Sun Tech Days Atlanta

by Robert Cooper

A couple days late, but I just wanted to wrap up the Sun Tech Days notes.

Really, the Tech Days presentations seemed to suffer from the same problems that the NetBeans Day presentations did: they seemed dated.

The perfect example was a session titled "Java SE Today and Tomorrow." The thing is, the "Today" was a rehash of all the features in Tiger that most of us have already familiarized ourselves with months -- if not over a year -- ago. "Tomorrow" was Mustang which is, ahh, in general release. No talk of language level property accessors, XML support, the FindBugs derived annotations.

The presentation on JPA was actually not bad, but it was, again, old news. The group of people I was with were very nearly praying for death by the time it ended. While there was "that guy" in the audience who seemed to just want to get help with his code, I think most of the people there would have appreciated a much more detailed presentation on a narrower scope. The WSIT presentation by Arun Gupta was great -- again. Mostly it was nice to see progress in this effort, but with WCF and .NET 3.0 being GA now it makes me wonder how much of the remaining work will be JAX-WS working around stupid Microsoft stuff rather than both groups "doing it right".

As an aside, I have found myself frustrated with the JAX-WS RI and moving back to using XFire for a lot of things because of a mixture of annoyances in the JAX-WS clients (using JAXBElement when an element is xsd:string nillable=true minoccurs=0 for instance. Yes I understand why, but it is still annoying since most SOAP servers treat nil and absent as the same thing) and incompatibilities with NON-.NET clients in the server (Using the same element name in different namespaces for no reason makes Flash angry, and the inability to get the schema inline with the WSDL angers Pear:SOAP an others). Add to that, the fact that our external clients on the day-job can't even get to SOAP 1.2 support, all the swankiness of the WSIT suite of WS-* specs isn't even going to be on the table for us for a while.

Aerith showed up again in the general session. I didn't go to the Pimp my Swing session, but I was informed it was pretty much the same thing from Java One.

The end of the day was a "NetBeans/Eclipse Shootout". It was kind of interesting, but mostly it was just showing off the features we all know are there in the two IDEs. Personally, I wished it had been more along the lines of "Here is a couple thousand line Open Source project that people know, and here is a list of tasks to accomplish" kind of challenge. It was interesting to note that though STDs (an unfortunate acronym) was in Atlanta, the only JBoss employee to be found was on the "Eclipse" side of the shootout. What happened to making Fleury wear the goofy shirt around?

While the big features of NB are great, that day to day, hour to hour stuff is the annoying bit. Field encapsulation is a 1-keystroke operation in Eclipse, while it is a (minimum) 5 mouse click operation in NB. In a lot of ways, I find my relationship with NetBeans now is like that with an old friend: I can easily tell you everything about it that annoys me constantly, but coming up with the reasons I originally befriended it is a little harder. And yet, I "like" it better than the alternatives.

All in all, it wasn't a really thrilling day. The "dip your toes in it" level of the presentations seemed far below the level of the room. A majority of Java Enterprise developers have been working with some, if not all, of these technologies for a while now and could really have used a bit more depth, or even just doing some free-form "ask the expert" sessions would have been good. Honestly, if I needed an "intro to technology X" session, I would rather go to an AJUG meeting. On the plus side, though, there was plenty of swag. :)


Charlie Collins
2007-01-22 06:40:11
I attended the Tech Days portion only, but have to say that I agree. I saw one or two presenters that were good and really knew their stuff (agreed on WSIT and Gupta, that was the best one IMO), but the majority were not only covering really old stuff, but were also more "marketing" type focused and frankly had less than compelling speakers.

As for all the cool stuff now in NetBeans, which was a giant theme the entire day, that is a bit overhyped. Sure it is great if your IDE can do it, and improves productivity, but clicking a "tick box" in NetBeans and enabling half of WS-* is not going to work in real life. Not unless you get to build the client and the server with NetBeans and never have to interact with anyone else (I can see it now, "I clicked the box - wonder why it doesn't work" when developers have no clue what they are actually doing). Don't get me wrong, the stuff in NB is great, props there, but the entire day was marketed as "check the box" rather than even remotely addressing what happens underneath when you do that. I think the focus on NB features is misguided, show WHAT you are doing first, manually, and then say "oh BTW, NB can help with this."

2007-01-22 21:29:57
Agree with your review. The conference was free, but unfortunately, most of the content seemed borrowed from JavaOne (and dumbed-down).

I did get to ask why Sun doesn't support groovy more given its growing popularity, especially through Grails, but I got a strange answer. Maybe that is a good sign...

Anyway, the annual Java DevCon at the same location is much better.