September 1998 Java News

Wednesday, September 30, 1998
IBM's alphaWorks has released RMI for IE4, a package that installs the missing remote method invocation support for Internet Explorer.

The following important announcement about corporate efforts in Congress to steal intellectual property rights from creators and consumers via the Digital Future Coalition:

On September 24, 1998, Congress held the first of several meetings, to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the "Digital Millennium Copyright Act" (DMCA). These meetings could be completed by the end of this week!

The DMCA makes significant changes to American copyright law in the name of implementing recent World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) copyright treaties. Unfortunately, some of the proposed changes could upset the uniquely American balance between the users and creators of copyrighted works. The Senate bill lacks adequate protections for fair use, encryption research, and personal privacy. It could also limit the availability of future consumer electronics and computer products. On the other hand, the House version contains many extraneous provisions that have little or nothing to do with implementing the important WIPO treaties. These provisions in the House bill would overturn three consumer-oriented Supreme Court decisions. The Justice department has concluded that one of these provisions, Title V, which creates sweeping new anti-fair-use rights in databases and other collections of information, may well be unconstitutional. (This Title V was previously a separate bill, the "Collections of Information Antipiracy Act.") Now is the time to speak up because these meetings will determine the final form of this legislation as it goes to the President's desk to be signed into law.

If you care about the future of the Internet, you should let your Senators and Representatives know, as soon as possible, how important it is to preserve the essential provisions of the House DMCA, which protects fair use, personal privacy, the availability of consumer products and encryption research - while rejecting its harmful extraneous provisions.

You can find out exactly what you can to do to help on the Digital Future Coalition web site.

Tuesday, September 29, 1998
Sun's released JDK 1.1.7 for Windows and Solaris. This is primarily a bug fix release, but it also adds Euro support. The Windows release includes the Symantec just in time compiler. On Solaris you'll need to get the JDK production release to get a JIT.

International Data Corporation's latest study claims that Internet Explorer has passed Netscape Navigator as the most used browser. According to IDC, IE has 43.8% market share to Netscape's 41.5%. Figures are for the first half of 1998.

Dan Brumleve has uncovered a nasty JavaScript related bug in Netscape that can expose the URLs of files in your cache. If these files include responses to GET CGIs, it can expose passwords, credit cards numbers, and more. This is an extremely bad bug. I strongly recommend that you turn off JavaScript in your browser until it's fixed.

For some work I'm doing with Unicode programs, I need a large quantity of public domain Greek text encoded in Unicode or UTF-8, perhaps something like Homer's Odyssey or Plato's Republic. I could also convert text encoded in ISO 8859-7, Windows 1253, or MacGreek. However, all I've found so far is a variety of Roman transliterations and English and German translations. If you happen to know of such a thing available on the Internet, could you please drop me a line? Cyrillic text (War and Peace? The Brothers Karamazov?) would also be useful, but since I don't speak any Cyrillic languages, I'd prefer to work with Greek.

Monday, September 28, 1998
Markus Kuhn is attempting to create a monospaced Unicode XWindows font for use in terminal emulation, source code, and the like. The current version of covers around 1600 characters, including all European characters of the commonly used 8-bit character sets plus a good selection of mathematical and other symbols. Assistance from interested parties is welcome.

Live Software has released the first version of its $495 payware JRun Scripting Toolkit, an add-on for the JRun Servlet Engine that supports JRun Server Pages, Dynamic Taglets, and Presentation Templates

Sunday, September 27, 1998
I've updated the notes for Week 3, Introduction to Objects, of my Introduction to Java course. Mostly I've improved the discussion of access protection and its relation to data encapsulation though much work remains to be done.

Saturday, September 26, 1998
Metrowerks is licensing its PowerPC Just-in-time compiler source code for Linux for non-commercial use under terms very similar to those used by Sun for licensing the JDK source for non-commercial use. The license, though free of charge, is not open source; and access requires you to print out a PDF file, sign it, and mail it in. The license is only valid for a year, and will only be available to programmers in the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, and the European Union. Currently the Metrowerks JIT source code builds on Linux for PowerPC / MkLinux. Ports to other platforms and operating systems such as X86 Linux are underway.

