Java desktop links of the week, June 22

Another busy week, especially in JavaFX land. I hope everyone is settled back in to work after the JavaOne distraction, and that conference-driven development can be forgotten for another 9 months. On with the news.

General

  • Congratulations goes to Alex Ruiz, author of the FEST testing software, on the news that he and his wife had a baby girl this week. This is Java desktop related news only as it has already been decided that Colette will be a Java desktop developer in 20 years time.
  • Josh Marinacci posted a FAQ for the Java Store.
  • Often times when you present time to users, it doesn’t need to be precise. This is becoming more popular, especially on the web. If you want to have similar output for your users, look in to PrettyTime, which is an LGPL3 library designed to display human-readable timestamps like, “right now”, “2 days ago”, or “3 months from now”.

Swing

JavaFX

Groovy/Griffon

  • Andres Almiray posts about the latest FxBuilder, which has support for JavaFX 1.2, including the new controls, charts, etc.
  • Why do we need JavaFX when we have Groovy?’ is the question asked by teamlalala.com. They then go on to provide a good discussion around the code to draw a coffee cup in both JavaFX and Groovy. Personally, I don’t think the question is fair – why can’t we have JavaFX and Groovy – it’s not like Sun would ever drop JavaFX to instead support Groovy, and I would suggest that for the time being at least, there are far deeper pockets behind JavaFX than many other languages out there.

That’s it for another week. Keep working hard, and, as a (relatively) local comedian would say: say hi to your mum for me.

The SAF is dead, long live the AF?

After attending the sessions at JavaOne, and in the time leading up to it, it has become clear that poor old Alexander Potochkin is overworked. In all, he leads the technical side of the Swing team, developed the JXLayer library (which is integrated in Java 7 as JLayer), is one of the people involved with SwingLabs, and also is the leader of the Swing Application Framework (SAF). There is more that I probably don’t know about.

I don’t mean to be rude to Alex, he is a cool guy who is doing a great job with a great team (I met a number of them at JavaOne, and they all assure me they are coming to New Zealand for a sunny holiday 🙂 ). I just can’t imagine he can properly do all of these jobs without a project falling by the wayside. It is my opinion that, given current circumstances, it is the SAF that is missing out on Alex’s attention. Or, if he is giving it the necessary attention and time, he is failing to get the necessary community feedback to see it through to completion.

The other issue is that it is impossible to create a SAF that’ll please everyone. There is simply too much Swing history and convention to get past. There was no pleasing the people at the SAF BOF at JavaOne, and the questions Alex was asking were trivial (e.g. do you want @Action or to simply write ActionListeners manually?). In addition, a number of people were unclear of the scope of the SAF. People were wanting docking frameworks, validation, beans binding, etc. The response was always that SAF does not currently intend to support any of these requests.

The SAF is going around in circles. How can it get out of its funk? As one person suggested in the BOF, it needs an expert group to drive it forward. Personally, I would be very careful in suggesting this. It is important that the expert group be tasked with just the pragmatic development of a SAF API. It should try to do this rapidly and clearly document the API and the reasoning. After public discussion, this should be the API that is implemented.

Right now, if the SAF project doesn’t pull finger, sort itself out and take ownership of the public discussion, it is heading towards the junk heap. If that happens, I imagine there will be a jointly developed JavaFX and Swing application framework to be developed in it’s place. This framework will fill the gap that is in the JavaFX niche, and will as a by-product also support Swing. It will be developed by people who can get past the politics of developing an application framework, which may entail reduced public consultation, and instead the development may be sprung on a somewhat unsuspecting public.

Of course, this may not be bad – look at how old Swing is compared with JavaFX. JavaFX is still at the stage of its life where standard approches are still being defined.

So, what’s it going to be – we get behind Alex and help progress a Swing-centric application framework, or we wait for that to fail and a JavaFX/Swing application framework to rise up behind it? As always, comments are welcome.

JavaFX, backwards compatibility, and the path forward

JavaFX at JavaOne impressed me. It is the first time I saw how things could come together to allow for the easy development of applications with both enterprise and consumer user interfaces alike. The combination of the Caspian look and feel, the components, and the team sold me a compelling package. To be clear, JavaFX isn’t ready to be used in many circumstances, as the number of components is too bare, but I am satisfied that this will be rectified in the coming months.

