April 22, 2008

Fujaba and Story Driven Modeling

Let's continue talk about our practical on graph and model transformation. In fact, it is already finished, but unfortunately I did not managed to write about the other stages in time. Remember, that in the first stage a UML class diagram editor had to be developed by the student teams using different meta-CASE-tools. The second stage, in contrast, was focused on transformations. The students had to deal with the simulation of finite state machines and pushdown automata using different research tools, namely AToM3, Tiger and Fujaba. At the end, all teams presented quite appealing solutions.

Fortunately, a student of the Fujaba-group, Thore Backen, has been willing to provide us a summary of his insights about the practical work with Fujaba:

In the second stage of our practical on graph and model transformation our group of three students had the objective to produce the simulation of deterministic as well as nondeterministic finite automata using Fujaba.

At first we needed quite some time (approx. 15 h) of practice to get used to Fujaba. To be honest we had some trouble deciding which version to use for our task. In the end we chose the Fujaba Tool Suite Version 4.3.2. The main reason why we chose this version over the more up-to-date version 5.0.4 was the easy-to-use already integrated Dynamic Object Browsing System (DOBS) in the older version. Since we wanted to use DOBS to simulate our finite automata, the outsourced eDOBS (in Fujaba 5) needing Eclipse did not offer any obvious advantages.

As usual, our first step has been the development of a model, i.e., a class diagram of our application domain (click image to enlarge):

The dynamic behavior of a system then can be specified via so-called story patterns. For instance, the story diagram for the firing of a deterministic finite state machine is shown in the screenshot below:

After getting used to modeling with story patterns, which by the way presented itself to be quite intuitional, we learned that simple, figurative designs produced powerful code. After all, we did not write one line of code ourselves throughout the whole phase of the practical. Having needed adequate time to adjust to a new way of thinking, i.e. modeling, Fujaba enabled us for the rapid production of a stable solution to our problem.

Although allowing us to solve our task conveniently, there were some drawbacks working with Fujaba as well. The integrated diagram editor was sometimes hard to use, e.g., the handles on associations were too small to move them comfortably and the automatic layout often scrambled diagrams even more rather than clarifying them. Manual adaption of the generated code, although not needed in the end, was not even possible. Furthermore, the integrated versioning support CoObRA did not work at all on our systems. Due to the fact that diagrams grow rather quickly utilizing story driven modeling we believe that the use of Fujaba is limited to small or medium-sized projects.

In summary, Fujaba offered us a quick, well visualized way to implement the simulation of finite automata. The simulation of these automata using the integrated DOBS is more practical than beautiful, but proved to be sufficient for our purposes.

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