Friday, September 25, 1998
Someone at Microsoft has a sense of humor. According to PC Week they're developing a distributed Java virtual machine code named "Borg".

Thursday, September 24, 1998
The Apache Group has released version 1.3.2 of the popular Apache web server for Windows and Unix. They recommend all users upgrade.

Wednesday, September 23, 1998
Opera Software has posted beta 9 of Opera 3.5 for Windows 95 and NT that supports Java and 128 bit SSL encryption worldwide, and still runs in 1 MB of RAM. The release version will be $35.

Sun's posted the first early access release of XML Library for Java on the Java Developer Connection. It's only available to registered members but registration is free. XML Library is written in Java, and requires JDK 1.1.6 or later. It provides a SAX compliant, namespace aware, XML parser with optional validation, an in-memory object model tree for manipulating and writing XML structured data, and some basic support for integrating JavaBeans with XML.

Members of the House Commerce Committee will vote this Thursday, September 23, on the Oxley bill, a.k.a "CDA II". This bill is yet another unconstitutional intrusion onto our free speech rights. If your representative sits on the House commerce committee, your phone call would be especially appreciated. More information including phone numbers of the members of the House Commerce Committee is available from the Center for Democracy and Tecnology.

Tuesday, September 22, 1998
Metrowerks is shipping the Code Warrior Pro 4 Java, Pascal, and C++ development environment for the Mac and Windows. The Java support for the Mac fixes many bugs, but is still not fully compatible with Macintosh Runtime for Java 2.x. Code Warrior is about $399 payware. The Java support doesn't seem to be as robust as one would hope, at least on the Mac. Of course, Code Warrior is more or less the only C++ compiler for the Mac these days, so if you need C++ on the Mac, then the Java support is a nice lagniappe.

Monday, September 21, 1998
IBM's Alphaworks has updated Install Toolkit for Java, a free Java application for creating installer programs which are themselves Java programs and can install both Java and non-Java programs.

Saturday, September 19, 1998
Sun's posted a draft of the Jini Technology Public License. This needs some serious work if it's to be taken seriously by the open source community. Particularly onerous are the clauses related to patent rights and indemnification, though for different reasons. It's pretty obvious Sun let the lawyers take control of this document, and as almost always happens when lawyers draft the contract instead of the involved parties, the resulting document is something no reasonable person could agree to. Sun should have just gone with the GPL.

Friday, September 18, 1998
Skinny Dubaud's piece about Microsofties is an absolute must read and may do more to damage Microsoft's reputation and ability to recruit than any DOJ action ever could. Don't wait. Go read it now, then come back here. Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere.

Thursday, September 17, 1998
Bill LaForge has posted Mint 1.1, a utility for generating source code to convert Java objects into XML serialized coins. Registration is required. Eventual price is $99.00. Currently only int, long, float, double, boolean and String are supported.

Luca Lutterotti has posted a version of Swing EA2 that works (more or less) with Macintosh Runtime for Java 2.x.

Sun's released beta 5 of Java PC, software for converting old, slow DOS PCs into new, slow network computers. This release adds support for application caching, international keyboards, audio cards, TSRs, and the Java Communications API for serial and parallel ports.

Wednesday, September 16, 1998
The next JavaOne will take place June 14-18, 1999, in San Francisco. Mark your calendars.

Tuesday, September 15, 1998
IBM's alphaworks has released a new version of Speech for Java that supports the Japanese version of ViaVoice, fixes assorted bugs, and implements more of the Java Speech API.

Microsoft's market capitalization (stock price times number of shares) reached $261.2 billion at market close yesterday, passing GE ($257.4 billion) to make Microsoft the largest company in America in terms of market cap.

The U.S. v. Microsoft antitrust trial has been delayed until October 15 to give Microsoft more time to prepare.

