r3lody ((Raymond Lodato) writes "Java was developed to be a cross-platform language. In other words, it shouldn't matter what processor or operating system you used, just the language itself. Write Once, Run Anywhere is the slogan, and an admirable ideal to attempt to reach. So when I first saw the title of the book Java Application Development on Linux, I expected to find descriptions of some idiosyncrasies in the Linux environment that affected the Run Anywhere part of the equation. What I got was a lot more." Read on for the rest of Lodato's review.
The authors, Carl Albing and Michael Schwarz, chose to create a book that is a complete guide to writing commercial-quality Java programs. With the burgeoning presence of Linux, they focused on how to use the tools of the Linux platform to assist in the creation and maintenance of Java programs. They have broken the book up into five major parts: Getting Started, Developing Business Logic, Developing Graphical User Interfaces, Developing Web Interfaces, and Developing Enterprise Scale Software. Each chapter is self-contained, and the knowledgeable reader can pick and choose what they would like to read without losing track. Carl and Michael have properly started each chapter with a summary of what you'll learn, and conclude with a What You Still Don't Know section. A Resources section is included to give you more references for further study.
Part 1, Getting Started, provides a 10-chapter overview of Linux, Java, the SDK's (Software Development Kits) from Sun and IBM, version control via CVS, and IDEs. The first two chapters cover enough command-line Linux to manage your files and directories, plus the Vi editor to create and edit your programs. Chapter 3 gives you a summarized but complete overview of the Java language (minus the standard classes), and Chapter 4 covers how the program can deal with the context in which it's running. The next two chapters cover Sun's SDK and (mainly for comparison) IBM's development kit. In some instances, the Java program may be so large and/or so complex that running the byte codes in the Virtual Machine may not be quick enough, so Chapter 7 describes how to use the GNU Compiler for Java (gcj) to create native-code programs.
Larger programs definitely need some form of source control (actually, any project larger than a classroom exercise needs it), so source control using CVS is clearly laid out for you. While other products are available, CVS (Concurrent Versioning System) is widely available, robust, mature, and reliable, so the authors chose to describe its use in detail. For building and deploying the numerous files of a larger project, Ant provides value beyond what the make facility can offer, especially with the RMI (Remote Method Invocation) dependency problems that make can't address. Finally, Integrated Development Environments are covered. While Carl and Michael focus on NetBeans, SunONE Studio Community Edition and Eclipse are also covered.
If the book stopped after Part I, you would still have a valuable addition to your bookshelf. However, it continues with a five-chapter discussion on how to properly develop business logic. One chapter is totally devoted to the business aspects of getting requirements, documentation, and buy-in. The next covers how to use a simple software development methodology to analyze the program and discover the objects to be created. The following chapter goes over a frequently overlooked aspect of programming - automated testing - with JUnit. The last two chapters of Part II cover storing data in databases using Oracle, PostgreSQL, and MySQL, and using the Java Database Connector (JDBC) to access them.
While Linux users (at least the older ones like me) are more used to command lines, most users want some form of a graphical user interface (GUI) to access the program and their data. Chapters 16 and 17 describe how to create a GUI using Swing and the Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT).
By far the most popular way to access programs is via a browser. Java Servlets are (maybe not so) little programs that run on the targeted web server, relieving the user of having to install an application on their local computer. This allows the user to always have access no matter which machine they're on (how many times have you complained that the program you want is on the PC where you're not?), and to always be accessing the latest version of the software (assuming the web administrator keeps it updated on the server). Chapters 18 and 19 cover Servlets and JSP (JavaServer Pages), then Chapter 20 describes Java-based web application servers (JBoss and Geronimo) for serving the servlets.
Finally, Part V covers Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs) in what the authors describe as an almost criminally brief introduction. While it is definitely an overview, they still cover more than enough about EJBs to get you rolling, and provide many references to where you can fill in the blanks. They wrap up the book with a plea for help. The book is an Open Content book, and therefore they are requesting comments, suggestions, and patch files to help improve the text and examples.
I have to admit that Java Application Development on Linux is an extremely readable, very informative, and deep without being lengthy book. (The only complaint I have is that they tried to cover a little too much in a single book. EJBs, for instance, definitely warranted more coverage than they provided.) Carl and Michael use a very conversational tone, just as though they were sitting with you and giving you their personal attention. I found it enjoyable, interesting, and highly informative.
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