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Will Oracle really make NetBeans the BEST IDE for Java

Not yet!!! But according to their webcast they want to make NetBeans the best Java IDE. This is a statement not to be taken lightly. Oracle are now investing in three IDEs which are all established in different ways. JDeveloper is Oracle’s IDE of choice, I am currently using it in my current project as I am developing for Oracle WebCenter. Oracle is also a strategic developer and board member of the Eclipse foundation. I do not understand what exactly is a strategic developer but I know that JDeveloper is their strategic IDE. Now, introducing NetBeans, Oracle has inherited NetBeans as part of Sun acquisitions (and a ton of products and services). Until now, Oracle has never made any plug-ins for the NetBeans platform but now they promise to make it the best IDE for Java, how will they make that happen?

I am a NetBeans evangelist and as the rest of the community, it was good news to actually know where it stands in the “Oracle” vision. So Oracle will never drop JDeveloper therefore the real fight is between Eclipse and NetBeans (as it always has been). In the first step of making NetBeans the best IDE, Oracle shold immediately start porting all their Eclipse plug-ins to NetBeans. Eclipse has strength in its alliance which also includes IBM (fierce rival to Oracle). Something has to give and Eclipse will not never close shop because Oracle has left them which is not as worse as lack of investment in the NetBeans community. It would also be a foolish decision to give NetBeans to the Apache Foundation (no disrespect here but it seems that public funds do not grow on trees).

There is something funny about Oracle “choice” statement. Did anybody tried to develop for WebCenter using NetBeans or Eclipse? That’s a nightmare!!! There is no choice given, they literally forced us to use JDeveloper (Do you require any Oracle support?) in our company which is the largest in its field in Europe (I am avoiding to mention the company name but you should get it from my twitter stream).

Eclipse and NetBeans are direct competitors with Eclipse being the de facto IDE for Java, dropping Eclipse support would close doors to millions of developers and dropping NetBeans will disaster for many paying customers (Sun’s partners).  I am not sure what is going to happen in the NetBeans/ Eclipse and JDeveloper saga but something has to give.

Let me know what you think.

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JavaFX Composer RAD Tool – First Review

Just over a week ago, Sun announced a RAD tool for JavaFx built on the Matisse framework, I believe. I was very critical of JavaFx for its lack of tool for building UI and I think this is a step in the right direction. The tool was made available through the NetBeans Update Center on the 14/12/2009. OK, so I have installed the plugin and here are my views; not just on the tools but also on other stuff I think would benefit the JavaFx community:

When comparing something, it only makes sense when we use a benchmark; here my benchmark will be Adobe Flash Builder (formerly known as Flex Builder). Over the years, Adobe had made it easy for the designer to build impressive user interface with minimal coding. Sun, in the other hand, made it easier for developers to build application, yes I am aware of some nice UI in Java but they still do not compare to the eye candy of Flash/ Flex.

I am going to look at the tools; Flash Builder and JavaFx Composer plugin, from a developer perspective.

Components:
A key feature of RAD tools is the amount of components they make available to developers without having to write too many codes. I understand the plugin is at a “preview” stage, whatever that mean (alpha?), but there are alot of missing components; as an example, this release version was meant to be a “preview” of what to look forward to but I cannot drag a “combox” from the components palette into my form, no data grid, no chart, no menu bar, no date components and can’t even draw a rectangle which is possible but only through coding. I hope the JavaFx team add all the components available in JavaFx plugin to the Composer.

moz-screenshot-2NetBeans JavaFx UI Composer

moz-screenshot-4Adobe Flex/ Flash Builder

Round-trip code update
One thing I dislike with Java IDE’s (or most of them) is the inability to change the generated code without requiring you to write more code. The Adobe team actually made a good job in giving more freedom to the developer. In Flash Builder, you can design your UI through drag-n-drop but also customise it directly through the XML file (MXML). This feature was not available in NetBeans Matisse, I could be wrong, but and again Matisse was not really used in large project (no comments, thanks), at least not were I worked. Why all the fuss, you might ask? Try to create a simple interface and add a “rectangle” object to it which you will use as a toolbar and tell me how simple that was.

The coding style in JavaFx is very similar to Flex/ Flash ActionScript (so why the “V”oid instead of void, but that’s another issue) and very easy to learn. So far, I found it easier to actually code the canvas then using the Composer plugin. Another thing, when inspecting object properties; not all properties are available, for example: the gradient properties are not available, which will require you to write more lines of code.