Monday, September 14, 1998
NetBeans, Inc. has released the third beta of NetBeans Developer 2.0, an IDE for Java written in Java. NetBeans requires Java 1.1 and Swing. Beta 3 version adds new Form Editor features, a new Connection Wizard, and assorted bug fixes. NetBeans 2.0 will cost about $149. The beta is spamware. (You have to give NetBeans your email address so they can market to you.)

This seems like a good opportunity to reiterate my opinion of public betas. Beta testing is serious work. Finding and reporting even one bug is likely to take an hour or more of your valuable time. By installing beta software you are risking the stability and preformance of your system and the integrity of your data. A poor beta, especially on Windows, can lead to corruption of your entire system and force you to spend a day or more recreating your setup from scratch.

Personally I won't do this anymore. When asked to beta test products, I insist on being compensated for my time and effort at my customary consulting rates. My time is simply too valuable to spend to give it away to companies that are too cheap to pay for proper quality assurance. Otherwise, I will run beta software only if it's directly relevant to what I'm writing abaut, and I feel the risk of installing the beta is worth the help it gives me in getting my books to market quicker.

However, I haven't always felt this way. When I was graduate student, money for new software was tight and my time was less valuable than it is now. Therefore it seemed a good deal to participate in a variety of beta tests that offered me software I was interested in in exchange for my feedback. And if you feel the same way now, that's certainly OK.

But what is not OK is that many companies now use beta tests as a marketing tool. They ask users to risk the stability of their systems and donate their valuable and productive time to a for-profit enterprise without even a token consideration. The least you should be offered for participating in a beta test is a free copy of the software when it's released. Everyone who sends in even a simple comment (e.g. "Seems to work OK on JDK 1.1.6 on NT 4.0") should get a free copy of the software. T-shirts are some other chatchka would be appreciated as well. Contests where only the top ten testers get a free copy are not acceptable.

Some companies complain that if they did this they couldn't afford 18,000 beta testers. To this I say, "fine". Beta tests are meant to find and fix bugs. They're also helpful to authors, third party developers, and others who need early access to software to do their jobs. But they are not supposed to be a marketing tool. Posting press releases about the latest beta, asking users to download and install your product as if it were finished software, and otherwise acting as though a beta were a shipping product is sure to generate a host of ill will among your potential users when they encounter the inevitable bugs, or when the software expires unexpectedly and leaves them with unreadable files. Beta testers do developers a huge favor by reviewing their work for free. They should be treated as important partners in the development process, not as some nameless face on the other end of the latest piece of marketing spam.

Sunday, September 13, 1998
Netscape 4.5pr2 is now available for Windows and the Mac. The big new feature of this release is integration into the OS like IE.

Saturday, September 12, 1998
RomeBlack has released ServerSentinel, a free, cross-platform server-monitoring application that's an excellent example of Java's utility for network programming (a subject near and dear to my heart). ServerSentinel can check any number of network servers at user-selected intervals and notify you via email if the server is down or not responding. Java 1.1 and access to an SMTP server are required.

Live Software has released version 2.2 of its free JRun Servlet Engine and $295 payware JRun Pro. JRun adds servlet support to Netscape Enterprise Server, Micrsoft IIS, Microsoft Personal Web Server, Apache, and assorted other web servers. This release runs out-of-process on all platforms as a service on Win32), supports unlimited sized POST, adds an integrated web server, and can run under most Java 1.1 and later virtual machines.

Version 0.3.7 of IBM's Jikes Java compiler is now available. Supported platforms include Linux Intel with libc5, Sparc Solaris, Linux Intel with glibc, AIX, and Windows 95/NT.

Friday, September 11, 1998
Sun's posted prepared statements from their witnesses in the Java lawsuit with Microsoft.

I've updated the notes for Week 3, Introduction to Objects, of my Introduction to Java course.

Thursday, September 10, 1998
Sun is shipping version 1.1.1 of the Java Naming and Directory Interface (JNDI). This release features assorted bug fixes.

Wednesday, September 9, 1998
pj is a free Java class library for parsing, manipulating, and creating Adobe PDF files. It also includes pjscript, a script interpreter for creating and modifying PDF files. The current version is 0.10.1.

