Project: Kalliope

Last year, I set myself the task of trying to actually produce a bunch of smaller web projects for s few reasons:

  • To learn some new frameworks
  • To illustrate my ability to learn there different frameworks
  • To showcase my skills in development in general

To that end, I thought I’d explain each project here in my blog, and the motivation behind each.

First up is Kalliope – https://kalliope.hostnucleus.ca

This is a “font server” with two primary end-goals – be able to arbitrarily upload a true type font, and have it produce web downloadable fonts, or to actively serve unlicensed fonts (in the same vein as Google Fonts).

The latter end-goal (as detailed above) was actually the primary goal on project inception – I wanted to have the ability to use a variety of fonts, but I didn’t want Google snooping the traffic on my sites (e.g. cookies, etc.). You can think of it as a replace for Google Fonts, really.

The other end-goal came about when the place where I worked had a client who had purchased some proprietary font, and wanted it used on their website. I didn’t want this font directly in the font server itself (as it requires a license), but all the leg-work had already been done to perform the conversion.

Interestingly enough, the original work on this was actually done for a completely different project – I had implemented a lot of the code within a project for generating print materials using SVGs. Since the SVGs needed to be displayable in all browsers, as well as the final PDF, I decided to use “FontForge” to do all the heavy lifting. It was only years later when developing a website where it occurred to me to break out the functionality into a separate web service.

It’s also a good project to learn and showcase the Grails framework.

Grails/Spring service autowiring

While working on a Grails project, I came across 2 interesting things:

  1. autowiring for domain classes doesn’t work, even if you follow all the instructions on how to enable it (either globally, or in the domain class definition itself)
  2. autowiring on abstract service classes doesn’t work (so if you’re implementing a data service with some custom functionality, your services won’t get autowired)

I’ve been able to fix both of these issues using a very simple utility class:

import grails.util.Holders

/**
 * Since Grails doesn't seem capable of autowiring into abstract classes, this
 * causes a bit of an issue when creating data services which do more than
 * just get/save.
 * 
 * All those context beans are available, so we just need to fudge the idea of
 * autowiring, and this class helps by providing a quick reference to the
 * singe long line required to get those Spring beans.
 * 
 * This also helps with domain classes, which have autowiring disabled, and
 * despite all the documentation saying the contrary, into which you cannot
 * autowire.
 * 
 * That said, this might prove to be a faster solution for use within domain
 * classes anyway since we don't have to worry about autowiring happening on
 * every object instantiation, but rather we just have a reference to the
 * singular instance with in the main context.
 */
class Beans {
	
	static def get(String name) {
		Holders.grailsApplication.mainContext.getBean(name)
	}
	
	static def $static_propertyMissing(String name) {
		get(name)
	}
	
}

Now, instead of setting up a service like this:

def myService

You instead define a getter method like this:

def getMyService() {
    Beans.myService
}

You can then use “myService” as you would’ve expected to under normal autowiring circumstances.

Gradle deployment script for Grails webapp

I haven’t had much success with finding useful deployment strategies and/or scripts for Grails anywhere. The extent of the documentation I’ve been able locate for deployment simply tells you to create a WAR and upload it to the servlet container.

Not terribly helpful if you want to run a formal process.

So, for my Grails webapps, I came up with this. I create a file in the “gradle” directory named “deploy.gradle” containing the following:

Also in the “gradle” directory is a subdirectory named “deploy” where I have the files specific to the environments to which I can deploy, such as “staging.gradle”:

Using the script above, I can deploy a particular branch from within my git repository to a specific environment thus:

It’s probably not perfect, but since I’m new to Gradle and Grails, I think it’s a pretty good start!