Article on java.time

Channel denizen (yes, that’s what we call people in the ##java channel, “denizens”) yawkat has published “An introduction to java.time,” an article to try to clear up some of the confusion around the time API in Java: things like LocalTime, OffsetTime, and the like. If you’re still using Date, this article is for you. Includes handy ways to convert between the time types, and is likely to grow further at need.

Javachannel's Interesting Links podcast, episode 8

Welcome to the eighth ##java podcast. I’m Joseph Ottinger, dreamreal on the IRC channel, and it’s Thursday, 2017 December 20. Andrew Lombardi from Mystic Coders is with me again.
Please don’t forget: this is your podcast, with your content too. You can contribute by using a carrier pigeon and sending us notes encoded with rot13 – twice if you want to be really secure – or by using javabot on the IRC channel, with ~submit and an http link, or you can also write content for the channel blog at javachannel.org, or you can even just tell us that something’s interesting… we’ll pick it up from there.

  1. Non-Blocking vs. blocking I/O: Go with blocking.” is an article by ##java’s surial. In it, he’s talking about asynchronous code, especially with respect to I/O… and his assertion is that you really don’t want to do it. If you decide you do (and there are reasons to) then you should at least rely on some of the libraries that already exist to make it easier… but he mostly points out that it isn’t worth it for most programmers. Interesting read, especially when you consider that Python and Node.JS live and die on this programming model.

  2. To self-doubting developers: are you good enough?” is an article meant to make you mediocre programmers feel better about yourselves. It talks about the processes and exercises that we all more or less had to go through to achieve competence. It’s not a long post, but it has some good points; programming is practice and art, just like athletics, really – and sometimes you lose, sometimes you plateau, sometimes you have to put in time that someone else might not have to put in. Sometimes the other guy is a natural at some things, and your effort is required to give you the edge… but the good news is that you can put in the effort.

  3. Jason Whaley posted a link called “Incident review: API and Dashboard outage on 10 October 2017” that went into a Postgres multinode deployment failure. It’s a payments company, so the outage is a pretty big deal for them; the short form is that they had a series of failures at the wrong time, and the postgres installation failed. That’s something we don’t hear about very often – either because people are ashamed of it, or hiding it, or some other more nefarious reason, perhaps. More reasons why I’m a developer and not in DevOps? Some pretty in-depth analysis on multi-master Postgres and unintended consequences of architecture. Appears that aside from the Postgres-specific things mentioned here, it probably is a good idea to regularly introduce fault into your infrastructure to test it, to see where the problems are you didn’t intend. And the automation erodes knowledge.

  4. Want to Become the Best at What You Do? Read this.” goes over five steps to being all that you can be including quoting “Eye of the Tiger” for added insult. Several of the ideas in here are valid though, focusing on improving your skills / self-improvement and putting yourself out there in a vulnerable way. All the items have a “The Secret” type of vibe around them though, which is a bit of a turn off. Love the process, better yourself, make a positive impact on the world, sounds pretty good.

  5. A user on ##java posted a reference to zerocell – a simple open source library to read Excel spreadsheets into Java POJOs. Apache POI is the go-to for this, but POI is a little long in the tooth; it’s always nice to see people creating new solutions. I don’t have any Excel spreadsheets that I need converted into POJOs handy – and I don’t think I’ve EVER had them… except maybe once.

  6. Understanding and Overcoming Coder’s Block” is YET ANOTHER lifestyle article for this podcast; it’s addressing those times when someone who might otherwise be a good coder – or writer, or anything – encounters the inability to write anything worthwhile. It’s focused on code, but it’s pretty general even so: reasons include a lack of clarity on what you’re trying to achieve, or a lack of decisiveness about how to solve a problem, or maybe the problem just seems too big to solve, or maybe even that you’re just not all that jazzed about the project you’re working on. It also addresses external factors – you know, real life – that might be getting in the way. Lastly, it includes some tips for each of those problems to perhaps point the way forward.

  7. The Myth of the Interchangeable Developer” is yet another lifestyle article that points out what we all know but that recruiters and managers seem to be ignorant about: we all have specific skillsets. If I’m a good services developer, it doesn’t necessarily follow that I’m a good UI developer, for example… it doesn’t mean that I can’t learn, but it certainly implies that there’s an extra cost in time or aptitude for me to actually design a UI.

  8. Understanding Monads: a guide for the perplexed” is an article trying to explain monads yet again. Maybe it’s me, but I’m thinking that monads might be one of those formal terms that’s useful but not useful enough, because they’ve been around forever but people still don’t get them. Maybe there’s a giant set of programmers who shouldn’t be allowed to program… but my feeling is that ‘monad’ is mostly jargon. To me it’s a stateless bit of code that defers state elsewhere, so it’s “functionally pure.” Lots of languages that rely on asynchronous programming have a similar concept, but they don’t necessarily call them “monads” (and they can store state elsewhere, too, so maybe they’re cheating.) It’s a decent article, but if you don’t understand monads, it may not .. actually change anything for you. But maybe it will.

  9. Ah, Project Valhalla. DZone has an article – pretty old now, actually, a month or two – that talks about Valhalla. No Valkyries, unfortunately, but value types instead: object references that are referred to just like primitives. This means that Java might get some forms of reification… but it’s hard to say. The main thing I wanted to see from the article was more clear example code; there’s one that boxes an integer in a generic class, without specifying the integer type, but I’m not actually seeing where there’s a real benefit in code yet.