UI Preview Panel
Again, a feature which Adobe Flex/ Flash builder excels at (I feel like I am starting to sound like an Adobe salesman) is the synchronize preview of codes. This is not a due to JavaFx Composer plugin but this seems as a bug as sometimes, you might have to restart the IDE in order for the UI Preview panel to start working again. Hopefully the introduction of the RAD (or not so much RAD) tool, will fix this issue.

Conclusion
You might feel that I was on a JavaFx bashing quest but this is not the case. JavaFx might not have a large components set (well what about all the SWING components available which you can use? You might not be able to “skin” them to your application look and feel but they still availabe to you) but I still think it has a good future. If you take a look at the screenshot below which was built with Adobe Flex, it took me less than five (5) minutes to build. Now time to synchronize your watches and tell me how fast it will take you to build the same interface using JavaFx Composer plugin. It will probably take me less than five (5) minutes if I was designing it with Matisse. My point is; a RAD tool is supposed to promote productivity and YES!!! I have realized this is a “PREVIEW” release but can you actually use it? I know I will still be coding JavaFx for the foreseable future and I would love it to succeed. If you are going to call a tool “a RAD tool for building Form-based JavaFx UI” then I suggest that you provide most of the form components.

Should JavaFx UI RAD tools be based on XML like Android and Adobe Flash Builder?

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5 components I like to have on JavaFx

  1. Menu and tool bar (come on guys, this was there in previous release)
  2. Grids (even just a simple table will do. For now I use JTable)
  3. Date picker, Rich Text and Navigator components
  4. HTML panel (something that display HTML and can also be used as iFrames)
  5. Panels similar to JInternalFrame (this will be useful in portlet-like applications)

I know it’s not really 5 things but they will make a difference. Thanks for reading and tell me what you think about JavaFx and its UI Composer.

Top-10

10 Things all Java developers should know

Since Java (I know it’s not an acronym, but it stands out like that) was officially introduced in 1995, it has changed the way most of us look at the Operating System. Bill Gate (how ironic) once said that it was not about the hardware but the software which will be the future. A decade or more later, the fifth employee of SUN, John Gage said “The Network is the Computer”. Fast-forwarding to the 21st century and John seemed to be right. Anyway, Java was built not to depend on an Operating System and deployed through the network. Java through its applet technology gave birth to Rich Network Application aka Rich Internet Application (RIA). Java is not perfect; or we would not have various releases and more on the way, but Java has given birth to a wide range of programming language (just Google it to find out more).

Without further ado, I am going to get back to subject. This is a brief article on what I believe that every Java developers should know regardless of their experience. I do not personally believe that someone with 5 years experience is not as good as someone with 10 years experience. We all develop our own methods of working but as a developer you need to stay abreast of your technology. So, here are my top 10 not in order of importance (or?):

