Java applications on the desktop

When it comes to discussions about programming languages on forums and newsgroups, one argument against Java is that there are quite no Java applications for the desktop.

This is definitely not true. I have looked what Java applications I am using (or used a lot in the past), and here is a list:
And of course, if you are a developer programming in Java, JavaFX, C++, PHP, Python or Scala for example, then you probably use NetBeans or Eclipse - both very popular IDEs (integrated development environments) are written in Java.

There are many, many Java desktop applications out there, look for example at javadesktop.org. You can see the wide area where Java is used on the desktop at geertjans blog here for example or at the NetBeans site here.

One advantage of using Java at the desktop is that you can choose between two core different ways: Swing or SWT. While SWT tries to use the OS specific widgets (to look more like the original OS and be faster), Swing does render everything itself. So SWT is a little bit faster and looks more like OS, but Swing is more flexible (more widgets available) and you can easily use different look and feel / themes (there is also an OS like). In both cases you can develop modern Java desktop applications that look nice and integrated with your OS.

The disadvantage of using Java on the desktop - I will be honest - is startup speed. Once started, SWT and Swing applications behave fast - probably not as a native Gnome application for instance but really - it's fast enough for the user. That startup time is still an issue you will notice mostly, if you write small tools as Java desktop applications. For larger ones it is less annoying because those you don't open and close all the time. If you open the application and tend to keep it open you will have no problem. If you open and close the app frequently then it may become an issue. Same applies for small commandline tools - writing those in Java is maybe not the best option. Anyway, really annoying is only the first start of the first Java application after reboot when the Java runtime is not in the cache yet. NetBeans for example (which is a big Java application) needs 12 seconds on my machine (a year old) when the Java runtime is already in the cache. Freemind is a smaller application and takes only 5 seconds to startup which is acceptable.

If you look also at server-side then ... what should I say .... the world is full of Java applications - too much to cover here (and of course for many websites or web applications you often can't really say from outside what is used behind the scenes).

Related post: Popular Java myths, The future of Java.


Get reliable local IP address in Java 6

It is strange: I consider myself still being new to Java, but when I search for particular sample code, that should be written thousand times before, I sometimes find only samples that do only half the job or miss important details.
So happened for getting the local IP address(es) of the machine you are running on. I experienced for example performance issues retrieving the IPs when running with a mobile internet stick (point-to-point device).

My example code can be found here: http://pastebin.com/5X073pUc

If you want just one address, that is probably the best fitting then you probable want to use this example: http://pastebin.com/PLAcTXac

Related post: Dynamic method invocation in Java 6.

The small software vendors

Especially these days companies are very careful in choosing their vendors. This certainly also applies for software.

I do get some considerations from customers which I do not really consider being always relevant or true:
  • "We prefer to buy from large software vendors, because as an international company, we need the availability of support in different countries."
    Especially software support can be available all over the world because there is no need to actually sit there. With chat, voice- & video communication plus remote desktop tools support can be done all over the world from a single location.
    Further, a large company could have plenty of people sitting in plenty of countries, but this does not mean that all those people have (the same level of) good knowledge of the software. Honestly, those who really know the product, are always the developers and the people who communicate most with them.

  • "A small software vendor is more likely to fail and go bankrupt and then we have invested in a dead product."
    First, present time shows that even a large company can fail (maybe except banks ;-) ).
    Second, bankrupty is not the only case leading to a dead product! It happens more often that a product is simply discontinued and this happens for products of bigger vendors also. In bankrupty case, if a product is good there will be other companies taking over the product - especially if money can be made from supporting the product. But if nobody is interested any more in the product your situation is worse.
    Third, if you ensure that you have access to the source code (even if only in bankrupt case - which would be sufficient and cheaper in most cases), you always can hire people working on the product implementing the features YOU need (this is a big advantage of Open Source).

  • "At small software vendors the deep know-how is bound to a few people only which also means a higher risk for the customer."
    Nowadays companies do not invest in having a lot of backup resources. This also affects developers. And I have experienced dependency on a few people also at big companies. Just because the company is bigger does not necessarily mean they have more smart people there working on the same stuff. It is more important that the team is continuously motivated and people like to work for the company employing them. A stable and motivated team at the vendor is the key for lasting long-term support of your product.

And last but not least let's not forget about a few advantages of choosing smaller vendors:
  1. Usually more flexible organization.
  2. Better and more direct contact with tech people.
  3. Cheaper - big companies often have a big head of administration and more levels of managment - all those want to be paid.
  4. What a small customer is for a big vendor can be a big customer for a small vendor. So the small vendor is more likely to listen to your needs.
  5. If you are a big company and somehow get too dependent from a very small company, you could take over more easily.
And BTW: There are more smaller vendors than big ones, so the set of applications to choose from is significantly higher if you consider also the small vendors.

Related posts: Small Business Boom, Scope of IT projects, Paying for free and Open Source, IT Outsourcing, IT projects cost explosion, The Open Source idea.


      Small Business Boom

      If boosted by the economic crisis or not, in my neighbourhood I can observe more and more people becoming self-employed building their real own company or just getting freelancers.

      What this usually brings is more flexibility and a low budget - at least at the beginning.

      Classical style of IT then:
      • Internet ADSL connection to home office
      • E-Mail (along with spam filtering) hosted at the Internet provider
      • Single notebook or desktop PC with some backup strategy or a dedicated server + desktop pc + laptop (something like this). Newer Internet provider modems are even shipped with an option to plugin an external harddrive that is directly offered as a network storage service for connected (W)LAN-devices.
      • All-in-one printer-scanner-fax devices for doing those most important office operations dealing with paper where still necessary. Usually small and compact devices do not occupy too much space and can handle the small amount of paper in a modern office.
      • Contacts are saved in the address books of the used email-client, in some cases additional simple local XLS files or Access databases are used or also free online services (but only surprisingly seldom - I guess people do consider their business contacts as a company secret and do have privace concerns).
      • Office application package is intensively used for writing letters (where still needed), contracts, agreements, invoices and the like.
      • PDFs are created from the office documents written or scanned documents are saved in PDF format for (long-term).
      • Sector or branch specific software applications (e.g. banking or insurance agency tools) move more and more in the direction of being online services (web applications) rather than applications that need a local installation.
      • With a smartphone they can answer emails also while on the road which is crucial for a one- or two-man/women show.
      • Appointments are managed in the smartphone with the smart phone's own application, Google Calendar or in a classical pen & paper style (what is actually used is mostly depending on people in the company and branch).
      I can see such constructs from 1 to 3 or 4 people in my local area. Some of them are considering a move to Linux and I already helped a few building their home-office-desktop on Linux. And lately there are coming more and more asking for Linux...

      Related posts: Why Linux?, Going Linux, Why I switched to Ubuntu, The small software vendors.