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TheServerSide Java Symposium – Day 1

Today I’m at the first day of the TheServerSide Java Symposium in Las Vegas. There are about 400 attendees and a dozen or so companies exhibiting. I will try to post some notes about the talks as the day goes on…

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JavaFX Meetup

I attended another one of the excellent San Francisco JUG meetings tonight. This time the topic was Java FX and WidgetFX. Java FX is Sun’s new platform for delivering Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), competing in the same space as Adobe’s Flex and Microsoft’s Silverlight.

It is a fairly new technology with the first 1.0 release of the Desktop platform just happening last December. The Sun web site seems to show the Mobile platform as being available now too. Wen Huang from Sun talked about the planned 1.1 release, but was strangely coy when asked about the ‘TV platform’ that is also planned. He mentioned a tie in with Sony and Bluray so I guess we an expect more details on that in the near future.

Wen explained that JavaFX is built on top of Java, in that it runs on top of the Java Plugin and hence it can access to all the usual Java libraries.

Doris Chen, a Staff engineer and technology evangelist at Sun, then took over the presentation and got a little more technical. She quickly walked us through a couple of demos involving animation and videos in the form of puzzle games. It did look pretty cool. She also demonstrated how Java FX apps could be dragged out of the browser and continue to run independently, even when the browser was then closed. This is possible due to each widget running in its own Java VM, independent of the browser. I did notice those annoying Certificate security warnings popping up during the demo startup though which made me wonder… Would using JavaFX be as seamless for the end user as Flash, or would there be security, download, startup and plugin compatibility issues that applet usage sometimes involved?

Next up, Stephen Chin took over. Stephen is the co-author of a soon to be published book called Pro JavaFX book. He is also closely involved with two open source JavaFX libraries, JFXtras and WidgetFX. He walked us through a couple of code examples. The things that jumped out at me most about JavaFX were

  • the declarative construct used for creating objects, which I am not too familiar with (similar to the Scala approach maybe?)
  • extensive use of a ‘bind’ operator which seems to ensure that variable value changes get reflected in the UI
  • JavaFX doesn’t seem to throw many exceptions, instead it tries to handle them as gracefully as possible
  • It is a Functional language: Functions are first class entities that can be assigned to variables, passed in and returned from functions

The class finished with Stephen walking us through some hands on examples, using NetBeans (Update: see my comment at the end of this article on the JavaFX Eclipse plugin) and both WidgetFX and JFXtras.

Overall, I thought the presentations were very good and provided a great overview, and some of the details, of JavaFX. For me personally though, none of the projects I am currently working on have a requirement for ‘rich’, multimedia type content, but it would be nice to create a few more mundane desktop type JavaFX GUIs to see how it fares compared to the Swing GUIs I have created in the past.

I do have some concerns about how to integrate JavaFX GUIs with the web tier and backend. Doris Chen tonight mentioned JSON integration, but there were less details on how JavaFX would integrate with model-2 MVC libraries like Spring MVC or Struts. I will definitely watch the JavaFX space closely to see how widely accepted it becomes, but I am also interested in learning more about other Java GUI technologies that I haven’t had too much exposure to yet, such as JSF and Facelets. Perhaps in another JUG meetup soon…

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