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Web Frameworks and IDE in Java/J2EE

Part Three

In the first two articles of this series (see http://java.sys-con.com/read/108260.htm and http://java.sys-con.com/read/124664.htm), I started thinking aloud about automating my gas station using various Java-related technologies. This time, I'm trying to figure out what IDE and Web framework to use.

How Many Java Web Frameworks Does Mankind Need?
Being a consultant in my previous life, I worked on different projects for various clients. Each time I joined a project I had to learn a new Java technology that promised to make my life easier. Here it comes again! Now I need to select a Web framework. The good part is that literally all of them are free (is it the right word? I need to do some more reading on all these public licenses).

Since a gas station is the best place for networking, I started to ask drivers/programmers to recommend a good Java Web framework. By the way, while pumping gas, you can notice things you've never known before. For example, work visa holders from India usually drive Toyotas and Hondas. Eventually, they switch to something BMWish. Anyway, I was able to collect more than 50 (!) names of Java Web frameworks that are available today. Are we serious? I understand the benefits of the free market and competition, but isn't it a little too much? One Mercedes driver from China told me that their government restricts the number of kids per family. Should we penalize anyone who's even thinking of creating yet another Java Web framework?

Let me use my proven way of finding the right software. Some people just throw the dice, but I'd rather go to dice.com, which is a major IT job search portal in the U.S. Just start entering the names of the frameworks one by one, perform the search, and write down the counts of ads that look for people with such skills. The leaders are Struts: 1350, Spring: 377, and JSF: 230. For those who don't like this approach, I'll mention a couple of other frameworks that people like to blog about: Tapestry, Cocoon, and Wicket.

Car drivers also form two major groups: pragmatic people drive Lexus, Toyotas, and Hondas. But there are people who will never betray Mercedes, Jaguar, or Land Rover even though they break at least once a year.

IDE
People who work at my gas station came to America with no money. When they need to get their first TV set, they don't buy it, but pick it up off the streets. That's right, when people in our neighborhood need to get rid of an old TV, they just take it out on the street, and the garbage truck picks it up…unless my guys do it sooner. My Pakistani guy revealed a secret: if the TV set is broken, people who put it out cut the power cord off. This way you won't waste time bringing it home. Nice!

These days it works the same way with commercial software. When a company has a dead-end product, it gives it away to the open source community. The only difference is that people take their TVs out of the house quietly, while the software vendors make a loud noise about their donations. First you read a title like "BEA has contributed WebLogic Workshop IDE to the Beehive Apache project." How sweet! But a little later, "BEA decided to join the Eclipse platform and build another version of Workshop as a plugin with some functionality that exists in its current version." That's right, just dump unwanted software onto the open source community. They have plenty of handy people there, who might take it apart and use some nice ideas like the use of annotations in the pre-Java 5 era. I worked with WebLogic Workshop; it's slow, uses proprietary constructs, and, if you start a J2EE project with it, you're stuck: there is no way to port it to any other environment.

Technically, there are only two free Java IDEs to consider: NetBeans (Sun Microsystems, Inc.) and Eclipse (The Rest of the World, Inc.). Based on all the reviews and demos I've seen, they both are robust and provide similar functionality. I tried to read blog postings to pick one of these, but the bloggers usually fight over particular features, like "Refactoring in NetBeans is more powerful than in Eclipse." So? My gut feeling tells me that I should go with the Eclipse IDE, which has an open architecture and an abundance of online documentation and support. If I had several thousand dollars, I could have paid for a fat report that would analyze all available Java IDEs, but I'm sure on its last page it would have just one word: Eclipse. Even Borland gave up: their first Eclipse-based product called Peloton will be available in the first half of 2006.

Actually, to be fair, I need to admit that there are people who despise everyone who's using anything other than vi or Emacs, but let's not even go there. We need to play it safe.

Help
Thank you to all who responded to the first two articles and provided some good ideas. I'm planning to make my next column a discussion of your feedback. As always, I'm asking for your suggestions in automating of my small business. Just share your thoughts at the online version of this article at http://java.sys-con.com/read/136518.htm.

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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Most Recent Comments
Gabriel 12/21/05 04:02:19 PM EST

I agree with Yakov about the amount of java frameworks, there's a huge number of them, witch scare many novice java developers (myself included).

The truth is that small business prefere .net to java, because they don't have a team of developers to deal with the amount of java frameworks, specifications, aplication servers, IDEs, etc.

