Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Java Shakes

I have a problem. I want to include graphics in my current research project. The Adobe CS3 suite and flash animation would be the ideal tool for the job. Unfortunately, it is out of the budget for the project.

Anyway, a week ago, I decided to see if I could do the job with Java Applets. So, I dusted off all of my old Java books and have been trolling web sites for current best practices.

Most of the examples I found were dated in the 1990s. Several programs out there actually crash my browser (not a good sign). Sadly, the graphics in most the programs I've found lack quality and seem to be resource hogs.

Yesterday, I went to a local bookstore. I was considering buying a new book because I wanted to find current best practices. Do they have a better solution for reducing flickering than resource intensive double buffering?

I was shocked. Just a few years ago, Java books filled a full bookcase. Today, selection of Java books only fills half a shelf.

I was extremely disappointed with the books I found.

Java books tend to be full of prose lauding the greatness of the language. They are generally weak on showing what can be done with the language. Conservsely, languages like PERL admit upfront that the language is ugly, but are full of examples showing what can be done with the language.

I am wondering if the Java language is in already in its sunset years.

I admit, I have never used Java in a professional situation. Everytime I've evaluated Java, I ended up using other technologies that were better suited for the task at hand.

IMHO, the great fault of Java programs is that Java programmers tend to move the complexity of programs from the methods into the object model. This method of thinking works okay for desktop applications, but does not work well on the web.

The site jFreeChart has a program for producing nice looking charts. Unfortunately, the program is designed for producing charts, and not displaying them. None of their preformatted charts do what I want. Making jFreeCharts into a tool that displays graphs would take a massive re-engineering effort.

Oddly, the best graphics program I ever used was the original Postscript language. It took a little effort to get used the reverse polish notation. But it was possible to sit at a computer and write stuff with decent looking output.

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