It Just Works
We tend to see the United States through a
lens made up of its major population
centers: New York; Los Angeles;
Washington, DC; Miami; Atlanta;
Chicago; and a few others. That's
because these are the places that have
things "going on," and as a result we get a
skewed picture not only of what the
United States is about, but of what the
United States actually is. From this bird'seye
view, you get the sense that America
is all about urban angst, hip-hop, people
crammed into shiny metal boxes.
The truth, however, is quite different.
Those things are part of America, to be
sure, but the wider reality is that
America is also open, made up of small,
peaceful towns; students going home
after school to work on the farm; kids
playing pick-up baseball games in open
sandlots; shopkeepers talking to their
customers by name. America's a true
melting pot of color and culture - and
because of the lens through which we
see her, it's hard to pick out the good
among all the bad.
I believe that Java can be looked at the
same way, with different groupings based
on operating systems, language, aptitude,
and application, among other things. By
the same measure, we look at our substrata
(Java) through a lens the same way
a nation is looked at. We see the "highwater
marks," the outliers who stand out
from the crowd, and as a result it's very
easy for us to get a bit misled about where
the stream really stands, you might say.
I suspect that Java's doing much better
than people fear. There have been lots of
events lately (the "Java Desktop," Bill Joy's
resignation, and Merrill Lynch's rather
pessimistic recommendation to Sun that
it spin off Java, among others) that focus
on the negative, that aim attention at
where Java hasn't succeeded, or, possibly,
where it has yet to be successfully leveraged.
This is focusing on the choppy surface,
ignoring the calm beneath.
I think there's a great chance that
past all the hype - positive and negative
- Java's doing very well; it's very
robust, it's very capable, and the negativity
needs to be seen for what it really
is - noise and fury aimed at the infrastructure
in which Java exists. Are there
power plays and egos at stake?
Certainly…but do they really affect the
ordinary Java developer? I'd say no.
What you're seeing from the industry
analysts, academics, and the press is
equivalent to Sim City from the city
planner's perspective, and I think the
Sims themselves are bopping around
happily in sometimes unexpected (and
unexpectedly successful) ways.
* * *
Lately, I've been working on a set of
applications using some very nice hardware
and software, things that haven't
been getting a lot of press coverage: a
Sparc laptop (Tadpole Computer's
SparcLE), Solaris 9, the poor old J2SDK
1.4.2, Orion, and a variety of editors
including Eclipse, IDEA, and JBuilder 9.
Honestly, I've surprised myself: it's been
an eye-opening experience, reminding
me of how nice all this is. These things
aren't sexy anymore, as far as I can see.
They just work, and work well. I'm not
fiddling about with cutting-edge stuff,
hoping that it'll come together in time to
create a successful application; I'm
using the standards to do what I need
them to do, as building blocks for an
application that does what I need.
Perhaps these things don't have the bullet-
list success that others do, and I'm
fine with that - I'd rather just get things
done. This stuff isn't rocket science
unless we make it that way, and we don't
have to. One of Java's strengths is in
abstraction, so that we don't have to be
the academic upper crust, working with
obscure technical epistemology to obviate
technical detritus to accomplish
minutiae; we just put things together so
they work. Sure, we may not always tune
things specifically for a given platform
or solution space - but we can do what
we need faster, with fewer bugs, and
with more portability than anyone else.
This stuff rocks.
Joseph Ottinger is a consultant with Fusion Alliance (www.fusionalliance.com) and is
a frequent contributor to open source projects in a number of capacities. Joe is also the acting chairman of the JDJEditorial Advisory Board.