Archive for August, 2009

At a Glance: Last Week’s VirtualBox, JavaFX, NetBeans, OpenSolaris and OpenOffice Reviews

August 31, 2009

VirtualBox
VirtualBox evangelists raved about the software this week while also highlighting some of their favorite features. Jack Wallen of ghacks demonstrated how to connect to a VirtualBox machine using rdesktop and said, “VirtualBox continues to show itself to be one of the most flexible, useful tools available.” Scott Spanbauer of TechWorld discussed VirtualBox installation and noted “Sun Microsystems should rename its free, open-source virtualization utility VersatileBox,” because of its significant operating systems support. Finally, TechWorld’s Richard Leon demonstrated setting up and installing a new operating system in VirtualBox on a Mac, highlighting how with the software one “can switch to a different operating system almost instantly.”

JavaFX
JavaFX users continued to inspire other RIA developers to try the programming language by posting plenty of tips and tutorials. JavaFX Coding Challenge Winner Sten Anderson demonstrated a new method to create a border panel, and Jeff “JavaJeff” Friesen posted a new JavaFX 1.2 units conversion application with an in-depth article that takes a deep dive into the process of building the application. The breadth of JavaFX resources inspired Martin to try the programming language, who reported on his experience noting that when building his first application “I got 80% of the initial functionality done within an hour.” Within a few days Martin was already up to speed with JavaFX, and posted a tutorial of his own that discussed how to create a custom subclass of javafx.async.Task.

NetBeans
NetBeans bloggers generously shared their knowledge this week with Tushar Joshi publishing a tutorial that fully detailed and demonstrated how to create a desktop application in NetBeans, how to find the JAR file after building the application, and how to start a Java Desktop application. Blogger Ali Riza Saral from TEKNE – TECHNE posted an in-depth tutorial that explained how to create custom packages with NetBeans, while Alfonso Romero of packpub.com connected NetBeans with VirtualBox, demonstrating how to configure the software programs with the TurnKey LAMP appliance to develop complex PHP applications in a virtual environment.

OpenSolaris
OpenSolaris users had nothing but positive things to say about the operating system this week with blogger Tami from milkdrop.de detailing why she selected OpenSolaris for her new machine, listing the operating system’s ZFS, RAID-Z2, and iSCSI functions as major factors, which she noted are “perfect for a file server.” Similarly, a blogger from Random Ideas praised his OpenSolaris NAS box which he described as “rock stable,” noting that even with daily use he had not needed to reboot for more than a month.

OpenOffice
Bloggers were buzzing about OpenOffice this week with a long-time user from the Paradosis blog stating: “I’ve been using it now for around two years and as I rack my brain in search of a memory, I cannot discern any complaints or bad experiences I have had with OpenOffice.” A blogger from Revelations from an Unwashed brain said “OpenOffice is a great thing. I use it all the time. My kids use it…I find it does everything I need to do.” Finally, a blogger from A Whiff of Doom praised the utilities of OpenOffice saying it offers all you would expect from a big-name, big-bucks business suite, but pointed out OpenOffice “takes up less hard drive space and memory than comparable programs.”

Jonathan Giles on JavaFX

August 24, 2009

Reviews Interactive recently talked with Jonathan Giles, a JavaFX evangelist and software engineer from New Zealand who primarily builds enterprise applications and specializes in user interface/user experience development. Jonathan is a huge fan of Java, and is well-known among Java developers for publishing his ‘Java desktop links of the week’ on his blog. Jonathan, as a developer of enterprise software, approaches JavaFX with a different perspective, and looks to see the program utilized in various enterprise applications in the form of controls such as buttons, lists, menubars, tables, and trees.

Jonathan is a relatively new developer in the JavaFX environment, and only recently began working with the program after winning a trip to JavaOne in the “Dude, where’s my pass?” contest. Jonathan reported that at JavaOne he was “brainwashed” by members of the JavaFX team when they showed him the work that had been done on controls. He stated: “I was pleasantly surprised and for the first time saw huge potential in JavaFX to be a player in the enterprise software arena, as well as in other areas…such as RIA.”

True to form, Jonathan reported that his favorite feature in the JavaFX 1.2 release is the new controls and the framework around them and noted “JavaFX 1.2 created a very good, clean foundation for future JavaFX releases to include new controls.” Jonathan just finished an early release of a JavaFX menubar control which “allows people to have the ‘File’ and other menus atop their applications,” and is now available in the JFXtras project.

Jonathan Giles
Jonathan Giles

As to the future of JavaFX, Jonathan said “I want to see the future of JavaFX continue its focus on building out controls,” which he said he would like to see followed up with an improved graphics stack and improved performance. He stated that once that happens a JavaFX application framework should be developed and made available. Jonathan believes if this happens JavaFX “will be at the point where it can be seriously considered and used by people wanting to build enterprise software.”