  10. One of my favorite subjects is up next: “Why Senior Devs Write Dumb Code and How to Spot a Junior From A Mile Away.” Want to find a junior developer? Find someone who spends four hours tuning a bit of code that will run … once every four hours. Overexerting yourself trying to write the perfect bit of code every time… that’s a junior developer. Of course, we all know some senior developers who do the same sort of thing… and we tolerate them, but it’s just tolerance. I don’t write supercomplicated code if I can help it, and I’d rather provide simple code to get something simple done if I can, even if that means I’m wasting a few hundred K of RAM or a few dozen milliseconds. I mean, sure, if we need those milliseconds or that RAM, we can tune for that… but we do that when necessary and not otherwise. A summary might be: hesitate to wax locquacious when your innate desire is to extrude tendrils for others to admire your skill; alternatively, allow their senses to inhale your greatness despite their inability to immediately perceive how impressive your capabilities are, especially in comparison to their own.

Javachannel’s interesting links podcast, episode 7

Welcome to the seventh ##java podcast. I’m Joseph Ottinger, dreamreal on the IRC channel, and it’s Monday, 2017 November 6. Today feels slightly less anonymous than yesterday.
This week we have a co-host, Andrew Lombardi – kinabalu on ##java – and we also offer our humblest apologies to Ms. Debbie Gibson.
This podcast covers news and interesting things from the ##java IRC channel on Freenode; if you see something interesting that’s related to Java, feel free to submit it to the channel bot, with ~submit and a URL to the interesting thing, or you can also write an article for the channel blog as well; I’m pretty sure that if it’s interesting enough to write about and post on the channel blog, it’s interesting enough to include in the podcast.

  1. Increment Development posted “Center stage: Best practices for staging environments,” an article by Alice Goldfuss that defends and describes the use of the staging environment. “Staging is where you gain confidence in your systems by consensus,” she writes – pointing out that development and testing are for testing known things (“when I do this, does that happen?”), and staging is for testing those things that you think might happen in production but can’t necessarily anticipate as part of development or explicit testing. The author points out that there’s an ongoing debate about this, with some well-known people saying “just test better!” but I’m on Alice’ side personally – staging is where you validate that all that testing didn’t let something get through before deployment to production.

  2. Chase Roberts has written “How to unit test machine learning code.” It’s an interesting article – in that it focuses on expected results for a long pipeline of operations for stuff that’s really hard to test well. Machine learning libraries tend to be black-box tested – throw an input at it, pray a bit, hope you get the expected output, suffer for a while if you don’t – and he’s trying to show a way to avoid this cycle. Short summary: testing is hard. Long summary: know what your algorithms are doing, and test every step along the way.

  3. One of the changes for Java 9’s release was unlimited strength cryptography. Well, all of you laggards on older JVMs might be getting it as well, assuming you update and/or patch – which might be questionable, depending on how far back in the revision cycle you are. If you’re still running Java 6, chances are you don’t update, ever, and this might be a scary process for you because it’s so rare. Do I sound like I’m filled with scorn? I don’t mean to be – pity, maybe, and confusion, but not scorn. (Seriously, folks: update to 8. Or 9. Something moderately current. The pain is coming; putting it off will only make it hurt worse when you run out of time.)

  4. The first of multiple DZone articles for this edition of the podcast: “Switching Java Versions on MacOS” shows you how to use the java_home command on OSX to switch between your multiple JVM installations on OSX easily. This is apparently not a perfect process according to some on ##java, but it’s always worked for me when I’ve tried it – but that’s a very small sample set, so try it yourself and see. (The context of the failure was apparently Apache Ant, and my “success” was really just kicking the tires of Java 9. I’m not saying that the failure is incorrect or user error, by any means.)

  5. Another DZone article: “The JSON-P API: A JSON Processing Primer” shows you a high level overview of JSON-P, with both an object model and a streaming model. The streaming model is more interesting; the object model is a lot like org.json, which… no. Just no. In the end, though, Jackson is probably still your best bet for JSON processing in Java.

  6. Kafka has gone to version 1.0, according to Apache. Kafka is a distributed streaming platform – one way of thinking of it is that it’s a distributed event log, where you can write events that are processed at very high volume by various clients. Every client can have its own offset into the event log, so there’s a lot of flexibility in how you use it. Like most such types of data stores, it’s not a magic bullet for … anything, really, but leveraged properly it really can provide amazing throughput. Administration is great fun; I think I’d rather chew off my own neck than manage a Kafka cluster, but … again, if you need the features, it’s a great product.

  7. Yet another DZone article: “https://dzone.com/articles/an-introduction-to-http2-support-in-java-9” shows us the new HTTP/2 client that’s being incubated in Java 9 – which means it probably won’t be fully realized until the next release of Java (which is itself the subject of another news item.) There are already HTTP/2 libraries for Java: Jetty, Netty, vert.x, OkHttp, and Firefly (among others, probably) – but this one will be part of the Java runtime itself. It looks pretty similar to some of the others already mentioned, but that’s not a bad thing; idiom is good and there probably are only so many ways you can think of building a request and issuing it.

  8. Our third entry from DZone this week: “Machine Learning Algorithms: Which One to Choose for Your Problem” Tries to provide an overview of some of the core factors involved in choosing a machine learning algorithm: supervised vs. unsupervised (or semi-supervised, or reinforced) models, along with some of the models themselves and their applications. There are some examples of problems and math, but it’s got no code whatsoever (and if it did, would probably use Python) – still, it does a good job of going over some of the models and capabilities.

