Tag Archives: Quirks

Spring: @EnableWebMvc and JSR-303

I’ve been happily using XML-free Spring with Web MVC, right until the moment when I wanted to plug in JSR-303 validation.


I imported validation-api and hibernate-validator to my project. I annotated code for my command:

public class SpendingCommand {
private String category;
// ...

… and controller:

public class SpendingEditionController {

@RequestMapping(value = "/spending_insert", method = RequestMethod.POST)
public String addSpending(@Valid SpendingCommand spending, 
		BindingResult result, ModelMap model) {
	return "my_view";

// ...

I plugged it in to form:

<label for="$field" class="control-label">${label}:</label>
<div class="controls">
	<input type="text" name="${status.expression}" value="$!{status.value}" />

… and nothing happened.

I looked for errors in BindingResult in my controller, and nothing was there. Clearly validation was not working at all.

Almost There: @Valid Working

I read a ton of tutorials, and they did not mention any specific black magic. After a long while of doc reading, random trying and debugging, I found this StackOverflow answer. Skaffman said that <mvc:annotation-driven /> was “rather pointless” so “don’t bother”. Luckily I read comments to that answer as well and discovered that this is actually crucial for all the new goodies in Spring Web MVC, including conversions and validation.

I added annotation equivalent of mvc:annotation-driven to my view configuration:

@ComponentScan(basePackages = "pl.squirrel.money.web")
public class ViewConfig

When I tested my code again, I did see errors in BindingResult in my controller, so finally validation was working. Unfortunately, the web page still did not show the message. Do you know why?

Bindings and Naming Conventions

It took me even longer to figure this one out. I even began to suspect my custom view for Velocity Tools & Tiles.

Finally in debug I noticed I had my command bound twice in page context: as command and as spendingCommand. I had two bindings for BindingResult as well, but with two different instances! One was org.springframework.validation.BindingResult.command, with zero errors, and another was org.springframework.validation.BindingResult.spendingCommand, containing all errors as expected.

In a word, mess. To clean this up, I had to explicitly name my command like this:

@RequestMapping(value = "/spending_insert", method = RequestMethod.POST)
public String addSpending(@ModelAttribute("command") @Valid SpendingCommand spending,
		BindingResult result, ModelMap model) {
	return "my_view";

Now I only have one instance of everything, and everything is working as expected. And they lived happily ever after.


In the end, I find it interesting (in a bad sense) that it works like this. I think it’s a bug that the same command is bound under two different names, but it’s quite the opposite for BindingResult.

To test it, I attempted to edit this SpendingCommand in controller by overwriting value of a field. At this point I knew what would happen: My web page showed overwritten value in form (because Spring was still able to match the command with different name), but no validation errors (because there are two different instances of BindingResult.

Spring & Velocity Tools (No XML)

A few months ago I wrote about integrating Spring, Velocity and Tiles. I discovered that one bit was missing from there: Velocity Tools. Two hours of yak shaving, frantic googling and source reading later, I figured out how to add support for Velocity Tools to such project with no XML configuration. Here’s how.

For starters, let’s say I want to use some tools in my Velocity and Tiles pages. Let’s add the LinkTool.


		<p>Spring macros work in tiles template, too: #springUrl("/myUrl")</p>
		<p>Do Velocity tools work in template? $link.contextPath</p>


<p>Here's a demonstration that Spring macros work with Tiles: #springUrl("/myUrl")</p>
<p>Do Velocity tools work in Tile? $link.contextPath</p>

When I render the code from previous post, I get this:

Here's a demonstration that Spring macros work with Tiles: /SpringVelocityTiles/myUrl

Do Velocity tools work in Tile? $link.contextPath

Spring macros work in tiles template, too: /SpringVelocityTiles/myUrl

Do Velocity tools work in template? $link.contextPath

Not good.

After some googling, I found a similar question on StackOverflow. It had two helpful answers – one from serg, delegating to this blog post, and another from Scott.

None of them worked out of the box, though. I’m tired of XML configs, and apparently it’s too easy to get weird exceptions related to some Struts tools. No wonder I get them, I don’t use Struts and don’t want any of its tools!

