Integration and platform independence
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Developing cross-platform solutions | Object interoperability | Common Object Request Broker (CORBA) | DCOM (Distributed Component Object Model) | Internet Inter-ORB Protocol (IIOP) | Remote Method Invocation | Real Time Java Experts Group | OMG and C sharp interoperability | Object-oriented Database Management System (ODMS) | Language independence | Java | Java 2 Micro Edition on CD | Languages for the Java Virtual Machine | Java servlets | Inter-Language Unification system (ILU) | Inferno | "Java Swing" | Scripting languages | Perl | Tcl/Tk | Format standardisers | Examples of cross-platform solutions
As distributed computing settles into a (for the moment) relatively settled pattern of Wintel, Mac and Unix, developers are putting together cross-platform solutions that can make platform independence and integrated systems a real option. A number of key groups are working on these solutions including those attacking:
- object interoperability (eg. Corba and DCOM),
- language independence (eg. Java, ILU),
- scripting languages to "glue" independent modules together (eg. Tcl, Perl),
- and format standardisers (eg. HTML, XML, MPEG).
There is further information on standards bodies and the standards that they are working on to aid in the development of systems that interoperate on the Interoperability and standards topic page.
Details of The Object Management Group's Corba are available at: the OMG site. Sites which include resources on Corba include:
- Introduction to Corba resources
- Introduction to Corba and many other resources
- Corba resource page
- "Interoperability and the Corba specification", paper with examples written in C
- "Corba: Theory and Practice"
- Corba mailing list, with: subscribe comp-object-corba in body of message
- Delphi4 from Inprise, the merged Borland and Visigenic company, is an example of a commercial product supporting CORBA for developing networked information products.
The Object Management Group's (OMG) CORBA Interoperability platform has been adopted by the International Organisation for Standards (ISO) as an international standard, ISO/IEC 19500-2. Organisations requiring compliance with ISO international standards may now specify the CORBA Interoperability solution (including the Internet-based GIOP/IIOP protocol) with confidence as a worldwide, recognised, accredited standard. 31/10/00
ObjetosDistribuidos is a discussion list in Spanish for professionals and students interested in distributed object technologies (CORBA, DCOM) and related tools. The list's history is published on the web. Subscribe by sending an empty mail in plain text (not HTML) to the email below.
URL: history http://es.ONElist.com/community/ObjetosDistribuidos/
URL: subscribe mailto:ObjetosDistribuidos-Subscribe@ONElist.com
The Distributed Component Object Model is Microsoft's proprietary middleware, which has evolved from the OLE, COM and ActiveX technologies. While there are significant technical differences between Corba and DCOM, both are concerned with component integration. Thus DCOM is a viable solution for bridging network, language and legacy boundaries. It's major drawback is that it is currently only available for Microsoft platforms, although this may change if vendors port DCOM to other platforms.
Further information points for DCOM include:
- Draft DCOM specification and resources
- DCOM mailing list, with: sub DCOM (and your name) in body of the message
The "ObjectWatch Newsletter", provides news, analysis, and articles about distributed object technologies, particularly concentrating on DCOM. View current or past issues on the web or subscribe by email.
IIOP (Internet Inter-ORB Protocol) is a standard developed by Netscape, with support from IBM, Sun and Oracle. The use of the IIOP protocol can provide a distributed system through which Corba-enabled objects request services from one another across Corba-compliant platforms or database systems. For further information points see:
- URL: OMG http://www.omg.org
- URL: IIOP http://home.netscape.com/comprod/columns/techvision/iiop.html
Object Database Management Group is a consortium of object-oriented database management system (ODBMS) vendors and interested parties working on the ODMG standard for interoperability of object databases.