  9. Oh, this seems relevant: Java 10 is coming! … maybe. In an email to the OpenJDK mailing list, Mark Reinhold has revised the version string for Java again – so we might actually get Java 10 instead of Java 18.3 for the next release. Versions are hard to get right – but I think going to a major release version scheme like this (or, rather, staying with a major version scheme) is a good idea, even if the release frequency is boosted. Of course, I also think a major version every year or two is a good thing, so now I’ll probably be complaining about the frequency, but … first world problems, I guess.

  10. Speaking of Java 10, early access builds are available. I don’t know if they have variable inference – “var“, in other words – because I haven’t even truly migrated to Java 9 yet, so I’m far from being ready to test an early access build of 10! But if that’s your stimulant of choice, the builds are there for OSX, Linux, Windows, and even Solaris on SPARC, since even that guy Mike needs to play with Java 10 every now and then.

  11. The next two entries are from DZone, too; they’re on fire. The first one is “Null Safety: Calling Java From Kotlin,” which shows the use of annotations in Java code such that Kotlin doesn’t have to pretend the Java method call can return null. It still can, of course, but in Kotlin, nullable types look and act differently than non-nullable types, so this annotation (@Nonnull(when = When.ALWAYS), if you’re interested) is really a way to suggest to Kotlin that the result is never expected to be null. Really pretty neat stuff.

  12. Lastly, DZone came through with an article about the human mind, applied to programming: “Transcending the Limitations of the Human Mind.” It’s about cognitive capacity, a subject I’ve written about myself in the past; when I wrote about it, I referred to it as “chunking” (we manage only so many chunks of information at a time) and here, it’s the same concept with different terminology. The author – Robert Brautigam – walks through some of the tricks we developers use to manage incredibly detailed deployments with limited cognitive capacity through decomposition, generalization, abstract concept management; he also discusses ways in which our development processes work against our cognitive capacity (where our processes make a given mechanism more expensive cognitively than it otherwise should be, perhaps.) Good article.

Javachannel’s interesting links podcast, episode 6

Welcome to the sixth ##java podcast. I’m Joseph Ottinger, dreamreal on the IRC channel, and it’s Monday, 2017 October 30. Scary! Tomorrow’s Halloween.
This podcast covers news and interesting things from the ##java IRC channel on Freenode; if you see something interesting that’s related to Java, feel free to submit it to the channel bot, with ~submit and a URL to the interesting thing, or you can also write an article for the channel blog as well; I’m pretty sure that if it’s interesting enough to write about and post on the channel blog, it’s interesting enough to include in the podcast. (And guess what? That happened this week. See entry #4!)

