Technological Thoughts by Jerome Kehrli

Java - Create enum instances dynamically

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Saturday Nov 13, 2010 at 09:08PM in Java

I remember the introduction of the brand new enum type in Java 5 (1.5) was a very exciting announce. However, when I finally switched from 1.4 to 1.5 and actually tried Java's flavoured enum types, I was a bit disappointed.

Before that, I was using Josh Bloch's "Typesafe enum" pattern (effective java) for quite a long time and I didn't really see what was so much better with the new Java native enum construction. Ok, fine, there was the ability to use enum instances in switch - case statements which seemed fine, but what else ?

Besides, what I used to find great with the "typesafe enum" pattern is that it could be tricked and changed the way I wanted, for instance to be able to dynamically (at runtime) add enum instances to a specific typesafe enum class. I found it very disappointing not to be able to do the very same thing easily with the native Java enum construction.

And now you might wonder "Why the hell could one ever need to dynamically add enum values ?!?". You do, right ? Well, let's imagine this scenario:

You have a specific column in a DB table which contains various codes as values. There are more than hundred different codes actually in use in this column. Related to this, you have a business logic which performs different operations on the rows coming from this table, the actual kind of operation applied on the row depends on the value of this code. So there are chance you end up with a lot of if - elseif statements checking the actual value of the code.
I myself am allergic to using string comparison in conditions so I want to be able to map the values from this column to an enum type in Java. This way I can compare enum values instead of strings in my conditions and reduce my dependency on the format of the string value.

Now when there are more than a hundred different possible codes in the DB I really don't have any intent to define them all manually in my enum type. I want to define only the few I am actually using the Java code and let the system add the other ones dynamically, at runtime, when it (the ORM system or whatever I am using for reading the DB rows) encounters a new value from the DB.

Hence my need for dynamically added enum values.

So recently I faced this need once again and took a few hours to build a little solution which enables one to dynamically add values to a Java enum type. The solution is the following :

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Java rocks !

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Wednesday Nov 03, 2010 at 08:40AM in Java

I've been facing an interesting problem with string manipulation in Java lately at work. The requirement was the following :

We have a field on some screen where the user can type in a comment. The comment can have any length the user wants, absolutely any. Should he want to type in a comment of a million characters, he should be able to do so.

Now the right way to store this comment in a database is using a CLOB, a BLOB or a LONGVARCHAR or whatever feature the database natively provides to do so. Unfortunately that's not the way it was designed. Due to legacy integration needs, all these advance DB types are prohibited within our application. So the way we have to store the comment consists of using several rows with a single comment field of a maximum length of 500 characters. That means the long comment has to be split in several sub-strings of 500 characters and each of them is stored in a separate row in the DB table. The table has a counter as part of the primary key which is incremented for each new row belonging to the same comment. This way we can easily spot every row part of the same comment.

Now another problem we have is that under DB2 a field defined as VARCHAR(500) can contain 500 bytes max even though the strings are encoded in UTF-8 in the database. That means we might not be able to store 500 characters if the string contains one or more 2 bytes UTF-8 characters. Working in a french environment, this happens a lot.
So we had to write a little algorithm taking care of the splitting of the string in 500 bytes sub-strings.

The very first version of our algorithm was quite stupid and ended up in splitting the string in a quite naive way: we converted the string to a byte array following an UTF-8 encoding and split the byte array instead of the string. Then each of the 500 bytes arrays was converted back to a string before being inserted in the database.
Happily, we figured out quite soon that this doesn't work as it ends up quite often splitting the string right in the middle of a 2 bytes character. The byte arrays being then converted back to strings, the split 2 bytes character was corrupted and could not be corrected any more.

Before writing as smarter version of the algorithm which would manually test the byte length of the character right at the position of the split, we took a leap backward and wondered : "Can it be that Java doesn't offer natively a simple way to do just that ?"

And the answer is yes of course.

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