Welcome to another edition of Vaadin Community Spotlight. This month I had the opportunity to talk to Benjamin Larsen. Benjamin is a Software Developer who works for TDC, a big telecommunications company in Denmark, and he has been using Vaadin recently to develop an interesting web application. The most interesting part of his story is that he didn’t have much experience with web development or Java but still managed to deliver a completely functional web application on time.
Hello Benjamin, great to talk to you! Have you ever been to Finland, BTW?
Hi! I would love to visit Finland some time. All that forest and all the lakes, would be awesome to fly in!
It's pretty nice yeah, but I've heard Denmark is awesome as well! So... you are currently studying there, right?
That is correct. I'm studying at Aarhus University to become an ICT-Engineer, Information and Communication Technology. Just started my 6th out of 7 semesters and I also work as an Engineer Trainee for TDC Group. I’ve been working here since 2014, when I started in our technical support.
Cool! Do you find it challenging or difficult to study and work at the same time?
Yes! It can be a pain in the back. But as long as my work is okay with me putting school first, then it's all good. Especially when you love your job so much that you don't even think of it as a job. Seriously, sometimes I ask myself, "are they paying me for this?".
I’ve been there so I totally understand! How did you learn how to program?
Well. I had a small web design company back when I was in high school. That gave me the basic knowledge of programming. But it was when I took a basic course as an electrician that I fell in love with programming. Though it was with relays and electronics, I loved how AND/OR/NOR/NAND could drive an engine, or change a light setting. Later, when I began studying at Uni, I learned C, then C++ and then C#. So real programming was through my education.
How about Java? How did you jump into it?
Well, it's not that much different to C#, you know. So it wasn't really a big problem. I think the hardest thing (compared to what we did in school) was to make it all work in a new IDE, with an Application Server and so on. I needed something that could run on Linux, without me needing to do anything special, and it also should be “high level”. So Java was the obvious choice. I never developed a web application before I met Vaadin. I did use WPF in C# to build GUI's, though.
Interesting! How was it? Why Vaadin? How did you discover it?
Well, I wrote a backend for the system, and then decided to look for frameworks. I looked at many discussions and talked to some friends, and so on. Then I looked at two frameworks, Grails and Vaadin. My friends used Grails, and they all looked so depressed, haha! So, I just looked at some discussions about Vaadin and it seemed like a good, well documented framework with a great community. And it reminded me a little bit about WPF. I started the project in February and finished in late June. Though I am still maintaining it, of course.
I had a look at the screenshots, nice job! I mean, you did all that without any previous experience with Java and web development, right?
Correct. That just shows how easy it is to use Vaadin. Seriously. Look at some tutorials, and play. I've never experienced a framework that is so easy to get started with. The Vaadin community is awesome, the documentation contains examples, and it just works. No need to do all kinds of setups.
That's good to hear! So, what’s the application you developed all about?
The application simply creates a way to set up tests of DSL equipment. For example, when a new internet router comes up and a company wants to use it on TDC lines, we'll test it for them. The way we do it, is by creating a test (through the software) which iterates over a different set of lengths. For example from 0-2500 meters, and then logs data from the DSLAM (the DSLAM is the other end of a DSL line) and the router. Sometime it might show that at 1450 meters, the router does something weird, which needs to be fixed. Though it can test much more.
But the real fun stuff came when I needed to get the frontend to grab and show data from the DSLAM's. Again, with Vaadin it was super easy. In the end it was awesome to see users just choosing a couple of profiles, and then the system created everything automatically.
Interesting project. So it sounds like the final users were happy with the application you developed, right?
They really liked it. Before, they had to set up XML-test-scripts, where they manually have to type everything, and hope they didn't make any mistakes. They got their results as XML-files as well, so it wasn't really user friendly, and was really outdated. I received only good feedback, so good that it wasn't a problem buying Vaadin Pro Tools in case we need to make new projects.
So, what would you say to those considering Vaadin as an alternative to, say, C# or to those without too much experience with Java and web development?
Try it! It is so easy to start working with Vaadin, and it's so easy to maintain. For a noob-webapp-developer like I was, Vaadin is perfect. You can create a small project, and then get a feel for it. Then simply just continue to play with it. And get in the community, you might not know what to do, but someone in the community sure does!
And I have a great example of this: https://vaadin.com/forum#!/thread/12987749
This dude created an example project, just to teach me how to do it. HOW AWESOME IS THAT? That's Vaadin community for you!
Nice! And it was super-nice talking to you, Benjamin. Thanks for your time and best wishes in all the upcoming projects.
Right back at you!