To read more of Jonathan’s interview click here.

Leading Health Insurer Solves Software Integration Problems with Sun SOA Solution

August 21, 2009

Medavie Blue Cross is a not-for profit company in eastern Canada that provides health, dental, travel, life and disability plans to more than 2,000,000 people. In 2007, Medavie Blue Cross knew its 20-year-old architecture was nearing the end of its life. The existing architecture contained many legacy technologies, which forced developers to create point-to-point interfaces to add new services, a labor-intensive process which meant the company could not rapidly adapt to change. Medavie
(Image courtesy: Medavie)
Medavie Blue Cross decided to migrate its IT environment to a service-oriented architecture supported by an enterprise-service bus. Mediavie Blue Cross evaluated SOA and ESB solutions from IBM, Oracle, and Sun, ultimately choosing the Sun Solution which included Sun GlassFish ESB Enterprise Edition, along with Sun OpenSSO Enterprise to secure data. Built on open-source technologies, GlassFish ESB was extremely cost effective and came with support from Sun and the open-source community. The standards-based development environment – Java Platform EE5 – promoted flexibility, eliminated vendor lock-in and accelerated developer productivity.

In 2008, IT personnel designed a long-term architectural plan to deploy the ESB in 2009, to implement the enterprise-wide SOA by 2011, and to replace all legacy technologies by 2012. IT employees attended training sessions hosted by Sun Educational Services as developers began working on a pilot project in March 2008 to integrate claims-processing systems. In May 2009, the pilot project entered its final testing phase and is expected to go into production this summer.

Deploying GlassFish ESB and OpenSSO has given Medavie Blue Cross the secure and agile infrastructure it needs to rapidly integrate its technologies in a noninvasive way, regardless of components’ age, vendor, or platform.

Darren Swansbur, Enterprise Architect at Medavie Blue Cross said “GlassFish ESB supports a large number of Web-services standards right out of the box. And because you can use Metro Web Services, GlassFish ESB provides a standards-based way of developing services so I can incorporate code from other vendors with a minimal amount of work.”

Check out the complete details, including a podcast, here.

InfoWorld Bullish on Sun’s Nehalem Servers

August 20, 2009
Sun Fire X2270 Server
Sun Fire X2270 Server
Sun Fire X4270 Server
Sun Fire X4270 Server
InfoWorld’s Paul Venezia published a glowing review of the Sun Fire X2270 and Sun Fire X4270 servers, which he described as "the fastest x64 servers Sun has ever produced." The Sun Fire X2270 received an overall rating of an 8.2 (out of 10), and the Sun Fire X4270 received an 8.8, which classified both servers as “very good” on the InfoWorld scorecard.

Paul tested each server on his baseline VMware test application and in the lab, "the X2270 moved like a much more expensive system." He performed two test runs with the X2270: one with the vApp running first on a single 500GB SATA drive, and another with the VMs housed on an NFS share to a SAS array run from an Adaptec Snap Server 650. He reported "the difference was noticeable and resulted in a performance increase of around 15 percent," and concluded saying "there’s a lot of power in this little package."

Paul described the X4270 as "the best of both worlds, offering the 2U form factor that adds significant expansion opportunities and a wealth of local disk options." He reported that the X4270 "performs extremely well in the VMware tests," saying "it has power and expansion to spare." He highlighted the many features of the X4270 to include the expansion bus and CompactFlash slot which lead him to declare "there’s little that this box can’t handle."

All in all, Paul concluded by saying "both models are impressive entries into the Nehalem-based server market." He said these solid server platforms that successfully leverage the power of the Nehalem architecture "should find a home just about anywhere."

IT Pro: X4275 puts forward a strong proposition as a storage server

August 19, 2009

IT PRO’s Dave Mitchell published an exclusive review of the Sun Fire X4275 server which he described as having "a sharp focus on storage hungry applications such as multimedia, data warehousing and video surveillance."

Dave took a close look at the server’s build and said the X4275 has a "very tidy interior that is designed to make the most of the internal real estate." He also noted "Sun has the virtualization angle covered" with the motherboard offering an internal USB port and a CompactFlash card slot for booting an embedded hypervisor. He pointed out that "the X4275 certainly has room to grow with demand," highlighting the three riser cards in the back that offer a total of six PCI-Express 2.0 slots.

Additionally, Dave noted "the X4275 doesn’t go short in the network department as it has four embedded Gigabit ports." He also reported that the X4275 was "reasonably easy on the utility supply," when tested on an inline power meter, and pointed out that the server comes with 1050W hot-plug supplies included in the price.

