A mobile phone (or cell for our American friends) is like a wristwatch in many respects. You don't change it too often, putting up with its little idiosyncrasies, loving its familiarity; you need something pretty spectacular to lure you away and start the hassle of getting to know another personality.
This month I took the plunge and updated my Nokia to the latest model. I had my previous phone (7110) for a little over a year, and although it was WAP-enabled, it wasn't Java. I appeased my conscience by fooling myself that I was looking at our company intranet, which was at least serving up the WML files from a Java servlet. My new Nokia phone (5110) doubles as an MP3 player. While it has retained the WAP connectivity, there's still no Java. Why?
This phone comes with a full QWERTY keyboard, which makes sending SMS messages a breeze and very fast. The unit is no bigger than my previous phone, which was still a small model. The MP3/radio player on it (64MB) is brilliant and integrates well with the phone functionality, killing the music to accept an incoming call and resuming again after the call ends. So with a QWERTY keyboard and great music why is there still no KVM?
Had there been one, I would have been the first one to write a MIDLet and have it coded up to allow me to make my phone into a cheap version of a BlackBerry, but a much richer one since it could also make voice calls. What is Nokia playing at by leaving out this crucial platform that would allow their phones to become the next handheld revolution?
What do they know that we don't? That's the question I'm beginning to ask. There are millions of phones in use but very few are Java-enabled. Assuming that people don't upgrade their phones too quickly, and when they do they lack a Java installation, we're talking years here before we can assume that Java is available on every handset. Had the browser market been so slow to pick up on Java as Nokia and others are, we probably wouldn't be reading this magazine today. The availability of a language/platform is one of the key ingredients for success. It's for this reason that Netscape must be saluted and that we have to worry about Microsoft and their upcoming C# on .NET.
Strangely enough, Jason Briggs (our esteemed J2ME editor) has just written an article that looks into this very logistical issue of distributing MIDlets and it struck a chord. Look for it next month.
Speaking of editors, have you read our new J2SE editor's ramblings? Keith Brown wrote his first editorial for us last month and follows up this month with a great piece on the pain of certification. I fear his sentiments are echoed by many who have gone through the same process. Keith is getting up to speed and beginning to shape the J2SE section as per the feedback from you, so keep it coming and let us know what you want to read about.
On a different note, for some strange reason there's been a plethora of jokes this month on everything from Java to the usual digs at Microsoft. However, this one, sent by Gunter Sammet to the Straight Talking mailing list, had me tittering away all day.
There was once a young man who in his youth professed his desire to become a great writer.
When asked to define "great" he said, "I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!" He now works for Microsoft, writing error messages.
The irony is that it's closer to the truth than you may want to believe. When you realize that the majority of the planet has a Microsoft product somewhere in their daily lives, that's a more powerful channel than any news mogul could ever hope to achieve.
Speaking of breaking out of the Microsoft habit, I'd like thank all those who e-mailed me the URL to JEdit (www.jedit.org), the free Java editor. Normally I'm not a big fan of Java GUIs as they're so damn slow compared to their native counterparts. I don't care what anyone says, Swing is definitely nowhere near ready for mainstream use. It's the black sheep of the Java family that needs some serious attention. (I'll go into more depth on this subject next month.) As you know I've abandoned the bloated IDE world in favor of a back-to-basics approach to development. This has been a painless move, and I have to say the whole team here at n-ary has not uttered a single objection, especially now that we have JEdit.
Wow. This is how software should work. Not only is JEdit feature-rich, but for those of you who still want to have your cake and eat it too, just download a simple plug-in from the masses that are available and restart. And you know the easy bit? It's all done from within the editor itself. No buggering around with URLs and complicated README files. It's an absolute joy.
Ever since I published my move to ANT, I've received a flood of e-mails supporting the move and describing how they've gone through the same process to find success. I even had an e-mail from an unnamed source working for one of the big IDE vendors who didn't even use their IDE to code their next release. Mmmm.
If I were an IDE vendor I would be seriously looking at this trend to see if it's just a blip or a serious social shift. Interestingly enough, this month I learned that there's a product that operates along the same lines as ANT (www.openmake.com). So keep an eye on JDJ as we check this out in the next couple of months. Personally, I think there's an underground movement by computer programmers to prove themselves to be real developers, since each new IDE release seems to remove you further from the actual task of producing code. If this is the case, then I can sympathize.
I'd love to hear what you think. You can find me (plus a lot of other JDJ bods) lurking around in one of the best mailing lists around, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/straight_talking_java/.
I'm off to prepare for my pre-pre-JavaOne briefings!
Alan Williamson is editor-in-chief of Java Developer's Journal.
During the day he holds the post of chief technical
officer at n-ary (consulting) Ltd, one of the first
companies in the UK to specialize in Java at the
server side. Rumor has it he welcomes all
suggestions and comments!