.  for “software development” (then including .NET development and others), “software” in general (including especially the whole field of ERP and CRM) or just plain “IT” (including Web 2.0, social media, digital marketing and such). More about that in one of the next posts. For now I just stick to what the title of this post promised, Java.

Deploy web apps in Tomcat with Ant and Cargo

In one of my current projects I am working on increasing the quality of a large software development team. Besides a long list of measures this also includes establishing an automated build and integration test cycle. For web applications this also means an automated deployment into a container of choice. The existing project environment gave me the following constraints:

  • Ant as build tool (I’d rather use Maven, but that’s how it is)
  • Tomcat 5.x as container (this rules out e.g. Jetty, which might be from some points of view easier to handle for automated tasks)
  • Should run on Windows and Linux (which kind of rules out running Tomcat executables)
  • Should be able to perform different builds and Tomcat deployments in parallel (which rules out having one pre-installed Tomcat instance on the server which is used for deployments and tests)

Furthermore everything should be triggered from Hudson, which isn’t that difficult anymore once it runs in Ant. After doing some research and in a first attempt trying to implement start and stop routines myself in Ant  I finally decided to drop that and give Cargo ( a shot. And frankly, I was exciting getting it to run. After all it was much less tedious than doing everything myself (well, that’s how it should be). I was a little disappointed about missing end-to-end examples which caused me to go the walk of trial and error until I have figured out what I wanted. That’s why I’d like to summarize what I did.

Cargo Ant Tasks

First of all download the two Cargo jar files and add the Ant tasks definition.

<taskdef resource="cargo.tasks">
		<pathelement path="lib/cargo-ant-1.0.jar" />
		<pathelement path="lib/cargo-core-uberjar-1.0.jar" />
		<pathelement path="lib/commons-discovery-0.4.jar" />
		<pathelement path="lib/commons-logging-1.1.1.jar" />
		<pathelement path="lib/xercesImpl-2.4.0.jar" />
		<pathelement path="lib/dom4j-1.6.1.jar" />
		<pathelement path="lib/jaxen-1.1.2.jar" />


  1. I didn’t get Tomcat 5.5.29 to work with the most recent version 1.0.1. After a little while I tried 1.0 and it worked fine for me. So for now I’ll just stick to that. I might look into this again later.
  2. Besides the two cargo JAR files I also had to include some dependencies. As I didn’t want to put them into the Ant classpath or give them as additional dependencies on command line I decided to include them here.

Starting up Tomcat via Cargo in Ant

The main piece of Ant code is about executing the Cargo task which looks in my case like this:

<cargo containerId="tomcat5x" home="tomcat-template" output="build/tomcat-output.log" log="build/cargo.log" action="start" wait="false">
	<configuration type="standalone" home="build/tomcat-conf">
		<property name="cargo.servlet.port" value="${tomcat.port}" />
		<property name="cargo.logging" value="high" />
		<property name="cargo.jvmargs" value="-Xms1024m -Xmx1024m" />
		<deployable type="war" file="prepare/webapp1.war" />
		<deployable type="war" file="prepare/webapp2.war" />


  1. I need to use Tomcat 5.5.29 so the Cargo containerId is set to tomcat5x. See also: List of available containers.
  2. The container “home” attribute is where Cargo is looking for a template Tomcat installation. In my case there is a full Tomcat as downloaded from the website but everything not necessary was removed (esp. all sorts of docs). The configuration attribute “home” is the directory where Cargo copies and configures the Tomcat instance that will be started up. In my case this is happening under a “build” directory. I also delete this directory at the beginning of every Ant build to have a 100% clean environment on every run.
  3. The action start tells Cargo to start up the container.
  4. The “wait” attribute is set to false, otherwise Cargo blocks Ant after the server is started. As I wanted to perform integration tests afterwards I needed a non-blocking startup. A nice debugging method is to set this attribute temporarily to true, run the Ant script, access your web app manually (e.g. with a browser) and then kill Tomcat again by cancelling your Ant execution with Ctrl+C.
  5. Since I am aiming at starting up multiple Tomcats at the same time I am assigning the “cargo.servlet.port” (which effectively sets the HTTP connector port in Tomcat’s servlet.xml) dynamically, i.e. with an Ant property.
  6. JVM args can also be passed to the container startup. For also: List of available properties.
  7. I have two wars that I want to deploy into this container so I also have two deployable tags. I put my wars into a prepare folder because I needed to manipulate them before running my tests. At this point Ant could pull the wars as well from build folders of other projects, from a repository or from whereever.

This launched my Tomcat successfully and without problems with Ant. Log output from Cargo as well as from Tomcat (the catalina.out) will be written into the specified logfiles.

Checking availability of your web app

At this point you can start to test your web application. You might want to add another little test before that in order to find out if everything went fine and your application is really actually available. One way of doing so works directly in Ant and looks like that:

<echo message="Ping web app..." />
<waitfor maxwait="10" maxwaitunit="second" timeoutproperty="webapp-not-available">
		<socket server="localhost" port="${tomcat.port}" />
		<http url="http://localhost:${tomcat.port}/myWebApp/testPath123" errorsBeginAt="201" />
<fail if="webapp-not-available" message="Web app is not available." />
<echo message="Web app is available." />


  1. Note the Tomcat port, which is of course set to the same as above, as this will be set dynamically in my case.
  2. ErrorsBeginAt is set to 201, as this page should usually return a 200 OK and everything “above” should indicate an error to Ant.

That’s it

That was about everything it took to get Tomcat running under Windows and Linux and so far without problems. There aren’t any more problems also when the whole thing is started from Hudson, it just works well for me. Right now this configuration helps us to build up a pool of regression tests into our CI environment containing e.g. JMeter and Selenium tests.

Hello World!

Welcome to my new blog!

I am a software engineer currently located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in the heart of South East Asia. I have done technical work (software development in particular) for a long time now, starting before I even started my undergraduate program until now, having obtained a BSc. and a MSc., founded and left an IT consulting company, and gathered more than one and a half years of working experience in Vietnam, on the way. It’s not a straight path that led me here but I’d take it again. Although I am still doing technical work (currently challenging myself with being a team lead for Java developers, employed by US company who has its development unit in Vietnam), I am finding it more and more interesting to combine software development with softer topics like e (international) project management, organizational behavior and the ever-interesting studies of cultural differences and commonalities.

What does that mean for you and me now? Well, I’m gonna check out if there’s enough in it to blog about and hope something interesting will come up eventually… Hope to see you again here!