Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Frank Lupo

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

One Size Fits No One

At a presentation given by Josh Bloch he made a comment that Java as a language hit the 'sweet spot'

At a presentation a number of years ago given by Josh Bloch he made a comment that Java as a language hit the "sweet spot" of programming. His metaphor was based around the fact that the language was straightforward to learn and that rather than containing many esoteric coding constructs, writing and understanding a Java program was a relatively easy task.

I think Java is at a very critical point at the moment where it is slipping away from its sweet spot and this worries me. Two things are to blame: annotations and aspects.

An annotation allows a programmer to flag a part of a program with @ statements that at first glance are a glorified comment. A developer can define his or her own annotation that has typed properties and validation rules about where it can be used in code, both of which the compiler enforces. What you do with annotations is up to you, but a good example could be to formally flag which methods were fixed in a particular release, by whom, and why. For example, with an annotation called Mod you could write code like:

@Mod(bugNumber=5477,fixedBy="Fred");
public void foo(){
   ...
}

This is better than putting the details in a comment // Fixed by Fred for 5477 because programs can use the java.lang.reflect API to query classes and methods for the presence of annotations, so a report of fixes done by Fred could be written.

The problem occurs when an annotation is more than a glorified comment and contains information that is an instruction to the program itself. EJB 3.0 has fallen desperately foul of this and I saw some horrid sample code recently:

@Stateless
@Remote(Example.class)
public class ExampleBean implements Example
{
   @PermitAll
   @TransactionAttribute(TransactionAttributeType.REQUIRES_NEW)
   public String getName(int id)
   {
   // Method body here
   }
   @RolesAllowed({"administrator","power_user"});
   public void deleteName(int id)
   {
   // Method body here
   }

What has occurred is, basically, a ton of semantic program details about how the EJB should be deployed that used to be provided in the deployment descriptor has been slammed into the class as annotations. It is way, way wide of the sweet spot and looks more like a cross between a set of assembler op-codes mixed with some kind of fourth generation language syntax. Whatever it is, it isn't Java.

Kent Beck once said that having lots of classes and lots of methods is basically what good OO is about. Design Patterns, the bible of good OO practice, espouses patterns such as the strategy and mediator that encourage and teach the strength and power of separation. By contrast, the EJB specification actually boasts the fact that having everything defined in a single file is a good thing. Separate XML wasn't great but what would have been wrong with just moving from XML to something akin to BeanInfo where the logic and rules were held in Java code elsewhere?

This segues nicely into aspects. At the first presentation I saw on the subject I was told that the raison d'etre for their existence is so that only a single source file has to be touched to implement a piece of functionality. While I understand this as a goal, it just isn't really practical to make this your overriding goal and then jump through hoops to ensure that this is the focus of all your development. In my experience, with all but the most trivial change, to fix a bug or implement a feature you need to change several classes, perhaps an interface or two, and hopefully do some refactoring along the way to improve the overall system entropy. There is nothing wrong with good old-fashioned programming like this and, when I encounter aspects, I see a group of people driven with a zeal to do differently. Instead they code files that contain sets of instructions to a preprocessor that will go and modify the existing multiple files that you should have fixed by hand in the first place. As with annotations, there are good uses of aspects, namely introducing logging behavior, performing code metrics, or coding rule enforcement. Too far beyond this and they just become clever magic that is both confusing and silly. Aspect fever seems to be riding the hit parade at the moment as the silver-bullet answer to everyone's problem.

What both annotations and aspects bring to Java is some kind of powerful dark magic where source is now littered with semantic fluff disguising itself as something more trendy but wielding terrible power. What you write is no longer what gets run - someone else's preprocessor mangles it, clever code obscures this fact from you while you debug it, and rather than the JVM just executing the bytecodes from the source you wrote, there is now some kind of execution inference engine analyzing formalized comments to determine the code path instead.

I fear the worst for the language. Pandora's box has been opened, Java coding no longer has any rules to govern it, and muggle programmers are no longer safe.

More Stories By Joe Winchester

Joe Winchester, Editor-in-Chief of Java Developer's Journal, was formerly JDJ's longtime Desktop Technologies Editor and is a software developer working on development tools for IBM in Hursley, UK.

Comments (6) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
peterk 10/21/05 10:43:07 PM EDT

I've been doing quite a bit of .NET programming against some "legacy" web services on Java-based Axis. Almost all of the linkage between the .NET classes and the web-services XML is done with attributes in the class definition. Like magic, it hides a lot of stuff and makes some debugging a lot harder, and you have to know the correct magic words.

BUT... This is what Microsoft does: it lowers the bar for entry level and intermediate programmers, and makes the code much more opaque to those who have to get into the guts to debug or tweak behavior.

Java, on the other hand, should stick to power and elegance through simplicity. If attributes are to be used, then keep the effects simple and clear, and don't hide the generated code.

