|Pragmatic Project Automation|
|summary||Learn to use common, freely available tools to automate build, test, and release procedures.|
The first 2 (or possibly 3) books are Pragmatic Version Control with CVS and Pragmatic Unit Testing (which is available in Java and .NET flavours).
Pragmatic Project Automation is the latest book in the series and, interestingly, this book wasn't actually written by either Dave Thomas or Andy Hunt, but by Mike Clark (contributor to the 'Bitter EJB' book, editor of the JUnit FAQ, and responsible for the JUnitPerf and JDepend tools). Mike does a great job of ensuring this book fits in with the overall style of the other books in the series.
Up front, in case you're a "cut to the chase kind of guy," this book (and the others in the series) are must-haves and as a consultant with ThoughtWorks I'll have a set ready to distribute whenever I start working with a new client team.
ContentThe book helps the reader build a Java project slowly over the chapters, starting with a manual build-and-deploy process and automating a new aspect of it, chapter by chapter, until by the end of the book the software compiles, archives, deploys and configures itself multiple times a day. In addition, the build tools notify you of success or failure in a variety of interesting ways including email, SMS messages and different colored lava lamps.
The first chapter provides a good introduction to the different types of automation available to projects. It also introduces the acronym 'CRISP' to help the reader remember the desirable characteristics of an ideal build process: Complete, Repeatable, Informative, Scheduled and Portable.
Chapter 2 gets you Repeatable by using ANT to bring together all the various steps you currently perform on your project into a single, one-click build. Chapter 3 works to turn the one-click build into a no-click build using tools as simple as cron as well as more complicated tools like the ANT scheduling tool CruiseControl. By the end of these two chapters your software can be compiling and testing itself automatically each time changes are checked into the version control system. But this is only the beginning.
Chapters 4 and 5 address the "Complete" and "Portable" portions of the CRISP model discussing how to include packaging, release management and deployment into your scheduled build. The last chapter addresses "Informative." How to monitor the build for success or failure, how to notify members of the project team using email, SMS, RSS or even the red and green Lava Lamps I mentioned above.
SummaryThis book, and the others in the series, provide a much needed set of manuals for getting a good set of basic practices up and running at the start of a project. Unlike the Unit Testing book, there's not a lot of programming in this one, but it's a worthwhile read for any programmer, regardless of experience level.
Many people are becoming interested in eXtreme Programming and Agile methods for software development. These books help to support some of the key ideas of those methods - extensive unit testing and continuous integration.
The main flaw in the book doesn't affect its usefulness, only its readability. Of all the files used in the sample project, the only one covered in any detail is the build file. The source and manifest files that we're writing the ANT file to build are never discussed or described - we are left to guess at what the sample project might contain (unless we download the code from the website). While this didn't change what I was learning (how to manipulate the project files with ANT), I like to understand all the details and this omission did occasionally leave me a little irritated.
You can purchase Pragmatic Project Automation from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews. To see your own review here, carefully read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page. If you are interested in the Pragmatic Programmers, see also this interview linked earlier from Slashdot.