Speaking about web development, I'm tired of html. javascript, browsers incompatibilities, .net, php, python, ruby...

For the next year, I'll have a standard development environment where interfaces will be developed in flash (who needs ajax?) communicating with the business logic developed in java (WebObjects) via web services. The database will be PostgreSQL (it's jdbc driver rocks and so does he).

That's all by now folks. I long to see where this article gonna take us.

Peter Eddy 11/15/05 11:10:53 AM EST

The obligatory Emacs comment!

I resisted learning Emacs for years, almost 15 years, in fact. But I suffered a severe case of IDE thrash. Every job, sometimes even different projects at the same company, required me to learn a new IDE. IDEs require a large upfront investment to understand what they do for you, what they don't do for your, and how best to make use of them. That's time you're not spending on the problem you're trying to solve, your application.

Finally, because no IDE was specified for a job, I learned Emacs and I have never been so productive. Yes, there's a learning curve, there is for any IDE too. But Emacs has no vendor lock-in, and skills are transferable between projects even in different languages and platforms. Moving from an IDE to Emacs is a lot like stepping out of a big old Cadillac and into a high performace sports car. There's less between you and the code, and you're more agile. So I'll stick with Emacs as long as I can.

As for vi? Jamais de la vie!

Mohammed Mussa 11/15/05 04:23:08 AM EST

Yakov,

This is great article.

You should have called it the "Open Source Gas Station". I think I understand where you're going with this theme. It's certainly very difficult to sell Open Source tools to corporate America, but certainly small businesses should use it as a leverage.

As a consultant myself, I face these issue every day. The right tools will eventually come to fruition with a Darwinian like evolutionary approach.

High tech Startups in silicon Valley and the SME sector no longer resists open source software. However, the big guns have now come up with the term "Total Cost of Ownership" to try to attack Open Source and to justify the outrageous licensing costs of their products.

These are the tools I use to develop great web applications for my clients:

- IDE: Eclipse
- RDMS: Mysql
- Light Weight OR Mapper: IBATIS
- App Server: TomCat / Resin / JBoss (depending on assignment)
- OLAP: Mondrian
- Web UI(Thinlet): AJAX

I hope this list will help you with your Open Source tool search.

MHM
San Jose, CA.

SYS-CON Italy News Desk 10/30/05 02:45:10 PM EST

Yakov's Gas Station: Web Frameworks and IDE in Java/J2EE. In the first two articles of this series (see http://java.sys-con.com/read/108260.htm and http://java.sys-con.com/read/124664.htm), I started thinking aloud about automating my gas station using various Java-related technologies. This time, I'm trying to figure out what IDE and Web framework to use.

JDJ News Desk 10/29/05 06:00:46 PM EDT

Yakov's Gas Station: Web Frameworks and IDE
In the first two articles of this series (see http://java.sys-con.com/read/108260.htm and http://java.sys-con.com/read/124664.htm), I started thinking aloud about automating my gas station using various Java-related technologies. This time, I'm trying to figure out what IDE and Web framework to use.

mdos 10/24/05 02:30:51 PM EDT

Yakov:

The topic of this series is of particular personal interest. A number of acquaintances of mine own small businesses, and ask me quite regularly how technology can improve their bottom line and make their lives easier. I work mostly with embedded RTOS systems, not enterprise systems, so I was hoping your gas station series would give me a pragmatic view of the current state of enterprise systems by showing a real world small business design.

Is this your intent? Your approach here is certainly a bit indirect.

I'm hoping to be able to use your case study here as a baseline of sorts for small business solutions. I think it would be a great benefit to readers who, like myself, are not designing large enterprise systems and are looking for practical answers to business problems. Perhaps your average reader is way more familiar with J2EE stacks and OR mapping and the like, but I'd like to see you settle on something in each tier that meets the requirements of your small business (-- BTW, what are your requirements?) and know how you arrived at your selection. Every small business has essentially the same set of factors -- inventory, resources, suppliers, clients, taxes, rent/mortgage, etc. A case study like this helps a slightly technical guy like myself evangelize business solutions to the not-so-technical.

The concept of 'design by committe' via the 'feedback' button is certainly an interesting one. I just hope that you can sort it out and come to some conclusions. Best of luck, and thanks for an interesting read!

Thanks!

-Marc

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