--Peter

slackerdave 10/21/05 10:16:31 AM EDT

Trackback Added: One Size Fits No One Indeed…; One Size Fits No One
— At a presentation a number of years ago given by Josh Bloch he made a comment that Java as a language hit the ’sweet spot’ of programming. His metaphor was based around the fact that the language was straightforwar...

ed 10/21/05 05:30:52 AM EDT

I agree with this article entirely. Surely we learned from our initial mistakes from EJB 1 with the likes of entity beans. What is with the complexity? If it carries on like this, we will soon have masses of "developers" ala Clarion/VB etc. No IDE no code?????

Infernoz 10/21/05 02:43:16 AM EDT

Agreed, Aspects are bogus since they modify the source in possibly unexpected ways and without showing the developer the final results, so debuggers effectively become useless! As for annotations, there are some legitimate uses, but other techniques like proxies (not just java.lang.reflect.*) can be more readable, easier to debug and don't require Java 1.5, quite a critical requirement for a lot of mission critical code!

JDJ News Desk 10/19/05 01:24:47 PM EDT

Java Developer's Journal - One Size Fits No One
At a presentation a number of years ago given by Josh Bloch he made a comment that Java as a language hit the 'sweet spot' of programming. His metaphor was based around the fact that the language was straightforward to learn and that rather than containing many esoteric coding constructs, writing and understanding a Java program was a relatively easy task.

Gurvijay Singh Bhatti 09/29/05 05:38:05 PM EDT

When I was writing real time complex software, the complexity was in the application not in the code. Simple C or C++ would do. Debugging was easy, though there were lots and lots of threads but we know where the code is and what it was doing.

Then comes the tech boom, when every spreadsheet was to be converted into a web application. Humans want to be praised, so to write a simple application simplicity does not bring any praise, then comes hoard of XML configurations and frameworks and so on. This caused a small application to look like a bloody complex piece of software.

That trend is still going on. Imagine a complex application written using complex frameworks and XML configuration files. It will be a nightmare to maintain it.

I would like to keep everything simple and nothing more.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant tha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale is the leading provider of Software-Defined Servers that bring flexibility to modern data centers by right-sizing servers on the fly to fit any data set or workload. TidalScale’s award-winning inverse hypervisor technology combines multiple commodity servers (including their ass...
As hybrid cloud becomes the de-facto standard mode of operation for most enterprises, new challenges arise on how to efficiently and economically share data across environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Dr. Allon Cohen, VP of Product at Elastifile, will explore new techniques and best practices that help enterprise IT benefit from the advantages of hybrid cloud environments by enabling data availability for both legacy enterprise and cloud-native mission critical applications. By rev...
Infoblox delivers Actionable Network Intelligence to enterprise, government, and service provider customers around the world. They are the industry leader in DNS, DHCP, and IP address management, the category known as DDI. We empower thousands of organizations to control and secure their networks from the core-enabling them to increase efficiency and visibility, improve customer service, and meet compliance requirements.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...
Amazon is pursuing new markets and disrupting industries at an incredible pace. Almost every industry seems to be in its crosshairs. Companies and industries that once thought they were safe are now worried about being “Amazoned.”. The new watch word should be “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” In his session 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Kocher, a co-founder of Grey Heron, will address questions such as: What new areas is Amazon disrupting? How are they doing this? Where are they likely to go? What are th...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, will lead you through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He'll look at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering ...
Digital transformation is changing the face of business. The IDC predicts that enterprises will commit to a massive new scale of digital transformation, to stake out leadership positions in the "digital transformation economy." Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, Oct 31-Nov 2, will find fresh new content in a new track called Enterprise Cloud & Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp emp...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
Most technology leaders, contemporary and from the hardware era, are reshaping their businesses to do software. They hope to capture value from emerging technologies such as IoT, SDN, and AI. Ultimately, irrespective of the vertical, it is about deriving value from independent software applications participating in an ecosystem as one comprehensive solution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kausik Sridhar, founder and CTO of Pulzze Systems, will discuss how given the magnitude of today's applicati...
As popularity of the smart home is growing and continues to go mainstream, technological factors play a greater role. The IoT protocol houses the interoperability battery consumption, security, and configuration of a smart home device, and it can be difficult for companies to choose the right kind for their product. For both DIY and professionally installed smart homes, developers need to consider each of these elements for their product to be successful in the market and current smart homes.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn't require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbui...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of hybrid cloud enablement solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Avere Systems was created by file systems experts determined to reinvent storage by changing the way enterprises thought about and bought storage resources. With decades of experience behind the company’s founders, Avere got its ...
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, will discuss how by using...
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CAST Software will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CAST was founded more than 25 years ago to make the invisible visible. Built around the idea that even the best analytics on the market still leave blind spots for technical teams looking to deliver better software and prevent outages, CAST provides the software intelligence that matter ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japanese Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ruby Development Inc. builds new services in short period of time and provides a continuous support of those services based on Ruby on Rails. For more information, please visit https://github.com/RubyDevInc.