JavaBeans and a Nice Chianti

I arrived at JavaOne this morning, and I confess that I wasn’t really hyped about coming. I came to JavaOne last year for the first time in a few years, and I felt like a lot of the real geek energy had left the place. All the cool kids were now in long-term relationships with Ruby and Python, and JavaOne 2006 seemed a bit devoid of something.

This year, I’m a great deal more enthused. I just sat through a general session on the future of Java, and I feel like some really interesting developments are going on. Here are a few.

NASA World Wind

NASA has released a Java component called World Wind, a Google-Earth like component that can drop maps into Java applications. One demo launched a “zoom-in-from-outer-space-to-the-Moscone” application, launched using Java Web Start. Another used World Wind to provide the areas surrounding a cockpit pilot game-like application. All in all, geeky and fun.

Java 7

It sounds like some important improvements are coming in Java 7. There’s a new way of bundling the JRE that allows users to download very small parts of the JRE, which will augment itself as new features are needed. The Sun people are hoping that this combat that huge one-time download effect of the JRE (which, let’s face it, keeps getting bigger and bigger every release).

Additionally, Java is now trying very hard to interact with more scripting languages. They are engines for Ruby, already. Java is also spinning off its own scripting languages: Groovy is growing up. Server-side JavaScript is another possibility with a tool called Phobos. And a scripting language called JavaFX is appearing (with a focus on nifty web effects).

(I’m a little nervous about the possibility for language proliferation in a single application, but I can see the appeal).

Open Source Java

A GPLv2-released OpenJDK project has been launched. Yay!

Build Cool Stuff Fast

A key point that people kept harping on in demos was just how fast people put applications together. People would talk about nifty effects in days or weeks.

The Bad Bits

It’s still true that there are some things that seem out-of-synch with what my day-to-day job entails. There’s a lot of demoing using NetBeans, which I’ve never encountered anyone using in nature. Also, in the session I just attended, there was a lot of oooing and aaaaahhing about Glassfish as a great application server (especially because of how fast it starts up), but, well, who’s using it? Is it just a development environment? Perhaps. It might be interesting to experiment with it.

The stuff that’s the majority of my working day is underrepresented here. And I guess I wonder if Sun is deliberately trying to not be the next IBM or the next Microsoft, but is really trying to win back all those open source geeks who dumped them a while back. Maybe. I dunno.

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