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Nature of the Experiment

Posted by editor on March 13, 2008 at 7:09 AM PDT

Are new interfaces innovative or just gimmicks?

Last week, I blogged about one of the sessions at the Java Posse Roundup about user interfaces that eventually got off the topic of GUI toolkits -- of which Java has too many, not enough, or both -- and veered into the idea of alternate input methods as contributing to the effectiveness of the user's interaction with the computer. Some of us noted the occasional divergence away from the mouse-and-keyboard paradigm of the last 20 years. For example, when I'm editing video, I'm wildly more effective with my Bella Final Cut keyboard and its integrated jog/shuttle wheel, a physical UI device that is ideal for finding and marking in- and out-points in digital media.

Talking about the idea of alternative UI paradigms, the motion sensors of the Nintendo Wii and Apple iPhone came up, as did iPhone's touch-focused user interface.

In his latest weblog, Simon Morris is having none of it. In his blog description, he writes "Suddenly every handheld device wants to be prodded, stroked, wiggled, jiggled or waved. But to what end? Is all this 'innovation' really helpful, or just gimmickry to help sell lackluster products?". Continuing in
Occam's Razor and UI Innovation, he adds:

When adding innovation one question should be repeatedly asked: why am I doing this?

Sure, I can hook a Wii Remote into my desktop app, but what added value does it give me? Why do I want a rumble pack in my mouse? Is it really easier to navigate the Windows Start menu via voice commands? (And when are those damn Aztecs going to go home?)

Yes, it may seem obvious, but it needs stating and re-stating, over and over and over! Because even skeptics like myself can get taken in by the thrill of a new gimmick. It's so tempting to see something like the Wii Remote and wish to find ways to include it in one's own software. But the urge should be resisted, because it is only by identifying and focusing on real problems (rather than gimmicks) that any real progress will be made.

Does Simon have a point? Are the Wii and the iPhone cases of change for change's sake, or do their novel interfaces offer real benefit?

Also in today's Weblogs, Mark Lam explains
CVM JIT Constant Pool Dumps.
"In a comment in a previous article, Jamsheed asked why CVM's JIT dumps compiled code constants in a seemingly reverse order. Well, here's a discussion about why."

Finally Felipe Gaucho joins the
Caravan to Jazoon'08
CEJUG is organizing a tech trip to Jazoon'08, facilitating the information on how Brazilians can attend the Swiss conference. The good feedback suggests that the idea can be followed by other JUGs. — 

In today's Forums,
Gail Risdal has posted some
GlassFish Doc News.
"Just wanted to call your attention to a few things happening with GlassFish documentation: - The documentation home page on the GlassFish community site has been completely revised and lists the many ways you can get involved with GlassFish docs. - A new Community Docs page has been created on the GlassFish wiki and focuses on the specifics of community doc contributions. - As previously announced by Sekhar, a new Migration Guide has been posted on the GlassFish wiki and is ready for community contributions."

Nigel Simpson seeks Project Wonderland participation at Java one in his post
Reminder: Wonderland JavaOne Showcase Competition.
"Come to JavaOne and showcase your Wonderland project! The Project Wonderland team is looking forward to JavaOne, and this year we'll have two demo pods in the JavaOne Pavilion and a technical session. We're really looking forward to showcasing the latest Project Wonderland developments and meeting you, the members of the Wonderland community face to face. [...] If you'd like to join us at JavaOne and showcase your work, enter the Wonderland JavaOne Showcase Competition! For details on how to enter the competition [see this thread]. The submission deadline has been extended to March 21."

Finally, mthornton addresses the age-old idea of treating file modification dates as an event in
Re: Can i rely on the File.lastModified() to detect file modification??.
"Many applications do assume that changes imply a change to the modification time. Most of the time this is correct, but it is possible to change a file without changing the mod time. Also there may be a delay between changes and the mod time being updated. It often won't be updated until the file is closed."

In Java Today,
five different countries from three continents are represented in the latest batch of JUG project graduations. The worldwide JUGs Community is very close to reaching 400 JUGs thanks to the help of the Java User Group do Instituto de Computacao (JugIC - Brazil), Illawarra JUG (Australia), Sweden JUG (SEJUG - Sweden), Comunidad Java de Chile (Chile) and the Politechnic of Wroclaw JUG (PWr JUG - Poland).

Over on TheServerSide, Reza Rahman has published the second article in a series on New Features in EJB 3.1. "In the first article of this series, I covered two of the earliest discussed features -- optional interfaces for Session beans and Singleton beans. I also provided an overview of the rest of the features being discussed. In this second article, I'll cover two more features that have been discussed in detail -- EJB Timer Service enhancements and simplified packaging."

Davis Nguyen takes a look at Glassfish automation GUIs in Glassfish GUI Automation with Selenium (Java), which also compares Selenium to SilkTest. He compares these two tools in 18 different areas and gives instructions on how to use them.

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Are new interfaces innovative or just gimmicks?