I don't know about you, but these months are shooting by at a tremendous rate of knots. Here we are again, into the latter half of the year...and I was just getting used to being back after Christmas. It's all very exciting, racing up to the day that dare not speak its name: yes, the big millennium turnover. Boy, am I looking forward to that day!
But on to more important matters of state: churning out this month's column. This is the month after the biggest month in our developers' calendar: JavaOne. If I am a good boy and manage to finish the show report for this issue, you'll find it lurking somewhere in these pages not so far away from this column. That said, I shall not bore you twice and make you read the same drivel over again.
As my regular readers will recall, we're always on the lookout for developers who can do a day's work without our having to tell them constantly what Java really is. Well, this month we have a new recruit starting with us, and so far so good. He's performing a sterling job. The frightening thing is that he has a personality, which doesn't fit your typical hard-core programmer. I guess we'll have to beat that out of him!
Anyway, why am I telling you this? Before sending our new soldier to the frontline to battle with client code, we put him on some internal projects that needed attention. Nothing too taxing. Basically he had to create a couple of additional classes based on some established core classes. He performed admirably and well within the time allocated. I asked him how the testing went. He said wonderfully well, that all the methods worked. Fantastic.
Hold on...what do you mean all the methods worked? On closer inspection it transpired that our new man had merely called the top-level methods and never checked for anything going awry internally. Bless him. Such blind faith. Now this wasn't his fault directly. He had never really tested code before, and since his test case worked it didn't occur to him to test a scenario that might be a little out with the necessary parameters.
But who can really blame him? It reminded me so much of me when I started on my long journey to Java fulfillment. I was scared to test my code in case my beautiful creation didn't live up to my expectations. I just assumed - hoped is more like it - that it would stand its ground in all environments. Or was it more laziness? Hmmm...the more I think about it, the more I better leave this thread alone before my client base loses complete faith in me!
That Left-Out Feeling
I know. I promised I wouldn't mention JavaOne, but please excuse me. I have to get this out of my system.
Being located in one of the far-flung corners of the globe, Scotland, you sometimes feel left out. You know, the one that gets picked last for the school football team, or the one that never gets invited to the party. You know there's a whole world going on out there, but you're just never sure that you'll fit in. Well, running the n-ary empire from here, we sometimes feel the party is getting down somewhere else and the world has forgotten all about Java and has moved on without telling us. So when an opportunity like JavaOne raises its head, I make the annual pilgrimage to San Francisco.
It's not for personal gratification, you understand. It's for the good of the company (I just want to get that point across in case any of my directors are reading this and trying to figure out why I have absconded to California for a jolly).
There's really only one reason to attend JavaOne. Ironically, it's not to hear people talk, or to walk around booths packed full of vendors peddling their wares. No. It's to meet people or - as we say in the corporate jungle - "to network."
There's a rich tapestry of individuals that make up this wonderful Java universe we've chosen to partake of, and I had the privilege of meeting some of them. I'll introduce some of the more colorful ones to you here.
For those of you that attended and wondered which one I was, that's an easy one to answer. Think hard. Do you remember up in the Media Mall there were lots of big, stupid-looking costumes walking around, depicting scenes of Java (Java in the loosest sense of the word, let me assure you)? Well, I wasn't one of them. However, I was the one with the Scottish kilt loitering around the SYS-CON Radio panel. You may have been too scared to come up and introduce yourself - and who'd blame you? But for those that were brave enough, I thank you. It was indeed a pleasure to be able to put a face to a lot of you.
One of the first people I had the good fortune to meet and get to know rather well over the course of the week was one Rick Ross. Rick is a man I've shared column space with, being another JDJ columnist himself, but I had never met the man in the flesh. What a character Rick is! After meeting the man, I made a bet with myself that should he ever run for office, not much would stop him. He's a born talker, which is one of the reasons the Java Lobby is so popular. For those of you not aware of the Java Lobby, get yourselves to the Web site, www.javalobby.org/, and join the crusade. I see Rick as the thinking man's Jimmy Hoffa, rallying around us mere mortals, making sure Java is heading on a clear and set course. If you ever get the chance to meet him, pin the bugger down and ask him anything that concerns you about Java. I'll bet my grandmother's left leg that Rick has a thought on it. Go on, try it. And if he seems annoyed, you never read this. We never had this conversation!
But having a blether with Rick was a joy. He has many of the same thoughts that we outpost developers hold. Which assured me that maybe the party wasn't going on without us.