Remote Method Invocation, developed by the Javasoft division of Sun Microsystems, enables programmers to create distributed Java-to-Java applications in which the methods of remote Java objects are invoked from other Java virtual machines, possibly on different hosts. Using "object serialisation", RMI can support "object-oriented polymorphism". Further information on RMI:
- Introduction to RMI
- Tutorial on "Using RMI"
- RMI and IIOP policy statement
The Real Time Java Experts group is a consortium to develop a specification that extends Java to real time applications. The current specification, and the history and motivation of the group is available at their web site.
URL: technical working group http://www.j-consortium.com/rtjwg.html
Jini is one of the software technologies that have been touted as potential leaders in the development of embedded systems. As the concept of pervasive computing takes hold, and the concept of networked appliances develops, Sun is hoping that Jini will provide the ability for networked devices to interact with one another.
"Jini is a set of Java classes and services that allows devices (ie. printers, storage devices, speakers) and services (ie. printing) to interact with each other without the requirement for a device driver".
Curious? O'Reilly have just released "Jini in a Nutshell" to explain the technology and its potential application. To help you on your way, Chapter 4, "Basic Jini Programming", is available free on the web. 24/03/00
URL: Basic Jini Programming http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/jininut/chapter/ch04.html
URL: Table of Contents http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/jininut/noframes.html
URL: Sun Jini page http://www.sun.com/jini/
Members of the Object Management Group (OMG) intend to standardise a Language Mapping from OMG Interface Definition Language (OMG IDL, currently an ISO and ITU-T International Standard) to C# (C Sharp), Microsoft's newly proposed development language.
The intention is to ensure that this mapping will work with the other OMG language mappings to allow applications written in C# to interoperate seamlessly via CORBA (the OMG's Common Object Request Broker Architecture) with existing business applications written in C, C++, Java, COBOL, Ada, Lisp, Smalltalk, Python and IDLscript. 01/09/00
"Multimedia databases - capabilities vs. requirements" is a report describing metrics which can be used to determine the suitability of object database management systems to support multimedia data storage and use. Support at all levels of hardware and software are discussed, as even the most ideal database software cannot operate independent of operating systems, networks, and hardware. A review of the multimedia support provided by current object database management systems is also included.
There is more information on object oriented database systems on the Multimedia and object oriented databases topic page.
- a link to a site for those users with questions about Java. jGuru.com has 40 Java FAQs with over 3,500 answers to common questions.
URL: http://www.jguru.com/ibm 19/12/00
- Motorola has released an API (applications programming interface) for the Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME). The Mobile Information Device (MID) Profile defines how software applications are designed to interface with wireless phones, pagers and personal digital assistants (PDAs). The specification builds on Sun's J2ME that defines how these applications will interface with the native software of the end user devices. 05/10/00
- Java Document Object Model (JDOM) is a new technology that enables Java developers to read, change, and write XML data. JDOM has just been released under an open source license and the project has a web site dedicated to promoting the understanding and use of JDOM. The site includes extensive documentation on the project, the JDOM code downloadable in both source and binary form, mailing lists, and information about related Java and XML projects. The site has joined the O'Reilly Network. 03/05/00
- Volume 39, Number 1 of the IBM Systems Journal, includes 11 papers which focus on Java performance: application experience and benchmarks; tools and techniques for performance analysis; and the Java virtual machine, including new implementations that will deliver even higher levels of performance. 15/02/00
- ObjectWatch Newsletter, Number 24 (dated January 10, 2000), focuses on middleware issues and web commerce. It includes a number of links to articles covering the future standardisation of Java, including one from InfoWorld which apparently reports that Sun does not intend the Java standard to be controlled by European Computer Manufacturers' Association (ECMA).
- jGuru is styled as a comprehensive Java resource center and hub of Java activity. It acts as a portal for Java technologies, integrating technology news, Internet resources, tutorials and content from its software development experts as well as providing services enabling interaction within the the Java community.
- Aceweb have a set up a web site which collects together many of the free Java resources on the web, javaarchives. The site also has links to archives for other resources Windows, Linux, OS/2.