  1. First up we have two articles about NoSQL from Matt Raible and Okta.com – “NoSQL Options for Java Developers” and “NoSQL Options for Java Developers, Part II.” They were published almost a month apart. In Part I, Matt mostly focuses on a very general overview of the NoSQL landscape and how he chose what NoSQL products to focus on – which ended up being MongoDB, Redis, Cassandra, Neo4J, and Postgres JSON. In Part II he encourages more of a discussion from some NoSQL luminaries about those five. They’re sharing stories and anecdotes about the databases, and it’s interesting reading, even if a little light on content – but they do have some interesting quips to throw out. One in particular stood out to me: you really should justify using something other than Postgres these days, and while I’m a big proponent of NoSQL, I totally agree. They also point out that some people see NoSQL as a magic bandaid for performance, and that’s simply not the case, at all.
  2. Up next we have “A Gentle Introduction to the Bag-of-Words Model.” The Bag-of-Words is a very common way to help trim down inputs for automated learning, or artificial intelligence; one of the things about AI is that it’s painfully easy to overwhelm systems with irrelevant input. This article introduces one of the most common ways to trim input, by providing a focus on words used most commonly in a bit of text – a corpus – or maybe the least common words in that corpus, too, really. (Which set of words you choose depends somewhat on what you’re trying to do.) Interesting article, fairly well done, I thought. Not heavy on code – in fact, painfully light on code – but bag-of-words is actually really easy to write, so that’s not a big deal.
  3. Java 9 is all the rage these days, even though I don’t know anyone who’s actually deploying it yet. Our next article is “Making JSR 305 Work On Java 9,” which focuses on using the annotations for software defect detection – JSR 305 – along with annotations from javax.annotation, which apparently doesn’t work very well in Java 9, due to the packages being split across multiple jars. Part of the problem is the implementation of the JSR 305 annotations themselves; it’s not really been a problem in the non-modular world, but Java 9 is more strict (and should be) about how modules are implemented. The article shows some workarounds and actually does enable the use of the various annotations (and has some warnings along the way) but I think the greater takeaway is that Java 9 is a sea change for Java. It’s probably one that was necessary – sure, we had OSGi and Java EE to help modularize the JVM, but there were and are crucial limits to those approaches that Java 9 is actually trying to address – but even though it’s been necessary there’s still a lot of pain and technology transfer involved.
  4. We also have some content from ##java denizen yawkat: “How (not) to extend standard collection classes.” It came from a discussion on ##java about someone needing a bounded PriorityQueue. I was being really pragmatic and short-sighted, and suggested just overriding the add() to enforce a limit, but the truth is, that is short-sighted – and yawkat wrote this article discussing why and how to actually extend such classes properly. Very well done, and it’s much appreciated.
  5. Another note about future releases of Java – I was going to say “Java 9” but apparently that numbering system is endangered. There’s a JSR – JSR 383 – for Java 18.3, the release scheduled for March 2018. The main difference I see is in local variable type inference, JEP 286. Type inference is cool – Scala and Kotlin have it and rely on it – and it’s great that Java will get it soon too, but the “Java 18.3” name is going to take some getting used to. I still don’t like it. Maybe this is part of their Halloween pranking: “Boo! It’s Java 18.3!” to which my response is, well, “booooo.”
  6. WildFly 11 Final is available. There are lots of improvements here – not many of them are earth-shattering, I think (and I’m waiting for them to go to WildFly Orange or WildFly Jet Fuel, following Oracle’s ridiculous naming practices – okay, I’ll shut up about how I don’t like “18.3” from here on out.) Anyway, WildFly is the fully open source version of JBossAS; it really is a great product. I prefer it to all of the other Java EE containers these days, even though I usually work on distributed services and not monolithic servers any more. I use a lot of the Java EE APIs without using an actual traditional Java EE container, and that’s the current trend I’m seeing – but I’m pretty sure that my data set is pretty constrained. Congratulations on the release, WildFly people.
  7. InfoQ comes in with the JUnit 5 release announcement. JUnit5 changes some annotations and introduces lambdas into the testing mechanism. It also changes the runner mechanism. It requires Java 8, but that’s okay; everyone should be on Java 8 by now anyway. I really like that JUnit is moving forward; I’m mainly a TestNG user, but TestNG has been pushing JUnit to add features, and I imagine that JUnit will likewise push TestNG to add features. Everyone wins.
  8. Up next we have “Project Loom: Fibers and Continuations for the Java Virtual Machine.” This feels really familiar, actually – there used to be a Continuations feature as part of RIFE, and that was around years ago. But here we have an official continuations and fibers suggestion; fibers are lightweight threads, and continuations allow scheduling of tasks on those lightweight threads. I’m not doing it justice here, but it looks great; it’s a long article, worth the read, notable more for its existence than its actual technical content at this point (but the technical content is a good read. Many other platforms have features like this, so it’s good that Java might get them.)
  9. The Gradle project has published “The State of Gradle Java 9 Support,” an article going over the increasingly popular build tool’s support for and integration with Java 9. Multi-release jars still rely on an external plugin, but the module system is supported by Gradle’s dependency resolution, from the looks of it. This is an excellent practice to have, on Gradle’s part – let people know what is supported, how it works, how to use it, and set the expectation that changes will be discussed and documented. It’s almost like open source; open discussion and knowledge transfer.
  10. Lastly, there’s a call for votes on the OpenJDK mailing lists for a new garbage collector, ZGC. It’s currently a skunkworks project of sorts for Oracle, and is aimed at providing low latency for multi-terabyte heaps, a phrase that gives me the willies. I’ve worked with large heaps before – but mainly through things like Azul’s Zing platform. It’s really neat that the Java ecosystem keeps changing like this, though, in that we gain new feature sets all the time and Java just gets better and better. Now if we could only maintain sane version naming and remember to work together…

Javachannel's interesting links podcast, episode 5

Welcome to the fifth ##java podcast. I’m Joseph Ottinger, dreamreal on the IRC channel, and it’s Monday, 2017 October 23.
This podcast covers news and interesting things from the ##java IRC channel on Freenode; if you see something interesting that’s related to Java, feel free to submit it to the channel bot, with ~submit and a URL to the interesting thing, or you can also write an article for the channel blog as well; I’m pretty sure that if it’s interesting enough to write about and post on the channel blog, it’s interesting enough to include in the podcast.

