Sun Releases J2SE 1.5 Beta

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2004-02-05

Sun Releases J2SE 1.5 Beta

Sun Microsystems Inc. Wednesday officially released the beta of the next version of its standard Java platform, Java 2 Standard Edition 1.5, making the technology available for download from its Web site.

The new release gains several ease-of-use features for developers, the company said. Among the new language changes in the release that assist developers are generic types, metadata, autoboxing of primitive types, enumerated types, static import, C style formatted input/output, variable arguments, concurrency utilities and a simpler RMI (Remote Method Invocation) interface generation, Sun said.

In December Sun made an overture to Java developers in what some called the "open sourcing" of the testing of the J2SE 1.5 platform.

At the end of last year, the Santa Clara, Calif., company agreed to open up its alpha builds of the long-awaited J2SE, also known as Tiger, to developers for testing earlier than anticipated.

Sun was forced to act when a Java developer posted a message to JavaLobby regarding a focused Sun developer program aimed at providing early code to developers creating products supporting the Java platform. However, the program, known as CAP (Compatibility Access Program), is set up to handle only some 20 developers, but was quickly deluged with requests following the JavaLobby post about a week ago, sources said.

Rick Ross, president of JavaLobby Inc., a Cary, N.C., organization that promotes Java development, said hundreds of Java developers who are JavaLobby members swarmed Sun looking to get ahold of early J2SE 1.5 builds.

"The CAP program was designed to handle at most 20 participants," Ross said.

However, as a result of the overwhelming JavaLobby response, "Sun is going to deliver early access to J2SE 1.5 probably 60 to 90 days before it would otherwise have become available," Ross said. "Sun has done something clearly responsive to developer input."

Neal Gafter, a Sun software engineer responsible for producing early access releases, said CAP "wasnt intended as a mechanism for providing public alpha releases of the platform. Rather it is a mechanism for vendors of existing products to test for and alert us to compatibility problems exposed by their products. As such, it is more focused on testing existing features of the platform rather than new features."

Joe Keller, Suns vice president of Java Web services and tools, told eWEEK: "We got swamped with requests and we werent ready to go to that many people. Well revamp and build a release that can handle that many people, and we have promised wed open that process up in the next 30 days. It [CAP] was simply oversubscribed, and we werent ready for the demand."

Next page: Technology to simplify development.

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J2SE 1.5 will add technology from ongoing Java Specification Requests that will simplify development and smooth the language in four areas: ease of development; monitoring and manageability; scalability and performance; and XML and client-side Web services support, Sun officials said.

"Im sure the Java community will receive this as another important improvement in the openness of Javas development," said Osvaldo Doederlein, technology architect at Visionnaire Informatica SA in Curitiba, Brazil, and a JavaLobby member. "General access to alpha-stage builds is very welcome, as enthusiasts can actually influence the release if they send high-quality feedback to Sun; in the beta stage, its typically too late for input on features and all thats left for testers is to finger bugs."

Keller said Sun "will still run a formal beta program alongside these other programs."

However, Doederlein warned fellow developers to "remember that alpha code is supposed to contain severe well-known bugs" and testers should not flood Sun with petty bug reports before the beta.

Suns Keller said external developer feedback can be beneficial.

"When doing broad programs, they [developers] have quite a bit of influence based on the problems," he said. "Having them have access, especially earlier, increases the chances theyll have influence [on the platform] down the road."

Added Suns Gafter: "Regarding feedback from the alpha/beta releases, we hope by that time that things are pretty stable, but we do schedule time to make changes in response to feedback."

One developer who asked not to be identified said the whole process amounted to "forcing Sun to open source" its alpha testing due to the overwhelming response from Java developers.

Yet, Ross saw it differently.

"Hats off to Sun," he said. "It is fitting that this should come on the fifth anniversary of the JCP [Java Community Process]. Lets hope they can really set their fears aside and take similar bold steps in other areas to help lead the whole Java industry to greater successes with J2SE 1.5 and beyond."

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