- Enterprise Javabeans for download - Enterprise Javabeans are: "Simply put, EJBs are reusable components written in Java that let you build server-side software applications faster and better". A development kit in beta test can be downloaded from the EJBHome web site. A tutorial describes how to use the kit to generate an order processing (cart) application. The software will in the future be marketed with IONA's CORBA software. The fact that the beta test version is 'Scunthorpe' and the next will be 'Grimsby', indicates the European base of the company.
- Recognising that "one size doesn't fit all", Sun has regrouped its Java technologies into three editions: Micro (J2ME), Standard (J2SE), and Enterprise (J2EE). The Java Micro Edition is aimed at the "consumer space" and is viewed as suitable for use in appliances ranging from the very small handheld devices, such as smart cards or a pagers, to fairly powerful computing devices, such as TV set-top boxes. Sun claim that: "applications written with J2ME are upwardly scalable to work with J2SE and J2EE".
- A report from the Aberdeen Group entitled: "Enterprise JavaBeans - a Shark in the Proprietary Pool" concludes that Enterprise JavaBeans "will have a major impact on enterprise computing, web computing, and even on Java itself".
- The August 1999 issue of JavaWorld includes a feature which looks at alphaWorks' Bean Markup Language (BML), a freely available commercial package from IBM alphaWorks similar to the XML JavaBeans package. The author explains how BML goes far beyond XML JavaBeans' abilities, explaining BML's features and capabilities.
- Java 3D programming tool - Sun has released the beta version of its Java 3D API for free download. The intention of the tool is to enable 3D content generation for Java applets and applications. The site includes the software along with a number of useful resources including a Java 3D data sheet, a white paper on "Java in Digital Content Creation" , background notes on the Java 3D API and other "4th generation" 3D graphics APIs.
- Sun has released the Java Embedded Server which it hopes will enable developers to embed "intelligent systems" in both industrial systems and consumer products.
- A number of free IBM Java education courses
- the Java Site run by its owners Sun
- Java frequently asked questions at the Sun site
- Java frequently asked questions (FAQ) archive
- Java for developers
- Java API overview and schedule
- JavaWorld magazine
- Java Report Online - news, resources, products
- An article in IEEE Computer ("If Java is the answer, What was the question?") and follow-up letters question Java's ability to handle synchronisation and avoid deadlock. Solutions based on Communicating Sequential Process methods developed by Hoare are proposed in Java Plug & Play (JavaPP). Full information on the JavaPP web site.
- Java IDL mailing list with: subscribe idl-users in the body of the message
- JavaCorba mailing list with: SUBSCRIBE in the Subject field
Sun Microsystems has released the Sun Developer Essentials Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition CD which is targeted specifically for developers of applications for Sun's consumer and embedded technologies. Sun are particularly interested in attracting its use by developers working on applications for high-volume consumer appliances including pagers, cellular phones, screenphones, digital set-top boxes and car navigation systems.
The CD is being made available, for a nominal fee, to members of the Sun Developer Connection Programme, that provides a central source of comprehensive technical resources, support, tools, and marketing assistance for developers creating applications or products for Sun technologies.
URL: Sun Developer Connection Program http://www.sun.com/developers/
Over 60 languages that can run on the Java Virtual Machine have been identified by Robert Tolksdorf. They include Cobol, Ada, Tcl, Oberon, Eiffel, Prolog, ML, Logo, Basic, Lisp, Scheme, but not apparently Fortran or Snobol. Some of the languages are 100% Java implementations and applets created with them will run in any JDK-1.1 compliant web browser. A particular example is jpython a Python interpreter written in 100% pure Java. Python is used as the scripting language in the Alice animation system and now has been cast in the same role in the latest version of Caligari Truespace. There is further information concerning the Java Virtual Machine on the Online Computer Science Degree Resources website (click on the Java Virtual Machine tab).
