Java Tip 1: An introduction to Java Tips

Welcome to Java Tips! The place to look for kernels of Java information

This regular column will soon discuss the nitty-gritty details that many crave, but we decided we'd better ease into things, so we begin our quest with pointers to some of the prime resources that already exist to help expand our understanding of the world of Java.

The tip-off

There are a lot of resources available to help us learn about Java, starting with Sun's Java Home Page. This is the official Sun Microsystems access point for all Java-related information. You can find everything from Sun's Latest Java Announcements to Sun's Online Java Documentation to Sun's Java Development Tools.

Sun keeps the Java site fairly up to date. However, some of the language documentation has been allowed to get rather stale at times. Hopefully, with the release of the The Java 1.0 Developers Kit, out-of-date docs will become a thing of the past.

Be sure to read these pages with a Java-enabled browser so you can enjoy a

steaming cup of Java (courtesy of a Java Animator Applet).

For those who just want to download stuff, the attendant anonymous ftp site is Sun's Java FTP server. Though do note that Sun's Java servers are all heavily loaded pretty much all of the time. You may want to check out one of the many mirror sites:

Java newsgroups

Online discussion about Java is mainly conducted on the Java Newsgroup comp.lang.java. It is inundated by a huge number of posts (so I hope you have a good, threaded newsreader). The HotJava Alt Newsgroup also has a fair bit of discussion. It is less busy than the Java newsgroup but it gets a lot of non-HotJava related posts. The JavaScript Newsgroup was recently created for discussion of JavaScript issues. The traffic seems pretty light so far and seems to be staying focused on JavaScript.

There are also some Java-related mailing lists. Sun's Java Mailing Lists are mostly holdovers from the days before the Java newsgroup was created. The Linux Java Mailing Lists are about porting Sun's Java Development Kit to the Linux platform. There is also a (wonderfully low traffic) mailing list discussing the development of a "real-time" version of Java at real-time-java-request@iastate.edu. Some of the lists are quite technical. The announcement mailing keep you informed of new releases. Unfortunately, the Sun Java announcement mailing list gets very little traffic.

Digital Espresso (once known as "J*** Notes") was created to distill the flood of information from the Java newsgroups and mailing lists into a concise summary. Digital Espresso's team slogs through all of the comp.lang.java posts and distills the important information into a relatively short weekly report. This is a great resource to keep abreast of the major flow of comp.lang.java but is not, of course, a substitute for active newsgroup participation. Since Digital Espresso tracks all of the Java-related announcements, it is a great substitute for general announcement mailing lists.

There are a number of other folks who have put together various informational posts and web pages. John December's Java Online Information Sources is a wonderfully clean springboard to world of Java. Elliotte Rusty Harold's "Cafe au Lait" is another good launching point. I was a bit disappointed that the Java Training section lists only Sun Education's offerings, but the book area contains a nice section on upcoming books. JavaWorld is building JavaWorld's Java Jumps, yet another list of worthwhile Java-related resources.

There are a few people putting together Java Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) information (along with answers of course). FAQ #1 - elharo@sunsite.unc.edu is part of "Cafe au Lait" site and gets posted to the various newsgroups weekly. FAQ #2 - andoh@dst.nk-exa.co.jp looks like it contains some cool information but it seems to be written in Japanese. This appears to be an up to date version of the next site... FAQ #3 - krom@city-net.com seems to be a good start but it is bit out of date. The last revision date shows the middle of November.

Earthweb's Gamelan Directory is my personal favorite, and perhaps the most comprehensive listing available. Although it offers little original content, Gamelan has links to lots of Java applets and other goodies (and even provides a pronunciation guide to help you pronounce "Gah' meh lonn"). The listings are broken into 20 categories, and everything is labeled based on which version of Java was used (which API). In parting, remember that if you happen to spill Java on your keyboard, take it into the bathroom and use a hair/blow dryer to get rid of the evidence.

John D. Mitchell is yet another UC Berkeley Computer Science graduate weaned on caffeine, sugar, and way too little sleep. He spent three years toiling on PDA software at Geoworks for stock that is actually worth more than wallpaper. He bailed out of his day job after the first public release of Java to develop applets and a Java compiler. He funds his Java addiction by writing compilers, Tcl/Tk, Perl, C++, and Java systems. His copious spare time is consumed by moderating the comp.lang.tcl.announce newsgroup and writing an awesome Java book.