Hack Week update

Posted by on January 11, 2012

We’re two days into our first Hack Week and we’re already seeing good progress.

Testing is a common theme being worked on by two teams. The FreeAgent code base is fairly large and is complemented by an even larger
automated test suite, containing unit, functional and integration tests. This test suite is a massive win for us, enabling developers to aggressively refactor code and be confident that they haven’t introduced any unwanted side effects by doing so. The downside to the tests is the time it takes to run them all, which is currently ~20 minutes. That’s 20 minutes parallelised over 4 hyperthreaded cores on a beefed up i7 iMac.

We have one team looking at reducing the total run time of the test suite, and also reducing the time it takes to execute a single test which, due to Ruby 1.9.2 and Rails, can be frustratingly slow due to the boot-up time, hindering TDD flow. Another team is looking at removing unused test dependencies and refactoring test cases by removing scenarios where we’re testing things too often or sometimes unnecessarily. We’ve already seen one particular test case run time drop from over one minute down to four seconds!

We have a team developing a handy new web app against our new API (currently in beta), and another team looking at optimising floating point arithmetic, which we do a lot of in FreeAgent as you might imagine, and we’re also experimenting with elasticsearch as a foundation for an app-wide search feature for FreeAgent.

Our design and front-end development team are collaborating on a new prototype area of the app, thinking about the past, present and future of your business.

Finally, leading on from the work we’ve been doing at Speeding up SSL, we’re prototyping an evented and queue-based middleware by attempting a novel approach at load balancing web requests.

Now, back to the hack.

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