URL: Online Computer Science Degree Resources http://www.accreditedonlinecolleges.org/computer-science/
URL: jpython home site http://www.python.org/jpython/
URL: article on jpython by Guido van Rossum (CNRI) http://www.developer.com/journal/techfocus/081798_jpython.html
"Java servlets offer a fast, powerful, portable replacement for CGI scripts, enabling the generation of dynamic web content." This is the claim in the promotional material accompanying the launch of "Java Servlet Programming", a new book from O'Reilly. Apparently Java servlets were designed to work with both Java-based and non-Java based servers - and support is found in many of the more popular servers such as Apache. In addition the authors claim that their use will give performance benefits over CGI programs. "Java Servlet Programming" covers how to write effective servlets and includes over 100 examples which can be customised to provide a developer's own servlets.
The Inter-Language Unification system (ILU) is a multi-language object interface system. The object interfaces provided by ILU hide implementation distinctions between different languages, between different address spaces, and between operating system types.
ILU can be used to build multi-lingual object-oriented libraries ("class libraries") with well-specified language-independent interfaces. It can also be used to implement distributed systems and to define and document interfaces between the modules of non-distributed programs. ILU interfaces can be specified in either the OMG's Corba Interface Definition Language (OMG IDL), or ILU's Interface Specification Language (ISL).
Inferno provides another integration language / OS for networking between different platforms.
Swing, the centerpiece of the JFC (Java Foundation Classes), claims to eliminate Java's biggest weakness: its relatively primitive user interface toolkit. Swing provides many new components and containers for building sophisticated user interfaces, but with the downside that there is a lot to learn. This fact is further emphasised by the size of a book from O'Reilly which numbers 1256 pages.
PHP (Personal Home Page) is an HTML-embedded scripting language. Much of its syntax is borrowed from C, Java and Perl with a couple of unique PHP-specific features thrown in. The goal of the language is to allow web developers to write dynamically generated pages quickly.
PHP claims to run on almost every platform there is, giving it a plus over both Active Server Pages (limited to Win32 servers) and Cold Fusion. It claims to be simpler than Perl as it is specifically designed for scripting to the web and thus is less complex. 26/09/00
Computer Weekly reported that there are more than 1,000,000 sites using PHP today - the technology believed to have grown due to its users not wishing to learn the intricacies of Perl and also not wishing to be tied to particular web server technology. PHP4 can be downloaded from the PHP web site below, which also features tutorials and resources. 22/12/00
URL: Official PHP site http://www.php.net/
URL: PHP resources http://www.perfect.co.uk/do/develop/apachephp/
URL: PHP resources http://www.devshed.com/
An article published in Web Review reports on Rebol (pronounced "rebel"), a scripting language which apparently "has a familiar logic and 'Englishness to it...Rebol uses commands like, 'print', 'send', 'write', and 'mail'."
In a paper entitled "Scripting: Higher Level Programming for the 21st Century", John Ousterhout, (the creator of Tcl) explains how scripting languages such as Perl and Tcl represent a very different style of programming than system programming languages such as C or Java.
Summit Software, a vendor of embeddable BASIC language tools, has formed the ActiveScripting Organisation - a group within Summit chartered with bringing the benefits of ActiveScripting engines to leading web server and web client applications including the Apache web server and the Mozilla web browser . The group will concentrate on web server and client applications that can host Active Scripting engines such as Microsoft's VBScript and JScript, and Active States PerlScript. The software developed will be released under licensing terms that conform to the standards of the Open Source movement.
URL: Summit Software http://www.summsoft.com
URL: ActiveScripting Organisation http://www.activescripting.org
URL: Apache http://www.apache.org
URL: Mozilla http://www.mozilla.org
The Java Apache Server Framework project is an effort to create, design, develop and maintain a common framework for server applications written using the Java language. This framework will not be a standalone product, but will allow existing and yet to be created server applications to fit into a common platform and to share code, design and human resources. Apache JServ is a 100% pure Java servlet engine fully compliant with the JavaSoft Java Servlet APIs 2.0 specification. A first version of JServ is available from the Java Apache web site. Java Apache is a sub-group of the main Apache development team.