The September 98 update of the Java Spec Report adds a number of new issues relating to the Java specifications including

Tuesday, September 8, 1998
Digital Think has published my latest online course, Design Patterns. This course is for Java and C++ developers with prior experience in object-oriented programming and design who want to learn how to develop more extensible, reuasble, robust applications through design patterns. Students learn what design patterns are and how they can be used for efficient application development. Students also learn to identify and use the most popular creational, structural, and behavioral patterns.

Proficiency with design patterns is reinforced through participation in a course-wide project in which students analyze, design, and write a program simulating traffic flow at an intersection. The course is $450 with a money back guarantee.

The Giant Java Tree is a project founded by Tim Endres to create a giant Java source tree consisting entirely of code that is licensed under the GNU General Public License. There isn't a lot there yet, but with your assistance that might change quickly.

The Blackdown folks have released version 4a of their port of the JDK 1.1.6 to Linux X86 and Sparc. This release fixes assorted bugs.

I've added a basic search engine to Cafe au Lait. The back end is InfoSeek 2.0. You should be able to find anything on this site by just typing a word or two into the box at top left of the page and pressing the Search button. I'm considering how to break up some of the longer pages on the site to make the search results more useful. For now, you'll probably have to follow most searches with a Find in your browser.

Dan Gillmor has some excellent suggestions for sending email to columnists, pundits, and just about anybody who lives in the several hundred email a day ballpark. Reading his column was like looking in a mirror. I recognized pretty much every problem he encountered.

Speaking of email, over the weekend I cleared through some old email that had been building up for several years. Along the may, I made some long overdue fixes to the site including the Java tutorial and the Intro to Java Programming course notes, especially weeks 1, 2, and 8. I also updated the errata for Java Secrets and posted a new errata page for Java Network Programming.

Sunday, September 6, 1998
Version 2.1.5 of the Unicode Character Database is now available. This incorporates all changes approved at the Unicode Technical Committee meeting held at the end of July, 1998.

Version 1.1 of Bill Laforge's free Java-XML serialization package coins now supports the latest release of the Docuverse DOM SDK.

Saturday, September 5, 1998
Apple's posted the second early access release of the Macintosh Runtime for Java Software Development Kit (MRJ SDK 2.1 EA2). This release requires MRJ 2.1 EA2. MRJ SDK supplies a compiler and various other development tools omitted from MRJ. The Apple applet runner has been moved from MRJ itself into the MRJ SDK.

Friday, September 4, 1998
Microsoft's released version 3.1 of their Java SDK for Windows. They've also released Visual J++ 6.0, skipping 3.98 version numbers to get in sync with Visual C++ and other products.

Sun's released version 1.1 of the JavaMail API including IMAP and SMTP service providers. This release requires Java 1.1 and the JavaBeans Activation Framework. Sun's also started a javamail-interest list dedicated to JavaMail. To subscribe, send an email message with the words "subscribe javamail-interest FirstName LastName" in the body of your message to

John Flaherty, the special master appointed in Sun's Java lawsuit against Microsoft no oversee unsealing of documents, has recused himself because his law firm's pension fund invests in Microsoft stock.

Thursday, September 3, 1998
Netscape's posted details of Java 1.1 support in Communicator/Navigator 4.0.6 on various platforms.

Apple did post the second early access release (EA2, alpha 1) of Macintosh Runtime for Java 2.1. yesterday. New features in this release include JDK 1.1.6 and Swing compatibility, improved performance, especially with graphics, AppleScript support, the Symantec Just-In-Time Compiler, and the MRJSubports Extension. The applet runner has been moved into the MRJ SDK and 68040 support has been dropped. A PowerMac with Quicktime 2.5 or later and System 7.6.1 or later is required.

IBM's alphaworks has updated XML for Java, an XML processor written in Java. New features include support for the latest DOM and namespaces draft.

