Review: Java Open Source Programming

Joe Walnes, Ara Abrahamian, Mike Cannon-Brookes, and Pat Lightbody: Java Open Source Programming. Wiley, 2004, 0471463620, 459 pages.
In physics, the Standard Model is today's baseline explanation of How It All Works. It encompasses quarks, leptons, force-carrying particles---pretty much everything except gravity. From subatomic physics to cosmology, practically everyone builds their theory in its image, hoping to create a new standard to supplant today's. For developers of my generation, the Standard Model of programming consisted of C, Emacs, Make, Unix command-line tools like cat and grep, CVS, and character streams. Now, twenty-five years later, a replacement is taking shape. Its main elements are:
  • Java
  • Eclipse and its many plugins
  • Ant (for building), JUnit (for testing), and Subversion (for version control)
  • reflection for making systems extensible; and
  • XML as a universal storage format.
So much of this New Standard Model is open source that most of the books describing it---including this new one from Walnes et al---have the word in their title. The first half of JOSP shows readers how to build yet another on-line pet store. Instead of starting with servlets, however, the authors begin by explaining how they will test the application with JUnit and dynamically-generated mock objects, and how they will use Hibernate to handle database persistence. The application itself is then built using WebWork (a Model-View-Controller framework) and SiteMesh (for layout). Search is added using Lucene, XDoclet is used to generate configuration files from metadata embedded in the Java source, and then the authors pause to describe how they communicate via CVS, wikis, mailing lists, IRC, and so on. And we're not even at page 200 yet... The second half of the book goes back over the application, replacing the simple throwaway prototypes of the first half with versions that could carry their weight in the real world. Want to know how an experienced developer figures out how to manage object lifecycles and dependencies? That's Chapter 14. Look and feel? Chapter 17. There's even some discussion of security, although this material felt like an afterthought, and didn't quite live up to the standard set by the rest of the book. Which is quite high. The writing is clean, the examples are explained well, and the authors didn't waste time grinding methodological axes. It's definitely not for beginners, but every professional developer will find something useful in this clear, topical survey.