pankaj_kumar writes "'Tools are an aid to productivity, but you only get the benefits of the tool by using it for the right task; hammers bang in nails and screwdrivers are for screws.' This quote from chapter 9 ("Scripting") from Alan Monnox's Rapid J2EE Development applies not only to the choice of the programming language but to the whole array of software development activities thoroughly and eloquently covered in the book." Read on for the rest of Kumar's review.
"Using a Hole-Hawg for the job of a homeowners drill can have deleterious effect on productivity by causing serious harm to the health of the inexperienced operator." Just identifying a tool for a task is not enough. You should also be able to match the demands of the task to the characteristics of the tool and your ability to handle the tool. The good news is that this book passes even this stringent test, suggesting very practical and hands-on approach for choosing the tool with right characteristics for the specific demands of the task.
The ever-growing body of literature on development best practices, the burgeoning ranks of supporting tools and the accompanying debates on their relative merits can easily overwhelm most practitioners. Worst, a large chunk of the developer community may never spend the time and effort and miss the opportunity to take advantage of them altogether. Rapid J2EE Development offers an easy path to such Java developers by bringing together a number development techniques, best practices and description of supporting open source tools in a single book.
Whether you are a confused Java developer, overwhelmed project leader or plain lost manager, this book has something for you. Wondering about how to design complicated class hierarchies to encapsulate the ever-changing business rules? Worry not, follow the advice of Chapter 10, "Working to Rule" and use Jess, an open-source Expert System Shell. Don't have the time or motivation to download and play with it? No problem. The coverage includes not only an overview and discussion on when and where to use it but also presents a sample session and illustrative code snippets.
If you're confused with all the hype around AOP (Aspect Oriented Programming) and uncertain about where to start, start with the chapter "Aspect Oriented Programming," which introduces the notion of crosscutting concerns in any large software project, presents the AOP terminology to nail down these concerns and associated actions, and covers AspectJ and AspectWerkz to apply AOP to your projects. The brief description of these tools may not answer each and every question, but the example- and code-driven approach will certainly make you feel a lot more comfortable and motivate to explore further.
Not able to decide whether to use XP (Extreme Programming) or RUP (Rational Unified Process) for your next project involving four different development teams in three different continents interacting with as many customer groups? The Chapter "Embracing Adaptive Methods" outlines an approach to making such methodology decisions, though it is not very obvious from the chapter title. (Of course, you will have to read the sections that talk about when XP works best and when the rigors of RUP start paying off to make your decision.) And although there is not much discussion around mixing elements of development methodologies or adapting them in the middle of an ongoing project, the author's account of a real case study does exactly this.
These are just a few examples. Other topics covered include use of UML for modeling, code generators, Model-Driven Architectures, Java-based scripting languages, Object Relational mapping, build and test automation, and use of the right IDE plug-ins for J2EE projects. Among the development tools, all the usual suspects are there: Apache Ant, Eclipse, Jython, JUnit, HttpUnit, JMeter. In fact, I also found description of tools that were somewhat new to me: MyEclipse, AndroMDA, Middlegen and few others.
I found the book to be highly readable, insightful and loaded with the right kind of details. For example, the information on debugging with Eclipse explains how to configure a J2EE program for remote debugging, and how to debug a Web application using JSPs, something that is quite hard to do without the right tools and the right methods. Even the UML primer, with its well-chosen examples, is a good refresher.
It is easy to get superficial when covering a lot of ground: a common pitfall for authors of books on new technologies is that they themselves get caught up in the hype and lose perspective, but Alan somehow manages to keep the extraneous stuff out and deliver what a hands-on professional looks for. He tempers his zeal with practical realities and conveys the same to the reader with anecdotes and discussions with colorful stories such as the Cargo Cult Software trap and Christmas Puppy Syndrome.
The book manages to introduce a number of the very best open source Java tools available to boost productivity in a very natural manner and with the appropriate context, and it succeeds in giving a "feel" for the tool by presenting hands-on sessions. Most other such efforts that I am aware of usually end up being a drab list of tools with descriptions taken from home pages.
Given the number of topics and tools covered, it would be unrealistic to expect in-depth coverage of everything. What this book does is to create the right context, introduce the appropriate topics, and generate sufficient motivation to explore further. Fair enough. In fact, I believe this is the best approach for any book in this "Google era" -- the book should tell what you should look for and let Google do the rest.
So, is there anything not to be liked about the book? Well, I was a little disappointed to not find my favorite BeanShell among various Java scripting alternatives. Another thing I noticed is that the coverage of system manageability issues, especially in a book with J2EE in its title, was quite conspicuous by its absence. Also, some of the points, especially those around use of best practices and development techniques, could be made more emphatically with help of focused and concrete anecdotes.
Of course, no book can cover everything, especially on topics that are open-ended by nature. Overall, I think it does justice to the subject matter and is worth reading by anyone even remotely connected to the business of creating, maintaining or operating Java/J2EE software.
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