Red Hat Developer Studio – Office for Java People

I’m not going to cross post my O’Reilly Blog entry on Red Hat Developer Studio.

I’ll just give the 2 minute summary. An IDE (integrated Development Environment) is like Microsoft Office for Developers – you could use notepad instead, but an IDE makes the overall writing experience easier. Microsoft Visual Studio is the main non-Java IDE. For Java , you have the choice of Eclipse (and other tools built on it such as JBoss IDE, JBuilder ,Websphere and Weblogic studio), IntelliJ or Sun’s Netbeans. Very much a personal preference as to which is best of the three of these.

For me, I tend to use Eclipse (1) because I can install it on any client site (2) If an IDE preference is stated on a project, it tends to be Eclipse and (3) There are plugins available for almost anything – including non-Java languages such as Ruby.

Or rather , I download a version of Eclipse with all the plugins pre-packaged – which is what Red Hat Developer Studio does.

Full Install Notes on / Getting started with Red Hat Dev Studio are here.
Red hat Splash Screen

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Dear Bruce Eckel : Hybrid Java, Google Web Toolkit and Adobe Flex

Dear Bruce,

First up, thanks for the book. Yes I’m saying thank-you about 8 years too late. ‘Thinking in Java‘ is what got me going in the language and in my mind is one of the best Java books written (sorry Tim). Giving it away free only cemented your reputation as the Bono of the Java world. OK, Bono without the Guitar, the Stetson and with a couple of overloaded constructors thrown in, but a man of stature nonetheless.

Thinking in Java Front Cover

Secondly, I’ll forgive your flirtations with Python, on the basis that I’ve been having an affair myself with JRuby. I now understand the pain that you’ve been having at home, the endless repetitive arguments to get simple things done, and the temptation of a newer, younger, more flexible model.

So , I think you’re onto something here in your blogpost. I can feel the pain, the need to deliver Rich clients to users over the web. I think that Ruby / Google Web Toolkit / Struts 2 / Name your web toolkit has further to go than you may think , but eventually these ‘heroic efforts‘ (nice quote) will run out of steam. On the basis of your recommendation alone I’m willing to look at Adobe Flex, but I’m not sure if this is going to solve all the problems.

Now , a lot of us Java guys don’t like change (and as if you needed proof, just look at the comments on this O’Reilly blogpost on the Google API’s). All the same , we have a problem that gets worse every passing year. 6 Years ago we could have been sure that 90% of web sites were running Internet Explorer 4. Now we’ve got IE, Firefox, Safari (in all their different versions) as well as an explosion of mobile devices. The Windows Vista launch is only going to fragment things further with yet another platform to support.

No one web solution is going to display the same in all of these browsers. We’re not going to get a single solution from Microsoft / Sun / Adobe that everybody from developer to my Granny is going to install. So we’re going to have to take the ‘least bad’ route – something that looks great, but degrades gracefully to standard HTML on less capable devices. Excuse my ignorance, but I don’t know (yet) if Flex does this.

Yes Hybridizing open source Java is the starting point for the solution. Unfortunately we’ve a long way to go yet, and Flex is perhaps only inspiration along the way.

Yours sincerely

Paul

Java and those pesky Google APIs

Recently one or two people disagreed with what I had to say about the impact that the Google, Amazon (and other) API’s will have on Java. Considering the ratio of positive to negative comments (about 3 for and 30 violently against), I obviously need to express myself in a clearer way. The link to the original post is at the end of this article, read on before you consider flaming me.

Amazon Web Services Logo

So , deep breath , here goes.

Compare the the way you develop now , with the way you built software 10 years ago. Do you remember having to manage your own memory? Or the pain of trying to deploy your software on different machines without a JVM? Or the hassle of trying to write distributed software using Corba? Or using a text editor instead of the fine IDE’s (Eclipse, Netbeans or JDeveloper – take your choice) that we have today? Would you consider building your software without a tool like Ant or Maven?

(Shudder). Things have moved on ,and I am very glad they have. Likewise, the way we develop 10 years into the future will be very different. I don’t know what the future will look like, but here’s a simple guess.

