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>>>>> "Nori" == Andrew N Nishigaya <> writes:

    Nori> On Mon, 16 Oct 1995, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:

    >> Anybody out there writing Java pages?  How hard is it?  (I
    >> haven't even seen it in action---I'm just assuming you have to
    >> do something with it.)

    Nori> Yes, Cyber is working on a lot of Java and Java-related
    Nori> stuff.  It is basically C++ with tighter typechecking and

I hate it when people say "it is basically ... with ...".  That's what
John E Davis says about his SLang extension/scripting language.  "It's
basically C"---except it's not (it's a stack language, like Forth!)  :-)

I looked at both the language spec (which looks like something
Bjarne---or Brian or Dennis for that matter, could have written, I
agree) and at the applets on

IMO, it's not tighter type-checking; they simply removed a lot of the
low-level types (specifically C arrays and pointers) that allow you to
get into big trouble.  There is a little bit of run-time checking
added for Arrays, but nothing you couldn't get from C++ easily.  I do
think that for Java's target applications it makes sense to put real
arrays in the language so that you can easily declare

    Object[80] database;

(yes, the abstract declarator syntax works in declarations in Java)
instead of multiply deriving a database class from a bounds-checked
array class and Object, and declaring

    ObjectDataBase database(80);

to get DataBases that will be bounds-checked etc.  If a "database" is
really just implemented as an array, then the code could reflect that
rather than hiding behind the impressive declaration, which only is
used to get the bounds-checking functionality.  But change this to

    Pixel[1600] scanLine;

and you realize that Java is not a systems programming language.  I
also thought that using 'threadsafe' instead of its complement 'volatile'
is a good idea.  But making the unmarked case the less common one
(local variables are thread-safe, aka reentrant) has efficiency costs,
as the implementers themselves admit.  I doubt that these are as
important as the bounds-checked-array costs, of course.

The use of '/** */' style comments to implement Emacs-LISP-style
doc-strings was a good idea.

Also, the applets looked more like Prolog than C++!  Sure, the
expressions have that characteristic C look.  You've got all the
neat-o assignment operators like '+=' of course.  But I don't find it
very hard to write expressions in Pascal or FORTRAN or even LISP
(although I do prefer my Polish reversed).

The declarative style of the Sun applets was very different from
anything I've written in C++; felt more like Prolog or Mathematica, as
I say.  This is due to the apparently extensive class libraries being
provided in the JDK.  I mean, the Sun applets don't even have a
main()!  They just declare the class as

    /** Nantoka is a Kantoka that Runs */
    class Nantoka extends Kantoka implements Runnable;

and away we go!  Now, that is way cool.  But it's also going to depend
on finely tuned class libraries, and one wonders if they're there yet,
or soon.  Remember, they need to be standardized, or you'll have to
ship them out with your applets, sort of contradicting the 'let' in

I wonder if those "native" methods will be user-implementable
(presumably requiring compiling and relinking, of course) as in the
configurable drivers for Ghostscript etc, or whether they'll be like
"compiled C function objects" in Emacs---really only suitable for use
by the Emacs developers.  The easy-add approach would really improve
efficiency, but of course it would likey lead to a proliferation of
thoroughly incompatible libraries.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to Linux Java :-) It's not clear to me why
we have to wait on the pthreads package.  I didn't see how the Sun
applets used threading, really.  Most trivial applets (trivets?) won't
as far as I can see.

    Nori> easier memory management (like none required :-).  There is

No.  That's false.  If you read the spec, you'll see that there is a
"finalize" operation.  In other words, there is a class of memory
leaks (known in the database trade as "persistent objects" ;-/ ) that
the Java gc can't in principle handle.  Eg, Web pages.  How do you
know when a Web page can be gc'd?  Easy.  Wait 'til Judgement Day,
check the last accessed field, then [sic] delete on that date ;-)

But persistent objects aren't so common, you may say.  Ah, true---in
the monolithic C++ programs that most of us write.  But Java code is
going to be full of cooperating applets creating persistent objects,
and references to them, that often live "out there" on the Web.
*Most* of the objects created by a class of Java applications I can
think of (user-registration Web Pages) are going to be persistent....
The bottom line is that memory-management problems will remain, but
the Java gc will take care of the most easily automated stuff like
buffer allocation and deallocation behind the scenes, which are the
most common source of memory leaks because they happen so frequently.

BTW, typical applet code looks simple enough that applet-writing
applets look like a distinct possibility.  (The Java compiler
implemented as a Java applet that lives on and mirror
sites ... the mind boggles, does it not?

    Nori> also an impressive class lib of objects that make animation,
    Nori> sound, and net interfaces quite easy.  Since it is basically
    Nori> c++, porting from c++ to java should be fairly easy.  So
    Nori> breakout that dusty c++ code and try porting to Java!

Depends.  Most of my C and C++ code is user interface, connecting to
libraries which do the real work.  Or patches and drivers for PD
software like Ghostscript.  Somehow, I can't see Jim's ROM code being
done in Java ;-)  The stuff that I put in cgi-bin is generally written
in Perl (although I'm thinking about moving to C++ for a lot of it now
that I understand the GNU regexp package a lot better---trying to
figure out Perl semantics is like arguing with my mother---every time
I think I've got it right, the assumptions change on me!)

None of those will port well to Java.  The user interface will be
handled by those impressive class libraries, HTML forms, and the like.
The patches have to be done in the original language for link
compatibility.  (Somehow I don't think the typical Ghostscript user
would want to dynamically load my screen driver as a Java applet from
across the Pacific :-> )  And ROMable and Perl code ....

Personally, I think that the restrictions in Java are likely to bind a
lot on typical C++ programs.  Expressions are about the only thing
that will port "easily."  I also think that, just as writing good C++
code requires C programmers to break a lot of habits, so will writing
good Java code require C++ programmers to break habits.

BTW, one thing that worries me about Java is that it's a wonderful
tool for hackers.  The security holes inherent in this ... well ... 
let's just say that root enabling MIME auto-execution of Ghostscript
for arbitrary Postscript objects is probably safer.  It's going to be
cross-platform.  When was the last time you worried about a virus in
your Linux machine?  But with Java ....  Maybe HotJava should run
"suid nobody" by default :-)  And then ... just think what will
probably be hiding in the Microsoft implementation of the Java runtime
for Windows 95^H6^H7 :-(  Remember the Prodigy scandal? 

Of course, the scariest thing of all is going to be the Java Hall of
Shame (a la the Netscape Hall of Shame, the page where the absolutely
most garish and shameless use of Netscape extensions is collected).


None of this is intended to say I think Java is not Hot, indeed.  It
looks like a really neat environment for creating great app(let)s.  I
guess basically, it seems to me that C++ may be nearly the end of the
line for systems programming languages.  A lot of the newer members of
the C family seem to be doing away with access to those "dangerous"
arrays and pointers, which are what makes C so powerful in the first
place.  In so doing, they end up having a recognizable C heritage, but
rather different flavors from each other, as Objective-C and now Java

I feel a little sad knowing that "*dest++ = *src++" is probably an
endangered idiom....

                            Stephen J. Turnbull
Institute of Socio-Economic Planning                         Yaseppochi-Gumi
University of Tsukuba            
Tennodai 1-1-1, Tsukuba, 305 JAPAN       

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