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Letters to the Editor

Posted by daniel on September 30, 2003 at 8:44 AM PDT

One of the most enjoyable aspects of editing href="http://www.java.net">java.net is hearing suggestions from
readers on how to improve our site.


People who subscribed to the RSS feed asked us to link directly to
stories instead of making them click on our front page and then clicking
off site. People who didn't stop by each day or who didn't get
around to reading the RSS feed for a couple of days asked us to create
archives. Our bloggers asked (and are still asking) for enhancements to
that system which we have rolled out over the past few months.

Many of the suggested changes are for items that are already on our
list. A well-presented suggestion has often moved it up the priority
stack. For instance, we always intended to snap a daily picture of our
front page and archive it. We had hoped to launch with this feature so
that we would have a record of the site all the way back to the first
issue. With a mountain of last minute items that needed to be accomplished
before the launch, the daily snapshot was pushed to the after launch pile.
Reader requests moved it to the top of that pile.

We're still working through that pile. At the same time, readers
continue to add to it. An item that Dick Gabriel suggested a month or so
ago was a place for Letters to the Editor. I didn't understand
the need. After all, I was already getting plenty of suggestions about the
site. My email is published on the contacts page and I frequently
encourage people to send me feedback in this blog using the talkback
feature or with email. Dick countered that he had read those invitations
and they obviously hadn't made enough of an impression on him or he
wouldn't have felt the need to highlight it.

So today, we print our first Letter to the Editor.
Andy Freeman sent me this thoughtful note late last week. He has obviously
spent quite a bit of time and has read and contributed to many different
areas of java.net. Andy detailed changes
he would like to see. I emailed him back and asked if we could print his
email on our site and asked how we might effect some of his suggested
changes. I've included some of his follow-up note as well.

That brings us back to you. Use the feedback to Andy's letter to
the editor to chime in, correct, mod up or down, or extend Andy's
suggestions. Also feel free to send your own letter to the editor to me at
daniel@oreilly.com.


Some of the questions and suggestions we get let us know that we
haven't clearly explained what you can do as a project owner on the
site. Today in Projects and Communities, we link to the href="https://java-net.dev.java.net/servlets/ForumMessageList?forumID=95">How do I?page in the href="https://java-net.dev.java.net/">java-net community. Find
the answers to some of your questions in the forums or feel free to ask
new ones.

One of the requests we've received lately is to provide an opt-in
email version of this daily blog. It's coming, but in the meantime you
can use the JavaDesktop
Community
project Fetch RSS
to receive an email each day from us with your daily update.


In Also in Java Today we link to Jim Creaseman's article on
how to href="http://www-106.ibm.com/developerworks/xml/library/x-antxsl/">Enhance
Ant with XSL transformations. In this developerWorks article,
Creaseman shows how to use XSLT to transform you Ant scripts in three
cases. In the first case, XSL is used to localize a build process and
override defaults. This is because

the default behavior may not be right for a particular step. This is
where XSLT adds the required flexibility. Without the ability to
transform the default script, we would still have to maintain many
copies of nearly identical scripts. Instead, each build process
implements a local script containing only the steps that are unique to
that process. A front-end process (also an Ant script) runs the
stylesheet to transform the input documents into the Ant build file. Any
steps not overridden in the local script are defined by the default set.

The second application may be the most obvious: presenting an Ant
script in a more accessible way.

A large Ant script can be daunting the first time you see it. Even if
you are familiar with the script, determining where to make a
modification can be time consuming. All XML documents, including Ant
scripts, have a high degree of structure. With XSLT you can make use of
this feature to transform your Ant script into an HTML document that is
easier to read and comprehend. You can use XSL to filter out much of the
noise and reveal only the critical elements.

The third application is to extend Ant by adding a tag that you might
need. Actually writing an Ant extension would require a bit of work to
code it up, compile it, and then maintain it. Creaseman explains that

Instead of coding the for loop extension as a new Java class within
Ant, I use XSLT to accomplish the same goal. The result is a script that
runs in vanilla Ant. The stylesheet simply expands the <for> tag
into a sequence of tasks, similar to the first approach.

We also link to Stephen Jungels ONJava article href="http://www.onjava.com/pub/a/onjava/2003/09/24/readable_java.html">Readable
Java 1.5. Stephen looks at the upcoming for syntax as
well as Generics and Variance. He suggests alternate approaches that he
finds more readable. The talkback section includes comments from people on
boths sides of the discussion.


Today's featured Weblog entry is Philip Brittan's
thoughts on Avalon: a new UI
for Windows
. He explains that

Avalon is the new Windows API, and it apparently represents a major
jump in UI capabilities. Part of its value proposition is in the ease of
use to developers and part in the experience for end users. In order to
increase developer productivity, Avalon will rationalize and reduce the
number of APIs in the Win32 stack from over 70,000 down to 8,000.

Simplifying the API may draw developers to the project but Brittan also
worries about the effects on the end users and on the Java platform.

Introducing a major change in the UI API means giving Java a good
shake. It is likely that it will take client-side Java long time to
support the new capabilities of Avalon. If Microsoft can get its users
addicted to the new paradigm (by using it in Office, which they plan),
then they make Java look even more out-dated on the client side.


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