Monthly Archives: September 2014

Dealing with Technical Debt with Sonarqube: a case study with Xsemantics

I recently started to play with Sonarqube to reduce “technical debt” and hopefully improve code quality. I’d like to report on my experiences about using Sonarqube to analyze Xsemantics, a DSL for writing rule systems (e.g., type systems) for Xtext languages.

I was already using the Jenkins Continuous Integration server, and while building I was already using Findbugs and Jacoco, thus, I was already analyzing such software, but Sonarqube brings new analysis rules for Java programs and it also integrates results from Findbugs and Jacoco, aggregating all the code quality results in a web site.

In spite of the Jenkins builds Sonarqube detected some issues when I started

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First of all, I had to exclude the src-gen and emf-gen directories (the former is where Xtext generates all its artifacts, and the latter is where Xcore generates the EMF model files); since these are generated files and I did not want to make them part of the analysis. I’ve done such exclusion with a property in the main pom.xml (for readability I split it into lines):

Note that for the moment I’m also excluding tests from the analysis… it is considered best practice to analyse tests as well (and I have many of them), but I wanted to concentrate on the code first. I also excluded other Java files for which issues are reported, like the Xtext Guice modules, due to the wildcards in the method signatures… I have to live with them anyway πŸ™‚

After that the number of issues reduced a little bit, but there were still some issues to fix; most of them were easy, basically due to Java conventions I hadn’t use (e.g., name of fields and methods or even names of type parameters).

One of the major ones was due to the wrong implementation of the clone method (“super.clone() should be called when overriding Object.clone()” (https://github.com/LorenzoBettini/xsemantics/issues/34).

Another thing that I had never considered was dependency cycles among Java packages and files. Sonarqube reports them. Luckily there were only few of them in Xsemantics, and the hardest part was to read the Dependency Structure Matrix, but in the end I managed to remove them (there must be nothing in the upper triangle to have no cycle):

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To solve the cycles I had to change something in the runtime API (http://xsemantics.sourceforge.net/snapshots-for-xsemantics-1-6-for-xtext-2-7/) but it was basically a matter of moving Java classes into different packages.

Then came the last major issue: Duplicated Code!!! All by itself this issue was estimated with 13 days of technical debt! And most of the duplicated code was in the model inferrer (a concept from Xbase). Moreover, such inferrer is written in Xtend, a cleaner Java, and the Xtend compiler then generates Java code. Thus, Sonarqube analyses the generated Java code, and the detected duplicate code blocks are on the Java code. This means that it takes some time to understand the corresponding original Xtend code. That’s not impossible since Xtend generates clean Java code, but it surely adds some work πŸ™‚

Before starting to remove duplicated code (around 80 blocks in the generated Java code) the Xtend inferrer was around 1090 lines long (many parts are related to string templates for code generation) corresponding to around 2500 lines of generated Java code! After the refactoring the Xtend inferrer was around 1045 lines long, and the generated Java code reduced to around 2000 lines.

That explains also the reduction of lines of code and complexity:

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But now technical debt is 0 πŸ™‚

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And it’s nice to look at this dashboard πŸ™‚

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By the way, I also had to disable some issues I did not agree on (tabulation characters) and avoid reported issues on method name conventions on a specific file (because methods that start with the underline characters _ have a specific meaning in Xtext/Xtend). Instead of disabling them on the Sonarqube web interface, I preferred to disable them using properties in the pom file so that it works across different Sonarqube installations (e.g., I also have a local Sonarqube instance on my machine to do some quick experiments). Such multi properties are not officially supported in the Sonar invocation (e.g., through the sonar runner or via Maven), but I found a workaround:Β http://stackoverflow.com/questions/21825469/configure-sonar-sonar-issue-ignore-multicriteria-through-maven (but, be careful, it is considered a hack as reported in the mailing list: http://sonarqube.15.x6.nabble.com/sonar-issue-ignore-multicriteria-td5021722.html):

That’s all! I strongly suggest to give Sonarqube a try! πŸ™‚

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