  1. First up, we have a DZone entry; DZone‘s actually really good at picking out content that’s interesting. However, sometimes you have to be fairly selective about what you read, because they end up like a lot of such sites and go for volume and consistency in publishing as opposed to being selective for stuff that’s truly relevant. That’s why you have things like this podcast, of course, because I clearly know what’s interesting and relevant more than they do! Anyhoo, the actual reference is for Eclipse: “Fifteen Productivity Tips for Eclipse Java IDE Users,” and they’re pretty good; none of them are what I would consider the most obvious (which is: “Use IDEA instead”). The truth is, Eclipse is very popular; anything that helps people use their tools more efficiently is a good thing. Some of the tips are fairly obvious (“use the most recent version of Eclipse”) and others are just things that experienced users might know and use already, but that’s the benefit of articles like this: they make sure that everyone has a baseline of competence. Other tips: switch editors with ctrl-tab; group related projects in working sets rather than using multiple workspaces (this is one of Eclipse’ better features, and I’m glad it’s here); download the sources of libraries; conditional breakpoints and watchpoints; leverage code coverage. There are more (nine more, making a total of fifteen, as the article title promises), and none of them are awful.
  2. Next up: Java 8 updates have an end-of-life: September 2018. Along the way, new versions of Java 9 and Java 8 have been released (9.0.1+11 and 8u151/8u152) – which is good, I suppose, although expected with a new major release – but the big news here is that Java 8 is going to see no more public updates after September 2018. Progress marches on, but I have a feeling this is going to be like the Java 7 migration – which is still ongoing. We aren’t seeing as many people saying they’re still on Java 7 – or Java 6 – as we used to, which is anecdotally a good signal that people are moving to Java 8 after all. So who knows? Maybe with such a recent mass migration to Java 8 there will be momentum to allow people to move to Java 9 – especially if they don’t have to use the module system yet – and people will stay more current.
  3. More DZone: they’re on a roll (and sneak preview: they have two more links after this one). The entry this time is “Artificial Intelligence: Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics.” It’s a fairly high-level guide, and being on artificial intelligence, it’s not just Java – and shouldn’t be. It’s a good reference, though. It’s well-done. I would love to see Java be more relevant in AI; it’s certainly relevant, and is a major player in the space, but the truth is that the starting point for AI is in Python, not Java. The same goes for natural language processing; you can find tools in Java, to be sure (Stanford NLP, for example), just like you can find AI resources in Java (WEKA, among others) but they’re typically trailing the cutting edge. Most data scientists would see a preference for Java as a bit of an affectation. (And I say that because I do prefer Java, and the data scientists I know think I’m a loon for that. They’re probably right.)
  4. This is an old link, but it showed up on my feeds recently, so I’m pretending the publication date of May 16, 2017, is badly inaccurate: Java 8u131 – and yes, 131, 151 is the current build – is transparently aware of Docker memory and CPU limits. Why is this important? It’s because older builds were, well, not aware of Docker‘s machine limitations. The idea is that Docker runs a constrained virtual machine; your actual machine might have 16Gb of RAM, but your Docker image might have 2Gb available to it, and only two of your eight cores. But if you ran an older build of Java in that Docker image, it would use the actual physical machine limits to gauge heap allocation limits and CPU core usage – which could obviously cause problems (your 2Gb image would allocate heap as if it were on a 16Gb machine, which would be incorrect). So… I guess, what with this information being fairly stale, it’s good that they fixed this. And if you happen to be running an older Java, update, please. Note that you do actually need to tell the JVM to use group memory for the heap. This is via two command line options: -XX:+UnlockExperimentalVMOptions -XX:+UseCGroupMemoryLimitForHeap.
  5. Another DZone article! This one is “Automata-Based Programming in Spring.” It really serves as a bare introduction for Spring Statemachine, which isn’t quite what the title led me to expect – I was thinking that I was going to get to read about how to apply cellular automata for problem solving, a la Wolfram Alpha, but instead it’s just a library that makes state transitions easy to manage. It’s a Finite State Machine, not Cellular Automata. This is on me for reading it wrongly, by the way; FSMs are automata, but not cellular in nature.
  6. Daniel Dietrich wrote an article called “Opinionated Database Access in Java” – because we all know that database access has no opinion involved at all, ever. In this case, he’s writing a library that provides yet another abstraction: this one leaves modeling to the database; complex queries are moved to the database; access should be simple and obvious. In other words, it’s one of the Java libraries that provides access to the database services, as opposed to backing up Java data structures with a database. It’s not mature yet (and he provides an example of the API using Scala, too, so it never will be mature.) The only thing is: the article doesn’t provide a reference to an actual project, so it’s all vaporware at this point. Plus, as the lively comment flow indicates, it’s another entry in a space that’s very crowded with possible implementations depending on what you want, from ORMs like Hibernate to JDBC layers like MyBatis and jOOQ.
  7. Java’s version numbers are likely to change. Java has generally followed a semantic versioning approach: you have a major version, a minor version, and a build number (sort of). However, there’s a proposal put together by Mark Reinhold (He Who Controlled Java 9’s Release) to go to a date-based release cycle, so the next release won’t be Java 10, but Java 18.3, meaning “released in the third month of 2018.” There are a few problems with this proposal, and I’m hardly alone in seeing them: one is that there’s not a “major release” associated with the build. With Java 8 versus Java 7, there’s a clear delineation of major versions; Java 8 is the one with streams. Java 9, likewise, has Jigsaw. But the next major feature – let’s say “value types” as an example – might be in Java 18.6 as opposed to Java 18.3, so we lose the ability to easily determine feature groups. Plus, Java applications will have a harder time determining the actual baseline versions they require; right now they can parse out the major version and say “Oh, I’m on Java 8 instead of Java 7” but now they’ll have to factor in the actual release year. Maybe it’s me being a curmudgeon, maybe it’s me resenting how Mark handled the Java 9 release, but I think semantic versioning is still better than the year/month release versioning. With Reinhold proposing it, it’s likely to be approved by fiat; I’m sure it’ll grow on me over time, like a fungus, but I still don’t have to like it. Now get off my lawn!
  8. Last week I highlighted Excelsior JET, which allows delivery of native binaries using Java 8 (so far). This week, we see Steve Perkins writing “Using Java 9 Modularization to Ship Zero-Dependency Native Apps“, using Java 17.10… yeah, the date-based versioning isn’t something I like at all yet. Anyway, it’s just a simple “Hello world” example, but it, like others, is a good start; I like seeing articles like this, because this is how we build a repository of knowledge concerning how to use these neat new features Java 9 provides.
  9. And now for the last of our links, this one also from DZone: “OpenLiberty.io: Java EE Microservices Done Right.” OpenLiberty is another microservice framework, like Spring Boot, DropWizard, or Vert.x, this one focusing fairly heavily on canonical Java EE APIs (as opposed to leveraging those APIs where appropriate as Spring Boot or DropWizard do.) It’s billed as a “deep dive into OpenLiberty,” but it’s really not; it’s really a cursory example with a single JAX-RS endpoint (although it does show live redeployment, which is neat.) The actual OpenLiberty sample application isn’t much to speak of; the redeployment is important, but the main thing the article shows is configuration of the OpenLiberty build, which is probably the most important thing it should want to show. It’s interesting; it’d be interesting to try out.