Apparently the issue is that Spring support for Velocity Tools is rubbish. One way out is to write your own ViewResolver or View, and that’s what I did in the end.

For starters, I’ll configure my ViewResolver to use a new view class:

public ViewResolver viewResolver() {
	VelocityViewResolver resolver = new VelocityViewResolver();
	return resolver;

MyVelocityToolboxView is below. This time I’m pasting it with imports to avoid ambiguity on names like Context or VelocityView.

package pl.squirrel.svt;

import java.util.Map;
import java.util.Set;

import javax.servlet.http.HttpServletRequest;
import javax.servlet.http.HttpServletResponse;

import org.apache.velocity.context.Context;
import org.apache.velocity.tools.Scope;
import org.apache.velocity.tools.ToolboxFactory;
import org.apache.velocity.tools.config.ConfigurationUtils;
import org.apache.velocity.tools.view.ViewToolContext;
import org.springframework.web.servlet.view.velocity.VelocityView;

public class MyVelocityToolboxView extends VelocityView {
	protected Context createVelocityContext(Map<String, Object> model,
			HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) {
		ViewToolContext context = new ViewToolContext(getVelocityEngine(),
				request, response, getServletContext());
		ToolboxFactory factory = new ToolboxFactory();
		for (String scope : Scope.values()) {

		if (model != null) {
			for (Map.Entry<String, Object> entry : (Set<Map.Entry<String, Object>>) model
					.entrySet()) {
				context.put(entry.getKey(), entry.getValue());
		return context;

It’s important that we only use ConfigurationUtils.getVelocityView() – it includes generic tools and view tools, but not Struts tools.

That’s it, now we have a project which uses Tiles for high-level templating, Velocity for individual pages and details, with (hopefully) full support for Spring macros and Velocity tools in all areas. Even if you don’t like Tiles, it may still serve as a good example of how to integrate Spring and Velocity Tools.

I pushed updated code for the demo application to my GitHub repository.

In the irregular habit of posting a sermon on Friday… Less than a week ago I saw an excellent presentation on using Clojure for Spring views. Compared to all this mess and yak shaving here, that Clojure solution is infinitely simpler, more elegant and more powerful at the same time. Too bad it does not have the market share of Spring & Velocity yet.

Java Puzzlers: Number.MIN_VALUE

If I asked you what the largest possible Integer in Java is, you would easily answer 2^31-1, or Integer.MAX_VALUE. Smallest possible Integer? Integer.MIN_VALUE, -2^31.

How about a Long? It’s also a Number, and each Number has MIN_VALUE and MAX_VALUE, and you would be right to refer to them.

Obvious and boring, right?

How about a Double then?

It’s also a Number, and so it has Double.MAX_VALUE, and yes that is the maximum. Minimum? Let me go already, obviously Double.MIN_VALUE!


I only learned it today even though I’ve been programming Java for years. Double.MIN_VALUE is actually a positive number. Quick look at docs says it all: It is the smallest positive nonzero value of type double. If you’re really looking for the smallest value of Double, you need to refer to Double.MIN_NORMAL.

Yes, docs are very clear about it. Yes, it is a static constant, so LSP does not really apply (as if Java didn’t violate it all the time). Yet I still think it looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, but needs batteries. It has different semantics for no good reason, does not follow the principle of least surprise and is plain unintuitive. I add it to my shelf of quirks along with half of Swing, everything around Dates and Calendars, equals and… what am I still doing here by the way?

Careful with that PrintWriter

Let’s assume we have a nice abstraction over email messages simply called Email. Something that can write itself to Writer and provide some other functionality (e.g. operating on the inbox).

Now, take this piece of code:

public void saveEmail(Email email) {
	FileOutputStream fos = null;
	try {
		fos = new FileOutputStream("file.txt");
		PrintWriter pw = new PrintWriter(fos);
	} catch (IOException e) {
		log.error("Saving email", e);	
	} finally {

Question: What happens if for whatever reason the PrintWriter cannot write to disk? Say, your drive just filled up and you can’t squeeze a byte in there?

To my surprise, nothing got logged, and the messages were removed from inbox.