The biggest trend today is the move from software running on your computer , to software being delivered over the web. I’m not talking about the buzzwords being thrown about regarding ‘Service Orientated Architecture’ or ‘Enterprise Service Bus’. I’m talking about simple API’s that are available for use over the web today. Like the API’s and products from Google – including their Documents and Spreadsheets, and their Authentication service.

‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler’ – Albert Einstein

‘You Ain’t Gonna Need it’ – Anon, XP Mantra

As a good Agile Developer you’d probably agree with these quotes. But what if the most simple way of doing things was not to develop in Java at all? Most people don’t build their own operating system – they use Linux, Windows or OS X instead. Most people don’t write their own Java Server – they use Tomcat, JBoss or your server of choice. The pattern is the same. A small, dedicated core of developers builds the product, and the rest of us say ‘thank you very much’ and use it to get things done.

This range of ‘off the shelf’ solutions is increasing all the time , even before the online services arrived on the scene. As a Java developer , you’ve said ‘thank you’ , downloaded the latest version and integrated it into your solution. The time you save means you deliver other cool features instead. Java is very good at this ‘download and integrate’ process – not only is it a key benefit of Object Orientated Software, but Java has the widest range of solutions available (if you don’t believe me , just check out Sourceforge).

Java can also let us build our solutions (either partly or fully) around the online API’s. Java has great networking and XML handling ability already. In time this will become as normal as the idea of using a JVM. Great – we use these API’s pretty much like we do libraries today, and we can continue developing pretty much as before, right?

Wrong.

Remember, what is the most simple way of doing things? What if the most simple way of doing things was not to use Java but to use a more simple language (like Ruby or PHP) instead? Until now there were a couple of advantages that Java had over these ‘simple’ (and that’s a compliment) languages. When using online API’s these advantages disappear, or worse, become a liability.

  • Scalability and Robustness. Enterprise Java is massively scalable (it’s one of the reasons for it’s complexity). But can even you outscale Google?
  • Security. Enterprises haven’t (yet) learned to trust the security of online applications. This trust will be hard earned over time. But already you can make the argument that you data is safer with Google / Amazon / other service provider than on your average virus-ridden home PC.
  • Language Ties. To use the Java libraries you needed a JVM somewhere in your solution. Once you had a JVM , you might as well write your own solution in Java. But when the product you are extending is hosted elsewhere, you are free to code in the (most simple) language of your choice.
  • Always on. As long as you have a connection to the web, your programs can use the API’s. Scripting languages like Ruby and Python can claim to be even more portable. Not only can they run natively in most environments, they can also be deployed via a JVM if that is your choice (under the guise of JRuby and Jython)
  • Features. Need a feature that you don’t have in your scripting language? Just borrow it from Java by running in the JVM. How can Java win a ‘features arms race’ against that?

So do we face a form of developer apartheid, where a ‘hard core’ of Java Experts develop web API’s that the rest of us use via scripts? Let me know what you think. Like the original blogpost said, it may not be the end of Java, but perhaps the end of Java as we know it.

Open Java changes everything

Now that the dust is beginning to settle on Sun’s Decision to open source Java , what does it actually mean for you? That’s you as in a Business user, you as in a Java Developer , and you as a member of the wider IT Community?

  • In the short run (i.e. next 6 months), once the buzz dies down , not much. Remember that it took several years after the Netscape code was open source for Firefox to emerge and change the dynamic of the browser market.
  • In the medium term (between 6 and 24 months) expect some interesting packagings of Java to emerge, similar to the way the various Linux Distros work today. Consider these ‘green shoots’ or prototypes with interesting ideas. A ‘small footprint’ version of Java targeted at Applet developers seems to be one popular opinion of what might emerge. However, unless you are ‘bleeding edge’ or in a niche area the chances are you won’t notice them at this stage.

It is in the longer term (2 years plus) that open source java really makes it’s mark. Some predictions that you can quote back to me later:

– In the same way as JBoss and Geronimo have commoditised the app server market programming languages and runtimes will become a commodity. Expect the .Net platform to be opened (not just standardized) in some limited form.