  1. Remember the basic of Java language and OOP paradigm.
    Most experience developers seem to forget the theory behind the language. I am not saying that they are not good at their job but can they explain to junior developers why they have used interfaces instead of abstract classes or why implement a pattern over another one? As a programmer, you become very arrogant as you believe that you write the best code but in the real world, people work in teams with different skill set and experiences. It is important that you can backup your actions/ codes. A very simple question such as; when should I use a String object instead of a StringBuilder/ StringBuffer? You might take this question lightly but can you actually tell someone else the difference?
  2. Know your technology stack
    All developers have to know their technology stack. What does it mean? Java is not like other languages; Java has subsets such J2ME and superset such as Java EE. We have our own area of expertise but it is important to know the differences between the various sets of Java. Some basic questions such as the differences between SWING, Applet, Servlets, EJBs and JavaFX will boost your confidence. Most developers do not know how to tweak the JVM and the differences between the JRE and the SDK environment. Do you know why you need the SDK to be installed to run Tomcat but you only need the JRE to run an application?
  3. Experiment with various Java EE framework
    I am not asking you to be an expert in every single Java EE framework but it will make the difference if you are familiar with Spring and EJB. That should actually be the de facto framework that should be on every developers CV. Developers should know the difference between Java EE 5 (soon 6) and Spring. Hibernate is also brilliant and it’s used for data access but all developers should have moved to JPA by now. Hibernate also comply with JPA therefore there is no more excuses.
  4. Know a scripting language
    Java can be heavyweight for some simple tasks which can be implemented using a simple dynamic language such as Python, Perl(?) and others. I would also recommend to developers to learn shell scripting on their target OS.
  5. Know how to develop web services
    The network is the computer, therefore it is important to know the different web services framework available. Data are integrated through web services and opening your services to the “cloud”. SWING developers will probably not develop web services but I am sure that they will be connecting to data through web services clients. Understanding the difference between the standardised SOAP and non-standardised ReST will help you choose which is best to implement your services.
  6. Know how and when to multithread your application
    I have to put that in there. Developers should know when and why to multithread an application, thread inter-communication and monitoring. All developers, junior or not, should know how to write a multi-threaded application.
  7. Database development using JDBC and JPA
    This should be a development law. All developers should know how to write SQL queries and how to create databases. All enterprise applications store data in some sort of relational database systems and it is therefore imperative that this knowledge should be of second nature. Java EE 5 introduced JPA (JDO was there before) but it is not applicable to all situation. Hence, knowing the difference and when to implement one instead of the other is important.
  8. Know a client side scripting language and what is AJAX
    The network is the computer and Internet is the deployment platform. Java EE and its various framework are server side executiong which can put extra “load” on the server. If you are looking to move a cloud based system where the providers charges you per resources used, it might be wise to move some of the execution to the client side. AJAX has been buzzing the scene for the last 3 years and more. This is not a technology but a new way of doing something that already existed. There are numerous Java AJAX framework such as GWT and DWR which makes it easy to develop AJAX based application which are compiled to JavaScript. Developers should also know what is the AJAX theories.
  9. Know your competitors and do not take part on “what is the best IDE” discussion
    Java is not the only language that can do what it does. I think that Java is more mature and complete as opposed to other languages. Knowing the difference between Java and .NET or Java and Ruby is a good asset to have. You also need to know when and why to use one instead of the other. Please please please, do not get into “my IDE is better than x because…” discussion as it is good for the Java community to have multiple IDEs and framework available to use. Every tools have their place as for example JDeveloper is better than x if you are going to solely develop on an Oracle stack and etc…
  10. Know ANT (MAVEN?), TOMCAT and any other mainstrean application server
    ANT is the de facto build script for Java and its IDE-based development. Maven is becoming popular and soon can be as popular as ANT (not sure of its popularity in the financial sector). TOMCAT  should be immortalised as the based servlet container that all developers should be familiar with.

There are alot more to add but this is just some of the basics that I think all developers should have in their repertoire. Feel free to add to this list in the comments box. If I could had another one to this, would be; all developers not just Java, should know how to search the web and Google is your best friends (now support my advertisers by clicking on the links on the right 😉 ). I hope you enjoyed the entry and feel free to comments good or bad!!! are welcome.

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IBM to buy SUN – the End for NetBeans and Glassfish?

I am sure that you have seen in the tech news that IBM are looking to buy SUN MicroSystem the owner of JAVA and now MySQL.

Sun has been losing money on its Solaris based servers, probably one of the reason Solaris is now Open Source? Sun started to lose money after the 2000-01 dot com bubble burst. Since the company has been trying to reinvent himself and even tried to look for buyers for more than year. Rumours says that HP turned the offer down. Everyone must be thinking now, why a company which losing money and put himself up for sale at $6B would buy an open source company for $1B (MySQL)?

Anyway, what would this acquisition mean to the JAVA world? IBM has been a major sponsor of SUN rival IDE – Eclipse. Therefore there is a major question as what will happen to NetBeans? Oh, and what about JavaFX, it is still in beta stage as far as I can see and cannot yet compete with Flash or SilverLight, will IBM pull the plug on that?

WOW, I have so much questions but I am not sure how to formulate them all. For example, I am a big fan of NetBeans and Glassfish but IBM develops Eclipse and WebSphere, I can’t help feel insecure about the future of NetBeans & Glassfish to be replaced by IBM own baby.

NetBeans funding will ceased th project will become a full fledge Open Source and hopefully an organisation like Apache or even Google take over it. But what about MySQL, IBM has DB2 which is very powerful so what are they going to do with DB systems?

You know what guys, time will tell us so let’s just wait and see, shall we?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2009/mar/18/ibm-sun-deal-maybe