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Out Of My Hands

Posted by editor on September 24, 2007 at 7:50 AM PDT

On not judging books by their covers

Friday's blog about coding versus writing was in part responsible for the current poll, which asks "Which factor is most important in choosing a book on a Java topic?" Unintentionally or not, all the factors I chose as responses are external in nature, things you could know without actually opening the book (though the "what people are saying about it" option implies access to other sources of info about the book). I was sort of looking for these external factors that go into what makes you pick a specific title.

So, of course, it didn't even take a day to get called on that one. On the results and discussion page, mike__rainville points out a couple of factors that guide his book-buying purchases, and all of them are content-driven:

  • License to use code in my applications
  • Useful prior edition(s)
  • Complete instructions to quick start for practical use
  • Reasonably current version support
  • Strategic, reference implementation APIs, not tied to any particular IDE (aiming for portable applications)

Now my question back to Mike is, can you really evaluate these without having access to the full content of the book, before you buy it? Even if you look up the book on the publisher's page, it may not be completely clear what version of the topic is covered, what its license is, or some of these other factors. Having this kind of pre-purchase knowledge almost requires you to be able to pick the book off a shelf and read it first... and that's problematic, because bookstores have been reducing their shelf space for programming books pretty consistently since dot-bomb. What was once two racks of Java books at my nearby Barnes & Noble is now half a rack, not as a result of Java fading relative to other languages, but as a result of the entire programming section shrinking.

I'd love to be able to pick up programming books and really evaluate them before I buy. But unless the topic is really mainstream -- think CSS and not MMAPI -- it's probably not practical.

So what do you do to make an informed decision? Or are books not even the best source of information anymore? That could be a whole new discussion...

In Java Today,

Jean-Francois Arcand's Blog offers an introduction to Grizzlets, a small API that lets you write Comet-style Ajax applications more easily. He writes that rather than expecting developers to create their own Comet implementations with Servlets, "it would be much more simple if we can write a single POJO class, hook it to an Ajax client, and bang make it work! So here comes Grizzlet, an extremely simple POJO based approach to write Comet based application!" In a code example, he shows that Grizzlets are POJOs, implementing a single Grizzlet interface.

The latest edition, issue 139, of the Java Tools Community newsletter is out, with tool news from around the web and from community projects, announcements of new projects in the community, and a Tool Tip summarizing Daniel Lopez's eight-part "Scripting Away with Java 6" series, in which he experiments with different scripting languages on the JVM.

Recorded at QCon London, Scott Delap provides An Overview Of Desktop Java Technologies In Todays RIA World. The 49-minute session covers "the technologies that are making the development of desktop applications easier today, and also advances in deployment techniques such as Java Web Start and Pack200 which assist in the centralized deployment of desktop applications. Finally, the session will look at which situations where desktop java applications should be considered versus other technologies such as Ajax, Flex, and OpenLazslo."

In today's Weblogs,