Interesting links podcast, episode 4

Welcome to the fourth ##java podcast. I’m Joseph Ottinger, dreamreal on the IRC channel, and it’s Monday, 2017 October 16.
This podcast covers news and interesting things from the ##java IRC channel; if you see something interesting that’s related to Java, feel free to submit it to the channel bot, with ~submit and a URL to the interesting thing, or you can also write an article for the channel blog as well; I’m pretty sure that if it’s interesting enough to write about and post on the channel blog, it’s interesting enough to include in the podcast.

  1. Worth noting, not because it’s Java-related but because we’re all on the same Internet: there’s a security vulnerability with WPA2, the wireless encryption used by, well, pretty much everyone. Check your routers for security patches; if they’re not available, they should be soon, and if they’re not available soon, consider getting a good router.
  2. Effective Java is one of the recommended books from the channel regulars; it covers a lot of things that affect efficiently written Java. However, Josh Bloch is working on an update for the third edition of Effective Java. It’s available for pre-order. Highly recommended; Josh Bloch is one of the people who really knows Java, to the point where he says he can write code in Java such that he can influence how the JIT works, to make it more efficient than code mere mortals like you or I would write. So when he has a book on writing effective Java, it’s probably pretty authoritative.
  3. Facebook apparently uses their own build system, called “Buck.” It’s supposedly really fast; it apparently supports a lot of languages, which is a good thing; it does not, however, use the same build structure for source that Maven and Gradle use. That’s sort of okay; the Maven convention (which is what Gradle uses) is idiomatic in Java only because Maven itself became idiomatic, but it’s still something to consider if you’re moving to something different. My thought is that Buck might be cool but in a java-centric project, it’s probably not of sufficient interest to really move the needle. I looked; I considered; I moved on, seeing nothing really compelling in the description or tutorial that made me think “Wow!” like I did with, well, both Maven and Gradle, both of which I use regularly.
  4. Excelsior JET – who makes an ahead-of-time compiler for the JVM, so you can deploy your Java applications as native binaries – has an interesting post called “The Folder of God.” No, it’s not a religious post, although religious fervor might be involved if you hate Windows enough. Basically, there’s a way to create a folder in Windows such that Java programs running from that folder will crash, every time. (I don’t know why you’d actually do that in practice.) It’s an actual Java bug, not an Excelsior bug – but Excelsior experiences the bug nonetheless. It’s apparently been addressed in the Java sources, but your JVM might not be updated with the fix. It’s fascinating reading, even if only to make you glad you’re not using Windows.
  5. A report by realm.io suggests that “Java (on Android) is dying. There aren’t simply more Kotlin builders: they’re also switching their apps to Kotlin. In fact, 20% of apps built with Java before Google I/O are now being built in Kotlin. Kotlin may even change how Java is used on the server, too.” As a Kotlin user myself, I can say that the transition to Kotlin in dreamreal-land is progressing rather nicely… but what’s more relevant is that Kotlin on Android is increasing momentum, and that may very well drive server-side development as well, as there’s a strong tendency to be homogenous even if interoperability between languages like Kotlin and Java is quite strong. The channel recently had a discussion about Java’s checked exceptions, a feature Kotlin doesn’t share (because nobody really likes checked exceptions and the JVM itself doesn’t have them – they’re a javac thing, not a JVM thing); checked exceptions are actually a good thing in that they force you to think about your exception handling, but there’s no guarantee you’re going to actually handle your exceptions well, so they end up being an unnecessary burden in many peoples’ minds. Worth thinking about, in any event…
  6. Something that comes up fairly often in the channel is the use of the Oracle JDK vs. OpenJDK, and what the differences are between them. I always said it was in a set of closed-source libraries used in Oracle JDK, such that some features might be present in Oracle’s JVM that OpenJDK did not have. Well, while that was true at one point, it’s like all Internet knowledge: it erodes. The Adopt OpenJDK project has a page on Differences between Adopt OpenJDK binaries and Oracle JDK Binaries that actually walks through the differences, which is a really short list: font rasterizers, color management, and graphics renderers. That doesn’t compare the differences with other implementations of the JVM – Zulu and whatnot – but what it does say is that OpenJDK and Oracle’s JDK are really closely aligned right now, just as designed.
  7. The Jooq blog has an article called Benchmarking JDK String.replace() vs Apache Commons StringUtils.replace(). It walks through an optimization process and measures the effectiveness, offering a ton of apologies for what might appear to be premature optimization along the way; the upshot is that Java 9’s String.replace() works better than it used to, which might affect which implementation to use. (It turns out that Java 9’s version is slower for matches in long strings but faster for matches in short strings, which – in practice – are probably more common.) They ended up staying with Apache’s implementation for now if only because most people are still on Java 8 and thus the performance improvements are worthwhile. It’s a fascinating read.
  8. Wrapping up, we have an article from Baeldung called “Introduction to Caffeine“. Caffeine is a caching library; the article walks through its use, as one might expect. All that’s fine. What the article does not do, though, is differentiate why one might use Caffeine as opposed to one of the other caching libraries out there, like EHCache, or Guava Cache – which inspired Caffeine, actually. Channel inhabitant dudeji – which I don’t know how to pronounce – points out that Caffeine has time-to-live (as most of them do) but also automatic elimination based on unused keys; I can see some use in that, although I’d be concerned that the cache was deciding that a key was unused more aggressively than I’d have liked. I’m sure it’s tunable, though.