Dave also called out the X4275’s ILOM chip, and its secure web interface which provides a status report on all critical components and their condition. All in all, Dave was pleased with the build quality as well as the solid three-year on-site warranty. He concluded by saying: "The X4275 puts forward a strong proposition as a storage server as it has a high potential capacity and plenty of room to expand."

Interview with JavaFX Developer Stephen Chin

August 18, 2009

Reviews Interactive recently spoke with JavaFX developer Stephen Chin, a prolific developer and blogger within the JavaFX community. Steve is one of the co-authors of the recently released Pro JavaFX Platform book, and was also named a JavaOne 2009 Rock Star for his WidgetFX session. Steve began working in JavaFX in May 2008, after being challenged by Sun’s Josh Marinacci to write a program in JavaFX. The challenge turned into the development of WidgetFX, and has kept Steve “heavily involved with JavaFX,” ever since.

Steve recently launched a new JFXtras Community Site, which is an open resource and forum for the entire JavaFX community. Steve pulled together samples from multiple contributors across the JavaFX community under a commercial-friendly, open-source license. The samples are intended to help users learn and explore the language. The site also features additional JavaFX resources and documentation. Steve also continues to work with WidgetFX, a desktop widget framework for Java written entirely and JavaFX, as well as JFXtras, a component and add-on library for JavaFX.

In discussing the new JavaFX 1.2 release Steve said, “Java FX 1.2 is a huge step forward for the platform!” He stated that the Skinnable Controls, New Layout Classes, and Charting Support are, in his opinion, the most important new features in the release. When asked how JavaFX has changed the way developers create RIAs Steve said: “JavaFX takes the best of client technology with a rich scenegraph, elegant animation support, and built-in media playback, and combines this with web service access, designer skinning and tools, and full browser integration….for the first time, Java client and Web developers can join forces to build applications that are immersive, rather than tiered.”

Stephen Chin
Stephen Chin

Commenting on the future of JavaFX, Steve noted that all modern technology startups are required to demonstrate their technology working across a wide variety of mediums, which generally requires programming in 5 or 6 different languages with incompatible feature sets and code bases. Therefore, Steve believes “JavaFX brings the promise of write-once, run-anywhere to all of these screens, which will dramatically reduce time-to-market of innovative solutions, and unlock applications that we can’t even dream of today.”

To read more of Steve’s interview click here.

Last Week’s Reviews

August 17, 2009

OpenOffice
OpenOffice received high praise in two top-tier publications this week. Network World’s Randall Kennedy included the office suite in his list of the best free open source software programs for Windows, and said OpenOffice “provides a capable set of tools for accomplishing just about anything a typical business user would require.” PCPro’s Simon Jones took an in-depth look at the 3.1 release saying the update brought “some welcome features and some much needed polish” to the office productivity suite. Bloggers continued to publish tips and tricks to get the most out of OpenOffice, with Ted French posting a Calc spreadsheet tutorial on about.com in which he said Calc “is easy to use, and contains most, if not all of the commonly used features found in spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel.”

JavaFX
JavaFX buzz continued to grow this week with a blogger at widgetlabs declaring “I can finally say that JavaFX is now good,” after testing the 1.2 release. He tested JavaFX against other RIA solutions and noted that JavaFX’s stellar CPU performance rate in comparison to the others “is an incredible evolution.” A blogger at Edgblog highlighted JavaFX’s ability to simplify the process of animating graphics and said JavaFX “makes animation a breeze, and, dare I say, fun!” Finally, blogger Jonathan Giles developed and published a JavaFX menubar control which fellow JavaFX developer Jim Weaver praised and quickly installed in his BandmatesFX application.

VirtualBox
Satisfied VirtualBox users continued to share their praise for the virtualization software this week with Chris from Canada’s Web Shop reporting that he finds VirtualBox to be “very handy in my day to day life” as it gives him access to applications he wouldn’t otherwise be able to use. A blogger on Crisis Averted! discussed VirtualBox’s dramatic evolution noting “I’m very pleased with its performance and ease of use.” Finally, a blogger from Sriram’s blog reported on his installation of VirtualBox exclaiming “it’s much, much, much better than VMWare.” After setting the system up the blogger said, “I couldn’t stop my excitement.”

NetBeans
Accolades for NetBeans were plentiful this week, beginning with Rafal Borowiec from GoYello IT Services who tested Eclipse with the Exadel plugin against NetBeans. He said: “All in all, my choice is NetBeans. Definitely.” A blogger at map butcher wanted to test his service solution from a Java Client and reported that he was pleasantly surprised with the performance of NetBeans, and appreciated having the ability to drag the service reference into the code. He concluded by saying: “I like both NetBeans and Metro especially over previous experiences I’ve had with Eclipse.” Finally, blogger John O’Conner conducted a poll to find which IDE developers prefer when creating JavaFX applications and found that a whopping 87% of JavaFX users prefer NetBeans IDE.