Casbah is a distributed application development environment slanted towards scripting, like Python, Perl, and Tcl. The core Casbah components are support for multiple languages, a virtual/distributed, hierarchical data-store (URL space), and the software and protocols for distributing this between processes and systems.
The Systems Research Center (SRC) of Compaq has released an alpha version of its scripting language WebL 3.0. The company claim that the language could be used to write "meta-search engines, shopping robots, page validators, page information extractors, page manipulation routines". Features that are claimed to simplify web computations include:
- "Service combinators" an exception handling mechanism;
- "Markup algebra", a formalism for extracting information from web pages and the modification of web pages;
- support for HTML, XML, HTTP and FTP.
The WebL interpreter is written in Java.
Developer.com features a review of a server-side implementation of the scripting language based on Tcl. Called NeoWebScript, the article contends that it has the potential to challenge the use of Dynamic HyperText Markup Language (DHTML), or the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) for creating dynamic web sites. There is also an "independent" web page, which promises to "update the article" and provides additional resources relating to NeoWebScript.
URL: article http://www.developer.com/journal/techfocus/032398_neoweb.html
URL: Cameron Laird's personal guide to NeoWebScript http://starbase.neosoft.com/~claird/comp.infosystems.www.servers.unix/neowebscript.html
URL: NeoWebScript http://www.neosoft.com/neowebscript/
Sun are hoping their freeware product will enable application developers using Java to use Tcl to "glue" together bits of Java when developing applications.
SunScript, a business group of Sun, have the released the Jacl and Tcl Blend. An excellent review of the software, it's associated technologies and technical background papers concerned with scripting languages in general, and Tcl in particular, is available at the Network Engineered Solutions Updates website.
URL: Jacl and Tcl Blend http://sunscript.sun.com/java/
URL: Network Engineered Solutions http://starbase.neosoft.com/~claird/comp.lang.java/tclblend.html
For details on the standards and the organisations, associations and interest groups responsible for their development see the: Interoperability and standards topic page. Subjects covered include: XML, SGML, HTML, Unicode (ISO 10646), VRML, PREMO (Presentation Environment for Multimedia Objects).
Directory Enabled Networking (DEN) is an emerging "standard" gaining credence in certain circles. By separating out the logical from the physical attributes of network objects, "DEN enables centralised, platform-independent, enterprise-wide information management, while still leveraging the power of existing systems".
The many issues and benefits associated with DEN are presented in the latest ATG Technology Guide (white paper) entitled, "Directory Enabled Networking", written and published by ATG's techguide.com service and available free on-line. This Technology Guide examines the current state of the DEN standard, as well as the technology that is currently available to support it. 31/03/00
IBM have announced a collaborative agreement with a number of other vendors to create an interface for connecting consumer and small business appliances with Internet services. The Java-based Open Service Gateway specification will consolidate and manage voice, data, and multimedia communications in homes, small offices, and remote environments.
Pervasive computing or, "billions of people interacting with trillions of interconnected devices", is the subject of a speculative analysis on the IBM software site. The article looks at scenarios for: mobile e-business, network home, network vehicle and smart card, and analyses the technologies under development to support them.
The IBM Developers Portal is styled as a the one-stop site for developers. Its collection of technical resources focuses on cross-platform technologies such as Java, XML, and IBM alphaWorks technologies. A section of the portal, xCentral, provides a search facility for finding XML documents, document type declarations (DTDs), style sheets, tutorials, web pages, XML newsgroup articles, and other XML resources.
URL: Developers Portal http://www.ibm.com/developer/features/feature042299-portal.html
URL: xCentral http://www.ibm.com/software/xml/news/news61.html
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