Java News from Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Andy Hunt asks, "Think about it: have you ever had to reboot your microwave?" Well, yes, Andy, actually I have had to reboot my microwave, more than once in fact. The only reason microwaves seem to work better is that they have less software to go wrong, but the more the manufacturers stuff in, the more that does go wrong. I see no evidence that my microwave oven is any less buggy than typical commercial software, especially on a bugs per line of code metric. I want software that's better than the software in my microwave. I also want it to be much easier to use. The various "auto-defrost", "auto-reheat", "power" and other buttons that require me to enter mysterious undocumented numeric codes are a particular problem.

XML 1.1 Bible Cover

I'm pleased to announce the release of the XML 1.1 Bible, the first book to dedicated to the new version of the XML standard released by the W3C less than a month ago. XML 1.1 has a number of features that make it much more suitable for use by people whose operating system is MVS or VM/CMS or whose native language is Amharic, Burmese, or Cambodian. That doesn't describe you? Then to be honest there really isn't much in XML 1.1 to interest you, which is why the XML 1.1 Bible is quite clear in its recommendation that most users should stick to XML 1.0 for the foreseeable future.

However, although the new edition of this bestselling work is titled the XML 1.1 Bible, I didn't stop with the relatively minor changes needed to make it 1.1 savvy. A number of other sections were updated as well including the chapters on XPointers, Schemas, CSS, and XHTML. Most importantly, the book was substantially reduced in size and price. The last edition topped out at 1600 pages and cost almost $70. This edition cuts both the size and the price by almost half. The XML 1.1 Bible should strain neither your back nor your wallet. It comes in at a little over 1000 pages, and just under $40 (on top of which Amazon and other booksellers are currently offering it for 30% off).

How did I manage such a radical reduction in size? The French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal once wrote, "I have only made this longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter." I know how he felt. The first edition of the XML Bible was written under great time pressure, was finished well after deadline, and was the largest book I had written up to that point. My favorite reader comment about that edition was, "It would seem to me that if you asked the author to write 10,000 words about the colour blue, he would be able to do it without breaking into a sweat." While I probably could write 10,000 words about blue, for this edition, I restrained myself and took the time to write more concisely. I rewrote the book from the ground up; and while I retained the basic flavor and outline that proved so popular with the last three editions, I tightened up the writing and cut many examples down to size. With the benefit of five years of hindsight, I have also been able to expand coverage of promising new technologies (schemas, XInclude, XHTML, SVG, XML Base, and RDDL) while eliminating coverage of applications that proved to be less useful than they initially appeared (WML, VML, CDF, HTML+TIME, RDF, aural style sheets, and so on). The result is a more concise, approachable volume that covers more of what you need to know and less of what you don’t. If you liked the first or second edition, you’re going to like the third edition even more. I’m confident you’ll find this an even more useful tutorial and reference.

One change deserves special note. The baseball examples are history. They've been replaced throughout by a shorter, more approachable XML application involving television listings that I hope is a little less offputting to European audiences and other non-baseball fans. The baseball examples were a real dividing line among readers. You either loved them or hated them. I'm hopeful that the new television examples in this edition will be somewhat less controversial. If nothing else, they are certainly shorter.

Should you buy the new edition? If you already have the second or Gold edition, probably not. There's not a lot of new material here. Besides bringing the coverage of a few specs like XML itself and XPointer up to date, the main focus of this revision was to make the whole subject more approachable and accessible for novices. If you're still tooling around with a dog-eared copy of the first edition, it may be time to replace it. However, the second and Gold editions are still pretty up-to-date on most topics, and will continue to serve you well. On the other hand if you're looking for a book to recommend to a colleague or use as a text for a class, then I think the XML 1.1 Bible is better than ever. It covers the basics with more depth and detail, with fewer digressions into the more obscure parts of XML. The price has been reduced to just $39.99, and Amazon has it on sale for just $27.99. Enjoy, and Happy XML 1.1!

Atlassian has released JIRA 2.6, a $1000 payware J2EE-based bug tracking and project management server application. Version 2.6 This version adds CVS and Confluence integration, an XML-RPC/ SOAP interface, better email support, allows screenshots to be added to issues, and can import data from Mantis. Many bugs are fixed as well.

The Apache Jakarta Project has released POI 2.5, an open source Java library for "manipulating various file formats based upon Microsoft's OLE 2 Compound Document format. OLE 2 Compound Document Format based files include most Microsoft Office files such as XLS and DOC." This release adds support for the HSSF and Escher formats. The latter is used for embedding shapes inside spreadsheets. POI is now published under the Apache 2.0 license.