Unfortunately, I learned it the hard way. This code is only a piece of a larger subsystem and it took me quite a while to figure out. Used to dealing mostly with streams, I skipped this area and checked everything else first. If PrintWriter was like a stream, it would throw an exception, skipping deleteMessageFromInbox.

All streams around files work like that, why would this one be different? Well, PrintWriter is completely different. Eventually I checked its Javadoc and saw this:

“Methods in this class never throw I/O exceptions, although some of its constructors may. The client may inquire as to whether any errors have occurred by invoking checkError().”

At first I was furious about finding that’s all due to yet another inconsistency in core Java. Now I’m only puzzled and a bit angry. Most things in Java work like this – they throw exceptions on every occasion and force you to explicitly deal with them. And it’s not unusual to see 3 or 4 of them in a signature.

One could say, it’s all right there in the Javadoc. Correct. But still, it can be confusing to have two fundamentally different approaches to error handling in one corner of the library. If one gets used to dealing with one side of it, he may expect the same from the other. Instead, it turns out you always have to carefully look at signatures and docs, because even in core Java there is no single convention.

Related: try/catch/throw is an antipattern – interesting read, even if a bit too zealous.

Don’t Rely on Autoboxing in Java

Question: What does the following code display?

import java.awt.Color;

import javax.swing.JFrame;
import javax.swing.JLabel;
import javax.swing.JLayeredPane;
import javax.swing.JPanel;

public class Demo {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    JFrame frame = new JFrame();
    JLayeredPane container = new JLayeredPane();

    JPanel bottom = new JPanel();
    bottom.setBounds(0, 0, 400, 200);
    container.add(bottom); // default level is 0

    JLabel intLabel = new JLabel("I'm an int");
    intLabel.setBounds(0, 10, 400, 30);
    int layer = 10;
    container.add(intLabel, layer);

    JLabel integerLabel = new JLabel("I'm an Integer");
    integerLabel.setBounds(0, 50, 400, 30);
    container.add(integerLabel, new Integer(10));

    JLabel literalLabel = new JLabel("I'm a literal");
    literalLabel.setBounds(0, 100, 400, 30);
    container.add(literalLabel, 10);

    JLabel longLabel = new JLabel("I'm a long");
    longLabel.setBounds(0, 150, 400, 30);
    container.add(longLabel, new Long(10));

    frame.setSize(400, 200);


I'm an Integer


If you open docs for JLayeredPane, you can see the following code snippets:

layeredPane.add(child, new Integer(10));
layeredPaneParent.setLayer(child, 10);

You can see Integer there and literal 10 here. Subconsciously, you think: who cares, 10 is the same thing as new Integer(10) because Java has autoboxing, right? WRONG!

The only right way to interact with layeredPane.add is an Integer that you box yourself. Let’s take a peek at its source code…

protected void addImpl(Component comp, Object constraints, int index) {
    int layer = DEFAULT_LAYER.intValue();
    int pos;

    if(constraints instanceof Integer) { // A-ha!
        layer = ((Integer)constraints).intValue();
        setLayer(comp, layer);
    } else
        layer = getLayer(comp);

    pos = insertIndexForLayer(layer, index);
    super.addImpl(comp, constraints, pos);

Ironically, even though it uses int internally, it wouldn’t recognize it as a parameter.


Autoboxing works, except for when it doesn’t. Be defensive with APIs (even core Java) and when something is wrong do try all those ideas that seem obviously crazy at first. When writing your own API that uses type identification, remember that int and Integer are completely different beasts and both need to be included.

This example is from Swing, but it can happen anywhere. I’ve tripped on this issue before when I was implementing a CRUD framework or renderers, but did not expect it in core library.


As frimble pointed out at reddit, there is one more reason why it would never work. In addition to add(Component comp, Object constraints), Container also has add(Component comp, int index).

Having two overloaded versions of a method, one of them accepting Integer and another for int, when both do completely different things, is even worse than what I criticized in the first place.

Rant: Yet another example of extremely poor design in core Java API. Just like Object.equals() having specification that’s impossible to meet in a reasonable way or the hierarchy of java.util.Date. They use Java to teach OOP. Apparently it’s just as good for teaching how NOT to program.