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: “ 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 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.

Interesting Links, 15 Sep 2016

  • It may be a little early to suggest that Eclipse is dead, but “The Fall of Eclipse” says it anyway, and says why. The Eclipse community would disagree, of course.
  • User liste pointed out MariaDB4j, which is… MariaDB embedded into a jar, suitable for integration testing with MariaDB in a build tool. Sure, H2 and Derby exist, but this allows you to test against MySQL and MariaDB, because if you have to use MySQL in whatever terrible world you happen to live in, you definitely want to test against it instead of a good database, to help you work out what awful bugs you need to avoid.
  • User yawkat also pointed out something that your humble author was unaware of: the hash code of Java Strings isn’t calculated until hashCode() is called. That makes perfect sense, actually. The javadoc for String’s hashCode() points out how the hashcode is calculated, but not when.
  • User cheeser pointed out O’Reilly’s (legal and free) Data Ebook Archive: “An archive of all O’Reilly data ebooks is available below for free download. Dive deep into the latest in data science and big data, compiled by O’Reilly editors, authors, and Strata speakers.”
  • The channel has mentioned tries (pronounced “trees”) as a form of data structure a few times lately; in case you don’t know what a trie is, or how it differs from a tree, see The Trie: A Neglected Data Structure.
  • Using NPM (Node.js‘ package manager) as part of a Java build came up one morning. Without any further context, here are a few references show up to integrating NPM into a maven build, none of which has been tried and tested by the person writing this up for you:

Eclipse Neon will require Java 8

Excellent news from the Eclipse Foundation: the next version of Eclipse, called “Neon,” will require the Java 8 runtime. The announcement in email is underwhelming, but the actual project plan is a little more explicit and informative:

In general, the 4.6 release of the Eclipse Project is developed on Java SE 8 VMs. As such, the Eclipse SDK as a whole is targeted at all modern, desktop Java VMs. Most functionality is available for Java SE 8 level development everywhere, and extended development capabilities are made available on the VMs that support them.

Frank Vogella, in Eclipse Neon (Eclipse 4.6) will require a Java 8 runtime, says this:

Several Eclipse projects like m2e and Jetty have already moved to Java 8. This moves allows us in the Eclipse platform to use the improved Java 8 API to modernize and optimize our code base and will hopefully make the Eclipse project even more interesting for potential Eclipse contributors.
After all, who wants to work in his unpaid time with an outdated Java version?