– Java will become more like .Net with multiple languages running in the standard JVM. We have JRuby and Groovy. It wouldn’t be too hard to add C# to this list. Visual Basic in the JVM (the Sun Semplice Project) is already on it’s way.

– Oracle , IBM , SAP and others already committed to the Java market will become focussed on Java as an even bigger part of the core strategy. Just like the app server market, each will seek to differentiate themselves, perhaps by Service (IBM), by a core database (Oracle) or by leading a niche (SAP). Expect tension between the desire to differentiate (and fragment) and the GPL which seeks to ‘bind them all’.

Apache Harmony , a clean room implementation of Java will continue to gain momentum. It will get picked up by a major vendor in a similar manner to Apple using BSD code.

– Microsoft .Net will end up in a ‘death march’ with Java trying to gain a lead in a feature set. Open source is very good a mimicing existing products (as it makes an easy spec for dispersed developers to write on – just look at Open Office), so (unless software patents get thrown into the mix), it’s hard to see .Net getting a fundamental and lasting edge over the Java Ecosystem.

Update: I’m not saying that .Net is going to go away (nor should it), just that both it and Java are going to be around for a long time to come. Joe and John also have more commentary.

Must not Copy and Paste …

I must not copy and paste program

I must not copy and paste program

I must not copy and paste program

….

You get the drift. Currently doing a Struts – DWR – JBoss Rules Web application, and there is way too much copy and paste programming going on in there. It’s a web page that needs to pass information to a JBoss Server – how difficult can that be? Maybe it was interesting the first time, but 7 years on the buzz is no longer there.
Grails Logo

I was tempted by a non-Java solution (Ruby on Rails , or JRuby) ,but a similar approach within the Java mindset) is Grails (Groovy on Rails). It gives you all the enterprise Java frameworks (Spring , Ageci, Hibernate) , but with a rapid turnaround.

Oh dear … too many web frameworks …. head hurts … only time to learn one … more head pain … must make mercenary decision about which will be the likely market leader.

Watch this space. 

(For the record the problem isn’t DWR which is excellent, but more the version of Struts / JSP that is being used. )

JRuby – Web 2.0 in the Enterprise Java world

On a recent project , the choice was between Enterprise Java (using frameworks such as DWR and Struts) , or Oracle Forms. The newest latest Java technology , versus a 15 year old technology that Oracle is comitted to phasing out (and moving to ADF / Oracle fusion). No contest , you think , until you hear that the decision was made (and rightly so) to us Oracle Forms.

‘What?!’ I hear you say – how could this happen? The project in question was fairly simple – get information and store it in a database. The problem is , despite being mainstream for the last 6 years, there is no standard, easy ‘drag and drop’ method of doing these applications in Java. C# does it in Visual Studio. Oracle does it with Forms. With Java (and despite having doing 10 or so of these projects), there is still too much plumbing that the developer needs to know.

I’m expecting a deluge of ‘have you tried project X’ on this post. And yes, I expect that an Eclipse based tool will probably fill the gap. But for these simple applications , there is no standard way of doing this (standard being a solution that dominates the market in the way Struts did the Web App framework space, until recently). But we’ve been waiting 6 long years!

ruby on rails logo

All of which brings me to Ruby. Ruby on Rails’ sweet spot is exactly these kind of simple, ajax enabled , no frills ‘get info from web and store it on database’ applications. Enterprise Java’s sweet spot is the heavy lifting workflow , Rules , Calculations, Integration with Legacy and other systems , web services and basically anything to do with Business logic. The two are a perfect complement to each other, which is why the news that JRuby now runs Ruby on Rails is especially interesting.

JRuby is a version of Ruby that runs in the Standard Java Virtual Machine (JVM). It means that (1) You don’t have to install Ruby, which might meet resistance in a corporate environment. It also means (2) that all the methods you have available in Java you have available in Ruby. The O’Reilly Ruby site and this Javaworld Article are good places to start learning more about Ruby and linking it into Java.