Interesting Links podcast, episode 3

Welcome to the third ##java podcast. I’m your host, dreamreal on the IRC channel, and it’s Monday, 2017 October 9.
As usual, this podcast is built from interesting content submitted to the channel bot, using the ~submit command. If you’re on the channel, it’s very easy to use: ~submit and a URL is all you need, although it’s very helpful if you include a comment about what makes the content interesting. That saves your host – me – a lot of work trying to figure out why something was submitted.

  1. First up, we have “Reverse Engineering an Eclipse Plugin,” a long (but good) post from someone trying to figure out a security issue in the a popular Eclipse plugin – I don’t use it, but he says that apparently the Eclipse Class Decompiler Plugin as deployed on the Eclipse Marketplace has a “phone home” feature that isn’t shown in the github repository for the plugin. The author did some basic security auditing and found that the plugin apparently does something after a number of classes have been decompiled, and that the open source version of the plugin does not show this functionality. Good call by the author; he doesn’t actually reverse engineer the plugin, but actually dives into the security aspects of it, but it’s an excellent walkthrough nonetheless.
  2. Common Excuses Why Developers Don’t Test Their Software, as the title might suggest, walks through some of the reasons software tests don’t get written and run. For the most part, it’s laziness and self-deception; headings include “My code runs perfectly, why do I need to test,” “I don’t know what to test,” Barbie’s favorite excuse of “testing is hard!,” “testing increases development time.” Well worth checking out – and sending to your co-workers.
  3. Zircon is an extensible text UI library that targets multiple platforms and was designed specifically for game developers. It actually looks neat – you could imagine Dwarf Fortress or Nethack‘s user interface with something like this. I still content that while Nethack lacks the twitchy adrenaline rush of first person shooters and other such games with high frame rates, it’s still one of the best – if not THE best – computer game ever written. And yes, I know, I sound old. Now get off my lawn.
  4. Sticking to the user interface theme, Say no to Electron! Using JavaFX to write a fast, responsive desktop application, addressing the growing use of Electron. Electron is a web browser that hosts only your web application, leveraging a common approach these days that uses Java for a backend and renders the front end with HTML and Javascript. Electron isolates your app into its own browser window. While this gets you a lot of capabilities (people are used to how the web renders things, and it’s easier) it mostly reflects a failure on the part of Java to render cleanly and consistently on every platform – you can usually smell a pure Java application by the user interface features and feel it has. So people use other technologies for the user interface, which makes the apps feel more “native,” I guess, even though that’s an abuse of that term. This article actually walks through some of the alternatives to the HTML user interface in Java, and settles on JavaFX for an example. It doesn’t go very deep, but it hits the beginning aspects pretty well.
  5. The Atlantic – a hotbed of coder information, I’m sure we’ll all agree – has “The Coming Software Apocalypse,” an article going into how programmers construct code. There are people out there for whom 4GL is not dead; they want to snap things together to program. It’s not a bad idea, really, and done well it even works – like everything done well. But the problem is that it’s not easy to do well; maybe they have a solution that’ll work this time. The JavaBeans specification was actually meant to enable this sort of thing, even, but nobody uses it that way because it’s hard to do properly, and let’s face it, we as programmers tend to be conservative in our methods; we like writing code, we don’t care for connecting boxes to each other very much.
  6. Announced at JavaOne – or, well, exposed better at JavaOne, more like, was FN, aan equivalent to Amazon’s Lambda functionality. As a really poor summary of both Lambda and FN, what you would do is write a simple function that accepted input – presumably – and wrote output, and you’d connect these functions to build more complex functionality – almost like programming, you might say. It tends to have determinate latency (it’s not fast) and indeterminate scalability (it will scale out) – and with Java 9 potentially being far lighter on resources than prior JVMs thanks to things like JLink, this could be really nice to have on hand.
  7. Lastly, we have Oracle. The United States Government asked for commentary on how to modernize government IT, and Oracle responded – with a long PDF. It’s an interesting paper, for various reasons, but what’s really interesting is how… outdated and self-serving it sounds. It comes off as telling the government “you need people like us and not those silly hippies from Silicon Valley!” even though Oracle is based in Silicon Valley. Basically their paper is a repudiation of modern software practices, even though the older methods of coding are the whole reason the government is asking for how to modernize in the first place. (Techdirt‘s article on the Oracle comment points out a number of failures given us by what Oracle is propositioning.) Actually, the TechDirt article does a good job of decomposing Oracle’s commentary altogether – it’s a worthwhile read, too. Oracle comes across as whining about new-fangled, agile methodologies, saying “That’s now how we made our money back in the day! We earned it like real men, by crushing our competition because we could absorb losses they couldn’t and making sure they were iced out of big contracts. Let’s go back to that, shall we?”

Interesting Links podcast, episode 2

Welcome to the second ##java podcast.
We have lots of interesting things to cover, so let’s dive in.

