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Devoxx 2008: JavaFX, Java 7 and dynamic languages

Each year during the middle of December, the European Java community gathers at Antwerp to get updated on the latest developments in their profession. This year, Devoxx was organised for the first time from 8 until 12 December. The event was sold out for the second time in a row. This contradiction is caused by the fact that Devoxx until this year was known under the name JavaPolis, but due to a dispute with regards to the Java brand, the name was changed into Javox and finally to Devoxx. In this post I will give my impressions of two days of this event. A Dutch version of this post is available at the weblog of my employer.

With 3200 visitors from 35 different countries, the event was completely sold out. The five days Devoxx is held, are split into two parts. The Monday and Tuesday were so-called ‘university’ days, consisting of longer in-depth talks taking three hours. The Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are the conference days, and contained the most interesting talks including some new announcements by the leaders of the Java community. Apart from the lectures, there was a booth floor with booths of Java related companies, such as IBM, Sun but also Microsoft and Adobe were present. I attended only the Wednesday and Thursday. Because of planning issues at work, it was not possible for me to visit the other days.

As expected, the main topics during Devoxx were the current hypes and trends in Java world. A major topic was of course JavaFX, which was released only one week before Devoxx by Sun Microsystems. Also other Rich Internet Application platforms got attention during Devoxx, but remarkably less than JavaFX. Another subject which got a lot of attention during the conference were alternative languages for the JVM, especially Groovy, Scala, JRuby and Jython. In various talks not directly related to Groovy or Scala, examples were giving using these alternative languages. This clearly indicates that these new languages have a important position in the Java-world. In fact, JavaFX is also an alternive scripting language for the JVM, but obviously this language has a slightly different goal, because this language is mainly focused on RIA’s. Finally, the upcomping improvements in Java 7 was also a hot topic.

Wednesday started with a keynote consisting of two parts, where the second part consisted of a relatively boring promotion talk on RFID by IBM. The first part, however, was a lot more interesting. Danny Coward of Sun Microsystems introduced JavaFX and gave several demo’s showing the capabilities of this new platform and presented the global architecture of JavaFX. JavaFX is aimed at rich internet applications and competes with Microsoft Silverlight and Adobe Flex, among others. The main advantages of JavaFX is the fact that it is based on Java SE and in fact produces Java Applets, which implicates that it will run on a large part of the current browsers without the need of installing additional plugins. JavaFX strong points are the ability to work efficiently with multimedia and animations, which opens a lot of possibilities for Java developers. There are already many plugins for existing IDE’s like Eclipse and Netbeans, but also for tools used by designers, like Photoshop and Illustrator. A big disadvantage of the current JavaFX version is the lack of controls for data focussed applications, such as buttons, radio buttons and checkboxes.

The Thursday keynote also consisted of two parts, but in contrast to the Wednesday, these were both very interesting. It started with a keynote by Joshua Bloch, author of the Effective Java book and one of the lead developers of Java SE 5. Bloch, currently working for Google, discussed some items of his Effictive Java book (the talk was apparently identical to the one he gave at JavaOne). The second part of the keynote was given by Mark Reinhold of Sun and consisted for the largest part of a discussion of Project Jigsaw. He also talked about the new features which will probably be part of the upcoming Java 7 release in 2010. Project Jigsaw is a attempt to modularize the Java SE and also enable Java applications to become modularized. The main advantage of this project is that it in the future will be easier to distribute Java applications and request a specific version of a Java library from within an application. The Java distribution will get profiles which are focussed on a specific task or platform. Examples of such profiles could be a mobile profile aimed at mobile phones, a desktop profile and a headless profile, which could be used by server applications. With regard to Java 7, he told that it will not contain closures (according to some people this is the death of Java…). Another remarkable notion is that Reinhold discussed the possibility to break compatibility in a future version of Java, which enables a clean-up of the Java language and libraries and introduce features which have a high impact on the language.

Of course, there is a lot more to write on Devoxx, since the amount of information is huge. Fortunately, all talks during the conference will be published on as podcast or vodcast. Interesting talks I attended where by Brian Goetz on concurrency in Java. During this talk, he presented the Fork/Join package, which could be part of Java 7. Goetz also did a talk together with Alex Buckley on the new JVM features to enable better performance of dynamic languages such as JRuby and Groovy. Bill Venners – author of the book ‘Programming Scala’ – did an very interesting talk on Scala during which he mainly focussed on writing tests in Scala. Two Jetbrains developers presented how IntelliJ IDEA coped with alternative languages and how it coped with multi-language projects and especially the cross-language refactoring features. Another talk by the tech-lead of the Jersey JAX-RS reference implementation introduced JAX-RS, which can be used to develop RESTFul web applications. Of course there was also a delegation of the Java Posse team doing a Live Java Posse-podcast during which the guys from Attlassian gave away free beers. So all in all, Devoxx was really interesting for me and I attended a lot of interesting sessions which gave me inspiration for a while to experiment with some new languages and technologies! Hopefully I’m back next year!

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2 Responses to “Devoxx 2008: JavaFX, Java 7 and dynamic languages”

  1. December 14th, 2008 at 18:12

    James Iry says:

    Some small corrections. Calling Scala a “scripting language” is a bit debatable. It depends very much on your definition. I think of it as no more a scripting language than languages like Haskell, SML, OCaml, and F#.

    Scripting language or not, it’s definitely not a “dynamic language” – or at least, no more so than Java is. Like Java, Scala is statically typed; has forays into dynamic typing via equivalents of instanceof and casting; and doesn’t support destructive dynamic metaprogramming except via the reflection API. In fact, Scala’s static type system is quite a bit more sophisticated (and sane) than Java’s. That said, some of the proposed JVM enhancements that are targeted towards dynamic languages could very well help certain areas of Scala’s runtime performance. Not because Scala is particularly dynamic, but because Scala has some constructs like structural typing that are hard to translate efficiently to the JVM.

    Finally, Bill Venners isn’t a developer of the Scala language as far as I know. However, he is one of the earliest developers to use Scala, has authored a testing framework for it, and is co-author of the book “Programming In Scala.”

  2. December 14th, 2008 at 21:58

    Martin Sturm says:

    You’re right, I generalized Scala, Groovy, JRuby, etc. a bit too much. I’ve corrected my mistakes.