Back to My Pilgrimage
One of the things about developing so remotely is that, unlike our Silicon Valley counterparts, the chance of us literally bumping into the competition is highly unlikely. (Unless, of course, Dolly, our amazing cloned sheep, has had a Java chip implanted in there by those clever scientists at Edinburgh.) That aside, while standing at the SYS-CON booth waiting for something that at this point escapes me, a man sidled up and started to talk to me. I think he was complimenting me on my column, but I could be mistaken. Anyway, the conversation drew to a close and for some reason I asked for his business card. When I read it I was bowled over. It was probably the initial shock at seeing his contact information that has made the first point of contact so blurry. (You know who you are, so if I have this slightly wrong, then please forgive me.)
The card I held before me represented our biggest competitor. First time this ever happened to me. Of course, once I introduced myself and the particular project we competed with them on, he knew who we were. We then went for a sit-down while he fetched his CEO. It was all quite amicable. We danced around one another like male peacocks trying to prise information out of one another. So that's what the enemy looks like....I jest.
I have to give a big thanks to Mary Hancock and Clint Dalton for allowing me to hang with them over a number of evenings. Being European, I felt like a fish out of water at times in the throes of California, so these budding reporters from ServletCentral.com kept me on the straight and narrow. I'd like to give them full credit for trying. Mary had her camera with her all week and was clicking lots of showpieces. Every so often Mary and Clint attempted to get conclusive pictures of what really lies under a Scotsman's kilt. Well, I can proudly say the legend of what is underneath there remains a mystery.
So meeting people at JavaOne was the most important thing. Be proud of the industry you're in, and make sure you get yourself out there. There are some excellent characters about, and I could fill a whole magazine just chattering about them, but I won't. This would spoil the fun for you. But before I leave this, if you're ever around a Java Lobby meeting or up near Seattle, be sure to look up what have to be the coolest brothers in the world of Java: the Ramadan lads from 4thpass. Mazin and Zeyad are the Java equivalent of Bill and Ted, and I highly recommend you speak to these guys if you ever get the chance.
At JavaOne many of my readers and subsequent mailing-list attendees came up and said hello. They assured me they'd be inspiring the list with many new and varied topics of conversation. With that in mind, here's my monthly plug for the list. To join, send e-mail to [email protected] with subscribe straight_talking-l in the body of the message. From there you'll get instructions on how to participate.
Salute of the Month
There are many salutes I could award this month and some of them I mentioned earlier in this column. But one person I have to thank is Jim Driscoll, from the ranks of management at Sun. Now let me explain this. I met Jim in person over a year ago, and had been in constant e-mail contact with him for around eight months earlier than that. Jim is one of the original Java Servlet architects, and it is through this that we had gotten to know one another. For me, Jim was the embodiment of what we perceive a Silicon Valley geek to look like: long hair, unshaven, knee-deep in code and always going somewhere to check his e-mail. Well, I nearly didn't recognize him when he came up to me at JavaOne. He's gone all corporate. The hair is cut, the face is shaved and he's no longer coding. He's management now, climbing that corporate ladder. Jim's professional coding days are gone and he's now resigned to watching as others wrestle with the joys of threads and other goodies Java has hidden up her sleeve. So Jim, we salute you for a job well done. May the rung above you always be free!
Last month I promised you a review of Larry Ellison's book once I finished it. Well, I finished it, and what a read it turned out to be! I can't even begin to tell you the sort of antics our man at Oracle has been up to.
Regular readers will know the problems I (and many of you) experienced with Oracle's JDBC drivers. Now I know why. If you read this book be prepared for an amazing tale. I was keen to learn if the contents of the book were true so I went off to the Oracle booth at JavaOne to get some insider information. I have to say I am rather impressed by the way none of the Oracle people I spoke to had any idea the book even existed, let alone the contents. They acted dumb very well. Or maybe they weren't acting, because the same people had never heard of the magazine you're holding in your hands now - the biggest Java circulation magazine in the world and they had never heard of it. Hmmm, not convincing, methinks. I think the brainwashing at Oracle has gone a little too far and way too much information has been erased. But I did manage to speak to some ex-Oracle employees, including a couple that actually were mentioned in the book, and they assured me it's true. So all I can say is read it, and get back to me on our mailing list. I'd love to talk about it.
Now that I'm safe and sound back in my corner here in the lowlands, I can start being paranoid again about the party that no one is inviting us to. Keeping my eye on these supercloned Java sheep, I bid you farewell. Catch you next month.
Alan Williamson is CEO of n-ary (consulting) Ltd, the first pure Java
company in the United Kingdom. A Java
consultancy company with offices in Scotland, England and Australia, they specialize solely in Java at the server side. Alan is the author of two Java Servlet books and contributed to the Servlet API. He can be reached at [email protected] (www.n-ary.com) and welcomes all suggestions and comments.