JavaOne 2003, San Francisco

I attended the 2003 San Francisco JavaOne conference and made the following notes:

  • JDK 1.4.2 is out, with 3000 bug fixes, big speed ups (possibly just for Intel), Swing look and feel for Aqua, GTK and Windows XP.
  • JDK 1.5 is due Summer 2004 and has a bunch of new languages features (more on this later). The main focus is ease of development, monitoring and management. JDK 1.5.1 is due Spring 2005, and JDK 1.6 (Mustang) sometime in 2006.
  • There's a big focus on pushing Java into the "corporate developer" space, currently occupied by the Microsoft ASP/VB folk and the world of PHP etc. Much talk of growing the number of developers from three million to ten million. Hence, there's a lot of focus on "ease of development" and tools. One colleague (you know who you are) dubbed it "dumbing down the platform".
  • In addition to the JDK 1.5 languages features of generics, enumerations, for iterator (discussed here) there was much cheering for autoboxing, printf and metadata.
  • Autoboxing (JSR 201) bothers me because I don't yet know how it's going to behave. The idea is simple enough, in that you can now write Integer x = 3. rather than Integer x = new Integer(3). But I wonder what's going to happen when you try to add together Integer objects where one of them is null. I guess it'll be a runtime cast exception: I've tried the 2.0 early access release of these features, but they're too incomplete to say what happens. I'm sure it'll all sort itself, but it's the first part of Java that's ever given me a bad feeling.
  • In the same vein, metadata (JSR 175) is worrying. It seems to be xdoclet formalized in some way, such that you can replace naming conventions (e.g., getX, setX) with an "@something" tag in your class definition (or maybe javadoc) and then something (the compiler?) will generate code for you. That's my take -- it may be wildly off the mark, as there were very few slides on metadata in the entire conference. So... very early days for metadata, but it was mentioned many times in all sorts of places, so it's going to be big.
  • Very interested in the Project Rave tool. It's a drag-drop-click MS Studio-like tool for building web sites, all backed by good stuff like JavaServerFaces. Early access release due Autumn 2003. Related articles: Sun: Rave on over to the other side (The Register).
  • In other tools news, there was a brief demo of Project Relator, which allows you to build a user interface in SVG, and then connect SVG hotspots to Java actions. I thought this was just going to be for J2ME devices, but the guy I spoke to was thinking it was for all sorts of user interfaces, and that maybe it wouldn't be available under MIDP 1.0. During the demo we saw an Illustrator SVG file wired up to web services, with a throw away line about the web services library being about 3k, which was probably the most impressive part. Early access due 2004.
  • JAXB 2.0 (JSR 222) enhances the XML-to-Java-code mapping framework by supporting partial mappings. That's great news, because it means you can pick which bits of an XML document (schema) you want to work with and ignore the rest. There's the possibility that it'll also support updating partial documents. Sounds dull, but is quite exciting, honest.
  • JSR 223 is intriguing: Tomcat is to be the reference implementation for web scripting in Java, initially using PHP. Does this mean PHP developers will be able to make use of Java back end code? Don't know.
  • JTWI (Java technology for the wireless industry) aka JSR 185 is intended to pre-empt wireless device manufacturers from introducing their own APIs. E.g., trying to avoid the situation where, say, MIDP 1.0 comes out, and the handset manufacturers go and add their own or similar APIs for the bits that were missed out. It consists of a road map for where things are heading, and an accompanying set of APIs. The first road map is out now (PDF).
  • JavaServerFaces is big. The final release is due autumn 2003, and I like to think of it as a formalization of Struts. One of the core ideas of JSF is to make web site development under Java something that tools manufacturers can support. I won't be using it until 1.1 because it doesn't have any templating features.
  • Location based API (JSR 179) is out there. It looks like a really well thought-out API for getting location-based information on the handset. This can either be from GPS or from some network-based (cell) solution, but as an API user you don't have to worry about how you get the information. I asked which mobile networks were supporting the cell-based location services, but no information was available. However I did learn that there are standards for exposing this information over a network.
  • Guy Laurance, CEO of Vodafone Global Content Services, told us that downloaded phone apps were selling for an average of US$2.50, of which the developer received US$1.20. Some of these apps were selling in the millions.
  • Went to see a great presentation on how eBay have been using Java to handle traffic on their web sites. Interesting in that they're only using bits of J2EE that they know perform, with the general message being that you don't need -- and probably don't want -- to use all of J2EE. For example, they use code generation for database access rather then the J2EE-way. I also found it interesting that they don't use server-side sessions at all. They either keep what information they need in the user's cookies or just go back to the database every time. This allows them to remove the need for server affinity and just make use of a round-robin server architecture.
  • There was a great presentation on concurrency utilities scheduled for java.util.concurrent in JDK 1.5. What I didn't realize was that these utilities have been out there for some time. The summary: if you're doing anything Thread related (pooling, queues, etc) you want to use these utilities.
  • New websites: is for the community with a daily news section at edited by O'Reilly. is the consumer home page, and Sun are pushing ahead to get Java recognized by consumers by having (maybe) adverts and some kind of branding on devices. Good idea.
  • And finally...
    bad, bad logo good logo
    Bad old logo Good new logo
Sun v. Apple ice hockey
Sun v. Apple ice hockey.

Thinking time in the Alumni Lounge
Thinking time in the Alumni Lounge.

Gareth catching up on sleep
Gareth catching up on sleep.

Entertainment before a keynote
Entertainment before a keynote.

During a keynote
During a keynote.