You may be aware of a radio program in the UK called "Desert Island Discs."
Basically, well-known people choose which records they would want if they
were stuck on a desert island (I've yet to hear anyone say they're taking a
CD player). Something of a similar nature is happening to me at the moment,
as I'm working from home (but far from stranded).
Since I didn't have any of my normal development tools on the laptop I
borrowed, I had to hunt around the Internet and download the tools I needed
to get my jobs done. The tools all had one common feature they're all open
source. So I decided to present my selection of "Desert Island Open-Source
I'm currently working with version 4 of jEdit and it's a joy to use. In
addition to being a normal source editor with syntax highlighting, it has
the ability to use plug-ins. If there's one plug-in I would advise you to
download, it's JavaStyle as it tidies up your code layout and also inserts
the relevant JavaDoc comments.
IBM's open-source Java compiler has more meaningful error messages than
the original compiler. It also suggests where to use try/catch/finally
blocks when working with code that throws exceptions. It handles all the
same command-line tags as javac and is very fast at compiling.
If you're using the Extreme Programming route to get software development projects done, you may have come across JUnit already. For the rest of the world, this little utility runs unit tests on your Java code; all you have to do is create a small class to
run the code. There's a more in-depth look at JUnit in the article "Test
First, Code Later" by Thomas Hammell and Robert Nettleton (JDJ, Vol. 7,
This is the build tool that everyone seems to be using, so it would be
silly of me to even attempt to leave it out. Personally, I'd be lost without
it. As with most software that comes from the Apache Foundation, be prepared
to play around with how things work and also to read some of the
documentation. Once you get going though, you can't imagine how you got on
SCP/MindTerm SSH Client
MindTerm is a secure shell (SSH) client built entirely in Java.
ISNetworks added a secure copy (SCP) function and made it available for
download. More and more people have disabled the telnet access in favor of
SSH and I'm glad to see it happening, for everyone's peace of mind.
The following demonstrates the benefits of open source. I had a problem
with the directory listing since FreeBSD was not recognizing some of the
flags in the "ls" command. I fired up jEdit, found the source file, and
corrected the problem. A quick compile and I added it back to the JAR file
and was back at work.
There you have it the software that kept me going. All free and with
its source code so you can either improve its design or functionality or
just mosey around and see how it works. The software you use will depend on
who you work for, since sometimes you don't have any say in the matter. I
try to encourage people to use the tools that suit them and that will enable
them get the job done in a manner everyone is happy with.
The nice thing about open source is that there are a lot of people
willing to share a lot of information. If you want to know more about
open-source principles, The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond was
helpful. Though it may be geared toward the Linux folks, it's still a good
read and gives you a bit of history, a few examples, and some other texts to
ponder over (once you've read JDJ word for word, though).
Jason Bell is a programmer and senior IT manager for a B2B Web portal in
York, England. He has been involved in numerous
Web projects over the past five years, the last two of which have been
servlet-based. [email protected]