  1. Java EE development has moved to the Eclipse Foundation, under the project name “Eclipse Enterprise for Java“, or “EE4J.” Java EE is still the branding for enterprise Java. This move makes Java EE more open; we’ll have to see how well it works under the Eclipse Foundation. We’ll survive either way; it’s a good move for everyone.
  2. RebelLabs’ Developer Productivity Report 2017 is here, almost 72% of the developers said their main programming language is Java 8 – and about time, considering Java 7’s been dead for two years; IntelliJ IDEA is the most popular Java IDE at 54% with the respondents, and one of the survey questions says that 91% of the people who like it said it’s because of superior functionality, as compared to 13% of Eclipse users and 73% of NetBeans users. Some other things that stood out: small teams are the norm, with teams of three to nine people making up half the teams, with medium-sized teams (10-19) coming in at 22%. Hmm, maybe a team of nine people isn’t actually all that small. It’s a great report; you should check it out.
  3. Given Java 9’s release and new features, it’s expected that a lot of migration articles are coming up. Sure enough, DZone’s in play with one that shows migrating a Spring app to Java 9. It has some module-based concerns and walks through fixing them; it’s not exhaustive, but it’s likely to be representative of early adoption efforts.
  4. Nicholas Frankel discusses some clean coding standards around lambdas. It’s easy to decide that a tool is available and thus must be used everywhere, he says – actually, he says that developers act like children and we have to play with our new toys, which is probably a pretty appropriate description. He shows a fairly ugly way to use lambdas primitively, then shows how it can be made a lot more developer-friendly. It’s not exhaustive, but still worth looking at.
  5. According to InfoWorld, Java 9 is not going to receive long-term support. That doesn’t mean it’s not supported, but that the long-term support plans are different than what we’ve seen in the past. Long-term support releases are going to be made every three years, so that’s the baseline for support plans; we’ll have to see if (and how) this affects Java in the long run.
  6. Up next: another DZone link, this time on Java’s Optional. The author, Eugen Paraschiv (from Baeldung) offers Optional as a tool for functional programming, and I suppose he’s right, in a way. The article does a good job of walking through most, if not all, of what Optional can do for your code, including with Java 9, and he does say that Optional is meant as a return type and not a property type, which is … better than he could have done. The article’s worth reading, and is done at much more depth than many similar articles.
  7. We also saw mention of OpenTable’s embedded PostgreSQL container. This allows us to treat PostgreSQL as if it were an embedded database (well, sort of); considering that PostgreSQL is a lot stronger for production use than, say, H2 or Derby, this is a nice way to do database-oriented integration tests on a “real database.” That’s not to say that H2 or Derby aren’t real databases, but they’re anecdotally used in the Java ecosystem more as embedded databases to help with integration testing than as production databases. Of course, now that I’ve made that assertion, I expect RebelLabs to ask something about this on their next survey and completely demolish my statement. Thanks ahead of time, guys.
  8. A bit more on Java 9. RankRed has “What’s new in Java 9,” covering a bird’s-eye view of the changes: the module system, new versioning, the Java Shell, a better mechanism for compiling for older versions of Java, JLink, compact strings, high definition graphics, new factory methods for collections – catching up to Kotlin and Scala, better networking and serialization security, Nashorn changes, a new random generator, segmented code caches, dynamic linking of object models, and an enhanced garbage collector. Whew, that’s a lot – and I left some out. It gets better, though: The Java 9 readme points out that the default JCE policy files now allow for unlimited cryptographic strengths, a feature that the RankRed list left off.
  9. Spring 5.0 has gone to general availability – it’s been released, in other words. Support for Java 9, Java EE 8, functional variants, Kotlin, a new reactive web framework… all kinds of goodies for Spring fans.
  10. Kotlin 1.2 Beta is out. Kotlin is another JVM language; this one’s from IntelliJ, the people who bring you the IDEA editor family. There are a lot of little improvements here, including some things that can drive you crazy during normal development – there’s also multiplatform support, which is important even if you’re like me and only really deploy on the JVM.
  11. We mentioned ZeroTurnaround early in the podcast – the RebelLabs report – but it’s worth noting that in addition to the developer survey, they also released JRebel 7.1, with Java 9 support, Spring 5 support, and a bunch of other things too.

Okay, that’s this week’s podcast – thanks for listening.

JarSplice: building fat jars with native resources bundled

JarSplice is an application that builds a fat jar, with the main difference being that JarSplice will build invocation scripts and include native resources.
The main weaknesses of JarSplice seems to be its lack of build tool integration, its (apparently) unmaintained status, and its lack of source code availability (even though it’s described as being under the BSD license).
A “fat jar” (or a “shaded jar”) is a jar file that has been bundled with a project’s full set of required resources.
To explain, imagine that we have a Java project called “foo“, that depends on an external project, called “bar.”
For foo to run properly, then, our runtime classpath must contain foo.jar:bar.jar (in some order, although the order can be significant); both files must be present for the classloader to read in order for the project to run.
A “fat jar,” however, includes all of the resources from the classpath in a single jar. The build would extract every class from both foo.jar and bar.jar and built a new jar – named, for example, foo-all.jar – and therefore only this file would be required in order to run the project, since it has every resource that the prior classpath held.
However, this only works for Java resources; it doesn’t include native resources, like LWJGL‘s or SQLite‘s binary components. If foo uses SQLite, then the computer that foo is running on has to have SQLite deployed as a system library in order for foo to run.
This is what JarSplice addresses; it does bundle SQLite or LWJGL resources into the fat jar.
Again, the main weakness of JarSplice is that it’s not integrated into a build tool, so invoking it is an external mechanism for deployment. Development seems to have stopped (the home page says the code is BSD-licensed but no reference to the code exists.) Luis Quesada Torres built a command-line tool, JarSplicePlus; there are forks of that project that seem like there’s some promise for the future.
Feel free to participate and comment.

Interesting Links – 2017/Jun/12