Math — Powered by Sun

August 14, 2009

Founded in 1861, the University of Washington has one of the leading mathematics research departments in the United States. Several years ago, William Stein, an associate professor of mathematics at UW, collaborated with more than 150 mathematicians around the world to build Sage, an open-source computational software program. Sage can be used to solve a wide range of mathematical problems including algebra, calculus, number theory, numerical computation and more.

Stein recently looked to expand the computational capabilities of Sage, but felt limited by the hardware the department was using to run the software. Additionally, the department wanted to increase the overall performance of Sage while also making the automated testing of the platform faster and easier. Last November, the department began evaluating new server solutions to support Sage and eventually selected a new system from Sun.

Sun Customer University of Washington
(Image courtesy: University of Washington
The solution included four Sun Fire X4450 servers, powered by 2.6 Ghz Six-Core Intel Xeon processors, and one Sun Fire X4540 server that runs the OpenSolaris Operating System. The department received SunSpectrum Silver support in addition to support from the Sun market development organization during the solution’s implementation.

Since deploying the Sun solution in December, the department has gained a huge increase in computing power that has significantly sped the automated testing of Sage. Stein reports that with the Sun X4450, it only takes three minutes to run the standard Sage test suite, a task that previously took at least an hour. Stein noted that “our previous infrastructure was fine, but the entire thing was only about one-third the capacity of a single Sun X4450 server.” He said Sage runs computations much faster and stated: “The whole way I do mathematical calculations using Sage is so much different now that I have this hardware.”

Check out the complete details here.

OpenOffice.org 3.1 deep dive from PC Pro

August 13, 2009

PC Pro’s Simon Jones published a deep-dive review of OpenOffice.org 3.1 and said the update “brings some welcome features and some much needed polish to the nearest thing Microsoft Office has to a competitor.”

Simon highlighted the new anti-aliasing of graphics, which he noted “greatly improves the clarity of charts and drawings,” and the showing of shadow objects while dragging, saying both of these features alone make OpenOffice “look much more professional.”

OpenOffice.org
There were several new features Simon found to be of value in Calc, including the zoom control on the status bar, the displayed hints about syntax functions as a formula is typed, and the auto-complete of the function names. He described sorting in Calc to be more logical and consistent, saying this “makes for a big improvement in usability.” Simon also noted the removal of some performance bottlenecks, which resulted in a faster calculation speed of large, complicated workbooks.

Simon also detailed the improved commenting feature available in Writer, along with the new file locking implementation included in the suite, which allows a user to tell if a file is already opened by someone else, even if that person is using a different OS.

Overall, a nice deep dive indeed!

Interview with Evgeni Sergeev, JavaFX Coding Challenge Third Prize Winner

August 10, 2009

Reviews Interactive recently talked with Evgeni Sergeev, developer of the ShiningEtherFX application that won third place in the JavaFX Coding Challenge. Evgeni is a student at the University of Western Australia, where he is working on an Honors project in computer vision, having recently earned degrees in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and Computer and Mathematical Sciences. Evgeni just started learning JavaFX in May and commented on the short amount of time it took him to learn the program by noting “it’s a fast learning process.” Evgeni taught himself JavaFX by using a number of different articles he found online, shown in the full interview below, as resources.

Evgeni said he found the combination of instance initializers and bind semantics in JavaFX to be the most useful aspect in creating his ShiningEtherFX application. He stated: “The binding concept is beautiful because you can have a UI element that is actually bound to the underlying model…it is actually bound, because as a programmer, you don’t have to worry about refreshing the view or updating the model – there is no way it won’t be updated or refreshed, given the JavaFX way of doing things.”

Evgeni explained how JavaFX made it easy to develop ShiningEtherFX with helpful features for the end user. For example, to make the workplace draggable Evgeni said “it only took five lines of code or therabouts,” saying “implementing that was a dream.” In general, Evgeni noted that JavaFX “makes it easy to take care of a lot of this sort of functionality that users nowadays expect to see everywhere,” noting that just because a user expects something, doesn’t mean it is easier to write, and credits JavaFX with anticipating many common use cases.

Evgeni Sergeev
Evgeni Sergeev

As a developer, Evgeni said he appreciates that JavaFX “is not trying to be some kind of a minimalist language.” With regard to the rapid release cycle and the recent introduction of JavaFX 1.2 Evgeni noted “The fact that you are not afraid of introducing changes that are not backward-compatible is great because RIAs are here to stay for a long time, and we want a tool that is the best it can be.” Overall, Evgeni said: “JavaFX has many positives, not to mention being free for the developer, and it is just the barrier of learning something new that it must help developers overcome.”

The complete interview with Evgeni can be found here.