Wednesday, September 2, 1998
I'm well known for denigrating Java IDEs. I've yet to find one that was worth the petrochemicals it was distributed on. Every so often someone emails me to tell me that, "they've gotten better. Have you tried an IDE lately?" In particular I've been hearing a lot of good things about Borland's JBuilder 2.0, and I like Borlands' C++ Builder, so I decided to give JBuilder a whirl and I sent off for their university edition to see if it was worth passing on to my students.

The CD arrived a few weeks ago, but I just got around to installing it today. My first attempt to install it failed because I had only 120 megabytes free on my C drive. It got halfway through the install, then ran out of space. Definitely not a good sign, especially for a product that's aimed at resource constrained universities. I exited the install, trashed the files the installer had installed, and started over. This time I aimed it at my D drive with 1.2 gigabytes free, and the install ran to completion.

Next I launched it. While it was launching I played a game of MineSweeper (advanced level). After my game was finished, I noticed that JBuilder was still launching. Suspecting something was wrong, I killed the process (99% CPU usage) from the task manager. Then I rebooted my system, and launched it again.

I'm writing this on my Mac across the room while I wait for JBuilder to finish starting up. It is indeed a really pretty splash screen that's appearing in glorious 24-bit color on my 17 inch monitor, but I just can't see recommending a product for the splash screen alone. Obviously this product is a disaster that is of no use whatsoever. As soon as I finish writing this, I'll go over to my PC, kill the damn thing, dump it in the bit bucket, and wait for the next release.

Now I'm willing to believe that others may have gotten JBuilder to actually run past the splash screen, and it may be a useful product for them. And I might even be able to figure out what's wrong if I spend hours reinstalling software, fiddling with the registry, and otherwise trying to do Borland's QA work for them. But the fact is I don't have time for that, especially when TextPad and the JDK work just fine together. If JBuilder is failing this badly for anyone (especially me), there is no way in hell I'm going to recommend it to anyone. On a scale of 1-10 JBuilder gets a 0.

One final JBuilder note: the next morning I noticed that JBuilder had registered itself as the handler for .java files without my permission, so that's one more piece of damage I now have to undo before I can be productive again. I think I'll lower JBuilder's score to -1 on a scale of 1-10.

Bjondi International's UniAPI 2.1 is a free Win32 library that encodes the Unicode standard. A small utility for viewing Unicode characters and their properties is included.

Symantec's has posted a press release claiming to be selling a $39.95 Just in Time Compiler for Netscape on Windows and the Mac. However, press release to the contrary, the JIT doesn't seem to be actually available from their web site yet. PR aside, I can't imagine that there's much of an end user market for this sort of thing. The vast majority of end users, even high end users, will simply use whatever free JIT is bundled with their browser. I suspect this is simply an effort to make a few bucks from their JIT project after licensing deals with Netscape didn't pan out.

I'm still waiting for Apple to post the second early access release (EA2, alpha 1) of Macintosh Runtime for Java 2.1.

Tuesday, September 1, 1998
Sun's selling the Sun Developer Essentials Foundation Edition, a "developer only technical subscription package". For $195 you get a CD with Java Workshop, Java Studio, a license for Solaris, and assorted freeware like the JDK and JRE. This is a whopping $4 savings (no, I didn't leave off a zero) over buying Java Workshop and Java Studio separately. Maybe it's worth a little more if you can use the Solaris license. The fact is the only essentials here are the free pieces like the JDK. Most developers will prefer to use JBuilder, Visual Cafe, or other third party tools instead of Java Workshop and JavaBlend.

Mikael Arctaedius has released version 2.0 of Object Plant, a $25 shareware Macintosh object-oriented analysis and design tool. The biggest new feature of this release is reverse engineering of C++ and Java classes.

Apple is expected to post the second early access release (EA2, alpha 1) of Macintosh Runtime for Java 2.1 later today with much improved performance, especially in the AWT, and UDP that actually works, among other bug fixes.

I've updated the notes for Week 1, Basic Java, of my Introduction to Java course.

You can also read the news from July, June or May if you like.

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Copyright 1998 Elliotte Rusty Harold
Last Modified September 30, 1998