This being the case, and given that JavaFX has been blogged to death, I want to instead cover my opinion on how I believe JavaFX should proceed. I discussed this with a few people from Sun, and I wanted to get the pulse of the (JavaFX) nation on this issue. Let’s be clear – Sun read blogs where there is discussion. I know for a fact the Swing 2.0 discussion from a while ago was heavily discussed internally. I would very much like to see what kind of discussion we get out of this post.

The general question is which path should the JavaFX API take ? Anyone who knows me knows that I like clean APIs, simply for the sake of code cleanliness. You should therefore be able to easily work out my preference 🙂 The options are below, but if you have any other suggestions, please post a comment.

Option 1: Evolve the API over a number of releases, but never remove methods

As demoed in James Gosling’s Toy Show, there are now apps out there using JavaFX, and JavaFX is a publicly available API with a lot of marketing behind it. There are books in production and already released that explain the API as it currently is. To set the API in stone now would give people more certainty that they should start to commit to JavaFX in their systems. This doesn’t stop the API from growing, or for old methods to be deprecated. This is what we have in most API’s – and it is possible that the end result is a hugely convoluted API (need I do the *cough*Swing*cough* thing, or was it too obvious anyway?).

Option 2: Clearly state the API is undergoing change, but promise API stability for a future release

This is what I call the ‘Google Collections’ approach, as it is what Google have done with their collections API. In this approach, Google has been very, very clear that their upcoming 1.0 release will be a 100% stable API that will not change. They have also been very, very clear that releases leading up to the 1.0 release will potentially have huge API changes. The benefit of this approach is that when 1.0 is released, the public can be certain of a completely stable, and clean / polished API. The downside of course is that early adopters are burnt on releases.

My preference is for the later. I want a clean API that is going to last for a long time. I want to see Sun publicly announce a roadmap for the next x months which will culminate in a stable, rock solid, and clean API that will last for the foreseeable future. As things stand, there is no clarity on what will happen next with the JavaFX API, and I think that is at least partially because the public has not yet spoken. If we don’t speak up soon, it’ll be too late.

Comments?

Java Desktop links of the week, May 31

A little early this week, given that I’m travelling to JavaOne tomorrow, which is when I’d normally write Java Desktop links of the week. Somewhat expectedly, it is another quiet week.

To everyone: have a great week ahead. If you’re going to be at JavaOne I’m looking forward to catching up with you, and if you aren’t, then I, along with about 20 other people are going to be publishing ‘JavaOne Minutes’ – short video posts / interviews with people we meet at JavaOne. You can watch them at Youtube here .

On with the news:

General

Swing

JavaFX

Griffon

  • Andres Almiray let me know that Jim Shingler has announced the first public release of gConfig 0.1 , a configuration tool for Griffon , a Groovy Technology.
  • Speaking of Andres (you’d think he had a vested interest in Griffon), he also let me know that Geertjan Wielenga has been busy getting tooling support in NetBeans 6.7 for Groovy and Griffon. He outlines what he did in two blog posts .

That’s it for this week. Note that there won’t be a Java Desktop links of the week next week as I won’t have been able to track the news whilst I’m at JavaOne. I’ll try to do a catchup post once I’m back, but there are not guarantees.

So, have a great week, work hard, but make sure you spend some time relaxing and enjoying life. And for those of you attending JavaOne, see you soon!

Java desktop links of the week, May 25

A pretty quiet week this week, as everyone is building up to JavaOne I guess. Regardless, there has been some things worth noting. So, for another week, let’s get started on the news that’s going on in the Java desktop world.

General

  • I haven’t really covered it here at all, but over the last week Sun announced Project Vector, which is essentially an app store for Java / JavaFX applications. It has the potential to be a huge player in the app store market, given the wide availability of Java. Jonathan Schwartz has a good overview of what it is that they are doing , and Mikael Grev today posted his thoughts on the hurdles ahead for Sun . To be fair, I haven’t given the app store concept much attention. I think it could be a hugely beneficial thing for the Java ecosystem, and could truely help to re-invigorate desktop Java. I hope for this reason that it is a huge success. So, my call to everyone who reads this – do your best to seriously consider the Sun app store. Make it clear to Sun that desktop Java is huge, and needs their attention and support.

Swing

JavaFX

Griffon

That’s it. Have a great week, and for those of you coming to JavaOne, I look forward to catching up. Thanks for all the emails about wanting to catch up – it’s going to be a great week!